Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WNW: Top Words for HS Grads, #11-20

Back in June I posted the first 10 of 100 words that Houghton Mifflin says every high school graduate should know. I still find many of them odd choices.

Today we're looking at the second set, numbers 11-20.

How many do you know well enough to use in a sentence? Use in a blog post this week? In a comment? How many do you think are bizarre to be listed on the top 100?


chromosome
Now that the human genome has been mapped and everything from the new Spider-Man series of movies to sci-fi novels talk about DNA, this one makes some sense. I suppose most grads would know this one simply because of the culture we live in or at least have some concept that it deals with genetics.

churlish
Hmm. Why would modern high-school grads need to know this one? It's not like they're going to be visiting Pemberley any time soon.

circumlocution
I'm most familiar with the second definition: avoiding a topic, evading it through speech. The other definition: essentially using a bunch of words when just a few will do. I think I learned this one as a high-school junior in my honors English class, along with its friend, meander. Not sure how many grads who aren't word nerds would know it or care that they don't.

circumnavigate
Yeah. This one is critical for grads to know, being as we're still looking for explorers to prove that the world isn't flat and all . . .

deciduous
Assuming they passed basic biology, most grads would know this one, I guess. But really? Why does a type of tree rank in the top 100 of important words to know? It's not something used in typical conversations by literate people around the water cooler. It doesn't show up in the news and hardly ever in literature. Another head scratcher.

diffident
"Lacking in self-confidence or self-trust, hesitant in acting or speaking." Frankly, I think this one's a bit flowery of a word for an 18-year-old to be using. I'm trying to picture my recently graduated nephew using it. Mmm, not working. (Then again, he was on the state championship football team. He wouldn't be diffident, let alone use the word. By the way, he just got his mission call. Yay, Scott!)

enervate
"To weaken or impair the strength of." That's assuming they mean the verb form, not the adjective. (Also, assuming they don't mean the definition hailing from 1638, something a bit more gruesome: "to cut the tendons of." Ick.) I'm betting a good number of college grads don't know this one.

enfranchise
This one's practically Dilbert-ese because it's used so much in corporate settings. Often the negative is used: disenfranchise. But I'm still guessing that most grads don't really know that it can refer to gaining freedoms or advantages as a human being even from slavery.

epiphany
I love this word. I hope most grads know this one. It's not only pretty as a word (yes, yes, I know I'm a nerd), but the concept is awesome, especially for writers.

We live for epiphanies.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chocolate Recipes & More


I got my author copies of Chocolate Never Faileth yesterday!!!

My children literally danced around the house, sang, and then personalized their copies with Sharpies.

(My son asked if they seriously all got copies, and I had to respond with, "Um, yeah. Actually, I've put aside copies of ALL my books for each of you kids." Apparently chocolate is the first one he particularly cared about.)

(Not that I blame him.)

Within minutes, my youngest begged to make something out of the book. Her first request (Easy Chocolate Pudding, page 87) was met with, "Sorry, we don't have whipping cream." She would not be deterred. She had to make something from the book. Right. Now.

So I helped her make my Sinful Chocolate Cupcakes (page 21) and Classic Chocolate Buttercream Icing (page 170) to go on them.

We used her copy of the book, so it's been officially "christened" in the kitchen, complete with a dusting of flour and a splatter of milk.

The kids enjoyed reading the anecdotes and quotes, looking at the pictures and recipes and remembering how we tested this one and how we came up with that one. My daughters were so tickled with their copies that they shoved the books into their backpacks to show off at school.

It was a fun trip down memory lane . . . especially when I thought about how it's been just under a year since I turned in the manuscript on October 6, 2009.

In honor of the release and my children's enthusiasm, below are the recipes for the cupcakes and the icing. (You'll have more icing than you need for a dozen cupcakes. Like that's a problem, right?)

I'm getting word of a bunch of fun promotional things coming down the pike (one of which I'll let you know about just as soon as it's official!). For starters, watch for TV ads on KSL 5 this weekend between general conference sessions. (I KNOW!!! How cool is THAT?!!!)

