Sunday, December 20, 2009

We've Moved!

Yes, it was fast.
Yes, it's sort of crazy, but a family offered to buy our house and since we were looking for work and most of the opportunities were not in Portland, we jumped at it. From the day we decided until the day we moved was less than two weeks.

Now we are in Seattle, staying in my sister's guest house. It is beautiful and we are so grateful for her generousity. Christmas will be wonderful in this cozy get away and we hope the New Year brings many new opportunities ahead.

Here's our Christmas tree. William cut it down and notice Greg's MANTRUCK in the background.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Off to Israel

I'm going to Israel tomorrow!!!!
Our flight leaves at 7 am and we don't officially arrive until the next day. Yes, we will be travelling for like 24 hours.

Okay, I should be packing right now.
No, I should be editting "Lipstick Wars" because I wanted to leave with it finished.
No, I should be shopping to fill the cupboards for the kids while I'm gone.
Or maybe cleaning so I don't leave them with a mess.

Either way, I've got to run but I did want to tell you that I'm hoping to give you a blow by blow of the trip. Taking pictures. Doing the whole thing. So keep your eyes out. I still can't accept it's real, ya know?

See you in ten days.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Am I Ready For a Critique Group?

This is from the presentation I did at Silver Lake retreat in the beginning of October. I've had the flu and have not accomplished much except staying in bed the last few weeks.

Unlike writers groups that focus on improving literary technique, critique groups are primarily single purpose activities where writers get specific feedback on their work. They can have from 4-10 members but must stay small so that everyone has a chance to share. Writing is usually confined to a single chapter or children’s book per session per member.

Starting A Critique Group-

How to begin- If you belong to a local writers group, you may be able to find the beginning of a group there. Also put notices on bookstores, libraries, local paper. People interested may be given a trial period first to see if they are a “fit.”

Choose a convenient place and time- Coffee houses serve slushies! They can be a good place to meet. Small bookstores are also often willing to host. You may switch homes or if it is more convenient meet in a single home, but if it is too much work for one person, it probably won’t last. Set a good foundation.

Sharing Selections- Some groups email their selections to each other and read them before hand, bringing a prepared critique. This can allow for a deeper analysis. We read our work and then critique immediately following. I’ve heard of others who pass their work to another who reads it.

Use a Timer- Depending on the number of members divide up your time and use a timer to keep people within limit. Set a reading time and a critique time separately. Trust me.

Random Other Suggestions
1. Say something positive about each piece. It is easy to forget to emphasize the good as well as find what needs improvement. When a description is really bright or a plot twist totally surprises you don’t let it go without saying something.
Critique the writing, not the writer. Instead of saying, "You aren't very good at conclusions," say, "This conclusion didn't really work for me."

2. Be specific. Instead of just saying, "The characterization needs work," try to figure out where and how the writer can improve on the story’s character. (PET PEEVE!)

3. Tailor your comments to the writer and his/her needs. What are they using the piece for and what are their goals? Do they want to publish or distribute to friends and family?

4. When receiving critique, be quiet! (I stink at this but I should be better.) Sit back and take notes. Let the questions and comments fly. Take it all in. Answer questions at the end, if necessary. Don’t defend or throw heavy objects.

5. Beyond the very reasonable, don’t socialize too much during group time. It will eventually crumble the will of the group. Get to know each other in other ways.

6. Make an agreement with the whole group that you will not steal ideas, or talk about the work, except in general terms. Decide how you will deal with people coming in and out of the group and being late or unprepared. Be flexible.

One last thought (not my own but I liked it).

“Critique groups teach us not only how to write but also how to grow a thick skin. Notice I said a critique group, not a fan club. If your group consistently tells you how great your writing is, find a different group. You want one that will hurt your feelings by explaining (tactfully) how your characters are shallow, your dialogue forced, and your prlot predictable… You want a group that will force you to do better, because only then can you believe them when they say what you wrote was terrific.”
- “How I Got Published” by Ray White, Duane Lindsay

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If You Don't Know about Dred Scott, Read This

I had never heard of Dred Scott before picking up "Am I Not a Man: The Dred Scott Story" by Mark Shurtleff. But as I began reading, it shocked me that I wasn't more familar with this pivotal part of history. Dred Scott was a slave who sued for his freedom all the way to the Supreme Court- and lost. Ironically, his defeat was a gift. It was on the wave of his failure that a little-known politician stepped forward to eventually become the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln.

Shurtleff weaves the story by touching on various threads at different times and places that converge together to create the foundation of Dred Scott's case. Raised by a loving liberal southern family, Dred's childhood is one of strength and joy where the bonds of slavery are rarely felt until the Blow family falls on financial difficulty. When he is sold, Dred soon faces the depths of helplessness and great cruelty.

While this well-researched and engaging narrative illustrates Dred's personal struggle, Shurtleff is able to bring in powerful passages from Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass without being heavy-handed. The result is a nice overview of the events leading to election of Abraham Lincoln and the political decisions that preceded the Civil War.

Most shocking of all was the Supreme Court ruling by Chief Justice Taney that black men have "no rights a white man was bound to respect." It would have been easy for Shurtleff to demonize Taney's character, and I was impressed how equitably he dealt with him, trying to honestly portray this man's views and motivations in a much more sympathetic light than I ever would.

To me, the muster of a good book is if it grabs my attention initially, and makes me glad I forfeited the hours reading it long after I close the cover. Although it took a few chapters to get hooked, once I was into the story, I raced through the pages with fascination. It still amazes me that Dred's childhood owners were the ones who tried to free him by attempting to purchase him before turning to legal venues. In the end, the courts never did declare Dred Scott free during his lifteime, but he found freedom nonetheless.

Having put the book down, I have to say I'm glad I read it. A little freaked out by the Supreme Court (I guess that hasn't changed much), but glad nonetheless. When I heard the author was a previous Attorney General, I was worried Shurtleff's prose would be dry and stuffy, but I couldn't have been more wrong. It was bright, fast-paced, informative and entertaining. Best of all, I now know who Dred Scott is and better understand the sacrifice that allows me to enjoy the freedoms I sometimes take for granted.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Review of 'Hearts of Courage'

When his mother grew ill, Joe Tippets decided to fly from Nome, Alaska where he was updating radio equipment to his parent’s home in Utah during Christmas vacation. His wife and young son stayed behind in Anchorage. On January 5, 1943 Tippets boarded a twin-engine plane with five other passengers to return home, but the plane never arrived. “Hearts of Courage” is the harrowing story of his miraculous survival during nearly four weeks of the harshest conditions imaginable, as told by his son, John Tippets.

Replete with pictures, diagrams, letters, and newspaper clippings “Hearts of Courage” carries the reader through Tippet’s experience with accuracy and insight. From the moment their left engine knocked out I was spellbound at the turn of events. Although everyone survived the crash, some of the passengers were severely injured. The pilot tried to hike out and was never heard from again. Finally, when their food had almost run out Tippets headed into the frigid Alaskan winter with another passenger, Sandy Cutting, to find help. Fighting starvation and the elements, these men spent the month surviving the Alaskan winter as they searched for help so that they could return and rescue their two fallen companions back at the crash site.

One disappointment after another strikes them, and then a simple gift like a few stray crows keeps them going. It was incredible to read their journey, and I appreciate that it was told without emotionalizing it, because the events they endured were emotional enough. In the end even their rescue was amazing, but perhaps the most incredible thing of all is what Tippets did after his return to safety. I still get misty-eyed thinking about it.

“Hearts of Courage” is a quick read and worth every minute. The writing is in the first person and uses many of Joe Tippet’s own words. It is written concisely, but at times I would have liked a little more description. Still, anyone reading this book will be inspired by Tippet’s ability to face incredible obstacles with faith and determination. In the end his success is due entirely to the fact that he was willing to keep trying in the face of a hopeless situation: a helpful reminder in these difficult times.

Hearts of Courage is available for purchase at, most LDS bookstores or you can contact the author directly at johntippets AT yahoo DOT com

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Elijah's Widow and The Woman at the Jacob's Well

The first miracle: The Prophet Elijah and the Widow of Sarepta by Bernardo Strozzi KUNSTHISTORISCHES MUSEUM, VIENNA

Many Trials, Small Blessings

The story of the Widow who cared for Elijah always fascinated me. Despite having an obvious miracle of being sustained through the famine, it wasn't until her son was healed that she knew Elijah was a man of God. Perhaps this was because the miracle of the meal not running out wasn't all that great. She still had to make the plain cakes every day and I'm sure she got sick of the same thing. She obviously didn't have that much left over because we don't know that she could share it with others who were starving or even if she got that much. But saving her son was an awesome gift that may have opened her eyes to the earlier miracle too. (From 1 Kgs. 17: 8-21)

