Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Writing Wisdom: Mark McVeigh

Children’s editor Mark Mc Veigh says it was the act of reading and thinking that led him into being an editor. “The best way to find a book is to browse the library,” he says. “I view every book as a promise.” And that’s the attitude he brings to the projects he decides to publish as well.

“To be a non-reader is almost to be a non-member of society,” he adds. “A good book gives the reader something to think about.” Mc Veigh looks for manuscripts that entertain, enlighten, and encourage. “Books are a way to figure out life, because in reality, life is a novel.”

He says that authors need to keep in mind that audiences are changing. “Give people what they never knew they wanted. Don’t go for the easy thing,” he says. A fan of non-fiction, Mc Veigh says, “The world changes so fast, the moment a book is printed it’s already inaccurate.”

Mc Veigh also delivers what he calls the “sad news” about publishing. “Publishers view books as a way to enrich their coffer, so potential sales decide which books we buy. It is a business. Your book may be wonderful, but it also needs to be a certain profit–at least a minimal profit–or we won’t buy it. It’s not about the work itself; the book must be commercial. This is a business, so try not to be cute during the submission process.”

He says that authors should look at what’s already out there then consider: “Would my book seem out of place?”

As an editor, Mc Veigh says he usually knows after a single page if he wants the book. As a courtesy, he may give a manuscript fifteen to twenty pages if he’s been asked to look at something. If he’s not sure, he will read all of the pages submitted and then think about it before making his final decision. “I fall in love with a manuscript about one out of every five hundred submissions I see,” he says, then quotes Ursula Nordstrom: “If I can turn down a manuscript, I will.”

He says that those who want to be authors should, “Read and write voraciously! The right manuscript will take you a long way.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

Been There, Done That: Pat Boone and Debby Boone

In 1975, I was still a student at Indiana University in Bloomington when music legend Pat Boone, his wife Shirley, and their four daughters, the Boone Girls, came to do a show at the Auditorium. I bought tickets and was excited to see the legendary Pat Boone in concert. But at that time, no one knew much about daughter Debby.

Her father, Pat had been a part of my entire life, or so it seemed. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Pat sold over 45 million albums, had 38 Top 40 hits and starred in more than 12 Hollywood movies, plus starred in his own television show.

In the 1970s Boone had taken his family on the road, presenting squeaky-clean concerts with a gospel slant. I don’t remember much about the show itself, but I know I had a good time. I also remember that he and Shirley had their daughters with them: Cheryl, Linda Lee, Debby, and Laury.

Two years before her super-hit “You Light Up my Life,” Debby was just one of the girls and Pat himself was still the ticket draw when it came to filling concert halls.

If there is one image that continues to shine about Pat Boone, it’s that he is NICE. And that’s how I viewed him that night, not only during the concert, but afterwards when I found myself backstage to meet him.

I had learned a little bit about meeting celebrities by listening to the Osmond fans I had met a couple of months before, so I decided to see if I could get backstage to meet the Boone family. As most people were leaving the auditorium, I made my way down toward the stage. There were a few others who had gathered toward the left side of the stage as well, autograph books in hand, hoping to get a chance to go backstage.

We waited for quite awhile and the theater was empty except for those of us who stuck around hoping to get backstage, and eventually we got our wish. An usher opened the stage door and welcomed us in. “Just line up along this wall and the family will be out to see you in a few minutes.”

I dug around in my purse and found a tiny little notebook and an ink pen which I got out so I’d be ready, and sure enough, in just a few minutes all four girls stepped into the hallway. They walked by us, saying hello, making small talk, and signing autographs. They still had on the long dresses they wore for the final part of the concerts. It was cool to meet them, but all my focus was on Pat, who I saw coming right behind his wife Shirley.

Shirley signed my paper, using a big swoopy handwriting that some might say showed the confidence she felt about herself. She had likely had experiences like her girls when she was nothing but a child since her own father, Red Foley, was also a famous as a country music star.

Then there was Pat. It was exciting to meet him. His was a face and a voice that I knew, and in my opinion he was more important than even Elvis. Actually, Elvis had been Pat’s opening act when I was a kid! After the meeting, those of us who were in the hallway filed out the backdoor of the auditorium and headed home. I couldn’t wait to get home and call my mom to let her know that I’d met him.

Who knew that just two years later, Debby Boone would be a star on her own, and that I would be singing her hit “You Light Up My Life” and remembering the day I met her, and her father.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

All in the Family: Mary Ann Blakely Brobst

The thirteenth and youngest child of Thomas and Eliza Jane Blair Blakely, Mary Ann was born in Groveport, Franklin county, Ohio. Her older siblings are: Jessie, George, Margaret Elizabeth, Mary Jane, Julius, John W., William, Oliver Perry, Washington. Thomas Franklin, Albert, and Eliza Jane Blakely.

In the 1870 census, Mary Ann is listed as being age eight and attending school in Monroe Township of Franklin county. She was described by Helen Heffner Brobst as “little, short, petite and intelligent.” Her photos show her to have dark hair which she often wore in a bun.

Mary Ann married David Ellsworth Brobst on 11 February 1883 in Groveport. The couple had moved to Indiana by the birth of their oldest son William Ellsworth in 1884. Their other children were our grandfather, Pearl, and his younger brothers Audison and Olen.

Mary Ann was the family historian, keeping a large family Bible and recording many facts about births, marriage, and deaths for her children, grandchildren, and others. Most facts about her descendants in my genealogy records are from her Bible, which was was given to her son, William Ellsworth (known as Worth) and then passed to his daughter, Helen Marie. She passed the Bible onto her niece Carol Brobst Courtney who was last known to have it in her possession.

Mary Ann died at the home of Mary Magdalene Smith Brobst, Worth’s widow on North 4th Street in Elwood. Mary Ann died of Lobar Pneumonia and is buried in Sunset Memorial Park in Elwood. According to Eugene Brobst, who was in attendance, she was buried by Bob Jackley Funeral Home, not Copher and Fesler as indicated on her death certificate.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Been There, Done That: Shawn Bradley

Back in the days when I was working for Alan Osmond Productions, one of my jobs included arranging for guest tickets to Stadium of Fire. Usually this meant pulling a block of tickets for local sponsors to bring selected guests to the show and having some pretty great reserved seats. Occasionally, we would get a request that was a little more specific: West side, center box or something along that line.

The most unusual, and specific request came to my attention probably in 1991 or 1992 when I was asked to pull a pair of tickets for then BYU’s then-center player on the basketball team, Shawn Bradley.

Now pulling a pair of tickets wasn’t unusual in and of itself; it was the location of the tickets that was much different than any request I’d ever gotten before. First of all, the tickets were to be on the West side, but they needed to be the last seat south on the top row before the nosebleed section and the seat directly in front of it.

“Is Shawn bringing a date that he didn’t want to have sit beside him or something?”I asked the person phoning in the request.

“No, Shawn is coming alone,” the caller told me. “But he needs two seats: one to sit in and the other one for his feet.”

His feet? I thought. Now, I’d never met Shawn Bradley before, so I had no idea why he would need a seat for his feet until I met him at the show that night.

Shawn Bradley is 7' 6" tall! Even with his legs crunched up, there was no way he would be able to put his legs in front of him in those narrow rows. And he couldn’t have anyone sit directly behind him because they would never be able to see.

So, Shawn got to enjoy Stadium of Fire because I was able to accommodate his special seat request.

Flash forward nearly twenty years to this past weekend. I was in Anaheim, enjoying the day at Disneyland with my family when I saw a guy who towered–and I DO mean towered–over everyone else walking through Tomorrowland. I looked, then looked again, trying to be sure.

“Hey, Mike,” I called to my husband. “See that really tall guy?” How could he miss him? “I’m pretty sure it’s Shawn Bradley.”

“Didn’t he play for the Lakers?” my husband asked.

“I can’t remember for sure,” I said, “but I know he played for BYU. I got him seats once for Stadium of Fire. I’m pretty sure that’s him, but he looks a little different.”

“If it’s not him, then I’d still say that guy is an NBA player. Too bad the kids aren’t here right now,” my husband said as we returned to what we were talking about before I spotted him.

Later that evening, as we were leaving the park, Mike and the boys were walking far ahead of me—something they usually do because I can’t keep up—when we passed Shawn again. This time he was seated with his wife and sons, waiting for their bus back to the parking lot.

