Success only flourishes in perseverance -- ceaseless, restless perseverance.
--Baron Manfred Von Richtofen

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Life, the Universe, and Everything and other fun stuff

It's almost time for my favorite event of the year!  

Life, the Universe and Everything, or LTUE as it's more commonly known is a science fiction and fantasy symposium held each year in Provo, UT. This year it is February 14-16 at the Provo Marriott Hotel. I love it! It is so much fun. This year, I will be presenting a class on writing short stories, as well as doing a couple of panels and participating in the mass author book signing on Friday night. If you're in the area, it's only $30 for the full three day conference, if you register by Feb. 10. Check out the website, and come if you can. It is so worth it!

I also have some other fun stuff coming up. I am doing two school visits. One to my kids' elementary for their career club day, and one to Timpview High School in Provo for their career fair. It should be fun to talk to those up and coming authors!

On February 21, I'll be presenting a class on writing speculative fiction at 7pm at the Pleasant Grove Library as part of their Professional Writers Series.

On February 22, I'll be doing a podcast interview for The Goodword Podcast at 5pm, followed by a book 
signing in their store from 6-8pm.

Then on March 9, I'll be at the Write Here in Ephraim conference at Snow College in Ephraim, UT. I'll be teaching two classes. One on finding time to write and balancing life and writing, and one on writing short stories. More details on that to come!

I'll be a busy, happy girl! Hope you can come see me at some of these!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Winning Short Story!

Notes From the Writing Chair is pleased to present the winner of the Notes from the Writing Chair short story contest:

The Favourite
by Almiria Wilhelm

They say a good teacher has no favourites, but that is not true. Look at my students. Do you see how happy they are? I love them all. They are my garden and I their gardener, equally watering and nourishing those that will grow large and beautiful and those that will remain insignificant. Or almost equally. A good teacher shows no preference, but in her heart every teacher has a favourite, one that is dearer to her than the others—or maybe I am not a good teacher. I don't know. I only know that my girls are happy, they flourish and thrive, and they have grown used to the situation with Annika.
There is only one thing that I am not easy about in my mind. I have never singled out any student for special attention. Never have I given any one child all my attention, until Annika came along. I have never seen anyone like her. I do not need to teach her to live and breathe dance. She does this already. She radiates it. She never moves but she dances. Must I leave this jewel unpolished, because it will shine brighter than the others? Must I refrain from exerting myself on the hard surface of the diamond so that the emeralds will not feel envy? So, I teach Annika privately. She alone commands my full attention for a period every day.
At first it was difficult. Parents complained. Some of my students lost heart and quit. Others, with wealthy parents, cried themselves into being sent away, to a teacher nearer the Cultural Centre. Doubtless their parents’ money would buy them anything they wanted until they were done with their training.
But we weathered the storms, Annika and I. She clung to the dance, not caring for friends. I tried to remain, in all other ways, impartial in my treatment of my students, loving and tending them as before, and at last the outrage subsided. Annika became a fact.
* * *
I was in the middle of Annika's lesson when Janni came running in.
"Lady Teacher, the Cultural Centre is coming to inspect! It's the Blue Council Teacher and she's looking mad!"
No one is allowed to disturb me while I teach Annika, but Janni was so full of the idea that she brought me vital news—perhaps she thought my private attention to Annika would enrage the Council Teacher—that I let it go. A moment later the self-important woman from our Capitol found me, settling in my studio with a heavy silence that I could almost taste. It weighed on me, but not on Annika. She shone. She glowed. She danced with an inner fire that would have kindled a response in anyone but the severe official in the blue teachers’ wraps. When her lesson was done, I let Annika go and braced myself for the usual argument on method and ethics, the Code of the Cultural Centre, and accepted teaching practices. I know them well, these practices. I spent ten years training at the Cultural Centre, where they do their best to indoctrinate young teachers. But I saw things differently from the Council. I saw their greed. I saw them give attention and privileges to those with means. With money, you can buy yourself into almost any school, buy yourself almost any prize. Almost.
You see, I know that once my students leave me, if they wish to pursue this sublime and punishing art, the highest judges will not care for anything but their ability. And because I live far out, where they have little influence or control, the teachers from the Cultural Centre grumble, then go away and leave me to my methods.
But this time the teacher said nothing about my methods. She wanted to take Annika away with her. . .
 Leave a comment, too, and let us know what you think.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Meet Contest Winner Almiria Wilhelm!

It's time to meet the Notes From the Writing Chair short story contest winner, Almiria Wilhelm!

 Almiria lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a household that contains more pets than people. When she isn’t writing she’s probably reading. Unless she’s dancing, an activity she discovered a passion for shortly after she learnt to walk. Probably as a consequence of this, Almiria is also a dance teacher and award-winning choreographer. She uses her students as guinea-pigs to test her fiction on.

