Last week I went to Provo for three days, for the LDS Storymakers 2015 conference. It was a very sobering, amazing conference, and I came away with lots of thoughts of where I want and need to go with my writing.

As usual, after the conference, the Whitney Awards Gala took place, and the 2014 winners were announced.

Here’s the list of all the winners for the 2014 Whitney Awards (click on the links to purchase on Amazon):

Best Novel of the Year—  Sarah M. Eden for LONGING FOR HOME
Best Youth Novel of the Year—  Julie Berry for THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE
Best Novel by a New Author—  Jennifer Moore for BECOMING LADY LOCKWOOD
Best Middle Grade Fiction—  Marion Jensen for ALMOST SUPER
Best Speculative Youth Fiction—  Kiersten White for ILLUSIONS OF FATE
Best General Youth Fiction—  Chris Crowe for DEATH COMING UP THE HILL
Best Speculative Fiction—  Brandon Sanderson for WORDS OF RADIANCE
Best Mystery/Suspense—  Josi S. Kilpack for WEDDING CAKE
Best Romance Novel—   Sarah M. Eden for LONGING FOR HOME.
Best Historical—  Carla Kelly for SOFTLY FALLING
Best General Fiction—  Amy Harmon for THE LAW OF MOSES
Outstanding Achievement Award for 2014—  Andrew Hall
Lifetime Achievement Award for 2014—  Margaret Blair Young

 

I had the chance to read and vote for the General and Romance categories and these were my favorites:

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(If you’re wondering what the Whitneys are, come read this post and then go nominate a book for next year’s awards.)

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I invited Lindzee Armstrong to talk about her passion for writing. You can find more about Lindzee on her website, Facebook, and Amazon page.

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“It’s amazing how words can cut, can expose, can liberate. How symbols on a page can string together into words, into sentences, into paragraphs that leave us feeling like we’re standing naked in front of a crowd.

Sometimes being a writer feels like laying my heart out for the entire world to see—and often times for others to find lacking. It’s terrifying. It’s exhilarating. It’s exhausting.
The feeling of wanting to give up and quit is familiar to any artist, I think. But somehow we have to dig deep inside ourselves and find the courage to continue on. The question is, how?

For me, it’s all about remembering why I write. I write because there is something inside me that is clawing to be let out. Because the stories literally cannot be contained. Because I need something I do just for myself. Because while it’s hard, it’s immensely satisfying.

Usually the stories we’re the most terrified to tell are the ones we desperately need to write.

I wish there was a blanket fix-all for all artists that would give them the courage to keep going. I don’t think there is. It’s specific to each person, and sometimes specific to each project, how we can find the courage to push on.

My novel Wishing on Baby Dust is about three women who become friends as they struggle with infertility. I wrote the novel while going through fertility treatments myself, and sometimes penning those words felt like ripping my soul from my body. What am I doing? I would ask myself. Isn’t it enough I’m living these women’s stories? Why am I writing about them, too?
Then came the painful revision process. I cut over 50,000 words from that novel through the course of multiple revisions. That’s literally an entire novel’s worth of words, just tossed away. And it hurt. And I wanted to give up. And I asked myself again, Why am I doing this? I was taking precious time away from my family in the evenings to work on my book. I was sacrifice much-needed relaxation and highly coveted TV time to work on the book while my babies napped. And for what?

There was this tiny voice in the back of my head that kept me pushing forward. This feeling in my gut that I had to do this, whether for myself or for someone else I wasn’t sure.
After two and a half years, the novel was finally ready for publication. And a whole new terror gripped me. The terror of having a part of my soul out there in the world, for everyone to read. What if people read my book, my heart, and found it lacking? It was possible. Inevitable, even. No book is for every person. But there was no turning book. One second I wasn’t published, and the next I was.

Publishing a book takes courage in spades. Reading harsh reviews takes a will of steel. Just being a writer, a creator, takes courage. But then I read a review about how my book helped someone. How it made someone laugh, someone cry, someone learn something new and gain a better understanding of someone else’s trial. And all that courage is worth it.
I have three published works out now, and each time I have to dig deep inside myself and find my courage all over again. But as I remind myself why I’m writing, I find that courage and push forward.

