Thursday, January 31, 2019

How my Communication degree helps me with my writing.

I remember nearing the end of my mission in Europe and I was trying to decide what to study when I got home. I decided to go to the University of Arizona because they had a creative writing degree, but I wasn't sure I wanted to major in creative writing. I was single, no marriage prospects, and I worried I might have to support myself with my degree.

Creative writing wouldn't get me very far and it was a limited scope of study. Both of my mission presidents worked in communication. So I thought, okay, that sounds interesting. I like people. I like to talk. Let's do it.

I walked into my Comm 300 class and the professor said, "This is a class where we talk about relationships, how and why people get in them and how and why people stay. If that doesn't interest you, you'd better join another class." I couldn't tell you how much his words thrilled me! (Yes, I still have my text book from that class and many other classes.)

Fiction is all about relationships. It could be the relationship between two people, between a person and God, between a dog and a master, between husband and wife, between siblings, parent and child, friends etc. etc. It all fascinates me. I loved my classes on persuasion, conflict resolution, and argumentation (some of the comm kids went to law school).

All of my studies provided rich fodder for writing. One of my favorite classes was Fiction as Communication. Not only did I get to read the The Princess Bride by William Goldman but I also walked away with a valuable truth: everything is story.

Our lives are full of story. We live in story. But the difference between fiction and real life is that story in fiction has to make sense. Often in life random things happen. It has no meaning. In fiction, however, everything has meaning or else it's weird.

We are all the heroes of our own story. We see things from our filters, our own unique view point. What fiction helps us do is to see the world from a different view point, to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes," to gain a new perspective, to understand why. Fiction is a gift to understand our fellow humans and what it means to be human, to laugh, cry, to have pain, to suffer. We gain empathy, compassion and insight into human nature. This is why I write. This is why I read.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Okonomiyaki: Hiroshima-American style

 When my husband served a mission in Hiroshima Japan Mission, he went to a place where they served this delicious food. We noticed when we went to Japanese festivals that they served it but differently. All the ingredients were mixed into the batter and then cooked, Osaka style, instead of the layered version he learned in the south. He wanted to recreate the southern version with it's layers at home. So this is our version of Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki.

What you need:

Okonomiyaki flour (I found some at a Japanese import store or you can buy some here on Amazon)
Pork belly, thin sliced (But we used bacon, you can use thick cut, just don't use maple flavored, it's kind of weird.)
Shredded cabbage (I ran a few wedges through the food processor)
Yakisoba noodles (Also found at Japanese import store)
For condiments: Okonomiyaki sauce, and Kewpie mayonnaise also found at import store.

Then mix the flour with water until until the consistency of pancake batter.

 Shred cabbage
Soak noddles until softened.

Cut bacon or pork belly in half.

I also uploaded five Youtube videos to show construction:
step 2
step 3
step 4
step 5

Drizzle with Kewpie and okonomiyaki sauce. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Starting out

A few people have asked me about my writing journey, what it was like starting out as a writer and what did I do to start, well, I thought I should write about this on my blog and tell the whole world!

So, here as briefly as I can, I'll share my story.

When I was in fourth grade, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I stapled some papers together and covered it with blue construction paper. I even drew a quill on the front with the auspicious title "Young Author."  I didn't know what I was going to write in it, but it was going to be great.

I was reading a lot of Nancy Drew at the time. So I decided to write a mystery. I recruited my friend to draw pictures of the cute boy. The plot was some kind of fantasy of mine: a girl's parents left for out of town and she had to go to a neighbor's house to stay the week and the neighbors had a cute boy. My friend could draw cute boys, I couldn't. The clues didn't make sense, but there was a cute boy.

After that, I went to writing conferences geared toward young writers. I'm glad they took me seriously. I resonated with the book Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing and wanted to write something with that kind of funny voice.

Then in my sophomore English class, we had to write a personal essay about our talents. I wrote because I had my dad's legs and my mom's butt, I was not destined for sports (true fact!) and talked about how I loved to create. I was in a sewing class and learned how to take thread, fabric and a pattern and make something completely original. That was my talent. But when I got my essay back and I got the coveted star, (I got 5 points for voice in the grading matrix), I knew I'd found my new talent.

But learning how to write isn't easy. And who was going to teach me? I wrote plays in middle school, seventeen pages of a story I was really excited about but as soon as it became hard, I lost interest. But I still continued to write, little stories springing from the longings of a little girl.