Almiria has just completed her first YA novel. There’s no dancing in it, but she hopes to be able to write a lot of dance-related stories in the future!

You can connect with her on Facebook.

Almiria's story, "The Favourite," won first place in the Notes From the Writing Chair Short Story Contest. I'll be publishing the story here on Friday, but in the meantime, let's get to know Almiria a little better.

How long have you been writing?

Ever since I learnt the alphabet! Seriously though, I wrote my first short story (complete with illustrations) at the age of ten.
What is your favorite genre to write and why?

Fantasy, both for adults and teens. I love creating worlds which are different from ours and yet entirely believable for the reader.
What inspired you to write "The Favourite"?

A dream. I woke up remembering an unsettling scene of a teacher looking for her students in a room crowded with strange creatures and decided to create a story around it. The fact that I’m a dance teacher myself may have something to do with it too, although I’m nothing like the teacher in the story!

I had another reason for writing The Favourite and that is my love of Henry James’s short story, The Turn of the Screw. For anyone unfamiliar with it, Henry James tells the haunting tale of a governess who has to look after two very creepy little charges. Or is it the governess that is creepy? Henry James leaves the sanity of the governess, who tells her story in first person, in doubt. I probably shouldn’t mention this, since I really wouldn’t like The Favourite to be compared in any way to Henry James’s masterpiece, but the challenge of writing something with a similar concept inspired me. Is the teacher’s obsession with her favourite affecting her mind, or does she really have frighteningly manipulative students? This is the question which I hope to raise in the reader’s mind. Only the readers can tell me if I’ve succeeded!

The story has a beautiful, otherwordly feel to it. Can you tell us a little about your world-building process?

It’s difficult to talk about a process which I handle very intuitively. I like to start with a feeling. In the case of The Favourite, I wanted to convey the unsettling atmosphere of the teacher’s mental and physical world, while still retaining the beauty of the imagery. I relied heavily on my love of myths and legends, particularly those of the Irish fairytales in which fairies and similar supernatural creatures are beautiful, dangerous and unpredictable. I tried to use the gentler, more romantic language typical of those tales. At the same time, I prefer to keep language simple and focus on the backbone of whatever story I am writing. I find that writing for a word-count limit is a very useful exercise in getting rid of anything that is not directly related to the core concepts of my story!
And a few fun ones, since the story is about favorites!

Favorite book?

Favorites are so difficult for me because mine are never hard-and-fast! Stand-out novels that come to mind are Roger Zelazney’s Chronicles of Amber, Patricia McKillip’s Riddle Master trilogy and Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover.

Favorite movie?

I’m a big fan of Hollywood of the ‘30s and ‘40s, so my answers in this category tend to surprise people! The Scarlet Pimpernel with Leslie Howard, Tale of Two Cities with Ronald Colman, (both from the ‘30s), and pretty much anything with Olivia de Havilland in it!

Favorite food?

On cold days, pizza and pasta! On hot ones, (we get a lot of those in Africa), I love fresh fruit.

Favorite holiday?

I don’t know yet – there are still so many places to explore!
Favorite leisure activity?

No doubts here – a two-way tie between reading and dancing!

Thanks for joining us at the writing chair, Almiria! You guys are just going to love her story! Watch for it here on Friday!

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Room of My Own

I have been waiting for this for a very long time.

My own writing room!

 The pink bean bag is my writing chair, with a cozy afghan my sister made me to keep me warm when it gets cold there by the window. That blue bag on the desk is sunflower seeds, my favorite writing snack. I have a calendar there on the wall where I am keeping track of my page count each day. I am hoping my own room will help me be more productive.

So far, so good!

Me in the writing chair with my ear buds on and pen in hand!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy 2013!

Hey everyone! Sorry for the long, unintentional hiatus there. Holidays, traveling, and pneumonia threw me for a loop there for a while. Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Years. I didn't write as much as I was hoping for, but instead of beating myself up about it, I'm just going to move forward from here. I have high hopes that I can train myself to consistently write 1000 words a day and get this novel done in a few months instead of over a year. I'm not there yet, but I think that is because it's such a change for me. I'm not going to be able to do it overnight. I was reminded of this quote from Dieter F. Uchtdorf yesterday, and it seems particularly appropriate.

Let us resolve to follow the Savior and work with diligence to become the person we were designed to become. Let us listen to and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As we do so, Heavenly Father will reveal to us things we never knew about ourselves. He will illuminate the path ahead and open our eyes to see our unknown and perhaps unimagined talents. The more we devote ourselves to the pursuit of holiness and happiness, the less likely we will be on a path to regrets. The more we rely on the Savior’s grace, the more we will feel that we are on the track our Father in Heaven has intended for us.

So, what are your hopes and dreams for this year? What do you want to become in 2013?

Be sure to watch for my interview with short story contest winner, Almiria Wilhelm, and for her story "The Favourite," which will be coming in a couple of weeks!