Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How I Wrote A Novel

People have been asking me how I ever found time to write a novel.  Well, I have a confession to make--it took me five years. I like to compare my writing process to the story of the tortoise and the hare.  It's easy to make a heroic start at a project like the hare sprinting at the beginning of the race.  What's harder (but more fulfilling) is to make a little effort day after day.  I'll admit I didn't always take the time to write when I should have.  There were months when I was incredibly consistent with my writing, but there were also a couple of years when I hardly wrote at all.

I found some advice from other writers to be particularly inspiring.  John Bytheway, a motivational speaker and writer, said that he found the time to write his first book by giving up his television time.  I haven't given up TV altogether, but a lot of times I've skipped my TV time to write.  Sometimes I've just spent a few minutes writing.  Other times I've had an hour or two to write.

Lance Larsen, a poet and BYU professor, gave an inspiring address for writers called "Coaxing the Muse: Thoughts on the Creative Process."  He said that you can't write well unless you're writing every day and reading good books.  I blame Lance Larsen for turning me into a copycat.  He taught me to read excellent books and look for ways to imitate another author's techniques.  Sometimes we get into a "don't plagiarize" mindset and think we should be completely independent of other authors' ideas.  I've learned that you can imitate without plagiarizing.  In fact, I can point to specific aspects of my novel and tell you what book I was reading when I wrote those parts.

Brad Bird, the writer and director of Incredibles, explained that he had to revise his script over and over again.  But, he also said that at some point he learned that he had to stop revising and let the public enjoy his story. This helped me realize that if I'm too much of a perfectionist, no one will benefit from my art. 

This year  I set a New Years' resolution to finish revising and submit my novel for publication.  I wrote my final chapter in January and sent off a manuscript to a publisher.  I collected a rejection letter in March but forced myself to send the manuscript to another publisher that same week.  In April, I signed a contract to have it published.  My happiest thought after signing the contract was that now I'll have an excuse to write another novel. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Solving Problems with the Scriptures

Being a mom, I usually have a lot of little problems that need to be solved.  Sometimes I feel like I run from one problem to the next like the night watchman in the movie Night at the Museum.  Although I've read a lot of parenting books and had a lot of great advice from friends and family, the best advice I've gotten has come from the scriptures.
I recently read the book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Wendy Watson Nelson.  One part of the book really resonated with me.  Sis. Nelson encourages us to do what she calls a "30 day challenge."  This challenge involves reading the scriptures with a question in mind for 30 days in a row.

At the time I read about the 30 day challenge, I had a lot of little problems that needed solving.  Mostly these problems were little nagging issues like getting my son to do his homework, managing the budget, and getting over some of my negative thinking.  Sis. Nelson said it didn't matter how many questions you had.  Some people might want to pray about the same problem every day for 30 days.  Others might have 30 different questions.

I wrote down a list of nine questions or problems I was having to start off my challenge.  At the time, I was reading the New Testament gospels, so I just kept up with my regular reading, except that at the beginnning of my study, I would thank Heavenly Father for helping me with any previous questions and ask him to help me with whatever question I had that day.  It was a very simple process--pray about the question and read.

From the start of the experiment, I was totally amazed at how quickly and profoundly my questions were answered.  For example, one day I asked about how I could fit more service into my life.  That day, I read about the Savior feeding the 5000.  I thought about how the Savior didn't call in the caterers but simply used what he had.  The story taught me that I can serve simply because what I have is enough. 

I could go on and on about all how my questions were answered, but I'm sure it won't feel as amazing to my readers as it felt to me.  That's the thing about getting answers from the scriptures.  You have to try it for yourself.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Running Into My Old Flame

If I knew ahead of time that I was going to run into a guy I used to date in college, I probably would have put a little more effort into my appearance.    But, hey, I was just taking a day trip with my husband and kids.  Truthfully, we were all looking a little disheveled.  I was quite relieved that with all the people around us, my old flame didn't recognize me.
It made me wonder what I would have done if he had recognized me.  Obviously, I want to look attractive and confident.  I don't want to do anything that will make him think, "Phew, glad I didn't end up with her."  It'd be better if he thought, "Hey, I must have been pretty cool back then to get a date with her." 

Jane Austen's Persuasion begins with just such a situation, only in Anne's case, she still has feelings for her old flame.  Though she has a few days to prepare for their meeting, she doesn't pull it off too well.  Austen writes that "a thousand feelings rushed on Anne, of which this was the most consoling, that it would soon be over."  Anne's petrified reaction didn't make a great impression on Captain Wentworth, who later reported that she was so different he wouldn't have recognized her.

Stumbling words along with a shocked expression won't help my case. Here's my plan for the next time this happens to me:
  • Smile.
  • Act surprised to see him. Say something like, "Wow, I'm surprised to see you.  How have you been?" Don't say it's good to see him, unless I actually feel that way.
  • Be grateful for the life I have now, so I can confidently explain how great my life is.
  • Put an attractive picture of myself on facebook.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gluten-free Emergency Kits

All I have to do is think about disasters like Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, and the earthquakes in Japan to remember that we all need to be prepared.  Since two of my sons have a gluten allergy, I think it's especially important to have extra food on hand for them. 

I like to keep an emergency kit with a three day supply of food for each member of my family.  Over the years, we've let the kids test out the kits to see how long they last and whether they like the taste.  We've found that a kit with a high protein content helps us feel satisfied longer.  (We found the ideas for our kits in an article by Miriam Blackham Een at this link: http://lds.org/ensign/2009/10/random-sampler?lang=eng )

Here's what we put in our kits. By the way, this is a great emergency kit for those who eat gluten also:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Line Dancing

I've been practicing my line dancing this week as part of my research for the novel I'm working on.  No, I haven't been hanging out at the dance clubs.  I'm just living in fantasy land with my line dancing dvd.  It's a great workout.  Here it is:

I checked it out from our library.  Christy Lane may be older than I am--at least she looks older, but she's got the moves.   

Samuel the Lamanite Skit

Here's a short skit I wrote for the cub scouts.  They used it for a Faith in God requirement.  It's also fun to act out this story at Christmas time.

Samuel the Lamanite Skit
by Rebecca H. Jamison

Narrator 1:  About six years before Christ was born, the Lord sent Samuel the Lamanite to Zarahemla,  where he taught the wicked Nephites.

Wicked Nephite #1:  It’s okay to cheat on a math test.  By the time we grow up, no one is going to use math.

Wicked Nephite #2:  Yeah, and stealing is no big deal as long as you don’t get caught or if you steal from a Lamanite.

Samuel:  You’ll be happier if you repent and keep the commandments.