Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, December 31, 2007


"There will never be a four-minute mile. A man's heart will not stand it, and that's all there is to it.”
- Jake Weber, Fordham track coach (1930s) Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile in 1954. Many runners have since bettered his time.

"The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it... Knife and pain are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of the patient. "
- Dr. Alfred Velpeau (1839), French surgeon

"Men might as well project a voyage to the Moon as attempt to employ steam navigation against the stormy North Atlantic Ocean. "
- Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1793-1859), Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University College, London.

"[W]hen the Paris Exhibition closes electric light will close with it and no more be heard of."
- Erasmus Wilson (1878) Professor at Oxford University

"This `telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a practical form of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
- Western Union internal memo, 1878

"[Television] won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."
- Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century-Fox, 1946.

"Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia."
- Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1793-1859), Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University College, London.

"The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad. "
- Advice from a president of the Michigan Savings Bank to Henry Ford's lawyer Horace Rackham. Rackham ignored the advice and invested $5000 in Ford stock, selling it later for $12.5 million.

"There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will."
- Albert Einstein, 1932.

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
- Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), ca. 1895, British mathematician and physicist

"Space travel is utter bilge. "
- Dr. Richard van der Reit Wooley, Astronomer Royal, space advisor to the British government, 1956. (Sputnik orbited the earth the following year.)

"There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home. "
- Kenneth Olsen, president and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

"You will not publish a book this year . . . especially not if you aren't already published!"

Have a great new year, and go prove another "fact" wrong

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

With Apologies to Clement C. Moore

Twas the Night Before Christmas, and here on the blog
Not a creature was stirring, not even the frog;
The keyboards and mice had all been tucked away,
There’d be no more writing—at least for a day;
The authors were nestled all snug in their beds,
While plotlines and characters danced in their heads;
Stephanie was dreaming in third-person point of view;
As Rob worked out another insane interview;
Julie was munching Canadian candy,
And Kerry thought no snow for Christmas was dandy;
Jeff was just glad he wasn’t still in the skies,
While Sariah concocted a prophet’s demise;
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
They sprang from their beds to see what was the matter;
Away to the window Kerry spun with a whirl,
While Rob covered his eyes as he screamed like a girl;
“What is it?” called Sariah brandishing a Lamanite blade,
“There, there.” Stephanie comforted Rob. “Don’t be afraid.”
“Not sure.” Julie burped. The candy had made her feel gassy,
Jeff snarled, “Probably just another dumb SASE.”
When what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But a fat little guy with a whole bunch of deer;
“I think it’s St. Nick,” Stephanie said, as she stifled a yawn.
Kerry frowned. “Now who’s going to clean up the lawn?”
More rapid than Rob can come up with a joke,
The dude leaned from his sleigh and gave each deer a poke
“Now Shakespeare! Now Milton! Now Dickens and Dante!
On Melville! on Chaucer! On Tolkien and Bronte!
To the top of the porch to the top of the wall,
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
So up to the housetop, the coursers they flew,
Jeff frowned. “Do any of those names sound familiar to you?”
“You buffoon,” Stephanie said, “Have you not read a book?”
Julie nodded and both of them gave him a look.
“They’re all famous authors.” Kerry’s tone was aloof.
“And if I’m not mistaken they’re up on our roof”
As Rob and Sariah were turning around,
Down the chimney the little guy came with a bound.
“Nice furs,” Julie said. “But they’re covered with soot.”
“Not at all,” the man said with a stomp of his of his foot.
“The dark stuff you see on my hands and my feet,
is not what you think, it’s a whole case of ink.”
“Ink?” questioned Rob with a curious glance,
“Well what’s in the sack? Are they Whitney’s perchance?”
“I know who you are,” Julie said, much too quick,
“Even north of the US we call you St. Nick.”
Then he pulled off the bag he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his sack.
He eyes how they twinkled, his dimples how merry!
His cheeks blushed likes roses as he flirted with Kerry.
“You think I’m St. Nick, let me give you some news.
I’m really not Santa. You can just call me Muse.”
He was chubby and plump a right Jolly old elf,
Yet Jeff seemed intrigued in spite of himself.
The muse,” he asked with a slight trace of dread;
And it only got worse when the man nodded his head.
“I give you ideas, and send inspiration,
When you have writer’s block and much consternation.
I’m the one who sends plot twists and character flaws.
I work sight unseen, but I’ve come here because . . .”
Then he tuned with a jerk and opened his sack,
All the authors gathered round and stared over his back.
“Did you bring me more romance with laughs?” questioned Rob
“And how ‘bout intrigue?” Stephanie said with a bob.
“Contracts,” called Julie. “Advances,” cried Kerry
“Bestsellers!” shouted Sariah in a voice that was merry.
“Have a look,” the man said with a step to one side.
The authors all gasped seeing what was inside.
“No,” Kerry moaned and the rest nearly fainted.
What they saw ‘neath the tree was a pile which was tainted.
Clichés, misspellings, and stories all trite,
Words overused and endings not right.
“Ly” adverbs and chapters too short or too long,
Characters boring, and descriptions all wrong.
“Take them back, take them back” pleaded Sariah.
“I’ve only begun. I’ll be a pariah.”
“We’ll never get published,” said Julie. “That’s cruel.”
Rob patted his brow, “I’m sure glad that I went back to school.”
“But why would you do it?” The authors all cried.
Kerry was weeping. Jeff thought that he’d died.
“I once was an editor,” said the jolly old elf,
And couldn’t help laughing in spite of himself.
“The stuff that you sent me was boring and smelly.
I’ve seen better text on a jar of grape jelly.
You turn it in late and you never proofread;
Then expect me to fix it with kindness and speed.
You whine about titles and don’t like the cover,
And cancel your signings for something or other.
A good manuscript is one of life’s greatest joys,
But frankly you’ve been naughty girls and bad boys.”
“We’re sorry!” the authors all cried with one voice.
“We admit we messed up. But it wasn’t by choice.
Give us just one more chance and we really will try,
We’ll avoid passive voice and fix lay and lie.
If we mess up again you can give us all lashes
We’ll never mistakenly use hyphens for m-dashes.”
Then the muse tapped his head and his beard gave a wag
At last he put the things back in his bag.
And laying (not lying) his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
But they heard him exclaim ere he drove out of site.
“Give me two thousand words by the end of the night.”

Merry Christmas from your friends at the Frog Blog

Saturday, December 22, 2007

May All Your Christmas Dreams Come True

by Sariah S. Wilson

I have been something of a Grinch lately with my complaining about tipping and such. But seeing as how this might be the last post before the annual Six LDS Writers break begins (we'll be taking a vacation all next week to enjoy the holidays with our families), I thought I'd try to go out on a positive note.

I realize that when it comes to YouTube clips and things like that, I am shamefully behind the times. I might go out to YouTube to find a clip from a movie or a show I liked or because a viral video has become so popular that I hear about it from a friend. But this one I came across while reading Pub Rants (the blog of Ms. Kristin Nelson, one of my possible dream agents). I was so moved by it that I began sharing this clip with everyone I knew, which now includes all of you. Of course, you might have already seen this clip as it has been viewed 15 million times or so.

First, watch the clip. This is the British version of "America's Got Talent" (the British show came first - our version features David Hasselhoff and Sharon Osbourne and that end guy who is also on the British version - I think his name is Piers or something) and you will appreciate it much more if you know just how mean Simon Cowell and that Piers guy can be.

When I watched that the first time, I thought Mr. Paul Potts was lip synching. I couldn't believe that voice came out of that man. It made me tear up - and still manages to each time I watch it.

Especially after I sought out information about him on the Internet. According to his bio, this is a man who was abused at home and bullied non-stop at school. So much so that he joined choir so he wouldn't have to go outside during lunch or recess but could stay in the choir room. He gained a love of music, which became his escape.

