Monday, December 26, 2011

Holiday Hop Winner picked the winner for the Holiday Hop giveaway, and it's time to announce who that is.

As a reminder, the prize is all three of my e-novels:

PLUS (assuming the winner has a device that supports a .mobi file) an e-copy of my grammar guide, There, Their, They're: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd. The e-version is more comprehensive and up-to-date than the print version, so booyah.

The winner is Ruth!

Congratulations to Ruth, and thanks to everyone who entered!

I'll be back to regular posting after the new year. Now, off for more pie . . .

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Blog Hop Giveaway

Yippee for book giveaways, and an extra hooray for ones that coincide with Christmas!

I'm part of the Holiday Blog Hop, which runs from December 15 - December 25. Visit The Holiday Blog Hop to find the rest of the participating blogs (and so you can win more ebooks!).

Extra bonus: The winners from each participating blog will be put together, and one of them will be randomly chosen to win a Kindle Fire. (I recently got to see the Kindle my mother-in-law owns. Didn't get to use it, as my kids were all over it. It's very cool.)

SO: Enter any of the giveaways participating, including mine, and if you win, you'll have an extra shot at the grand prize.

Due to personal writing and editing deadlines (and thing like, oh, family and Christmas), this will be my last post until after the hop is over and I announce the winner.

My giveaway will be very simple:
The winner will receive a copy of all three of my e-novels:

PLUS an e-copy of my grammar guide, There, Their, They're: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar from the Word Nerd. (The e-version is more comprehensive and up-to-date than the print version, so booyah.)

Note: The 3 novels are available in formats other than .mobi (Kindle), but to date, the grammar book is only in .mobi. Apologies if the winner doesn't use Kindle; they'll miss out on that book.

As I did during my last giveaway, I'm not going to make people jump through lots of hoops. I like doing giveaways to thank my followers.

So that's all you need to do:
1) Be a follower (either on my blog through Google Friend Connect) or on Twitter.
2) Leave a comment on this post telling me that you're a follower (and which way).

That's it!

The fine print:
Entrants must be 18 years old, and I must be able to contact the winner, either via an email address left in a comment, or via a Blogger profile link. If the winner does not contact me to claim their prize within 48 hours, it's forfeit.

Merry Christmas, and happy reading!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Media and Young Women

Writer and bloggy friend Melanie Jacobson (hey, I spelled her name right!) recently linked to a page relating to a study at Dartmouth that I found both fascinating and disturbing.

The page had rows of photographs that had been touched up digitally. Above each row is a toggle button allowing the viewer to click between the original photo and the after, touched-up version.

I had several reactions. First, it's amazing what technology can do today.

Second, even though I already knew that photos we see of celebrities are enhanced, this was the first time I saw to what extent that's true. And, um, turns out that the stars don't look like themselves.

Third, the longer I clicked back and forth, the more uneasy I became. This is largely thanks to the fact that I have three daughters, and two of them are out of grade school and quickly turning into young women. The images of beauty and body images they see around them every day, everywhere, must have an impact on them.

The potential effects are frightening. Even if they don't end up with something as serious as anorexia or bulimia, it's hard to escape the pressure to meet society's vision of beauty: the hair, the makeup, the clothes, the body.

Recently our stake held a standards night where a BYU professor (apologies for not remembering her name; she was amazing) spoke about this very thing. She started out showing pictures of what's considered beautiful in other countries: neck stretching with rings, the old practice of foot binding in China, and so on.

Then she showed so-called "beautiful" women today, and charts showing that beauty pageant winners, over time, have ended up with lower and lower BMIs, to the point that they're now in the very unhealthy, almost starvation-level ranges.

Her point, which she made so well: Is our vision of beauty any less unhealthy than neck-stretching rings or foot binding? No. We see models with their collar bones sticking out, their ribs showing, so thin they're unhealthy. And our girls feel pressure to emulate that image.

While looking at the pictures at the link Melanie gave me, one thing made me particularly sad: several pictures were beautiful just the way they were. I'm not talking about getting rid of George Clooney's gray hair. Or giving a man teeth. I'm talking about "fixing" a sweet little boy's face so his skin had a perfectly even tone and no shine. Of "fixing" a male model who would probably make teen girls swoon . . . but whose mouth was slightly crooked, so he wasn't "perfect." Or of (seriously!) raising Angelina Jolie's left eye.

I quickly called my daughters in to look at the photos, hoping that they'd realize just how unreal they are. That they'd know how, when they see their favorite singers or actors in a photo, it's all pretend. No one really looks like that. And that's okay.

We also looked at the famous Dove commercial that shows digital retouching in action. I hope the message sank in.

The whole thing reminded me of the trip my husband and I took to Finland a few years back. The magazines at grocery store checkout lines looked different than what I was used to.

My initial reaction was that, man, those are really unprofessional photographs. But on second look, it dawned on me that no, the photos were professional.

They just weren't touched up.

One woman didn't have porcelain-smooth skin. Maybe a man had a shiny spot on his forehead. Or another model had crow's feet. They were real.

Every time I entered a grocery store after that, I eagerly looked at the photos and found them refreshing. Yes, the images were probably somewhat out there: makeup artists, fashion designers, lighting, and probably even blowing fans were still part of the photo shoots. But the people in the pictures were allowed to look like real human beings, blemishes and all.

I have a theory, although I have nothing to back it up: I wonder if the young women (or all women, for that matter) in Finland have slightly better self-images than those in the States. (That is, unless they're bombarded by US images, which is likely.)

If you're interested in looking at the pictures, here's where you can toggle between the before and after pictures on the Dartmouth site. As I said, it's fascinating and disturbing all at once. And if you're a parent, it's a great conversation starter.

Edited to add: Thanks to the comment from An Ordinary Mom, here's another video about this topic that's well worth your time to watch.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Music for Christmas

The other day, a dear friend of mine, Michelle, who is one of the powerhouses behind Mormon Woman, pointed me toward a beautiful song for Christmas.

It's called "Do You Have Room," by Shawna Edwards. As soon as I listened to it, I wanted my son to play it at church, accompanying someone singing it who sings far better than I do. (Twenty years ago, I had a voice. We'll not discuss my current vocal abilities.)

Watch the video for it below, and if you enjoy it, here's the great news: You can get a free MP3 of the song or the sheet music! Doing so is way easy:

Go to the composer's website and share a special Christmas memory or tell how you will make room for Christ in your life this Christmas. Easy peasy. (Link below.)

Here's the song:

For more information, visit (and LIKE!) the Shawna Edwards Facebook page.

To leave your Christmas memory or tell how you'll be Christ into Christmas, here's the Shawna Edwards website.

It's beautiful. I think I'll go play it again.


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