Jun 26, 2009


The publishers got back to me quickly about the submission of my manuscript. The lady liked the manuscript enough (even though it was a rejection) that she gave me lots of detailed hints on how to make it submissible!!! That never happens, guys.

So... back to the word processor. I'm excited. It's so funny how it's hard to see the weaknesses and strengths in your own work, while you can easily pick apart even bestselling novels. But I've got somewhere to go now, and I know right what things to hit. Yay!!!

Here's to developing as an author.

Jun 25, 2009

delay in podcast novel release...

I hope nobody's been waiting with bated breath for me to start releasing my podcast series. I don't imagine anybody has. That's OK. I think bated breath is likely not too healthy.

There has been a possible development with the manuscript I was using for this podcast series, so I'm delaying publishing it. I've got only one episode left to record, so I'll go ahead and do that and edit all of them, so that if this development falls through I can just immediately start on the podcasting.

Sorry guys.

My plan: if this Novel gets to actually be a real book, I definitely have another one that I could podcast.

So... we'll see what happens. And sorry for getting the anticipation up and then bailing on you for the time being. What can I say? That's art, that's publishing. In the meantime, cross your fingers for me!

Jun 19, 2009

More pictures

Here are a couple more recent pictures. ;) We're flying out July 22nd... driving out to the inlaws on July 17. That's less than a month away. I can't quite fathom it.

My parents are in China right now. Right this very minute, they are in another country, going about the process of adopting another child. My sister, Lou Juan. Here's my mother's blog. She plans on updating periodically during the three weeks they spend there. This is such an interesting, turbulent time for my whole family. I'm glad to be going through this experience with my Mother... we'll be doing this together. It is such an amazing blessing. We started our processes years apart, but we are ending up bringing our children home within a few weeks of each other. I have to say it must be foreordained, and God is guiding us in these processes, and my mother and I are meant to be a support to one another in this. I plan on calling her and venting and listening to her vent and figuring things out together. I'm so, so glad.

And I'm glad to have a new sister, too. It still hasn't quite sunk in: Lou Juan is my sister. Winna and May are my daughters.

This world is amazing.

Jun 16, 2009

Walls Full of Memories

The beehive class visited an elderly couple in our ward tonight. I tend to be shy in group situations, especially where I don't know the people, and so I didn't say much. When the wife asked me to say something about myself, I mentioned that I live in Anna's old house. The stories started pouring out, just like they always do. Every time I mention Anna, and the fact that I live in her house, people rush to tell me the stories.

Anna was a small, refined woman of Danish descent. Her love and joy was her garden. I try to keep it up, apologizing under my breath to her as I clumsily root through her iris bed. I hacked her roses to pieces two years ago. This, the third year living here, I finally got them back so that they are blooming nicely and evenly.

She made rich, eight-course breakfasts. I chuckle over my toast crumbs, thinking of porridge--real, danish porridge--and rich cream, fresh berries, pastries, milk and fresh-squeezed juices.

She lived her whole life in the house she was born in, the house her father built close to the turn of the century. She had beautiful taste in furniture. It's all falling apart now, but the muted golds and greens, the brocades and the lovely upholstering, the fading wallpapers and soft gold draperies remain. The blinds are the wide, 1950's slatted wooden blinds; Skywalker has repaired a couple of them since we moved in.

One room upstairs has scalloped wood accents along the closets and cubbyholes, and a little closet bar down near the floor for little girls to reach. The window is a wide, sunny window that looks directly into the branches of the tall elm that grows there (and also shelters the hundreds of birds that like to relieve themselves on our car.) It is papered in pink, and when we moved in, there was an old, decaying pink rug covering the linoleum-on-boards-floor. My children play on a newer carpet remnant that I placed over the old rug. It pads their footsteps and gives them a soft place to sit.

The walls are thick and cool--adobe brick, made from materials right out of the ground where the house stands. When it was first built, it was warmed by chimneys. There are two at least, plastered over and papered, now only humps that run up along the walls for both stories.

One time when I was laying in the other upstairs room, the old, white cheesecloth curtain billowed out and suddenly I felt spooky, like a moment later I might see something I wasn't quite ready to see. The next day I got out all of my old family heirlooms: the bookcase my grandmother made, the pink china pitcher from four generations back, my husband's grandmother's clock-- and placed them in various spots, as if claiming "my space" in this place that had been built, and lived in, and existed so long, for Anna and her family.

