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.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Sunday Wisdom: Resolutions Resolved

Many of us have the annual tradition of setting resolutions to welcome in the New Year. Although most of those resolutions are soon forgotten, even as quickly as the end of the week, and most certainly by the end of the month, most of us continue to set them year after year. A quick perusal of early January journal entries from several years running may find us disappointed to learn that we keep setting the same goals, only to fail or forget them almost before the ink is dry.

How does this happen? Even if we set out with good intentions, day-by-day life happens. We skip a day of eating right or taking that fifteen minute walk we told ourselves we would faithfully do. We get distracted from scripture study or reading about a career path we’d like to pursue. We promise ourselves that tomorrow we will make the time or choices that will set us back on the path we promised, only to find that tomorrow never comes.

How can we change this pattern? How came we set resolutions that we can actually keep, ones that will move us forward on the path of self-actualization, the realization of our own true potential?

Picking the right goals is important to the process. Dr. Mike Murdock teaches, “Intolerance of your present creates your future.” We have to ask ourselves about the things we tolerate before we can honestly make a change in our patterns of behaviors that have led us where we are. Allowing ourselves to fluctuate between two clothing sizes doesn’t provide true motivation to stick with a lifestyle of healthier living. Fear of change will prevent us from moving forward with a new career, even to the point of stopping us from reading books or taking classes in the subject. Realizing that some of our friends or even family members are toxic to our emotional or spiritual well being, and that they must either change or be distanced from our lives gives us the power to move forward. Until we face what we can no longer tolerate and make the hard decisions to create a new future, we will be stuck in the same ruts we’ve long been walking.

Of course, the goals we make must be realistic. We may find it more helpful to master a set of smaller goals, rather than aiming toward the end. Of course it would be great to drop that extra 50 pounds, but it may take months to accomplish, and the journey can be discouraging. As a writer, I have goals to finish a manuscript, but I know I cannot write 70,000 words in a day. The process will take some time. Getting out of debt sounds like a wonderful idea, but draining your resources dry every month will cause more distress than chipping away at those credit card bills a smaller chunk at a time.

I find it is better to set specific goals. When goals are vague you never feel like you accomplish anything. Being debt free is too vague. Paying off one credit card before tackling the balance of another allows you to see that having and maintaining a zero balance can be done. Those 50 pounds come off easier than saying I want to be thin, no matter how daunting the number 50 might seem. Writing a novel at 500 words a day gets you more progress than telling people you want to write a novel someday. Sitting around for years complaining about how dissatisfied with your job will only make you miserable, and could lead to getting you fired, but taking steps toward improving your education could lead you to an even better position, even if it’s only within the same company. As we read in Mosian 4:27, “It is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength . . . All things must be done in order.” Setting smaller goals takes us toward the possibly, without making the journey impossible.

Of course we will continue to face difficulties and challenges along the way, but those are often the places we learn the most. Robert G. Allen shares, “I learned the most profound life lessons, from my own challenges; they are some of my core lessons in life.” As the Chinese proverb states, “If you get up one more time than you fall you will make it through.”

But that resolution to keep getting up and to make the change has to come from you. Michael Jackson told us if we’re going to change the world, we have to start with the “Man in the Mirror,” and that’s the same place we have to start to make the changes within ourselves. Get up one more time, break our goals into manageable steps, and choose goals that are worth are worth fighting for, and with the help of the Lord, we will make it through.