He lived an average life, with a deep love of opera. He competed on a reality type show and won a nice sum of money, which he used to go to Italy and study opera. But studying opera and being able to perform it are two very different things. All he wanted to do was sing. But with no way to make ends meet, he had to come back to England and his life.

He married, and not long after he and his wife were in a horrible accident. The medical bills were overwhelming to the point that they began to buy food and pay bills from their credit cards. They were on the verge of filing bankruptcy.

Then along came this show. And that performance. And the next performance, and the next. Apparently Paul Potts became something of a national sensation and, not surprisingly, won the entire competition (and the large money prize). Simon Cowell told him that they would soon be in the studio to record an album (which I believe he received a million dollar advance for, and still Simon had to order Paul to quit his job selling cell phones so that they could make the album! LOL)

Now he travels the world performing opera. He even got to sing for the Queen of England.

I'm sure all his life he heard about how he wasn't good enough, not attractive enough, not talented enough, how he would never make it as an opera singer.

And despite all of that, Paul Potts never gave up. Even if part of him believed what everyone told him, he persevered. He fought to the end. And all of his dreams came true.

This time last year I put up a post about my own Christmas miracle, being pregnant with my darling now 7-month-old daughter. Something people told me to forget about. To stop trying. That obviously the Lord didn't want me to have more children or it wouldn't be so hard to have another. To just appreciate what I had and to stop striving for something more.

I didn't listen. Neither did Paul Potts.

Merry Christmas to all our readers. I hope this season you'll think about your dreams and make a goal for 2008 to spend even a few minutes every day doing something to achieve it.

You can do it. Never give up.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Last of the Spirits

The Frog wraps the best of all Christmas gifts --
books by his all-time favorite Six LDS Writers!
(Don't let the fact that you can only see Rob's cover influence you. Take my word for it: they're all there! Buy a complete set for everyone you love this Christmas!)
Meanwhile, the rest of us have joined together to sing a very olde Christmas carol to you, our beloved readers:
Lo, now is come our joyful'st feast!
Let every man be jolly.
Eache roome with yvie leaves is drest,
And every post with holly.
Now all our neighbours' chimneys smoke,
And Christmas blocks are burning;
Their ovens they with bak't meats choke
And all their spits are turning.
Without the door let sorrow lye,
And if, for cold, it hap to dye,
Wee'le bury 't in a Christmas pye,
And evermore be merry!
14th Century carol as recorded by Washington Irving
With Christmas days away and all of us in about the same shape as poor Frog, we're taking a brief vacation from the Frog blog bog. (We'll be back next Friday, so don't stray too far!) In the meantime, we'll leave the Internet addicts with
The Last Frog Blog Contest of the Year!
In the comments section, share with us a recollection of your favorite Christmas ever. Winner (announced next Friday) may choose any one of the Six Writer books, creatively wrapped by The Frog himself!
"...and it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any (frog) alive possed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed,
God Bless Us, Every One!"
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol in Prose

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Who? What? What Song is That?

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I thought it might be fun to see how well all of you Who's know your Christmas songs. Guess the titles of the Christmas songs, based on the descriptions below. I will post the answers later today if there are any you haven't gotten. :-)

1. Colorless Yuletide

2. Castaneous-Colored Seed Vesicated in a Conflagration

3. Singular Yearning for the Twin Anterior Incisors

4. Righteous Darkness

5. Arrival Time--2400, Weather--Clear

6. Loyal Followers Advance

7. Far Off in a Feeder

8. Array the Corridors

9. Bantam Male Percussionist

10. Monarchal Triad

11. Nocturnal Noiselessness

12. Jehovah Deactivate Blithe Chevaliers

13. Red Man En Route to Borough

14. Frozen Precipitation Commence

15. Proceed and Enlighten on the Pinnacle

16. The Quadruped with the Vermillion Proboscis

17. Query Regarding Identity of the Descendant

18. Delight for this Planet

19. Give Attention to the Melodious Celestial Beings

20. The Dozen Festive 24 Hour Intervals

Can you guess them all?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Election 08: Townhall Meeting

With the Iowa primaries just around the corner, I thought it would be a good public service to our readers if we offered them a little more education on the candidates and their platforms. Consequently, I’ve brought the top six contenders together in a townhall format to talk about the issues facing America right now.

Without further ado, I’d like to present our esteemed guests: Ebenezer Scrooge, The Grinch, Heat Miser, Hermey the Elf, Donna Reed, and Edward Cullen.

ROB: Our first question is for you, Mr. Heat Miser. It was emailed in by a viewer in Des Moines. It reads: “Heat Miser, in these troubled times, what’s your stance on the War in Iraq.”

HEAT MISER: That’s a good question, and I’m glad you asked it. But I think we’re a long way from answering that question. First, America needs to answer this: what’s the deal with that stupid John Lennon Christmas Song? You know, “So This is Christmas”? What the heck?

SCROOGE: As the only British candidate in the room, I must say that I’m appalled by Heat Miser’s hatin’ on the Beatles.

HEAT MISER: But it wasn’t the Beatles. It was stupid John Lennon. “So this is Christmas, and what have you done?” And they always play it during commercials showing starving kids in Indonesia. In other words: “So this is Christmas, and you suck, with your iPods and your Guitar Hero.”

DONNA REED: Speaking of iPods… [Donna Reed subtley point over to the Grinch, who is looking at his video iPod.]

ROB: Uh, Mr. Grinch, this next question is for you. It’s from Doris in Vermont. “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch. I was wondering if you would use some of that meanness to kick out all the illegal aliens?”

GRINCH: [Looking up] Did you know that you can download whole TV shows on this thing? Last night I got the entire third season of The Office. What is Jim thinking dating Karen?! And what’s the deal with Creed? SO. FUNNY.

SCROOGE: You know what Christmas song I hate? Barbra Streisand’s “Jingle Bells”. Seriously, if I’m elected, I’m going to outlaw that crap.

DONNA REED: Have you ever heard that Jingle Bells with the dogs barking? It is so adorable. Woof woof woof. Woof woof woof. Woof woof woof woof woof.

ROB: The next question is for you, Hermey. It was emailed from Chicago. “Hermey, what do you think of Mr. Scrooge’s stance on healthcare? He was quoted as saying 'if they’re going to die, they’d better do it and decrease the surplus population.'"

SCROOGE: Slander!

HERMEY: I was once the indentured servant of one S. Claus, before I threw off the chains of his capitalist sweatshops. If I’m elected, I’ll ensure common ownership of the means of production. The elves will run the workshop now, Santa! A vote for Hermey is a vote for in-de-pen-dence!

DONNA REED: Woof woof woof, woof woof woof woof. Woof woof woof woof woof.


ROB: I have another question for the Grinch. “What is your stance on capital punishment?”

GRINCH: I’d like to answer that question with a question: Remember in The Office when Dwight went behind Michael’s back and tried to get promoted? And then Michael found out and disciplined him by making him do his laundry for a year? So, my question is: who’s hotter: Pam or Karen?

HEAT MISER: The handbag girl.

GRINCH: Crap, I forgot about her. She was way hot.

DONNA REED: She was also the girl in Enchanted. And she was nominated for an Oscar for some artsy movie a couple years ago.

SCROOGE: And she was in Catch Me If You Can, with Leonardo DiCaprio.

HEAT MISER: Which leads me to my next question: why are people always making fun of Leo? He’s actually a really good actor. I think that people just hate him because they think he’s just a pretty face.

DONNA REED: I like George Clooney. Like, a lot.

GRINCH: Quick! Six degrees of separation: Donna Reed to George Clooney.

SCROOGE: Ooh… that’s a hard one. Can we connect to Rosemary Clooney, since they’re related?

GRINCH: Oh, come on. This is easy.

SCROOGE: So, we’ll start with either Jimmy Stewart or Lionel Barrymore… I think they were the most famous people in It’s a Wonderful Life.

