Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Best Writing Gift

One thing I have always loved to write is church talks. I don't even give them in church. I just write them. Richard G. Scott once called this type of thing..storing up treasures of knowledge. Writing down the sacred things I've learned helps me to organize the thoughts and principles of the gospel in a way that is more concrete than just thinking about them in my head. I like to keep them in a special journal, saving them for a future date to give to my children. They're my own little "Plates of Brass". I write those sacred things in the hopes that someday they will be of value to my children. I believe it helps me in my secular writing endeavors as well. Being able to record things in a meaningful way helps me to put more heart into my other writing, and it helps me learn to touch and inspire others with my writing at a deeper level.

Someday I will pass these treasures of knowledge on to my children. And I believe it will be the most important writing I've ever done.

Kersten Campbell
"Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Eyes Like Mine" by Julie Wright, Reviewed by Tristi Pinkston

"Eyes Like Mine" is the new offering from best-selling author Julie Wright.

From the backliner:

William has been missing for two days. And even though the rest of the wagon company has decided they must continue on to Zion, Constance Brown refuses to go any further until she finds her husband. All she can think about is the last time she saw him—he lovingly touched her face and then sang their baby girl to sleep. Will that memory be all Constance has to hold on to?

In a future time and place, Liz King is a teenager struggling with her identity in the modern world. The embarrassment she feels because of her parents’ divorce and her family’s newfound financial problems turns to bitterness.

Through an inexplicable twist of fate, Constance and Liz are brought face to face. Liz recognizes Constance’s name from her mother’s endless lectures on their family history, and she also recognizes her eyes—they are exactly like her own. Were these distant relatives brought together in order to help each other?

Will Constance be able to return to her own life and find William, and will Liz be able to keep from telling Constance how her story ends? In this irresistible novel filled with gripping adventure and heartfelt emotion, two young women from drastically different times and settings learn that the challenges life holds for them are not so different after all.

Time travel with pioneers makes me nervous. The possibilities for triteness are so great, the chances for missteps are so many ... in fact, I've only ever seen it done well, twice. The first was in Willard Boyd Gardner's "Race Against Time." And the other?

In "Eyes Like Mine."

I love Julie Wright, not only as a phenomenal writer but as a good friend. She has a way of bringing light into a room whenever she steps into it, and that's what her writing does, too. You open a book by Julie and that light surrounds you until you're done reading. I found her story intriguing and compelling. The solution didn't come about quite as the characters hoped - they had to work a little harder for it, and I liked that. I appreciated the way she wove history and genealogy and modern-day trials into one cohesive tale. And you betcha, I can't wait for her next book.

(This book was published by Covenant Communications in 2009.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

"How Do You Know You're a Writer?" by Michele Ashman Bell

Writers are strange and bizarre people. I've been doing some research to figure out the qualities writer's possess and decided to share my checklist with you. Feel free to add or even debate any of the qualities listed. That's what writers do . . . question and re-write.

1. Imagination. Truth is stranger than fiction, but an author knows how to take a nugget of truth or inspiration, and spend months turning it into a story. Ideas are the seeds, but imagination is what makes them grow.

2. Observation. People ask me where I get my ideas from. I tell them . . . everywhere! A writer is continually watching people and gleaning ideas from things they see, hear and read. I also tell people to be careful what they tell me, it might end up in one of my books!

3. Discipline. Don't think that writers are always so full of inspiration that they can hardly wait to write. Sometimes it's pure heck and frustration to sit and write. The key though is to do it regularly, whether you feel inspired or not. Sticking to a writing schedule is crucial for a writer.

4. Perseverance. He who gives up, loses. It's not about talent, it's not about luck, it's about hard work and never giving up. Plain and simple.

5. A love of words. Finding the right way to say what's in your heart is truly magic. Nothing brings more joy to a writer than to read something you've written and think, "I don't even remember writing that," or be surprised that it's actually pretty good! (Wish that happened more often.) Writing till you say it just the right way, to express the action or emotion is pure bliss!

6. Passion. It's important that you feel passionate about your project, whatever it may be. Your goal is to share what's in your heart because when you do, the reader feels it in his heart. This is probably the most magical part of writing.

7. Humility. Writers are always trying to learn and grow and improve their craft. We also spend a great deal of time doing rewrites and revisions. Believe me, this will keep you humble.

