Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Big Win at LDStorymaker's

It’s funny how things work sometimes. We think we know what we want or what we need. We hope and pray for it, and then the very thing we didn’t want to happen, happens.

That was my experience at the LDStorymaker’s First Chapter Contest. I entered my first chapter and wanted to win. Of course. Everyone wants to win. If I could only win, I’d get a coveted “get out of the slush pile free” card. I wanted one, bad.

This particular story is one I’ve been working on since I became a writer. I’ve written, and re-written it at least a dozen times. It’s grown and progressed along the way—which is a good thing because when I first started writing it, I didn’t know anything about writing a novel. I didn’t even know about different genres or that there should be different ages for the main character in different types of novels. Still I persisted because I had a dream.

I finally thought it was ready.

Thank goodness for premonitions or I might have been really upset. I kept getting the feeling that I wouldn’t win. By the time I got to the conference I still wanted to be wrong, I wanted to win, but I wasn’t overly disappointed when I didn’t.

This is the good part, though. I didn’t win.

Because I didn’t win, I have taken the judges comments more seriously than I probably would have if I had won. And, because I took the judges comments to heart I’ve made improvements to my novel in a way I’d not have been able to do otherwise. (Actually a good portion of them had very nice things to say about my chapter and my writing in general which boosted my spirits considerably.)

I was finally able to see my MC though the critical eyes of my judges and it opened a storage-box of knowledge that I’d been accumulating all these years. Since then, I’ve been writing like a maniac, reading and re-reading, and writing some more.

Giggling like a school girl with a new tub of play dough, I’m molding my main character into the person I always wanted her to be, I’m shaping the setting until there’s a sense of place, and I’m giving dimension to my story.

In essence, I won big time.

Thank you, LDStorymaker’s and LDStorymaker’s judges!!! It was the best $10. I've ever spent.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Thank a teacher, not a politician

I usually stay away from politics and politicians, but I couldn't help but express my opinion on the "opportunity" to pay more taxes.

We’re having a great debate here in Arizona—to tax or not to tax-that is the question. Our elected officials have been misspending our tax dollars for years, and surprise, they’ve finally run out of money. *blush* Now they want us to pay more taxes.

It’s only 1%, they say. We can all afford an extra 1% for education—can’t we? Ah, but they’re being sneaky, the legislation talks about a percent of this and a percent of that, but in total, we’ll be putting out more than 1% of our personal dollars per year to the very people who misspent our money to begin with.

It’s more than that, though. I don’t really like being threatened by my government. “Pay us more taxes or we’re going to start firing teachers. Well, we’ll fire teachers anyway, but just not as many.”

Our lawmakers have teachers all across the state afraid for their jobs; most teachers feel like they have no choice but to vote for more taxes because they’ve been told that if they don’t, they’re out of a job for sure.

Of course this propaganda (the propaganda of saying that the extra tax money will benefit our state educators) makes everyone feel bad for voting down the tax—we’re un-American—we’re anti-education if we don’t vote for more taxes.

I disagree.

Our state’s education system is top heavy. We need more teachers and fewer state employees over education. We need more teachers, not fewer teachers. So, in the true interest of education, let’s chop off the mighty head in order to save the tender roots. But, will any of the unnecessary ‘higher-ups’ stand down in favor of our state’s youth? Doubtful. What they’ll do for us though is fire a few more teachers, and do away with more programs that teach our children how to succeed.

What I wonder is, after they fire all the teachers, will they step up and teach our children?

The situation reminds me of the story of the flea and the scientist. In this instance the scientist is our state lawmakers/ state board of education etc. etc. etc.. The flea represents the local school districts, and the flea’s legs are our teachers.

Here’s how it goes:

A scientist was using the inductive method (logic generalizing in order to produce a universal claim or principle from observed instances) to observe the characteristics of a flea. Plucking a leg off the flea, he ordered, “Jump!” The flea promptly jumped.

Taking another leg off, the scientist again commanded, “Jump!” The flea jumped again.

The scientist continued this process until he came to the sixth and final leg. By now the flea was having a little more difficulty jumping, but it was still trying. The scientist pulled the final leg off and again ordered the flea to jump. But the flea didn’t respond.

The scientist raised his voice and demanded, “Jump!” Again the flea failed to respond. For a third time the scientist shouted at the top of his lungs, “Jump!” but the hapless flea lay motionless.

The scientist then made the following observation in his notebook: “When you remove the legs from a flea, it loses its sense of hearing.”

When the state gets down to two or three teachers per district, they’ll wonder why the teachers aren’t teaching effectively anymore and they’ll allocate more funding to look into the matter—that committee will decide that the teachers need another test to help them regulate their time. Or, perhaps they’ll decide that our wonderful AIMS test needs revamping so the kids will be absolutely sure of what they need to learn in order to succeed. Because of the money spent on that committee and that test, they’ll have to fire the remaining teachers in each district.

If you can read this ranting blog—thank a teacher, and no one else (except your mom).

Saturday, May 1, 2010

LDStorymakers Conference

I recently attended the LDStorymakers’ conference for writers and authors. It was fab! While I was there I was finally able to check something off of my “to do” list. As Mormons, we’re supposed to have a year’s supply, and I can smile with satisfaction now, because no matter what disaster strikes, I’m prepared with my year’s supply of books. (I bought 13 at the conference—4 to give away, and another 2 today at an author signing.)

All kidding aside, I made a bunch of new friends at the conference and learned some great stuff to improve my chances of being published. I know how to write a better query letter, and I know what LDS publishers want and what they don’t want as far as sex, violence and language are concerned.

Even though I have self-published two children’s stories, I don’t yet count myself among the ranks of published authors—the reason being because I only published a small amount for friends and family. However, I have a growing list of friends who have made it there ahead of me. My friend Liz Adair won a Whitney award for best Romance. (I reviewed her book, Counting the Cost right here on this blog.)

My friends Marsha Ward (right), who founded ANWA, and Tristi Pinkston were there—Tristi is one of my new BFF’s and she let me take her picture. *grins* I bought Tristi’s book Agent in Old Lace, and can’t wait to read it.

David Wolverton or David Farland—whichever—depending on whether you’re talking to him in person or reading one of his books won the Outstanding Achievement Award. Or rather I should say he earned it. He also won Best Novel of the Year for his book, In the Company of Angels.
I love how personable our superstars in the literary world are.

Those who aren’t Sci-fi fans will perhaps recognize Gerald Lund who earned the Lifetime Achievement Award (The Work and the Glory series). My favorite quote of the night, “I’m just a storyteller. The power in these stories is the power in the lives of real people,” Gerald Lund.

I had two friends who won in their genre for the First Chapter contest. Tamra Passey and Cindy Williams.
The Whitney committee knows that some day I’ll be a VIPA (very important published author) because they insisted that I sit at a table for generals. I thought that I should possibly sit with Gerald Lund or David Wolverton, or even Dan Wells who won Best New Author of the Year, but they insisted that I sit here…

Last but not least by any means, here is our group of ANWA sisters who were able to make it to the event (minus our current president, Aimee Morgan).