Tuesday, July 31, 2012

AUTHOR INQUISITION with Jennifer Griffith

Welcome to the Author Inquisition. Today we’re going to learn about all things sumo. Our guest, multi-published author, Jennifer Griffith has recently published a novel about sumo wrestling from her experiences in Japan. It will be on bookshelves this month.

I must say, you don’t look like the average sumo wrestler—at least not the ones they show on TV.

Jennifer: No, no. You misunderstand. I went to Japan, yes, but I wasn’t a sumo wrestler.

When you went to Japan, was sumo your favorite sport, then?

Jennifer: Tina, dear, [smiles sweetly] why don’t we go ahead with the other questions.

Um, yeah. Good idea. So, Ms Griffith, what is your favorite bit of writing advice?

Jennifer: Over the years I have always kept a journal. Now those volumes are about my most priceless possessions. I have a tip: find a journal or other book that speaks to your soul, makes you want to share yourself in its pages. For me, the big leatherbound book with the gold-embossed word JOURNAL across the front is like a flashing neon Guilt! Guilt! Guilt! sign. Instead, I like to hit places like TJMaxx or Marshall’s, or even the WalMart stationery aisle and see what blank books they have.

Don’t they get mad at you when they see you writing in books at the store? [whispers, is that even legal?] So, Jennifer, when you aren’t perusing the stationery isles of WalMart and writing in their books, what do you like to do in your free time?

Jennifer: I love, love, love reading. I believe in order to be a good writer, we need to be good readers. Give me a good book and a quiet day and I’m as happy as a lark. There are so many undiscovered books out there, and it’s my quest to unearth them all.

[Perks up] I’m right there with you. I love a good book. So, when you’re writing a novel and not, ahem, in a journal, do you ever come to a point where you get stumped?

Jennifer: I think all writers do. The best thing for when I’m stumped is to get my brainstorming partner (my husband!) and shake him until he coughs up some great ideas—

Wait right there!!! Isn’t your husband a judge?

Jennifer: Yes. What does that have to do with anything?

It sounds like a case of spousal abuse to me. I’m not sure that either me or my audience is prepared to hear that type of thing. I urge you in all sincerity to get help. Take anger management classes, or counseling—anything. [Whispers off stage: do we know anyone who could provide help?]

Jennifer: Tina. No. You didn’t let me finish. My husband is my support line, not my punching bag.


Jennifer: My husband doesn’t seem to have an inclination to write his own stories, and is happy to be a grand source of frivolity and fun for my books. If anyone has read my chocolate book, Delicious Conversation, my husband is the source of the whole Galapagos Tortoise plotline. Bless him. Somehow he never seems to go dry, either. It’s fantastic.

You know the actual turtle died just a couple of weeks ago.

Jennifer: You don’t say.

Yup. Do you snack when you write? If so, what?

Jennifer: Ack! I wish I didn’t, but alas. Every time I get up from my writing spot, I pass the closet where I keep all the cold cereal.

This is breaking news—are you coming out of the closet, then?

Jennifer: [eyebrows lift] As a cereal lover, yes. My hand dips down into the favorite box du jour and I grab handful after handful. In fact, every book I write should have an inscription: “This book is brought to you by Malt O’ Meal cereals.” That stuff is probably as addictive as crack.

Not that you’d know that type of thing. [head tilts in question.]

Jennifer: Of course not, and I never intend to find out for sure. [shakes head and groans] The cereal though, it calls to me.

Tell us a little about your other books.

Jennifer: I have three traditionally published novels for the LDS audience. The titles are Choosing Mr. Right, A Little Sisterly Advice, and Delicious Conversation. The last one is Jane Austen’s Persuasion set in a chocolate shop in Salt Lake City. It was really fun to write. Each chapter has a good, totally do-able chocolate recipe.

Oh, yeah baby. I love the fudge and the caramel recipes. [wiggles eyebrows]

Jennifer: Nowadays I’m writing less for the LDS audience, but still clean stuff!

A clean romance. [sigh] I don’t think the world can have enough of them. What was your writing process for this latest novel? Chocolate cereal?

Jennifer: I got this seed of an idea—a big white guy goes to Japan and becomes a sumo wrestler and falls in love—and it made me laugh that I’d be writing a sports novel, since I watch almost no sports ever, but it kept bugging me and I finally worked a first draft. But it wasn’t quite working. I needed to fix a lot of things.                                                                                                
I had a great book on plot and structure (called, surprisingly, Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell) that showed me how to write in scenes and to arrange them in a crescendo. On rewrite #1, I did that. Then I had to do five, count ’em—five, more rewrites to get it right. Then I had several editing passes to get the dialogue right, to make sure the characters were, uh, staying in character, to make the heroine more heroine-ish, to cut out lots of lame stuff, etc.