DONNA REED: I was in 42 other movies, you know. And seven TV shows.

GRINCH: Got it! Jimmy Stewart (It’s a Wonderful Life), was in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance with John Wayne, who was in El Dorado with James Caan, who was in The Godfather with Al Pacino, who was in Ocean’s Thirteen with George Clooney.

DONNA REED: Awesome! Do any of you have his number?

ROB: Getting back to the debate, my next question is for Edward Cullen: “With test scores in America lower than many other western nations, what are you going to do about education?”

EDWARD: [You can see his perfectly sculpted muscles through his tight shirt.] Dear America, I want you to know how much I love you. Enough for forever.

DONNA REED: Oooh… maybe I’m voting for him.

HEAT MISER: Can we get back to the important issues? If I’m elected, I will abolish the BCS and implement a playoff.

SCROOGE: Oh, here we go again.

HEAT MISER: At the end of every season—but this season in particular—we realize how stupid this bowl system is. And yet we never do anything about it.

HERMEY: If I can interject something, let me just say that slaves are bought and sold only once, but the working man is bought and sold every hour of his life.

GRINCH: Who invited you? Okay guys, cage match: who would win in a fight between a ninja and a knight?

SCROOGE: Do you mean a literal cage match? Or a figurative one? Because a real cage match would go to the ninja.

EDWARD: [Edward’s skin sparkles like a million diamonds.] Dear America, do you ever think that life would be easier if you weren’t in love with me?

DONNA REED: Does the knight get his horse?

GRINCH: No, just his armor and his sword.

SCROOGE: What? A knight has to have his horse, or he isn’t a knight.

GRINCH: The fact that you can imagine a knight with or without a horse implies that they are two separate things.

DONNA REED: This is lame. The ninja would win.

EDWARD: [His chiseled features draw you to him.] Dear America, if I could dream, it would be about you.

SCROOGE: Does anyone have any holy water? Because, seriously.

HERMEY: There you go again, oppressing the minorities.

SCROOGE: A vampire is not a minority. And does anyone have a small box? Elf sized?

I think we’re running out of time.

HEAT MISER: You’re so full of crap. This was only, like, five minutes long.

ROB: But I have the on/off switch for the microphones.


EDWARD: [Edward winks at you, and your legs turn to jelly.]

Procrastination, Minimalism and Tradition

by Stephanie Black

I have a Ph.D in procrastination—or would have, if I’d ever gotten around to finishing my dissertation (“The Psychology of Extra Shipping Charges: Two-Day FedEx and Those Who Love It”). It’s not like I didn’t know Christmas was coming. I could have Christmas-shopped in July and addressed my Christmas cards in October, but Christmas doesn’t usually end up on my radar until at least November, and it’s unusual for me to do much about it until after Thanksgiving. I suppose if this bothered me enough, I could change my ways, but it doesn’t. December is hectic, but I enjoy it. So yes, it’s December 19th and we still have shopping to do, but I don’t mind. We’re not on the hunt for any hard-to-find items, so no worries. We’ve shipped all the gifts we need to ship. I love the Internet when it comes to shopping for out-of-town family.

As well as being a procrastinator, I’m a minimalist when it comes to Christmas traditions. If I want to do it, I do it. If I don’t want to do it, I probably won’t. I’m feeling the urge to make some homemade goodies now (which is a little strange for me—it’s probably because I’m procrastinating on some other things I should be doing, so goodie-making is a diversion). But I feel no guilt in buying a chocolate orange, sticking a bow on the box and giving that to my visiting teachee instead of homemade treats.

I didn’t write a Christmas letter this year. I stuck a family snapshot in the Christmas cards instead, which is a huge step up from last year. Last year we bought a big box of cards and they sat on my dresser until they were relegated to the closet. So I’m pleased that I managed to get them in the mail this year. Big progress!

We do have some family traditions about which I feel strongly. Take Christmas morning. The rule is that the kids can’t wake the parents until 6:30. They wake up, get dressed and then on the dot of 6:30, they summon us. We line up, youngest child first. We have to wait until the last person is ready (always Dad, who doesn’t have five gallons of adrenaline to drive him out of bed like the kids do). When we are all assembled, we head downstairs. Santa doesn’t wrap the Santa presents at our house, so they are all laid out on the couches and chairs (The kids all have their own designated spots where they put their stockings on Christmas Eve).

After everyone has a chance to see what Santa brought, we go into the kitchen for a breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls and orange rolls (the smell of baking cinnamon rolls is such a Christmas Eve smell). Then we reassemble in the living room to open the wrapped family presents. Youngest child goes first, selects a present from under the Christmas tree and presents it to the recipient. The giftee opens it. We ooh and ahh. The next child picks a present, and so on (the youngest children tend to pick their own presents, but the older children figure out that if they choose all their own presents right off the bat, they’ll run out more quickly). I love this way of opening presents one at a time and can’t fathom the idea of doing it as free-for-all where everyone digs in and consumes their presents in an eruption of wrapping paper. It would be over way too quickly, and we’d miss the fun of watching each other unwrap the gifts we chose for them.

Merry Christmas to all our Frog Blog readers! We are grateful for all of you who take the time to hop by!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

P.S. - A Review

Forgot to add that the Association for Mormon Letters did a review on my newest release, "Desire of Our Hearts." So now Jennie Hansen and AML liked it. You still have eight shopping days left to buy it for someone you love! Or someone you hate. Either way. Just as long as you buy it.

Snowed In

by Sariah S. Wilson

I like being snowed in.

It doesn't happen very often. Oh, we get school cancelled on a constant basis. My poor kids have so many snow days to make up at the end of the year because here in Ohio if we get even half an inch, school is cancelled or severely delayed.

This seems strange to me, despite how long I've lived here. I grew up in the desert of Southern California. I remember that it snowed once. It was like some sort of TV-special grade miracle. The snow fell, and there we were, standing outside in our shorts (because up until that day it hadn't really been that cold) as the snow drifted down and then it actually STUCK TO THE GROUND. Oh, there was such rejoicing in the Salisbury household. We had never seen such a thing before.

We put on our best approximation of winter clothing and ran outside to build snowmen and throw snowballs and do all those things you see in movies or read in books but have never done. We went sledding (since our subdivision had lots of hills), but we( obviously) didn't own a sled so we all appropriated our mom's cookie sheets as makeshift sleds (which I would do again a few years later at BYU with my friends by "borrowing" a food tray from my dorm's cafeteria so that we could sled. Taking a tray like that is not as easy as you would think).

The next day the snow was gone, and it was like it hadn't ever happened. It warmed up immediately, and it never snowed again for the rest of the time I lived there.

So you can imagine my shock my first winter at BYU. It was like, really cold and there was like, a lot of snow. And BYU didn't cancel classes for ANYTHING. A blizzard stirred up by the Snow Miser himself wouldn't get classes cancelled. I remember walking to school in snow that literally came up to my knees, and everyone acted like this was normal.

What I did love about Provo was their ability to actually clear their streets. We do not have that ability where I live in Ohio. The entire civil works department seems totally mystified by the white fluffiness that seems to flit down from the sky and makes the ground slippery. Our roads are atrocious, and it makes driving scary. Like Julie I was in a snow-related accident once (I was driving home from BYU and went through an area where it was snowing despite the fact that it was April and I lost control and slammed into a guard rail. I was in a lime green Pinto a year older than I was, and I couldn't get the car to start up again (and again I was in shorts as it had been nice and warm at school). There I was freezing, shivering, no cell phones back then (at least not for us poor people. Only cool kids like Zack Morris had cell phones that were the same size/weight as two soda cans strapped together) and I suddenly remembered that Pintos had a button in the engine for when you got in an accident because I heard they had a tendency to blow up when they hit things, so they had a cutoff mechanism that stopped them from doing that. First, I was happy that I hadn't blown up, and second, I was so glad that I remembered that because after I pushed the button and secured the battery with a length of rope, the car started up again. For some reason I haven't liked driving in the snow since then. Nor have I had any great affection for Pintos since then, either).

