Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Things I've Learned About Writing

Over the course of my writing years, I've learned not to underestimate my ability to screw things up. I learned the hard way that not all jeans are Levis, not all paper tissues are Kleenex, not all temples have an angel on top, poring over a letter is not the same spelling as pouring water, and not all plasterboard is Sheetrock. A letter, a comma, so many little things change a meaning, imply a different nuance, and make the difference between a "good" story and a polished story.

I've learned too that computers are both a writer's blessing and curse. Having started my writing career on a manual Smith Corona and moved up to an electric then a data processer and eventually a series of ever more complex computers, I know firsthand that a lot more gets written using a computer than I could ever hope to accomplish with a typewriter. I'm not sorry to no longer need carbon paper, type erasers, or correction paper. Still computers are the cause of much more wasted time than the old Smith Corona ever was. It simplifies research, yet entices its user to play games and read endless trivia. Facebook monopolizes hours of time that could be better spent actually writing---though it's a great networking tool, an excellent way to stay in touch with friends, family, and readers.

No matter how talented a writer may be, he/she needs to constantly brush up on word usage, grammar, do research, learn new computer techniques and programs, and pay attention to little things like regular backups, a surge protector, and adherence to publisher guidelines. If attention isn't given to these peripheral matters, disaster can wipe out the most beautiful and perfect words.

The struggling artist who lives in an unheated attic and lives on bread and whiskey is as much a thing of the past as my old Smith-Corona. Today's writer who isolates him or herself from life doesn't relate to today's reader. Today whether a book is set on the American frontier, a New York penthouse, or in outer space, readers want to relate to the characters in a personal way.

With the flurry the past few weeks of getting my newest book ready to go to press, I read over the dedication and acknowledgements I wrote six months ago and decided I still mean them. There really are many people besides the author who play a part in moving a concept from inside one person's head to actual words on paper, neatly tucked between a front cover and a back cover. There are the people employed by the publisher who edit, proof read, write a cover blurb, choose a title, design a cover, create a promotion program, and handle the details of production. There are friends, critique groups, and fans who cheer the writer on, read drafts, help with research, etc. And not least of all, there's the writer's family. These are the people who believe in us, pick up the slack in the housework, feed us, and who think being wife, husband, mommy, daddy, grandma, grandpa is our greatest achievement. They think it's great we write books, but take greater pride in our ability to kick a soccer ball, bake brownies, or remember birthdays.

It's disappointing to screw up a spelling or confuse a brand name with a generic name. It feels like the sky is falling when we mess up properly saving our precious prose. But the one place I hope I never fail is in letting my family and friends know I love and appreciate them.
Reminder:  April's Wish List Contest ends this Saturday!

New book to be released in early June!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thinking about the Winter of My Discontent

Spring seems to be arriving in small increments this year; a few hours one week, a few more the next. There's so much snow in the mountains this year, and more storms predicted, that there's a serious danger of flooding. Storms that hit Utah seem to arrive from the Pacific, soak Washington and Oregon, dump on Idaho, add to Utah's snow pack, then hurl across the Midwestern states into the Eastern states in the form of hail and tornados. I've never known a winter that I've become more tired of than this one.

With complaints about the snow and cold, it would be easy to overlook how green the lawns have become after each storm, how the early flowers are blooming in spite of the cold, and the green haze indicating new life in the trees. Of course the return of pollen allergies reminds some of us that in spite of the snow, spring is here.

Spring and Easter are linked for most of us and it's not hard to draw a few parallels between real life and the seasons. So many people I know have faced some tough things recently and I too have had my share. I lost a sister to cancer eight months ago. A dear friend just learned she has stage 4 cancer. An older friend and her husband have had to make room for their daughter, her unemployed husband, and their eight children in their home. Among my family and friends these past few months there have been a broken nose, a broken finger, job losses, severe cataracts, relocations, deaths and major illnesses of loved ones, insufficient feed for livestock, hospitalizations, and the list goes on. The world faces seemingly endless natural disasters and the pain of war. I remind myself that these things are winter, and spring is arriving in small increments.

