The Writing Process

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I feel a little apologetic that my blog has been so book-heavy lately, but that’s what my life is at the moment, so I guess if nothing else, at least I’m authentic.

Bonnie at Real Intent interviewed me recently about the journey from book idea to publication. The interview is up today, so head over and check it out. Feel free to comment or ask any questions there.  A week from today is my book launch party, and I saw my very own book on actual, real-life bookstore shelves yesterday, so I guess it’s all the real deal.

Oh, and p.s., for a chance to win a copy of Covenant Motherhood, if you see it on shelves anywhere between now and the launch date of March 15, take a picture of it and post it on my FB Author page with the location you found it. I’ll do a drawing of the entries for a free book.

You’re not as boring as you think.

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Everyone has a story.

Everyone.

And the longer I live, the more I realize that those stories are fascinating. Yep. All of them. I went through a phase when I loved watching TV shows like StoryTrek, Who Do You Think You Are?, and The Generations Project because it turns out that regular, run-of-the-mill people like you and like me have stories inside of them that make me awe, wonder, cry, and think. Why aren’t we all telling more of our own stories? One of the reasons I blog is because someday when my children are grown and have children of their own, I want them to know the real me. I know a blog is selective and doesn’t reflect every aspect of my life, but I try hard to keep it real, and if nothing else, I have recorded some stories.  I hope those stories will make them feel close to me and maybe even learn a few life lessons.

This spring, I am participating in a conference that is all about telling, finding, and recording real stories– your own and your ancestors’. I’m even teaching a class about “Recording Life Authentically,” but that’s only one of many, many workshops and resources available to help you learn how to write your own life story, do genealogy, discover the stories of generations past, and use all the cool technology that’s available to fuel and find our stories.

I think you should come.

Here are the details: March 21-23 in Salt Lake City at the Salt Palace Events Center.  (If you’re old like me, you used to go to Jazz games there.)  Guess what organizations are involved? Well, it was originally called the Story @ Home conference, a team effort with Cherish Bound and FamilySearch, and that conference has a specific track for bloggers. THEN, they merged with RootsTech conference, which is sponsored by a few organizations you might be familiar with: BYU, Ancestry.com, and National Genealogical Society to name a few. Basically, it’s going to be big and awesome.

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Go here to learn a lot more about it and to get pricing. There are options as low as $19/day, with full-conference passes ranging from $39 to $149, depending on how much of the conference offerings you want access to. Notice that there’s a full-conference Story@Home track available (which includes the blogging classes) for $79.

For any of you photographer types–amateur or otherwise– check out this Instagram contest:

Prize: Full-conference Story@Home pass ($79 value)
Dates: February 20th-24th
 
To participate in the contest:
  • Snap a picture you think tells a story. Examples include family, friends, places, events, mementos–anything that has meaning for you.
  • Upload the photo to Instagram and share with us what story your photo tells. Include the hashtags #tellyourstory and #storyathome.
Winner will be chosen by Random.org and announced on the Story@Home Facebook page Monday, February 25th. “Like” the Story@Home Facebook page to find out if you’ve won.

So, listen. You have a story. And it’s a lot more interesting than you think it is. Come learn how to tell it and record it and save it so that someday, your stories will be alive even when you’re not. Your children and grandchildren will love that. I promise.

10 Reasons I Have Become a Terrible Blogger

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I’m sure there are deep, meaningful reasons behind my decline in blogging, but until I can figure those out, these are the best excuses I can come up with:

  1. My desk. Papers, papers, and more papers. Everytime I sit down at the computer, I am surrounded by the skeletons of unfinished projects.  For example: There are still stacks of Christmas card envelopes that I need to update addresses for. Also, receipts to file, notebooks full of random thoughts and lists that I need to determine if they’re worth keeping or not. Plus lots of stuff for …
  2. Teaching. I’m teaching a Doctrine and Covenants class at BYU right now. I love–absolutely love– preparing for the classes, but I’m not going to lie. It takes a lot of time, a lot of books, a lot of notes, and … a lot of ignored other projects. Oh, and I also teach Sunday School at church.
  3. Homework. Not my own, not my students, but my children’s homework. It will be the death of me. Every day from 3 until 7, I wage a treacherous battle of wills, wits, and unsharpened pencils. When it’s all over, I usually want to hide under my bed with a bag of chocolate chips.
  4. Crazy ideas. When my brain needs a break, I usually write some ridiculous status on Facebook or try to implement some long-desired project in my house (you know, as a distraction from the truly pressing projects). Just last night I decided to paint my pantry door bright blue. Sounds cool and fresh, right? Wrong. It looks terrible.
  5. The Book. This whole book-writing business is not for the faint of … time. I honestly think that the whole post-submission production process has required as much of a time commitment as actually writing the book. It’s okay, though. I am proud of it in a I-set-a-goal-and-actually-finished-it-all-the-way-done kind of way. And do you want to know something cool? It’s already available for preorder at Deseret Book! Seriously, like it’s a real book or something.  Go check it out.

So, there you have it. If you have asked yourself the question I have asked myself, “Stephanie’s blog used to be so cool; I wonder what happened?,” now you know. Well look at that, I don’t even have 10 reasons. That was only 5. I rest my case; I’m losing it.

If a blog die, shall it live again?

Hi.

Um, remember me?

Of course a dead blog can live again!  It totally can. Right? I checked Google Reader, and some people are actually still subscribed here. It might be an accident, but still…. (Does anyone even use Google Reader anymore?) Plus, whether they actually mean to be or not, there’s still a handful of people that subscribe by email, so hello there long-lost inboxes.

Wow. So where do I start?  I have so much to tell you. Really. Let’s transition carefully back into blogging, shall we? I think I’ll start with a bunch of mini blog posts just so we can all get used to each other again.

Mini-post #1:  Guess What?

Remember how I only occasionally popped in during the summer to beg you to vote for me in that video contest?  Well, I don’t know how to tell you this without a formal plan to compensate you for your goodness, but I won!!!  I’m not even kidding– I won a cruise. Matt and I are going in October and I’m very excited about that. It took a little bit of manipulative creative negotiating to convince Clark that even though it was his story that won the trip, it would still be better for Matt and I to take the trip together.  I’m sure that with the passage of time and maybe a small amount of therapy, he will find it in his heart to not feel completely ripped off. And I will find it in my heart to sit on a ship deck and read books and drink virgin daiquiris.

Mini-post #2: No, Really, Guess What?!?

This part is almost too exciting to say. I’m truly afraid that by embracing it, I may somehow curse it. The reason I took a blog sabbatical in the first place is because I, honest to goodness, felt down in my soul that I needed to write a book. I had never before in my life imagined myself authoring a book, but I felt (select the word that you’re most comfortable with here–>) prompted/compelled/pushed/inspired/obligated to write a book about my testimony concerning motherhood. I have spent a good part of the last decade of my life studying motherhood in a gospel context, and I felt the pieces coming together little by little in ways that gave me new insight and purpose. Motherhood was still hard–it’s always been kind of hard–but I felt like I was starting to get it.  And then I felt like I should write it all down. So I did. And (here’s the exciting part) I recently got word that it’s going to be published. As in, printed by someone else in an actual book that will appear in LDS bookstores next Spring. I’m not the type of person that writes things like *squeeee!* or “yippee! yippee!,” but if I were, I would write that here right now. Other than the fact that I feel a tiny bit terrified, plus an equally tiny bit inadequate, I love the thought and hope that maybe, just maybe, my book might help some mom out there (especially a mom of young children) “get it.” And by “get it,” I really mean get herself–see herself and what she’s doing as she really is and how much it really counts. So, yes, yay for that.

Mini-post #3: In Which a Mom and Her Kids All Grow Up a Little.