This week's book signings:

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 1, 5-8 pm, BYU Bookstore
Signing books and giving away samples.

And the next day:

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2, flagship Deseret Book store in Salt Lake
Also giving out samples and signing books. BUT THE TIME HAS CHANGED. I'll be there immediately following the afternoon session of general conference: 4:00 - 5:30. (So NOT during Ladies Night. BEFORE it.)

With housekeeping business out of the way, it's recipe time!


Sinful Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa

Preheat the oven to 400. Put paper baking cups into a cupcake pan. Melt the butter; cool in the freezer for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the soda and sour cream. Stir well and set aside. The mixture will puff up as it sits. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla. Add the cooled butter and puffed-up sour cream mixture. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the baking powder, flour, and cocoa; beat for a minute or two until the batter is fully mixed. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners and bake for about 18 minutes. Cool and ice with your favorite icing. Makes 1 dozen.


Classic Chocolate Buttercream Icing
Ingredients:
1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash of salt (about 1/8 tsp)
half of a 32-oz bag of powdered sugar (about 4 1/4 cups)
2/3 cup cocoa
5-8 TB milk, as needed

Beat together butter and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together powdered sugar, cocoa, and salt. Add a generous 1/2 cup to 1 cup of the powdered sugar mixture to the butter mixture, followed by 1 TB milk. Continue alternating between the two until you reach the desired consistency.




Friday, September 24, 2010

Compelling Characters: The Great Blogging Experiment

Today is The Great Blogging Experiment, hosted by Elana Johnson, Jen, and Alex. Visit the links to find all of the gajillion bloggers talking about this topic today. Should be fascinating to see how so many writers view characterization differently.

This is a huge topic, so I'm going to boil it down to what I feel are the basics that make up compelling characters.

I think the most compelling characters are the ones who are the most developed, the "roundest," as they often say. But those terms don't really do the concept justice.

Compelling Characters

They are not easily figured out by what they look like on the outside. They think, feel, and have depth, layers. (Like those from The Help.)

What others think of them isn't necessarily the entire truth. (How about that Mr. Darcy?)

Their background and past experiences have shaped and defined them, and those things impact the current story and how they behave in it. (Easy example: Harry Potter.)

A compelling character isn't perfect, but is doing their best, even if that means standing facing danger, public ridicule, or something else. (Montag sure has a fight.)

It's someone I can relate to, even in a small way, and even if they're in a bizarre situation I'll never be in. (Katniss, anyone?)

A compelling character needs weaknesses and flaws, but ones that aren't so huge I dislike the person. To balance the flaws, they need a redeeming quality. (We'd hate John Cleaver without his redeeming quality. With it, he intrigues us.)

I like seeing characters who have weaknesses that can be turned on their heads to become strengths in the final, crucial moments of the story. (Stealing from myself here: this one is very Tabitha.)

Most of all, a compelling character is someone who has become so real to me that even after I read the last page and close the covers of the book (or turn off the Kindle, as the case may be), I keep thinking about them for a long, long time.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WNW: Most Common Misspelled Words

First, a housekeeping item: The redundancy contest winner!

Random.org picked Dan's last entry: sheer mesh.

(Dan, please leave me your contact info so I can get you your prize!)

And now for some Word Nerd Wednesday fun:

YourDictionary.com put together a list of the 100 most misspelled words. (Check it: MISSPELLED is one of them. hah!) They even have explanations to help you remember the correct spellings.

Find the full list HERE.

A few of my favorites:

acceptable
For some reason, I tend to spell the ending with the other, similar-sounding suffix: ible. Since it made the list, I must not be alone.

a lot
Okay, technically not A word. It's two words. But therein lies the problem: people commonly spell it as alot. There is no such word. Unless you mean allot, "to assign as a share or portion" (see Merriam-Webster).

calendar
I know it doesn't sound like it, but this word ends in AR, not ER. A, people. A.

conscience/conscious
A commonly confused word pair in addition to both words being commonly misspelled. Conscience is that cricket on your shoulder telling you what is right and wrong. Conscious means you're awake or aware of something.

