Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Serious Dreams

What makes someone a "serious writer?" Are you "serious" only if you've had a book published? Do you qualify if you have magazine credits? If you attend writing conferences? Take classes? Belong to a critique group? Blog? Dream about it?

Or is it the way in which you refer to yourself and your dreams?

I've been writing on and off ever since I was a kid. I've taken breaks to go to college, get married, have babies (and more babies and more babies), raise kids, clean the house (not really), and generally live life.

Throughout the years I've taken some correspondence courses, including a novel writing course through Writer's Digest, a creative writing course at a local college, and a few online magazine writing courses. I've attended conferences, joined email lists, and participated in critique groups. I did all of these things long before I ever had anything published.

Before my picture book, Grasshopper Pie, was published, I never told anyone about my aspirations to be a writer. I barely admitted it to my husband. I thought people would look at me and say, "Is she kidding? She's a great poopy bottom cleaner and a fabulous snot wiper, but a writer? Yeah, right." And then I imgained they'd spend the rest of the day laughing at my insane idea of being a writer.

I was still a little shy about admitting my "secret desire" after my book came out. Looking back, I think my insecurity prohibited me from being an effective marketer for that book, but at the time, I'd blush whenever anyone asked me about it. After I sold a story to the Friend, I still felt the same way. I was sure the editor only bought it out of a sense of pity. "Here's this poor woman who thinks she can write and I don't have the heart to tell her she can't, so I'll buy this story from her to make her feel good about herself." Isn't that what editors do?

Now that I've sold several more stories to the Friend and other magazines, and even seen some of those stories in print, I can admit: "I'm a writer." In fact, I'm a "serious writer" because that's how I see myself. I'm no longer afraid to admit that I love to write and I dream of being a novelist. I think that being a "serious writer" has much more to do with the way I see myself than anything else. Many, many people are serious about their writing but have yet to find the right home for a manuscript.

I've learned that before anyone else can take me seriously, I have to take myself, and my dreams, seriously. Being a writer isn't some silly pipedream, it's my dream and I'm serious about it.

And my dream of being a novelist? Let's just say, I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What You See is What You Get

Two of my daughters have expressed an interest in joining the Debate Team at our high school. The older of the two has already taken a debate class and the younger one is now enrolled in that class. Today they will meet with the teacher that sponsors the team and will decide if they want to pursue joining.

This has brought up some interesting subjects as my younger daughter has been relating the subjects that students are interested in debating. Some of those subjects include the shortened lunch hour, the open campus policy, and other school related issues. General subjects have included abortion, same-sex marriage, the war in Iraq, and current Presidential candidates.

Last night my daughter and I discussed Mitt Romney. She commented that people won't vote for him simply based on his religion. People claim that his religion will influence his decisions and that his private life will most defintely affect his ability to effectively serve in our country's highest office. I find this position so interesting because 8-10 years ago, these same people vehemently defended the then current president's right to do whatever he wanted in his private life (even when it included immoral activities in the Oval Office) and claimed that his private life had absolutely nothing to do with his public life or his ability to stand as head of our country. Hmmm. Interesting how people will flip-flop depending on how it suits them.

Does someone's private acts affect his/her public acts? Should we, as voters, be concerned with what a candidate does in his/her private time? I must answer: Absolutely. What we do in private, especially when we think no one is watching, shows who we are at our very core. Someone who conducts himself or herself differently in private than in public, is not an honest person and does not have integrity. Only when our behavior is consistent, privately and publicly, can we be considered to have integrity.

I do not want my elected officials to be one kind of person in private and a different kind of person in public. I much prefer people who are "what you see is what you get" kind of people, even if I disagree with them, because I know they are consistent and I know what to expect.

I remember girls in high school who would act like they were your best friend to your face and as soon as you turned your back, they'd shred you to bits. I much prefer people to be honest and upfront. I can agree to disagree, but it's difficult to know where I stand with someone who isn't honestly portraying himself/herself.