The more I live here, the more I think how I wish I could peel back layers of wallpaper until I find the faded pink brick. Maybe I'd find a thumbprint in some mortar. Probably not; the people who built this house were fastidious--artisans. But I like to think I might, or that, if I put my ear up to the wall, I might hear something. These massive walls store heat and cold, keeping our spaces temperate far longer than the cheap tinder we build with now.

I wonder if they also store smells, voices, touch... skin cells?

I'll be sad to leave this place when the time comes. There's something to be said for living in the middle of a hundred years of memories.

Jun 14, 2009

The problem of greatness and LDS literature

Some discussions from one of my new favorite websites.

I'm beginning to become disillusioned with the LDS market. It's funny; I'll read some of the stories that Covenant (arguably the most prolific publisher of LDS fiction) puts out, and I cringe at the editing, and at the sort of sugary-shallow storytelling. I used to think it was because LDS people just beat around the bush. They're afraid to take chances in their writing, and so it winds up flat and somewhat empty of any real conflict.

I have a different opinion now, after having gone through the process of two separate submissions: it's the publishers, not the writers.

The publishers have their vision set on a certain narrow, defined audience. They have a preference for a certain style (that I have not really ever enjoyed all that much.) It chokes me up, to be sitting in front of a keyboard, trying to write real feelings and conflict, all the time feeling like these editors are reading over my shoulder--the picture in my mind includes collared dresses and penny loafers--tut-tutting because I used the word "crap" or had my character actually question his or her beliefs for a moment.

All right, I'm not being fair. But honestly... really? Really?

This is what I'm expected to come up with?

Well, that last one could possibly be interesting... the title could have sort of an overtone.

OK, sorry. I'm being snarky. I'm a tad frustrated. It's just... I mean, I want to write. Really write. Not just sell books. I want to write something that means something, that actually changes someone. I feel like that's almost impossible, though, in the current context of the LDS market. Maybe when people go into Seagull Book, they're looking for either doctrine, or some light fluff to help themselves feel better about their challenges. There's nothing wrong with fluff, either. Don't get me wrong. I just wish that there were a place for fiction that's a little deeper, too.

I'm going to start another story soon. I'm making this one firmly, unequivocably adult LDS fiction. I hope that this will improve my chances with Covenant or Deseret; the feedback Covenant has given me so far has been simply that they don't sell many Young Adult novels. Their big seller is Adult Fiction. I just don't know; I'm feeling so scattered over this new manuscript. How do you do "deep" and "real," without scaring the General LDS audience away?

Any suggestions will be most welcome.

And--update--I'm making good headway on recording the episodes of my podcast novel. I hope to have it finished and ready to start broadcasting in a couple of weeks.

Jun 12, 2009


Bellarina and MayMay... now officially Nosurf family members.

We passed court today!!! They are officially OUR DAUGHTERS. So now, I can do what I have been wanting to do for eight months...

Here's a more recent, much better one, taken by the family who went out to see their baby boy, and brought a care package for us:

We're heading out on July 23rd to go pick them up!!!! Hooray!!!!

Jun 10, 2009

How to Get Published

I've been writing seriously for about four years now. Not that long. When I was a kid, I wrote stories that filled up whole notebooks, that rambled and developed plots that resembled my first attempts at knitting--continually growing larger, developing alarming offshoots and lumpy clumps of uneven stitches. My junior high and high school journals were mostly poetry and sketches of the characters I wanted to write about.

That is the autobiography that almost any aspiring author will give you. I've read bio after bio on the placket covers: "I have always written. I have always loved stories. I wrote my first novel when I was 8 years old..." etc.

Heavenly Father has given many people the talent and the desire to write. So what is the difference between someone who makes it as an author, and someone who just continues to flail in the pool of "aspiring authors desperately seeking a chance... any chance!"

There are many lists out there. Mine is simply a compilation of what I have learned so far. Likely it will be revised a great deal in future. But here is what I have gleaned from my experiences as a writer so far.