The Widow with Elijah

Sometimes it feels like the Lord asks so much of me, and then when I think He can’t ask another thing, He asks more. The famine had stolen my husband. I watched our store of food dwindle day by day until there was almost nothing left. Finally, one day I went outside to gather wood for my last cooking fire. I knew there was only enough for one small cake, and then my small son and I would lay down next to each other and die, as I had seen so many of my friends and family already do before me.
While I was out on this daunting task, a man approached me and said he was a man of God. He asked for food, and I told him of my plight. He didn’t pity me but asked again for food. He said that if I fed him first, there would be meal and oil left for me and my son. I almost denied him but finally shrugged and thought ‘what’s the difference.’
I scraped the last of the meal from the sides of the barrel. It was empty except for a little residue around the edges of the bottom. I took it and poured on the oil. It was barely enough to moisten the dry granules, and I kneaded them together into a small uneven lump of dough. As it cooked, I thought of the man’s promise that the barrel would never be empty and the cruse would never run dry, thinking that they already had.
He ate, and I turned to open the lid of the meal barrel. It still looked empty, but it occurred to me that there might be some flour stuck in the seams of the wood. I tapped the side and wouldn’t you know that a thin dusting settled on the bottom. With much difficulty I gathered it up and was surprised it was enough for two more small cakes. I patted the base of the turned over cruse and a few small drips seeped down the sides of the ceramic vessel. We ate our meager meal and my son slept with me while the supposed prophet took my child’s bed.
For weeks it continued. Every morning I would look in the barrel and though it seemed empty, with much work, I would get just enough to survive. Nothing more. I suppose it was a miracle of sorts. But why hadn’t God sent a goat or sheep or even touched a tree to make it covered with figs. No, we lived off of small bland cakes that I had to work to prepare, given one at a time.
I tried to be grateful but it was hard, watching my neighbors starving around me. It made me wonder, if there was a God, how could he allow such suffering?
Then one night I woke to find my son burning with fever. The next day his eyes were glassy and a low cough hovered deep in his chest. I recognized the shadow of death upon him as it had been upon my husband just the month before and fear gripped me. That night his forced breathing slowed until with the rise of dawn it ended altogether.
The man must have heard my wailing because I turned and saw the prophet at the door. I stood before him and asked why he had brought only sorrow to my life. He took my boy up to his room and called me a few minutes later. There sat my boy. Alive and healed. I knelt before him and gratitude filled my heart. For the first time I looked up and realized he truly was a man of God and that my Father in Heaven cared about us, even through this trial.

A Sinful Past

Henryk Siemiradzki. "Christ and the Samaritan Woman." 1890. The Lvov Picture Gallery, Lvov, Ukraine. Obtained from

As women, I think many of us struggle with forgiving our pasts. We hope that repentance works but somehow believe we are still unloveable or broken because we have done things we are not proud of years ago. I love this story because Christ declares his divinity not to the covenant mother who is at the well surrounded by friends, but to a woman so embarrassed to associate with her peers that she sneaks out to the well in the middle of the day. What a message to those who feel they aren't good enough because of previous bad choices. (From John 4:3-42)

Woman at Jacob's Well-

We all have our secrets. No one needs to know my past, and no one in Sychar did. I had recently moved there with a good man, the first good man I’ve ever been with. I would have married him but my last husband left town without divorcing me. He may be dead, but it seemed a greater sin to be married to two men officially than to simply live with one until I found out for sure.

Still, to keep this secret has cost me dearly. From the first day here I’ve been careful not to let the women too close. When my neighbor welcomed me with a loaf of bread, I returned it, explaining that we could not accept such kindness. The scowl on her face gave me assurance that she would stay away. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t love to have this woman as a friend, but women ask too many questions. If I had let her near, one day I would slip and once they knew the terrible things I’d done and the horrible men I’ve been with, they could never look at me the same way again. No, it was better for everyone if I simply pushed the women away.

On the bright side, men don’t ask questions, especially of a married woman. So I made friends with the men that hovered around the livery where my supposed husband worked. We laughed together and often discussed politics and religion which were so interconnected that they were almost the same conversation.

Business was doing well, and I looked forward to the day when I could hire a servant to fetch water for us. Until that day, I was careful not to approach the well at the common times. During the first hours of the morning the women of the village gathered in droves as much for water as for gossip and conversation. As soon as the sun had risen, they’d hurry to socialize, some for hours. It wasn’t until mid-day that they had gone. That is when I’d leave with my vessel, before they all started to return in the evening to ask more probing questions or glare in disapproval.

As I approached Jacob’s well this one day, a Jewish man sat on its edge and asked me for water. I was shocked he would even talk to me. Jews hated the Samaritans because we claim the real priesthood and the real temple site. I asked him why he spoke to me and he answered that if I had asked of him, he would give me living water. At that point I simply laughed at him. He had nothing to fetch with. Then he explained about the power of the water he spoke of, and I realized it was symbolic. Perhaps this water could heal my past and wash it away. I felt something I hadn’t before and knew that this water was something I needed. I asked, “Give me of this water that I may thirst not.”

His answer made me wilt. “Call thy husband and come hither.”

I bit my lip, unsure of how to answer. “I don’t have a husband.” I finally said.
Instead of the words bringing derision, a look of joy sprang to his face and he commended me for my honesty and spoke of my past in detail, something no one else knew. But his words didn’t make me feel dirty like in the past. I knew he loved me and that he must be a prophet. Excited at this discovery I asked him the doctrinal question that had been plaguing me about the original temple site. He asked how I hoped to receive an answer and I told him eventually the Savior would come and tell us.

He replied, "I am he."

Those words I knew! It was the name of Moses' god whom we worshipped- The Great I Am. He was the Messiah. This was the one for whom we waited.

I dropped my vessel and ran to town, shouting “He is here. The Messiah has come.” Many of the women shunned my words, but the men I had spoken with and my own sweet companion believed me. We ran back to the well, where he sat waiting for us and taught us marvelous things. Then we invited him to Samaria and he stayed for two full days. Many believed and during that time he truly filled me with the living water as he had promised. I’ve never thirsted more.

The Widow's Mite

The Widow's Mite by James Tissot.

The line that gets me from the Widow's Mite is that she gave "all she had." I think of this righteous woman who held nothing in reserve, and I am amazed at her faith. Too often I'm only willing to give what's comfortable, not everything.(From Luke 21: 1-4)

Widow’s Mite- Poverty

We were never well-to-do, even when Thomas was alive, but his death made things so difficult. I’ve been able to subsist from trading a few things from my meager garden and helping the women near me with mending and housework for a loaf of bread or a basket of figs. Rarely do I even see money anymore. Then one day Doris, my neighbor, grew ill. For three weeks I sat at her bedside, doing the best I could for her, mopping her brow and trying to lift her spirits with a gentle word. I also cooked as best I could and gave the children a little direction. Finally, I could see the warmth returning to her cheeks, and we all rejoiced.
As I prepared to leave, her kind husband handed me two mites. It was the first coin money I had seen in months. I clutched it to my chest all the way home and then paused. Had not God sustained me during this difficult time? It had been so long since I had given him anything in return. Granted, the reason was I had nothing to give but, looking at the coins in my hand, I rejoiced that I could go to the temple and make an offering to Him who had sustained me.
As I turned, I looked down at my worn shift and robe. The two mites could purchase new fabric. Then my gaze flitted to the roof which leaked during the rainy season. It could be mended for the amount in my hands and I’d have enough left over for a veritable feast. Yet I knew what I must do, and marched down the dusty road, not looking back.
Without anyone seeing me, I slipped past the wealthy men who brought their great gifts and stood in the corner. Seeing their riches, I wondered why the Lord would even care about my simple offering. I almost faltered and hoped that no one saw me as I slipped the two mites in the box, giving all that I had with faith in my heart that somewhere, somehow the Lord would provide.
I don’t know if anyone saw me or whether my small token even made a difference to anyone else, but it made a difference to me. As I walked away, I knew my sacrifice was accepted of the Lord and I was filled with peace.

Mother of A Stripling Warrior

By Del Parson. See here.

During a lesson about Motherhood, a woman in my ward said that as a recent convert, she took such hope from the mothers of the stripling warriors. Since she wasn't raised in the church, she was plagued with a feeling that she wasn't doing 'it' right. There were so many things that seemed ingrained from generations in the church that she worried her sons wouldn't go on mission and would struggle because she didn't know the primary songs and wasn't sure what a normal FHE looked like. But when she read about the mothers of the stripling warriors, she had hope because they were all first generation members and look what they did. Their sons were valiant and true and hers could be too. (From Alma 57: 21)

Mother of Stripling Warriors- Motherhood

My people hated the ‘Mormons.’ We had heard many things about their strange ways ever since I was young. When I first heard that Ammon had converted the king, I wasn’t surprised because the truth was he was never very bright. I mean, miracles are nothing more than magic tricks. But when my own husband asked me to listen to this fair-skinned child from the north, I was at first disgusted. Still, I agreed to keep the peace.
He came into our home wearing strange clothes and with his hair cut short. The first thing he told me was that the Great Spirit who I had been taught about was actually a loving Father and that his Son would soon come down among us, perhaps during the lives of my children or grandchildren. His words made me quake from the center of my being, and I felt certain what he was saying was true. I was amazed. This man was sent to teach me that what I did mattered and that my children had a great work to do.
From that day on, I gathered my boys around me every night, and we prayed together. I told them of what I knew and whenever I learned something, I’d share it with them right away, whether we were cleaning, working or just playing. If we had questions, we discussed them together. I encouraged them to read the scriptures and gain their own witness. Even when my husband was killed by persecutors of the truth, I begged them to turn their grief away from anger to hope in Christ and a glorious life yet to come.
The persecution increased and after a time we moved north near the other believers. In that place of safety it was tempting to slack off from teaching my children. But something in me knew I must continue our tradition of daily family prayer and scripture study. Finally, when my boys were in their late teens, their call came. Helamen asked for their help in fighting and they were ready. I’ve been told that without their righteousness and strength, the faithful may have been utterly destroyed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More Unnamed Women of Infuence

Many people feel sorry for the woman with the issue of blood because of the confines of the Law of Moses which would preclude her from a normal life. That would be tough but personally having dealt with a low thyroid and then being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue on top of it, I think her biggest trial was no energy. Can you imagine how anemic she must have been. Whatever her greatest burden, there do seem to be two types of healing in this story. First her body was restored and then her spirit.(From Matthew 9: 20-22)