Wouldn't it be nice if all of our candidates for the upcoming Presidential election would just be honest? We could vote for who we feel best represents our views and know that "what we see is what we'll get."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Some of my children started school yesterday and the others will start tomorrow. My older girls attend Seminary at 6:00 am and catch the bus from the church. My other kids all catch the bus at the end of our lane at 6:40 am. This morning I noticed a definite chill in the air. After a long, hot, sweaty summer, it was invigorating to feel that cool air which signals that fall is close at hand. When the rabbit brush turns yellow, we know that the first frost of the fall will arrive in about two weeks.

I love fall. Though I enjoy swimming and warm weather, I'm always ready for the cooler weather. I love to drive up to the La Plata mountains and view the vibrant colors that paint the mountainside. I love to walk along the river and hear the burbling water as it slips over the rocks on its way to the sea. Even the air smells differently in the fall.

I grew up on the coast of California where the weather was mild all year long. I remember one year, we actually had some "snow" fall and we all left school to play in the minuscule amount that lightly dusted the area. Other than that, I spent most of my life wearing a light sweater in the winter and a bathing suit in the summer. When I moved to Utah, the seasons definitely changed and it shocked me. I couldn't understand why the snow stayed on the ground for so long and why I had to wear a hat, gloves, and a winter coat most of the winter. I didn't enjoy it much.

Now that I live in Colorado, I've come to appreciate the changing seasons. I look forward to each season because each one brings something a little different than the last. I know that fall will bring beautiful arrays of yellows, golds, and reds. Winter will bring soft, clean snow and clear night skies with stars so brilliant it's hard to imagine that Heavenly Father actually counts each one. The spring will bring new life as plants and animals are born, while the summer will bring fresh vegetables, warm weather, and longer days.

I believe that the seasons are a pattern. We all go through seasons in our lives, each one bringing something just a bit different from the last. We're children and depend on our parents to teach us and love us. Then, it's time to leave and venture out on our own. After a bit of time, we settle down, maybe have a family and spend a season working and raising a family. After what seems like a short time, we again enter another season as our children begin to leave our home to venture out on their own and we're left scratching our heads wondering how that season passed so quickly. At some point, we enter the time when we no longer have children at home, and even a time when we might be alone.

Heavenly Father has designed each of the seasons of our lives for us to find joy. Just as each season of the year is a bit different, we can find peace and happiness in each season of our lives and enjoy every season with which we're blessed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Writers Write

Since I have a large family, a constant thread of discussion is always on cleaning bedrooms. Apparently, my definition of a clean bedroom is far different from my children's. I'd like to see the carpet occasionally. I'd like to go to the closet and see the clothes hanging from the rod instead of jumbled into a ball on the floor. I'd like to know that we're not growing our own version of penicillin under the bed. I don't insist that the vacuum marks all align in the same direction or that the windows are so clear birds might fly through them. I don't demand that the walls are completely smudge free or that the pillows are fluffed to a certain state of fluffiness. I merely ask that when I walk by the bedroom I don't shudder and feel an uncontrollable urge to vomit.

We were having another discussion this morning about how I wanted the rooms to be cleaned since we start school next week. (We all know it'd be so much easier for me to simply clean their rooms and be done with it, but what would that teach them?) After our discussion followed several smaller talks with individual kids about how he/she would fold clothes, place blankets in a certain place, line up shoes on the shelf, display only important items on the dressers, organize Legos, and general plans for the room. All of these were great ideas. It was wonderful to discuss their plans and see that they were thinking about their rooms and how to make them function more efficiently. It was effective to bounce ideas around and ask for advice. It helped to make the cleaning seem like it was manageable until . . . . it came time for the actual work. We'd done so much talking and planning, yet, nothing was accomplished. The rooms are still messy and my kids are still talking about how they plan to clean. I keep reminding them that all the talking in the world won't make up for not following through with the work.

