A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Of Websites and Wedding Dresses

Today is Monday and according to my new blog format that means it's all about ME!!!

For the past four days I've been working furiously towards one thing--my manuscript going on submission this week. Yikes! Yay!

* Hyperventilating and celebrating at the same time.*

I thought you might be interested in what it takes to for a writer to prepare for her/his manuscript going on submission. For me it was: go through the manuscript, send it to my agent, make a few revisions, send it to my agent, go through it again, and one last thing...

Get a website.

My first official conversation with my agent was about my manuscript, but after we had talked revisions she said, "Okay, about your web presence..."

Web presence?

Gone (or at least fading) are the days when an author could slave away in their little corner, create their art, and then send it to readers who would enjoy the book while the author remained in relative anonymity. Today, readers expect to be able to Google their favorite author and find out what they wore to their high school prom. (Or if they even went to their high school prom.) For the record, I went to my junior, but not my senior prom.
And my dress was blue, and a little too tight because I borrowed it from a friend, but I digress...

The point is, there's a lot more to selling a book than just writing it, sending it off to a publisher, and going to a book signings. (Not even mentioning the query process or revisions.) Now, it is vitally important that authors, especially new authors, take responsibility for their own branding and their own advertising. Hence, I needed a website.

By now you're probably wondering (based on the title of this post), What does a wedding dress have to do with my website?

It's a parable of sorts. Let me enlighten you.

My first foray into higher education was at a small, private college, run by my church. It was called Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho). At Ricks there was a running joke about girls who went to Ricks to get their MRS (to find a husband). I was not one of these girls, and honestly I didn't know too many girls who were like that. It was a joke and a stereotype, usually not true. (And I suspect even less true now.)

However, one of my friends had a roommate who personified that stereotype. She actually came to Ricks with her wedding dress. No kidding. I saw it in the closet. And she didn't even have a boyfriend. There were other girls, not that extreme, who had already figured out what kind of wedding dress they wanted, some had even looked into decorations, caterers etc. Some had books of that kind of stuff. (If you're old or young enough think Monica on "Friends).

I wasn't like that. I actually wrote in my journal "I will not get married until I'm at least 25." (I won't tell you how young I really was when I got married.)

And then I met David.

David was and still is the one person in the world that completes me. (I know that's a cliche but it's true.) My mom says we're like a hand and a glove. When I met him I knew we were going to get married.

Sooner that I expected, I was faced with the task of planning my wedding. Only I didn't have a clue what I wanted. Or where to look. The whole thing stressed me out I didn't get to enjoy the process. When my sister got married I wanted to be involved in everything. By then, I knew what I liked--too late for my own wedding.

So websites and wedding dresses. (I will tie this all together, I promise.) What I should have learned from planning a wedding that I was completely unprepared to plan; it's okay and not presumptuous to PREPARE for an event that you are working towards and that you want to happen.

Like writing. Like having a manuscript on submission. Like putting up a website.

Last year, I attended a SCBWI-WWA (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Western Washington), meeting that was put on by Greg Pincus. Greg writes a blog called The Happy Accident, all about increasing your web presence. He said that the time to start advertising and creating buzz about a book is three years before it comes out. Three years!!! I took that to my critique group and we all agreed that seemed a little crazy. Three years ago was when I started this process, three years ago my story hadn't even been conceived, much less written.


In many ways he was right. Not that I could have promoted a book that didn't exist, but that I could have promoted myself as a writer. I could have started a blog, (like this one). I could have a least looked into how to do a website. I could have connected with other writers, (luckily I did).

Not having any idea what I wanted for my wedding added stress to an event I wanted to enjoy. Not knowing what I wanted and needed for a website added stress to another process I could have had fun with.

Fortunately, choosing wisely in the first instance (the wedding) helped me out in the second. My techie husband did an amazing job on the site that he built for me, and he was even willing to work late hours to get it together in my unreasonable time frame. (Thanks Hon!)

So I didn't tell my young friend heading off to BYU-Idaho, (my former college) this week that she needs to bring her wedding dress. But I will tell you, my friends and fellow writers, BE PREPARED.

The idea of putting up a website or even a blog might seem presumptuous. Going to a writer's group when you're just starting out might seem premature. But it's not. Let me say that again, working towards something you want is not presumptuous, it's smart.

And I'm not just talking about writing. Any goal that's worth having is worth taking seriously, even if it takes years to achieve. You can enjoy the journey knowing that you're working for something you want and when the time comes you'll be prepared.

And you might not be stuck wearing your best friend's too-tight blue dress to your prom. (But that's another parable.)

