Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Circle of Sisters Questions and Answers

Over the past few weeks, I've had several questions about submissions and I thought it might be possible that other people have the same questions. I'd thought I take a moment to clarify.

Q: What's the Deadline?

A: As soon as possible! I need a certain number of stories and I will keep looking until I have them. I gave the publishers an estimated timeline, though. I need to get things together soon so I can work on the editing.

Q: I'm worried that someone might be uncomfortable if they ever saw the story and recognized themselves in it.

A: If you are worried about this, there are two options. The first is to change the names in your story. If you are still worried that a close friend might connect the dots when they see your name at the top of the page, I would be happy to list your by-line as By Anonymous or By A Visiting Teacher, or something similar. If you have a pen name we can use that.

Q: What if I don't have a story of my own, but I have one that my friend or someone in my family told me?

A: The easiest option is to get their permission to do a "As told by...." story. That way it can still be in first person, but you can write it for them.

Another option is to focus on the way their story helped you. For example, when you heard their story, did it inspire you to be better at something or answer your prayers? This will help you to write the story from your own perspective and still keep it in first person as well.

Q: I'm not sure what you are looking for. Are there any sample stories I can read?

A: I am currently working on getting a couple sample stories posted on the blog. For now, if this is a concern, feel free to email me and I can send you a copy of a sample story.

Q: What form should the stories be in? Do you want dialogue and should it read like a fiction story might? Or do you prefer me to write it out like I would tell it to someone in a more essay-like form?

A: Either way works. Go with what is most natural and comfortable for you. I've written stories both ways and I hope that I can put up samples soon that will illustrate this. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, skip this question.

Q: I'm not a writer. Are you sure you want me to do this?

A: Yes! The unique part of this book will be the very human aspect of the stories. I want to hear your voice and testimony. If you are unsure how to start, go ahead and write it down just like you would tell it to someone. Share a small testimony of Relief Society. I can help with the editing. That's my job.

Q: I'm still uncomfortable with writing my own story. Is there another option?

A: Of course. I would be willing to write your story for you using an "As told by" by-line, which means at the top of your story it would say:

Visiting Teaching Miracles (Or whatever title we decide on)
As Told By Jane Smith (Only your name would be here instead of Jane's)

If you want to go this route, contact me at circleofsisters.submit@yahoo.com and I will send you my phone number and we can get to work.

Hopefully this helps out a bit. As always, feel free to contact me if you have any concerns or questions.

Friday, February 10, 2012

If You Need a Little Inspiration

I've loved Hilary Weeks since one of my friends gave me a CD of her songs after the birth of my son. When I saw this music video, I just had to post it. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Dream Deferred

(Disclaimer: This post is long with lots of details. I might be breaking a blogging rule. Consider yourself warned. But if you like personal stories with happy endings, then go ahead and read on.)

In seventh grade I wrote that when I grew up, I wanted to be a writer. I was perfectly serious and intended to be one by all means. In eighth grade, I met Mrs. Staheli. She was one of those teachers that inspire you. The kind that never gives up on you and sees something inside you that you can't quite reach yet. After two years in her classes, I'd sent out my first query letters and learned my first lessons in rejection.

As time went by, I kept my dream of writing alive in spurts. A contest here, a literature group there, and a notebook full of poems that no one but my family will ever see. I experienced hard things, depression, loss, failure, and pain. I met amazing people, made friends, discovered that I actually would be a special needs teacher when I grew up and fell in love. I had a baby. The days slowed. I didn't write a single poem for almost a year. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I needed to write anymore. Perhaps that part of my life had passed.

The turning point came when, after many prayers, we decided to move back to my parents house. At first, we moved into the basement, into a small rectangular room where once, many years ago, an eleven-year-old girl picked up her first notebook and pen in the months after her grandparents died.

I laid awake thinking about that girl. I could almost see her, cross-legged on the floor, notebook on her knee. Every old feeling about writing awakened in me, and I knew what story I had to write. Before I realized it, I'd turned on the computer. In the low light, as my husband slept on, my fingers tapped out the beginnings of my first serious story.

I had no idea what to do with it.

Enter Cindy Beck.

