Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Some thoughts on cremation

Not long ago my mother suddenly announced she wants to be cremated when she dies. Also, she wants her ashes to be spread in Wyoming because (she said) she's never liked Utah that much anyway.

This was news to me. "You want to be cremated?" I asked her.

"Yes," she said. "I have always wanted to be cremated."

"This is the first I've heard of it."

"Perhaps you weren't listening."

"But how will I visit you on Memorial Day with my peonies and snowballs and irises and so forth? Can we just cremate your foot or something and spread those ashes in Wyoming?"

Anyway. I was thinking about that conversation today as I was running in Liberty Park because--how weird is this?--I think if I were to be cremated, I wouldn't mind having my ashes spread there. I've enjoyed that park ever since I was a little girl, and I love it in all its seasons. So yeah. Take my urn to the top of the Ferris wheel and, baby, let the ashes fly.

Where would you have your ashes spread? And yes. I know. I have officially gone around the bend.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A tale wherein I embarrass myself

So last night Q. went to bed last night feeling pretty certain that today would be a Snow Day. I said don't bet on it. He said but they closed everything down last week during the Blizzard of the Century That Wasn't (possible headlines for the event: THE BLIZZ THAT FIZZED or BLIZZARD SMCHMIZZARD). I said there wouldn't be a Snow Day. And now that it's morning and he's been listening furtively with fading hope to the news, he realizes it isn't a Snow Day as well.

So he's annoyed.


And here's the thing. I was completely serious. I was really believing that as a young girl growing up in Provo, Utah, I was leaping out of bed in the winter at the crack of dawn to help my family out on the cow front. But of course we didn't have actual cows. Just a dog. And I never got out of a bed at 4:00. Unless it was 4:00 in the afternoon.

I'm getting the crazy old person disease.

Also, I think I might turn this into a column. So if you read my column, forget I wrote this.

Happy Snow Day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010


So Ken, Q, and I went to the dollar movies tonight--saw INCEPTION finally. And the people I was YEARNING for a little more along the comic relief line. Or at least for an opportunity to catch my breath. The movie was a thrill ride for sure, but its level of unremitting intensity made me extremely uncomfortable, not unlike like a rock concert that's JUST. SO. LOUD. you're on the threshold of pain the whole time.

On the other hand, I did admire the smartness of the film. Fun to watch something that isn't completely formulaic, you know?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How I know I'm really old

I've been watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade all morning and really enjoying it. So pretty soon I'm gonna move this lap afghan, get out of my recliner, put in my dentures and have a little bowl of bread and milk to keep my strength up.

But before I do that, just want to say I'm grateful to you for dropping by my blog. I love your comments, and it's been a joy to visit your blogs, too. You make me think, you make me laugh, you make me happy there's an internet after all.

Love to you. Have a fab day!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Willing suspensions

Coleridge famously observed that the writer enters a compact with the reader, who agrees to suspend disbelief if a fictional world feels somehow "real"--even if that world is Narnia or Hogwarts. Truly, it's amazing that this compact succeeds as often as it does.

Occasionally, however, I have the experience of reading something and going, "Okay. Not buying this anymore." This happened yesterday when I was reading a new paranormal romance called NIGHTSHADE. I was fine with the fact that the main character (a girl) is a werewolf. Also fine with the fact that she's an alpha werewolf. Also fine with the fact that she goes to a high school with other werewolves, including a sexy male alpha in another pack who will one day be her mate. Also fine with the fact that several members of her own pack are gay werewolves.

But when I got to the line about how those gay werewolves are in a support group for gay werewolves, I went REALLY? WEREWOLVES HAVE SUPPORT GROUPS? Like, are there support groups for werewolves who gamble? Or drink? Or buy too many shoes? Or hoard those shoes?

I'm pretty sure the writer was having a little fun there, but still. Interesting how it was THAT detail that finally made me put the book down.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

I feel kinda naked

Yes. I think "naked" is a good word to capture a reader's attention. Don't you?

But that's how I'm feeling. I have this FABULOUS new editor at the Trib--love her!--who told me that the Trib has a conservative approach to style. They like the words to speak for themselves. To this end they rarely italicize or use caps and exclamation points.