As I walked past, I could get a good look at his face—he was too far away before in both distance and height—and I knew for sure it was him. Mike turned around to look for me and I jerked my head toward Shawn and mouthed, “Yep. It’s him.”

Another man and his family had stopped to chat with the former NBA star. I motioned for Mike to come back with the boys and we waited for several minutes for the guy to stop talking, but he wasn’t taking the hint that others were waiting and Mike didn’t feel comfortable stepping into the conversation.

I did. I’ve done it many times before when meeting celebrities. HA!

When I got my chance, I stuck my hand out and said, “Lu Ann Staheli. We met several years ago when I was working with Alan Osmond Productions and Stadium of Fire.”

“Wow! That was like twenty years ago,” he said.

“This is my husband, Mike,” I said and then Mike introduced the three boys we had with us in Anaheim.

“Were you in Space Jam?” Chan asked.

“That was me,” Shawn said. The boys talked with him a few more minutes then we were on our way.

“Great segue,” Mike said as we left the park. “You’re much better at that than I am.”

“Practice, I guess. Just lots of practice,” I said.

The next day I found myself daydreaming as we stood in line for food in California Adventure, and I thought, Wonder if Shawn Bradley is back at Disneyland today. I looked over, and there he was. Standing four rows over and three feet taller than anyone else in the line to get a chicken sandwich.

I guess former NBA basketball players need to eat too, especially after a big day visiting Mickey Mouse. But I can’t help but wonder—how does someone like Shawn Bradley get his entire 7' 6" frame bent low enough to fit into the parachutes on a ride like Soarin’Over California?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Been There, Done That: The Bee Gees Lost Memory

A few weeks ago I was looking through my autograph book, deciding who I might write about for this series in the coming weeks. As I flipped through the pages, there was John Schneider, Solid Gold dancers, Cosby kids, members of the group Alabama, and the Bee Gees.

The BEE GEES!? When did I meet the Bee Gees?

I thought and thought and thought, and I couldn’t come up with a single, fleeting moment–no memory of any kind as to when I actually met the Bee Gees.

How is that possible? How could I forget such a moment as this? Come on—surely I would remember saying something to Barry Gibb. I knew of several occasions when I had met and talked with Andy, but not one thing could I remember about having met Barry, Robin, and Maurice–the brothers Gibb.

I knew I had gone to Las Vegas once to see them in concert—and a great show it was! Could that be where I met them? I made my mind sort back through the arrival, concert, and the end of the show, trying to sort though a possible moment when I saw them together backstage, at the cars, in the hotel lobby. Nope! Nothing came to mind.

Celebrities were always showing up in nearby Orem at the Osmond Studios. Had they been guests on an Osmond Family or Donny & Marie Show where I’d been a member of the audience. Not a chance.

I remembered that Maurice had produced an album for Alan, Wayne, Merrill, and Jay at their studio in Provo. Had all the brothers been there, I’d run into them, and simply forgot? I didn’t want to believe that was possible.

As a matter of fact, nothing seemed possible. I’d honestly think that the whole thing was a figment of my imagination, except there was the notecard pasted into my autograph books with all three signatures, and even a “Love” from Maurice.

My memory bank did have a story about Barry Gibb having stood outside of the Orem ZCMI one afternoon and some woman going up to ask, “Are you Barry Gibb?”

His reply, “Yes, Ma’am.”

“Why are you standing outside the ZCMI?” she asked.

Barry nodded his head toward the store and said, “My wife. She’s inside shopping.”

That was the only explanation the woman needed to help her understand.

Now I was trying to understand—did I know that woman? How did I know that story? And where in the heck did I meet the three of them?

You have to know, I have a pretty good memory. I can tell you plots of books I read when I was in junior high, for Pete’s sake, but I couldn’t remember anything about this event at all.

Embarrassed at having forgotten or not, I had to know so I took the chance at a recent dinner with several old friends.

At first I asked Jess. I thought she had gone with me to see them in Vegas.

“No, we didn’t meet them there. I would have remembered,” she said.

That’s what I thought, I laughed to myself.

“Mary, when did I meet the Bee Gees?” Mary and I had also gone to lots of concerts and celebrity events together.

“How in the heck would I know?” she asked. I thought I had to be losing my mind, until she came to my mental-health rescue. “But they were at the studio one time for a telethon.

Telethon! That had to be it. Celebrities passed in and out of both the front and back lobbies at the annual Children’s Miracle Network telethons all the time, sometimes in a hurry, and others taking life slow enough to stop for an autograph and photos. That had to be it! It must have been at a telethon where I met the Bee Gees.

I’ve managed to convince myself this is the truth because there is no other choice. But it should would be nice if I could somehow remember something more about that day. At least I’ve still got the autograph to prove I’m not completely crazy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wisdom Keys: Silence is Golden

Part of my personality refuses to let me practice the skill of keeping my mouth shut! I know I should, and I understand life would likely be easier if I could just manage to not share my opinions in a variety of situations. But like it or not, I find it difficult to bridle my passions, especially when someone gets my anger riled up.

That’s how I’m feeling right now about one of my son’s school teachers. I wrote her a nice note, verifying some information, and I got back a scathing report on my son, all based on a behavior she should have let me know about at the beginning of the school year instead of waiting until six weeks into the quarter. Whether she meant it or not, a tone of unearned arrogance came through her lengthy tirade.

Hmm. . .maybe I’m not the only one who opens her mouth and speaks words that should not be spoken—well, in this case, emails them.

Of course, that didn’t stop me from replying to her message, maybe in a little more swarthy tone that my initial query, but hey, when her story doesn’t quite match up with what I’m hearing from my son, the principal, and my own observations of her, then I’m not going to let her dictate my son’s educational future.

In the end, I might have made the situation worse, but who knows. There is such a thing as being able to speak up for what is right. I did make every attempt to appear cordial in my response, but in the back of my mind I’m considering just moving him to a different school.

Today in church one of the women spoke about having a similar difficulty of knowing when to keep quiet. She said, “We’ve been given two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should learn to use them in the correct ratio, or we stand the chance of speaking too soon without having really listened if we don’t.”

I thought it was brilliant and even took the time to write it down so I could add it to this essay.

I know there is a place for silence—silence cannot be misquoted—but sometimes one just cannot be forced to remain so. Of course, that does lead to another life lesson—choices have their consequences.

I just hope that this time, the consequence doesn’t make life worse for my son.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Week in Review: Follow My Footsteps

Today I finished reading Lessons from Great Lives, a collection of pieces about famous people put together by Sterling W. Sill, and revisited by Dan McCormick. In the final essay, McCormick talks about Sill’s personal goal to read the complete works of ten authors who he felt could change him in a way that would be good for his career. I started to think about if I had a list of ten authors I wanted to learn from, to see more about how the craft works, to model my own writing if not in form or substance, at least in gaining an audience. I thought I’d share those names with you, not only to get you thinking about your own list of ten people you could use as models in whatever career paths you have chosen, but as a commitment to myself to follow through.

1. William Shakespeare – Hey, he’s my first cousin 14 generations removed, and it seems everyone reads his work at sometime or the other, so I guess I’d better finish reading the canon myself. Thankfully I got a good start in high school and college.

2. Richard Paul Evans – I’ve learned so much from Rick in the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with him, and I’ve seen his track record at being on the New York Times lists, so he must be doing something right and it’s time for me to learn.

3. Suzanne Collins – You can’t throw a dead cat without someone mentioning Collin’s highly successful series, The Hunger Games, in the past year. I want to see how this series shows her personal growth as a writer compared to her previous series about Gregor, which was popular with some of my students but not to the extent this new series has been.

4. Margaret Peterson Haddix – This woman can also write a great series that draws in those junior high-age kids. Since that’s the audience my own fiction tends to be written for, I want to analyze what she is doing that works.

5. J. Scott Savage – Jeff is in my writer’s critique group and I have never known anyone to be such a hard worker when it comes to perfecting the craft. And the ideas he comes up with! I can only hope to someday be as good as he is at developing plots and sub-plots in my head.

6. Carol Lynch Williams – I’ve been reading Carol’s books almost from the very beginning of her publishing career, and I’m still in awe at how she hits the voice of her teenage audiences dead on. Those who know her may says it’s because Carol never grew up, but I’d still like to learn how to give my characters a similar strength of voice that she gives hers.

7. Richard Peck – Speaking of voice, Richard Peck does a Hoosier flavor better than I do, and I was born and raised there. How does he do it? How does he take me home every time and remind me so much of my mother?