I thought of good old BYU today as we got all these frantic warnings here in Ohio that we were going to get SIX INCHES. That apparently means life as we know it will end. I waited in line at the grocery store last night for 45 minutes (with all lanes open) because preparing for the end of the world is in order with six inches coming! We also got the whole wintery mix, which means we got sleet/freezing rain. If there had been school today, it would have been cancelled for the next month just on principle alone. All the frenzied weather people got upset for nothing - we barely had any snow and it immediately rained, melting what little snow we got. Six inches did not come.

And I'm sad because I like the idea of being snowed in, of being tucked away nice and cozy with my family. Alas and alack, the roads are drivable (and does it endanger my immortal soul if I admit that a teeny part of me was hoping that church would get cancelled tomorrow on account of snow? I logically know it wouldn't ever happen because my ward seems to have the same policy on snow that BYU did. Snow emergencies have been declared here and we still had church, slipping and sliding on the road the whole way. Craziness). I think I would have liked the blizzard of 1977. That's how Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb (and if you haven't heard of her, she's the most famous romance author living today and routinely pulls in about $30 million A YEAR) got her start. She was stuck in her house with her two small boys and becoming totally stir-crazy, she locked herself in a room and started writing her first book (instructing the boys that unless it was on fire or bleeding profusely, they were not to interrupt).

Has anyone ever been snowed in before? Did you like it or hate it?

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Christmas Song Story

Oh, sheesh! Is it Friday ALREADY? Honest, I totally spaced the day of the week. It's the second time that's happened in two days. I took the trash cans to the street on Wednesday afternoon so I'd be sure not to miss the pick-up early Thursday morning. When I came home late Wednesday night I dragged the same barrels back to their place behind the house. I thought it was Thursday night. (It had been a very looooong RS activity, I guess.) I noticed they seemed kinda heavy, but I attributed it to my utter exhaustion. About eight hours later when the garbage truck went by I thought . . . well, never mind what I thought. I don't want us banned in high schools across the nation.

ANYWAY, I knew I was totally stressed out, so I arranged for a guest blog early in the week. Too bad I didn't post it when there were more than five hours left in Friday. (Sorry, sorry.) Believe me, it was well worth waiting for! Thank you, Tammy!

A Christmas Song Story

by Tammy Daybell

On the Six Writers and a Frog Blog lately they've been posting about Christmas and Christmas songs, and whether you are a "Who" or a "Grinch."I am definitely a "Who." I do make myself wait until after Thanksgiving dinner, but Thanksgiving night we put up our Christmas tree. I also start listening to Christmas music that day, and listen to it pretty much non-stop until Christmas Day. (Then I put it away until nextThanksgiving.)

I have a really eclectic Christmas music collection, and my kids have learned a lot of Christmas songs because I play it so much. This came in handy for my daughter a couple of years ago.It was the day before Christmas Break, and in her last period the teacher was playing a game with the class. He would ask a question from a Christmas song, and if you got it right you were rewarded with a new pencil. It was the last question of the day, and the teacher asked, "In the song 'Home for the Holidays,' where is the man from Tennessee going, and what is he going for?"

My daughter looked around, and no one else was answering, so she tentatively raised her hand and said "To Pennsylvania for some homemade pumpkin pie."

Her teacher was stunned. He said that in all the years he had played the game with his classes, no one had ever gotten the question right. For her reward, my daughter was the proud recipient of 10 new pencils. Which just goes to show, you never know when random Christmas song trivia will come in handy.

Tammy Daybell owns and operates Spring Creek Books with her husband, author Chad Daybell. This post was borrowed from a post she made on LDS-Fiction-Readers and is used with permission.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Do You Love the Snow?

by Julie Coulter Bellon

The Christmas season finally felt like it was here when it began to snow last Saturday. It started out with big puffy flakes floating down from the overcast sky, touching the trees and earth with their cold beauty. I was watching from my window as it accumulated, thinking how beautiful the white snow looked blanketing my yard. My children were out in the front, building a snowman and playing in the new snow. Their laughter was easy to hear.

As the day wore on, I got ready to go to a Library Literacy event and saw that cars were slipping and sliding near my house. We live at the top of a hill which is sometimes more like a toboggan run in the winter and so I was a little nervous driving to my book signing. My husband and two of my children decided to drive with me and I was grateful when my husband took the wheel. We started down the hill and the car’s tires immediately lost traction and we slipped sideways. Luckily my husband was able to right the car and we continued on our way.

Cars were going fairly slowly on the roads and we did the same. As we neared the library, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was never a fan of driving in a snowstorm. We stopped at a four way stop and I was talking to my husband about our plans after the event, when suddenly we were hit from behind and propelled across the intersection. Thankfully, no one was coming and we were able to pull safely to the side of the road. After a quick check on the children, I called the police while my husband got out to talk to the man that had hit us. His smaller car looked totaled and my neck was hurting, but our car seemed to have less damage than his and was still driveable.

I was glad I hadn’t been driving alone.

After speaking to the police and filling out the necessary paperwork, we headed to the booksigning. When I got there, I was half an hour late, but managed to get my display set up, although it was hard because my hands were shaking. Another author who was there, Julie Wright, came over and just hugged me tight and frankly, I almost cried. It wasn’t that bad of an accident, but I hadn’t been in a car wreck since I was sixteen and it had shaken me. I did manage to pull myself together and paste on a smile to greet people at the library. I sold a few books, then drove home with my husband, very grateful that it was an uneventful drive home.

So amid all the busyness of the season, Saturday night I hugged my kids a little tighter. The snow we had enjoyed earlier in the day was still falling a little bit and while it added to my Christmas spirit, after that car accident and the feelings that stemmed from it, suddenly wanting my children to know how much I loved them seemed much more important.

Because when it all comes down to it, that’s what the Christmas season is really all about—love.

LDS Fiction Christmas Specials

by Robison Wells

With the growth of LDS cinema over the years, it was no surprise that we'd soon see an LDS TV channel. I know that you've enjoyed such instant classics as Welcome Back, Elder Kotter, and Who's the Patriarch? But the striking screenwriters have hit LDTV hard, and the network is having to seek story ideas from other places. And, since there's no bookwriters strike--and since novelists are amoral scabs who have no qualms about crossing picket lines--it was only natural for the network execs to recruit from the ranks of LDS fiction.

Here are a few of the upcoming Christmas Specials:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (and a Teenage Girl)
by Josi Kilpack

Fifteen-year-old Jess is having a blue Christmas until she meets a new boy on the internet. He's nice and funny, and he understands her so much better than her parents--especially when she complains about her family's lame holiday traditions. Imagine her surprise when he comes to her house to steal the Who Pudding, the Who Roast Beast--and her! Fortunately, when he reaches the top of Mt. Crumpet, he sees the light. His heart grows three sizes that day, he returns the presents--and Jess--and decides to go on a mission (Cleveland Ohio South). Staring Wilford Brimley as the Grinch.

Merry Christmas, Gidgiddonihah!
by Chris Heimerdinger

Christmas is getting way too commercial, according to Gidgiddonihah, even down in pre-Columbian mesoamerica. Even Gid's own capybara, Snoopihah, has entered a Lights and Display Contest. Lucihah, Gid's childhood friend, attempts to get him involved by making him director of the Christmas play. But then the unbelievers threaten to put them all to death if the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite don't come to pass! Guest starring Carmen Rasmussen as Peppermint Pattikiah.

Spires of Gumdrops
by Annette Lyon

Sure, Bethany Hansen was involved in the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. But can she build it again, this time out of gingerbread?!