WELL! YOU CAN SEE WHERE THIS IS GOING! Over the past decade of writing my column for the d-news, I have certainly come to rely upon capping and exclamation pointing as my favorite go-to techniques. And, in fact, I think I've overdone both. So being forced to rein myself in is actually a good thing. Still. And also anyway. I feel naked without my rhetorical crutches. So! Expect! a! lot! of! random! punctuation! in! my! blog!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My 2nd column in the Trib

Once again, for probably the ten billionth time, Ann doesn't know how to provide her readers with a link to her column. Here it is right here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Substance-abusing (see previous post) neighbor update

Yesterday when I was outside raking up leaves, our neighbor took a look at Aggie (the family field spaniel) and said to me, "Your dog's getting fat. Maybe it's her thyroid. You should take her to the vet."

And I will! As soon as I buy Quinton some acne cream!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Reader's Bill of Rights

So Chris Crowe introduced me to "The Reader's Bill of Rights," a list generated by Daniel Pennac (I say this like I know who Daniel Pennac is--I don't). I think they're worth contemplating as readers, teachers, AND writers. Discuss amonst yourselves.

Readers have these rights.
1. The right not to read.
2. The right to skip pages.
3. The right not to finish.
4. The right to re-read.
5. The right to read anything.
6. The right to escapism.
7. The right to read anywhere.
8. The right to browse.
9. The right to read out loud.
10. The right not to defend your tastes.

The third right is the one jumping out at me right now. It's hard for me to un-commit after committing to a book. Dude, it's always a MARRIAGE with me and not just some tawdry one night stand. The older I get, however, the more aware I am that life is short and that if you hate a book (or even if you're just bored with it), there's no reason to keep reading. So go ahead. Where books are concerned, feel free to be promiscuous.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I know you didn't ask for my advice

. . . but sometimes I can't resist. Yesterday I spoke at UVU to a general communications class and I offered these ten tips for anyone who wants to write.

1. Read. Everything.
2. Start writing NOW. Why not start off with 250 words a day?
3. Start off each day by figuring out when, where and how you'll write your 250 words a day.
4. Send stuff out.
5. Don't define what kind of writer you are (novelist, poet, journalist, copy writer) too early. Dabble.
6. Don't expect to make a living by writing alone.
7. There is no such thing as a failed story or novel or whatever. You learned something because you wrote that whatever. And you may be able to use material from it in another writing project.
8. Shake things up when you get in a rut. Try something new.
9. Celebrate the success of fellow writers.
10. Resist the temptation to define yourself as a human being by your success (or lack of it) as a writer.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The good thing about living in a crazy neighborhood . . .

. . . is that you've always got plenty of material.

We have this neighbor who's had substance abuse issues for decades. It's sad because at heart I think he's a decent guy. At this point he looks like he hasn't had a haircut or a shower for months, possibly years. Which is why we were all a leetle surprised when he stopped Quinton on the sidewalk recently and said, "Tell your mom to buy you some acne cream."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What Ovid said (and he would know)

On Saturday at SCBWI Matthew Kirby shared a number of his favorite writer quotes with us. I liked this one by dead Roman guy Ovid: "But still, the fates will leave me my voice, and by my voice I shall be known." Awesome quote, that.

Meanwhile, on the food front, I bought some pumpkin pie spice eggnog. Here's what I discovered--it tastes exactly like non pumpkin pie spice eggnog. WELL OF COURSE IT DOES! Because eggnog is all about the spice anyway. So unless you want an eggnog that's slightly more orange in color, don't bother.

You're welcome.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Yesterday I spoke at the SCBWI conference--shoutout to Sydney Salter for putting on a darn good show--and learned a ton myself. In particular, Matthew Kirby (CLOCKWORK THREE) did a brilliant job of examining "voice" and "how to find yours." That's a topic I could have never addressed in five trillion billion years.

Anyway. I was struck again by the bravery of participants who submit a single anonymous first page for a critique by an editor and an agent in front of the entire group. The critiques are brutally honest, and I'd NEVER have the courage/confidence to participate in that kind of reindeer game.

There was one sample in particular that left everyone pretty much dumbstruck. It was the first page of a picture book about cremation. In fact, the title was something like "So-and-so Learns About Cremation." Good times. Because who doesn't always enjoy a snappy picture book about cremation?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New column starts in Trib! Today!

I wrote it like a personals ad--columnist in search of readers. Too scared to open the paper.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yeah, I'll take credit for that

Yesterday after my presentation at the downtown library, a woman told me how much she enjoys my column. "I especially loved the one where you said how your husband's family re-uses their dental floss!" Then she laughed. Merrily.