definitely
Major peeve of mine when the I in this word is replaced with an A. I don't know why it's so common--it's not like we pronounce it with an A sound, even: defin-AT-ely? Um, no.

existence
Commonly misspelled with the middle E replaced by an A: existance. See above.

fiery
Since fire has the E at the end, it's easy to think the adjective version would too. It's easy to think wrong.

gauge
I first learned about gauges when I read a book about knitting around 11 or 12 years old. Since no one was saying the word out loud to me, I assumed it was pronounced sort of French: GAH-zh. When I realize it rhymes with cage, I felt silly. But at least it's a commonly misspelled word I have down.

it's/its
WITH an apostrophe, you're making a contraction, like don't (do not) or can't (can not). The contraction here means it is. If you're referring to possession, then you use the plain pronoun, its. Remember: you wouldn't add an apostrophe to his, right? Same word form.

jewelry
We forget that jewelry comes from the word jewel, so we have to spell that word out first before we get to the suffix.

judgment
Don't be tempted to slip in an E to complete the word judge. Same goes with acknowledgment.

kernel
I made this misspelling myself when I first got to know my favorite gourmet popcorn store, Colorado (and Utah) Kernels. Like many others do, I spelled it with an A: kernals, and they gently corrected me. I've never made the mistake since.

memento
NOT spelled with an O: momento. Nope. Think of it this way: a memento is something you remember an event by. It sparks a MEMory. MEMento.

mischievous
Sometimes I get this one right on my first try, other times, no. I used to get frustrated with it, because I kept wanting to add the extra syllable we often say the word with (mish-chee-vee-ous) even though it's really a three-syllable word (MISH-che-vuhs).

privilege
I once spent about fifteen minutes coming up with ways to spell this that the spell checker could at least identify and take a stab at. Took me forever to get it down.

pronunciation
Another case of thinking of the root word and letting that impact the spelling. We pronounce things, but we do so with without the OU sound in this word.

there/their/they're
HAD to end with this one, since it's the title of my grammar book. (Hey, it was on their list!)


Monday, September 20, 2010

Chocolate Quotes

We're less than TWO WEEKS OUT from the release!!!

Last week we celebrated the upcoming release with fun anecdotes and trivia that are in the book. Today, it's time for chocolate quotes!



But first, a housekeeping item:

I have TWO cookbook signings scheduled for next week:

FRIDAY, October 1, 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
BYU Bookstore

SATURDAY, October 2, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Ladies Night at the Salt Lake Deseret Book

Important: I will be bringing samples to both signings.

I also have another EIGHT signings scheduled at area Costcos throughout October. I'll post the schedule for those soon.



Now for a few of the fun CHOCOLATE QUOTES found in Chocolate Never Faileth:

-I have this theory that chocolate slows down the aging process. It might not be true, but why take the risk?

-Man cannot live on chocolate alone. Woman can.

-Chocolate: Here today . . . gone today.

-For my birthday and Christmas, I’ll take anything in a size chocolate.

-Readers Digest, in one of their weight-loss articles, wrote that the average craving only lasts ten minutes. I find that mine last much shorter than that. I mean, really, how long does it take to get the wrapper off an Almond Joy? (From my good friend and hugely successful YA author, Janette Rallison)


-Ugh! They insulted chocolate! (My oldest daughter at the age of 9, on seeing a Verizon commercial about their new “Chocolate” cell phone, which [the nerve!] wasn’t even brown.)

-Many young girls make their first batch of fudge around the same time they kiss their first boy. They will remember the fudge.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Top 5 Habits for Writers

(Read the past editions of my TOP 5 series HERE.)

Top 5 Habits for Writers

1. BIC.
I can't remember which writer first said it, but BIC stands for the #1 most important rule for any successful writer: BUTT IN CHAIR. If you don't do that, you'll never get anywhere. A blank screen cannot turn into a published anything. (And as an addition to this, remember what Heather said in the comments last week, if you don't SUBMIT, you'll never get published.)


2. Be curious.
My level of curiosity is rather funky compared the average person, but probably not compared to the average writer. Once it even got me the question, "Are you a nurse?" The answer: Um, no. I'm just weird and like reading about ways the body can die or get ill . . .

