Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scotty was "In It to Win It"

Wow!! What a finale last night on American Idol. I've watched many of the seasons through the years and I have to say this year had the most talent I've ever seen. Fantastic season.

I remember watching Scotty McCreery on the audition show and being blown away with his deep voice. Even more, I was blown away by his genuine charm. He was one of my favorites from the very beginning and I loved watching his growth through the weeks. His performance skills have improved by leaps and bounds and it's been so fun to watch. He has such an incredible voice, and as impressive as that is, I was far more impressed by the young man himself. He was always so polite. He was never full of himself nor did he ever get mad. He was always composed and he seemed to be such a kind-hearted guy. He's so down-to-earth. When they announced his name, we all screamed with excitement. My older daughter is sure she should marry him. The most impressive thing: his big moment in the spotlight wasn't even about him. He thanked God and then went directly to hug his parents and those who'd been there for him. He hugged all the contestants (loved the exchange between Lauren and him). He could've hogged that moment for himself, but he chose to make it about those who'd helped him along the way. Great kid--I hope fame doesn't ruin him like it has so many others (Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, even David Archuleta, etc.). I expect to see great things from Scotty and hope he'll stay grounded.

Lauren Alaina was so cute! I would've been happy if she won as well. She was also an early favorite from her audition. She's also so genuine and when she sang that song to her mom on Tuesday I thought I'd pop. What a beautiful song and what a sweet performance. Lauren will go places for sure. She'll be right up there with Carrie Underwood in no time. She's a beautiful girl with such an incredible talent and she's so much fun to watch on stage. I've loved watching her growth through the season and seeing her shine so many times. I knew it would come down to Scotty and Lauren. Secretly, I hope they start dating and end up getting married some years down the line. They perform together so well.

It was a fun show with all the finalists. They are all so talented. I loved seeing Pia again and hope she'll be successful--definitely the most shocking elimination this season.

Oh, I LOVED the performances with Carrie Underwood and Tim McGraw--I could listen to Tim McGraw in concert all night. He has such a gorgeous voice and his performance with Scotty was phenomenal. LOVED it!

Lady Gaga? Could've done without her. She's so strange and I don't like her music at all. She looked so weird in that outfit and I was glad it was on my DVR so I could skip her performance. The finalists opened with one of her songs but my older daughter fast-forwarded through it because she said the song was inappropriate. I don't think Lady Gaga is very talented and she's just so odd. I think Beyonce is beautiful but I don't care for her music at all. She can sure dance, though. I liked seeing Jennifer Lopez perform with her husband (I assume he's a Latin singer) and Steven Tyler, though he dresses like a woman, is a performer through and through. 

I'm excited to see where Scotty and Lauren go from here. I'll definitely buy their CDs.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Parent Paydays

My daughter graduated from seminary on Saturday evening. This is my 4th graduate. I'm very proud of her for getting up on school days by 5:00 am to get ready and attend seminary at 6:00 am before going on to school and, sometimes, being at school for play rehearsal until 9:00 pm. She has never complained about going to seminary and I've been so impressed with her knowledge of the scriptures.

She spoke in the graduation ceremony. She shared a conversation we'd had about how I remembered the exact moment I received my testimony of Joseph Smith. She said in her talk, "I was like, come on, Mom, you really remember that after all these years?" Everyone laughed at her implication that I was too old to remember such an experience and then she went on to share her own experience of when she received her testimony of the Savior and it was an exact time. She then said, "So, yes, Mom, I can now say that I remember exactly when I received my testimony of the Savior and I will never forget that moment." She then bore a strong and powerful testimony of the gospel which made my eyes leak. A parent payday for sure.

Last night my eighth grader did her Life Presentation to "graduate" from middle school. Eighth graders present their lives to their teachers, family members, and any special people they invite. My daughter's presentation began with her family. She made a slide show, set to music, with lots of photos from the family, including our trip to Disney World in December. The slide show then included photos of the temple,  the 13th Article of Faith and the Young Women's theme, and then photos of the Savior. Her slide show concluded with photos of her friends, which included her siblings, her cousins, and some girls from church. It made me all teary to see her presentation. I had not previewed it nor did I have any idea what she'd present and it made me feel so happy inside to see what's important to her. A definite parent payday.