8. Having a finger on the pulse of what's going on in the world. The luxury of writing for the sake of writing doesn't really exist, for the most part. Writers have to be aware of market trends, hot sellers, shifts in readers interest, etc . . . Write what's in your heart, but make sure there's a market for it.

9. Thick skin. You will never, ever please everyone. Some people will love your work. Some will hate it. Don't take it personal.

10. You can't not write. Whether I ever got published or not, I would always write. It's how my brain works. It's what I do.

Feel free to share your thoughts and feelings. I can take it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Having Hope by Terri Ferran - reviewed by Tristi Pinkston

"Having Hope" is LDS author Terri Ferran's latest novel and is the sequel to "Finding Faith," which I reviewed here.

Kit Matthews has been waiting for her missionary for the last two years. During that time, she has grown in her own knowledge of the gospel and feels more comfortable with the whole Mormon culture that had her so baffled when she first moved to Utah. When Adam comes home, she hopes a proposal will come her way, but she's completely surprised to find her heart turning another direction - she is presented with the opportunity to go to Romania for a few months to help in the orphanages there. Herself an orphan who was adopted into a loving family, she feels the need to help these Romanian children in any way she can.

Of course, Adam will miss her while she's gone, but he understands this is something she needs to do. However, the distance between them physically soon puts distance between them emotionally as Kit receives e-mails from Adam's sister that a new girl has moved in on Adam's free time and seems to be pegging herself a spot in his family that used to be Kit's. As Kit falls more in love with the orphans she serves, she realizes there might be a place for her in Romania, and if a handsome medical student just happens to go along with the package, would that be so bad?

I appreciated this look into the Romanian orphanages and the trials these institutions face, with little operating money and so many children to care for. I was also pleased to see another installment in Kit's story. She's a character you think about long after the book has come to an end.

(This book was published in 2009 by Bonneville Books.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Instead of Waiting for 'the Dream,' Here's How to Make that Dream Happen" by Michele Ashman Bell

It hasn't happened yet. Every night I go to bed and think, "Will I have the dream tonight? The one where I wake up and have a brilliant idea that becomes a best-selling novel series that turns into box office hits starring hunky male leads and smolderingly beautiful female leads?"

Yeah, right.

I may be a fiction author but I do live in the real world. These "success" stories are far and few between. Yes, they do happen, no question about it. But until you have that career-boosting dream, there are a few things you can do to make it happen the good old fashioned way, with hard work and imagination.

So, what exactly goes into a best-selling novel?

I've researched this question and have come up with a few ideas. Please feel free to add more. Believe me, I'm open to all the help I can get.

#1: Plot should be the driving force of your story. Characters and background are secondary. A good plot will pull the reader in and not let go of them until the last word of the last page.

#2: Have passion for your characters. Write characters that readers can love, at their best or at their worst. Make them human, give them flaws, let them show their humorous side as well as their neurotic side. They will be irresistible to readers.

#3: Find a way to appeal to the reader's wildest dreams and fantasies. People read to escape. If your character is dull and boring and they do ordinary things, readers are going to be disappointed. Write about the impossible that becomes possible. Let the reader escape into the wonderful world you've created.

#4: Keep the tension high all the way to the end. Make the reader crazy if you have to. Readers actually want to bite off all their nails, hold their breath, groan in agony and stay up all night reading. Hold them off, clear to the end, then . . . . give them the ultimate, satisfying ending.

#5: Have your background information so believable it becomes a character. When you decide on a setting for your story don't forget to look at what's right in front of your nose. You may be able to use material from your own life or surroundings that will add a deep level of authenticity that only you can offer.

#6: Use the details of place and time as tools to create your characters. Make characters an extension of their world; how they dress, how they speak, what they eat and all other ways they interact with their surroundings. Books become magical when the reader believes that characters and their world are real.

#7: Be unique. Everyone one of us comes to the table with a set of experiences, interests and abilities. Taking advantage of our own personal uniqueness will allow us to write stories that no one else can write. Embrace it. You really do have qualities that will set your story apart from everyone else's.

Perhaps what we can learn from this is that we don't really need a dream. Maybe where we get our ideas isn't as important as what we do when we get an idea. We really can make magic happen.