8, 9, and 10. Okay, so I just started thinking about this list the afternoon, so I only have 7 names so far. But I’m a voracious reader so I know I’ll decide on the other three names soon. I’ll let you know when I do, but in the meantime, maybe you could start thinking about your own list of mentors whose work you need to follow.

Now, on to the books I finished this week, pushing my page count over 5,600 so far this term.

Lessons from Great Lives - Sterling W. Sill & Dan McCormick
As I said, this is a collection of Sill’s thoughts about some very famous men and women who have influenced the world. Every one from George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon, Ghandi,  Booker T. Washington, Joan of Arc, and even Jesus Christ get a chapter explaining why we should study their lives and apply their tenants and principles to our own. This book is one to be read slowly, a chapter at a time, then allowing yourself to think about that person throughout the day.

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
The first time I tried to read this novel I stopped at the end of the first chapter. I just couldn’t get into the voice and the set-up seemed really contrived to me, but like I said, you can’t go anywhere without someone asking if you’ve read it, so I decided I’d better give the book—and eventually the series—another try. This time I found myself wanting to read, no matter how late at night I got to it. I even stayed up until midnight on a school night to finish the last 100 pages, so I guess you’d say I enjoyed it. Of course, I had to keep myself one step of distance away from the characters or the whole thing would be too gruesome to even consider, but I didn’t mind. I’m just glad I already own Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I think if I’d had to wait, I wouldn’t have even bothered.

The Fourth Nephite - J. Scott Savage
I can’t tell you how much fun it is to see a book in its early manuscript form, then read the final product to see how it all comes together in the end. This was a great read aloud for me and my 10-year-old son, and I learned a lot about what he’s been picking up from his primary class discussions. Our only problem now is that Jeff hasn’t written the second book yet and now we have to wait to see what happens to Kaleo!!!

The Reading Zone - Nancie Atwell
Years ago I read Atwell’s oft-quoted book In the Middle. A few years later I read her own revisionist methods in the new and updated version of that same book/ It was great to see where she had discovered her own problems or struggles within a reading/writing workshop for her students and how she solved them. This thin volume revisits those workshops in a way that should be required reading for ALL language arts teachers. Like The Book Whisperer which I wrote about a couple weeks ago, this book will change you mind about the real way we should teach reading. Too often administrators and the department of education forget that it’s not all about the test. Of course, they also have failed to recognize that the best way to raise test scores—and to build life-long readers—is to let kids READ! What a radical concept.

Mere Christianity - C. S. Lewis
Speaking of radical, I’ve heard much about this book, another which is also oft-quoted, so I decided to listen to the audio version as I commuted back and forth to school. I was surprised by some of Lewis’s ideas, especially the chapter on sex, but the entire book gave food for thought, even if I’m not sure yet how my mind and body can use it.

The Power - Ronda Byrne
In a follow-up to The Secret, Byrne reemphasizes the fact that the way to attract the things we want into our lives we must draw them in through love. Everyone knows you can catch more flies with honey that with vinegar, and the real secret to success is learning how to consistently use that knowledge in our lives.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

All in the Family: David Ellsworth Brobst

David Brobst was born October 18, 1861 in Marcy, Ohio, as the sixth child born to Caleb and Sarah Margaretha Smith Brobst. His five older brothers were Lyman Monroe, Alonzo Jacob, John Patterson, Martin Luther, and William Ervin Brobst. His younger siblings were Caleb Franklin and sisters Alberta Christine, Sarah Victoria, Arletta May, and Anna Irene.

David came to Indiana with his family when he was three years old, which allowed all of his younger siblings except Alberta Christine (Berty) to be born in Elwood where the family settled.

According to his obituary, David was a resident of Elwood for a number of years. He was one of the best citizens of the community, a man strictly honorable in all his dealings and prompt to give aid to any movement that was good for his community. He was engaged in the store business as owner or clerk all of the time of his residence and was employed at the Keller Brothers Grocery.

He married Mary Ann Blakely of Madison Twp. Ohio, in Groveport, Ohio. They were the parents of four sons: William Ellsworth, Pearl, Audison, and Olen. Worth was born in Goodland, Pearl and Audison in Kokomo, and Olen in Elwood, where he also died.

Audison was killed in Soppelbas, Alsase, France during World War I and is buried there. Olen built house on State Rd. 28 between Red Corner and Alexandria. He performed with a dance band, playing piano and a variety of other instruments by ear. He had his own dance band in the 1920s and 1930s and also played in other bands during the big band era. He traveled around the country for his career, keeping a scrapbook of his band literature and a professional picture. He gave himself the middle initial of H. Olen died at the Bluffton Clinic hospital of myocardial failure and bronchopneumonia.

David was a member of the Elwood Lodge of Knights of Pythias and of the Modern Woodmen of America, Ashville, Ohio.

He  was on his way home from work at the time he received injuries resulting in his death on September 13, 1922 in Elwood, Indiana. He was survived by sons, William (Elwood); Pearl (Alexandria); and Olen (Syracuse, NY), and his wife, Mary.
David Brobst was born October 18, 1861 in Marcy, Ohio, as the sixth child born to Caleb and Sarah Margaretha Smith Brobst. His five older brothers were Lyman Monroe, Alonzo Jacob, John Patterson, Martin Luther, and William Ervin Brobst. His younger siblings were Caleb Franklin and sisters Alberta Christine, Sarah Victoria, Arletta May, and Anna Irene.

David came to Indiana with his family when he was three years old, which allowed all of his younger siblings except Alberta Christine (Berty) to be born in Elwood where the family settled.

According to his obituary, David was a resident of Elwood for a number of years. He was one of the best citizens of the community, a man strictly honorable in all his dealings and prompt to give aid to any movement that was good for his community. He was engaged in the store business as owner or clerk all of the time of his residence and was employed at the Keller Brothers Grocery.

He married Mary Ann Blakely of Madison Twp. Ohio, in Groveport, Ohio. They were the parents of four sons: William Ellsworth, Pearl, Audison, and Olen. Worth was born in Goodland, Pearl and Audison in Kokomo, and Olen in Elwood, where he also died.

Audison was killed in Soppelbas, Alsase, France during World War I and is buried there. Olen built house on State Rd. 28 between Red Corner and Alexandria. He performed with a dance band, playing piano and a variety of other instruments by ear. He had his own dance band in the 1920s and 1930s and also played in other bands during the big band era. He traveled around the country for his career, keeping a scrapbook of his band literature and a professional picture. He gave himself the middle initial of H. Olen died at the Bluffton Clinic hospital of myocardial failure and bronchopneumonia.

David was a member of the Elwood Lodge of Knights of Pythias and of the Modern Woodmen of America, Ashville, Ohio.

He  was on his way home from work at the time he received injuries resulting in his death on September 13, 1922 in Elwood, Indiana. He was survived by sons, William (Elwood); Pearl (Alexandria); and Olen (Syracuse, NY), and his wife, Mary.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Home Cooking: Perfect for Teenage Boys

Who knew that when I was in junior high school, taking my required cooking class (yes, it was required clear back then) that I would add to my recipe files a casserole that would become a family favorite? As my boys have grown, I’ve gone from making this dessert in a small Corningware dish to now baking a 9 x 12 Pyrex to prepare enough for dinner, and even then, they sometimes complain there isn’t enough, especially for leftovers.

So what is this dish that teenage boys will love? Think about boys when they go to a party. What do they love to munch on the most? Well, my kids head to the chip bowl, and potato chips are the key ingredient to this Potato Chip Tuna Casserole that is simple to make and fills up the stomach of a growing boy.

How easy? Well, my ten-year-old can make this one pretty much on his own, although I usually remind him of the correct amounts for the ingredients. He’s been helping me make this dish since he was about five years old, so it’s a great way to get your little ones involved in helping fix dinner.

Depending on how many servings you plan to make, you may want to increase of reduce the numbers for the following ingredients. I’ve given you what I currently use for the 9 x 12 Pyrex, a meal that usually serves four teenagers with enough left over for me.

You’ll need:

Large bag of Lay’s Regular flavor Potato Chips
4 cans Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, undiluted
4 cans Tuna, packed in water

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly coat all four sides and the bottom of the Pyrex dish with margarine. Smash the bag of potato chips until chips are in corn flake-size pieces, then distribute enough of the chips to coat the bottom of the dish in a nice layer. You’ll want enough to also cover the top of the dish.