The Woman Who Touched the Hem- Illness

My life began as a happy one. I was married to a wealthy man, soon became pregnant and expected a full life and large family. But it wasn’t long before I lost the baby I was carrying. The grief was difficult, but in addition I carried another burden- oddly my bleeding never stopped. Jewish law considered me unclean, and my poor husband was forbidden from being in my presence. At first we sought the advice of doctors, but I only grew worse. After a few years we decided it would be best if we divorced. He gave me a portion of his wealth, and I continued to try and find a cure.
Despite my efforts, nothing seemed to help. Although some worry about my grief, loneliness and loss, the hardest part for me is that I’m always tired. I used to be full of joy and enthusiasm. I was fun, smart and beautiful. But now I find myself dragging around like an old woman, and hardly have enough energy for my brain to function. In the morning I find myself caring little about how I will fill my empty days. I don’t even like to gaze at my pale face in the glass as it only reflects a sorry shadow of the real me. Once I was a beauty, but any trace of what I was has been replaced by this broken shell. It is just so much to have taken away.
When first I heard of this Jesus, I didn’t want to hope again. In the past when news arrived of some doctor who may be able to cure me, it was as though a great light filled my heart only to have it extinguished and deflated after months of pain and handfuls of gold coins were spent. Still, somehow this seemed different and I set out at the break of day, unsure of my resolve.
The crowd was surprisingly thick in the narrow streets, and I tried to work my way through them without coming into contact with anyone. You see, touching me would make them unclean. It took most of the morning. By the time I finally got within about five feet of him, I could see his face and was filled with an unexpected hope. I simply knew he could heal me. His power was real, and as I watched him speak to those around him, I could feel his love.
Suddenly, a man bumped against me and continued forward. It caught me off guard, and I wondered if I should tell him of my condition so he might cleanse himself. He moved away so swiftly that I didn’t get the chance. I watched him kneel before the Savior with a look of utter sorrow and beg the Messiah to come to his home. His daughter was sick, nigh to death. As they began to leave, I fell to the ground. I knew if Jesus left, I might never get another chance. Closing my eyes, I prayed with more fervor than I thought I had. I asked God to heal me through his Son’s great power, even if I was only able to touch the tassel of his shawl. As the words danced through my mind, I was filled with fresh hope and felt certain I would indeed be healed.
When I opened my eyes, I was horrified. He had already passed by. I pawed my way through the crowd, not caring who I touched, and reached out to put my hand against the blue and white wool of his garment. The minute I did, I felt my body fill with strength. A smile found its way to my lips but disappeared moments later when Christ stopped and turned asking “Who touched me?”
His companions shook their heads, saying with so many how would he ask such a question, but I knew. Looking at the people pushing against me, I knew that they were each even unclean after my healing since seven days had to pass after my bleeding stopped before I could be around anyone. For me to reveal my plight would also entail a confession of my sin.
A single tear slid down my cheek. Taking a deep breath, I stepped forward and bowed my head. Whether I was punished or publicly ridiculed for exposing those around me and breaking the law, in gratitude I decided to confess. “It was I, Lord.” I began.
He touched my hand, and I lifted my eyes. “Daughter, be of good cheer.” There was joy beaming from his face, and all my concerns dissolved to nothingness. “Thy faith hath made the whole.” Although touching his hem had healed my body, it was his words that filled me with strength and gladness. As he walked away, I felt a new gratitude for these restored gifts and vowed that from then on I would use them well, lifting others as the greatest of all had lifted me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Unnamed Women of the Scriptures

So I've been preparing a program for Enrichment on the unnamed Women of the Scriptures and thought I'd post each one for you.

The first is the wife of Nephi. (1 Nephi 7, 16, 18)

My name is never mentioned in the Book of Mormon, but I was the daughter of Ishmael and wife of Nephi. I’d like to say that I didn’t know what I was getting into when I married him but from the beginning it was one challenge after another.

He came to Jerusalem and told my father of the visions of his father Lehi. His strong testimony convinced my mother and I right away that our great city would be destroyed and that the Lord had a plan for us. Soon after we left, a few of my brothers, along with Laman and Lemuel rebelled. They tied up Nephi and wanted to leave him behind to be devoured by beasts.

My mother and I with one of my brothers begged for his release. We knew they might attack us as well but we knew even more that we were following the Lord. Our pleas are what finally softened their hearts to release him.

Soon after we were married, Nephi broke his bow and we nearly starved. I struggled with my testimony but watched my husband stay faithful through the entire experience. On the boat, Nephi’s brothers rebelled again and tied him up. A great storm nearly killed us and I plead before them but they would not listen. All I could do was pray below deck as I huddled with my sick children and tried to comfort his parents who almost died through this trial.

From the moment we landed, Nephi led the people to build a city, only to leave it and build another. He was gone from dawn until dark working or writing records. Often I was left alone to make up the difference. At times when he was so busy, it was hard- as hard as going without food- and I must admit that I struggled. But I knew he was called of the Lord and stayed faithful by his side all my days.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Christmas Stories in August

I participated in LDS Publisher's Christmas story contest. Many people voted for me but alas, I came in a not so close second. Still, if you're interested, here is my story. It is true and my husband even said that I didn't embellish that much.

A Time for Christmas

I shifted the screaming toddler in my arms and cast my eyes at the clock against the wall of the crowded terminal. There was still another two hours before our connecting flight would be here.
“It’s okay. We’re going to Grandma’s for Christmas.” I told him with a smile, but my eighteen month old was so tired that words had no meaning. He continued flailing much to the annoyance of the dozen people within five feet of me. What he needed was a nap, but there was no space on the floor and I feared that if I stood I’d lose my seat and be forced to stand the rest of time.
Beside me, my husband held our three year old who slept in his arms. The day before Brian had a slight fever but seemed fine that morning. He slept during most of the flight, and I envied him. As Marcus’s cries intensified, I reached into my large carryon and pulled out his last full bottle. He finally took it, but I knew the reprieve would be a short one.
It was my own fault. To save money I had purchased tickets with three layovers which meant we could afford to rent a car. But between the snow, fog and other delays it took us over twenty six hours before we finally arrived in Medford. Then we began the three hour drive to the ranch where my husband grew up with Marcus still crying, and Brian still sleeping, As we rolled past the vast snow-dusted pastures filled with fat cattle huddled together to stay warm, my only thoughts were of how much I couldn’t wait to flop in a soft bed and close my own eyes.
We pulled up to the door in the middle of the chilly December afternoon and were greeted by an exuberant crowd. Greg’s parents, brothers and sisters swarmed around us. Yolanda, his older sister, was perhaps the most excited. She had arrived the day before from Utah with her two sons who were just the same ages as my own. The boys had never met, and we were all looking forward to seeing the young cousins become friends. After exchanging hugs we entered the main room where the bedecked tree in the corner sat swaddled in hundreds of homemade ornaments, the result of many crafty family nights over the years. Underneath it laid a fan of brightly covered packages. One of Greg’s younger sisters ran out to the car and got the bag that added our offering to the mix. It looked to be the perfect Christmas.
I volunteered to go upstairs to try and get the children settled down for a nap, hoping I might be able to steal one at the same time. Greg deposited the sleeping Brian on the bed beside me and headed downstairs to his family. Poor Marcus, still hiccupping and blotchy from his hysterics, was covered in sweat. As I peeled off his wet clothes, there was no question the child needed a bath. I started the tub, left him on the bathroom floor playing with a bottle of soft soap and hurried back to the bedroom to wake Brian.
“Honey? Come on.”
With his eyes still half closed, he sat up, took my hand and shuffled to the bathroom where Marcus was lifting the toilet lid to play with the water inside. I yanked off his diaper and stuck him in the half-filled tub and then turned to his older brother. Brian stood before me swaying slightly.
“Hey, can you believe we are here? This is going to be so much fun.” I said, trying to get the child alert and excited. “Tomorrow we’re going to see Santa in town, and the very next day is Christmas!”
Brian let me pull his shirt over his head and begin to unbutton his trousers, when I looked in his eyes and stopped. “Brian?” I said taking him by the shoulders. “Look at me.”
I could tell he was trying to comply, but he could barely focus on my face. There were dark rings around his eyes and his lips were pale, almost white.
“Brian?” I said again.
He said nothing in reply.
An awful fear gripped me, and I screamed for my husband who rushed upstairs. “We need to take Brian to the hospital right now. Something’s wrong.”
“Are you sure? I mean,” Greg stammered.
“How many times have I ever said that? Listen, I know something is seriously wrong. Please, we need to go now.”
Clutching Brian in my arms, I grabbed a blanket and ran to the car. Greg was right behind me, pausing only to give his mother instructions on caring for Marcus. The entire twenty-minute ride I tried to get Brian to respond, but he seemed to be fading further and further away. When I lifted his arm, it fell with no resistance and his eyes looked is if they had sunken slightly back in his head. I felt as if he was struggling to cling to life and had no idea why.
With the hospital in view I was filled with relief and threw the door open while the car was still moving. Rushing through the emergency doors, I screamed, “Help, my son is dying!”
The doctor was standing right there and without triage rushed him into a room and began an IV while asking for details. Through my tears I told him of our arduous plane ride and that he hadn’t been feeling well before we left. The older physician looked in my son’s eyes with his pen light and gave a faint smile. “Little Brian here was severely dehydrated. Twelve percent of children under five who pass away do so from dehydration. Your gut was entirely accurate. Another half an hour and he might have not made it.”
“But he never said he was thirsty. I didn’t think about it.” Guilt washed over me.
“We’ll need to admit him and run some tests to see if this stress has affected his organs. If all goes well and he’s eating and alert, you’ll be home for Christmas.”
Greg left, and I stayed that night, cuddled beside my small son in the narrow hospital bed. Brian smiled at me now and then but said very little and would only take a sip or two of the bright red, yellow and blue liquids I offered. The next morning he opened his eyes but still looked so tired.
He drank a bit more but would only nibble at his food. In the afternoon the family arrived, hoping for the best only to have their Christmas Eve ruined by the news that Brian would be spending Christmas in the hospital.
I hugged Marcus and patted Greg on the shoulder. “Have a great day tomorrow, and don’t worry about us. We’ll be fine.” As I watched them leave, I wished things could have been different. I wondered why we couldn’t have a miracle of healing where Brian suddenly recovered and would be magically home on Christmas day. Instead, I looked down at my normally talkative three year old and sighed. He lay in bed without enough energy to even care that he was missing the day he had looked forward to the last four months. The evening hours inched by and somewhere in the night Christmas began, but not for us.
The day was lonely and uneventful. A few good Samaritans came caroling and delivered stale candy canes. Some people I never met before came by to tell me they knew Greg as a child and heard we were there, but that was usually followed by awkward silence before they left. Greg came alone and spent the afternoon reading Brian a story and bringing me a much needed change of clothes. When I bid Greg goodbye at the hospital entrance, I could tell we both felt more somber than the season should allow. Walking back into my son’s room, Brian looked at me and said, “Mom, is it really Christmas? It doesn’t feel like it.”
I smiled and brushed his blond hair from his forehead. “You know, sweetie, we can celebrate Christmas whenever we want. Christ was really born in the spring, but we remember the day in the winter to make us happy. We’ll have Christmas as soon as you get home. It will still be there waiting for you.”
He seemed comforted, but I wondered how he would feel when he saw that his brother and cousins had all opened their presents. I knew he’d miss the anticipation of being surrounded by family and the wonder of walking down the stairs to a room filled with plenty. There would be other Christmases, but in that hospital room with my arm around my frail son, I felt abandoned and alone- like Christmas had left us behind.
Still weak, Brian slept through the night again. I watched the clock on the wall tick away the last minutes of Christmas before falling asleep beside him. Any hope of my Christmas miracle ended at midnight.
The next morning I awoke to someone shaking my arm back and forth. Brian was kneeling up and smiling. “Am I going back to Grandpa’s now?”
Seeing his bright blue eyes sparkle, I nodded. “I think so.”
The doctor was impressed by his recovery and discharged him first thing that morning. By ten we were headed back to the ranch. Brian was talking away in his booster chair. “I can’t wait to see Grandpa. Justin’s my age, right? Where’s Marcus?” He looked at the empty car seat beside him.
“They are all home waiting for you.” Greg smiled over his shoulder as he turned into the driveway.
It looked like a repeat of three days earlier as the family congregated on the front porch and
greeted us with hugs and cheers. But when I stepped into the living room, I had to stop. It was like Déjà vu. Under the tree the bright presents sat still unopened. Suddenly from the kitchen the sound of sleigh bells jingled through the air.
“Uh oh,” said Grandpa. “I think Santa finally found our house. You boys better hurry upstairs and jump in your beds as fast as you can so he can come or he’ll have to make his way back to the North Pole.”
Brian’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “I knew we didn’t miss Christmas. I knew it.”
All four little boys hurried up the stairs, Marcus managing each step as best he could and hid under the covers of the big guestroom bed, giggling and wrestling in anticipation. Before long it was time to line up on the stairs with all the children, Greg, his sisters and parents. We descended the steps to a room filled with wonder and spent the day celebrating the best Christmas I’ve ever had. So in the end, we really did have a miracle. Despite illness, common sense and time itself, that year Christmas waited for us.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

