Friday, July 31, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
I explained to the girls that the value of Virtue was a pattern of thought and behavior. We discussed the actions of the stripling warriors which showed their behavior and thoughts were noble and virtuous.
I asked the girls: do you have the faith and light of a warrior in the latter-days? Now I'll pose the question to you. Do you think our youth have the faith and light of warriors in the latter-days?
Below are pictures of the beautiful warriors in my ward.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Actually, I’ve made it a practice to write what I want to write. As a teenager I wrote nonfiction books on mammals and the development of nuclear weapons. That’s back when I was mainly interested in science. Later I moved to fiction. I started my career as a prize writer, writing poetry and stories for literary magazines. I realized in college that I just wasn’t having fun with it, so I began to write science fiction and fantasy, and that suited me better.
But I’ve always had a knack for research and an interest in it, and as a young man I always imagined that I would become a physician, working in research. But I’ve also always been an avid genealogist, with a strong interest in history. So I wrote a historical novel, and in fact I’ve also been working on a thriller.
When I began studying the handcart pioneers, I was determined not to write anything about them. I felt that enough had been said. I’d heard the stories of pioneers freezing in the Rockies, of miraculous rescues, and of saints in a couple of cases being raised from the dead.
Yet as I began to study, I realized that a lot of stories about individual families had been gathered, but each of those stories were like pieces to a large tapestry that had never been sewn together, and when I began to try to fit the pieces together, I realized that many of them were missing, or were just the wrong color. By that I mean, I began to ask questions like, “Why did the handcart pioneers cross the Platte on this day, when the river was in flood stages?” “Why did they get up and march at two in the morning on this day?” “Why didn’t they stop at the forts to buy food?” and so on.
So I began reading through all of the biographical sketches that I could find, looking for answers, until I could make sense out of what had been said. What I discovered was that the story was larger, more engrossing, and more powerful than any of the individual accounts.
In particular, I became fascinated by Eliza Gadd, the only non-Mormon to cross the plains with the Willie Handcart Company. She went through so many trials, and suffered so much—with the deaths of her husband and children, and her own snow blindness.
Yet she and many others came out of the experience transformed, and that was what interested me most of all: the way that the ordeal helped so many of these people to grow, to transcend.
Does writing a historical novel present you with any particular challenges?
Fortunately, with the Willie Handcart Company, we have a lot of historical references. The company had its official record keeper, and Levi Savage wrote in his own journal. Dozens of other people left autobiographical accounts. If you add those to military records kept by scouts and non-Church sources of records, a fascinating picture emerges.
But no matter what records you have to base your story on, you have to deal with the fact that you really don’t know what people thought or what they said during most of the trip. We have a few quotes from Captain Willie and others that were written down after important meetings, but there’s not much.
So it introduces some uncertainty into the tale. Added to that, we have some unreliable witnesses. A couple of people wrote autobiographies thirty or forty years after the event, when their memories were hazy. One young man, for example, wrote about a huge encounter with some Indians that threatened the handcart train. It never happened. He was, I believe, mixing it up with an event that he witnessed two years after the trip.
In creating my story, I tried to be true to what I knew about the people in the story, but there are places where you just have to make an educated guess as to people’s motives and feelings.
Just how much research did you do for In the Company of Angels?
I started out by reading and rereading the biographies and autobiographies from every person that I could find. As I did, I charted out the progress of the company day by day.
Then I went to secondary sources—other books written on the topic, for example. But a lot was happening on the plains in 1856. The Republican Party had just been formed with the mandate to “stamp out those twin relics of barbarism—slavery and polygamy.”
So the country was on the brink of Civil War. In Kansas, a lot of abolitionists had moved in from the north, hoping to add it as an abolitionist state. So slavers from Missouri crossed the river and began hanging people and shooting abolitionists at the polls when they went to vote. The federal government sent troops from all across the west to put down the rebellion, and even threw the governor in prison, charging him with treason.
But when the US military pulled out of the mid-West, it left a gap in our defenses, one that hostile Indians took advantage of. The US military had committed some outrageous atrocities in the previous couple of years, and so the Cheyenne, along with some Sioux, decided that it was a perfect time to go to war.