Every once in a while we get those amazing parent paydays and when we do, it's wonderful and it makes me so grateful that I have such an incredible family and I feel so very blessed to have these people in my life.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Three Dimensions of Character Gets Personal

I attended the LDStorymakers conference a couple of weeks ago. It was fantastic. Our keynote speaker was Larry Brooks and if you are interested in writing fiction you'll want to check out his site Excellent writing advice.

He talked about the three dimensions of character. I found his take on this fascinating, but even more important, his message about fiction has resonated with me in my real life.

The first dimension of character is how that character presents himself to the world. His habits, mannerisms, physical characteristics, ticks, anything that can be viewed by outsiders. As we people our books with characters we may be tempted to only use this dimension. A dimension that makes our characters feel flat. We focus on physical traits and habits, like biting fingernails, to try to communicate something about our characters. This is one-dimensional and while important in building our characters, we shouldn't stop here or we will fail to create fully-developed, realistic characters.

The second dimension is the reason for those habits, ticks, quirks, etc. What is the backstory? Why does the character always bite her nails when another woman enters the room? Why does the hero start to stutter when he's in front of a crowd? The backstory is what explains the outer characteristics we see in the first dimension.

The third, and most interesting, dimension is who the character is and what he does when under pressure. Is the character the same as he presents himself in the first dimension? If he's established himself as being cool and calm--never getting ruffled--as his public persona, what happens when his child is held at gunpoint? Is he still cool and calm or does he start screaming and yelling like a madman?

What the character does under stress reveals who he really is. And that's what hit me on a personal level. Am I the person I show myself to be when I'm stressed or upset or annoyed? Who am I really? I've thought about his over the last few weeks as situations have come up and I've reacted to those situations. Am I still the kind of person I want to be when put in a bad situation? I'd like to say that I am. But, I'm not. I don't react well to stress or things that are unexpected. I need to work on that and learning about the 3 dimensions of characters has helped me see myself more clearly.

Who says that learning about writing fiction is only helpful in our writing? Sometimes, it can be helpful in our real, day-to-day lives.

Monday, May 16, 2011


I love to pull pranks. I used to get in trouble at girls' camp for pulling pranks. One year, we stole one of the canoes and hid it so we could go canoing on the little lake at night (I now realize that wasn't a very safe or good idea). Our leaders found the canoe and put it back in our tent and then we had to take it back to the canoe dock--we never did get to go canoing in the moonlight.

Girls' camp was prime time for pranks from tipping tents, to stealing bras, to making scary "bear" noises outside the younger girls' tents, I was always involved in pranks somehow.

Back in the day, I used to TP houses all the time. That was one of our staple activities growing up--we'd go TPing. And everyone's house was game. I did my fair share of cleaning up TP at my own house as well.

In college, we once filled up a trash can with ice from the cafeteria, hopped on an elevator in the boys' dorm (big no-no) and then when one of the boys answered the door we dumped the entire trashcan of ice on him. He wasn't pleased. We also moved our dorm mother's car up to the front door of the dorm and we decorated the trees outside the boys' dorms with tampons.

My sophomore year at BYU, we had a prank feud with our FHE brothers (one of whom is quite a famous LDS historical fiction author). They snuck into our apartment and dyed everything green for St. Patrick's day--our milk, the toilet bowls, everything they could get their hands on. I seem to remember the inner stuffing of a bean bag being used that year as well.

I love a good prank. But, I don't like ones that are destructive such as the one our seniors pulled this weekend at the high school. They snuck into the school and filled the entire freshman hall with hay. They then doused it with paint so it would be harder to clean up. Because of the amount of hay, the air quality inside the school was too poor for the kids to attend. My son has an adverse reaction to hay and can succumb to asthma very quickly and very dangerously. The added paint also added fumes to the building. The school had to cancel all classes for the day to spend it cleaning up after this senior prank. What does that mean? All of us taxpayers will have to pay the clean-up costs which includes all new air filters, washing walls, disposing of all the hay and making sure that kids with asthma can safely attend tomorrow. (Hay isn't cheap and it's a shame so much was wasted in an area where drought makes it difficult to grow enough hay).

