Sunday, July 17, 2011

ANWA Retreat 2011

I belong to a writer's group, specifically for LDS women, called ANWA (American Night Writers Association). Every summer they host a writers retreat-- a place to get away, socialize with other writers and of course, write.

I had such a great time last year and was a little worried about my high expectations going into this year's retreat. I was not disappointed!! If I could find one word to describe my experience it would be Charity, the pure love of Christ. Rarely have I been with a group of people and felt so unconditionally loved and accepted.

The moment I stepped foot in the cabin, I was welcomed and genuinely felt that my ANWA sisters were glad to see me. Many remembered me from last year's retreat. I always marvel how 30 women from all walks of life and with all different personalities--outgoing, shy, reserved, bubbly, witty, etc.--can come together and be so unified. Truly I felt like I was among family. I felt valued, important and loved.

Sometimes when I speak, I have difficulty recalling the words that I want to use (I blame depleted brain cells from childbirth) and feel like I trip over myself. Many times, I'm self-conscious about it. But here at the retreat, I never felt judged or critiqued-- just accepted. It's a wonderful feeling.

We stayed at a beautiful cabin in Prescott, Arizona. The weather was beautiful and temperatures mild. I chose to do most of my writing outdoors. We also had wonderful classes given by fellow ANWA members, devotionals and get to know you games. I participated in a critique group where I received great feedback about my writing and ideas on how I can increase my skills as an author. It was great to hear what other authors do to stay motivated and positive. If I had a question about word count, query letters or any aspect of writing, all I had to do was walk into the other room and ask.  

One woman said that when part of her story is bothering her, she takes a nap, and usually wakes up with a solution. A part of my story didn't fit right and it bothered me so I took her advice. When I woke up, I realized that I had to cut a sub-plot out of my story because it was taking over the main plot. Holy Cow! That's like 15,000 + words deleted from my story. But now I feel at peace, even though I have a bunch of revising to do.

The thing I loved was the positive atmosphere there at the retreat. People were supportive, caring and kind. Several times sisters would tell us things and then say, "I've never told anyone that before." I believe it was because we all felt the trust and bond of sisterhood. We could be ourselves and trust each other and know that no matter what, we were loved.

Here are some pictures... 

 This is my bedroom. The walls were completely made up of windows, making for a spectacular view.

Here is the kitchen. We took turns preparing and cleaning up from meals. The saying is so true, "Many hands make light work".  

 Here is our wonderful snack bar. Everyone brought a treat to share. We had an abundance of chocolate-- a must for any writer.

This is the balcony/deck. I spent most of my time out here.

 Here is a view of the pines from the balcony. Beautiful. We could observe animals like squirrels and birds.

 Here I am in my favorite writing area. Out on the balcony, feeling the gentle breeze and smelling the pine scented air.

 Another view of the pines.

 Here's a shot of all my ANWA sisters. Love them!

This is a silly pose. We are all performing our "name actions" from a game we played.

Not only did I walk out of the retreat with greater motivation and skills as an author, but with an increase of self confidence as a person. I was spiritually uplifted. Coming home from retreat, I felt like a better wife, mother and friend. It was a blessing in my life to attend the ANWA retreat and I am grateful to a Heavenly Father who filled my needs through these wonderful sisters.

Decision Points Review

Decision Points by George W. Bush
My Rating: 4.5 stars

Decision Points


President George W. Bush describes the critical decisions of his presidency and personal life.

Decision Points is the extraordinary memoir of America’s 43rd president. Shattering the conventions of political autobiography, George W. Bush offers a strikingly candid journey through the defining decisions of his life.

In gripping, never-before-heard detail, President Bush brings readers inside the Texas Governor’s Mansion on the night of the hotly contested 2000 election; aboard Air Force One on 9/11, in the hours after America’s most devastating attack since Pearl Harbor; at the head of the table in the Situation Room in the moments before launching the war in Iraq; and behind the Oval Office desk for his historic and controversial decisions on the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina, Afghanistan, Iran, and other issues that have shaped the first decade of the 21st century.