(I blogged about that one HERE.)

I say that if you're going to write, you need to have a bit of that child's wonder left in you, the part that goes, Why? How? Where? What if . . .

No matter the genre (serious non-fiction, personal essays, fantasy, whatever), you need to think about life in new ways. Mystery writers may listen to a news story about a crime and not just think that wow, how sad; you can see the wheels in their head turning. What was the victim thinking and doing? What the heck was going on in the perp's head and what made him snap? Did he plan the crime? How will the cops will proceed with the investigation?

Mystery writers will have curiosity about different things than fantasy writers, who will use a different lens again than a romance writer. But the idea is the same: ideas are everywhere, and we just need to pay attention.

Here's a wild idea: What if your hair color could change with your mood?

(One possible answer: check out Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker.)


3. Thicken that skin.
Easier said than done, but oh, so necessary. If I can't handle honest (useful!) criticism, such as the kind I get from my critique group, I can't progress. I can't see the holes and missteps in my work. And when I get an editorial letter or have a call with my editor . . . pull on that skin!

Bad reviews are another animal; somehow they can wriggle under the toughest skin in spite of our best efforts. I know of a few authors who refuse to read reviews, even if they know they're positive. They just can't go there, or they'll drive themselves crazy.


4. Play nice; help others.
I cannot count how many people have cheered me, supported me, pointed me in the right direction, and more. This industry is one where the idea of "pay it forward" is huge. One big reason for that is the size of the industry: it's pretty small, relatively speaking, and the Internet has shrunk it considerably as far as how connected it is.

That means playing nice in the sandbox. Help others when you can. Don't be a diva. Don't talk smack about someone who upset you. If there's an industry where karma is alive and well, giving you exactly what you already gave, it's right here.


5. Enjoy the ride.
Another one that's hard to do, YES, even after you get that contract. No matter where you are on your journey, the road will have bumps and jolts. The trick is remembering to look up at the scenery and enjoy the ride in spite of the potholes.

Sometimes, part of that is stepping back and simply having fun with words and forgetting about that deadline or the next promotional thing you're supposed to do or whether you'll sell well.

It's remembering to have fun, oh, writing. Remember that little thing? When you drafted and made up scenes and characters and dialogue? Oh, yeah.

Sometimes it's important to simply let the other stuff (queries, rejections, edits, deadlines, promotion, and oh, so much more) get in the way of that single joy that got you started in the first place and remember how great it is to CREATE.


What are some of the most important habits in your trade?


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

WNW: The Apostrophe Song!

This error drives. Me. Crazy.

I addressed the issue right before Christmas one year begging people to NOT use an apostrophe on their gift tags (such as, "to the Smith's") because that implies ownership. (To the Smith's what? Their dog?)

With gift tags and such, we're talking PLURAL situations. Plural.

(Say it with me. PLLLLUUUURRRAAAL.) Plurals take an S.

And they take NO APOSTROPHE. That's possessive (ownership).

Therefore, you're giving cookies to a group of people all called Smith. Hence, the Smiths.

And you go to the store to by a bunch of bananas, plural. So you don't use an apostrophe, because that would make a single banana own something.

So: NOT banana's (you're buying the banana's . . . peels?) but bananas.

I found yet another fun video that showcases a peeve. Enjoy!




In other news, Lisa Loo over at Is That a Garage Door on My Ceiling? has moved into her house FROM a garage (hence the title of her blog).

She totally rocks. In totally unrelated news, she put my blog button on her side bar. :-D

She has a new problem: since her blog name no longer fits, she needs a new one and is hosting a contest for it. Check out the details HERE.

Monday, September 13, 2010

In Honor of Chocolate and a Certain Cookbook


As we're only a few weeks out from the release
Chocolate Never Faileth (squeee!) I decided to give a sneak peek into part of the book.

No, not into the recipes themselves (although maybe I'll post one or two in the next couple weeks, just for kicks).

I thought that showing some of the other elements of the book, the in-between stuff, would be fun. The book has lots of trivia, facts, and anecdotes I dug up, all centered on, of course, chocolate.