Open and drain the water from the tuna, then using a fork, flake the tuna on top of the entire baking dish, spreading out the meat to all corners.

Distribute the cream of mushroom soup in the same manner, then fill one empty can with milk and distribute that over the entire dish as well.

Cover the entire top of the dish with the remaining potato chips.

Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly hot. If you bake it too long, the chips on top will become crunchy.

I serve this dish with bread and butter.

Note: The original recipe had shelled, unsalted nuts in the mixture, but I didn’t like it as well that way.

Not only do my boys like this dish, but my husband loves it as well. The boys have requested it several times in the last few months and we're having it again this week.

And who said real men don’t eat casseroles?

Friday, October 01, 2010

Week in Review: A Mixed Bag

This week I finished reading three books that are about as far apart from each other on the spectrum as they can be. If you’ve taken the time to look through the entire list of books I’ve read this year which are listed on the sidebar of my blog, you’ll see that I am an eclectic and voracious reader. At last count there were 85 books listed, all of which I have completed. I’ve started several others. Some were abandoned, and most were just set aside because life as kept me too busy to finish them so far, but I will.

This week I have an LDS historical, a Harlequin romance for teens, and a middle grade fantasy-like adventure story. See—I told you they were varied!

Alma the Younger -- H. B. Moore
Disclaimer alert! Heather Moore is a member of my critique group and I actually read early draft versions of many of these pages, but I am always fascinated how manuscripts can change, grow, and characters develop from the early stages through actual publication of a novel. Heather’s novels are well-know for giving vivid details and painting imagery that takes you right to the place she wants you to be, this time ancient America. Based upon characters found in the Book of Mormon, Alma the Younger is a story of redemption with a promise of romance woven in. If you’re LDS, it provides food for thought as you consider the lives of the prophets. If you’re not LDS, this book, and any from her series, are still a great read.

The Iron Daughter – Julie Kagawa
The second book in a series meant to draw younger readers into the romance genre, like the first book this one follows the adventures of Meghan, half faerie and the daughter of King Oberon from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Having fallen in love with Queen Mab’s son, the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey-ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her. Although I really loved the first book, this one had several spots that I felt were slow, and I was surprised that the language was a little more raw. The last few chapters didn’t seem all that necessary, but I guess the author wanted to tie everything up into a nice, neat package.

Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan – John Flanagan
I’ve had students recommend this book, and the entire series to me for several years. Since the author is now ready to release book #10, I may never get caught up but at least I have gotten a start. This epic fantasy reminded me of The Dark is Rising, where the young boy learns he has a destiny. There were moments of true high adventure that pulled me along and into the story, but there were also chapters where I was confused about which character I was supposed to be following. That may have been my fault as I tend to switch between several books in the same day, or it could be because I had one ear open to listen to my student teacher handle a discipline problem or two in the classroom. I will say that once I got to the end, I felt like I enjoyed it enough to add book two to my list of Books to be Read.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

All in the Family: Violet Mae Warner Heffner

The oldest daughter of George Pierce and Mary Rose Fry Warner, Violet was less than two years old when the Warner family moved from West Foxburg, Pennsylvania, to Elwood, Indiana, traveling by Conestoga wagon to follow the gas boom that had hit in Madison County, Indiana. She and her older brother, Victor Walter, were joined by two more brothers, Herbert Wayne and Frank Earl, and two sisters, An Nora De Lange and Mary Rose, to complete the family.

(Vic lived in Elwood, where he passed away in 1963. Herbert lived and died in Tipton in 1966, and I actually grew up knowing some of Grandma’s nieces and nephews, Wanda Ball, Virginia Rogers, and George Herbert Warner among them)

Violet played the violin as a girl and graduated from Elwood High School where she and Lewis first met. They were married a few years later on her birthday, August 14th. They lived to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary at a special open house hosted by their two daughters, Leona and Helen.

Violet was a good German cook who could make everything from Weiner schnitzel (breaded tenderloin) to fried cow’s tongue. She would skin and cook freshly killed rabbit, make turtle soup, and fry a variety of fish. Her best cooking though was fresh baked apple pie with fruit picked from the trees that grew in the backyard of 218 W. Tyler.

She was confirmed a member of the St. Stephen's Episcopalian Church in Elwood on February 28, 1909 at by Robert B. Foote and was married by Matthew Palmer Bowie of the same church.

Violet had a couple of interesting jobs which likely took a toll on her health. She worked at the tin plate in Elwood and at a marshmallow factory in Indianapolis where the older girls were born. She miscarried several children and her last daughter, Ethel Louise, was stillborn. The baby is buried in Hancock’s Chapel where the family lived after Violet’s doctor suggested she move from the smog of the city.

Violet loved to do crossword puzzles. She read Shakespeare and poetry. She and Lewis would travel to Florida occasionally to visit relatives who lived in Lutz. She had a parakeet, “Pretty Bird,” and Whiskers, the dog who moved up from Helen’s house.

A minute before Violet passed away, she tipped her ear heavenward and said, “Oh, what a beautiful song.” She died at home at 3:24 p.m. on Friday September 26, 1969. She was buried at 1:30 p.m. in the  I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Alexandria.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Writing Wisdom -- A.E. Cannon

First, let me say, I love this photo of Ann and her dog. It so fits her fun-loving personality!

Ann Cannon, aka A.E.Cannon, is a woman of many writing talents. She is a columnist for the Deseret News, as well as author extraordinaire of books for children and young adults. She is a great workshop presenter, and greets everyone she meets as they were her friend.

I had the opportunity to attend a wrokshop Ann gave several years ago on Plotting, the part of writing that Ann claims is the most difficult for her. If you've read any of her books, you'd never believe it. Maybe that's because she's never let us read any of those projects she abandoned along the way. "There are legitimate reasons to abandon a project," she says.. "Mostly we abandon though because we're stuck."

She reminds authors that all stories must have a beginning, middle, and an end, and that each part depends upon each other. In quoting "The Truth About Fiction" by Steve Shone, Ann says, "There are only six plots. They all fall into the three types of conflict: mam versus man, man versus world, or man versus himself. There are only two possible outcoms: the protagonist wins, or he loses. That's it."

She sayas that "the drama of losing is so sweet because losing is another kind of winning. What looks like a loss, might really be a win."

If writing fiction is so easy, then why aren't more people good at it? "It all depends on what you bring to the story. The specific details, setting, or the author's voice can make the difference between selling and not selling."

"We can start with a story, or we can start with a character," she says, "but no matter where we start, the trick is to balance them both."

She talked about something she learned from Shannon Hales: "All character and no plot is boring. All plot and no character fails. Both character and plot equals balance."

"E.M Forest teaches 'incidents alter character.' Elizabeth George says 'the problem exists because of an alteration in the status quo.' I say have your characters take steps to deal with their problems, but don't solve them too quickly unless that solution creates an even bigger problem or the story will be over too soon," Ann explains. "You can love your characters and want to protect them, but it can't be too easy on them. Let them fail; it increases empathy and allows them to grow."

"As you plot, ask yourself what could happen next? Don't answer the questions too quickly, and know that your editors will ask you questions about your characters as if they really do exist," Ann says.

She enoucourages writers to "give yourself permission to be crappy on those drafts. Be a little outrageous." That's where you'll find your true story.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Been There, Done That – Strait Talk

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Nashville, Tennessee, with Marie Osmond to work at her booth at Fan Fair. One of the extra perks of that trip was attending a series of concerts by my favorite country singers, and an evening spent backstage at the Grand ole Opry!

Marie was co-hosting a music awards show, and the group of us tagged along to enjoy the atmosphere, even though we didn’t see anything of the actual show.

When we arrived in Marie’s oversized “green room,” we found the room “decorated” with used whiskey bottles, beer cans, and empty snack packages on every surface. There were no chairs, and the place smelled like a brewery.

“Who was in this room?” Marie asked the person in charge of getting the celebrities where they were supposed to be.

“Bocephus, himself,” the woman said. “Hank Williams, Jr.”

Figures, I thought.

We tried to move a few of the items into a nearby garbage can, but our efforts didn’t seem to do us much good.

“I’ll send someone in for all that,” the woman said.

“We’ll just wait outside,” one of the other girls with me said.

Marie said she needed to go change into her wardrobe for the show, so the woman took her away, and the rest of us went into the waiting area not far from backstage.