My new visiting teaching partner moved into the ward the same time as I did.  It wasn't long before I learned she was a published author. I didn't dare tell her about my sorry excuse for stories, hidden in a hard to find folder on my computer. I mean how many times do authors get the "I have a few story ideas, too" line? It had to be old, right?

God works in mysterious ways. With my new author-visiting teaching partner at my side, I arrived at the home of another sister. We talked for a while, Cindy's writing career came up, and before I knew, the other sister admitted to the words in the back of my mind. "I'm interested in writing too. I have something I've been working on."

And then, without my ever having to ask, a wealth of writing tips were laid on the table right in front of me. Cindy gave suggestions for literature e-news, places looking for short stories, and mentioned for the first time something called LDStorymakers. In a way, my dream simply dropped back into my lap, right when I needed it. Maybe it was a sign.

I found myself at my first LDStorymakers conference a few months later with Cindy. As we finished registering, I saw a familiar form across the room. She sat leaning over a book with her back to me, but I had no trouble recognizing her. You think, after all the students they have, that you will become a number to your teachers, a blur of young life and energy passing without any impact, but she looked up and said my name before I could quite decide if I should call her by her first name or not.

Re-enter Mrs. Lu Ann Staheli.

Ah, the circles life takes us in.

It's been three years since then and hardly a day goes by without me sitting down at my computer to give the voices in my head their moment to speak. I've published two short works, I've written the first draft of my first story, found a critique group, mentors, and now I'm up to my elbows in an anthology that I never saw myself doing. The writing world is huge. Its full of amazing and helpful people and one thing I've learned is no one will ever be more excited about you saying you like to write than an author. We love to talk about writing.

In a few months, May to be exact, I will go to my fourth LDStorymakers conference. It is an enormous conference with agents and editors from national and local publishing companies literately walking the same hallways as you. If you have ever wondered if writing might be your secret dream, this is the place to go. I know it's months away, but spots fill fast and if you want to try your hand at their first chapter contest, you need to register now. I thought it might be worth writing about, considering that I know some of you are probably like me, harboring tiny sparks of writing potential and unsure what to do with it.

Maybe it's your season, your time to find out if this is something you love. I've learned that some dreams are not meant to be let go. They follow us our whole lives, whispering just loud enough to remind us they aren't going anywhere.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Part for Each of Us

I've been rolling this idea round for a while now, thoughts about self-image, self-esteem, and the way we see ourselves in the world. I imagine a lot of us are frozen. The same way I hesitate over writing this. The same way I choke over my words when I have something to say, afraid to let it out. I'm afraid of offending someone. I'm afraid of not being good enough to say what I feel I should say.

Admitting that was a beginning and I walked away from this post for several days. I went to a critique group, to church, to my exercise class. I looked on Facebook. I talked to people. Everywhere I went, I found someone going though similar fears and doubts. Could it be the weather? Could it just be a coincidence?

In the midst of this, a song kept coming up on my playlists. I've listened to it everyday it seems. I found it on youtube. The video itself has a few typos, but I thought it might be worth posting, since if you listen to the song, it says things I think we forget.


Maybe we forget these things because we're scared. Maybe there's a voice inside us telling us we are not good enough, that we can't make a difference.

Those thoughts are lies. God doesn't send those thoughts to us. We let them in and they keep us in a personal trap of fear and doubt. We think that we will never be like so and so, never be quite good enough.

Maybe, after all this fear, the truth is we are good enough. Maybe the truth is that if we let go of our fear and take that step we've been dreading, then we will find that we have become a small and simple thing the Lord can use in amazing ways.

Its winter. The cold outside seeps into me this time of year, but another voice is saying to let go of every dark thought. Just beyond this place of doubt and discouragement, my Savior stands with open arms and power to make everything I lack into what He needs. In God's hands, I am enough for whatever He would have me do. I believe that. I hope you believe that too.

I want to share a quote I found on lds.org.  I hope we all can find the courage to face our fears with faith.

"Imagine how the world will be blessed and transformed for good when all members of the Lord’s Church live up to their true potential—converted in the depth of their souls and committed to building the kingdom of God. 


“In some way, each of us stands at a decision point overlooking the water. It is my prayer that we will have faith, move forward, face our fears and doubts with courage, and say to ourselves, ‘I’m committed!’"-President Uchtdorf