Sunday, May 24, 2015

Another side to the LDStorymaker Conference

There have been some amazing blog posts about the LDStorymaker conference that will give you a feel for what a unique, amazing conference it is. Here are a couple of my favorites:

I was on the conference committee this year, helping to plan and pull this conference off, so I got to see things from the administration side.

Guys, there is so much work that goes into a conference of this magnitude, it's unbelievable. And we do it because we love it. Period.

I was the agent and editor co-chair, along with the amazing Jaime Theler, and it was our job to find the very best agents and editors to come to the conference that would fit as many people as possible's needs. We were asked to do this job in the spring of 2014, right after the last conference ended. We started by opening up a google doc and making a huge list of all of our dream agents for the conference and what they represented.

I was the newbie, so Jaime got to hold my hand through most of my figuring out what we do for this job. She is a fantastic leader and has the kind of integrity that we should all aspire to have, and I'm so excited she's taking on the role of Whitney President this year (though I'll miss working with her and having our long Skype calls!)

By July of 2014, we began extending invitations. In a few instances we had agents who had requested to come to our conference because of our reputation for having an abundance of talented authors. How great is that? For other agents, we approached them in person at other conferences to feel out if they were interested in coming. And then there were the ones that we sent out cold emails to. By the end of September, we had the powerhouse cast of Suzie Townsend, Victoria Marini, Mark Gottlieb, Jen Rofe, and Lizzie Poteet lined up to be special guests at the 2015 conference.

And we were excited. Through our many emails back and forth with these agents and editors, we realized that they were perfect for the conference: Hungry for new, fantastic manuscripts, enthusiastic about teaching, and knowledgeable in so many areas that would be of value to our attendees.

And they had great clients and sales as a track record all ready, which of course, was great. All that was left was opening up registration and filling up all their pitch slots.

Which happened in minutes. Like 2 minutes, I believe. In fact, you all crashed the registration system on the first day with your enthusiastic registering, so we had to do a Take 2! And it filled just as quickly.

Then Jaime and I spent a lot (A LOT) of time drawing the manuscript consult lottery, sending emails, making schedules, setting up time keepers, doing the Slushpile panel drawing, and a ton of other little tasks that added up to hundreds of hours of work between the two of us.

In the meantime, Jaime and I signed with agents of our own and had manuscripts that we needed to revise and write in our "down" time. Plus we have families, jobs, and church callings as well. It has been a busy year. But, again, we did it because we love it.

And then came a moment when Mark Gottlieb took one of our attendees on as a client after reading pages from a ms consult, and it was SO exciting. We were thrilled that before the conference even started, one person had benefited from all the time we'd donated to this conference... and we hope there will be many more.

Then it was time for the conference. We cannot thank you enough, everyone who volunteered to be time keepers. I know it was a huge sacrifice for you--we had them take 2 hour shifts of standing outside the agent's pitch rooms and keeping the timing on track--but because of you, Jaime and I were able to take care of other things we needed to do.

I even got to go to TWO FULL classes. And they were both amazing and life-changing for my writing, so your help is much appreciated. Martine Leavitt's class (which deserves a blog post of it's own) and Melanie Jacobson's on making the most of your writing time--which let's be honest, I think most of us could benefit from. I got to pop in and out of a few more classes here and there and catch a few minutes--usually just long enough to whet my appetite, but then I was off running again. But it was more than I could have possibly gone to without all of your help.

I have to throw in a shout-out here to co-chairs Melanie Jacobson and Jenny Proctor spent on this conference. OODLES of time. And they both still put out a book this year. They are my heros. I'm so in awe of all they can accomplish and how well they pulled this off, that I try to soak it all up while I 'm working with them. Maybe some of their efficiency and uber-talent will rub off on me by proximity.

Being on the committee, I got to see how many people gave of their time for us, quietly and without fanfare, just because they love it too. So this is my THANK YOU to the conference attendees this year.