Somehow I ended up holding Marie’s son, Stephen, who was fast asleep. I think he was around two years old. (See, I told you it was a long time ago!) I was sort of rocking him and bouncing him, surprised the child could sleep through the noise and confusion of being backstage during a show. I guess he was used to it after being with his mother constantly on the road.

After several minutes, I heard a sweet-voiced lady say, “What’s you name, honey?”

At first I didn’t know she was talking to me because she was somewhere over my right shoulder. When the woman repeated her question, I turned around to look. I recognized her right away, and I was certain she couldn’t be talking to me.

“Me?” I asked. “Oh, I’m nobody.” I wasn’t a celebrity, and all I was doing was rocking Marie’s baby, so I knew this woman didn’t care to meet me.

“Now, honey, everybody’s somebody,” she said. “I’m June Carter Cash, now who are you?”
I had known she was June Carter Cash without her telling me, and I was stunned that she thought she had to, but I managed to spit out my name. “Umm, I’m. . . I’m Lu Ann Brobst.”

“Well, Lu Ann Brobst,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you.” She stuck out her hand and I gave her mine for a shake. “You have a good time here tonight, okay?”

“Thank you,” I said. “I will.”

She cocked her head and looked at Stephen. “Cute baby,” she said, and before I could say anything more she was gone on stage.

The other girls who were with me sort of huddle around a minute, all of us surprised at home nice June Carter Cash had been to me. A few minutes later, the others had spread back out, sort of making the rounds, trying to see who else they could see.

Soon I realized someone else was standing halfway behind be, head cocked, looking at little Stephen sleeping.

“Why, that’s Marie Osmond’s little boy!” the cowboy drawled.

“Yes, it is,” I said as I turned around and looked right into the face, and hat, of George Strait.

Now, I was thrilled to meet June Carter Cash because she’s a legend, but I was ecstatic to meet George Strait because I was a HUGE fan!

He tipped his hat and introduced himself to me. I gave him my name and shook his hand, trying hard not to wake Stephen in the process. I know I tried to say something that sounded intelligent, but I doubt I was able to succeed.

He reached out and brushed his hand again Stephen’s hair, and said, “See you around,” then he was gone.

It’s a good thing for me, that wasn’t the only time I met George Strait. The next couple of times, I was able to actually say something that made sense, proving that once I got over my stage fright at meeting a big name celebrity, I actually could talk strait!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wisdom Keys: Habitually Yours

I’ve fought a lifelong battle of the bulge, meaning that most of my life have carried more weight than I should. I’ve tried diets; I’ve had times of my life when I’ve been fairly thin, but somehow those periods have been short-lived. Someone has said something about my weight—something non-supportive of the new, thinner me—and I’ve found myself quickly climb right back up to where I was before, maybe even adding a few new pounds above and beyond where I started.

I started reading Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything the other night, and although I haven’t gotten far, it made me start thinking about my eating habits. Do I eat because I’m hungry, or do I eat because it’s time to? Do I eat just enough to satisfy my hunger, or do I eat a set amount because that’s what I’ve trained myself to do? Do I eat in certain situations just because that’s what I do, rather than waiting until I’m really hungry?

Dr. Phil McGraw talks in his book The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom about the need to change your environment, to remove those triggers that set us into mindless eating.

We’ve all developed eating habits when we were very young children, and unless we become conscious of them, those habits will rule our lives for years. As I was eating pizza last night, I stopped to think about my childhood pizza habit. I clearly remember my mother putting three pieces of pizza onto my plate. After I ate them, I could get one more piece as a second helping.

Second helping? Count it more like a FOURTH helping, since I’d already had three helpings before.

As I ate the final piece—number four—last night, I realized I was more than full—I was STUFFED! So, why did I do it? Why did I eat four large pieces—all much larger than the four my mother used to feed me by the way. Because taking four pieces of pizza was my habit!

Breaking habits is not easy, but if we can do so, we can certainly change our outcomes. We are the ones responsible for what we do. Men decide their habits. Their habits decide their future.

If I stop eating the amount of food I’ve trained myself to take, and start eating just enough to satiate my hunger, I should lose weight. It’s a natural cause and effect, my body’s natural system of checks and balances.

What other checks and balances do we have in our lives? Are their other habits we acquire that put us on a path of ill-health—physically, spiritually, mentally, or emotionally?

Those bad habits can only be truly gone when we replace them with positive ones. It takes faith, effort, and conscious thought to do so, and we may find ourselves working on the same bad habit again and again.

If we try to change too many bad habits to good ones, all at the same time, we will likely fail. Take inventory of yourself. What would you most like to change? Is it your weight? The way you treat other people? The study habits you have failed to develop?

When it comes to a bad habit, maybe you’ve been guilty of thinking or saying, “That’s just the way I am.” No, that’s just the way you allow yourself to be. It will take a conscious effort to change that path that leads you astray into one that brings you peace. And the good thing is, we are not alone.

The Savior promised: “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you” (3 Nephi 18:20). With the Lord’s help, you can change.

This can be true when it comes to making our lives in general better than we through possible. It applies when it comes to our habits regarding educational and occupational choices. And it can apply when it comes to choosing our diet and controlling our weight, too.

Make a decision, then form a habit that leads you toward the real end goal, not the one that was set years ago.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Home Cooking – Simply Delicious

This week’s recipe came by request from one of my best lifelong friends, Debbie Kerr Downey. She says she remembers my mom’s meatloaf and used to have the recipe, but says, “I had it once but lost it.”

Since my mother’s meatloaf recipe is a favorite around my house as well, I’m happy to share this incredibly simple, yet delicious recipe. We’ve tried others, adding all sorts of veggies, juices, and who-knows-what to the mixture, but this one still wins the “we-can’t-get-enough” Olympics when it comes to my boys and food.

Here’s what you need:
        2 pounds fresh ground beef (I’ve tried this with meat that has been frozen and thawed and it just doesn’t work as well.)
       Crackers (my mom used saltines; I use Ritz, my favorite!)

Set the oven to preheat to 350. Place the ground beef into a large mixing bowl. Crush a tube of crackers into fine pieces and mix into the meat by hand. Add two whole eggs and continue to fold the mixture. Add a splash of milk and a good-sized pinch of salt. Cover the meat with ketchup and mix again throughly.

Put the mixture into a 9x12 baking dish and form it into a loaf. Squirt a ketchup design over the top of the loaf and place in hot oven. Bake for an hour, or until inside of meat is completely cooked.

As a meal, I often toss in potatoes to bake at the same time, and once the meatloaf goes in I’ll prepare macaroni and cheese to bake at the same time, only for 45 minutes instead of the full hour.

It takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to make the whole thing, and the boys devour it in less than five minutes, but I guess that’s a good sign. And the best part for me is that the whole meal is so simple!                                                                                                                                      

Friday, September 24, 2010

Week in Review: Reading YA

As I mentioned last week, my students have been recommending books to me like crazy, and I'm mid-book at reading two more from their list, but this week I discovered three more YA books on my own. ACtually, two of them are from two series which I've been reading and one suggestion came from Annette Lyon who asked me if I'd ever heard of the author. I hadn't, but I read the book and enjoyed it so I went on the research trail only to discover she and I were both at last year's Storymaker's conference, and she had heard of me! Cool! So, that's where I'll start today.

The Healing Spell -- Kimberley Griffiths Little
In a story that reminded me of Wilson Rawl's The Summer of the Monkeys, Little totally captivated me as she introduced twelve-year-old Livie, a girl from the bayou who carries a heavy secret. Only Livie knows the truth about why her momma is a coma, and Livie believes she's the only one who can bring her momma a cure by visiting the traiteur for a healing spell that Livie can only pray will work. The strong use of character and voice are reminiscent of books by Kimberly Willis Holt (My Louisiana Sky) and Carol Lynch Williams (Glimpse). In a world where all too many YA books are edgy, The Healing Spell is a refreshing breath of life and hope in the all-too dismal world. One thing I didn't like was the cover art. The girl in the boat looked more like she was eighteen rather than Livie's preteen years, and honestly, she should have been standing up in the boat to remain true to the story. I'm not sure I can 'sell' the book to my class based on the cover alone, but I know the story is one that they will love.