No Nuts Policy

Our elementary school just instituted a "no nuts" policy which means that no child can bring anything with nuts in it of any kind. No peanut butter sandwiches, no granola bars with nuts, no Reeses, no nutty buddy bars, nada, zip, zero.

I understand the concern that has caused this knee-jerk reaction but am upset by this decision for three reasons:

1. Parents were not informed of this new policy until a few weeks before school began. It is as though they tried to slip it under the wire when our backs were turned and they didn't think anyone was looking. It was never brought up for discussion at all. If parents agreed, I'd feel more compliant.

2. It is not scientifically sound. Sometimes I wonder if the people making educational decision are really educated. There have been articles on this topic in Time Magazine,8599,1869095,00.html, New York Times and in a British Medical Journal

3. What is it teaching our children? Do we as Americans bend to every special interest group or do we believe in freedom and personal responsibility? If we stop bringing nuts to schools, do we then stop selling them in stores? What about fish and eggs, both more common allergies than nuts? What about bee stings which cause more fatalities still? Do we get rid of all the bees? Where do we stop?

I don't know the answer, but I'm definitely making a few calls on Tuesday and sending a number of emails.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Willamette Writers and a New Beginning

Last Friday I attended the Willamette Writers Conference. I did two group pitches with agents and spoke to a film producer about a possible film idea. I wasn't my normal grounded self and was more withdrawn than I'd like to be.

I did see Jina and Tom from my critique group which was really fun and poor Gina Harris had to endure my awful pitch but other than that I'm glad I went. The best part for me was the last little bit of Irene Radford's workshop. Irene is a prolific author who has published the Dragon Nimbus series and Merlin's Guardians. She talked about production writing and told that her first draft is plain ugly. She said she doesn't worry about the holes but leaves blanks and notes to herself until the story is down. Then as she edits she fills in the blanks and cleans it up.

I want to try this. She also said that she likes to have three different projects at three different stages so that she doesn't get bored. She has one that she is editing, one she is creating and another that she is researching. Then when she hits a tough spot in one, she can switch to another. Helpful advice. I've been so linear.... but she doesn't have kids home. Still, I hope to be her.

Lastly, I have decided to join another blog because I don't have enough to do. is our new site and I'm chronicling the weight loss journey I should have gone on last year and the year before that. Oh, well, I think I'm taking a sound approach. We'll see how it turns out.

This week is the last week before I've got the birthday onslaught. George's is on Mon., Greg's a week later, Camron the week after that, then Anna two weeks after. Then school will be here. I'm not ready!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I'm Naughty

Wow, it's August 1st, and I last blogged July 11th. I don't think many people are still going to my stagnant blog, but know although this page doesn't reflect it, I am busier than ever. It looks like my husband may lose his job in the next month. For some strange reason I have real hope that my next manuscript has a real shot of being popular. I feel compelled to focus and finish it so I can start trying to sell it.

I'm hoping it will be a success and then I want to apply to Education Week for next year on the same theme of Herod. My poor children are so sick of hearing about my new plot lines but I need to finish. I'm looking forward to the future, and my husband feels like maybe when I finish this project which may take as long as five years, that I'll probably go to graduate school. Wa-hoo!

I love having life to look forward to.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sorry, I'm BIAM-ing

I started on "A Crown of Sand" and after a shaky beginning I sat back and had to scream to the enpty room around me, "This is good!!!" With our beautiful exchange student here for the month and trying to crank out a quota of words each day, there hasn't been anything left for laundry, dishes, cooking or blogging.

After two days at cub camp Monday and Tuesday, we are off on a two week exodus from Portland to northern Utah via Disneyland. I know looking at a map it doesn't seem on the way but I can't wait to visit Robin and simply enjoy the So. Cal sun.

I'll get back the end of July. Hopefully, I'll share pictures then. For now, I'm rolling up my sleeves and diving into my house with a shovel. Have a great summer!!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Parable of the Bad Housekeeper

In Matthew 12 there is a little known parable about a man with an unclean spirit. Well, given literary license I changed it to a woman and finished the story. Here is how it goes.

Once there was a woman who had an unclean spirit and her house was always dirty because of it. It was the spirit of shopping and would take over her at the most inopportune times. She couldn't pass a sale without getting something and spent hours at the mall. Every closet was overflowing and her checkbook was destitute because of it. Finally, when she was at her wits end, she cast the evil spirit from her and vowed to never let it in again.

Now her house was "empty, clean and garnished", but it was also BORING! She had hours with nothing to do. As a result, one day she turned on her computer and invited in the unclean spirit of facebook. It kept her content for hours while her children whined about what was for dinner and her husband begged her for clean clothes. The food problem was solved by the unclean spirit of fast food, which was accompanied by the unclean spirit of videos at the convenient little red box, while she was there. Before the texting spirit joined them, closely connected to the twitter spirit. At this point the woman's state was worse than she was at the first. (That's the end of the parable.)

In my story the poor woman decides to invite a simple, clean spirit in to keep her company. It is the spirit of scripture reading which pushed out the reality TV spirit. Then she brought in the food planning spirit which starved out the fast food spirit. One by one she added good spirits and filled her life with so much good, there was no room for the bad.

I suppose that is why we need to be anxiously engaged in a good caused because otherwise we'll just get in trouble.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What are You Saying?

Due to the hard work of Rebecca Talley and a slue of other authors at Cedar Fort, we've started a new blog. Today was my day and I introduced myself- going on far too long. Oh well. If you want to check it out its called The Writer's Fortress.

I also blog on ANWA every other Saturday. I thought I was sooo clever because I asked for the alternate Saturday so I'd blog every Friday night, switching from one to the other. Well, so like me I got the dates mixed up and now do them both on the same Saturday. There I talked about rejection. I seem to be a real expert on that subject lately. Here is the ANWA blog.