Children of the Promise, Go Where I Send Thee
by Dean Hughes

At the height of The Battle of the Bulge, Alex Thomas misses his family's Christmas traditions. Sure, shooting Germans is great, but it's not snowball fights and eggnog. He also doesn't know what to get his girlfriend, Anna, for Christmas. Knowing how much she loves a certain photo of her family, Alex sells his rifle and buys her a picture frame. Meanwhile, knowing how much Alex loves war, Anna sells the family photo to buy bullets! Wackiness ensues in this comedy of errors.

Jack Weyland Presents: A Country Music Christmas
by Jack Weyland

Jack just wants to have a quiet Christmas with a few close friends and a warm fire. But when John Denver's tour bus gets caught in a snow storm, what choice to they have but to put on a show? Watch for guest star cameos including Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline. (And don't miss the final five minutes when Jack realizes all of his guests are dead--zombies! Time to get the shotgun!)

A Very Work-and-the-Glory Christmas
by Gerald Lund

Nothing ever seems to go right for Nathan Steed. His brother is dating the girl he loves, he keeps getting beaten up by the mobs, and, to top things off, Uncle Billy accidentally gave the bank deposit to Mr. Potter! Nathan feels that everything would have been better if he'd never been born. An angel appears (Elias) and shows him what the world would be like: Lydia would have married Joshua and been very sad, Palmyra would have been named Pottertown, and the early church leaders would have been kidnapped and held in a dungeon under the Vatican.

Nathan changes his mind and returns home to his family. He listens to a bell ring and says "Attaboy, Elias!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Well, Rob got one part of the story right. I did e-mail him yesterday morning, but not to offer to save his lazy rear end by blogging on Tuesday. I wrote to say that if he sends me one more certified letter begging me to ghostwrite his next book in exchange for a bootlegged videotape of “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” I’d have the law on him. I like that movie as much as anyone, but do you have any idea what it’s like to try to form Rob’s ideas into a book? It’s like struggling to build a house out of BBs stacked on top of each other. Shooting your eye out would be the least of your problems.

But seeing as how Rob has publicly declared that he is going to blog today in my place, I’ll leave him to it. Enjoy!

Okay, okay, I'm copping out too . . . but today's to-do list is very undone at the moment. Somebody post a good, clean joke in the comment trail to entertain us. The only joke I can think of at the moment is: Two eggs were in a frying pan. One egg turns to the other and says, "Man, is it hot in here!" The other says, "Aiyee! A talking egg!" This joke also works with muffins.

Passing the buck

So, here's the deal. Stephanie Black emailed me this morning and said "Hey Rob, I know you have something great planned for the blog today. However, what if I blog today (Tuesday) and you blog tomorrow (Wednesday)."

Well, of course, I, being the accomodating person I am, agreed. And didn't you love Stephanie's blog today? Frankly, I'm a little disappointed.

Anyway, I'll certainly keep up my end of the bargain and post tomorrow. I don't know what Stephanie's problem is, but we should probably all express our frustration and sense of betrayal. For shame.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Word to the Wise and A Need for Speed

I am minutes away from getting on a plane, and won't get off until 11:30 tonight. In addition, I am finishing reformatting an entire Shandra novel. When I say re-formatting, I literally mean from scratch. No formatting of any kind in the entire novel. Fortunately I am close to done. It's a long story, but suffice it to say if someone ever offers you a great little shareware program that let's you keep all kinds of cool links and notes in a series novel. Do NOT use it.

So today in place of my usual blog, I thought I'd share a link I know will excite all of you as much as it does me. I mean doesn't everyone's heart skip a beat when they hear, "Here . . . he . . . comes . . ."

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Waiting on Godot (Rant Included)

by Sariah S. Wilson

Probably one of the worst things about being a writer is the inability to stop yourself from eavesdropping on other people’s conversations.

To start off, today was a busy day for us. We had Christmas pictures taken of the children (and I think they will be in two weeks from now, which means I might get an actual BEFORE Christmas postmark date on my Christmas cards. This is a new high for me), then we went to pick out our Christmas tree (slim pickings this year, but the house is filled with the pine scent that always makes me think of Christmas. I don’t know how people do fake trees. I LOVE real Christmas trees), got back in time to talk to an eBay trading assistant I found (which is great stuff if you’re someone like me. You have all this stuff sitting around your house which you would like to sell on eBay. You could donate it, but you’re thinking maybe you could make a little bit of money selling it which would help this time of year, but heaven forbid you actually do the work of posting it and shipping it. Hence, the eBay traders. They come to your house, pick up the stuff and do all the hard work for a percentage of the profits. So worth it to me), had enough time to have a small break before we headed out to Frisch’s Big Boy (in Southern California where I grew up it was Bob’s Big Boy and it seems very strange to me to call it Frisch’s).

I didn’t notice the couple sitting behind us until they got up to leave. They said my daughter was so beautiful (which she, humbly enough, totally is). I smiled and thanked them.

A few minutes later I overheard the waitress who had served them complaining to a co-worker. Instead of leaving her a tip, they had left her coupons. A Folger’s coffee coupon, one for Toaster Scramblers, and a third for Sara Lee pie.

I worked as a waitress when I took a semester off of school. It was my second job (I lost so much weight that summer/fall because I literally did not have time to eat. I worked an 8 to 5 and then had to get to my waitressing job by 6 and worked non-stop until midnight, went home and did it all over again. It seems sort of ironic that you wouldn’t eat if you worked in a restaurant, but there was never time). It was a Mexican restaurant, and the music was a combination of pop songs and Spanish songs. I remember singing along to Spanish songs where I didn’t even know what the words were, but darned if I didn’t know every single word. (I always have extreme sympathy now when I go anywhere that has a recurring loop over the loudspeakers. It is the worst to never be able to get away from repeating music.)

I remember several things from that job. I remember spilling a beer all over a very drunk man. That didn’t go over well. I had a couple of women who decided they wanted their meal for free, and they complained about me to the manager although I hadn’t done anything wrong. I remember serving my family when they came in to see me “at work.” I remember the nice Texan man with the big cowboy hat who tipped me $50 because I was nice to his mother. I remember the family of five that left me a note saying how much they had enjoyed my service.

I also remember that I routinely got shortchanged in my tips. Some people don’t like to leave tips, and I think those who leave the biggest ones are those who waited tables themselves. (One of my roommates in college complained that she had it worse in Provo – that quite a few people automatically tipped 10% like tithing.)

This one time I was assigned to the smoking section, which I hated working in. I hated breathing in the smoke, I hated the way my hair and clothes would smell. So one Saturday afternoon I waited on a couple who were the only people in the smoking section. I took very, very good care of them and really did go the extra mile because I had no other distractions. Their bill came to $19.89. They gave me a $20 bill. I brought them back their change. They left, and I went to get my tip. There sat the eleven cents. The vividness of this memory should show how crestfallen I was. All that work, and I got eleven cents. I usually made $2.14 an hour, and that hour I had made a whole $2.25. (Plus, when you report to the IRS, I was instructed to only enter in half the amount of my daily tips because the IRS figures you’re lying and doubles the amount. I was very worried that they wouldn’t believe my eleven-cent tip.)

I’ve had friends that didn’t want to tip because the waiter is “doing their job.” Yes, they’re doing their job, but part of the tacit agreement (IMO) in eating at a restaurant is that you will tip the waiter for serving you the food. Of course the tip is a sliding scale where you would tip less for poor service and more for excellent service. If you don’t want to tip someone, get carryout or fast food. But regardless of whether or not it’s “someone’s job,” everyone’s time is worth more than three grocery store coupons or eleven cents.

Okay, ranting done.

