Sunday, June 30, 2013

News about the column

Here we go, kids.  This week's column!

BTW, the column will be moving from the Saturday paper to the Wednesday paper.  It'll be on the front page of The Mix section.  They're changing some things around at the Trib, and I think this will actually be a good move for me.  I already have a Fourth of July column for this Wednesday.

Meanwhile, thanks for indulging me on the writing prompt thing.  Wanted to try something a little different.

Have a good Sabbath, all.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Today's writing prompt is "summer"

Okay.  This is going to be VERY stream-of-consciousness.  Just warning you.

Summer is sun heat pouring down the skin of your arms and legs.  It's the occasional fast rainstorm, observed from the front porch swing while filling your lungs deep, deep with the scent of wet air.   It's warm, breezy nights and a jumble of stars.

Summer is TV re-runs.  Gilligan's Island and the old Merv Griffin show and General Hospital with occasional visits to All My Children-Land.  It's the car radio with golden oldies that even your dad can sing along with.  It's the sound of Rainbird sprinklers, motorcycles at night, skateboards on asphalt, the scuffle of Tevas on sidewalks, illegal fireworks boys set off somewhere secret in your neighborhood, dogs barking, cats fighting, laughter drifting down the street, the old AC unit in the back bedroom window.

Summer is frosted pink lipstick.  Blue eyeshadow.  Seasonal things from Old Navy.  Flip-flops.  Swimming suits and cut-off shorts.  

Summer is baseball.

Summer is the beach with sand between your toes and at the bottom of your sheets each night when you crawl into your bed.  It's the six-week road trip across the country when you and your brothers were teenagers and your family turned into gypsies, wandering from stadium to stadium, Motel 6 to Holiday Inn to Motel 6 again.  It's a drive up the canyon in search of cool air with the top down.

Summer is cotton candy.  Shave Ice.  Slurpees.  Popsicles.  Salted peanuts at a ballgame.  Hot dogs.  Burgers.  The occasional salad to make you feel better about yourself.  Corn on a cob.  And just when summer is winding down, the fruit of the Gods a.k.a the peach, although fresh raspberries may give the peach a run for its money.  Also, let's not forget the tomatoes.

Summer is Memorial Day with peonies for the remembered, Fourth of July with fires in the sky, and Labor Day when everyone agrees reluctantly that it's time to get back to business.

What says summer to you?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Today's writing prompt is "vampire"

Well, well, well.  Trust Radagast to come up with some interesting choices.  I enjoyed speed-dating them all, but in the end I gave the rose to "vampire."

When I was growing up, one of the local TV stations--I think it may have been Channel 5--had a program on Friday nights called Nightmare Theater, which showed many b-horror movies featuring large lizards terrorizing Japanese people.  It was an elementary school rite of passage to watch Nightmare Theater.  Watching Nightmare Theater meant you were a)  old enough to stay up past the 10:00 news and b) brave enough to watch large lizards terrorizing Japanese people.  In other words, you weren't a baby any more.

I think I may have been 8 or 9 when I decided to stop being a baby.  So I stayed up late one Friday night and watched my very first Nightmare Theater with my dad who apparently decided to stop being a baby, too.  The film was called "House of Dracula," which not only involved vampires but also Wolfman and a hunchback, too.  Good times!

Anyway, it scared me.  TO DEATH.  It scared me right back into a being a baby.  At least where vampires are concerned.  So it has been with a great deal of bewilderment that I have watched vampires turn into this century's Romantic Icons, causing the ladies to get all swooney.  I don't get it.

I think vampires (badda badda boom) suck.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


I was actually excited when I saw the noun "aardvark"!  Thanks for that, Jeanna, I said in my head.  Because you know what?  Recently I took my granddaughter (aka "the Bean") to Hogle Zoo where a docent was holding a baby aardvark for all the little kids to touch.  So all the little kids were touching it and the baby aardvark gave them coy looks through her impossibly long eyelashes.  Like, she could have been a Kardashian with those eyelashes, only much, much more likable.