With that LONG introduction I present my website:

JUADSOL (Jumping up and down, screaming out loud!)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Shameless Plug (And new blog format)

I'm re-vamping my blog. You may have noticed a different background and soon I will have a different...okay, I will have a format. I want to focus on three things that are important to me and things that are important to teenagers.

1. Themselves

I'm a mother of teenagers, I get it, teenagers like to read about themselves and about other teens. I'm going to be featuring teenagers who do great things, (like my friends from trek) and believe me, there are a lot out there. Anything from being a great athlete to being a great friend to standing up for what you believe in. Sometimes it will be an individual, sometimes it will be a group, sometimes it will be a section of the teenaged population. I'm a firm believer in the power and strength of of youth. Not just to be a leader of tomorrow, but to be a leaders now, this moment. For any teens reading now (esp. my kids) go be a leader. Start by cleaning your room.

2. Books (A sneaky way for me to get to read books and call it work!)

Okay, I'm a writer, so books are important to me. And books should be important to teens. They are your voice, your window to the world, your past, present, and future. I love T.V. and the Internet (broadcasting major), but while these mediums give you a snapshot into the world, a book will take you there. Television and the Internet are limited by technology and special effects. Books are only limited by your imagination. And teens have tons of imagination, (ask any teacher what they hear when they ask for a tardy excuse).

So I will review books on my blog. A few disclaimers on this, I'm a writer, I have a lot of friends who are authors, so I will be reviewing my friends and fellow writers' work. Also I have tendency to like most of what I read so my reviews will be more content-related instead of this is a good book this is a not-so-good book.

One more disclaimer... as a mom my greatest compliment to any book is when I hand the book over to my son or daughter and say, I think you should read this. (As I recently did with Holly Cupala's book TELL ME A SECRET, to be reviewed next week). BUT, I don't think every book I read is appropriate for say my twelve-year-old daughter or my fourteen-year-old son. When I review a book, I will review for age-appropriate content.

And third...

3. ME!!! (And the world of publishing)

This is probably more important to me than it is to the teenaged world, but I promise to keep glimpses into my world and into the world of publishing interesting, entertaining and informative.

So format--(Going in reverse order of how I introduced the topics.)

Monday: Me
Wednesday: Book Reviews

Friday: Teens Doing Great Things

Whew! That's a lot to write about, so I'm going to need your help. If you know of a teenager or group of teens doing something you think is great or if you are a teen doing something great, LET ME KNOW. This could be as simple as doing a play or helping a neighbor. If you read a great Young Adult book LET ME KNOW. The "Me" stuff is all about me, so I get to pick that one.

Now here's the other part of my shameless plug...

My son's skateboard video!!! (Click here to see it.)

Since it's Friday I'm calling this my "Teens Doing Great Things" feature. I'd like to say I taught him everything he knows about video editing, but really he just asked me a couple of questions about the editing program I use and then he ran with it. Pretty impressive. That's what I mean about the power of youth. GO DAVID!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010



It has been a crazy, amazing, incredible summer! And since my kids aren't back in school until the second week of summer, it's not over.

I just realized that as I have been in the thick of Trek and Trek DVD, choosing an agent (still can't quite believe that one), "Alice in Wonderland", soccer, scouts, and now manuscript revisions, I haven't taken a moment to celebrate.

So here it is...

I have an agent! YAY! JUADSOL (jumping up and down, screaming out loud.). Okay, so that one might never become a popular texting phrase, but I like it.

Now that the contract has been signed on both sides I can announce that I am represented by the wonderful and lovely Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency.

For me this is a dream. I have been following Kristin Nelson's blog, Pub Rants for almost as long as I've been writing. I love her no-nonsense, and non-snarky method of dispensing information and advice from the literary world. You can imagine how thrilled I was when Sara told me that both she and Kristin were excited about my manuscript.


Choosing an agent was difficult, and stressful, and heart-wrenching, but as I turned in my first set of revisions to Sara this morning (1:00 am, did I mention my kids are still out of school?)I knew I had made the right choice. I felt completely comfortable hitting the send button, (still a phobia of mine). And I was okay even after I re-read what I had just sent and found mistakes. It was very important to me that I choose an agent who I could work with without being intimidated. I think that Sara has just the right blend of professionalism and personabolism. (Or is it personability? Are either of those even real words?) What I'm trying to say is that Sara is professional and personable with just enough of both of those characteristics to make her a great agent to work with.

She had wonderful ideas to make my manuscript better, and I enjoyed doing the revisions she suggested. I think that she'll be a strong force to push me to push myself and to keep me going in the right or write, (yes, I know, bad pun) direction.

