Friday, December 21, 2012

Small Town U.S.A.

I grew up in Small Town U.S.A. 


My hometown of Alexandria, Indiana, was selected as the focus piece of a booklet, intended as pro-American propaganda during World War II. The booklet, which featured photos of my brother-in-law and his parents and siblings when he was just a kid, was filled with photos of townspeople engaged in shopping, farming, and other family-friendly activities which would show people what a great place America was to be.

Long before I was born, my mother had her picture taken for this booklet, but for whatever editorial reason, her photo didn't make it into the book. That's okay. She knew it was taken, and for the next thirty-five years she made sure other people's photos were treated with more dignity. So did my dad, because the two of them owned and operated Brobst Photo Supplies, originally on Canal Street.

And that was where I started to learn about my hometown and the people in it. I spent most of my young life at the store. My playpen was a Kodak box. I began at an early age to know everyone in town, and it seemed everyone knew me.  By the time I was old enough to roam from store to store on my own, we'd moved to Harrison Street and the center of town. 

In the 1960s, I wasn't worried about the Cuban Missle Crisis, the hippies in Haight-Ashbury, or the war in Vietnam--well, except when my brother's best friend was drafted. In Small Town U.S.A., I spent my time discovering The Beatles and The Monkees, hanging out at the Alex Theater, or grabbing a sloppy joe at the Alexandria Bakery. I made good friends, and even lost some. I changed crushes as often as I changed my clothes. I went to school, and I lived my life.

I was a teenager not much different in desires or fears than kids of today. I may live halfway across the country from my small town home, and despite the fact times have changed, the kids I see each day at school still want the same things I did back in those days--to know they're loved by friends and family, to feel safe, and to succeed and reach their goals.

In "A Note Worth Taking," the first book in my Small Town, U.S.A. series, I give my readers a glimpse into what life was life during the 1960s in a small town. Although this is a work of fiction, the people you meet may feel all too real. Maybe you know them, maybe you don't, but the fun will be in trying to guess who a character might be, if you too grew up in Small Town, U.S.A. 

But that small town didn't have to be Alexandria, Indiana, because these people still exist--everywhere! I've met a few of them multiple times in my years in Utah, and maybe you will know them too, no matter where you live.   

Small Towns are all alike, and as O. Henry once said, "Everyone you meet has a story." I hope you enjoy the ones I choose to share as we visit Small Town, U.S.A. 



Saturday, November 24, 2012

Let Them Eat Thai!

L to R: Robison Wells, Annette Lyon, Michele Paige Homes,Sarah M. Eden, Lu Ann Brobst Staheli, H. B. (Heather) Moore, and J. Scott (Jeffrey S.) Savage   
In a rare occurence as of late, our entire critique group, along with almost all of our spouses (we missed you Rob L.), met for our annual Christmas gathering. This time we insured that all would be in attendance by gathering at noon on a Saturday at Thai Village. (Who can pass that up?)  After much chatting about life in general, and discussing the pros and cons of publishing (much to the boredom of said spouses, three of whom ran off to look at guns at the nearby mall), we had the traditional exhanging of the presents. There was definately a theme this year as both Rob and Annette gave us actual butter churns (miniature) and Jeff had special T-shirts made with our butter church mascot in the center (watch for these at Storymakers, and no, you can't have one!) Sarah personalized our gifts by wrapping them in pages from our own manuscripts, Michele and I both wrote accompanying text for our gifts, and Heather gave us all hot chocolate to keep us motivated to write through the cold winter that is soon to come. A good time was had by all, but for now, it's time to get back to the WIPs (works-in-progress for my non-writer friends) so we can meet our deadlines and word counts for 2013.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

End of Summer Wrap-Up

The end of summer vacation is approaching rapidly, and as many of you know, I will have a new job this year at Payson Jr. High. I'm moving out of my English classroom and into the school library. I can't tell you how excited I am to make this move. I have lots of ideas about contests, activities, and ways to let you know what new books have been added to the library collection.

But new books at school aren't the only books I'm excited about. I just published one of my own novels, A Note Worth Taking. My writing friends and many of my former students have been begging me for this to happen for some time now, and it's finally become a reality.

Here's a glimpse into what you'll find in the story:

The end of eighth grade should be an exciting and happy time for Laura. But when her best friend gives her a note saying their friendship is over, Laura can=t figure out what hit her. Still reeling, Laura goes to science class only to find out she needs a partner for the school science fair. Vickie, who has always been her project partner before now, chooses a popular girl who hangs out with Laura=s worst enemy. Laura realizes she can only get over the loss of an old friend by making new ones. When Kim asks Laura to be her partner, she accepts. In addition, Laura spends more time with a band buddy who shares her love of music. Even as Laura tries to heal from the pain of lost friendship, she keeps an eye on Vickie and her new friends, hoping to see a turn in the tide of popularity, and wondering if this is a friendship worth saving.