Did you hear that, Kardashians?  A baby aardvark is way more likable than you guys are!   And also, her eyelashes weren't fake.  So tinkerty tonk (as Bertie Wooster is fond of saying) and I mean it to sting.

Anyway, the Bean loved the aardvark, and I was very glad I was allowed to touch it myself, because seriously.  It's not every day you go around touching aardvarks with your granddaughter.  So yes.  I was excited to write about this topic.

And then I remembered.  It wasn't a baby aardvark at Hogle Zoo that day.

It was an armadillo.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Leek (or if I prefer, "leak")

First, let me invite you to free-write along with me.  That could be fun, right?

Okay.  Leek.  I prefer leek.  Whenever I think of leeks, I think of green onions on steroids.  Green onions that blood-dope.  Green onions that would be in the Onion Hall of Fame but then kicked out of the Onion Hall of Fame once word got out that leeks got became champions of the Vegetable Kingdom--all big and beefy and able to kick other green onions around--because they engaged in blood- doping.

So yeah.  Leeks.  The Lance Armstrongs of the Onion World.

I still love them, though.  I love them in quiches and soups, although I have to say one must be careful to really wash a leek before giving it a home in a quiche or a soup, because it seems like there's always a little garden dirt--dark and gritty-- tucked in the folds of a leek.

Anyway, my girlfriend Becky taught me how to make a good leek and potato soup.  Becky taught me a lot of things, actually.  She's the one who gave me the salsa recipe I can every fall.  I miss Becky all year round, but I think fall may be the time I miss her most because she loved the cooler weather and the colors and the comfort food that fall demands.

Comfort food like a good leek soup.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Here I go.  Please keep in mind that I am free-associating and writing for the sake of writing.  Feel free to give this project a miss this week.  BUT THANK YOU FOR YOUR NOUNS.  I love your nouns, you guys.  So much.  It's just Big Noun Love 24/7 with me right now.

So.  Tortilla.  When I hear the word tortilla I immediately think back to my family's favorite restaurant when I was growing up in Provo when Provo was still a town of genteel poverty because everyone worked either at BYU or at Geneva Steel.  Anyway.  The restaurant was El Azteca.  It was located in the upstairs of a lopsided, somewhat ramshackle structure there on 8th North, just south of the campus.  It was owned by a family from Mexico and it was decorated with enormous paintings on velvet of various spectacular and colorful scenes of Mayans?  Aztecs?  Pre-Colombians frolicking on the edges of a jungle and (if I'm remembering correctly) volcanoes?

Anyway.  The owner, who was an enormous man of impressive girth, always materialized at our table like Robin Williams' genie with (I could be making this part up) a white tea towel draped elegantly over his forearm.  He wanted to make sure we were pleased with the service and the food, and I always was.  I ordered flautas.  And they were good.  They were good flautas.  Strong flautas.  Honorable flautas.  Manly flautas that Ernest Hemingway would have respected.  Even though they were made in the mountains in Utah where we do not fight the bulls.

Okay.  I think I'm done.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A leetle project

So, I just have to say a little something about last week's WIFYR conference.  For some reason I was feeling a LOT of anxiety about the whole thing, in spite of the fact that I've done the conference many times before.  Who knows why?

BUT.  I ended up having a spectacular week.  Truly.  Such interesting, talented students.  I ended up learning--CLICHE ALERT!  BUT IT'S TRUE--more from them than they did from me.

Anyway.  One of the things I did with my class every morning was a free write.  I'd put a random noun on the board and then they held forth on paper (without coming up for air) until I told them to stop (usually 10 or 15 minutes).   So this week, I want to do the same.  A free write every morning on some random noun.  Bicycle.  Dog.  Ice cream.  Christmas.  Whatever.

So I am soliciting nouns from YOU.  Then I will use them this week to free-write for my posts.  It'll be a good writing exercise for me.  I need it.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

TRQ and the Costco

This weekend TRQ spoke these dreaded words:  "Will you go to Costco with me?"

Okay.  I am not a Costco-lover.  I don't object to Costco on any kind of philosophical grounds the way some people object to Walmart.  I just go into sensory overload the second I walk through the Costco entrance. My brain shuts down.  I get stupid.  I walk out with things I didn't mean to buy, such as a life-size stuffed moose toy that my granddaughters are afraid of.

