Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Winner of An Angel in Your Life Contest - Mini-lesson on the Words You Use.

This is exciting!!! As you may know I've been holding a contest in conjunction with the release of my book An Angel on Main Street. I want to thank everyone who entered. There were some very heart touching stories, and it became impossible for me to judge so I asked my writing group to do the honors.

First let's take a look at some of the entries. Here is one that is short and sweet.

The angel in my life is my Mom. She is always there to support me and give me encouragement with my grades. She is a strong person in her convictions and even through her many trials. I love her lots.

What a fortunate mother to have such a grateful daughter!

The next entry was an experience I hope would happen to me if I were in a similar situation.

Just yesterday I pulled into the church parking lot and hit a nail. When I got out of the car, the tire was already getting low and I could hear the air coming out of it. A brother in my High Priest Group walked by and saw me inspecting my soon-to-be ox-in-the-mire. He said, "Hey, ___... put that nail back in and let's drive to my house right away so we can plug that tire and not have to change it."I missed the Sacrament, but the kind act of service (and NOT having to change a tire while in my suit) certainly kept my mood from turning gloomy on the Sabbath. The tire was repaired, and I made it to back into the meeting before the last speaker spoke.

See what I mean. Thank goodness for a kind angel looking over his shoulder. The next entry was a bit long, but I wanted to share it with you. I've cut some of the story, but I think you'll understand what was going on.

On the morning of 15 August 1998 (Saturday) I left my home around eight o'clock to begin my endurance challenge. This would be the farthest I had ever gone. Things went well at the beginning as I had done my homework well and could stop for water every couple of miles. As I entered the mouth of Mueller Canyon I stopped at a water fountain and drank my fill before entering the canyon and the grueling trip up the trail to Elephant Rock. My plan from here was to stop at the springs along the way to keep hydrated. As I arrived at the first spring there was a group of people there with their pet dog that was running in and out of the water which by now was nothing but a mud hole. I continued on thinking all would be well until the next water hole. Again my plan was dashed by this same dog. This group had gone off the trail and up the side of the mountain and beat me to the water.About halfway up the trail I came around a corner and there was a bicyclist sitting on a rock enjoying the view. When he saw that I wasn’t carrying water he offered me a drink of his sports drink. I thanked him but told him I didn’t want to deprive him of his drink as I knew he was still going to need it as the day wore on and I would find water from a spring. After visiting for a short time he boarded his bicycle and departed up the trail with me running behind while looking for water. Being the middle of summer, all the springs had dried up and my looking was in vain. By the time I was approaching Elephant Rock I was very dry and thirsty. As I came around the corner here was my Angel, the bicyclist, holding his sports drink out in front of him and asked if I was ready for it now? I thanked him, took the bottle and poured it down my throat as fast as it would pour before giving him the empty bottle back. I then apologized for drinking all his drink. He told me he had more in his saddle bags if I wanted more. Knowing he had to return back down the trail I thanked him but told him no, I would be all right now. He went his way back the way we had come while I continued over the top and down the other side into North Canyon. As I ran along I kept thinking about the springs that I had seen at other times in the canyon and knowing they would appear soon. They never did. By now the sun was high in the sky and very hot. My only thoughts now were to reach Rudy’s Flat where I knew there was a stream that ran through the middle that I would lie down in to cool off and drink in the cool water. By the time Rudy’s Flat was in sight my body was screaming for water. I headed for the stream which was covered by shrubbery thinking how great it would feel to lie down in the flowing water and soak my overheated body and weary bones. As I approached the entrance though the brush to the creek it became obvious that there were enough horseflies to eat the flesh off my body in record time if I were to continue so I back tracked to the trail and continued running down the trail. The big difference now was that I was also swinging my arms to bat the flies away while trying to outrun them. When I finally emerged from the canyon I knew I was in trouble and needed to get water as soon as possible. I even considered knocking on doors asking for a drink or the use of their phone to call home for help. I suppose my pride kept me from doing either of these and I kept on running. When I finally reached home, my oldest son was in the driveway working on his car. When he saw me he said, “Dad, you’re not even sweating!” I knew that from about halfway up the trail in North Canyon I had stopped sweating and was in dire need of water. Continuing into the house I went straight to the kitchen sink and filled a large glass with water and poured it down my throat followed by another. With the third glassful in hand I leaned against the sink to rest when all at once water started pouring from my body like a soaker hose. I sat down now and slowly sipped from my large glass to keep water going into my system. As I looked back at the events that happened to me during the course of that day I know that man saved my life and I will be forever indebted to him for his kindness and generosity.

How fortunate for a bicyclist angel! The next entry touches the heart of those who have lost a loved one.