Thus, our handcart pioneers were stepping into a much bigger mess than they knew.
So I had to study a bit about the conflicts going on around our pioneers.
Last of all, I made several trips in order to follow the trek of the pioneers during the season that they traveled. In other words, I wanted to see what it was like crossing the Missouri in mid-August, and crossing the Rocky Ridge in a snow storm.
All in all, it took the better part of two years to do the research.
Do you have any regrets after doing all that work?
In the Willie Handcart Company alone there were more than 500 people. I found at least half a dozen people who would have made excellent protagonists. I tried to include the stories of most of those people within the book in some way, but I could easily see myself writing the book again, telling the same story, but from the points of view of different characters, some that were hardly touched on.
How did your writing career get started?
Actually, I began writing heavily in college, and my career took off after I started winning writing contests. I entered my first short story in a little contest and won third place. When I was done, I thought, "Wow, I spent ten hours on this story, and I won $50. That's $5 an hour. Maybe if I worked a little harder, I could win first place in a contest."
So I spent some time thinking about how to win writing contests, and then wrote several short stories. I entered six different contests, and won first place in each of them, including the Writers of The Future. When we went to New York for the awards ceremony, a number of the judges had already gushed to various editors about how good I was (Thank you Robert Silverberg, Orson Scott Card, Algis Budrys, and Roger Zelazny). Half a dozen editors approached me, asking if I was interested in submitting novels. Not only was I interested, I'd packed a novel proposal in my suitcase! Within a week, I had a three-novel contract with Bantam Books.
What was the single most significant step you took to advance your career?
You know, I realized after I'd written my second book that my real last name, Wolverton, always put my books on the bottom shelf at the end of the rack. That was terrible placement. So I decided to begin writing under a pseudonym. That was tough to do, given that I was hitting at the top of the bestseller lists for science fiction. But when I moved to fantasy, my publisher allowed me to write under the name of David Farland (Farland was my great-great grandmother’s last name). I think it was a smart move.
What other books do you have coming out soon?
My next novel in September is Freaky Fly Day, book three of my Ravenspell series for middlre-graders. It’s a zany story about an evil fly that concocts a plan to take over the world using a multi-level marketing scam that involves selling makeup to flies. In order to put an end to the fly’s evil reign, my mice join forces with the governor of California. . . .
For those who are interested in In the Company of Angels, I have a link for people who would like to order signed and numbered copies in advance at http://davidfarland.zenfront.com/books/in-the-company-of-angels.html.
I also have the eighth book in the Runelords series coming out in October, called Berserker Lord. You can see the cover in the art section at http://www.runelords.com/, and you can order a signed/numbered copy of the book by emailing email@example.com.
How did you react to rejections when you started writing? How has that changed over the years?
My reaction has always been the same. I try to figure out why I got rejected, and then I rewrite and try harder!
You've given aspiring writers endless tips to help get their careers started. If you could only give a single piece of advice, what would it be?
Be persistent. It's your career. If you really want to be a writer, make time to practice, to hone your craft, and just do it.
(Note: Dave sends out a daily advice column to aspiring writers. To get on his list, go to http://www.runelords.com/.)
I just have one little seminar coming up on June 12th and 13th. I’ll be teaching a novel-writing seminar in Salt Lake City on a Friday night and all day Saturday. I’ll also be putting one on in October in Dallas/Fort Worth. For those who are interested, you can learn more at http://www.davidfarland.net/, then go to “workshops.”
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wouldn't you love to go back in time and talk with some of your ancestors? I know I would. My mother was a devoted genealogist. This was before computers when research involved snail mail. She would marvel that today all we have to do is merely turn on a computer and go online to do family history. I inherited a lot of family history from my mother which includes wonderful stories. As I'm thinking of pioneer days in Utah I can't help but think of my great, great grandmother Sarah Ann Willis Scott.