President Bush writes honestly and directly about his flaws and mistakes, as well as his accomplishments reforming education, treating HIV/AIDS in Africa, and safeguarding the country amid chilling warnings of additional terrorist attacks. He also offers intimate new details on his decision to quit drinking, discovery of faith, and relationship with his family.

A groundbreaking new brand of memoir, Decision Points will captivate supporters, surprise critics, and change perspectives on one of the most consequential eras in American history – and the man at the center of events.

My Review

I'm not much for autobiographies or politics. I would have never read this book except that it was chosen for our book club. I am so glad I did! I really enjoyed this book. It was very interesting to get into George W. Bush's head and hear the story from his point of view. Instead of outlining his presidency chronologically, each chapter covers a major decision he faced as president and walks the reader through his decision making process. He candidly talks about decisions he got right and mistakes he made during his presidency. I really learned a lot while reading this book. It increased my opinion of him and made me do a lot of thinking. I've become a better person from reading this book.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Constant Hearts Review

Constant Hearts, Inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion by Donna Hatch
My Rating: 4.5 stars

Constant Hearts, Inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion


The scandalous Lady Amelia Dasherwood must face her enemies to get aid for a forgotten orphanage. Newly returned from the war, Dr. Reed St. Ives plans to make a new life and forget Amelia. When fate reunites them, the last thing they want is to face the heartbreak that tore them apart. Amelia must choose between honoring her family’s wishes or declaring herself and risking Reed’s rejection.

My Review

 I love Donna Hatch! She is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. And she didn't disappoint with this Regency sweet romance novella. It's amazing to me how she can pull me into the story and into her characters within the first few paragraphs. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer! I'd love to read a full length novel of this story and see them take more time courting and developing their relationship. I just wasn't ready to let them go!

***This is available as an e-book only. You can find it by going to this link

Birthmarked Review

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
My Rating: 4 stars

Birthmarked (Birthmarked, #1)


After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.

Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.

Fraught with difficult moral choices and rich with intricate layers of codes, Birthmarked explores a colorful, cruel, eerily familiar world where one girl can make all the difference, and a real hero makes her own moral code

My Review

 I'm not always a fan of dystopian novels, but I really enjoyed this book. It hooked me from the beginning and had a lot of twists and turns that kept me turning page after page. I felt like a main theme of the book was that every life is of worth. I really appreciated that. I thought that the author did a great job at developing believable characters. Sometimes I got lost in the descriptions of the Enclave or the science behind the plot, but for me, the characters drove the story. I am anxiously waiting to read the sequel.

A World Without Heros Review

A World Without Heros (Beyonders #1) by Brandon Mull
My Rating: 3.5 stars

A World Without Heroes (Beyonders, #1)


Jason Walker has often wished his life could be a bit less predictable--until a routine day at the zoo ends with Jason suddenly transporting from the hippo tank to a place unlike anything he's ever seen. In the past, the people of Lyrian welcomed visitors from the Beyond, but attitudes have changed since the wizard emperor Maldor rose to power. The brave resistors who opposed the emperor have been bought off or broken, leaving a realm where fear and suspicion prevail.

In his search for a way home, Jason meets Rachel, who was also mysteriously drawn to Lyrian from our world. With the help of a few scattered rebels, Jason and Rachel become entangled in a quest to piece together the word of power that can destroy the emperor, and learn that their best hope to find a way home will be to save this world without heroes.

My Review

It took a while for me to get into this book. It was interesting enough to keep me reading, but I didn't feel completely immersed in the story until later in the book. I read it with a writer's perspective and I thought that he used a lot of great descriptive words. I liked how he wrote the passage of time (from day to night) and kept up the pace while they were traveling (something that I'm looking at in my own writing). I did think that the main character, Jason, made more mature decisions than a typical 13 year old (I know, I have one). It didn't bother me though because otherwise we wouldn't have a story. I just imagined him being older. The story picked up at the end with more action, a crazy twist and a cliffhanger. I ended up enjoying the book and look forward to reading the sequels.