Below are four of many from the book. (Remember that you can now
PRE-ORDER Chocolate Never Faileth through Deseret Book!)


True Story #1, about Lynn:
After being admitted at 18 weeks of pregnancy and spending over one hundred days in the hospital, Lynn broke the record for the longest stay at that hospital’s neonatal unit in hopes of saving the life of her unborn baby. Her daughter was finally born, nine weeks early—young but alive and with a good prognosis, weighing in at 3 lbs, 2 oz. Exhausted, Lynn returned home, craving a giant bag of peanut M&Ms. She ate the whole thing in a day . . . then picked up the empty bag and realized with a tad of horror that it had contained . . . 3 lbs, 2 oz. The exact weight of her baby.


Anecdote from Delyana:
A good piece of chocolate has about 200 calories. As I enjoy two servings per night, and a few more on weekends, I consume 3,500 calories of chocolate in a week, which equals one pound of weight per week. Therefore . . . In the last 3 ½ years, I have had a chocolate caloric intake of about 180 pounds. I weigh 165 pounds. Without chocolate, I would have wasted away to nothing about three months ago!

I owe my life to chocolate.


A Bit of Trivia:
A few years ago, Mars. Inc. stopped marketing the Mars Bar candy bar—but they didn’t stop
making it. In its place, the company now sells the exact same bar with a new name. It’s now Snickers Almond. Did you realize it’s the exact same candy bar?

But in Europe and elsewhere, the same candy bar is sold as Mars Almond.

Confused yet? Let’s make it worse.

A candy bar marketed to Europeans and others outside the U.S. as the Mars Bar is called the Milky Way here in the U.S.

Wait. What?


And finally, a gem from my dear friend Luisa:

Elga called it a dessert when she gave me the little handwritten index card [with the recipe], but I know she must have been kidding, because, um, see, Elga, it doesn't have any chocolate in it.


IMPORTANT NOTE:
I get to be part of Ladies Night at Deseret Book's flagship store in Salt Lake City on Saturday, October 2! (Woohoo!)

I'll be there signing cookbooks . . . and giving out samples. Please come!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Top 5 Pieces of Advice

Continuing my Top 5 series. (Click on the label to see the past installments.)

Top 5 Pieces of Advice I've Gotten on Writing


1) Write regularly.
As Billy Crystal said in Throw Mama from the Train (and, okay, as pretty much every writing instructor teaches), writers write. Well, duh. But it's so easy to call yourself a writer without actually sitting your behind in the chair, planting your fingers on the keyboard, and producing something. Regularly.

How you define regularly is up to you, but you if you go weeks or months without producing anything, you're not a writer. You might be a hobbyist who enjoys tinkering with words and stories, but you aren't a serious writer.


2) Read a lot.
This is right up there with #1. Stephen King in On Writing goes so far as to say he doesn't trust writers who don't read. I'm with him on that. My dear writer friend Luisa Perkins compares writing fiction to knowing a foreign language. Crafting fiction requires the writer to understand the "language" of fiction. To do be fluent in any language, you must study that language. In terms of writing, that means you must read. A lot.

I know writers who claim they don't have time. (Pshaw. One day, I'll put up tips for sneaking in reading time.)

But the worse excuse: that maybe their work will be influenced by another writer. Perish the thought! Mustn't read and be tainted.

Hah. Reading a lot (both in your genre and others) opens your creative brain. It allows you to come up with possibilities in plot, character, and even language that you wouldn't have thought up before.

And that doesn't mean copying another writer's ideas. It's unlocking the creative side of your head that can't be accessed any other way. (I've gotten ideas for stories while reading something totally unrelated. It's the process of reading that's important.) Reading also fills you up with new images, ideas, expressions.

Reading a lot is also a great way to learn how to write: Why did this scene work so well? What did the writer do here that made me so emotional? Why is was that plot twist so perfect and yet so surprising? Learn writing lessons by studying how others have done it before.