YOU are what makes this conference so amazing. It's your overwhelming gratitude. The friendliness. The willingness to learn. The quickness to jump in and help where needed. The spirit of helping and giving and being so dang smiley when we really need your smiles.

And the agents noticed how happy and kind you all were. The committee noticed it as well. And I noticed it, and was greatly touched by it.

Here are just a few, and I hesitate to even name names, because inevitably I'm going to forget about 10,000 others who helped.

Brittany Larsen, who kept trying to feed me, which I appreciated because I have a tendency of skipping meals.
Emily King, my agent sister, who saved me a seat at dinner and arranged for me and Tricia to meet and gush about our agent, Rachel Brooks.
Gina Larsen, who gave me a little gift bag, and it was so kind to be thought of.
Evelyn Hornbarger, who took one of my favorite pictures of me ever, and sat with me at lunch so I wouldn't have to be by myself in the front. And was just as awesome in person as I hoped she'd be.
Tiffany Oderkirk, my roommate, who was always quick with a kind word when I needed one.
Mark Gottlieb, who's shortbread cookies were a godsend on a night when I had to skip dinner and was lightheaded.
Ranee Clark for being my writer BFF and go-to gal, no matter what. And for taking on time-keeping when she flew all the way in from ALASKA to go to this conference. She missed classes just to ease some of mine and Jaime's burden.
Melanie Jacobson for sharing her berry, ice cream waffle with me, which was amazing and so good-enough to justify not sharing.
(And how many of these are going to be food related?? My husband will tell you that I tend to not eat when I go to functions like this, so anyone who forces food down my throat and keeps me from getting hangry/fainty is my friend for life.)
Emily Clawson for finding me when I was lost--I somehow wound up inside the NuSkin building and wandered around one morning, trying to find the conference while holding my hot chocolate, my back pack, my conference bag, and a huge box of agent gifts--and leading me to where I needed to be.
Elana Johnson for sitting on the ground with me and Jaime to stuff name tags with agent pitch times.

And so, so many more. I wish I had pictures of every single one of these people, but I hardly pulled out my camera. Next year, I'm taking a million pictures.

You all are the best, and it is a privilege to be a part of this conference committee and maybe make a difference in some of your lives, like you've made a difference in mine.

Here's to 2016!
Let the planning begin....

Friday, February 13, 2015

Real Love

See this man beside me:

Today is the 11th anniversary of when we first met. At a church Valentine's dance. We both laugh when we tell the story because it feels so cliche. I saw him across the room, introduced myself, we connected like I'd never connected with anyone before, and now we've been married for ten years.

In the eleven years since we've met, we have been through a lot. Four children, 20+ surgeries, so many ER visits I've lost count (for real), sleepless nights, anxiety, stress, medications to names I still can't pronounce, fainting, home health nurses, bills, and a plenty of difficult experiences I hope I never have to relive.

We've also had amazing, fun times together. Beautiful memories that will last a lifetime. But though our day-to-day actions and decisions are what make us who we are, I believe that we can truly see what we're made of in the difficult times.

And my husband is made of courage, strength, and love.

Here's a snapshot of real love:

It's sitting beside me in the doctor's office and hearing that our plans weren't going to be what we'd thought. That our son had Down syndrome with major medical issues. It's him comforting me, researching every little thing he could about the procedures our son would have to go through, and being there with me every single step of the way even though it was scary and difficult.

It's him staying overnight at the hospital with our son when it's my turn, because he knows how exhausted I am. That I can't face one more night with IVs beeping, bad news, and doctors coming in every hour, and even though it'll mean two nights of almost no sleep, he does it for me.

It's him working all day, then coming home and making dinner, taking care of the kids, taking care of me while I lie on the couch with an IV pumping vitamins and fluids into my arm for over six weeks. And being willing to go through something like that four times so we could bring our children into this world.

It's watching him hold each of our babies, then wrestling and tickling them when they get older, then helping them with their endless school projects and dreaming up new projects (like rockets or dance parties) to do on the weekends.