Have a great day. Now I'm going to plant the flowers I bought two weeks ago and have been eking onto life, waiting for me to get in gear. See ya!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Beating Myself Up for Nothing

Two years ago I came up with an idea of writing the story of King Herod. There were so many things about him that I didn't know, and the flat evil stock character he had become just wasn't enough anymore. In fact, the more I found out about him the more of a tragic hero he became to me.

The problem was that everytime I set out to write the story, it grew. I couldn't simply start with the Christmas story because the fact that he sacrificed his own two sons to keep Jerusalem stable seemed key to understanding his perspective on the massacre of the innocents in Bethlehem. But to really comprehend his motives for killing his own sons you had to see what the two Hasmonean brothers did to Palestine, feuding for the kingdom until there was almost nothing left.

I believe Herod was loyal to the Jews, building their economy until it was stable and even robust. He was also a practicing Jew- not simply a Samaritan as some say. To understand that you have to be told about the short missionary phase of the Jewish population where his father was converted. So converted that he had a Jewish prophet come pray for his army before going to battle, a plan that backfired.

You also should understand that Herod's father was poisoned by treachery, his brother committed suicide rather than be mutilated and tortured in the Hasmoneon feud. Finally, Herod married the grandaughter of one of the brothers, thus uniting the kingdom. Oh, and it was Herod that brought the Romans in... one of the reasons his people hated him.

But he also brought the Olympic to Galillee, built palaces, courtyards and the TEMPLE.

As I studied, I realized that my original plan wasn't going to work and now I've got a six book series which may never see the light of day, but I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get started.

I guess I'm glad I waited. Like bread dough the idea just need time to rise to its proper height. Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Daffodil Principle

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Flagrant Copyright Abuse- Am I Guilty?

Recently, there has been a little bit of a tussle about my blogging about the LDStorymakers conference. I’ve been reading the recent messages with consternation, anxiety and alarm. I have to confess I’m guilty of this offense and if I've hurt any feelings, that was never my intention. One person went so far as to say blogging about it was a “flagrant abuse of copyright.” Although cleverly penned, this isn’t legally accurate.

Some years ago my mother wrote a book called “Things I Wish I’d Known Sooner.” One of the chapters was called “The Daffodil Principal.” The book was published by Deseret and did quite well- so well, in fact, that Simon & Schuster reprinted it as a national release. A few years after it went out of print, this chapter ended up on the internet. It was being emailed back and forth verbatim as a spiritual thought/ motivator without any mention of the author. My mother was aware of it and not pleased.

Later, my mother was sitting in BYU Women’s Conference, listening to a certain celebrity’s wife who was giving a rousing address when the woman picked up a piece of paper and said she wanted to end with a legend called, you guessed it, “The Daffodil Principal.” My mother’s mouth dropped to the ground. The presenter proceeded to read my mother’s story word for word. When it was over, my mother waited in line to speak with the presenter, not very patiently I might add, amid countless other women begging to get a copy of her work. When my mother finally explained that it was her story, this woman looked at her like she was from Mars and said, “Oh, no, sweetie, this is a legend.”

Not happy, my mother called Deseret Book, hoping for retribution. They told her it really wasn’t a misuse of copyright, and there was nothing my mother could do. At the same time Deseret Book was so impressed by the interest that they decided to turn the story into a children/gift book and it sold very well, making my mother a tidy profit on a book that had previously been dead.

So the question is why wasn’t this a flagrant misuse of copyright?

The purpose of copyright is to protect artistic expression and profits.Carolyn Campbell was spot on when she refused to allow two paragraphs of her presentation to be used in a book without paying for it, because the book would have been SOLD. Those profits belonged to her. (I adored her presentation and did blog about it. SORRY I didn’t ask permission and will take it down if you want.) Anyway, that same person could have paraphrased her presentation and still included it in his book without permission because copyright does not protect “Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices.” See It only protects the specific way she says it, her exact words.

So, for example, Julie Bellon who also gave an incredible presentation on editing, which I adored, told us about CLAW. If someone listening decided to write up the CLAW book on editing and not give her any credit, they could (although I think it would be a jerky thing to do), and it would in no way be a violation of copyright even if they made a million dollars on it as long as they didn’t use her specific language, because again, ideas, procedures, methods, etc. can’t be copyrighted.
Cliffnotes has made millions off of paraphrasing copyrighted material and it’s entirely legal.

So what about my mother’s case? Why wasn’t that a misuse of copyright? They were handing out copies of HER story.

Well, in section 107 of the copyright law it talks about FAIR USE. I’ll include what it says on the website (if anyone is still reading at this point.)

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:
1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

“The Daffodil Principle” was being distributed “for a nonprofit educational” purpose. If the presenter was charging five dollars a copy, my mother would have had her for infringement and could have sued for the twenty or so dollars she would have made. Most blogs would be considered the same “nonprofit educational” (especially since hardly anyone reads mine), but might also be protected under “news reporting” even with specific quotes.
Now this really is a great thing. It is what allowed Rachel to read snatches from the different books she brought, which was brilliant by the way, without violating copyright. She didn’t have to pay the authors for permission because it was nonprofit educational. She was entirely within her legal limit to do that.

I don’t know how someone got Julie’s slides- which is very odd. Now, if they were to sell them, they would violate copyright, but to use them in this way is decidedly gray, but I doubt would be infringement (albeit annoying.) To be honest, Fair Use is not cut and dry, but considered on a case by case basis. Still, very few educational nonprofit cases are every won, which is why your English Teacher can copy long excerpts from different stories and hand them around the room as examples of writing without ever paying for those stories. (Most public school teachers work for NOTHING.) One the other hand, once she publishes her textbook on the subject, she’ll pay out the bazooka for those same quotes.

Bottom line, when someone reports on a political speech or critiques a movie (both of which are copyrighted), and even publishes it for money, they are not violating copyright. If I invite the neighborhood to watch the latest Star Trek when it comes out on DVD at my house, I’m not violating copyright, even though I’m decreasing MGM and Blockbuster’s profits by doing it, UNLESS I ask them to pay for admission. That would be a flagrant abuse of copyright.
In conclusion, and I promise I’m almost done, copyright law isn’t that complicated but it doesn’t mean that once you write something or say something that no one can touch it unless you allow them to, even if the little symbol is there. It means that no one can sell it or pretend it is theirs (unless it’s only an idea or process.) Like with my mother this may be very annoying but in the end all it does is provide a great venue for free publicity which you may ultimately cash in on.

Maybe next conference we should have a class on copyright. I’d be willing to teach it and anyone who wants to blog about it, please do!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Lipstick Wars Saga

Last year I began writing my next Visiting Teaching Adventure, "Lipstick Wars!" It all started from some paintings from my friend's mother where she had drawn a tank with a lipstick tube as the cannon. Combine that with a young mother with an escaping toddler and ta-da, Lipstick Wars was born. The problem was when I tried to do an episodic adventure, connecting it to my last one, I had more characters than season three of House. (You know, where he hires all those interns?)

The first time I finished it, it was unweildy with four main characters, two major plot lines and over 85,000 words. I thought it was a masterpiece but due to length and magnitude, it was REJECTED with encouragement to rewrite it.

So I nixed the subplots, got rid of a couple characters and turned the others to stock (sounds like soup.) I finished it last night but in doing so have a few major plot flaws that I have to work through but am blind to. Today I'm going to roll up my sleeves and clean the house, face laundry, catch up on cubscouts and write an analysis for my hubby. Hopefully, while I'm vacuuming or folding clothes, the answer will hit me light a bolt of lightening.

Tomorrow I'm sending it out to readers with or without the changes. Maybe they won't notice that the teenager who nearly loses her testimony from an ambivalent and shaken young mother, never really contributes to the final scene AT ALL. Ugh.

There's got to be a way....

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rats! The Seed of Testimony

While taking my son to BYUi, I asked him when he felt he knew the church was true. The twelve hour car ride made him a captive audience and I decided to use the time to my full advantage.

His reply was an interesting one. He said that when he was in second grade he brought home the school rat for the weekend. I wasn't aware of it until he showed up in the car with the cage, but I figured what could one weekend hurt. Well, he invited over a little friend to come play and they were jumping on the bunk beds when his friend decides to jump off the bunkbed and lands right on the rat.

I came running when I heard the screaming and saw the dead rat on the floor. It was totally squished. But my son asked if we could pray for it. We knelt down and did so and when we opened our eyes, the poor thing was moving. It couldn't walk but its legs were twitching. I called the vet and told him we had NO money but since it belonged to the school, could he take pity on us and see what could be done. (I assumed he put the thing out of its misery.)

By the time we got loaded in the car with all my preschoolers, the rat was at least alert. The vet took the creature, x-rayed it and came in the room with a large smile telling us that he couldn't see a thing wrong with the rat. Brian believed it was healed and the experience became an anchor to his testimony. The part I'm not sure he knew was that the next fall when I went back to the class, the poor creature had lost most of its hair. I'm sure from the trauma of being squished.

Anyway, I thought I'd use the story in my next visiting teaching adventure. It's just too good not to.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

#3- Dean Lorey can Really Tell a Story: Screenwriting and Story Building

Dean Lorey, author of the Monster Academy, Johny Zombie a.k.a. My Boyfriend's Back, Happy Gilmore and Major Payne, knows a thing or two about telling a good story. He began by saying that once you see the standard structure of most of what comes out of Hollywood, you can't un-see it.