A Note Worth Taking is available on Kindle for only $2.99. Don't forget, you can download a FREE Kindle app for your cell phone, iPad, or computer if you don't have a Kindle device. 


Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Infinity Ring: A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner

A perfect fit for your middle grade reader. The first book in the Infinity Ring series by James Dashner is a little bit 39 Clues and a lot 13th Reality. As a fan of that series, also by Dashner, I was pleased to find not only more characters experiencing the idea of time travel though quantum physics, but also the return of Dashner's endearing sense of humor, something that is lacking in the intense action of The Maze Runner series. A Mutiny in Time will not be available until August 28th, but be sure to add it to your must-read list, especially if you are a middle grade teacher or librarian. Book 2--Divide and Conquer by Carrie Ryan--following in November.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

2011-2012 Student Book Suggestions

Every year I ask my students to list their favorite books from the previous year. This is the list my students gave me this year. It's always nice to see my friends among them!

13th Reality series—Dashner
39 Clues series –various
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Killer Grahame-Smith
Al Capone Does My Shirts series—Choldenko
Alex Rider series—Horowitz
Barcode Tattoo—Weyn
Beyonders series—Mull
Body Finder, The series—Derting
Bone series—Smith
Brother in Arms—McKenna
Candy Shop Wars, The—Mull
Chosen One, The—Williams
Christmas Box, The—Evans
Chronicles of Ancient Darkness—Paver
Circle of Secrets—Griffiths
Cirque du Freak—Shan
Dancing on the Edge—Nolan
Dark is Rising, The series—Cooper
Deep, Dark and Dangerous—Hahn
Distant Waves—Weyn
Ender’s Game—Card
Eragon series—Paolini
Fablehaven series—Mull
Farworld series—Savage
Fast & the Furriest—Behrens
Football Hero—Green
Ghost’s Grave, The—Kehret
Giver, The—Lowry
Harry Potter series—Rowling
Hazzardous Universe—Wright
Help, The—Stockett
Hourglass Door, The series—Mangum
House of Dark Shadows—Liparulo
Hunger Games—Collins
I Am Not a Serial Killer series—Wells
If I Stay—Forman
Leviathan series—Westerfeld
Line, The—Hall
Littley Mouse—
Lord of the Rings—Tolkien
Lost Hero. The series—Riodan
Matched series—Condie
Maximum Ride series—Patterson
Maze Runner, The series—Dashner
Michael Vey series—Evans
My Fair Godmother series—Rallison
Never Stop Pushing—Gardner
Number the Stars—Lowry
Okay for Now—Schmidt
Origami Yoda series—Angleberger
Paranormalcy series—White
Percy Jackson series—Riordan
Porter Rockwell—Dewey
Quantum Prophesies, The—Carroll
Ranger’s Apprentice series—Flannigan
Red Pyramid, The series—Riordan
Sean Griswald’s Head—Leavitt
Series of Unfortunate Events—Snicket
Slayer Chronicles—Brewer
Stolen Children—Kehret
Summer Ball—Lupika
Tapestry series (Hound of Rowan)—Neff
Thief’s Covenant, The—Marmell
Transgall Saga—Paulsen
Tuesdays at the Castle—George
Tunnels series—Gordon
Vampirates series—Sowell
Vampire Academy—Mead
Variant series—Wells
Wait Until Helen Comes—Hahn
Warriors series—Hunter
When Hearts Conjoin—Staheli
When the Bough Breaks—Mangum
White Fang—London
Wind in the Willows—Grahame
With a Name Like Love—Hilmo
Wrong Number, The—Stine

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

One Day at a Time: Teaching Secondary Language Arts #1 on Kindle

One Day at a Time: Teaching Secondary Language Arts #1 on FREE Kindle downloads for Homeschooling two days in a row!!

Reading and writing—two of the basic skills every student needs as they pass through school and into the workforce. In this series of essays, award-winning author and educator, Lu Ann Brobst Staheli shares ideas and observations she has used successfully for 30+ years in guiding students to become motivated readers and skilled writers.

The essays are grouped into sections on reading, writing, and general education topics, and further sub-divided into categories for teachers, students, and parents. Each essay is packed with information, yet short enough to read quickly, perhaps at the start of the school day.

Perfect resource for both teachers and parents who are looking for ideas to finish out the school year. Some topics may also be applicable to elementary-age students. Download your FREE copy today.

The book will remain FREE through Thursday, March 15th. Feel free to let your educator friends and homeschooling parents know. 

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli won Utah's Best of State for Literary Arts: Non-Fiction in 2010 and 2011, as well as Best of State Educator K-12 in 2008. A Christa McAullife Fellow for her work with Adolescent Literacy, Staheli has also been recognized as Utah English Language Arts Teacher of the Year, Nebo Reading Teacher of the Year, League of Utah Writer's Diamond and Golden Quill recipient, and awarded Utah Arts Council Juvenile Novel of the Year.