I'm sure the kids didn't think about the damage their prank would do or the consequences. That's one of the problems with being a teenager--the inability to see past today. And all the kids are happy to have an extra day off school. But, pranks that are destructive aren't funny.  I hope those involved will think through their next prank.

As for me, I've retired from TPing (can't make myself waste all that TP) but beware if you ever go to girls' camp with me :).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fantastic Conference Class

I attended the LDStorymakers writing conference last weekend in Salt Lake City and it was AWESOME. Really. Just amazing.

Even though I served on the conference committee and thought I knew what to expect, I was blown away. So many fabulous classes.

I really enjoyed a class taught by Clint Johnson called The Mechanism of Story and Conflict. Wow!! Made me think differently about my WIP. I loved the idea of complicating stakes for my main character instead of only intensifying them. He also taught about the following steps when it comes to our characters:

1. Conflict forces action
2. Action reveals character
3. Revealed character helps readers suspend their disbelief
4. Readers identify with characters when their disbelief is suspended
5. Readers feel emotion when they can identify with characters
6. Emotion helps readers assign meaning

Writing or reading a story is a process in which we assign meaning to the world around us. The more a story helps us assign that meaning the more we lose ourselves in that story. As authors, we want to write a story that helps readers lose themselves and then when they are finished they have assigned new meaning to the world around them. That's what I hope happens when people read The Upside of Down.

Of course, I can't explain in a few sentences what I learned in a two-hour workshop, but I will say that if you ever get a chance to take this workshop from Clint I highly recommend it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Weekend of Gratitude

This last weekend we drove up to Provo to celebrate my son's birthday with him and to attend my daughter's choir concert. Preparing to travel is always a huge chore. I have to make sure all the clothes are clean, make sure the younger kids have enough underwear, make sure everyone brings church clothes and shoes, and make food to eat on the drive. I also like to clean the house so when we return it's to a nice clean house.

Friday I was pushed for time and had worked all day to pack and prepare for this trip. I wasn't very excited by the time we planned to leave because I was so tired and I was frustrated that my kids kept making messes instead of helping me get ready to go. I even considered cancelling the trip, but knew I'd regret that.

Saturday we celebrated my son's birthday from the moment we got up. I can't believe he's 24--wow! Time goes by so fast. I'm really glad we could celebrate with him and his wife because, for me, nothing is better or more important than being with my family.

My daughter sings with the Latter-day Celebration choir from the Institute at Utah Valley University. She has a beautiful voice, but in high school she had little confidence in her talent. Even though I tried to convince her of her talent it seemed that others' words held more weight than mine at the time. I was thrilled when she auditioned for this choir and made it in because, finally, she could believe in her talent. As I watched her perform at the Little Theater at the Salt Lake LDS Conference Center, I couldn't hold the tears back. The show itself was so uplifting with songs about the family. I've seen a bazillion productions, but most of them weren't spiritually nourishing as this one was. I could feel the Spirit as these college kids sang familiar hymns, Primary songs, and even some contemporary songs that all had to do with the family. They interspersed quotes from the general authorities and used a scripture that really hit me hard:

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." 3 John 1:4

This is so true for me. My greatest joy is to see my children living the gospel and to know that those who've left home continue to live the gospel, to attend the temple, and have the desire to teach their children the gospel.

I was very grateful to not only feel my testimony grow during this choir show, but to also see my daughter shine with such joy on stage. To finally see her share her talent without hesitation was an enormous gift to me. I am so glad we decided to attend her concert and take part in such an uplifting and inspiring event.

I am so thankful we could spend time with all of our kids this weekend and celebrate my son's birth. I remember it so vividly--the very first time I became a mother. I am so thankful that my son and his wife are working so hard to live the gospel and that family is so important to them. I'm also so thankful to see the man he's becoming.

My heart is very full from this weekend and I'm very thankful I didn't let frustration get in the way of enjoying such a wonderful weekend.