In facing a new project he suggested an easy way to know whether your plot is better for a movie or novel. Look at whether the conflict is external or internal. (Duh, but I didn't think of it until after I heard it.) Also, your hero has to have a clear goal and clean opposition. Hero's may or may not go through a story arc. Characters like James Bond and Indiana Jones don't change through their adventures and that's okay, because they've saved the world. Other character's lives are changed forever like Luke Skywalker.

Plot alone can't carry a story. Characters are very important. One great way to reveal characters is through puttng them in a position where they must choose between good and a different good. Their choice then defines them. He gave the example of Indiana Jones when he rushes in the tent where Miriam is being held by the Nazi's and finds they have a medalion that will tell them where the ark is. He pauses for a minute, weighing the choices- girl or ark. He chooses ark and puts the girl's gag back on her.

In order to fit into the time limit allowed by film, you have to tell the most story in the least amount of time. To do this, you begin at the last possible moment and end as soon as you've made your point.

For example: Neighbor knocks on the door and man opens it. She says "Ted wants a divorce." There is no "hi, how are you?" You just get right into it.

If scenes don't advance the plot, they shouldn't be there.

Common structure of a movie is-

ACT I- Length: 15-20 minutes- Life is normal when suddenly something happens that throws your character into a situation that turns their lives upside down.

ACT II- Length: 40-60 minutes- The heart of the movie has your character trying to fix whatever is broken or resolve the thing that has thrown their world apart. But as they try, they get in more and more trouble until they are hopelessly lost. In many stories the conflict shifts at mid-point when suddenly the main character realizes that the way they thought to fix the problem wasn't the right answer at all. Their new goal leads them into more danger and when all is nearly lost... then you start the next act.

ACT III- Length: 15-25 minutes- The final act has the main character reach inside themself and find a strength they never realized they possessed. Again, in Star Wars Luke puts away the guidance system and trusts the force, having character arc and story arc complete in the same moment. (He really liked that movie.)

If you have a great story idea that you want to make into a screenplay, Dean Lorry suggested that you go to and print off the script of a movie then read it as you watch it. This will give you a good idea of the basics.

Selling your script is another matter. His suggestion is to let anyone willing to read it, do so. If you think you've got a great idea, broadcast it. Also, if you can figure out the names of assistants to producers or writers, they may be more open- sort of like Junior Agents.

For me, the most helpful thing was to look at the skeleton of a story and compare it to my own plots, making sure they had clean arcs. I also have to admit that I spent a good portion of yesterday with a script in my hand watching movies. Now that was fun!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

#2- Making Money and Building a Name for Yourself: Article Writing with Carolyn Campbell

Overview of LDS Storymakers Writer's Conference-

Carolyn Campbell is a woman of great success. Her stories have graced the cover of People Magazine. She has regular articles in Lady's Home Journal, Redbook, and nameless other smaller publications. She has had thousands of articles published and averages numerous projects every week.

So what's her secret?

I raised my hand, skeptical that everything she touches turns to gold and asked how many rejections she gets. She shrugged and said about half of what she sends out gets turned down, but since she submitted five queries a day- that is still a lot of copy that actually pays.


AND at $500 to $1000 per article, she's making more in a few afternoons than I did over the six months it took me to put together my first book. Of course, her resume is impressive, but I'm ready to start trying. Carolyn outlined the way to start to make it all happen.

Choose Your Prime Time for Writing-

You need to face your writing seriously. She has a specific routine which she tries not to deviate from. Everyday she begins by sending out five queries. After an hour or so of doing that, she starts writing her current work in progress. She continues until two o'clock and takes a break. Then sometime in the afternoon she spends another hour on marketing and interviews. Just before bed, she plans what she'll accomplish the next day so that she stays on task.

According to Carolyn by:

- facing your writing like a business,
- keeping the pipeline full with new queries,
- holding yourself to time limits so you take breaks and
- varying your activities,

it allows you to stay productive without getting burnt out.

Sending Out Queries

Unlike writing fiction where you write first, sell later, this non-fiction venue is just the opposite. She must have told us at least four times DON'T WRITE YOUR STORY UNTIL IT IS SOLD! I think she had to repeat it so many times because we couldn't believe her. She also reminded us that seasonal stories must be queried six to eight months out. Get ready for Christmas!

So what's in a query? This is Carolyn's formula:

1. The Lead-
Begin with something that will surprise people and give them a visceral reaction. A girl got in a car wreck while text messenging. Carolyn found out the girl had 11,000 text messages that month. That was her lead. Another Calculus teacher was leaving high school to paint lines in parking lots. When the camera crew showed up to take his picture, they were so entertained one said "This is a huge loss to education." That was her lead. Start with what about your article will speak to people.

2. Why Should We Care?
The next paragraph should explain what impact this story has on what segment of the population. Use statistics, regional interest, news pegs, or the obscure.

3. Why Should You Be The One to Write it?
So if you've sold the article with the first two paragraphs, now is the time to sell yourself. If you've got past writing experience include it, but more than that, include how you are connected to the article. What experience do you have in the field or how do you know the person you are writing about.
If you don't have that, tell them you called the resources at the center of the story and they have already agreed to an interview. (If you say this, really have done it.) She also said they love photos, so if you have pictures or the ability to get pictures, that's a big plus.

4. Ending Phrase-
Carolyn said she ends all her queries almost identically. Her words are "If you will send me an approximate word length or deadline, I will begin on the article immediately." Now you might want to tweak it a little so it sounds like you, but in essence here is where you ask for the job.

That's it. She also said that after you develop a relationship with a publisher she sends out mini-queries. From what I could get the only difference between a full-blown query and a mini one was the third part of the query on selling yourself, because they already know you.

What Do You Write About?

Carolyn is always on the lookout for good stories. The kernel of an idea can begin any number of ways:

Proximity -
What's going on in your schools, in your town? What are your friends worried about or talking about? Read your local paper and magazines. Listen to what people around you care about because chances are that other people care about it too.

Personal Connections -
Do you have friends, relatives, church contacts with a friend of someone who might be newsworthy? Is there someone they have spoken of that seems fascinating. Don't be afraid to ask. (Carol is fearless when it comes to interviewing. She said that she had one person say they didn't want to comment so she got the article from getting information from all his friends and then called to see if he wanted to comment on their comments. He did.)

Personal Passions -
Is there something you are passionate about? If you care about it, that emotion will shine through your writing. Passions could include things like quilting, scrapbooking, geneology, organization, fitness, health issues you've dealt with, humanitarian aid. Anything you really feel strongly about could make a great story.

Follow Your Instincts -
If your ears are open, you'll read a word or two or hear someone say something and it might spark something in you. When that happens, trust that feeling and pursue it. She told of many stories that started with an idea that panned out. One time her sister called and told her there was a contest she was sure she could win in the paper. When she opened the paper, her face fell. It was a contest for the messiest house. Well, she entered and WON! With the before and after pictures, Carolyn wrote an article about herself and it did really well. She was able to spin it and sell it multiple times. All because she followed her instincts and moved forward.

Types of Articles-

I know I didn't catch all of these so if anyone went to this session, please add the ones I'm missing in the comments, but here are the five types of articles I did get:

Informational- This article answers a question. If you want to know more about something chances are other people do too. More about the swine flu, the truth about global warming, more about the effects of mold and where it grows... whatever.

How-to- Begin with your own experience but make sure you FIND AN EXPERT for this type of article. Her example was a story she did on "The Healtcare Jungle" that explained her experience trying to find insurance. If you've been given the run-around, write about how-to avoid your mistakes. She also spoke about "Take control of the clock" and talked to a number of time management experts. She loved it because it was something she wanted to do better. Nothing like free advice AND getting paid for it.

Profile- If you hear or read about someone who's done something remarkable, call them and ask for an interview. She spoke about a woman who was told she couldn't make a scrapbooking magazine but did anyway and just sold it off for $15 million. That's a story! She heard about another woman that was in counseling that was speaking about her adopted teenager. The counselor explained that she had given a baby up for adoption and they found out it happened to be the same child. Wow! The person doesn't need to be famous to be fascinating.

Personal Experience- If you have started a business, lost your wallet, entered a clutter contest. Do wild things so you can write about them- think travel magazines.

Inspirational- As the ecomony gets tougher, inspirational stories will sell well. Look for people that have triumphed and tell their story.

Some tips for how to find people or stories-
The Encyclopedia of Associations is a great resource for finding experts. It should be in the reference section of your library. Don't choose the best expert but the most interesting. One who speaks with visual terms.

Also, Infotrac or EBSCO can give you great articles to start with and you can go from there, expanding or going into more depth.

Find the editor's name to send it to. It may take some digging but you can do it. If all else fails and you have the name, look for the email format of the magazine and guess, based on the other emails.

Also, is worth the $40 per year. When looking for names you can also look in Check under the advertising section or media kit if you can't find the name you're looking for.

If you've got a great story, make sure you spin it and try to sell it multiple times. Organizing your office can be with business magazines or at home. Time management can apply to any number of fields.

Story lengths have changed. A long article is 1000 words. A regular article is only 500 words.

So roll up your sleeves and go for it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

#1- When Am I Done? Editing with Julie Bellon

An overview of the LDS Storymakers Conference

I'm back and filled with such good stuff, I'm almost overflowing. The LDStorymakers Conference was FABULOUS!!! Rubbing elbows with talented writers right and left was awesome. I went to bootcamp led by Heather Moore, was constantly surrounded by Donna and Julia of my own little critique group, sweet ANWA sisters like the incredible Liz Adair, Monique and Marsha, AND fun storymakers like Rachel Nunes, Julie Bellon and Tristi Pinkston.

