Sunday, June 29, 2008

Writing and Weddings

A look through our garden gate the night of the Tropical Twilight Reception.

Planning an garden wedding reception and a plotting a novel have a surprising amount in common. Theme, pacing, overall arc, and effect. The theme, both in novel writing and in planning this reception, set the boundaries and demanded certain elements be included or excluded in the overall architecture.

The theme for the wedding reception we hosted in our back yard on June 21, was Tropical Twilight. When we heard, we knew instantly that it would include tiki torches marking the paths, glittering lights on trees, fence lines, and the rocks walls of the garden, and splashy plantings of brightly colored flowers in coral, hot pink, reds, yellows, and purples. Even the menu was defined by the theme, sauteed chicken with peanut sauce, fruited rice, strawberry and spinach salad, and those wonderful Polynesian rolls baked in a sauce of sugar and coconut milk.

We structured the set-up to keep the guests flowing from the reception line to the buffet to the dining set-ups in the three teak wood gazeboes in the middle of the yard and then on to clusters of intimate seating to encourage long conversations and relaxation.

Pacing the activities to keep the energy flowing took as much care as planning peaks in a plot. Start the live music before the guests arrived to entice them in from yard (joined by a side gate) to yard. Cut the cake when there is a lull in the receiving line. (There never was.) Have the bride and groom take their dance early so that everyone will feel free to hit the dance floor (in this case the basket ball court).

And finally, make the ending short and sweet and don't drag out the clean up.

The creative process takes place everyday in our lives. Whether it's in more recognizable ways like plotting a novel, planning a painting, and designing a garden, or in more subtle circumstances; solving a problem, adding missing elements to a relationship, or parenting a child, we thank the good God who made us for imagination, the ability to forcast possible outcomes and the reason to make choices.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Writer's Desk—to Clean or Not to Clean?

That is the question, especially for this writer's desk. 

In the months prior to the completion of Surprise Packages, my U-shaped desk collected many piles of papers. Some had to do with the book, others with parts of my life not directly related to writing: family, home, church, travel, caregiving group, etc. 
Now that the book is at the printers, I have no excuse for not tackling those piles. But it's so hard to begin! For years, I've bought books on organization in the hope that if I discovered the perfect system, I could lick the problem of the cluttered desk once and for all. But I haven't found one yet designed for a procrastinator who is also a right-brained visual organizer.

The thing about visual organizers (I'm not the only one) is that out of sight really is out of mind. If I can't see it, it doesn't exist. And in an odd way, my piles do work for me--I almost always know which pile holds the particular information I'm hunting for, even how far down it is.

But since those piles are getting out of hand, I have to take some action short of putting items in a folder and filing them in a drawer, which would be tantamount to tossing them down a black hole. My plan is to sort the piles by project or domain, tossing papers that are no longer useful. The writing projects I'll put in individual totes. Papers having to do with domains will go in their own wire basket. 

Finally, I'll put a calendar and a HOT list of tasks by my computer where I can't avoid seeing them. And I'll spend a few minutes every morning and evening identifying what most needs to be done.

I hope this plan will work! Now I just have to get off my duff and get started.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hobbling Through Zion

It's hard navigating the dictionary to find words to describe the canyons of Zion National Park, even for a writer. It's even harder navigating the paths if you're a writer hobbling along in orthopedic sandals supported by two canes and a patient husband. But here I am! Nearly at the mouth of the Narrows on the River Walk at the top of Zion Canyon.

Can you tell by my smile that I felt like I was "all that and a slice of gingerbread?" The only thing that thrilled me more was seeing the golden columbine in full bloom hanging from the walls in the canyon. Where else but Zion can you find woodland flowers flourishing in the middle of a desert?

We ended our short jaunt by arriving in Las Vegas in time to see my five year old granddaughter perform in her dance recital. How's that for a perfect adventure? Two rare desert flowers in one day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Cover for Surprise Packages is Revealed!