Linger -- Maggie Stiefvater
In the second book of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, we continue the story of Sam and Grace. The high fever Sam was given in the last book has helped him remain human instead of turning into a wolf, but now Grace is suffering from unusual symptoms that may somehow relate to a wolf bite she had as a child. In the meantime, other new wolves are introduced to the series as well. Although I've enjoyed the two books so far, I am disappointed in the emphasis these books give to teenage sexual activity and the mature language that is used throughout. Does every editor in New York truly believe that all high-school-aged students do anymore is have sex? I know that's not so because I have read several books--two this week--that contain no sex, but it just seems there are way too many books that do, and it's hard for me to recommend those books or their authors to my junior high crowd who are hungry for books.

The Missing: Sabotaged -- MArgaret Peterson Haddix
When I started this series I had such high hopes. Found was an incredible book that hooked me from the start and carried me along until I couldn't wait to find out what happened. Unfortunately, book two, Sent, was incredibly boring. It just didn't seem to take me anywhere at all. Because I typically love books by Haddix, I decided to give this series one more try and read Sabotaged. Although it was better than book two, it still didn't have the thrill the first book promised for the series and it took me much longer to read than it honestly should have. The biggest problem was keeping the real people and their tracers clear. The word tracer alone became annoying and the population of the story doubled every time a new character was introduced. At time, Haddix seemed to try too hard to weave in the research she had done about Virginia Dare, John White, and the Roanoke colony. Once the climax of the story was reached and the resolution explained, the book continued to drag on and on. It's really too bad because usually books by this author are a big hit with my students. I hate to even recommend the first one though because I'm sure they will be as disappointed with the next two as I was.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

All in the Family – Lewis Orvil Heffner

The oldest child of John Arthur and Meribah (Molly) Webb Heffner, Lewis spent a great deal of his life on the road. After his parents divorced (sometime after the 1900 federal census), his mother could not care for her three children, so she placed them in the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Orphan’s Home in Anderson, Indiana.

Lewis ran away from the orphanage, joined up with his best friend Leon Erlich, then headed to Florida where they worked as circus carnies. Lewis always maintained his love of the carnival life and most of his life, he would be waiting at the Alexandria Fair Grounds early on Sunday morning when the carnival arrived to set up for the 4-H fair.

Like his forefathers, Lewis was a carpenter and woodworker. He worked at building houses and crafted many beautiful items which he sold to earn an additional living. These craft items included baskets, candlesticks, spinning wheels, message centers, and a picture frame with built-it flower vase. Several of the pieces he crafted were of his own design.

Lewis Violet Mae Warner were married in a big evening wedding at Mary Rose Fry Warner’s (Violet’s mother) home. The Episcopalian priest engaged to officiate, Matthew Palmer Bowie of St. Stephen's Church in Elwood, was described as “very persnickety” and when offered a drink after the wedding, he said, “I do not partake!” 

As a young married man during the 1920s depression, Lewis often traveled to Hoopston, Illinois, and Cincinnati, Ohio, for work. He sent postcards with his own photo to Violet, his high school sweetheart turned wife. Once he worked as a manager at the S.S. Kresgie Store in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he got his picture in the newspaper for capturing a shoplifter.

He and Violet lived in Elwood at first then moved to Indianapolis for a several years where both daughters Leona Mae and Helen Marie were born.

Lewis went on a search for his younger siblings, Ethel Rose and Herbert Arthur who had been taken from the orphanage by horse and buggy to Hancock’s Chapel to live with the Charlie Wolf family. Once Lewis located his brother and sister, and after Violet’s doctor suggested she leave the big city and move to the country, Lewis and Violet took the girl’s to the crossroads known as Hancock.

They lived in a small house across the road from Wennings General Store and a few feet away from Hancock’s Chapel, the church they attended and where their stillborn daughter Ethel Louise is buried.

Eventually Lewis moved the family back to Elwood near Violet’s mother then to 218 W. Tyler Street in Alexandria. He remodeled the house, adding a new stairwell to the upstairs attic which he transformed into three separate sleeping areas, putting in new hardwood flooring which the girls helped polish by holding sock hops with their friends, and adding a tiny, but efficient bathroom area off the main floor bedroom. He also had a wood shop and garage, as well as a chicken coop in the back.

Lewis was a regular attendant of the Friends Church on Tyler Street and read nothing but the dialogue in Zane Grey western novels. He raised lots of flowers, rhubarb, and at least three different types of apples.

Don’s dog Whiskers wandered up to the Heffner house one day and decided to stay, becoming Lewis’s buddy as he worked in the shop. Lewis used to smoke a pipe, and Lu Ann remembers he smoked her favorite aroma, Cherry.

After having several heart attacks, Lewis died at 7:30 p.m. in St. John's Hospital, Anderson, on July 9, 1963. He was buried at 1:30 p.m. in I.O.O.F. Cemetery, Alexandria.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Writing Wisdom – Jennifer Holm

Author Jennifer Holm loves finding those “weird little connections between now and then” and bringing them to life in her historical fiction. “It’s those messy, awkward moments that get the story started,” she says. “But some things are so tragic you can’t put them into a book.

Holm uses her fiction to give voice to a family as she shows how they are affected by time, place, and history. “Tell stories about regular people, those you won’t see in history books, but give your own spin to those crazy moments.”

Of course, when writing historical fiction, you must remain historically accurate. She suggests you immerse yourself in details and read books from the time period. “Your story comes first. Then make it historical fiction,” she says.

Holm also warns anyone who wants to be an author to, “Assume you’ll be rejected, but submit anyway. A rejection is not anything against you, and it may not be anything against your writing. Acceptance is often about timing!”

She goes on to mention the reasons for rejection might include: they bought a similar story already, too many unsolicited manuscripts arrived in the same week, it was just chance that someone got accepted and you got rejected, or “maybe your editor just found out she is pregnant and doesn’t want to take on a new project that would be due the same time she is.”

Holm says we should “treat each manuscript submission as simply postage” toward the numbers game. Sometimes we win; sometimes we lose, but we must continue submitting or we automatically lose.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Been There, Done That -- Joe Montana

In case you ever wondered, the Law of Attraction does work. I’ve used in many times in my life, but never so much as it’s been successful in my quest to find celebrities. Of course, now in retrospect to my paparazzi days, I see this as true. During the time, and many years before I’d even heard of The Secret, I was using it in a regular way. If I’d only known!

Once when I was traveling from my home state of Indiana back to my adopted state of Utah, I found myself sitting in the airport in Cincinnati, Ohio, waiting on my connecting flight and with nothing much to do. So, writer that I am, I started thinking about unfinished book projects I had waiting for me once I got home.

One of these projects was a book proposal for a book about how to meet celebrities. All of my experiences had proven to me that meeting famous people could be accomplished easily enough, if you knew a few simple strategies about what to do. I thought I would be able to sell a publisher on the idea, and so I was outlining a few of the things I had learned about what to do.

If I only had a couple great quotes from celebrities to accompany the article, I thought.

Right then, I noticed a tall, blond man walking toward me. He was surrounded by a group of women, all holding out magazines and pens. This was a scene I’d been part of many times before. This guy was someone famous, and those women were asking for his autograph.

But who was he? I had no clue.

Then he sat down beside me!

This was too weird. I wanted a celebrity, and now here one was, sitting right beside me and I didn’t have an idea in heaven who he might be. How could I interview him without knowing his name?

I eavesdropped into the women’s conversation, but that didn’t give me an idea either. I knew they were holding out magazines and I could see the guy’s photo on the front cover, but I still had no clue. I did catch a glimpse of the cover—Sports Illustrated. I’d never read an issue of that magazine, so that explained why I didn’t know who he was, but here was my celebrity—someone who might be able to give me a quote for my book, if I only knew a name!

This was back in the day when you could leave your suitcase alone for a few minutes in an airport terminal, so, while the man was still engaged in conversation, I slipped over to the nearby newsstand. I scanned the magazine covers until I found the Sports Illustrated. Joe Montana. The guy’s name was Joe Montana. I thought I’d actually heard of him. He was on his way to Kansas City, and so was I to meet my connecting flight.

I walked back to where I had left my carry-on and took my seat. Mr. Montana was now alone, all the women having gotten their autographs. He looked up and said hello to me as I resumed my seat.

“Hi,” I said, then I sat there a few minutes trying to think of exactly what I wanted to say.

Joe was flipping through a magazine of his own, trying to be inconspicuous, I suppose.

Finally, I worked up my nerve and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Montana?”

He turned toward me with a genuine smile.