I'm a firm believer in the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Our chief want in life is for someone who can make us be what we can be."
I think that's what a good literary agent should be, someone who can at help us be what we can be.

I know that acquiring an agent is more of a beginning than an end in this journey, but it helps to validate the long hours I spend hunched over my laptop while dinner burns (or never gets made) or the laundry goes unfolded (or never washed) or my children operate blow torches in the coat closet. (Just kidding about the last one, but has anyone seen my six year old?)

One step in the right direction. A million more to go. But I'm moving forward and getting closer to my dream, and that's definitely something to celebrate.

Now I think I'll go have a piece of really good chocolate. (One that I was saving for my husband's birthday.)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Trek--The Final Chapter

Wow! So much has happened in the last couple of weeks that I haven't had time to finish my Trek Log Blog. (Sounds like something from Star Trek or Dr. Seuss). So to all of those readers who have waited with breathless anticipation to find out how Trek turned out, (hi Mom!) I present…


The final day of Trek began like the others—making breakfast, packing carts, reading scriptures, and saying prayers. But these weren’t exactly the same kids who had left Gooseberry Flats three days before. It was evident in the way they interacted, the way they took charge of the tasks necessary to get ready to go, and in the way they packed the carts. (Tight like a dish.)

Their conversations were about getting home, showering, being able to use a cell phone, or even a flush toilet again. Even with everything they were looking forward too, I could see that they were sad to be leaving Trek behind. (Maybe not willing to stay another couple of days, but still sad.)

On the last day, the youth led out. When they

encountered a fence, their first obstacle, they figured out the best way around it, made it through and then left someone at that point to direct the

carts coming behind them.

Along the way they stopped for a funeral (one of the "babies" they received on the first day had been declared dead). This was the third funeral of the Trek and the most solemn. By this point I think the youth felt the funeral more deeply because after three hard days it was easier to relate to the hardships the pioneers faced. Leaving behind the baby doll reminded the youth that not all of the pioneers made it to the end of their journey in the real pioneer trek.

Four years ago when I went on Trek, the road home was a lot rougher than it was on this last day. In fact, the original Lacey Stake Trek twelve years ago had to re-build the road before they could travel it. Thanks (or no thanks), to the Forest Service the road was much smoother, (do you get the idea that Mormons like to make thin

gs hard on their youth in the name of a learning experience?) I was worried that an easier road would make the last day of Trek less memorable, but I don’t think it was a problem. Instead of having to overcome obstacle after obstacle, the Trekkers had the chance to hold a “debriefing” with their families. They took the time to leave the trail, find a spot in the shade and talk about their Trek experience. They discussed what they had found out they could live without like cell phones, internet, make-up, and indoor plumbing. What they had learned about themselves and what they could accomplish. What they had learned about each other. What they had learned about their ancestors and about their faith.

I had the chance to reflect too. I thought about four days without my e-mail, cell phone, and other technology constantly calling for my attention. I thought about quiet moments of reflection in the mountains. I thought about the amazing strength of 150 youth, what they had accomplished by working together. I thought about what strength and commitment they would be taking with them into high school and beyond.

When left the roughest part of the road, the Trekkers were reunited with two girls that couldn’t make that part of the trip because they had to ride in the cart. The reunion was sweet and from that point, the girls would travel with the rest of the group to the end of the trail.

Cart by cart the youth finished their Trek at Taneum Campground. They were met by cheering family members and leaders, a modern barbecue (no fry bread, woo hoo!), and the real world. Coming into the campground we saw normal people in normal clothing--people who had actually been able to shower within the last twenty-four (or even 48hours. It’s funny how you don’t realize how dirty, smelly, and well, weird you look on Trek because everyone looks exactly the same. Then you meet someone who is clean and...oh, heck at that

point you still don't care, because you have made it to the end and all of your best friends look as wonderfully dirty and weird and smell as bad as you do!

Pulling the carts into the unloading area was a bittersweet moment. No more trekking--walking in the heat and the dust, eating fry bread (okay I will let that one go now), pulling and pushing heavy up the side of a steep mountain carts. But at the same time time no more Trek--working with your friends, laughing on the trail, making up crazy songs, showing how tough you can be. No more of the spirit that accompanies every moment of Trek.


We were nearly home (the wonders of modern transportation!) before I realized nobody had turned on the radio and I hadn’t even checked my voicemail. It was like we needed those few hours and a quiet ride home to adjust to the real world.

I will file this Trek experience with my other Trek experiences--among my fondest memories. I left Trek with a renewed hope for the youth of the world, a stronger commitment to I can do hard things, a deeper gratitude for the pioneers who went before me, and a deeper faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Going back to Day One and the complete craziness of what we asked 150 teenagers to do, and what they did do (for the most part) willingly.