It's seeing him reach out to someone who is grieving, knowing that he grieves with them.

It's listening to me, really listening, when we need to talk.

It's always seeing the best in me, even when I know I'm not always at my best. He has never put me down, not once. He is a builder, not a destroyer.

It is knowing that I can trust him completely--emotionally and physically. He is my safe place.

It is in all the little, selfless decisions he makes every day that add up until they equal the kind of love that makes me thank God every single night that I went to that Valentine's Dance 11 years ago.

Don't settle for anything less than real love. There's a lot of counterfeit ideas out there trying to parade themselves as love, but love is patient and kind, trusting and hopeful. And it is a gift. One that if we have, we should cherish and treat well because love is worth it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Whitney Awards


The Whitneys is an awards program for novels written by LDS authors. 

I love this program. I love it so much, that I'm on the committee this year, and I get to send out the emails saying: Congratulations! Your book has been nominated for a Whitney.

Can I tell you how much I love sending out these emails? People are so excited to get them, and I get to share just a tiny bit of their excitement. Who doesn't love being the bearer of great news!

Another great thing about the Whitneys is that readers get to do the nominations.
Any reader. LDS or not. Teenager or adult. Avid reader or reader of one book a year. Anyone. 

So if you haven't nominated a book for a Whitney, then go do it. Here's the link. It's super easy and will take you about one minute, and it might mean the difference between a book becoming an official nominee or not.

Even if you think: "Surely, XYZ author is an official nominee. They are amazing in every way!"

You'd be surprised at who doesn't get nominated because people assume that someone else has done it. 

Here's a helpful Goodreads list for Whitney Award Eligible books.
And here's a complete list of books by LDS authors from 2014. 

Go forth and nominate! (You only have until December 31.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Some Fun News

1--  I have been asked to contribute a story to the Timeless Romance Anthology and the cover has been released. Isn't is gorgeous? And look at those amazing authors that my name is next to! Pretty cool. It’ll come out in April 2015.

2-- I have a new cover for Silver Linings! In honor of Thanksgiving and having an updated cover, the ebook of Silver Linings will be on sale for 99 cents until Saturday. Here's the link to it on Amazon


3-- My Christmas novella, Six Days of Christmas, is going to be a part of a 12 Days of Christmas Book Blitz event. Check out the other books a part of this (including one by NYT bestselling author Brenda Novak) and join the event! They’ll be giving away prizes, including books, up until the day before Christmas.

Hugs to all of you who read my blog and have bought my books, those who follow me on FB and Twitter and who follow my writing journey! I am thankful for all of you. 


Monday, November 10, 2014

Look Into My Eyes

 “When Jenny stepped in front of the oncoming truck, she saw the fear/horror/love/compassion/every single conceivable emotion ever felt by anyone ever in her brother’s eyes.” 

Image courtesy of Carlos Porto at
Are your characters eye readers?

Mine are.

They aren't mind readers, and they don't have a crystal balls, but I have found a real easy way around all that paranormal stuff when I'm drafting.

I just have my characters stare creepily into each others eyes, interpreting every hitch of the eyebrow, slight shifts of hue in their irises, and glints of light against their pupils in the exact right way.

And I'm not the only one who does this...

I know you've read scenes like this:
Eye Reading version:
His pupils dilate, and desire turns his ocean blue eyes to a deep indigo. I glance away, unable to hold his intense stare for too long. His gaze follows mine to the flier in my hand, and he lifts one eyebrow in challenge.

Him: "I am so attracted to you right now, I think I will give up everything important to me for the chance to be with you."
Her: "I don't know. Your crazy intense stare is kind of freaking me out, and I really want to save the whales."
Him: "I will be your whale."

Used here and there, eye reading is an effective way to show emotion without having to dissect everything with dialogue. It can be poignant and move a scene along quickly, as well as establishing a certain amount of intimacy between characters. Context is key with eye reading.