In addition I met Carolyn Campbell, a string reporter for People Magazine. I can't wait to share some of her techniques and ideas. The keynote speaker was Dean Lorry of Happy Gilmore, Major Payne and the Monster Academy. His overview of screenwriting included little tricks that could make any story better. I couldn't write fast enough.

My plan is to review my notes in blog form for the next few weeks. Today I wanted to begin by giving the highlights of Julie Bellon's great class on editing. In it she answered the age-old question every writer asks themselves-


Julie told us that the key to good editing is simply using the CLAW.
That stands for:

C - Check off basic editing checklist
L - Let someone else read it (actually, three someones)
A - Always print out a hard copy and read it
W - Walk away and leave it for a while before your final review

That's it! Then you're done. She told us to be careful not to edit our projects to death. Stop there, send it out and move on with your life.

So let me go over CLAW in a little more detail.


Checking off the basic editing checklist is made up of two parts- the copy edit and the content edit.

THE COPY EDIT includes these 10 items.
1. Don't trust spell check. Read for common spelling errors like your and you're (one of my favorites), there and their, or the and then (another I like to make.) A friend of mine never wants to conjoin "in to."
2. Check page numbers and blank pages. Sometimes hard returns don't cooperate at the end of a chapter. Flip through the file and see how the layout works on the pages.
3. Check for too many adjectives and adverbs. Adding narrative action instead of simply using an adverb or adjectve is usually a second draft activity. (Even Heather Moore does it.) You can really deepen your characters and improve your story this way.
4. Tense consistencies and verb/subject agreement. This normally shows up green in Word but really, check your green.
5. Avoid cliches. Not only in phrases and descriptions but in storylines. She calls that combo meal stories. You want to be delicious and unique.
6. Repetitive words are a huge issue for people who tend to repeat a lot of things in a repetitive way over and over.
7. We all have favorite words that really don't say anything. They are the "Um's" of writing. Some of these offenders are some, just, really, thing, that, there, one. (I read through my first book and am horrified by the really's and just's. Hey, it was really just my first book, give me a break.)
8. Too many dialogue tags or not enough. (I hate it when you get lost.)
9. Point of view changes.
10. Balance your narrative, exposition and action.

After finishing your Copy Review, you are ready to face the dreaded CONTENT review. For some reason Julie likes the number ten because there are ten of those too.

1. Show don't tell. Do a search for the words feel, feelings or felt and replace it with emotive action.
2. Keep the voice active. Passive voice adds a form of to be. See how many was's you can get rid of.
3. Point of view shifts AGAIN. It's really important NOT to head hop. (Again, a rule I broke constantly in my first book but who's counting.)
4. Chapter Hooks!!! Go to the beginning and end of each chapter and make sure you start with something great and end with a cliffhanger. If you've ever read R.L. Stein's Goosebumps, he was great at this even though he totally cheated. Okay, so don't go THAT far, but it's still worth doing.
5. Does each character have REAL motivations? Sometimes readers won't notice motivations but many writers and ALL editors do. Don't cheat and manipulate characters into behaviors they wouldn't do. In another workshop someone gave a perfect example. If you have a babysitter who needs to go in the attic, and you just have a sound up there so they go to investigate, you have an idiot as a main character and we want to throw the book across the room. If, on the other hand, she is playing hide-and-seek with the kids and she hears a sound in the attic, thinking it's a child she is watching, we are there with you and want to read on. Motivations are REALLY important.
6. Does the setting contribute to the piece? Why have you chosen the setting? Looking at the whole, would a change make it better? You aren't stapled to what you've written yet. Also, do you really describe the setting or just assume we know where you are.
7. Is the timeline consistent? I know writers who use planners or calendars to track ther timelines. Use something because this can be an HUGE mistake.
8. Does the conflict continue to increase throughout the story? Sometimes we try to end the conflict too soon and then keep on writing. Things should get worse and worse for our main character until they are almost defeated. In the end they should have to reach in their heart and find a strength they didn't know they had to finally succeed.
9. Does it have a natural flow or is it too contrived? Could this really have happened? Are there scenes you have to give up or adjust to make it believable?
10. Look through each page at your white space. Are there any pages that are too heavy? If so, add dialogue. Don't make the reader want to skip pages. We are all natural eavesdroppers so use it to your advantage.
***11. BONUS POINTER- Lean up! Cut any scenes that doesn't further the plot, reveal important character points or add intrigue. Okay, so I added this one but I know it's true because I like to go on and on, touching on tangents that don't impact the story in a serious way and have very little to do with it, sort of like what I'm doing right now.


Now, if this seems like a lot to you, don't fear because the next step is easy. You get THREE other people to read it. Three is a great number, if they are the right three. You should get:
-one avid reader who loves your genre,
-one reader who is a strong technical editor and
-one who understands plot and characterization.

Almost everyone knows someone who loves to read. If you are on Good Reads, you might find a fan or you might have a friend who is a total read-a-holic. The gift of this review will probably be more general and the discussion with this person after they read your work may be more useful than what they write down in the margins. Oh, and remember to give this person a hard copy.
Your other two readers can be other writers. If you swap manuscripts, you can develop a nice pool of potential readers that will stay fresh for a long time. If you aren't willing to read other manuscripts, you may find that after a few projects, you've burnt out potential friends- so be careful. Give as much as you take.

When you get back their edits, go through each separately. This will provide three more reviews of your work. Remember, you are almost done.


With copy and content edits and the three reader's edits complete, it is time to print out the entire manuscript. No, you can't just read it off your computer. Actually spend the time and money printing the thing off, even if you have to buy a new ink cartridge. Then read it OUTLOUD. It doesn't matter that your neighbor thinks you've finally gone crazy because you're talking to yourself. You'll see things that may have worked on the page, that don't work in your mouth. Also, it's a great thing to do, if ever you get that book on tape (dream of dreams.)


Not forever. Just for a few weeks. Do something that totally takes your mind off what you've done. Start outlining a new project, clean out your garage or edit someone else's manuscript. When your brain has unraveled its tight grasp on your current project, you are ready to go over it one last time. Enjoy it. See if there is any part that bores you or doesn't sound smooth and clean. Catch the little typos you overlooked. Once you've made it through this final read, YOU ARE FINISHED!!!!

There are very few things in this world that feel better than writing those two little words - THE END. But it doesn't take long to figure out that they are really only the beginning of the editing process. Now, thanks to Julie, I finally know when THE END is really THE END.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Off to Conference

The day after tomorrow I jump in the car and head off to the LDStorymakers Conference at the Marriott in Provo. Last year was my first attending, and it was a fabulous experience. I went with a friend but still felt nervous, not knowing what to expect.

Ths year the nerves are back but for a completely different reason. I'm doing a face to face pitch and perhaps a face to face rejection. It is anxiety-causing to say the least. The good part is that my two partners in rhyme- or at least in prose- are coming along. Both Julia Wagner and Donna Fuller and coming along and doing pitches of their own so we can all be shaking in our boots together.

There is much I'm looking forward to as well. The grammar class alone will be worth the trip. Boot camp will feature specific authors, and I'm really struggling between two-- and I can't switch back and forth. Lastly, simply seeing in person the many friends I've made both through LDStorymakers and ANWA will be a great treat.

So I better roll up my sleeves so I leave a happy famly behind. Dishes, ho!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

WaHoo, a Contract! What a Blessing

I got an unexpected email today from Jennifer Fielding, the acquisitions editor for CFI. For Enrichment Meeting a few weeks ago I wrote a fun little poem about a stressed out Mom who has an angel appear to her and ask if she can take over his job for one day. Since I was emailing Jennifer about another project, I decided to include the poem.

Well, she emailed back and said they would like to use it for a small gift book around Mother's day. I say "Awesome." See, good things come from accepting new callings even if they won't release you from cub scouts and you're given a board the size of a small town to manage. I think that's called blessings.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Amazon, Rejection and Editing

So I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I wrote my entire entry in less than a month, because I had a plot bouncing around in my head that was fun and would need little research. When I entered it, I knew it was a little rough but it was a great story and turned out really well.

If you don't know already, I was kicked out during the first round. Ugh. Yesterday I got the reviews and was surprised. Apparently, they liked the story too. The problem was that it wasn't clean copy. So guess what I'm doing this summer. Working on editing, line by line.

I don't know if there is any other way. With my last submission I put it through two writers groups, read it at least ten times and still missed a comma or two. That is something I really need to take more seriously because I know clean copy makes a huge difference.

If your interested, here's what the reviewers said:

Reviewer #1-

I feel like this could be a good story. The plot is interesting, and the pacing is good. I don't feel bogged down with descriptions or a big set-up that just goes on and on.

However, the writing isn't fantastic. There are a few odd word choices - "straddled" where I think the author means "saddled" and a "that" where I think it needs to be a "who", and several places that I would change the sentence structure to feel more natural. There are many unclear antecedents. Several sentences need either another word or a comma, or need to be split up. I mention this only because a well-written story is much easier to stay "lost in." Bad grammar and odd word structure pulls me out, as I start editing rather than reading.

Aside from the errors, it all just feels like it needed one more read-through to polish it up before it was submitted. There's a slight stilted feel to some of the conversations; a need for more contractions or a feel for how people really speak.

I would imagine that some of this could be fixed with a good editor, but I also feel that submissions should be as good as can be if someone's trying to win an award.

With some grammatical help, though, I think the story could be a good one. It's interesting, moves well, and has potential.