My special angel is my husband, and always has been since we first met. We have had many adventures throughout the years, and when we got in over our heads which was a frequent happening, he stood tall and smiled his angelic smile. Through thick and thin, he was always there, even when his halo got a little tarnished. My angel is still with me even though he left earth February of 2002. He goes to the Temple with me, he provides answers to questions that only he could know, and I know he is happy to finally find a place to "fit in". He spent most of his life searching for a love he could not find. He wanted to be loved by his mother and father, and never did either acknowledge him as a son, much less show him love. I know he has found that love at last - our Savior's and our Heavenly Father's love - that quenches all thirst. They surround him and hug him and he looks down on me and smiles. My special angel.

I wish I could post all the entries, but there were too many. I tried to pick a few that would show a variety of wonderful experiences people have had with the angels in their lives. As I see it all who have entered are winners!!! I'm so grateful that my writers group agreed to judge for me. Now for the winning entry. If you are a follower of my blog you may have read this story before. Here it is again with the names added.

My experience is different than the rest of the stories you will no doubt hear. I don't know who my angel is. Let me share my story. Last year, my sweet husband suffered a pretty severe hand injury at work. He was out of work for about four months. When it came time to start looking for work again it was October and we needed a job fast. The holidays are always a hard time to be looking for work. My husband found a job at a company in Nephi. We lived in Provo at the time so it was not that big of a commute. The company paid all right for a while, but in December the paychecks started to dwindle. We wanted to see family in Cedar City that year. We had hardly any money for Christmas gifts let alone gas for the trip. About a week before we were to leave, my sister in law called. She said some folks in her ward had left her family some gifts and some money on her doorstep. She told us they didn't really need the money and that they could give the money to us for gas. It was fifty dollars! I thanked her immediately and her husband dropped off the money a couple of days later when they were in town. And then to my surprise, the next morning someone in our ward had left many packages in our yard for Christmas. I think I had purchased one or two items that year for my kids! I didn't even need to go Christmas shopping. The packages contained brand new clothes, gift cards, and all the trimming for a wonderful Christmas meal. I think there was even a turkey involved! To this day I have no idea who helped us with Christmas that year but I do know one thing, that God loves us. Sometimes he sends his angels in small packages, sometimes in large ones. Sometimes it is just a new friend, sometimes a bit more. So I guess I know who one of my angels is. The woman who shared some of her Christmas with us, Emily Merryweather. I am very grateful for the angels in my life, known and unknown, because it has helped strengthen my testimony in many ways.

The winner of An Angel in Your Life Contest is Alexes Covington!

Alexes will receive a $25. certificate to Seagull Book or Deseret Book, which ever one she chooses and so will her angel.

Congratulations Alexes!!!

Since this is Wednesday I know you're expecting a little something about writing. I thought we would discuss the words we chose to write with. Okay that sounds rather odd. More goes into this than you would think.

The last couple of weeks I've quoted from Dwight Swain's book Techniques of the Selling Writer. I'd like to refer to him again. He states, "people's feelings come out in the words they use." Experts say that the words in question have to do with denotation and connotation.

Eek! We're getting into a heavy subject, but hang on. Let's focus on meaning and see if this becomes more clear. Denotation means the actual or dictionary meaning of a word. When a word means or implies something more than the denotation of the word that is called connotation. You may ask why is that important? Well... it's important because the connotation of a word may hold overtones of likes and dislikes for your reader.

In the romantic suspense novel I'm working on right now, I had my main character, Regi--who is not a person who minces her words--call a bad driver a nimrod. A reviewer didn't like the word and as a result didn't care for Regi. That's a major problem since Regi is the main character in my book, so I deleted the word. And though I still think my fiesty Regi would probably call a bad driver trying to force her off the road a nimrod or maybe even something worse, I can't take the risk of offending my readers. There is plenty in the book that shows her character without the baggage of a word that could have bad connotations for some people.

Can you think of everyday words that once were thought of differently than they are today due to bad connotations? I thought of one. Politician. Someone says politician and all sorts of red alerts go off. Some for good, some for bad. The word in and of itself is a good word. We need politicians, but because there is an awfully lot of baggage with the word you need to frame it carefully, so your readers understand your meaning.

I remember many years ago a great debate going on in the writing group I belong to over the word "permeate". I'd used it without truly thinking through exactly what I meant. That discussion made me realize every single word you write has a function and a writer needs to sometimes wear kid gloves when writing. Of course worrying about every single word can make a writer freeze up, which isn't good. So my advice...get your story on paper. Then, when you do your edits weigh each word, making sure the denotation and the connotation are what you intend them to be.

That's a very short explaination on the subject. If you would like to share you thoughts, please do so. I'd love to receive your comments.

Have a great week of writing!


  1. Thank you! Thank you again! Lovely stories, especially the angel on the bike trail...WOW!

    Awesome! Thanks for posting some of these on your blog! I enjoyed reading them!

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed them. After reading all the wonderful entries to this contest there is little doubt there are angels amoung us. :)



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