Then I went to college and took my first class on creative writing. A short story class. I got a C. That should've have discouraged me. It should've crushed my dreams and confirmed every doubt I ever had about becoming a writer. But instead, the next semester, I wrote a short story on my own and went to that teacher during his office hours to get feedback. I wrote and rewrote. Got feedback and rewrote some more. Then he said it was good enough for the school magazine. I had something worthy of publication. That C drove me to prove myself and prove to myself that my dream of being a writer would not be squashed by a letter grade.

Then I lived in Switzerland and France for two years. There were some weird stories there, I could write for a thousand years and never tell them all. It was like a lifetime within a lifetime. And now it seems so far away.

I came home, got married, finished schooling, started having kids, my dream got further and further from me. By the time my second child was two years old, I thought my dream would never come. A terrible thought for someone who always had stories and ideas swimming in her head, just wanting to come out. I just knew my life would be dawn to dusk clothing the naked and feeding the hungry (literally) and nothing else. After one tearful lamentation to my husband (who I might add wrote two novels himself when he was a teen) he told me to sit down and write a scene that had been knocking around in my head. I wrote it in a google doc so I could share it with him. He read it. He said, this is good, keep going.

So I did, I wrote and I wrote. Then I check out books on how to write, because although I had written 90,000 words about a little pixie girl, it wasn't a novel. So I reworked, revised, rewrote until I had a novel with a beginning, a middle and an end. I had written a novel! If I had finished a marathon, I couldn't have been more proud of myself. I was a writer. Kinda. Because in the back of my mind, I knew I wouldn't be happy until people read it.

I let my friends read it and give me feedback. The feedback was water to the fire of my accomplishment. It tore me apart. I cried. I wept. I doubted myself. But I continued to write. Because I wanted it to be good enough for more people to read it. I put it away.

And I started on another story. A girl who goes to Switzerland for a chocolate internship, but winds up in the pet care department instead. It was funny. Hilarious, but it still wasn't good enough. I wasn't good enough.  So I kept reading fiction. Kept writing stories. From 8pm at night after we put the kids to bed until midnight or sometimes two in the morning. Writing, rewriting, reworking, revising.

My third story had potential. An investigative journalist who used disguises to expose crime. I loved  the premise. I loved the character, I needed to learn how to plot. I bought another book. I edited scenes, cut scenes, and wrote and rewrote until I was happy. Then I sent it out to agents.  I'm sorry to say that my first couple attempts were miserable and I hope those agents have forgotten my name. I read books, took an online class and read blog after blog about how to write a query. And I sent out  ten for the pixie girl story. Rejection, after rejection. I sent out 90 the Swiss girl story. Rejection after rejection, but a few nibbles, but it wasn't ready. I wasn't ready. After writing, rewriting, I sent our the Investigative journalist girl story. And finally, some hits.

 An agent I really wanted asked for a full manuscript. To illustrate what this meant to me, I'll give you my stats for that book. Out of the 70 queries I'd sent at that point, I'd only received 4 requests for a full. The other three sent back vague messages of rejection. But I really hoped this agent would see my brilliance and offer me representation.

She wrote back, but it wans't with an offer. She said she loved my concept, but my dialogue was flat and my characters were stereotypical. OUCH! It took me two weeks to lick my wounds before I could even write again. But I did. And guess what I did next.

I went to Amazon and bought two books: One on characterization and the other on dialogue. I may have missed my chance with that agent, but I will at least fix my manuscript. And so I cut, revised, reworked scenes and at last, I felt I had something valuable. But now what to do with it?

I went to a conference in Oct. 2016. I pitched my book to agents who wanted to see it. But I found out something there about small presses. Small presses are a great way to build your publications, learn by working with an editor, get your work out there, build a community and find your tribe. People said to skip the agents and send straight to an editor. But who?

I read about small presses and who might be interested in clean romantic suspense. And I decided to go with the Wild Rose Press. I sent it in, I got a revision request. (This is sometimes called an Revise and Resubmit.) I wrote a scene, strengthened my POV switches and sent it back and I got a contract. If you are still reading until here! Yay! You probably are one who rejoiced in my success.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Blog Face Lift

Hello! I decided to get my ugly mug off the first page of my blog. Haha!  Just wanted to catch you up on a few things.

First, I have second edits for The Swiss Mishap! Yay!
If you are excited about chocolate and Switzerland, this book is for you. It's a story about a girl who needs to overcome her fear of dogs while searching for an internship at Alpine Foods SA in Vevey. Of course there's a love interest. Her boss. And of course, there's a rule no inter-office relationships.

Set in a setting I love, in a country I love, with people I love, this story has so much of my heart. I hope you are all looking forward to it as much as I am.

Third Place from Book Buyer's Best Contest

A sweet romance wins third place Sweet romances can compete and win! I'm super excited for this honor.  I want to tell you, please keep ...