So.  I don't go to Costco.

Except when TRQ demands it.

TRQ LOVES the Costco.  It's Grocery Store Disneyland for her.  She happily scoots her mammoth-sized cart around, sampling spinach pizza slices and Coach's Oats.  She chats up the employees.  She fingers the beach towels.  She slaps the watermelons on their plump green behinds like they're babies in the delivery room.  She is in her ever-loving element.

And all I can do is to trail around in her wake, praying for a quick and painless death.

Please.  Light candles for me.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

There will be a plan. Oh yes! A plan!

So here's this week's column.  More later, okay?  Because I have a PLAN involving you guys . . .

Thursday, June 20, 2013

WIFYR--Day Four

Agent Joan Paquette had an interesting presentation the other day wherein she discussed the importance of having a really great antagonist.  An antagonist can do so much work for your story--drive the action, create conflict, engage our emotions.

I realized I never think in terms of creating antagonists.  But now I'm going to give it a try.  I'm going to stop viewing myself as a kindly creator and think of myself (according to Joan's advice) as my fictional universe's evil overlord.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013


So today I did a little breakout presentation entitled, "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going."

I know!  Awesome football cliche!

Anyway, I gave a few suggestions (among other things) for handling discouragement/rejection.  Here's the Cliff Notes of what I said.  Thanks to my writer friends for helping me generate this list.

1.  Throw yourself a pity party.  For 24 hours.  Then get over it and get back to work.

2.  Remind yourself that you chose to do this.  No one put a gun to your head and forced you to become a writer.  Tell yourself you can quit anytime.  Oddly, telling yourself that you can quit whenever you want to often has the effect of re-energizing you.

3.  Put your disappointment into some larger context.  Look at your life as whole and remember that there are good things there--things that are working independently of your writing life.

4.  Have a designated cheerleader.  Find someone who loves your work unreservedly and go to them for a pep talk now and then.

5.  Remind yourself that plenty of great books have been rejected.  Also think of the books you love, then take a look at reader reviews on the Great Satan, aka "Amazon."  There are plenty of one-star reviews for even the best of books.

6.  Take a moment to look back on the positive responses your work has received in the past.

7.  Remind yourself that you CAN do this.

8.  As soon as something comes back to you, send it out again.  And again.

Lemonade stands

This morning on the Radio from Hell show, Gina Barberi noted that there are 100 lemonade stands in her neighborhood at any given time.  And tonight when I pulled up in front of our house, I noticed my neighbor boy had a lemonade stand there on the front lawn, and so I did say unto myself, "Yes.  Gina Barberi is right."

Only when I got closer, I noticed it wasn't a lemonade stand.  It was a duct tape stand.  He had rolls of different colored duct tape out of which he could make wallets and hair bows.  So I ordered two hair bows and this is what he did for me.  The cost?  A buck for each one.

And now I am the proud owner of the coolest hair accessories in America.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

WIFYR--Day Two

Here's something that impresses me--published authors who are still humble enough to sign up for classes and workshops.  Not as teachers.  As students.  In the past writers like Anne Bowen and Becky Hall have participated in the conference as students, and I am blown away by their teachability.  Amazing.

And there are published writers attending as students this year, too.  When asked why he was there, one of these writers responded, "I want to learn how to write a book somebody other than depressed Mormon liberals will read."

I love this answer.  So!  Much!

Rock on, Author.  Rock on.

Monday, June 17, 2013

WIFYR Wisdom--Day One

The lovely and serene Martine Leavitt said something that really struck me.  She said that books come and go, but mentoring others leaves a lasting legacy.  And she should know.  A number of Martine's students have gone on to write books of their own, including Matthew Kirby whose book Icefall I recently recommended here.

It provided me with a new way at looking at teaching--a perspective that I needed.

Thank you, Martine!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tonight at the taco cart

We celebrated Father's Day last night because everybody had other places to be today.  So for dinner Ken Cannon and I went to a taco cart on State Street.  This, may I add, is the upside of being empty-nesters.

