Monday, June 6, 2022

Storymakers Recap

 One of my favorite posts to write every year! This one is a little late in coming, because ever since I got home from the Storymakers Conference I have been slammed with my kids' end-of-school activities and oh, yeah, finishing up that renovation so we can move in a couple weeks!

I realize I haven't mentioned anything about our move here, so let me sum up: in November we found out that my husband's position here in Laramie was being combined with that of his counterpart in Casper, and the role would be based out of Casper. And we decided that if we were going to have to move, it sure as heck wasn't going to be to Casper. So my husband interviewed for a new position in Tucson, AZ, which he got, and we're really excited about. HOWEVER, we were in the middle of a home renovation that we'd planned to stretch out over five years, and suddenly we only had six months in which to do it.

It's been a rough six months.

Going to Storymakers, however, was non-negotiable. Especially because with the move, it was the last time Taryn and I got to drive together. This year, both of her sisters came along, as did one of my friends here in Laramie. The car was packed, and it was fantastic to nerd out the whole way about writing with great friends.

We got to Provo on Thursday with enough time to meet the fantastic Sarah Allen for dinner at my favorite Korean restaurant, Koko Lunchbox. Then we had the opening social for the conference, where I got to do some recruiting for the Storymentors program with my co-director, Rebecca Carlson.

The conference classes were excellent as always. I'd volunteered to be a room host for 6 out of 12 sessions, which was fun. It was a lot less demanding than being a room moderator was last year, and it meant I got to go to some classes I might have otherwise missed. I also got to go to an intensive class taught by Kendare Blake, whose Three Dark Crowns series is an absolute masterpiece. Her class was about using setting as a character in fiction, and she had us do a lot of workshopping exercises. I was brave enough to read one of my exercise out loud in front of the whole room of people. It was terrifying. But also fun.

I went to the Whitney Awards gala for the first time as a guest and not an organizer, which was a fun experience. It was so weird not to know who was going to win! I found myself holding my breath each time they announced the winner. Though I did know in advance who the next Whitney Awards president was going to be--my bestie, Taryn.

Three Whitneys presidents! me, Emily Inouye Huey, and Taryn Skipper

me and Emily with Don Carey, tech wizard extraordinaire

Elisa McLean, me, Rebecca Carlson, and Sarah Allen, pointing at the cover of Sarah's book Breathing Underwater, which was a finalist in the Middle Grade category

One highlight I absolutely have to mention is that Taryn won FIRST PLACE in her category in the conference's First Chapter contest!!!!! I pity the people sitting at my table when they announced it because I SCREAMED at the top of my lungs. Taryn has worked so hard on this book, and entered the contest multiple years, incorporating feedback each time. To not only place, but get first place was a testament to how freaking hard she's worked.

On Saturday after the conference I got to hang out with my sister, who drove all the way down from Salt Lake to spend a couple hours with me. She's pretty much the best. After she headed back, I went down to the hotel lobby to hang out with the rest of my writing group, many of whom either live in the Provo area or who were at the conference. Again, nerding out about writing is one of my favorite things to do, and we stayed up way too late doing it. But it was amazing to see everyone again.

The Missing Link Writers: Brandon, Kasey, me, Elisa, Leisha, Kim, Em, Julia, and Taryn

When I arrived home, it was to a newly remodeled kitchen! Ryan and some friends worked their butts off for four days to get our kitchen updated and ready to sell. I don't get to enjoy it--too busy painting to cook! But it looks amazing!

One last road trip photo with the McQueen sisters, in my fancy kitchen

Storymakers is, as always, my happy place. 



Friday, April 29, 2022


 I have started four books since the pandemic started, and I keep abandoning them to chase down new shiny ideas. I desperately want to type The End sometime this year, so I'm determined to stick with this book until it's finished. To help me with my goal, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo this month, and I'm proud to say I met my goal of adding 20,000 words to my manuscript a day early!

Even though 20,000 words in a month may seem like nothing to some people, to me it feels really good to have made a goal instead of disappointing myself once again. Now I'm challenging myself to write another 20,000 words before we move (June 25th!), which may be a stretch as I'll be busy with the end-of-school events for my kids and the whole business of actually moving. But after my success this month, I'm excited to give it a try!

Even more exciting: I'm leaving for Storymakers in less than 2 weeks! I can't wait to see all my writing pals, roadtrip with my bestie, and learn more skills to improve my craft. It's going to be amazing!

Sunday, January 23, 2022

New Routines

I have had a plan for years. The thought of someday being able to achieve this plan has given me hope. "If I can just make it to... then I'll be able to... and my life will be perfect." 

As I mentioned in this post, I've been looking forward to having all three of my kids in school so I could have writing time during the day. I had August 2020 (when Amelia started kindergarten) circled on my mental calendar for years. But my kids did virtual school that semester, so I had to put daytime writing on hold.

January 2021. All three kids are back in in-person school. Writing is going awesomely.

February 2021. Sam breaks the TV and we decide to get him a paper route so he can work to pay it off. I now have to get up at 3:30am five days a week. I spend most days with brain fog. All my free time goes to planning the Whitney Awards gala.

May 2021. Whitney Awards are done, TV is paid off and paper route is over. Writing can resume.

June 2021. Kids are now home full-time during the day (thanks, whoever decided school would be off for three months straight!)

August 2021. Kids are back in school. Writing time during the day is now scheduled. I have word counts to make, time blocks to fill. And... writing is still not happening.

I've been frustrated for months because I just cannot seem to make writing during the day happen, not with any kind of consistency. If something comes up during the day, writing is the first thing to be tossed aside. If I can't make my word count, I feel worthless. I don't write at night anymore, because writing is meant to be done DURING THE DAY. That's what I've been looking forward to for years! I can't go back to writing at night!

On the other hand, I did write five books that way.

One of my friends tweeted the other day that all he did for writing that day was name a character. I happened to see the tweet at bedtime, and I thought, "Okay, I'll just get on for five minutes and plan a scene or decide on some character flaws." And before I knew it, I had a proper writing session that lasted over an hour.

I tried it again the next day. Same story. Bedtime, chores done, I got on just for five minutes, it turned into an hour. Nine pm is apparently when my brain wants to be creative. I've always been a night owl. I know this about myself. Yet I've spent the last year fighting it, then getting down on myself for not being able to create a new routine.

This week, I'm going back to my old habits. And I have to say, I'm really looking forward to my night writing sessions.