Friday, December 07, 2007

In Response to Julie's Question or From Who to Grinch & Back Again

by Kerry Blair

When I was a child Cindy Lou Who had nothing on me. I started making Christmas presents in July and humming “Jingle Bells” in September. By October my beagle sported homemade felt antlers, and a 2’ tall aluminum Christmas tree adorned the nightstand in my bedroom. (Of course it had a color wheel! I can’t believe you’d ask!) Christmas pageant practice started in November, thankfully, so it was Joy to My World every day of the week right up to the big night. (I’ve never been to a Christmas pageant that didn’t make me cry. One year as an angel the tears ran down my throat and gave me such a bad case of the hiccups that I fell off the riser, crushed a shepherd, bowled over two wisemen, and knocked Baby Jesus right out of his mother’s arms and into the first row of the audience. The next year I was the stage manager.) Rather than being tired of Christmas by the time the 24th of December rolled around, I was manic with excitement. The year I turned eleven I left Santa a plate of homemade lasagna and gave his reindeer bags of nuts from our pinon pine. (Yes, eleven. Possibly I was not the brightest bulb on the ol’ Christmas tree.)

Believe it or not, my enthusiasm for all things merry and bright didn’t wan much for two decades. Then came the year I found myself with four children (aged ten and younger) and a new calling as a ward RS president in an area with a lot of welfare need. As if daily food orders and bishop’s shopping at DI didn’t keep me busy enough, I thought we ought to take a small gift to every sister in the ward. Six four-story apartment complexes, two mobile home parks, three condo communities, and a sprawling suburban neighborhood later I had swollen ankles and blisters on my knuckles from knocking on doors. Ironically, very few sisters were touched by our holiday cheer. Most seemed annoyed to have been caught in their nightgowns at noon and/or pulled away from their evening television programming. For the first time in my life, my Christmas spirit was badly bent, if not broken.

To make matters worse, my husband worked ten hours a day at his regular job, then refereed high school and Park & Rec basketball to make ends meet. There was no help -- or hope -- on the horizon. I’d never been so overwhelmed. Thus it was not until bedtime on the 23nd of December that I realized I had no gifts for my children. Not even a tube sock to hang by the chimney with care in the hope of getting at least a lemon from the tree in the backyard. My husband had just dragged himself home with visions of long winter naps dancing in his head, so I took the only chance I was going to get to go shopping. I raced from my house and to my van gave a whistle.

It was after midnight when I arrived in the parking lot of Toys R Us. I had exactly fifty minutes before even those die-hard merchandisers of childhood fantasy called it a night and went home to bed. No problem. Within ten minutes I’d conquered the GI Joe battlefield and was barreling around the corner to My Little Pony paradise. That’s when I ran into (yes, literally) my neighbor, the second counselor in our ward bishopric. Joe was about my age, worked even longer hours than my husband, and had four little children of his own at home. I grimaced. If it was true that misery loved company at least I had an ally!

Waving a hand to take in the over-priced merchandise, the otherwise deserted aisles, and the clerks snoring up at their registers I said, “Can you believe we're doing this?”

A huge grin split his face. “No! Isn’t it great?”

Something was wrong. Very wrong. He didn’t seem overwhelmed. Stressed-to-the-Max. Angry. Like me he was a good person, forced by the heavy burden of modern life and church service to embark on a shopping expedition at 12:30 AM on Christmas Eve. Why in the name of all that was Grinchy was he smiling?

“I love to buy toys for the kids!” he said. “It makes Christmas for me.” He picked up a purple pony. “Do Hilary and Melinda still love these things?”

I waited for a bell to ding while I looked around for Clarence. This man must have had a near-bridge experience on his way over to Pottersville. Then all at once I knew the difference between us. I was standing there only to complete yet one more onerous task before December 25. Joe had come to choose just the right gift to surprise and delight his beloved daughter. While I had been throwing things in a basket in order to cross yet another chore off my list, Joe had been Christmas shopping -- subbing for St. Nicholas -- and loving every minute of it.

My Grinch-heart grew two sizes that day.



Years and years have passed but I can still see in my mind’s eye his silly Jimmy Stewart-like grin. That Christmas and every Christmas since I’ve made a concentrated effort to keep Christmas like Joe did. I live in the moment rather than letting the to-do lists overwhelm and Grinchify me. When I string lights I revel in the fresh chill air, breathe in the faint scent of pine and chimney smoke, and imagine a soft glow lightening the heart of anyone who drives by our home. When I write cards I think of the people to whom they’ll go and thank God for the blessing that each friend or family member is in my life. (Every card. Every time.) When I frost a cookie I remember how much I loved beautiful cookies as a child and hope that someone else will be equally delighted to bite the head off an angel.

Of course I simplify where I can! No homemade reindeer antlers for the dog this year. (I bought them at Old Navy.) And I think I might leave Oreos for Santa instead of pasta -- you know, those cool red-filling ones. They’ll fit nicely beside him on the sleigh-seat and he’ll smell like chocolate instead of garlic when he gets home to the missus. (When it comes to Santa, I’m still not the brightest bulb on the tree.)

Yoo hoo, Cindy Lou! I’m back!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Are You a Grinch or a Who?

By Julie Coulter Bellon

This may come as a shock to some of you, but I have Grinch tendencies in me.

I refuse to listen to Christmas music for the entire month of November. There are only so many Christmas songs and if you’ve listened to them all over and over for two months straight, it will do something to your psyche. (Although Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano has a catchy ring to it. I love that song!) Now, of course there are those of you who probably listen to Christmas music all year long and are happy, peaceful people—constantly smiling and singing Jingle Bells under your breath. It’s just not me.

I don’t want to see Christmas displays the day after Halloween. There is just something inherently wrong in seeing Christmas trees on Nov. 1st and seeing all the Christmas merchandise put out. Of course there are those of you who probably think you need that to remind you to get your shopping done early or something. It’s just not me.

I can’t bring myself to wish others a Merry Christmas until at least after Dec. 1st. Isn’t there a rule about that or something? Like not wearing white after Labor Day?

I don’t put my Christmas tree up until Dec. 3rd at the earliest. Partly because it’s sort of a pain to do, but it’s also a family tradition since our son’s birthday is right before that and we like to celebrate his birthday first. I like taking the tree down soon after Christmas as well. I had a neighbor once who left their tree up until March. That’s just not me.

Yet, even with all of these Grinch tendencies, I do not go around saying, "Bah humbug," and I don’t have prejudices against small creatures, like the Who’s in Whoville. I do, however, have some "Who" tendencies to balance my Grinch ones.

I love sending out Christmas cards.

I love making gifts for my closest friends and neighbors.

I love the spirit in the air when the first snow hits and it starts to feel like Christmas.

I love to see the lights on people’s houses and especially those on Temple Square.

I love the excitement of wrapping gifts and the anticipation of the receiver’s reaction to the gift I’ve gotten for them.

I love Christmas movies, plays, and books. Partly because they almost always end happily and make me feel good inside. A Christmas Carol is a favorite, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Mr. Krueger’s Christmas, I love them all. In case any of you are interested, Betsy Brannon Green has a Christmas story on her website, called "A Christmas in Haggerty" and it is wonderful. You can find it at Marnie Pehrson also has a Christmas story available on her website called, "Miss Humbug." You can find it at

I love Christmas traditions with my children and decorating the house for Christmas. I have collected a lot of beautiful nativity scenes and I love putting those out. Some of the most precious ones are those my children have made at school when they were little and it brings back so many wonderful memories when we display them and remember how small my children once were. I still recall the years when we could only decorate the upper half of our tree because of the tiny hands that were attracted to the ornaments. Or how we had to wait until the children went to bed to make some hasty rearrangements of the ornaments on the tree because someone had put twenty on one branch. Of course we did it in secret so we didn't hurt any feelings. Those days go by all too quickly.

So whether you consider yourself a Grinch or a Who, I believe it’s all about balance. It’s such a happy, busy, beautiful, stressful season and I hope you are all going to take a bit of time this year to be with your family, read a story, watch a Christmas movie or do what you love and feel the joy in it.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

If You Chance to Meet a Frown

by Stephanie Black

There are a multitude of natural laws that govern family life. For instance:

*If you mop your kitchen floor, someone will—before the sun sets—spill his juice.