Anyway, I noticed Ken was looking at a group of kids with a tiny smile on his face.  "They're pretty cute, aren't they," he observed.

And they were.  That's true.  But what I loved is that he noticed.  Ken was the youngest child in his family, and he frankly didn't have a lot of experience with kids when we married, nor did he find them particularly interesting.  So I think it was a huge surprise to him that he had so many of his own.  There was a learning curve to be sure.  But he stepped up to the plate (always happy to use a baseball metaphor when speaking of my husband) and took care of his own.  I can't tell you how much I respect that.

And now all these years later, he's happy to let other people's kids knock his socks off, too.

Happy Father's Day, Ken.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Father's Day

So here's a column for Father's Day.

In some ways I'm hesitant to write about my dad publicly--although I do it here on my blog which (curiously and oddly and strangely) feels more private to me.  It's like I'm among friends here.  I guess I don't want to write about him sometimes because it'll look like I'm going all name-droppy.  And I'm also aware that I was (and still am) fortunate to have a good relationship with a father when other much more deserving souls experience real heartache on that front.

Still.  It seems appropriate to say thanks out loud now and then.

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there.

Friday, June 14, 2013

When a TV show gets cancelled

I started watching Vegas in the fall, partly because I like that bald gangster guy and partly because I have happy memories of staying at the old Stardust hotel in the 60s with our parents, who were particularly fond of a show called Hallelujah Hollywood!  I remember my dad saying, "Okay, fine.  The girls aren't wearing tops.  But it's still tasteful."

Anyway.  It was one of the shows (Vegas, not Hallelujah Hollywood) that was pretty good in some ways (cool dresses!  cool little gangster hats and skinny ties!) and that could have been a lot better in other ways.  Dennis Quaid, for example, was a problem--always glowering.  But it was the same kind of glower all the time, like he'd had a huge hit of Glower Botox.  Also, they kept changing the night it aired (a sure sign that a show's in trouble, right?) and after awhile I lost interest and stopped watching.  Just like the rest of America, apparently.

Still.  This morning when I was out dead-heading my roses (yup!  me going all gangster on my flowers!) I started wondering what would happen to all those characters.  Especially the bald one.  And it makes me kind of sad that I'll never know.

See what deep thoughts I have first thing in the morning?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Revisiting a few good novels

In preparation for next week's WIFYR conference, I've been revisiting a couple of novels I plan to discuss in class--Carol Williams' THE CHOSEN ONE and Matt Kirby's ICEFALL. I recommend both without reservation. I'm particularly taken with Matt's book right now. I think it's just so very good on so many levels. I like the story and the characters, yes. But what impresses me most is Matt's prose. It's gorgeous. And yet it doesn't draw undue attention to itself. That is a much harder thing to pull off than one might suspect. And now. Switching gears. I just want to say something. Something I have said here before, which is this: thank you, Blog Readers, for your comments and your visits. I do not take you for granted. Or granite. Which is what we used to say in Utah County before we got all sophisticated.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Danger, danger, danger, Will Robinson!

This morning while we were out walking, we saw an old Wonder Horse on someone's front lawn. So we talked about the Wonder Horses of Our Youth and how much we loved them even though it's like they were designed to maim young children on purpose. You know. With the springs. And the height from the ground. And also the bounciness which could pitch vigorous riders straight into the family room wall. FLY ME TO THE MOON, BABY! Now, of course, safety is a huge issue, which is good. OBV. But sometimes I think we're like that robot on LOST IN SPACE that went around flapping its robot arms and crying, "Danger! Danger! Danger!" Sometimes I think the message we give is WHATEVER YOU DO, KIDS, DON'T MOVE! BECAUSE LIFE WILL KILL YOU! Anyway. I might write a column about this. Can you think of other toys from the 50's and 60's that were good at maiming children?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

End days

Ken Cannon and I used to be avid movie-goers.  I mean we saw everything.  It was just movies, movies, movies with us all the time.  And then.  Kids.  Lots of them.  So we kinda stopped going and then we kinda stopped caring and then I developed (apparently) Adult Onset ADHD, which makes it painful for me to sit still for more than 10 minutes at a stretch, which is why I can do ballgames (you can keep leaping to your feet and also buy hot dogs) but not movies.