So okay. I know I write about families. And embarrassing stuff. And families who do embarrassing stuff. But it would be a long long long long LONG time before I outed in-laws over a personal hygiene issue--or anything else. You can tell stuff about your own flesh and blood, but not your in-laws.

Besides which my in-laws would never re-use their dental floss. They don't even touch each other's bath towels. Ken was appalled when we first got together, and he realized just how much my family viewed as communal property. But that's not the point. The point is this. I just smiled and thanked the woman because dude! I am always happy to take the credit for anything that made someone else laugh.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reading Like a Writer

That's the title for a presentation I've been asked to give at the SCBWI conference this weekend here in Salt Lake. I think it's a GREAT topic, but as I've tried to actually nail down a talk, I've struggled. I do a lot of things intuitively as a writer, I guess, and sometimes it's hard for me to explain how something happens. Still, I enjoy the challenge of looking at a process. Hopefully I can come up with something more than, "Yeah, I'm a writer! And I read!"

On the food front, cute Candace introduced me to My Dough Girl on 3rd West and 7th South in Salt Lake, and the people YOU MUST GO. I love that place with its yummy cookies and retro feel. Also! You can buy Mexican Cokes there! I had the lemon cookie for the first time yesterday and if you love lemon you oughta try it. They grind up Lemonheads and put them in the frosting. As a result, the cookie was just a leetle too tart-ish for me. I'll probably go back to ordering my fave--the chocolate cherry deal they've got going on. Who doesn't love a chocolate cherry deal going on?

You're welcome for the cookie updates.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

And one more thing

Thanks, everyone, for such kind remarks about yesterday's post. I feel like you're family.

Topsy Turvy Day

1. Eat that "Simply Caramel" Milk Way bar just now
2. Have my picture taken at the Trib--if I'd known that was going to happen I might have put on makeup and lost ten pounds before going down there
3. Eat a Slim Jim . . .
4. . . . as well as some alleged "cheese" that came in the Slim Jim package
5. Feed the cat breakfast even though I fed the cat breakfast ten minutes earlier

1. Work on my novel
2. Review some picture books for TKE
3. Put on makeup and lose ten pounds
4. Pack my pajama bottoms which is why I am sitting in a hotel room right now in Logan with no pajama bottoms on
5. Watch the Jazz game--and if I'd done THAT I would have seen Millsap go crazy knocking back 11 points in 28 freaking seconds

Monday, November 8, 2010

Farewell and also hello

Kids, today the d-news ran a farewell column, a tremendously gracious act on their part. Last week I handed in notice and will begin a new column this Saturday in the Salt Lake Tribune. I'm truly excited about this opportunity and grateful to the Trib for taking me on. I'm also kind of scared and nervous, too. But oh well. When am I not a nutjob?

Here's today's column.

I remember when we first got caller I.D. about thirteen years ago. Mostly I loved it! But sometimes? Not so much.
In those days our boys had three paper routes, and if one of them screwed up on the delivery front, you better believe we heard about it. Apparently some people just don’t appreciate it when you run late or deliver their paper to the wrong address or accidentally throw their paper onto the garage roof. Apparently some people expect to get what they pay for.
But whatever. The point is that certain names made me nervous whenever they popped up on the caller I.D. And nervous is how I REALLY felt when the words NEWSPAPER AGENCY CORP showed up one afternoon. I stood there in the kitchen and listened to the phone ring while having an intense little conversation with myself. Should I pick the phone up? Or should I just pack my bags and hop on the next train out of Dodge?
In the end I manned up (even though I am not a man) and said a testy “hello.”
The caller identified herself as Lisa Bowen, John Hughes’ secretary. John Hughes, as you’ll recall, was the editor of the Deseret News, and he wanted to speak to me. Would that be okay, Lisa wanted to know.
I said of course! Great! But inside I was all REALLY? My kid threw some dude’s paper onto the garage roof and THE HEAD EDITOR is calling to chew us out? Shouldn’t head editors be busy editing instead of calling with complaints about the occasional careless product placement?
Only as it turned out that’s not why Mr. Hughes was calling. No, indeed. Instead, he graciously asked if I’d be willing to write a column for the Deseret News similar to the column I’d written for ten years at the old PARENT EXPRESS magazine.
Well! How can you say no to a charming offer like that? And I’ve been writing happily for the Deseret News ever since.
Kids, it’s been a great ride. Getting to work with features editors like Chris Hicks, Kathryn Clayton, Angelyn Hutchinson, Todd Curtis and Aaron Shill has been good for me as a writer.
But hearing from YOU, the readers, has been the best part of all—even the readers who start their e-mails with lines like “I’m not a regular fan of your columns as they deal mostly with insignificant subjects.” Truly, your feedback has both encouraged me and kept me on my toes. Thank you.
By now you can probably see where this is headed. Change happens. I’ve always hated that about life and have often worked hard to resist it. But as I’ve grown older I’ve learned (sort of) to view change as an ally, a comrade-in-arms eager to make me try something different, something new.
So I’m saying good-bye with gratitude for all the lovely things that have been and excitement for the journey that lies ahead.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why I write--possibly