Last Saturday, we combed our hair, dressed in sort-of-coordinated clothes and herded everyone into the backyard for a family snapshot to stick in our Christmas cards. We were, of course, operating under the regulations imposed by the Law of Family Photos, the first of which reads:

*In any photograph containing four or more people, a minimum of one person must, for any given picture, have a goofy look on his face.

We had seven people in our photo, five of whom aren’t old enough to vote, so we were definitely subject to this law. We took a bunch of pictures, downloaded them, and evaluated the results. Take your choice—the manic chipmunk look, the “we are not amused” look, the winking look, the hand-over-face look, the multi-chinned look, the nearly-closed eyes look and—my personal favorite—the Fish Lips. Apparently someone was getting bored, which brings up the Second Law of Family Photos:

*If you speak the words “Just stand still and smile and we’ll be done with this!” then any child under the age of ten will interpret these words to mean, “Hey, you! Act like a crazed weasel!”

Actually, the kids did quite well, all things considered and several of the photos weren't bad. But given that we didn’t get one really good shot, my husband—who had apparently been snorting Froot Loops—mentioned that we could try again the next day. We quickly nixed that idea. Why go through the photo shoot ordeal when you can . . . Photoshop!

Truth be told, I can’t Photoshop—don’t know a thing about it. But my sister (known to many as the Mean Aunt) is an expert. I e-mailed her what I thought was the best of the pictures. All of us fell somewhere on the not-bad range in that shot, but my older son had a very solemn look on his face. He was smiling in other shots, so I sent Mean Aunt one of those reject shots along with the good one. In a techno-version of the "smile-that-frown away" song of Primary fame, she replaced the frowny face with a smiley one. You’d never know the smile wasn’t his original expression in the picture.

I also asked her if she could change the color of one daughter’s shirt. This shirt had bold white stripes, and I worried that maybe it was too striking compared to the solids everyone else was wearing. My sister fixed the shirt, laboring to darken the white stripes so they didn’t stand out so much. She sent me the finished picture and I decided that I liked the white stripes better after all, and asked her to change it back, after which she sent me a dead squirrel in the mail and placed a curse on me and my descendants.

Just kidding. She said that, luckily for me, she saved her layer shots—I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I sense that it’s important—and she promptly sent me the picture with the smiling son and the white stripes. Isn’t she a genius? Let’s hear it for Mean Aunt!

Next year I think I’ll just send her random photos of family members taken at different points in the year and she can arrange us in portrait formation, giving me perfect hair and toned abs in the process.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

2007 SixLDSWriters Christmas Letter

by Robison Wells

Season’s Greetings from the Six LDS Writers Gang!

Dear _________,

It’s that time of year again! Time to pull out the old pen and paper and type up the family Christmas letter! It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since last year’s Christmas party—Sariah’s almost fully healed now (physically), and that spot on the carpet is fading more and more every day. Pretty soon it’ll all be just another Christmas memory from days of yore!!!

Little Jeffie’s doing great in school. His teacher says that’s he’s improving every day and she’s hopeful that he’ll be able to say his r’s soon. Jeff is just such a precious little Spirit. (I know that some people, who shall remain nameless, have said some very-not-nice things about Jeffie lately. First, we’ll never know who set that fire in the Johnson’s garage. They’re never cleaning up their dirty rags, and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if they burned it down just for the insurance money. Jeff was only walking down that street carrying a gas can because he was helping some stranded driver. And the matches in his pocket were just in case that driver was jonesing for a cigarette. It’s only neighborly. Second, a lot of kids go through an acquisition phase. Calling it "shoplifting" makes it sound so criminal. I wish that the Albertson’s would learn the true meaning of Christmas and FORGIVE.) So, anyway, Jeffie’s doing great.

Julie’s our pride and joy. She was just elected to be the assistant vice-chairperson of her junior high newsletter. She hasn’t had any articles published yet, but that’s just because it’s VERY political and the teacher doesn’t like her because she’s jealous of Julie’s natural beauty. (I wrote a letter to the school board about that teacher. I think that she drinks on the job sometimes.) Anyway, Julie’s working on this great story about how the cafeteria smells bad. I submitted some of Julie’s poetry to the local paper, too, and I got back a very kind letter from the editor saying that Julie’s poem was really amazing, but that they couldn’t publish it because the paper doesn’t publish poems. (Maybe that’s why everyone is reading their newspapers online these days, Mr. Editor!)

Kerry’s our little cheerleader. She didn’t actually make the squad, because there was a cap (budget, I think) and they could only take eighteen girls. So Kerry’s made her own uniform—-she’s an ace at home ec!—-and stands behind the girls and does the routine with them. I think she gets the most cheers of all. But do you want to know something that makes me so mad? It seems like, these days, anyone can get a restraining order for any reason at all. I wrote a letter to my congressman about it, and you should too. “Egregious and repeated harassment and breach of privacy?” What is that? Sounds like the head cheerleader’s dad has too much money to spend on lawyers. Maybe if he donated some of it to the school they could increase the cheerleading budget and add a few more deserving girls!

Sariah’s the newlywed, and we couldn’t be prouder. As you know, she got married back in August to a nice boy from Texas. (If you remember my letter from last Christmas, I’m not talking about that guy from San Antonio—this guy’s from Amarillo. You might be getting confused because her husband works the drive-through window at Wendy’s, and her boyfriend from Idaho worked the drive-through at Carl’s Jr—she met them both while buying fries! Isn’t it romantic? But the Idaho boy was after the boy from Amarillo, but before the boy from Laramie. Then there was the boy from Reno, but DON’T get me started about him.) Anyway, they have a cute little apartment that they share with his mother and all her dogs. Sariah says it’s just like Little House on the Prairie, except with more fleas and daytime TV.

Stephanie still lives at home, of course, and she has all sorts of fun at the singles ward. Earlier this year the bishop tried to get her to move to one of those older singles wards, but we talked him out of it. Those people are all weird—definitely not marriage material. Anyway, Stephanie keeps busy with conventions and needlepoint. Do you remember that old Beauty and the Beast TV show from the 80’s? You know, the one with the girl from the Terminator movies? Well, they have conventions for it, and you should see the great cross-stitched art that Stephanie enters in the contests. She got an honorable mention this year.

And me? Well, I just keep busy with my stories. I’m LOVING the internet. It’s just forward, forward, forward all day long. I get the funniest jokes sometimes. There was this one about a lawyer: Why do lawyers show their diplomas instead of passports? I can’t remember the punch line just now, but I think it has something to do with the government. Speaking of which, I wish they’d lighten up a bit. I mean, I’ve heard some silly laws before, but now we’re not supposed to cook crystal meth? News to me! I can only hope that the so-called “law enforcement” never come by the house on a Friday night!!! Anyway, life’s crazy and if I live to be 100 I’ll never figure it out.

I hope your Christmas is as merry as ours will be! Drop by for a slice of pie, a baggie of blue belly, or if you need to borrow a fire extinguisher—I bought two, just in case!

Merry Christmas!

Rob Wells and all the gang

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Love Loop

(A fun side note, we just broke 600 blogs. That blows me away. Great job everyone. And thanks for continuing to read us.)

By Jeffrey S Savage

Okay, first of all let me start by pointing out—despite the title—this isn’t an ad for some adult novelty. So those of you who Googled “Love Loop” looking for a hookup, you’ve come to the wrong place. Thank goodness we got that out of the way. Perverts! Wait, Rob come back.

So if a love loop isn’t a web ring for swingers, or a fund raiser for Ron Paul, (tell me these searches don’t boost our blog hits) what is it? Personally, I think it is the reason that most of us do whatever we do that makes us happy. Let me explain.