From the backliner:
Surprise Packages is the best book of the series! —Erma Carrier
This series is an endearing tribute to women and every kind of love they experience—times three. —Ginger Franz
Fifteen years after meeting at Education Week at Brigham Young University, the friends face new challenges. Deenie, now living in Gainesville, Florida, wonders if a new “where” calls for a new “who.” Juneau’s feelings of guilt come to a head when a secret from her childhood resurfaces. And Erin takes a second chance on love—with unexpected results. Through e-mails, phone calls, and visits, the three women support each other in the face of whatever life brings. But as they anticipate meeting to see if they’ve become Crusty Old Broads, events take a turn that puts the completion of The Pact in doubt.
This third book in "The Company of Good Women" series will be released to stores on August 6th. Stay tuned for more information on the Virtual Book Tour which will be launched July 1st, with stops all over the Internet!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I was born in the era of manual typewriters. My brain was not even wired for electricity. Now I'm trying to impose computer stuff on it which it has struggled to handle, but when I asked it to understand blogs, it totally wiped out. I'm a techno dorkwad (I saw that term in a post from Tami Norton, and it fits so well that I've adopted it). Alas, poor Yorick! I may be joining you, if I keep pushing my mental machinery.

Floating My Fears Away by Lael Littke

I just returned from a cruise to Alaska. Aside from the usual benefits, I found that I gained something else from the trip: I overcame my fear of deep water, just about the last of my lifelong hangups. As a child, I had a list of fears as long as my cat’s tail. In fact, the cat himself was on my list. I’d heard that if you let a cat sleep with you, it would take your breath. Exactly what that meant, I wasn’t sure. But it wasn’t true because the cat frequently slept on my chest and I let him because I loved him. If he took my breath, he gave it back each morning.

I was afraid of the tiger which lived under the porch. Hadn’t my brother pointed out its eyes shining in the dark? In fact, my brother said the tiger had eaten his playmate, George Harry Petey John. He said it was a bloody fight. Since I had never seen George Harry Petey John, I couldn’t say for sure. His playmate, he said, was something like the Holy Ghost, always there if you needed him but never intruding when you didn’t.

My brother alerted me to the Tree Witch who lived in the tall box elder in front of our house. She was there to snatch away children who missed the schoolbus or faked illness in order to skip school and then had the bad judgment to go outside and play. She was related to the Water Woman, a cruel prankster our mother warned us about who pulled little kids under the water of the creek that ran past our house if they got too close. (I wonder if that’s where I got my fear of water. That creek was at least eight inches deep.)

I was terrified of a tall girl named Letha at our small country school. She would peer over the door of the stall in the girls’ bathroom and snarl, “What are doing in there, you little twerp?” Most days I would try to wait until I got home to go.

I won’t go through the whole list, but one by one I conquered most of my fears, or simply grew out of them. But it took a while to overcome my fear of submitting a story in my writing class in New York City. I had taken every writing class offered at Utah State University, but we were mostly Mormons there and my mild little tales were well received. But after I was married and my husband and I moved to New York to pursue further education, I signed up for a class at City College of New York.

The students there were different from those at Utah State. They were sophisticated, jaded, blasé. They’d seen everything, done everything. They wrote stories of sexual perversions I’d never even heard of. How could I hand in my little yarns about Snookie, the shy young Idaho cowboy smitten for the new schoolteacher lady, or Grandma Feeney who saved her best dishes and linens for “company best” and thus never used them – until the day that . . . .

To my surprise, my classmates liked my stories and laughed in all the right places even though they regarded me as something of an anomoly there in the Big City. The teacher, a hard-bitten woman who wore a strip of adhesive tape on her forehead and down over the nosepiece of her glasses so they wouldn’t slide, called me to her desk one day. “Ms. Littke,” she said, looking over the top of said glasses, “you could be a selling author if you’d just write about reality.” “But I do,” I countered, shamefaced at being so country-girl. “What I write about is reality to me.” She stared at me for a long moment, and then said, “Ms. Littke you’re very lucky.”

So much for fears. If that old Water Woman was along with me on my Alaska cruise, I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did.