Sarah (this is her picture) was the third wife of John Scott. They came west with the Heber C. Kimball Wagon Train and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley 24 September 1848. The journey started in the spring when Sarah had a six-week-old baby, but that didn't stop her from driving one of the wagons. In a letter written by Joseph Fielding Smith to one of my distant cousin's, he gave a list of the Heber C. Kimball Wagon Train. He wrote that there were 662 souls that made this journey in 226 wagons. There were 57 horses, 25 mules, 737 oxen, 284 cows, 150 loose cattle, 248 sheep, 96 pigs, 299 chickens, 17 cats, 52 dogs, 3 hives of bees, 3 doves, 5 ducks and 1 squirrel (what's with the one squirrel?). Can you imagine the size of this wagon train?
Some of the questions I'd like to ask Sarah if I could would be, where was her wagon in the line up? How did they set up camp for such a large group? How did they take care of all those animals? Questions continually come to mind.
After arriving in the Salt Lake valley, the Scotts settled in the Mill Creek area and struggled to stay alive eating rationed flour and roots such as Sego Lily bulbs. Sarah did fancy sewing for wealthier families. Again questions come to my mind such as, why did they settle in Mill Creek (good area, but just want to know)? How could Sarah raise 9 children on rationed flour and roots? Mostly I'd like to ask her if she was happy? I think her answer would have been yes, but how did she find joy in such bleak conditions? Okay as I wrote this the answer came. She counted her blessings and didn't dwell on what she lacked, but was grateful for what she had. I will be forever grateful to her and my other ancestors who sacrificed so much for their families.
Please let me know of your pioneer stories.
I found this video of pioneers heading west. In the background the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings Come, Come Ye Saints . I thought you might enjoy it.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
When our fourth-grade class had to write our life stories, I remember shyly penning that I wanted to write a book. I’m positive I had no idea what that entailed nor that I would not only write one, but seven books. In sixth grade, I was chosen by the principal to write a column representing our school for the Salt Lake Tribune, called “School News and Views.” I thought it was really fun to see my name in print. My senior year of high school I was elected editor of East High School’s newspaper, the Leopard. However, it was many more years until that first book was published. In the meantime, I acquired two degrees in English from BYU, a husband whom I met in an English grammar class, and six children.
You have a wonderful history of co-writing with LaRene Gaunt on some famous books for the LDS audience: Elect Ladies: Presidents of the Relief Society (1990), Keepers of the Flame: Presidents of the Relief Society (1993) and The Children's Friends: Primary Presidents and Their Lives of Service (1996). All the women who served as presidents of those auxiliaries were very devote women. Since this is July and close to a beloved holiday for Latter-day Saints (24th), please share with us a brief story from all three of your books.
Zina D. H. Young served as the third general president of the Relief Society from 1888 to 1901. Prior to this call, Zina was asked by her husband, Brigham Young, to not only become a midwife but also to establish the silk industry in the Territory. She took a course in obstetrics and delivered hundreds of babies, a service for which she was not usually paid. “Aunt Zina,” as she was affectionately called, combined her medical skills and her great faith. A number of baby girls were named Zina after her. Realizing that medical care needed much improvement, she was instrumental in establishing the Deseret Hospital, served on its board of directors for many years, started a nursing school, and for a time headed a school of obstetrics.
Sometimes home remedies were ministered: She recorded in her journal an ointment used for treating “caked breast, strains, lame backs and rheumatism:
“Good sized live Toads 4; put in boiling water—cook very soft; take them out; boil the water down to ½ pint and add 1 lb fresh butter; simmer; add 2 oz. Tincture arnica.”
Though silk worms were “a terror” to Zina, she traveled from Logan to St. George to teach women how to feed silkworms, spin thread, and weave silk. She served as president of the Deseret Silk Association though she was plagued with nightmares of silkworms. Those silk dresses on display in museums are the product of Zina’s devoted efforts.