And so far, on the other side of the journey, it’s always immensely worth it.”

 

I’d like to introduce a very special guest, my daughter Rose who turned 16 years old today.

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“I still remember the day I started learning violin. I had been so excited. A wide grin was plastered on my face as I played ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ on my violin for the first time, and again when I played it for my fifth grade class. I screeched away on the instrument, having complete confidence that I was playing beautifully. Later on in the year, we went to go see the symphony perform for a field trip. I couldn’t hide my excitement as I told my classmates, “I can play what he plays! I can play that!” It wasn’t until later that I realized, I really was screeching away at it.

The same excitement came again when I picked up a guitar for the first time, three years later in seventh grade. I had asked my parents for one for Christmas, and they had agreed. We went to the music store a few weeks before, and I showed my mom the one I wanted. It was a sleek, black acoustic guitar. “It has to be this one,” I remember telling my mom. “Only this one.”

Through out the years, I became more advanced in my music, and began playing more instruments. In junior high school, it wasn’t exactly the coolest thing to play an instrument, so I tuned down my naturally born music geek until my freshman year of high school. That is when I decided I would audition for my high school’s chamber group. I figured I was a seasoned enough player by then. I thought I would make it into the group. It was between me and one other girl, and I knew I had it in the bag. Like many times before, I was wrong. I ran out of class crying as they congratulated the other girl. I didn’t stop crying until two hours later, after I had called my dad to come get me from school. I texted my mom, and she shared my grief with me. My dad never understood. Thinking back on it now, it’s me who doesn’t understand. I let another persons opinion of me affect how I believed in myself, and I’m still paying for it today. Since that day, almost two years ago, I have purposely skipped out on many chances to prove myself to others and to show them what I’m really made of.

Don’t get me wrong, I love music. I have since a young age, and I always will. I remember singing along to Taylor Swift on the radio with my mom as we went driving together. Music is so much a part of me, that I can’t even imagining living in a world where it would be absent. For a time being, I had lost my inspiration and my love to play. Now, I’ve found them. My inspiration comes from Tchaikovsky, greatly written musical numbers and songs, a good beat, and of course my parents. I would be no where without them cheering me on. I perform so much better knowing my mom is cat-calling and whistling at me from the audience. Afterwards, I’ll usually hear words like, “See? That wasn’t so bad. You did great! And now it’s over!” It’s words like these that have kept me going.

My love for music and my ability to play has increasingly grown, but it wouldn’t have even started if it weren’t for my parents. I now play seven instruments, and can’t wait to learn how to play more. There’s a whole world of music out there, and I’ve only just grazed the top of it.”

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KLJ

 

Today on the blog I have Krista Lynne Jensen, who is one of my favorite LDS authors. You can find her on Amazon, Facebook, and her blog, and read more about her books. I’ve read all of her published stories, and I’m really excited to read her newest one, Kisses in the Rain, coming next month.

I invited Krista to talk about her writing and how she got started, and she was too gracious to accept the invitation. In her own words:

“I’m Krista Jensen and I write contemporary clean romance, inspirational romance, and fantasy. I started writing seriously in 2008. I was 38 years old, so kind of a late bloomer. I’ve always loved writing and even when I was little I was drawn to words in general. I was a big reader. But in high school and college I pursued art. I never considered writing fiction. I basically believed that I didn’t have it in me, and I was pretty content reading stories others had written.

But then I was hit with a few big trials and I felt that I needed to write them down for posterity, because we made it through and I wanted my kids to know those experiences. I kept putting it off, though, being busy with four kids and family life, etc.

Finally, in 2008, three things took place that sort of “launched” me into action. My youngest child started full-time kindergarten, and I suddenly had more time. I was watching an LDS conference talk by Pres. Henry B Eyring, and as he shared how he’d observed his father-in-law rendering some service, he was struck with the prompting, “I do not give you these experiences for your own good. Write them down.” I heard that and I got goose bumps. But I wasn’t sure how to start. Very soon after hearing that talk, a friend of mine started up a writing group, and my heart pounded as I signed up. I suddenly had the time, the motivation, and the support to get started.