She is the author of When Hearts Conjoin, Psychic Madman, and Books, Books, and More Books: A Parent and Teacher’s Guide to Adolescent Literature.

Friday, February 24, 2012

When Hearts Conjoin Sampler FREE on Kindle

You might recall the book I wrote several years ago for the Herrin family about their conjoined twins, Kendra and Maliyah. Well, I've now gone high-tech in the world of book promotion. Through arrangements with the publisher, I've been able to use part of the book, as well as two articles I wrote about the girls and published in magazines at the time of the book's release, I've been able to put together a Kindle sampler. That sampler will be available for FREE starting at midnight Friday, February 24th and running through midnight Wednesday, February 29th. Those who download the Kindle sampler are eligible to purchase a softcover copy of the book at a greatly reduced price. I'd love to see the sampler make it into Kindle's Top 100 FREE downloads over the next few weeks. You don't have to own a Kindle to "purchase" the free download. FREE Kindle apps are available for iPhone, iPad, and your PC. Thanks for passing along the word.


Friday, February 10, 2012

The Week in Review: The Newport Ladies Book Club off to a great start

The Robbins household looks perfect from the outside: no dust, no stains, no wrinkles. Yet a glimpse into its heart reveals no laughter, no closeness, no joy. Olivia thinks that if she keeps everything tidy and serves delicious meals on time, family life is bound to get better. But when her husband, Nick, misses their anniversary, she realizes no amount of domestic success will compensate for failure in their marriage, or for her own failure to develop her identity-always busy as a mother, wife, and neighbor, she has forgotten how to be a unique and vibrant individual.

Determined to make a change, Olivia joins a local book club, where she nurtures new friendships and explores new ideas. But her growing confidence falters when Nick declares his independence- and while her new friends lovingly encircle her with support, only Olivia can reach into the depths of her fledgling self to find the faith, hope, and love her troubled family needs.

 What a wonderful way to start of a new year of reading! Olivia, the first book in the Newport Ladies Book Club series, was an absolute delight. Yes, the characters face struggles, yes the book brought on some tears, but the optimism of Olivia, the main character, continued to shine through, despite the difficult times she faced.
I wanted Olivia to be one of my best friends, then I remembers, I had author Julie Wright as a friend, and she is as much like Olivia as anyone can be when it comes to optimism. How lucky can I be?

In the novel, we also meet the women who will be telling their own stories in the books to follow. Daisy, Athena, and Paige are already feeling like friends, and I can hardly wait.

A MUST read for next year's General Fiction category of the Whitney Awards.Why not read it and nominate now?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Busy Busy Busy!!!!

I've been out of the blogging loop the last few days because of:

1. The end of the term (I'm a school teacher with lots of final grading to do)

2. The last few days to read the nominees for the Whitney Award category I'm judging (there were 41 nominees in my category, most of which came in the LAST minute. Please nominate EARLY in 2012)

3. Finishing an edit for a client (557 page book)

4. Finishing a revision on my own book (Covenant is waiting!)

5. And my son received his call to serve an LDS mission (he will be leaving in March).

But as things start to settle back down, I WILL be back. Thanks for being patient.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Writing Wisdom: Stephenie Meyer

If you haven’t heard of Stephenie Meyer or the Twilight Saga, you must have been living under a rock during the past few years. Stephenie was writing Breaking Dawn when she spoke at the BYU Symposium I attended. The series of books, movies, and assorted licensed fandom paraphernalia that have been released through this series has made her a very successful author, and she shared several of her secrets.

“I love to write, and I can’t do without it,” Meyer said. “One day I was not a writer; the next day I was.” Her overnight success came, of course, once her agent sold the first book, Twilight, a book she originally wrote as a present for her sister, Emily, who said, “You have to get this published.”

“Nine out of ten people say they want to be an author, but the only way that happens is to actually write a book,” Meyer says. Too often people are unwilling to put in the work it takes to actually meet their dream when it comes to this publishing goal.

“Unrequited love is a popular theme,” Meyer told her audience, and the sales figures prove her theory to be true, “but the writing is the joy. Putting it out there is scary. I’d give back my advance to have the chance to rewrite Twilight. The story was very personal.” Meyer is not alone when it comes to the desire to revise a published work. Hemmingway was quoted as saying he would like to have one more rewrite of everything he ever wrote and sold.

Meyer says, “Rejections hurt, but everybody gets them. I got a rejection on Twilight (originally titled Forks) after Little Brown made their offer, and it still hurt.” Of course, since Little Brown published the book, that rejection means nothing now in the history of her career. At least she kept a positive attitude about rejections. “I have a scrapbook of my rejection letters,” she said.  