We've been determined to re-connect with le cinema, don't you know, which is why Ken Cannon and I went out on a date (as we do at least once a month) with our neighbor Rick last night to see the new Star Trek movie.  Which I liked, actually, although it should have been a good twenty minutes shorter.  Apparently books are not the only things I think need rigorous editing these days.

But oy!  The trailers!  SO MANY OF THEM!  AND SO LOUD!  And also are any major motion picture studios making films about anything besides super heroes and the apocalypse now?  About half way through, Rick whispered in my ear, "Do you think there are any actual human beings in these movies?"

And I think the answer is "no."  Because the special effects department has eaten them all.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday prompt!

Again, a prompt from The Pocket Muse . . . 

"Finish the following sentence in the voice of someone ten years older or ten years younger than you:  The only thing I ever wanted was __________________."

This bit of information may or may not figure into your story.  But at least you'll know your character better.  And that's the key to creating someone a reader can care about.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Solstice Writing Retreat

 Just a reminder . . . I'm teaching at this workshop in July.  I'd love to see you there!

Wherein I finish a book and offer opinions on the book and also on editors

I finished that book I mentioned earlier in the week--A Discovery of Witches.  I was pretty much into it at first and then . . . I wasn't.  I'm not sure exactly why.  Maybe in the end I really, really don't understand all this eroticism surrounding vampires.  I can just never quite get the image of Bela Lugosi in Plan Nine from Outer Space out of my head.  And wow.  Cold skin?  No thank you.

So there's that.

The other thing is this.  The book was long--like maybe 600-700 pages.  And yet after the first 100 pages or so--which did a good job of setting up an interesting story--nothing much happened.  It's like the characters were going to yoga classes (literally--the characters actually were going to yoga classes in England), waiting for something bad to happen.

Okay. This is not a general dis of editors.  PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT I'M SINCERE WHEN I SAY THAT, EDITORS OF AMERICA, BECAUSE I STILL WANT YOU TO BUY MY BOOKS.  But sometimes I wonder what's happening in the world of editing these days.  I often read books that make me shake my head and go, "What this book really needed was a good editor."  As in an editor who can help an author focus and tighten a story.  I'm not saying there's not a place for looooooong books.  But I am saying there are too many of them these days.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

And speaking of opinions . . .

Okay, I love living in Salt Lake.  I particularly love living in downtown Salt Lake.  It's a good place for me and mine.


I will say this.  One of the things that gets tiresome about living here is the polarization thing between Mormons and non-Mormons.  It's such a waste of time.  And, actually, my experience is that most Mormons and non-Mormons get along just fine on a personal level.

Where you do see the stupidness arise, however, is online--particularly in the paper's comments section.    Apparently ANY topic can be turned into an opportunity to have a pissing match.  Even a topic like--oh, I don't know--hamburgers.

I've been having fun reading the comments about places to buy hamburgers in our fair state.  But I had no idea that Hires is for Mormons only.  Did you know?

I didn't either.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Appreciating the thing you have right now

I know.  With a headline like that you'd think I was writing sermonettes for the Tabernacle Choir again, which (btw) I did for a number of years.

But that's not the point.

The point is this:  sometimes we realize just how special a situation is while we're still in the moment.  Most of the time this kind of realization comes after things have changed, so when you have those flashes of insight, you cherish them.  Like, I remember back in the day when Stockton and Malone were tearing it up for the Jazz, I did think unto myself, "We lucked out with these guys.  We'll never see anything like this again."  And I was right.

I had one of those moments today.  I was at a TKE staff meeting, and as I looked around I thought about how incredibly lucky I am to know this particular group of people right here, right now.  So glad Betsy Burton made an impromptu job offer to me nearly 25 years ago.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Burgers! Burgers! Burgers!

Well look at this!  The column is already online and the people have opinions!