I did write that personal story. My writing group read and critiqued it. They loved it. My friend issued us a challenge to try to write something we hadn’t tried before. A new genre, a new form, anything. She looked directly at me and said, “Krista, I want you to try fiction.”

I was stumped with how writers of fiction come up with ideas. How do they make stuff up? So our group talked about where ideas come from. Stories come from other stories. Ask “What if?” Take a favorite story, a favorite scene, a favorite line or plot twist, and make it your own. I was reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion at the time and it was becoming my favorite Austen. I mulled it over for about a week, thinking of it at night, when I woke up, as I did dishes, drove around town, whatever. One morning I woke up and knew where my story would take place, and by noon I had a character bio for five or six characters. I took off. And I didn’t stop for much. I wrote The Orchard in six weeks and somehow managed to feed my kids in there somewhere. I finished it, triumphant, and thought, “Well, I’ll never be able to do that again.” But within a week I knew what I would write next. So I did it again. Eight weeks later I finished Falling for You, and knew what my next story was going to be before I wrote “The End.”

My writing group helped me get The Orchard ready for submission, and I sent it off. I didn’t hear from Covenant Communications for nine months. But while I was waiting I just kept writing. I wrote four more novels (one a historical speculative ) during that time. I finished the fourth just a week before I got the acceptance letter for The Orchard. I was so excited and shocked and amazed! Covenant asked for a lot of revisions, but I could see the improvements those would make. They liked the story, and that was important! I immediately submitted Falling for You and they liked that one, too.

Soon after, I began writing Of Grace and Chocolate, I suspenseful romance inspired my mom’s upbringing. When I submitted that to Covenant, they liked it enough to believe that it would make the better debut novel. That was interesting, because as excited as I was for The Orchard to come out, when I’d finished Of Grace and Chocolate, I silently wished that it would have come out first. I’d learned so much about writing by then, and I’d grown. And here Covenant had seen the same thing. I was happy to make the switch, and so Of Grace and Chocolate, the fifth novel I’d written, became my first published novel. The Orchard and Falling for You came after, along with some novellas I wrote for anthologies, and now my fourth book, Kisses in the Rain, is coming out in June. And I’m still working on the fantasies!

Everyone has a different publishing story. I love hearing how authors began and succeeded, and I’m very happy to have my own version. It’s been an incredible journey so far. I love being an author. I think my little-girl self would think that was pretty incredible. Lots of smiles.

Thanks for inviting me, Cindy. Write those words.”

 

 

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

It’s that time of the month again, first Wednesday, which means, it’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group:

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

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Confession: I love fairy tales, especially the Disney kind, which always have a happy ending (who needs sad stories, right?). I’ve watched the new Cinderella movie in theaters three times already (with my daughter). I just love everything about it, from the cast to the beautiful music, the cinematography and costumes, and especially the message: Have Courage and Be Kind. It has become a sort of personal mantra to me lately, as I try to remember to live by these words when things are not going so well. It’s not always easy.

I love that quote so much that I bought a sign for my office from this store on Etsy. The beautiful graphic on my photo above is from her other store and both are owned by my friend Stephanie.

I’m drawn to happy endings which are essentially just happy beginnings. I don’t like to read books without happy endings, and I only write stories with happy endings. In Josh and Sofia’s story (the novel that I’ll be publishing soon), they both go through hard times and personal growth before they are ready to accept the changes that will bring them together. In fact, Sofia is faced with several circumstances in which courage and kindness become essential to her emotional and spiritual well-being: kindness to herself and those around her, and courage to believe that it will all work out, even when the next day seems like too much to bear.

This is where the lines between reality and fiction blur together, and where the foundation of the everyday world becomes the inspiration for the fictional one.

And sometimes, it’s the opposite.

Insecure Writer #128

 

 

  • Stephen TrempMay 6, 2015 - 11:57 AM

    Lucinda, I’m the same way. I like my endings happy. My current MS deviates from this, but hey, sometimes its good to write in a different genre to keep the creativity flowing.

    Stephen Tremp
    IWSG Co-host
    http://www.stephentremp.comReplyCancel

    • LucindaMay 6, 2015 - 12:52 PM

      Thanks for the visit, Stephen. Even if I try a different genre, I’ll stick to happy endings.ReplyCancel

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