Reviewer #2-

This seems to be the beginning of a political/legal thriller. The writer has established some interesting characters, given them some background through the use of a prologue and gotten the action and mystery off to a good start in this brief excerpt. There has been so much action in these few pages that it is a bit confusing at this point but that will most likely be resolved in the next few pages.

The writer has done a very good job with these beginning pages, if the rest of the novel continues in this vein this should be a very exciting novel.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

An Easter Story

For Easter a cousin asked me to write a story for her Primary. It's not an original idea but I think it turned out well and could be used for FHE.

What do you think?

Luke’s Easter Hunt

By Christine Thackeray

The school bell rang, and Luke grabbed his backpack and headed outside to catch up with his friends Thomas and DJ. The three boys always walked home together. They were all excited because Easter was coming.
“Are you going to be at the Easter Egg hunt at the park on Saturday?” Luke asked.
“I am.” DJ answered with a grin. “Last year I got so many eggs that I couldn’t fit them all in my basket. I got more candy than I did at Halloween!”
Thomas shook his head. “Our family goes to visit my Grandma and Grandpa. We have our own egg hunt with all of our cousins. Most of the eggs have candy in them, but Grandpa always puts money in a couple. There’s even one that has a hundred dollar bill in it.”
“Wow!” Luke laughed as they rounded the corner of their street. The boys raced to their doors and waved good-bye to each other. Luke walked into his kitchen to find the table covered with plastic Easter Eggs and bags of candy.
“I’m so glad you’re home!” His mother ripped open a bag of jelly beans. “You can help me finish getting our eggs ready for the Easter Egg hunt tomorrow. I promised I’d bring four dozen.”
“Sure.” Luke threw his backpack in the corner and pulled up a chair. As he pried apart the two halves of the bright orange egg in his hand, he began to wonder something. “Mom, what do Easter egg hunts have to do with Easter? I thought Easter was when we celebrated Jesus being resurrected.”
“You’re right. Good Friday is to commemorate the day Christ gave his life, and Easter Sunday is the day we celebrate Jesus rising from the tomb. Remember, we learned all about it last week during Family Home Evening.”
“Yes,” he said. “We talked about the last supper, Jesus washing the disciple’s feet, and the garden of Gethsame. But we don’t really celebrate any of those things, do we?”
His mom put down the fake grass she was holding. “It is funny how so much of what we do on this holiday isn’t directly about Jesus, but many things around us are symbols that stand for the idea of his atonement.”
“I don’t understand.” Luke clicked the filled egg he was working on shut and looked at his mother.
She held a soft pink egg in her hand. “For example the eggs we fill are like little gifts. Just like the gift Christ gave us on Easter. Can you think of a symbol that helps you remember the real meaning of Easter?”
“My Primary teacher told me that the sacrament was a symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection.” Luke smiled.
“It is.” His mother nodded. “And it all started with the Last Supper. That was the first time the sacrament was ever given, and it was administered by Christ himself.”
“I’ve got an idea.” Luke took the last package of unopened shells. “What if I go on an Easter Hunt? I’ll look all around for symbols of Easter and see what I can find.”
“That’s a great idea,” said his mother. “You can put what you find in those eggs and when we have our family celebration Easter Morning, you can tell the family what you found. I think you have your first egg filled already.”
“Yup. I’ll put a sacrament cup in it.” Luke said.
Luke’s little sister burst through the door. “I’m home!” She called.
“I can’t believe the time.” His mother said. “Luke, I’ll clean up this mess. Why don’t you go wash your hands then you can help me with dinner?”
He hopped up from the table and walked to the bathroom. As the water poured in the sink, Luke remembered that right after the Last Supper, Christ had washed the disciples feet. He turned off the water and dried his hands, wondering if Jesus knew that would be the last time he was with them. Smiling, he ran into the kitchen and got a piece of paper towel. His second symbol of Easter.

After dinner Luke went outside to play kickball with his sister and Dad. He stood over the smashed shoebox lid that served as home plate. His dad rolled the ball his direction. Luke kicked it as hard as he could, and it sailed over his sister’s head and out into the lawn. He dashed to the tree and touched it and then turned and headed for the old shoe that was second base, but the grass was wet and he slid to the ground, landing solidly on his elbow.
“Are you okay?” his dad ran to his side.
Luke swallowed and held up his injured arm. The skin on his elbow was torn and bleeding. “It stings a lot.” He said through gritted teeth.
Dad led him into the house where he put some ointment and a bandaid on the wound. Luke watched and thought about how much it hurt to spill a little blood. At Family Home Evening his dad had said Christ had bled from every pore. “Hey, Dad? Can I have another bandaid?”
“Sure, what for?” his father handed him one and closed up the first aid kit.
“It’s a surprise.” Luke grinned and put it in his pocket.
As he was getting ready for bed, Luke reached in his pocket and noticed some coins there. He ran down the hall to his parent’s room.
“Mom,” Luke said, “I had thirty cents left over from lunch, do you want me to put it on your dresser?”
Luke’s mom looked up from the book she was reading. “It’s not very much, so why don’t you keep it? You’ve been such a big help today.”
He smiled and turned to leave the room when he stopped. “Hey, Mom, how much money did Judas get for betraying the Savior?”
“It was thirty pieces of silver.”
Luke wrapped his fist tightly around the quarter and nickel, knowing what he would put in his fourth egg.
The next morning Luke asked his dad to tell him more about the Easter story. His father told him about Christ being bound and judged. They put a crown of thorns on his head and nailed him to a cross. Luke found a piece of string on the carpet and put it in his pocket. Outside he got a thorn from one of the rose bushes and found a nail in the garage.
When he came back in the house, he found his mom and sister getting ready to color eggs. They had the cooked white eggs all ready and his mom had vinegar and dye on the table.
“Wasn’t there something about vinegar in the Easter story?” Luke held up the bottle.
“Yes. It’s very sad.” His mother looked down. “When Christ was on the cross he asked for water. He was given vinegar instead, but he refused it. They pierced his side with a spear and he died.”
“That is sad.” Luke’s sister said softly.
“His friends took his body to a tomb but because it was almost they Sabbath, they didn’t have time to prepare it for burial so they simply covered his body with a white cloth.” His mom continued. “They planned to come back at sunrise, when the Sabbath was over.”
“I bet they were surprised when they got there.” Luke smiled.
“Yes, because he had risen.” His mom smiled back.
“I know.” Luke got up from the table with the vinegar. “Can I borrow a little of this?”
“Sure.” His mother gave him a knowing wink, and Luke hurried to the bathroom and poured a little vinegar on a cottonball and put it in his eighth egg. He ran upstairs and found a small spear from an action figure that he put in his ninth and got a little white hankerchief for his tenth.
With only two eggs left to fill Luke felt happy when he heard his mother call to go to the Easter Egg hunt at the park. The whole afternoon he had fun with his friend DJ and collected many eggs filled with candy. It was almost sunset when he was getting ready to leave that he remembered his last two empty eggs at home.
“I can’t believe it. I haven’t been looking for my last two eggs.” Luke shook his head.
“What do you mean?” DJ laughed, pointing to his friends overflowing basket. “You have plenty of eggs. You don’t need any more.”
“No, I’m not talking about eggs filled with candy. I’ve been filling eggs with symbols of Easter, and I have two more to go. I should have been looking.” Luke kicked at the ground and a little stone rolled across the path. “Did you see that?”
“What?” asked DJ.
“That stone. When the women came to the tomb after Jesus had died, they found the stone rolled away.” He picked up the small rock. “This is perfect. Now I just need one more.”
All that night and the next morning, Luke looked. He went to church, took the sacrament and listened to his Primary teacher tell the story again of how Christ gave his life for us. When he got home, he slowly put each of the eggs in a basket and went downstairs, but he was sad. He still hadn’t found anything to put in the last egg.
His family sat in the living room while his mother explained about Luke’s Easter hunt. She told them how he had been looking for symbols of the first Easter, and they were all excited to see what Luke had found.
Luke numbered each egg and handed them out so they could be opened in order as his family told the story. These were the things he had saved.
1. A Sacrament Cup to remember the Last Supper
2. A Paper Towel to remember how Christ washed the Apostles’ feet
3. A Bandaid to remember the blood spilt in the Garden of Gethsemane
4. Thirty Cents to remember the Thirty Pieces of Silver Judas was paid to betray him
5. A Piece of String to remember how Jesus was bound and taken to a judge
6. A Thorn to remember the Crown of Thorns placed on his head
7. A Nail to remember how he was Nailed to the Cross
8. Vinegar to remember the vinegar given to him when he asked for water
9. A Spear to remember the spear in his side
10. A White Cloth to remember the cloth placed upon him in the tomb
11. A Round Stone to remember the stone rolled away from the door of the tomb on the first Easter morning
Luke held the last egg in his hand unopened and lowered his head.
“What’s in that one?” his sister said clapping her hands. “I bet it’s the best one.”
“No.” He opened it and bit his lip. “The last egg is empty. I couldn’t think of anything to put in it.”
His dad stood up and put an arm around his son. “Luke, that’s the best egg of all,” he said. “The best part of the story of Jesus is that on that first Easter morning the tomb was empty, just like your last egg. Christ wasn’t there, he is risen. He is alive and loves us and watches over us today. That is the greatest part of Easter.”
“You’re right.” Luke smiled. “It is the best symbol. He isn’t in the tomb, but watching over us right now.” Luke closed the last empty egg and slid it in his pocket. He felt warm inside and knew that all around him he could now see symbols that would remind him how much Christ loved him and that from now on Easter eggs would help him to remember that love every year.