“NO does not mean they are right,” she says. “The books that break the rules are the ones people love.”

“Agents are worth their 15%,” Meyer says, “but when you deal with them your word is your bond. I got a three book deal via phone, but it took 9-12 months to get the money to prove it. Long time, no pay,” she joked.

“Then comes the agony and the ecstasy of writing,” she said. “The editing process tries to change everything that you’ve done. Learn to balance between listening to yourself and your editor. Stand up for your characters.”

She adds, “Editors care be wrong, but they can be so right. It forces you to write so much better.”

Meyer thinks the copy editing stage is fun, but seeing the book on the shelves brings “the joy of panic and second-guessing.”

“Writing after you’ve been published is a whole new experience,” she said. “You need to continue to write the story for you. Turn off the red pen editor/agent voices in your hear. If you can’t put your own book down, then that’s what it should be.”

She suggests that authors distance themselves from reviews and reader feedback somewhat. “I was offended on Bella’s behalf when an Amazon review said ‘I never found vampires so boring,’ she said.

“Putting the words down is where the magic is,” she says. “Doing what I love and getting paid for it, writing in a room alone with the characters, that’s the magic. But when you have an idea, that’s when you must write it down—right then.”

“Once you have an editor, once you’re under contract, editors like books a little rough,” she says, “but it must be clean before it’s published, especially the first chapter. The first page is a make or break point to capture a reader.”

“Writing is a reward I give myself,” Meyer says. “Thank you for reading what I write.”

Monday, January 09, 2012

Been There, Done That: Lee Greenwood and Sally Struthers

Because I had officially started working for Alan Osmond Productions in 1988, I often found myself in situations that allowed me to meet other celebrities, and to be in places that most people would not normally be. In November 1989, I was at Osmond Studios in Orem, Utah, in the hallway between the dressing rooms and the rehearsal hall when I had two close encounters of the celebrity kind. One of those I’ll save for next week, but today I’m going to tell you about how I got to pretend I was Marie Osmond.

Production was in full swing for the Marie Osmond Christmas Special, and The Osmond Boys were set to be guests. This was in the early days of their career, but I had been working with them for a couple of years already, so I was invited to be with them that day as they worked on the show. More on that in the blog for next week, though.

Alan gathered the boys and we all headed into the rehearsal hall. If you took a tour of the Osmond Studios back in the day, then you might remember what the rehearsal hall looked like. It’s a big box of a room with high cement walls and a ceiling to match. The floor was highly polished wood and at least two of the walls were covered with mirrors. These mirrors allowed the performers to watch themselves as their rehearsed their dance moves for various segments of the show.

When we entered the room, Marie was going through a musical routine with two of her guest stars, Sally Struthers and Lee Greenwood. I had met Lee a few times on the road and at his concerts, but I was here with Alan and the boys, and Lee was busy, so I didn’t say anything to him as we walked past.

Alan set up a tape recorder (yes, we had those back then), and the boys started running through their own number at the second set of mirrors to the right. I stood near them in case anyone needed me to go get something. Suzanne was there, but I’m thinking she had a baby in arms so she was not able to run to get things they might need.

The boys had gone through their number a time or two when I noticed that Marie had left Lee and Sally struggling through the routine on their own. Because the dance required them to all interact with each other, the two remaining where having trouble keeping the dance going without the third.

I turned back to Alan and the boys, who were just wrapping up their rehearsal, when the next thing I knew, someone had grabbed my arm. “Come over here. We need you.”

It was Lee Greenwood.

“What do you need me for?” I asked, completely surprised by his actions.

“You’re going to play Marie,” he said as he started leading me away from where I was standing.

I looked over my shoulder at Alan, who was laughing (something he does a lot of at my expenses it seems). “Go on, Lu Ann. You can do it,” he said.

Right! I thought. Me as Marie. I come from German stock. I’m big boned, and even then carried a few pounds too many. I was going to pretend to be the incredibly petit and tiny Marie. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

“We need you to help us with this dance routine,” Lee said once we got over to Sally Struthers. “I know we’ve met, but I can’t remember your name.”

“Lu Ann,” I said. Sally Struthers put out her hand to shake mine.

“Nice to meet you, Lu Ann,” she said. “You’ll do a great job.”

“You’ll be fine,” Lee added. “Mostly you just need to stand here, and we’ll move you around where you need to go.”

“Okay,” I said, and we got busy.

For the next twenty minutes or so, I played the role of Marie Osmond, first with Lee Greenwood guiding me around, then with Sally Struthers, and occasionally with me dancing on my own between them. I have to admit it was a lot of fun, and it was certainly nothing I ever imagined myself having the opportunity to do, dancing a musical number with two well-known celebrities such as these.

And it wasn’t the last time I had to stand in place for Marie Osmond, but like I said, that’s a story for another time.