Something unbelievably amazing has happened. Perhaps even more amazing than a cruise or a book deal. (I realize that this would be the easy place for anyone who’s having a bad day to hit the delete button real quick before my life gets any luckier, but please don’t. I promise I’m not bragging. And I think this next piece of news just might be some kind of balm for your weary soul. Maybe.) When I started this blog, all three of my children were in some stage of diapers. It is with no small amount of shock that I announce to you that last week, they all started school. All of them. From morning until early afternoon.  Look!  Look at this picture and tell me that they are not the cutest people you’ve ever seen. Just try.

Anyway, I’ve blogged a lot over the years about the stages of motherhood, and how sometimes times and seasons must be endured-slash-appreciated for what they really are. When my oldest went to kindergarten, I felt like I had entered Stage 2 parenting. There were glimpses of my children’s growing independence, and I found random bursts, no matter how brief, of “down” time, where I could choose to read a book, or nap, or hang up my clothes, or nap. Now, my friends, I think I have entered Stage 3. Yes, they are older, and make bigger messes, and more noise, and have developed some snarky habits, but trust me when I say: It is glorious. Do you know what I did yesterday? I did a workout video in my family room and then I cleaned my bathroom. I cleaned it for three and a half hours, and it is a masterpiece. I have not cleaned an entire room from start-to-finish in years. After that, I went to the library by myself and picked out books in peace. Then I went to 3 stores in a row and quickly returned some items, stopped at one more store, and picked up a few groceries. I came home and made chocolate chip cookies. When I got home, my house was just as clean as it was when I left in the morning. It stayed clean; do you get what I’m saying? When my kids got home, I hugged them and gave them cookies and helped them with their homework. I still got annoyed sometimes, but I felt ready to be there for them. I. am. loving. it. I am not trying to rub any of this in your face if you still have small children at home and you feel entirely drained. Nor am I trying to knock anyone who feels terribly sad when their children go to school. Not at all.  All I’m saying is that toddler and preschool mothering were quite challenging for me, and now I feel like I’m hitting my stride. I’m not foolish; bigger kids will mean bigger challenges, but if you are wondering if there’s any light at the end of the diaper tunnel, I’m here to tell you:  Good gravy, there is!  I can hardly believe it myself. Stage 3 just feels like it fits so nicely right now. Carry on, good moms everywhere, the stage that fits you best will come in good time.

Mini-post #4: More to Come.

I’ve got fun summer stuff to tell you. I’ve got some giveaways of things I’ve been saving up for you. The September celebration of The Family: A Proclamation to the World is coming up, and that will be epic. Basically, I’m excited to be back. This party ain’t over yet. Please say hi. I missed you.

Book Babble

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Let’s talk about books, shall we?

Books I’m reading:  Right now I’m reading We Were Not Alone: How an LDS Family Survived WWII Berlin and Life of Pi (my book club’s pick for the month).

Books I recently read:  I, Juan de Pareja.  Loved it.  It’s supposedly for children (Newberry Award Winner), but it’s all about Velazquez and Spanish art history, so I really liked it.  (Did you know I lived in Madrid for 3 summers as a young adult?  Sigh, I miss it.)  And Precious Bane.  Oh my goodness, what a beautiful book.  It’s one of those genius books that should have been really famous, but is still largely undiscovered.  There’s one scene that’s kind of PG-13ish, but even with all my book prudishness, the writing and character’s thoughts were so compelling that I just loved it.

Books on my list:  Remember Melanie?  Well, she writes “LDS chick lit,” which I never read.  Except I’ve read all of Melanie’s because I really like her.  And I have to admit that when I read her books, I automatically feel transported to age 24, and I love her sassy protagonists and witty dialogue.  She has a new one that just came out called Twitterpated and I need to get my hands on it.  It’s about a girl whose roommate dares to sign her up (without permission) on an online dating site.  Mayhem ensues.  And probably romance.  Should be a fun read.  Check it out.  I think they’re giving away a copy here.  Yay, Melanie!