3) Learn both the craft and the business.
Do so by essentially joining the herd of writers. Go to conferences and workshops. Read books on writing. Study and comment on blogs. Follow editors and agents on Twitter.

The more you know about the craft, the better.

But. (And here's the icky part.) Writing isn't all about the words on the page. (If only!) It's a business, and if you understand some of the basic ins and outs of publishing, promotion, agents, royalties, and more, you'll have a big leg-up. Learn as much as you can.

4) Get thee to a critique group.
This is hands-down the best thing I ever did for my writing. Before joining my group (See who it now consists of on my sidebar there. I'm one fortunate gal), I had a few magazine and newspaper articles published . . . and a stack of rejections for novels.

The very first manuscript that went through the critique process from first to last page, getting feedback on plot holes, motivation issues, and highlights on plain old lame writing? That became my first published novel.

I needed outside eyes, solid feedback.

Is it a coincidence that that book was accepted out of the gate? Hardly.

5) Most people quit when it gets really dark. Those who succeed are the ones who refuse to stop.
I heard this sentiment at a workshop I attended waaaay before getting published. I knew in that instant that I'd be one of the successful ones. I looked around the room at the maybe 40 or so other attendees and thought, I can outlast all of you. I can outlast 2,000 others who start and will quit in a year or two. I'll still be standing when they've all given up.

I wonder how many others in that room are still going. (I know of one for sure, since she's part of my critique group!)

What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

WNW: Department of Redundancy Department

Sometimes when I go over a first draft, I run into hilarious problems like dangling modifiers, inconsistencies, and repetition.

One common repitition problem in first drafts is writers repeating themselves by trying too hard to abide by the adage of "show, not tell."

So they do both: they tell something, then show it. Or vice versa: show it, then recap it by telling what we just saw. I'm guilty of this myself and must weed out repetition from early drafts.

An example:

Sue cried. Plump tears fells down her cheeks as racking sobs wrenched from her throat.

Do we really need to state that Sue cried? The tears and sobs sort of make that self-explanatory, no?

You might think that's an over-the-top exaggeration, but it's surprisingly easily for redundancies like that to slip in, even when they sound obvious and funny when they're pointed out.

Hence our friend: revision!

The other day, I stumbled across a fun blog post that viewed redundancy in a way I hadn't thought of before: using adjectives and nouns together that say the same thing.

The post is by Scott over at Slice of Diction. He made a list of 30 redundant adjective-noun word pairs. Check out the post link above for the full list.

Here are a couple of my favorites he came up with, each of which make me snicker and go, "As opposed to . . .?"
  • amorous romance
  • contentious dispute
  • cryptic mystery
  • insane lunacy
  • rural countryside
  • stupid idiot
  • uniquely different
My gut reaction (after laughing) was to think of the flip side: A cool writing exercise would be to find unexpected adjectives, ones that are counter to the noun you put them next to. That could change the meaning or image in surprising and really cool ways.

(Okay, so there's also the point that a writer shouldn't over-use adjectives. Note to self: use adjectives only when needed. Make the most out of your writing toolbox.)

Using some of Scott's words, instead the obvious amorous romance, what about a tempestuous romance?

Or a brilliant idiot?

A peaceful dispute?

Commonly different?
(Reminds me of the "non-conformists" I went to high school with. They refused to conform . . . by wearing black eyeliner, black duster coats, and hair that required Aqua Net to defy gravity. They all looked the same by non-conforming?)

Story and character ideas are already popping up for me simply by thinking of new, unexpected word pairs.

Just for fun, let's have another contest!

Think of adjective-noun redundancy word pairs.

In the comments, throw out your best repetitive word pair (be sure it's adjective + noun).

Bonus entries for then changing up your redundant word pair by putting in a new adjective to make the pair counter to the original meaning. Enter as many times as you want.

The winner gets a Utah Truffles chocolate bar along with a ballpoint pen that celebrates the upcoming release of Chocolate Never Faileth, (less than a month away . . . woot!).

The pen has green polka dots and the words: Money talks, but chocolate sings.

The winning entry and runners up will be posted here for us all to admire.

Monday, September 06, 2010

List Time

Therefore, it must be a Monday. Or a holiday. Or both.