Recently I read an ESPN letter on Truehoop about doing something because you love it. Here’s part of his quote. “If you play every day, and feel bad if you can't, and you do so for years and years, it's love and work that make you great. Yes, there are a few prodigies out there, so talent does exist. But I'm saying it's way overrated. Have you ever tried to think of a way to measure the minutes Jordan played? Total minutes, from childhood playgrounds and lonely mornings in the driveway to high school practices to pick-ups to summer league and international play to NBA games. If my theory holds any water, then Jordan, before his decline, played more than anyone . . . LOVE TRUMPS TALENT.”

I thought a lot about that. Is it really true? Was Michael Jordon so good because he loved to play the game or did he play the game so much because he loved it? And can you, in fact, even separate the two? I don’t think it mattered to Michael Jordon. He was so dang good at the game that talent and love went hand in hand. But what about someone who loves to play basketball more than anything, but they aren’t any good at it? Would they ultimately be better than someone with tons of natural talent who could take or leave a game of b-ball?

Then today Sam Bloomberg-Rissman, who is a professional photographer sent this response. “. . . I think it overlooks a key point: Positive feedback loops. Michael Jordan spent that much time playing basketball because he was good at it. He excelled at it so he spent more and more time working on it. If he had started playing basketball and had had no talent whatsoever he probably would not have continued to play the game. The fact that he was good, and practice made him better, gave him enough positive feedback to continue pursuing the endeavor.”

This resonated more with me than the first post after I thought about it. Let me give you an example. When I was about six or seven I used to go fishing with my parents and my grandparents at places like the Trinity River. While they used fancy poles and expensive lures, my general routine went something like this. Dad ties a hook and line on a stick. I run around with a pine bough swinging at big fat grasshoppers, until I manage to knock one senseless. My dad sticks the hopper on the hook and I drop my line in the water and wait.

Surprisingly enough I caught a lot of trout that way. And every time I caught a fish, everyone told me what a good fisherman I was. Since I knew I was such a good fisherman, I loved to fish. And every time I caught a fish it reinforced the fact that I was a good fisherman. Even today, my idea of perfect relaxation involves a line, bait, and a bobber (or occasionally watching a good baseball game.) Am I a talented fisherman? I think so. But is that because I love to fish? Yes. And do I love to fish because of my success? Again, I think so.

So how does this apply to writing? I think it applies quite a bit, and in several ways. First let’s start with the concept of writing what you love. That’s the advice every writing teacher gives you. “Write what you love. Not what you think will sell.” Okay. I can buy that. But the thing is, don’t we also love to sell what we write? If you could write your favorite genre and sell no copies or write some other genre and sell a million copies wouldn’t you quickly learn to love that new genre? If you love to play baseball and golf, but you are great at golf and only so-so at baseball, how long before golf becomes your main thing? Don’t believe me? How long did MJ keep playing baseball before he went back to the NBA? Here’s a question for you to ponder: Do you think JK Rowling would have completed all 7 HP books if the first one bombed? Or if everyone hated it?

The second way it applies is a question I am asked a lot. Friday morning I did an interview with the Salt Lake Community College radio station. It should soon be on the archives here. Halfway through the interview by Bus Driver Fred and WP (who are Storymakers Conference attendees by the way) I was asked, “Can you learn to be a good writer or do you have to be born that way?”

Isn’t that kind of a trick question? I know for a fact you can become a better writer through practice and training. Nearly every author I know, or have read, has improved with time. So yes you can learn to be a better writer. And without a doubt, the more you write the better you get.

On the other hand, don’t you have to have some talent in the first place? A base to launch from if you will. So maybe that is where the love loop comes in. You do it because you love it. You love it because you are good at it. You get better at it by doing it. But how do you know you are good at it? My hypothesis is that you know you are good by positive feedback—because people tell you you are good.

Right about now, alarms should be going off in your head. If you are only good because people tell you, does that mean you are bad if people tell you you are? Didn’t I blog just last week that you should ignore rejection? Ignore no. Overcome and learn from yes. Constructive criticism can be good. But if you get enough rejection, I believe most people will quit doing whatever they are getting rejected from. If every time you write something people tell you it stinks, how long before you decide you are not a good writer and quit?

Which brings me to my final point. (Any of you who actually made it this far deserve some kind of point don’t you?) Everyone talks all the time about getting honest feedback (which usually means negative feedback, or at least critical feedback.) But maybe it is just as important to get positive reinforcement as well. When James Dashner and I were working on our respective YA novels, we swapped manuscripts and gave each other critiques. The first thing I did was note everything I thought James could have done better. I just assumed he already knew what a great novel he’d written. He didn’t need me to tell him that.

When he gave me back my manuscript though, at least half of it was what he liked. Not what he thought needed to be fixed. Recently I asked Kerry to read a more polished version of the same manuscript, since she had done such a good job evaluating Fablehaven 1 and 2. She gave me some very helpful advice that I was delighted to implement immediately. But she also gave me a page and a half of what she loved. I have to say that I would have happily taken feedback from James and Kerry even if they hadn’t included what they liked with what they didn’t like. But just as it’s easier to take medicine if you can wash it down with something sweet, the positive comments helped me every bit as much as the negative.

Ever since James gave me his comments, I’ve tried to do a better job at telling people all of the good things I find in their writing as well as the things that could be improved. I’ve always tried to make sure I tell my wife and kids how great they are and notice all the wonderful things they do, why should it be any different with authors?

This is a hard enough business as it is. You either learn to live with a lot of rejection or you get out. But maybe instead of always saying, “Tell me what doesn’t work.” Or “Highlight anything that is boring.” Or “Be harsh.” We should occasionally say, “Tell me everything you love.” Or “Put a smiley face by everything that makes you laugh and a star by everything that pulls you in.”

In grade school we got lots of smiley faces and gold stars. Our work was posted on the classroom wall and displayed prominently on the refrigerator. The love loop was in full swing. Over the years we get far fewer gold stars and the only thing of ours on the fridge is the Chinese takeout menu. If you truly do get better at the things you love, and you love the things people tell you you are good at, make sure people tell you often how good you are. It can only help you get better.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

23 Shopping Days, And 30 Nominating Days

by Sariah S. Wilson

I spent my Thanksgiving holiday in the Middle of Nowhere. Apparently that's located near the Escalante National Park. My in-laws own a ranch there in Southern Utah, and I had no internet access (which meant no blog from me. I know you were all so, so sad). Plus no real store shopping on Black Friday, and no online shopping. No going to a movie the day after Thanksgiving (as is our tradition). No buying our Christmas tree. I'm so into our traditions, that I feel a little off. It's hard to believe that Christmas is about three weeks away. I'm not ready.

While I try to straighten out my current perspective, I wanted to remind all of our blog readers about the Whitney Awards (looks like they've updated the site with a snazzy new look). This is a new award created to honor LDS writers. But for your favorite authors to be considered, they have to be nominated. The deadline for your votes is December 31. I know when the Whitneys were first announced, December 31 seemed like a really long way away. But now it's nearly here, and with the holidays it will be upon you before you know it and you'll be left in the new year lamenting the fact that your favorites weren't even considered.

You can nominate as many different authors and as many different novels as you would like. Rob promises not to sell your information or use it to blackmail you in any way. Kerry and Stephanie promise to pound him if he does.

You can find an ongoing list here of eligible books (and you will note that Secrets in Zarahemla and Desire of Our Hearts (which is currently #19 in popularity on Deseret's website with the wrong title) were both released this year and I'm pretty sure the author of those would just LOVE to be nominated as it would validate the hours spent hunched over a keyboard). If you know of a 2007 release not listed, contact Stephanie and she'll add it. Otherwise, feel free to peruse it at your leisure before you nominate Secrets in Zarahemla and Desire of Our Hearts.

So give an author a Merry Christmas. Nominate a book or two (or twenty) today!