I loved doing this one, actually.  I hope to try more than a few of these this summer.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hepatitis A

Dear People who have Recently Come Down with Hepatitis A because you Bought Frozen Berries from Costco,

First, let me say I feel your pain.  Literally.  Or I did when I myself had hepatitis 24 years ago this summer.  Mostly I felt it in my liver.  And also I felt tired.  As in completely dead tired.  In all my years of living, I have never ever felt that tired, and I hope never to feel that tired again.

Anyway.  I'm writing you this letter so you'll know what to expect.

1.  A call from the Health Department.  They will want to track where the disease came from and also who you may have possibly given it to.  This is where lying comes in handy.  Under no circumstances should you tell them you spent the last week chopping vegetables for a ward dinner.  Also, expect the Health Department people to strap bells around your neck and instruct you to shout UNCLEAN every time others approach you.  (I know.  I've made this joke before.  But I think it's a good one.)

2.  Visitors who confess they once had the Hepatitis, too.  You'll be surprised by how many people you know who've had the virus, too.  It's like you enter this super secret shameful subculture of people who apparently don't wash their hands.  WHICH ISN'T ALWAYS HOW YOU GET IT, JUST SO YOU KNOW, BECAUSE I AM NOT UNCLEAN.  Sorry for the outburst.  But people do start to look at you a little differently.  Unless they've had it themselves.  Anyway, you do appreciate the support.  You just wish these people didn't visit you in the middle of the night when they know none of the neighbors is looking.

3.  Unremitting nausea.  Remember how you used to like food?  You won't anymore.  About the only thing you can eat are popsicles and watermelon.  Which you better pray someone will bring you, because trust me.  You will be too tired to get them for yourselves.

4.  Yellow eyeballs.  Yup.  Your eyeballs turn yellow.  Like mustard.  SO CUTE!

5.  A lot of time off work.  Here's the deal.  Kids roll through the Hepatitis pretty easily.  It's just like a bad flu bug that lasts a few days and then they're over it.  You, meanwhile, will pray nightly for death for the next six weeks or so.

I know.  It's nasty stuff, and you have my deepest sympathy.  But there is an upside.  From here on out you can say NO to blood drives at school, at church, at work.  Because once people find out you've had the Hepatitis, no one--and I do mean ABSOLUTELY NO ONE--wants your blood.  Which is awesome!

Good luck.

Ann Cannon

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My favorite suggestion so far

In last Saturday's column, I asked readers to send in suggestions for great places to buy burgers this summer.  This is my favorite response:

Hi Ann

So, rather than harming yourself by eating animals and encouraging your readers to eat unhealthy by doing the same, why not help spread the message that heart disease and cancer are totally preventable with diet.  Use the power of your column to promote good health!

At first I thought my vegetarian missionary son (who's currently eating meat for the Lord in Chile) had  written this and sent it to me.  But no.  It came from a concerned reader.  Who's probably right, actually.

Still.  I ain't givin' up my burgers.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Just finished

 . . . a draft of a novel.  The first half is okay.  The second half is super rough.  But still!  This calls for a celebration, right?

I think a coconut cupcake from Mini's should be involved.

Monday writing prompt

So if you're working on a short story or a novel, take another character (preferably the antagonist) (you know--the one who likes to ANTAGONIZE) and narrate a scene you've already done from this new person's POV.

See what you come up with!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What I read this week

Lots of kids' books for one thing.  I was particularly interested in Ivy Takes Care, a young middle-grade novel by Rosemary Wells, mostly because it felt really old-fashioned.  It's a book I would have loved when I was eight or nine.  It will be interesting to see how kids like it, but it was heartening to see a novel like this published--realistic historical fiction about a girl who loves animals.  It probably helps that it was written by Rosemary Wells, but whatever.

The other book I've been reading is A Gathering of Witches by Deborah Harkness, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit even though it violates a bunch of my personal rules such as avoiding
books wherein a vampire is the love interest.  Vampires.  Ugh.   But . . . it creates a world I feel like visiting right now, and who can resist that?

Oh.  And I also read The Star.  Because it's important to know why Hollywood has turned against Gwynneth Paltrow.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Outsized summer plans

Yup.  This is about all Ima gonna do this summer.  What about you?