  • With my colleagues over at Precision Editing Group, I'm speaking at The League of Utah Writers Roundup. The five of us are teaching an all-day workshop on writing, plotting, and editing on Friday, September 17. The other instructors are H. B. (Heather) Moore, Josi Kilpack, Julie Wright, and Lu Ann Staheli. It's gonna be awesome.
  • I'm also teaching several classes at the Writers Conference sponsored by the American Fork Arts Council. They'll have a bookstore at the conference. Chocolate Never Faileth should be there for sale! Woot! See details and find out how to register HERE.
  • Speaking of chocolate, we're a month away from the cookbook hitting shelves!!! (Yippee!!!)
  • You can even pre-order Chocolate Never Faileth from Deseret Book now!
  • Did you hear about that chocolate cookbook that's coming out soon? :-D
  • And that a companion DVD will also be sold? On it, you can see me talking too fast and having fun with chocolate and my buddy Sarah M. Eden.
  • Recently discovered a cool new product for people in LDS leadership positions: planners specifically targeted to help presidency members keep things organized and running smoothly. (Cool idea, no?) Right now, the company is giving away the Primary planner for FREE to anyone willing to try it out and give feedback before they launch their 2011 line. To get yours, check out LDS Planners by ID Clare.
  • #2 finished Mockingjay last night. I'm having fun discussing it with her ("Did you guess who Katniss would end up with? What did you think about X? Did you like the end?" As much as I hate my kids growing up, days like this are real perks: I love discussing ideas and books and all kinds of things with them. (It's like they're becoming real people or something . . .)
  • I recently booked #4's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's. She keeps hugging me in thanks, saying, "It's going to be perfect!" Her effusive gratitude may be the only thing keeping me from retching at the idea of entering that place again.
  • Happy Labor Day!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Top 5 Writers I Admire & Why

Continuing my Top 5 series I started HERE (based loosely on WD's Top 10 in the current issue):

Top 5 Writers I Admire, and Why

1) Barbara Kingsolver
She is a true word smith, an artist. Her characters are deep and layered. Her plots are complex. And her language . . . dang, there are times reading The Poisonwood Bible where I reread paragraphs just to experience the beauty again, to roll the words around in my head. After finishing it, I put the book down half elated, half depressed because it was so good . . . and I'd never be that good.

But she's given me a level to shoot for. Even if I never make it, at least I'm shooting high and will get higher than I would have otherwise.

I admire writers who care about the craft and not just about getting published. Bestsellers sometimes sit on their laurels and let the craft slide a bit, knowing that their name will sell copies no matter what's inside the covers. Writers like Kingsolver don't do that.

2) Jodi Piccoult
I haven't read all her books, but every one I have read has done two things: 1) moved me and 2) made me think. Neither is easy to accomplish, but she excels at both. Like Kingsolver, but in a different way, her voice and words are beautiful.

I also love how she finds seemingly random topics to write about and researches them. It's the epitome of writer curiosity (and justifies my fascination with weird research topics).

3) Charles Dickens
My senior course as an English major was on him, so I spent an entire semester digging into his works, including some of his lesser-known ones (like Dombey and Son and Our Mutual Friend). I love watching how he changed as a writer over the course of his career. I love his vivid characters. How he manages to make big social and moral statements without preaching. Instead, he makes the reader feel in the injustice or the hate.

4) Jane Austen
Brilliant humorist who could poke fun at the specific period of and society she lived in while creating timeless characters and stories. The nerdy English major in me also loves how she deliberately poked fun at the two literary periods she straddled. (One of these days I'll blog about that. And some future day, I will visit her home and see her writing desk!)

5) L. M. Montgomery
Obviously. My love of her work began at the age of thirteen. My interest in her as a person grew as her journals were compiled, annotated, and published over the course of many years. My admiration, compassion, and, yes, even pity, for her developed as I read them. She was very flawed, very human. But she was also exceedingly talented and faced big challenges. Arguably, she's had the greatest influence on me as a writer than anyone else.

Who are some of the writers you admire most? Why?