“I’m a freelance writer,” I continued, “and I’m working on a book proposal on a book about how people should act when they meet a celebrity. Do you mind if I ask you a question to be quoted in my book?”

“I’d be happy to,” he said.

“When you are out in public, how do you feel about fans coming up to you to ask for autographs?”

He gave a big sigh then said, “When I’m in situations like this, I don’t mind at all. . .as long as they don’t make me miss my plane.” He chuckled then continued, “But when I’m out with my family, like for dinner or something, I wish they would let me have my space, you know what I mean?”

I knew exactly what he meant. I’d spent enough time on the road following the Osmonds to know when fans were appreciated and when they were tolerated.

“I understand exactly,” I said. “Thanks.”

“No problem. Good luck with you book,” he said as he turned back to his magazine.

I wrote his quote on the back of my ticket receipt and continued thinking about the book I was proposing.

“Celebrities can really be nice, if you approach them at the right time and in the right way. This chapter will teach you how.”

Yep, that would be a good start to the chapter on what to do once you find your favorite celebrity. Soon, we were called to board the place, on our way to Kansas City, where I had no idea I’d run into a second celebrity.

Find out that story on Wednesday’s blog.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wisdom Keys: Open a New Window

Do you ever feel like life is passing you by? Like you’re not where you wanted to be when you started? Have you made some bad choices along the way—ones that didn’t turn out like you expected them to or perhaps were intentional, but which you now regret?

It happens to the best of us. We think we know what’s best for ourselves at the time, but later realize either that the choices we made got us nowhere or that perhaps they weren’t such great choices after all.

Where does that leave us? Are we stuck now forever, hoping that if we just keep traveling down that same path, somehow the road we’re on will lead us to a better outcome?

The simple truth is, that’s not going to happen. Change will not happen unless you change!

How do we make that happen? In the words of Auntie Mame, “Open a new window. Open a new door. Travel a new highway that’s never been traveled before.”

This kind of change in direction is especially important if you’ve found yourself drawn into a lifestyle or situation that puts your spirit into jeopardy. All too often those who have pulled away from their church have done so because they’ve made a mistake, one they fear others will see as a mark against them. Then rather than repenting and correcting that mistake, their pride keeps them on the road of least resistance, the path that lets them sin and sin again, never having to face the hard part or seeking forgiveness.

Even though the individual might acknowledge they are no longer at all close to where they intended to be, the way back seems harsh and difficult—too difficult to face. They hold the errant belief that where they are is where they must stay because “God doesn’t want a sinner like me.”

But that is what God does want, with a little additional effort on our part. God does want a sinner. . . to repent, to change, and follow the new pathway He has set, the one that leads us all to a better place.

And the good thing, God never consults your past to determine your future. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what road you’ve gone down, where you were headed, He is ready to welcome you onto the right path.

As we read in Alma in the Book of Mormon, “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.”

Elder Neil A. Andersen says, “For most, repentance is more a journey than a one-time event. It is not easy. To change is difficult. It requires running into the wind, swimming upstream.”

The work may be hard, but it will be worth it in the end.

How sad it must be to reach the final days of your life and find yourself filled with regret. If only I’d spent more time with my kids. If only I’d accomplished more of the goals I had set for myself when I was young. If only I’d allowed myself to repent and come closer to God.

Now is the time. If you have something in your life that isn’t taking you closer to the place you want to be, then start the change.

In the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, “There is so great a need for repentance and forgiveness. When there has been wrongdoing and then there has come repentance, followed by forgiveness, then literally the offender who was lost is found, and he who was dead is made alive.”

“Simply travel a new highway. Dance to a new rhythm. Whistle a new song,” and soon you’ll find yourself headed exactly where you want to be, and this time the outcome will be great.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Home Cooking: Helen’s Homemade Pizza

As Chan, Zach and I were wandering the aisles of the grocery store this week, I kept asking, “What do you guys want to eat?”

For quite awhile the answer was the usual, “I don’t know,” then all of a sudden Chan said, “Can’t you make that pizza you make?”

“You mean my mother’s pizza?”

Yeah, that’s the one. I’ll go get the stuff for it.”

Before I could respond, he was gone. I continued with my shopping and moments later, Chan was back.

“Is this everything?” His arms were loaded with a boxed pizza crust, pepperoni packages, shredded cheese, and hamburger.

“You’ve got it all,” I said.

Last night, we made the pizza. The fun thing about this process is that the boys are old enough and usually willing to help, which means less prep time for me to try to do it alone, and dinner is on the table quicker than it might otherwise be. As a matter of fact, with this pizza we can be done in less time that it takes to deliver at Dominos!

The boys dug out two large, rimmed cookie sheets and sprayed them with Pam, while I made the crust thanks to Chef Boyardee. Letting the dough rise on the stove during the preheat, I started cooking the hamburger. I don’t know why it started, but my mother used hamburger in her pizzas. Maybe she did it because the meat was cheap, maybe just because we loved it, but that became a staple in my mother’s pizza recipe.

I browned a pound of it, then asked Kent to drain the fat while I spread the dough onto both 9x12" pans. Chan poured and spread the sauce then held up the tiny packet of Parmesan cheese. “This is it? This is it?” he said. “You’re supposed to add this and actually make a cheese pizza?”

“Yeah, that’s what the recipe on the box says, but you know better,” I said. “Kent, get the extra Pamesan from the cabinet. Zach, pull out the shredded cheese from the fridge. Be sure to get both kinds.”

Then comes the part that takes real crafting—placing the pepperoni on one of the crusts so that not a single inch of dough will ever be eaten without a full slice of pepperoni. The other pizza gets a layer of hamburger, and if there are leftover pepperonis from the package one pizza number one is complete, they go on top of the hamburger.

Then we cover the whole thing in cheese! We like sharp cheddar, but we will also use a pizza blend of cheddar and mozzarella if the mood strikes.

Into the over they go, following the boxed directions, and twenty minutes later, we are eating. One other probably strange trick I learned from my mother is to cut the pizza with a pair of scissors, just like cutting a bolt of fabric.

This is a pizza I like both hot from the oven and cold the next day for lunch, but I fully understand that cold pizza is an acquired taste, so I won’t be offended if you don’t like it that way. ou won’t be alone.

Here’s the complete recipe:

1 Box Chef Boyardee box mix for two pizzas
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
1 large package of sliced pepperoni
1 large package Pizza Blend shredded cheese
1 large package Sharp Cheddar shredded cheese
extra Parmesan cheese, to taste

Follow the boxed directions for the crust. Sprinkle browned and drained ground beef over the prepared base for one pizza. Place pepperoni on the second one. Cover well with shredded cheese. Place both pizzas into the oven for 10 minutes at 425. Rotate top to bottom and bake another ten minutes until done. Cut clices and serve hot.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Week in Review: Undiscovered Movies

A few months ago one of my sons’ favorite haunts, Hollywood Video, was going out of business. As a result, the store managers were sponsoring a liquidation sale, with discounts on DVDs that cut pretty deep. Never one to pass up a good movie or a bargain, Chan and I went to the store, ready to browse the shelves and bring home anything that sounded remotely interesting. As a result, I ended up with lots of movies that I’d never heard of, and some that I’m still wondering why I hadn’t seen them the first time around in the theater because they turned out to be my kind of film. Today I’m going to tell you about four of the movies that were all new to me.

 Hollywood Ending—I’ve never really thought much about being a Woody Allen fan. All that scandal that came about in his life with Mia Farrow and Soon-Yi Previn sort of turned me off, if you know what I mean. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t respect Mr. Allen for his obvious talent to write for both stage and screen, so when I happened upon Hollywood Ending I thought it deserved a chance, one I’m glad I took. The movie was hysterical! Of course, because my husband works in the film industry, we know so many people who fit into a film such as this. The crazy director, his former wife who is now involved with the producer who is the only one who can save the director’s career—it’s all too, too—HOLLYWOOD! Because my husband used to work on Everwood, I’ve also developed this odd affinity for watching Treat Williams always get his comeuppance in the end, and Tia Lioni gave a great performance as usual. If you watch this one, be prepared to laugh right out loud.