The third president of the Young Women, Ruth May Fox, was the mother of 12 children—that in itself an enormous responsibility. Her amazing energy, quick mind, and devotion to the gospel helped her in all areas. After serving on the general board and as a counselor in the presidency the YLMIA (Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association), President Heber J. Grant called her to be the president. She was 75 years old. When she suggested to the prophet that she was quite old, he told her that age was a quality of mind. At a dinner for the young men’s and young women’s presidencies, she recited a lengthy poem she had just made up. One of Ruth’s co-workers remarked after a lengthy and arduous trip to visit stakes that she often had to rest in bed for a day. “Well, maybe someday I’ll come to that,” responded Ruth, who was 27 years older than her colleague. Released at age 84, Ruth May Fox lived to be 104 years old and realized the promise given her in her patriarchal blessing decades earlier that her last days would be her best days. She credited her experiences (which she said were “far beyond my fondest dreams”) and her youth and vigor to the Lord, who, she said, “has always done better for me than I could have done for myself.”
Many experiences of Adele Cannon Howells prepared her well to serve as the fourth general Primary president. From her husband’s successful movie distribution company in the early days of film, she learned of the far-reaching influence of mass media. Adele was also a writer for several magazines and newspapers. During their world travels, Adele developed a good eye for art and acquired many paintings. Following David’s early death, Adele moved from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City when she was called to the Primary general presidency. Because of her writing talents, she became editor of the Children’s Friend. She adopted the slogan “Good Reading for Children” and initiated pages for children’s art and hands-on activities. As Primary president (1943-1951), she began a radio program, Children’s Friend of the Air, to broadcast uplifting and gospel-oriented programs. Perhaps her most lasting contribution was commissioning Arnold Friberg to paint a series of Book of Mormon illustrations because she felt children would better understand the Book of Mormon if beautiful pictures accompanied some of the stories.
Share with us the process of collaborating with another writer.
LaRene Gaunt and I first met in a writers’ group in the early 1980s and immediately became friends. Then we both were called to serve on the Relief Society Writing Committee, so Relief Society was really on our minds. The day my youngest son started kindergarten LaRene and I were sitting on my front lawn contemplating what I might do with the 3 hours my house would be empty and quiet. (Her children were a bit older.) As we talked about doing a writing project together, we thought we could write a book about the general Relief Society presidents, but were afraid it had already been done. After we found no such book, we submitted a proposal to Deseret Book. They didn’t know us nor our writing but were very interested in a book featuring women leaders in the Church.
LaRene and I had a marvelous experience together, and I don’t think either one of us could have written these books alone. It was great to share our research, edit each other’s writing, discuss our progress, and get excited about our project. We wrote the various chapters separately; we found that it didn’t work for us to try to write a chapter together. When LaRene brought the first copies of Elect Ladies to my home, she had wrapped them in a pink blanket. We really felt that we had given birth—and only two years of labor! Over the next few years we wrote Keepers of the Flame: Presidents of the Young Women and The Children’s Friends: Presidents of the Primary and Their Lives of Service. Because LaRene was simply too busy to do a new version of the Relief Society book, I updated it. Faith, Hope, and Charity: Inspiration from the Lives of General Relief Society Presidents was published in 2008.
What inspires and motivates you to write the very most?
Writers write, right? If I didn’t have a project to work on, I would feel out of sync. My inspiration and motivation to write come in a variety of ways: something I’ve read, heard, or through just plain brainstorming. I have also received “those sudden strokes of ideas” that the Prophet Joseph Smith referred to, that I know were messages from heaven about a particular piece to write.
Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your writing? Do you have a writing mentor?
I admire nonfiction writers who make a historical piece read like a novel. These writers make people and events fascinating and reading their works compelling. Recent favorites are James Swanson (Manhunt), Dava Zobel (Longitude), Diane Ackerman (The Zookeeper’s Wife).
I have been very fortunate to have been mentored by Eleanor Knowles, former senior editor at Deseret Book and by Dr. Neal E. Lambert, my graduate chairman at BYU. They didn’t let me get by with sloppy writing and taught me how to improve both style and substance.
Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be?