For four days and about twenty-six miles they trekked together. They got hot and dusty, and hungry and tired. There were moments when I'm sure they wanted to give up (I know I did,) but they kept going. They left with sore muscles, blistered feet, and little bits of the mountain (in the form of dust) clinging to their bodies. After the showers were taken and their stomach full of something besides fry bread (I know I said I would let it go), after the sore muscles and blisters have healed, I hope the things that will still cling to them are a stronger belief in themselves, a commitment to serve and help each other, and an increased faith in the Lord.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Trek--Day 3

I woke up with a wonderful thought on day three (and I'm assuming most if not all the other Trekkers shared this same thought)...


Day three was reserved for pioneer activities, rest, and spiritual discussions. The pioneer activities included black powder rifles, crafts made out of leather, wood, and horse shoe nails, and pioneer games like hoop rolling, gunny sack races, cherry pit spitting contests, tug-o-war, and a (fake) buffalo chip throwing contests. Those that wanted to were able to do laundry, pioneer-style. (Two days of Trekking in the dust with only one extra outfit made even doing laundry on a wash-board sound good.)

The most popular station was the hair-washing station. Even though the water was from the creek, icy cold, and not completely bug free, the kids lined up to get their hair washed. The unique thing about this station was that the kids had to partner up and wash each other's hair. It was a simple service that they could do for each other, and touching to watch. It made me think of the Christ washing his disciples' feet in the New Testament.

When the pioneer activities were over and everyone was a little cleaner, the Trekkers were treated to a hearty meal of...you guessed it, fry bread. (Day three for those of you keeping track).

After lunch they had the chance to kick up their heels (and A LOT of dust) by square dancing. The youth had had several square dance practices and the leaders had even booked a live band (not exactly the kind of band teenagers were used to dancing to but they had fun.)

After the dance was over it was time for things to take a more spiritual turn. The three companies went to three different areas for a discussion about how Trek related to their lives. The discussions were lead by members of the Lacey Stake Presidency (A Stake is a unit of the LDS church composed of several regional congregations.)

“Links,” was the theme in one area. President Moss, first councilor in the stake presidency told the Trekkers that the experience of Trek linked them to the pioneers in the early days of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints. He shared stories taken from pioneer journals. As a reminder of the link between them and their ancestors, each of the Trekkers got a few links of chain to tie onto their shoe laces.

In the second area the youth were given a little bag of flour—four ounces—the exact amount that one handcart company was given for their daily ration when food got low. Then the youth were posed a challenge: who would be willing to live on just four ounces of flour for the next twenty-four hours? President Warning, second counselor in the stake presidency, looked each of the youth in the eye and said, “Don’t any of you dare hesitate. You could do it. You can do anything.” The lesson of the little flour bags was this—they may face harder challenges even than living on only four ounces of flour for twenty-four hours, but with their own strength, moral courage, and Lord on their side, they can accomplish anything.

The final area was “The Iron Rod”--a rope wound through the woods and crossed over fallen trees and other obstacles. The story of the Iron Rod comes from the Book of Mormon. In this story the prophet Lehi has a vision about an Iron Rod placed along a straight and narrow path that leads to the Tree of Life and everlasting joy. The Iron Rod in the vision and our Trek “Iron Rod” are both symbolic of holding to the word of God and staying on the right path in life, the path that leads to eternal happiness.

The Trekkers were blindfolded, led to the Rod and told to hold on no matter what. The way was dark, treacherous, and filled with conflicting voices. Along the way there were helpful suggestions as well as temptations (a candy bar can be a powerful force after three days of fry bread).

If they made it to the end of the rope without letting go, the Trekker’s received congratulations from the stake President, Eric Coppin and a piece of fresh fruit. If they didn’t make it, they were met by their Trek Ma and Pa and a gentle discussion about choosing the right path.

This was my first time watching the Iron Rod as a mother of one of the Trekkers. I cried when I watched my son’s best friend let go of the rope because he believed the lie one of the tempters told him. It made me thing about how much my kids need their friends to stay on the right path and away from negative peer pressure. The Iron Rod s a powerful message about the importance of trusting the right voices and holding onto what is true.

After the Iron Rod and discussions the the Trekker were encouraged to find a place on their own to read scriptures, their letters from home, pray, and reflect on what they had learned.

Day three closed with a Testimony meeting—a chance for the youth to talk about their experiences on Trek and to share their beliefs. Set against a background of sunset and purple mountains they talked about the strength, faith, and unity they had experienced during Trek.