1) Of course you have to be a good writer. This is a continual process; with each new manuscript you write, you will reach a new level of writing ability. It is likely that you will feel, in a couple of years, that your first two or so manuscripts don't even merit revision. Some say throw them out... I say start over and just redo it. Recently I completely rewrote (didn't even save the drafts I had) my very first novel. I love it so much more now. It remains to be seen if the novel is actually deserving of my love, but I feel now like I really have something to offer in the manuscript. SO: short version is-- read, read read (books on writing, good literature in the genre you're attempting) and write, write write, and revise, revise, revise.

2) Networking. Join a writing group. There is undoubtedly one in your area if you don't live in the middle of a rural farming community. If you do live in such a community, and there's no writing group already in your area (check with your local library) you get to start one!! There are always a few others who aspire to authorship. Get together with them and network, workshop. Give the manuscript to friend who you know will honestly evaluate it... good friends are brutal. Editors are going to be brutal by sending you rejection slips... at least good friends give you feedback.

3) Send it out. When it is rejected (it will be,) go back over it and evaluate. Mostly you'll be only sending out a cover letter... this is a particularly easy thing to revise. It's only one page. (I call it 1-page torture). If your cover letter is being rejected, either you aren't sending it to the right agents and publishers, or the letter itself isn't convincing enough.

4) Make sure you know your market. What kind of book did you write? Categorization should be easy, but it isn't... usually an author has a far more grandiose idea of what his book is, and the audience that it will appeal to. He can't help it; he has invested so much time and effort into it--of COURSE everyone wants to read it, right? Right???

Have someone with experience give you an objective evaluation. And then accept it, even if it crushes your hopes and dreams that your novel is the next Great American Novel. It's not necessarily a bad thing, to write the next Great American Romance Novel, or the next Great American Chick Lit Novel. The point is to get people reading your story, right? So sell it to the right group of people.

5) Make sure you are sending it to the right agents and publishers. Do some research. Don't just read about the type of manuscript they accept; look up what they have published lately. The summary in Writer's Market may indicate they have an interest in Romance novels, but if you find that their book list consists of Thrillers and Science Fiction novels, you know this isn't the likeliest agent for your Historical Romance novel. Even if they accept your manuscript, it's less likely they'll have the contacts (or even the personal interest) to market it.

6) Try the small stuff, too. If you win an award for a short story, or get a poem or essay published, that is a legitimate writing credit that you can list on your queries, making it that much more likely that an agent will be willing to risk a few of his/her precious minutes looking over an actual piece of your manuscript.

7) The issue of Dumb Luck. Here's the thing; there are agents out there who say that any beautiful writing isn't hard to sell. So you think to yourself, I'm a shoo-in! My gorgeous prose and carefully honed plot, embedded symbolism and subtle foreshadowing, is sure to bowl over the first agent that reads it.

Here's the deal: everyone has a different opinion of what constitutes "beautiful writing." Sure, there are a few examples out there that seem universal--there are the classics. But go give Dickens a good read, and you'll see that even universal standards shift over time. Submit, submit, submit... just like every high school and college English teacher will grade an essay differently, publishers and agents have unique tastes and opinions. (Of course, make sure that you're following grammar and form protocol. But that's a given--that's number one). The more you submit it, the more likely it is that you'll hit an agent that will find your particular manuscript appealing and interesting.

Jun 3, 2009

Cottage-fried potatoes

The ultimate cheap, vegan comfort food, and the peasantiest of peasant dishes; literally just onions, potatoes and some oil.

I loooooove this dish. love it, seriously... it is delicious and it helps me when I get those fast-food cravings. It's better than fries, it's a nice, salty, (slightly) greasy, potatoey wonderful amazing concoction. SOmetimes the simplest things are the best thigns, you know? Here's the recipe.

Cottage-Fried Potatoes

2 cups potato, peeled, halved and thinly sliced (equal to 2 large or 3 medium sized potato)

2 cup onion, halved and thinly sliced (equal to one very large or 2 largish or 3 medium sized onions.)

a few tablespoons of oil of some kind (healthier options are, of course better... something in an olive would likely give you those good fats you need, that your body is actually craving when it's saying "mcdonalds" to you)...

Fry up the whole mess until the onions are carmelized and some are a little crispy, adn the potatoes are nice and flaky or possibly crispy too. however well done you like it to be.

Season with salt and pepper.

This should serve four, but I can usually down the whole mess myself. :) Yup. That's right.