Elvis Has Left the Building—Where was I when this movie came out? I loved John Corbett in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and I’m sure if I’d known he was in another film so closely following that one I would have seen it. The marketing department must not have done a very good job! He’s just as cute and adorable in this one as he was in the previous film, so that alone makes it worth watching. Kim Basinger was also good, but starting even in 2004 to look a little old. And Annie Potts! She was just as funny as ever. The premise is hysterical—every place Kim Basinger goes she seems to be responsible for the death of yet another Elvis impersonator. When she thinks that John Corbett is just another member of the Elvis club, she knows she has to stay away from him, because he’s too cute and sweet for her to ever want to see him die. Come on, you know she's going to get him in the end, but the events along the way make the journey worth it, and the small role played by Angie Dickenson was a great bonus.

On Edge—Okay, so it’s rated R and slightly irreverent, but if you lived through the Nancy Kerrigan / Tonya Harding debacle of the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, then you’ll find the subtle humor of this rags-to-riches story of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who wants to win the trophy. The story about the tubby skater also plays for some great humor, as does the interview portion with a much-in-costume real Olympic Gold-Medalist, Scott Hamilton. Also, keep an eye out for another skating legend, Tai Babilonia, and Jason Alexander also delivers his lines in a way that will keep you laughing.  There is good reason the movie’s tag line is, “Spinal Tap on Ice.”

Beau Jest—As in, surely you do? For some reason, I didn’t realize this was a Mormon movie. Okay, maybe it’s not, maybe it’s just filmed by a Mormon crew who came out of Utah and moved to Chicago to do their work. There’s only one problem, they brought along a cast of hokey wanna-be actors who got their years experience performing in a roadshow, and the DP (Director of Photography) seems to have an affinity for videotape rather than the real thing. Unfortunately, it shows. Even my 10-year-old pointed it out and knew the reason why this movie turned out just looking like a rehearsal rather than a real movie. I hate to slam it too bad because some of my friends actually worked on the crew, and honestly, I think they did the best they could do with the money I know they likely didn’t have. But it seems to me, they might have tried to at least cast a girl in the lead role who had a little talent—the love interest guy was fairly good, although his nemesis was almost as bad as the girl at acting. Then of course, it was hard to believe this cute little LDS  ingenue was a Jewish girl who would do anything to pull the wool over her parent’s eyes when it comes to who she is dating. The best performance in the whole thing was played by Lainie Kazan, in a reprisal of her role as the mother in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but even as actress as talented as she can only do what she can do with the part she’s been given

Thursday, September 16, 2010

All in the Family – Winona Myra Alice Lake Brobst

My grandmother, Winona Myra Alice Lake Brobst is the oldest child of Robert Lee Lake and Fannie Isadora Stevens Pyle Lake, but she was younger than Fannie’s sons with her first husband, Joshua (Jack) Pyle, Robert’s relative.

The story goes that Robert had moved from Kentucky to help his cousin, Jack, on their farm. After Jack died, Robert and Fannie married and had two children of their own, Winona and Florence Ethel, plus raised the three sons she had with Jack. (Bert Franklin, D’Earle, and Ben Harold Pyle)

For a short time in the first three years of her life, Winona lived in Houghton, South Dakota, where her sister Ethel was born. A great storm ruined her papa’s crops, convincing him they needed to return to Indiana.

In her own journal Winona records, “A way back in the days when gas derricks were popping up in the middle west like mushrooms, I was born on the family farmstead in central Indiana.(Point Isabelle, Indiana) I was a very imaginative child; never played with dolls, but preferred doing creative work, either with needle and thread, or hammer and saw. In my idle hours during summer, I swayed back and forth in the rope swing, pretending all the great persons I had ever heard of were my friends. In long winter evenings, I listened avidly to the philosophical discussions of kinsmen, many of whom had degrees trailing after their names like the tail of a kite or a comet.”
“When I was nine, we went to the city to live. (She likely means Elwood, Indiana) My health had never permitted me to enter school, but I entered that winter. I romped on the commons and went to school with the other children on the block. When twelve, I wrote my first novel, if it could be called such. (Okay, anybody see anything familiar here between me and my grandmother?) Later, I enjoyed academic training in English, journalism, analysis of the novel, drama, psychology, mathematics, and speech. In eight years I completed the twelve years of grammar and high school and won the first scholarship ever awarded our school.”

Winona graduated from Elwood High where she attended with former presidential candidate Wendell L. Wilkie who was a great friend of her sister, Ethel.

She knew how to play the piano and was addicted to correspondence courses, especially psychology, philosophy, and religion. “I have read very little recent fiction, only collections of best short stories by various editors. I have been interested in home economics, gardening, and poultry raising. In fact, I not only studied correspondence courses in each but have had years of experience in these lines of endeavor.”

She wrote poetry and published a poem about the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 in the Chicago Tribune.

“I have worked in an office, and when the linemen were called to the army during the World War, I patrolled the lines on many a dark, stormy night in those troublous times.”

Winona stayed one semester with her son Gene in Lafayette so she could attend classes with him at Purdue University. She was so enamored with education, she thought she might like to be a teacher. She and Gene also traveled the U.S., and she said, “I have traveled from Canada down into Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but know the middle west best.”

Winona loved to crochet and made afghans of various patterns. She was an excellent cook and baked pies and cobblers from the fruits Grandpa Brobst grew. She canned homegrown items and made jams and jellies. At Christmas she made chocolate covered cream candies and fruit cakes with dark rum soaked into them that I remember as the best Fruit Cake I’ve ever had. Every day she would prepare a lunch for Pearl to take to work. The fare was always a Canadian Bacon sandwich and a thermos of coffee.

She and Pearl are the parents to three sons: Loren Allen, Robert Ellsworth, and Ervin Eugene Brobst.

About her own life, she stated, “I have known joy, sorrow, heartache, disappointment; illness unto death almost. I have assisted at births, I have helped to lay out the dead. I think I have run the gamut of human emotions; yet withal, I seem to know so little.”

Winona died in 1980 at the age of 92. She was member of the First Christian Church.

(The child in the photo is Eugene's oldest son, Travis William Brobst. This was taken in the middle room of the Roe house where Winona spent much of her time.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Writing Wisdom: Rick Walton

If you are a writer from Utah, then it is likely you already know the extraordinary talents of children's author, Rick Walton. I first met Rick at a local chapter meeting of the League of Utah Writer's, and I've always found him to be one of the most supportive and nurturing authors I've ever met. Filled with great ideas and always willing to help others as they perfect their craft, Rick is a popular speaker at conference and workshop events. And overall, he's just a nice guy! He has an incredible website, filled with lots of resources for teachers and writers, as well as fun stuff just for kids. I attended one of Rick's day-long workshops for picture book authors (okay, so we all know I can't write anything as short as a picture book), and I learned a lot that has helped me in all of my writing.

Rick first asked us to consider: "What makes a bad manuscript?" Preachy, telling, point of view shifts, the all-wise adult, boring words, irrelevant info, condescending tone, and digressions all made the list.

Then we considered, "What makes a good manuscript?" Limited focus and time, the kids solve the problem, the main character is someone the kids can relate to, humor, and the problem draws us to the character.

The problem with too many adults who want to write a book for children--especially a picture book--is they are so interested in delivering a message that they forget to focus on the story. With a picture book, you have limited time, so you must use the best words. Stay in the narrative stream and teach in terms of positives, not lecturing about what children should not do.

"Establish the rules, tone, and format of the book, then don't throw your readers for a loop," Rick says. Talking animals and story in verse are much harder to sell, so you probably want to avoid those when you just start out. "Prose gives a lot more flexibility."

He encourages authors to write text that suggests illustrations, but don't tell your illustrator what to do. Give them the freedom to use their own craft.

"Avoid those topics that have been overdone," he says. "Ask yourself, 'Can a child relate to my main character?'"

When it comes to working with your editor, if you have no real reason to say no, then learn to say yes. They have been there many times before and know the market and audience as well as anyone. Only 30% of authors even make back their advances on these books.

"The picture book market is very competitive," he adds. "Great quality and a nice story isn't enough. Your manuscript must rise above the others." It takes around two years to publish a picture book. You want the best illustrators the editor can find, you writers need to be patient, and keep on writing in the meantime.

A key element for a successful picture book is, "Does this book make a good read aloud?" Parents and teachers rely on picture books to use with their children. If it's not a fun an interesting book to read, wy would they want to buy a copy?

As much as we as authors might not want to hear it, a positive rejection letter is a good thing. It means we are on the right track. If it's personalized, that is even better. Find something new to send to that same editor as soon as your next manuscript is ready.

Rick does say we should write for reasons other than making lots of money. "Do it because you love writing."

And that's good advice for us all in this crazy business called publishing.