I grew up in Salt Lake City and lived in the same home for my first 18 years. I lived in the Yalecrest area, a lovely neighborhood with tree-lined streets, wonderful neighbors, and a marvelous ward. On the Yalecrest Ward grounds was a monument to the silk industry, which intrigued me as a young girl Little did I know then that I would be writing about the Relief Society’s role in sericulture. I guess it’s not surprising that living in the heart of Zion piqued my interest in Church history.
Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like? On the couch, laptop, desk? Music? Lighting, handwriting?
Years ago we converted a main floor bedroom into what we call “the computer room.” It is really my computer room because that’s where I write. Every now and then a family member will venture in to use my computer. My husband does most of his computer work at his law office or on his laptop and has an office in another part of the house. When our children were at home, they, of course, did homework and played some games, but the Internet was not an attraction/distraction since our youngest son graduated from high school in 2000 and the Internet was just being introduced. I have a great mountain view out my window, lots of books on the shelves, family photos, and papers here and there.
What are you working on now?
I write a monthly column for meridianmagazine.com and intermittent articles for various magazines. My church calling requires a lot of writing under the byline “Anonymous.” I have served on the Church Correlation Committee for the past nine years; we evaluate the magazines, manuals, special projects, etc.
My current book project is a collection of family history stories going back to the first ancestors who joined the Church on both my husband’s and my side. As we’re both 5th generation Latter-day Saints, I have a large group of people to research and write about. I really enjoy historical research and writing about people, so after writing biographies of the general auxiliary presidents, I’m finally tackling our family. The hardest part for me will be getting the photos inserted! Of course, it will be privately published.
Publishing has provided me with amazing opportunities and associations with people that have enriched my life immensely. By getting a few articles published in Church magazines years ago, I was invited to interview General Authorities and auxiliary presidents for the “Friend to Friend” column in the Friend magazine, serve on two Church writing committees, publish many more articles in the Ensign, and am now a member of the Correlation Committee. My earlier publications led to writing the auxiliary presidents’ books with LaRene Gaunt.
I’ve also gained confidence in my ability to write, have made a little bit of money, and most of all, found how much I enjoy the process of writing.
I have two Powerpoint presentations that I give to Relief Societies and other women’s groups. One is about the general Relief Society presidents (very popular for the March birthday) and the other is “Strengthening the Family at the Dinner Table.” My two cookbooks focus on the importance of families eating dinner together. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a presentation.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I was blessed to be talented in a lot of areas. My principle focus early on was vocal music, which I ended up using not for singing opera as I’d planned, but for church. I didn’t think about writing as a profession until the 1980s, when a gig as a journalist fell into my lap. However, I’d always written fiction. Even though I was the 4th grade class newsletter editor, I constantly wrote short stories and plays and began novels—I never finished them at that point, though!
Tell us a little bit about your new book.
Trail of Storms tells the story of Jessie Bingham and her sisters, Hannah, and Heppie, who are forced to leave the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with other family members shortly after the close of the Civil War. Hannah’s unfortunate incident with a Yankee ruffian precipitates their flight in a broken-down farm wagon. As the family members work their way across the continent to New Mexico Territory, they are dogged by both physical and emotional calamities. When Jessie hears that her former sweetheart, James Owen, took a wife, she accepts a friend’s offer of marriage on the condition that they wait to get married until they reach their destination. Her world is shaken again when she encounters James at a stop on the trail, and he isn’t married now.
Tell us about your other books.
The Man from Shenandoah introduces the Owen family and their neighbors in a post-Civil War context, and recounts their travels to Colorado and the adventures that await them there. Ride to Raton follows on, telling the other side of the happy ending of the previous novel. James Owen leaves the family to block out his unhappiness at losing something he held dear, and to make his own way in the world. Although the three novels make up a series, they can be read and enjoyed separately.
What inspires you and motivates you the very most to write?
Readers! Having people out there who expect a new book with new adventures for established characters is great motivation.
Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your writing? Do you have a writing mentor?
I’d say there are several Western writers who have influenced my work, such as G. Clifton Wisler, Elmer Kelton and Don Coldsmith, and I always like to tip my hat to Louis L’Amour. The closest thing I have to a mentor right now is my friendship with Jean Henry Mead. She is such a good example for me.
Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be? I grew up in a town that was small at the time and became a metropolis that forgot its past. I always thought that was unfortunate. I lived there for over 50 years. Now I live in a very tiny wide-place-in-the-road in a pine forest on a mountain, which had a highway bypass a few years ago. It’s peaceful, but we get nervous during wildfire season. If I could live anywhere, it would be in this vicinity in a house with some room for a garden. If I had to move, perhaps I would find a place in a small town in Utah.
Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like?
For the most part, I write at my desktop, which sits in a corner on a horseshoe-shaped writing desk I bought years ago at a used-furniture store. You can see hardly any of the desk’s top, as I tend to cocoon myself amid papers, books, files, and maps. Above me are several shelves containing favorite books, including my Louis L’Amour collection. The wall ahead of me is a hodgepodge of papers hanging on a bulletin board. A calendar hangs on a nail. It’s always a cowboy or horse theme. A track light illuminates my desk and printers. A fluorescent fixture lights the rest of the room, which includes a bookcase stuffed full of research volumes, file boxes, office supplies, a utility cupboard, and my washer and dryer. If I listen to music, I find it on my computer or put a CD in one of the disk drives. I rarely write longhand anymore. Occasionally I’ll write at the library or a local coffee shop writers’ hangout (I only drink their excellent fruit smooties!) on either my laptop or my netbook.
Do you watch television or movies? If so, what are your favorites? Do they inspire your writing? I do watch a few television shows for recreation, but not usually for inspiration for my writing. My current favorites are “Deadliest Catch,” for its nitty-gritty edge-of-disaster feel; and “Castle,” which is about a mystery writer who teams up with a NYC police detective to solve crimes. I have a NetFlix subscription for accessing old movies and past TV series. I’m currently following “The Pretender.” I also have a large Western movie collection on DVDs. Those I do watch for writing inspiration and for getting into the feel of the Western period.
How has being published changed your life?
I’ve become acquainted with a lot more people who have read my books. It’s always a wonderful feeling to communicate with someone who admires what you have created.
What do you do to reach out to readers?
I have a website at http://marshaward.com/ and a blog at http://marshaward.blogspot.com/ called “Writer in the Pines.” I update information about my work in progress on my blog, which many readers appreciate. I also post on two group blogs, ANWA Founder & Friends at http://anwafounder.blogspot.com/ and The Ink Ladies, at http://www.theinkladies.blogspot.com/. I have a popular Author Interview series on my blog, and participate in contests, giveaways, and book signings. I also take part in social media networks like Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter to communicate with readers and other writers. There’s a great immediacy in social networking that I find refreshing. However, I don’t pass up face-to-face opportunities to interact with people, such as giving talks to civic groups, and doing workshops and classes at conferences and retreats. I’m also available to talk to book clubs and other readers’ groups.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
For the month of July, I wanted to blog about the pioneers who settled in Utah on the 24th.
I thought having a post with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing America the Beautiful would be a good transition from celebrating our nation's independence to celebrating the pioneers.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Since we celebrate Independence Day this Saturday I thought you might like to know a few facts about the Statue of Liberty.
A Frenchman by the name of Edouard-René Lefebvre de Laboulaye wanted to build a monument that would honor the friendship between France and the U.S.
Sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi designed the statue.
The French bore the cost of making the statue and the Americans the pedestal.
Bartholdi built the statue in sections.
Over 300,000 rivets secured 350 sheets of copper of Lady Liberty
The engineer and builder of the Eiffel Tower, Alexander-Gustave Eiffel, designed the skeleton of the statue.
When the statue was finished, the Americans were having trouble raising money to complete the pedestal.
Joseph Pulitzer, the owner and publisher of a New York paper, promised to publish the names of those who contributed. He raised one hundred thousand dollars.
President Grover Cleveland asked Congress for $56,000 to finish the project.
Two hundred and fourteen boxes brought the statue from France to the U.S.
It took six months and 75 workers to put it together.
Liberty Enlightening the World was the statue’s name.