I queried and submitted, and there were still a couple of editing passes, but because of the help in that book I didn’t have any plot changes to do, which was fabulous.

That sounds blissful—the end result, I mean. Do you have a favorite writer’s memory?

Jennifer: I’ve had several young women come up to me at various times and say my book(s) helped them dump the wrong guy and wait for the right one. Nothing holds a candle to that!

Hmmm. Do you have any deep, dark secrets? [whispers offstage: other than writing in journals at the store]

Jennifer: My first fiction writing experiment was in a class where I was supposed to be writing personal essays—non-fiction essays. They strayed into fiction. [smiles at the memory]

Did you write your essay on a journal at Target?

Jennifer: [jumps up into a karate stance] Better knock it off! I’ve got some moves!

Yeah, yeah. You go girl. [whispers offstage: that put a little life in her didn’t it?] Tell us about your newest book coming out.

Jennifer: [sits back] It’s called Big in Japan. It’s the story of a big white Texan guy, Buck Cooper, who’s a nobody in his crummy job and love life. He goes to Japan and accidentally becomes the first blond sumo wrestler.

You’re blond. Almost.

Jennifer: It’s not me! BIG IN JAPAN will be available in bookstores nationwide and online (as well as in e-book) on July 28, 2012. [jumps up and cheers!] “Big is in!” [dancing around the room] “Big is in! Big is in!”

Hello? Jennifer? We still need your contact info and where people can go to buy your book.

Jennifer: Toodles! [Dances out the door chanting] “Big is in! Big is in!”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Several years ago, I saved a blog article written by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen where she gave a list of over-used words in our writing. Below is her top-20 list of over-used adjectives. Do any of these look overly familiar? If so, you might give your latest WIP another look, use the “find” and “replace” section of your computer and replace dull, over-used words with a fresh new perspective.

  1. Many
  2. Pretty
  3. Nice
  4. Kind
  5. Pleasant
  6. Tall/short/fat/skinny
  7. Big/little
  8. Shimmering
  9. Absolutely
  10. Same exact
  11. Truly unique
  12. Quite
  13. Funny
  14. Incredible
  15. A lot
  16. Bad/good
  17. Roaring
  18. Interesting
  19. Amazing
  20. Any

Some of these, I admit that I’ve seen and used before. I think it’s quite funny and incredible that some writers regard a word as truly unique and others think it is absolutely used too many times. Well, that was a small effort to use them all, but I only got about six.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


In art and photography, there’s something called, The Rule of Thirds. Simply said, this rule implies that if the subject is placed off center, it provides more visual interest. (Where is the main focus on  your favorite piece of art?)

The rule of thirds dates back to ancient Greece, but began to be widely used among artists during the renaissance era. To apply this rule, an artist would divide the paper, canvas etc. into thirds horizontally and vertically – like a tic-tac-toe board. This grid helps an artist to get the most drama for a limited amount of space.

Master artists and photographers use the rule of thirds in regards to light and dark as well. Many of Rembrandt’s paintings use two-thirds dark and one third light to illuminate the focus of his painting.

Rather than binding the artist or photographer down, following this rule gives freedom to consider options in creating a scene, and gives more control over the mood of the finished work.

Similarly, following the structure of the three-act play helps writers and authors format their story to get the most drama from the limited pages of their story. The first act should introduce us to, and help us to fall in love with or empathize with, the story’s main character.

Each scene, like the stroke of a brush, helps illuminate character and hints to the story as a whole. If we only paint light scenes, the story will be bland and uninteresting just as a paining composed of only the lightest hues garners little interest.

If an artist uses only dark, it will overpower the composition just as too much dark in our stories will overwhelm most readers. There needs to be a blend. And, just as an artist needs years of practice to become a master, it takes years of practice for an author to write something truly memorable.

Stroke by stroke, sentence by sentence, we build the first act, go through the first plot point, and enter act two. In a painting, this might be considered the medium hues. The strokes, neither ecstatic nor morose, that binds the story together. Then, the “black moment” when all seems lost, adds depth and emotion in order to make the story complete. In using the artist’s rule of thirds in our writing, we should add a variety of light and dark, which brings full color to our stories though depth of character and a wide variety of feelings.

Friday, July 6, 2012


This is the perfect clip to chill with on a hot July. Blend up the smoothie below, and enjoy! You'll never suspect it's over 100 outside.


1 1/2 c. orange juice
1 small, ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and cut up
1 medium, frozen, banana, cut into chunks
1 TBSP honey
1 c. vanilla, orange, or peach yogurt

In a blender, combine oj, avocado, banana, honey, and yogurt. Cover and blend until mixture is smooth and thick.
Serves 3.

NOTE: This might sound gross because of the avocado, but it's actually good. If you're nervous about the avocado, leave it out and add another frozen banana.