Michelle Bell and I each welcomed a granddaughter this past week into our families. There aren't many things that can compete with a new baby for the spirit of hope and new beginnings that typify Spring and the Easter season. I was able to listen to all four sessions of conference which was certainly uplifting . The flowers in my garden are bursting forth in glorious color. A special friend has joined the ranks of those of us serving at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple. I just finished the first edit on my next book. I have dear friends who bless me with encouragement and a family who support me in all I do. This is Spring.

Sometimes we get so bogged down in the weariness of winter, we lose sight of the subtle signs of spring. We wonder why we have to endure hardships and difficult times. In reality just as the storms of winter provide the essential moisture that makes spring possible, the difficult times in our lifes prepare us to grow and blossom into the best we can be. Overcoming the challenges in our lives strengthens us and gives us greater appreciation for goodness, beauty, and the association of loved ones. Our Savior passed through the darkest winter to give us the promise of the most glorious spring.

When we feel we've spent too much time in a snowbound cabin, it's time to remind ourselves that the Lord needs strong people in the last days and without adversity and testing we won't be strong enough to face the challenges that will come. He strengthens those with the greatest desire to serve him. Without the snow of winter, there is only drought when the days grow warm, then the flowers wither and die. Spring is here; it really is, even if we have to shovel away a little snow to find it. Just as this hard winter will eventually yield lush grass and wonderful tree growth, we can let the difficulties in our lives make us stronger, more compassionate, and more prepared to blossom into people worthy of His spring.

Monday, April 11, 2011

This isn't really a blog, but just a quick message to let you know why I haven't blogged for awhile. The first reason has to do with writing. I'm deeply involved in the edit of my new book, If I should Die, which will be released in June. This isn't a good copy of the cover, but perhaps it will give you an idea of what it looks like.

The other reason is even more exciting. I have a new granddaughter. She is almost two months old and made her debut into our family this past weekend. The papers were officially signed this morning. Her name is Jennifer and she's beautiful. Of course, I had to take some time off to go shopping. Aren't Grandmas supposed to make certain their granddaughters have all the pink jammies, blankets, and dresses she can find?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday Morning Conference Highlights

I've always consider being able to watch Saturday morning conference a kind of luxury. Life seems to have a way of interfering much too often, but this morning I was there in front of the TV for the whole thing. I found the announcement of three new temples exciting. The first Fort Collins, Colorado is great. The second, Meridian, Idaho took me by surprise. That's so close to Boise and I find it exciting that there's a need for a second temple that close to the Boise Temple. Manitoba, Canada is a big place; I'll be anxious to learn the exact location of that one.

The speakers were great and I didn't miss President Monson's and President Eyring's emphasis on three areas; temples, service to those in need, and missionary work. I was particularly pleased with a small statement made by President Monson concerning making scooters available to missionaries and members to deliver humanitarian supplies to those in areas who are inaccessible by cars or trucks. I found it satisfying to hear of the work the Church is doing to aid those affected by the severe natural disasters of the past year or two. It also prompted me to tear up the check I've written for Humanitarian Aid and write a bigger one.

Friday, April 1, 2011


The March contest ended yesterday and this morning I drew names to see who gets to claim books from their wish lists for prizes.  This is the first time I've included those who commented on my reviews on Meridian and ironically both winners are from Meridian comments.  The winners are Dee who commented on Borrowed Light written by Carla Kelly, and Lisa Paskins who commented on Gifted by Karey White.  Please contact me at bhansen22 at msn dot com with a list of five or more LDS books you would like within one week.  If I have any of the books you choose, and I usually do, I'll send one to each of you. Be sure to send me your mailing addresses.  Congratulations to both of you.

Now to the new contest.  Same rules, and by the way, comments on Meridian usually don't show up until the following day. Since April is the month for two significant observances for most of us, I will blog about Genral Conference and Easter this month.  Any thoughtful comment concerning any of the conference talks this weekend will count as will comments about the meaning of Easter, Easter observances, or anything Easter or Spring related.  Comments concerning my April reviews are also encouraged.  If I stray off topic, you can too. I'm not as faithful as some bloggers about acknowledging comments, but I read them and have been greatly impressed by the thoughts many of you have offered.  I'll try to do better.  Ready?  Set? Go!