And so it is with writing. We can talk about it, think about it, plan it, read about how to do it, and otherwise involve ourselves, but until we actually tackle the work and accomplish what we've planned, it isn't truly writing. Someone has said, "Writing is writing." The process of sitting down, creating stories, revising, reworking, rewriting, and continuing the process until we have a finished product that satisfies us is writing. Hundreds, probably thousands, of books have been written on writing and these books certainly serve a purpose, but it's the writing that has to be the priority. We learn best from doing because . . . writers write.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Sunrise, Sunset

Yesterday, my daughter experienced a rite of passage. She passed her driving test and received her driver's license. She was ecstatic. I was happy for her, but a little uneasy at the idea of turning a vehicle over to her to drive without a parent as a passenger. Don't get me wrong, she's a good driver (as good as a teenager gets), but the idea of her driving by herself made me scared and sad at the same time.

My oldest daughter will soon also experience a rite of passage as she leaves for college. She is excited, as she should be, to enter this new phase of her life and move away from home. Though I know it's time for her to do this, it still leaves me a little empty that she will leave our home and go out on her own.

My oldest child, a son, is currently serving a mission for the LDS church in Rome, Italy. I still haven't quite recovered from sending my newborn son out into the world (though having him on a mission eases the sting a bit).

The high school musical this fall will be, "Fiddler on the Roof." Since my daughters are involved in theater (as are all of my children), they plan to audition for the musical and have been listening to the soundtrack all summer. When the song, "Sunrise, Sunset," plays I have to stop and listen because it so aptly describes the way I feel. How did my babies grow so fast? Where has the time gone? How did my son become old enough to serve a mission, my daughter old enough to leave for college, and my third child old enough to obtain a driver's license?

"Is this the little girl I carried, is this the little boy at play? I don't remember growing older, when did they?"

Yes, I still have many children at home, but they are all growing as well. Time slips by so fast and the older I get, the faster it seems to go. I've tried to absorb every drop of my newborns, spend time with my toddlers reading books and playing, and generally enjoy all the moments of my children's lives.

"When did she get to be a beauty, when did he grow to be so tall? Wasn't it yesterday when they were small?"

And, yet, I feel as though they're growing so quickly I can't even catch my breath.

"Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days. Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, blossoming even as we gaze. Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly fly the years."

While it's wonderful that my children are realizing their goals and dreams, it still leaves me wondering where all the time has gone and how very short the day is between sunrise and sunset.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Computer Virus Rant

My husband has worked with computers for over 20 years. As a result, we have adopted many "sick" computers over the years and he's revamped them for us to use. Until recently, we had boxes of floppy drives, hard drives, and other computer innards in our basement. We've even had Commodore 64 computers. Now, we have about 4 desktop computers in the same room so multiple children can access the computers when they all get home from school and "have to use a computer right this minute for homework." These computers are all networked, as are a couple of laptops, so we can all use the printer and access the internet at the same time.

We have installed software to safeguard our children from the internet and regularly monitor the internet in person. My husband has a report delivered to his computer at home and at work that details all the internet sites that have been accessed. We have also installed a virus program and update it regularly to ensure that our privacy and our computers are protected. We're pretty diligent in monitoring our computers.

Even with all of this in place, and my husband knowing all of the current viruses, we got hit with a nasty virus last week. It was such a nasty one, in fact, that we had to shut down all of the computers and clean them.

We block pop-ups and last week, what seemed to be all of a sudden, pop-ups started hitting our main computer every few seconds and not just advertisements, but also pornography. Not only did we get hit with these horrendous photos, but this particular virus wormed its way into our computer and disabled our virus software so the "newly installed" software could search for any and all personal information. My only defense, until my husband arrived home, was to unplug the computers.

I felt violated because we'd tried to be so careful with the internet and so sensitive to the trashy side of what's out there and, yet, there it was right in my home, on my screen. How dare someone force porno on us!

This made me wonder about the kind of people who produce computer viruses. (I won't even get into what I think about the kind of people who produce pornography). I just don't get it. How can infecting someone's computer bring satisfaction? I don't understand why someone would want to infect computers and cause havoc. What motivates someone to do that? Why are there those who derive joy from inflicting pain on others?

Thankfully, none of our programs or files were corrupted. We couldn't access the internet or print documents for several days, but we eventually purged our network of the virus. How sad that people choose to waste their potential by causing damage instead of using their intelligence and talent for doing good.

Computers, and the internet, can be wonderful tools. We just have to keep in mind that there are people out there who will use these tools against us (right, Josi?).