So yesterday it was all football all day. And because it's Sunday morning and I am thus filled with charity, I won't point out that BYU won and Utah lost. Besides which that's not the point.

The point is this--while my family and I were sitting together at the game in Provo, my brother's son, Matthew, got put into the game which is a big deal because he's worked like a maniac for years down there on the practice field in Utah county, but hasn't played. Anyway! He went in for a play in the fourth quarter and we all went NUTS and cheered and wept and rent our clothing in a positive, joyful way and so forth.

As soon as the play was over, however, he trotted off the field. Well, in my head I'm going crap. Bleh. That's it. Dude won't see any more action. Meanwhile my brother, Matthew's father, is all THIS IS GREAT! THE COACHES ARE GONNA BE RUNNING HIM ON AND OFF THE FIELD!

I turned to my dad at that point and said this is and always has been the crucial difference between my brother and me. I generally figure things will turn out badly and that my heart's gonna get broken in the process. And also that I'll go home and discover that someone has taken the last Dr. Pepper from the fridge. My brother, on the other hand, checks out the landscape and sees unlimited possibilities for happiness. And yet we share the same genes and experienced virtually the same childhood.

Which brings me to why I write--I write because people, especially in the context of families, are CRAZY. But also endlessly interesting.

P.S. My nephew played the rest of the game. See what the Power of Positive Thinking can do? Go, Matthew!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oh, happy day

A few years ago, my friend Louise Plummer wrote a book I love--THE UNLIKELY ROMANCE OF KATE BJORKMAN. It was inspired, in part, by a book called THE ROMANCE WRITERS' PHRASE BOOK. It's a collection of tags romance writers can use to (as Louise describes it) take the emotional temperature of their characters.

It's been entertaining reading. Chapter headings include "body movements," "facial expressions," "voices," and "emotions." Here are a few phrases from the sex part. Because seriously aren't we all kind of interested in the sex part?

"the kiss was like the soldering heat that joins metals"
"their lips met and she felt buffeted by the winds of a savage harmony"
"she felt blood coursing through her veins like an awakened river"

Now, I probably won't use these lines in my own writing. SADLY. But I have to say the book is a useful little resource in its own way, giving me ideas for new ways of saying old things. I'm all for that.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Scott Westerfeld

Okay, so I meant to have Geoff post a link to my d-news column yesterday BUT OOPS! I didn't get it done. So maybe you can go on over to the desnews website and take a look at the winners of our mock Bulwer-Lytton contest. You won't be disappointed.

In other news. I spent Saturday in Provo at the first Teen Book Festival sponsored by the library there (shout out to Gene Nelson and Courtney Lowe for organizing the event). Anyway, I REALLY enjoyed Scott Westerfeld's (UGLIES, LEVIATHAN) completely awesome presentation. He talked about the history of books and interior illustration--even adult books back in the day had illustrations because there was this huge illustration industry. Illustrators worked for newspapers, magazines and catalog-driven companies like Sears (loved that Westerfeld called the Sears catalog the world's first internet). Because of this pool of readily accessible talent, it was easy for publishers to drop art in a book.

And then came the camera.

Of course I'm interested in the way industries change because of my connection to newspapers. No one quite knows where we're going with those but (of course) the news industry will continue to morph into something else, and we'll all get used to that.

Anyway. One last Westerfeld-related item. A young fan asked why some books take off and others don't. This is a question writers ask themselves ALL. THE. TIME. (Me: "Dude. Why am I not Stephenie Meyers?") Good question, right? Westerfeld thought about this for a moment, then said that books that give people something to talk about are the ones that make it.

And I think he's probably right.