Do it too often though--or with the wrong character--and it gets cumbersome.

For example: I have a character in my current WIP who is so wrapped up in her own world, she's isolated herself from life, but the second she meets anyone new, you'd better believe she's reading their entire life history in their eyes.

So now I'm in the process of revising a good chunk of these instances in my current work in progress, and here's why:

1. It's a lazy way of conveying emotion.

2.It's telling instead of showing. It may not seem like it is (I'm *showing* the gleam in his eye...) but it's still just telling.

3. It's boring. Using my first example at the top, there are so many better, more interesting ways to express whatever emotion Jenny's brother feels right before she kills herself, other than XYZ in his eyes.

4. It can become too micro-descriptive and take the reader out of the narrative. We don't consciously notice every facial tick of the people around us, and our characters shouldn't either (unless they are like that guy from that Lie To Me show. Then it's okay.)

Any one else find themselves doing this in their writing?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Editing is Where the Art Happens

Image courtesy of Simon Howden
First drafts are crap.

At least mine are.

They are always full of meandering plot lines that either don’t go anywhere or turn ridiculous, characters with zero relevance, wordy descriptions or no descriptions at all, and people who talk and talk and TALK but don’t do anything.

I try not to let it bother me too much, because it might be a mess, but at least I have something to work with.

And that’s my favorite part. As much as I like drafting a shiny, brand new story, even more, I love revamping and polishing a story where I’ve gotten to know the characters, I have a better feel for themes, what’s at stake, and the overall tone I want to the book to have.

Then I get to go line by line and scene by scene and make it shine. I take out the cliché and overdone and boring, and try to make it interesting and beautiful.

I always like to say that this is where the art happens because it transcends functional writing and becomes something more.

So don’t stop writing before you get to this point! Don’t finish your first draft, or even your second, and think you’re done. I’ve heard so many agents say that one of the biggest mistakes people make is sending out their manuscripts too early. Don’t be that person that has a great book with a ton of potential, but just isn’t there yet.

Be patient. Let the shiny new idea sit tight for just a little bit longer.

Love your manuscript enough to make it shine.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What I learned in my Month of YA

I love YA books.

Which is good, because that's what I write.

So, in honor of my love of YA and the fact that I'm neck-deep in my latest YA manuscript, I decided to do what I called A Month of YA, in which I only read young adult books for six weeks (which, okay, isn't technically a month, but A Month of YA just flows nicely).

There was no rhyme or reason to the books I picked. Some I just had on my Kindle that I'd bought when they were on sale, and some my number on the library waiting list came up and I got them in during this time.

Here's the list and what I learned from things these authors did so well.

How to Love
Your characters don't have to be perfect to be loved. Make them unforgettable and real.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
YA is not afraid to tackle the dark stuff. Don't play it safe.

This plot ended up taking an unexpected turn that I loved. Keep your readers guessing.

Six Months Later
Atmosphere and word choice play a huge role in the tone of the novel.

The Chapel Wars
Comedy and drama can go hand-in-hand together. Also, dusty chapels make for great make-out sessions.

On the Fence
First kisses are the swooniest. Make the characters connect on an emotional level first, then kapow the reader with a fabulous first kiss.

The One (The Selection, #3)
Give the readers what they want, but do it in an unexpected way.

Changing Fate
There are many different voices among teens, and we need to remember the silent ones as well.

The Book of Broken Hearts
Motorcycle guys are hot. *ahem* Also, goal and conflict are super important in telling a compelling story.

The Impossible Knife of Memory
Relationships are the crux of most novels: relationships with family, with friends, with self. Make them real, raw, and relevant.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)
Destroy any letters you write but don't intend to send. :) I can't say enough how much I love the unexpected twist the love story took. I thought I knew the end from the first chapter and I was so very wrong. Give the readers what they don't even know they want and do it in an amazing way.

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)
Setting can be a character and add to the story just as much as plot, characterization, and conflict.

Have you read any amazing YA books lately?