Books I’m writing:  I’m writing a book.  That still blows my mind.  It’s about how motherhood is a reflection of all the different roles and missions of the Savior’s ministry.  My goal is to have it finished by May, and published next year.  Start saving up spare change so you can buy it in 2013.  Then when I send a query letter to publishers, I can say, “I already have 23 people lined up to read this book.”  I’m sure that will be the critical selling point. 🙂

The other book that I contributed to (and incidentally, so did Melanie), Tell Me Who I Am, is available on Amazon now.  I’ve decided I’m officially famous if I’m listed as an author at Amazon.com.  Don’t tell me if I’m wrong.

Books you’re reading:  How about you?  Have you read anything lately that you think the rest of us should read? Do tell.

Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!

Do you remember that song from My Fair Lady?  Thanks to my dad, I will forever have all the lyrics of all the songs from that show in my perma-memory.

Anyway.

I need to take a word vacation.

I think my brain is a little bit overloaded, and the more I blabber on about stuff, the less it makes sense.  At the advice of several people whom I respect, I registered for a writing conference in May, where I will actually be pitching my book idea to an editor.  And just so you know, as soon as I made that appointment, I kind of had a panic attack because . . . seriously,  I don’t even have a book yet.  It’s mostly still in the ideas and research stage, with a sketchy outline.  So the little devil in my head gave me a big long lecture about what a poser I am and boy, oh boy, how I’m going to make a fool of myself.  And even though the little devil in my head is usually wrong, I thought it would at least be a good idea to dedicate myself to some serious preparation.  In short, I need to work on my book project.

So, I’m going to step back a little bit from the blogging world and focus my scattered word-spilling into something a little more cohesive.  I’ll still do my regular features (General Conference Book Club and Find-A-Friend Friday), but my posting will be much less frequent, and I need to take a break from visiting and reading blogs too.  I just need to harness my time and energy so that I can be ready for this next adventure . . . and frankly to protect myself from public humiliation.

If I were going to write a bunch of posts this week, they would be about this:

  • My house looks like a disaster every night.  Food and dishes still on the table and in the sink.  Unfinished laundry spread around the family room.  Folded clothes moved from my bed to the floor.  (And, yes, I will try to avoid sentence fragments like this in my book.) Some people can’t go to bed when that kind of mess is looming around them, but not me.  Boy, I love to bid it farewell and go to sleep.  I function so much better in the morning, so I just get up and face it while the kids are eating breakfast and getting ready for school.  My renewed energy allows me to clean, sweep, wipe, fold, put away, etc. without feeling like I’d rather run away to a deserted island.  Which I’d still like to do, by the way, but not out of desperation.  Moral of the story:  You’re allowed to visit me between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm.
  • I took Natalie to a specialist yesterday and found out that a recently-discovered condition that I’ve been really worried about is probably not as bad as it seemed.  A few more tests will be done to make sure, but mostly I feel reassured, and that’s such a relief.
  • I’m reading a book called The Infinite Atonement, and so far it’s really good.  Not the easiest reading, but some really cool insights.  Here’s a little sentence that totally jumped out at me yesterday:  “What is the Atonement of Jesus Christ?  It is, in short, that suffering endured, that power displayed, and that love manifested by the Savior . . . ,” and then this: “The ability of man to be at one with God in both location and in likeness is possible only because the Savior first became at one with man in location, thorough his mortal birth, and at one with man in likeness, through his assumption of man’s frailties– without ever abandoning his godlike character.”  Such a cool, simple way to explain the purpose and function of the Atonement.
  • Last week on our date night, we went to a bookstore and Matt bought himself three or four new books (He’s kind of excited about his new post-Bar free time), and he bought me one too.  Right up my alley.
  • Since I’ve been thinking about this for my own book, I just wanted to say that being a mother is really, really cool.  It is the one role on earth that most closely mimics the ministry of Jesus Christ.  It’s a privilege to be in that crash-course adventure of becoming like Him.

Just so you know, this less-words business is going to be tricky for me, but I think it will be good for me too.  And hopefully it will get the devil in my head to shut up a little.