Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What have you learned from publishing your first novel?

Writing is only half the battle.

I mean, sure, you have to have a good story. You have to put in your hours slaving away at the keyboard. You have to learn how to craft your words and then rip them all apart and do it over again, only better this time.

But what they don't teach you in college English classes or at any particular point in the publishing process is this: No one will take you seriously until you dare to do it yourself. You have to independently decide that your words are worth reading. Otherwise you'll be trapped, waiting for someone else to validate you. I know lots of writers who wait for this. They keep sending out queries and keep getting rejected so eventually they stop querying. Or they keep rewriting and rewriting, too freaked out to even show their work to anyone else. You might not even know that they write. It's this dark, secretive thing for them.

And it's not just writers—though we do seem particularly prone this behavior. There are lots of people who wait for validation from others. They're the kind of people who obsess over their facebook likes, who would cheat to get good grades, or who do outrageously expensive things to their body to conform to a particular standard of beauty.

I know this because I've been there. (Well, not with the plastic surgery type of stuff, thank goodness.) But I've written in secret, convinced that my writing wasn't even really writing or that this was just some little phase I'd outgrow. 

I'm not saying it's wrong to want external validation. It's nice to be praised or told that your in the xth percentile. It's really nice when others recognize that you have worked hard. But you can't wait for that because it doesn't always happen.


Poor Sylvia Plath would probably hate this post.

The world is a big place. There will always be people out there who are more than you: more talented, more lucky, more rich, more experienced, more better. The point is that you are the only person who can decide to take yourself seriously. Others might see your potential or they might not. That's not up to you. What is up to you is how you see yourself.

And actually, if others believe in you more than you believe in yourself, that can be just as crippling. It's what happens to one-hit wonders or overnight successes. When success comes from outside you, before you're ready to see yourself as successful, it can't last. Until you dare to label yourself as an artist, you never really will be.

I know this all sounds like a bunch of motivational speeches threw up on my blog, but this is how I honestly feel right now and I'll tell you why.

I've been working on revisions for The Jane Journals. Beyond the rewriting, this has been a learning experience for me. I've never made it this far in the publishing process before. With Tiny Talks, I have to write and revise so fast that I don't have time to think about it. Before I can take a deep breath, the book is out on shelves and there's nothing more I can do about it. 

But with this book, each day is an exercise in self-confidence. Each time I sit down to write, I have to fight off that nagging voice that tells me I should just stop, that no one will want to read this book, that I'm not a "real" writer. What does that even mean? A real writer?

I think a real writer is one who keeps writing in spite of that nagging voice. I think a real writer is one who writes regardless of how many people are reading his or her words. I think I've been a real writer for a long time, I just never let myself believe that I was.

Well, to heck with that. This is my official statement: I write. I can't help it. It's what I do.

And if other people want to read my words, that's awesome. But it's not why I do it and it won't make me "real." 

So here's my challenge to you all. If you're cool, and I know you are because you're still reading this, then own up to your coolness. Don't feel like you need someone else to confirm it. Just keep being the amazing person that you are. Keep creating. Keep dreaming. Keep at it and don't hide your awesomeness.

The world needs more independently cool people.

And I need to get back to revising. 

That's the other half of the battle.

Monday, December 8, 2014

How does it feel to be 30?

Pretty much exactly like 29. But that's cool.

So some of you might remember that a while ago I made a list of 30 things I wanted to do before I turned 30. I thought about looking for the list and seeing how many I'd actually done, but I got lazy.

And honestly, I've done way more than 30 cool things, this year alone. Whether they were actually on my list is sort of beside the point. Not like there's much I can do about it now except start making a 40 things before 40 list. But I don't want to think about turning 40 yet.

Instead I decided to come up with 30 Things I'm Grateful for on My 30th Birthday.

In no real order, here they are:

1. The Atonement
2. My family
3. So many really, really, really good friends
4. The scriptures
5. A career that challenges me and gives me opportunities to grow and lead
6. The chance to be a published author
7. That I know what I want out of life
8. My niece and nephew—so cute!
9. Libraries and that there are always more books I want to read than time to read them
10. New places to explore
11. Good health—no major complaints
12. A home to live in that's all my own
13. My bike, Daphne
14. The dreams I have for the future
15. Good memories of the past
16. Technology and how much information I can access quickly
17. Teachers who taught me to be skeptical and think for myself
18. The view of the stars from Camp Ritchie
19. The girls I get to work with in my new calling with Activity Days
20. That my hair is curly
21. The fact that some of my favorite childhood memories happened in fictional places like Avonlea and Narnia
22. Modern conveniences like indoor plumbing and Netflix
23. 80s power ballads
24. That I'm going on vacation in nine days!!! And I'll be in SoCal. And there will be beaches. And it will be warm!
25. Enough delicious and healthy food to eat
26. Coworkers who make me laugh and help me solve problems
27. Temples
28. Punctuation and that I mostly know how to use it
29. Personal revelation
30. All of the kids I used to nanny—I miss them like crazy! And they're growing up so fast!

Anyway, it's late. I've had a wonderful birthday. Thanks to everyone who made it awesome!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Do you believe in love at first sight?

I hope so.

I always thought I didn't. In fact, there have been some dark days when I wasn't sure I believed in love period, at least not as a part of my life. I knew other people experienced it, but I was pretty convinced it wasn't something I'd ever get in on.

Luckily I've gotten over that hurdle. But I'm still stuck on this love-at-first-sight thing. 

I guess it depends on how you define "first sight." The 1940s movie idea that you can somehow fall for a person after exchanging glances at a distance without even speaking to each other? That seems a highly improbable to me. I mean, sure, he might look super hot from across a crowded room but then what if it turns out he's completely full of himself? So not attractive. 

And if he looks like a nerd from across the room, which I happen to find even more attractive most of the time, there's really no way to tell if he's a nice nerd with decent conversation skills and a witty, sarcastic sense of humor or if he's actually a psycho killer with zero social skills who's trying to lure you in by masquerading as a glasses-wearing intellectual.

On the other hand, I can definitely believe in like at first sight. As in knowing that you want to get to know this person after only exchanging one or two sentences. That's happened to me before. I suppose that's more like chemistry than anything else. All I know is, it happens every once in a long while and it's super fun when it does. 

I seriously love that—when you meet someone new and you just instantly get along. It's pretty rare for me. You'll see why.

Generally speaking, I go through about six phases of getting to know someone.

1. The initial meeting/first impression. Most of the time I misjudge people at this phase. I'm not kidding. I'm terrible at this. My first impression of someone is wrong at least 68 percent of the time. Sometimes it's spectacularly off. When I first met my now-best-friend of seventeen years, I thought she was rude and devious and that she hated me. Turns out none of that was true. Thank goodness.

2. The apathetic phase. My primary love language is time. That may not mean anything to you, but what it tends to mean for me is that I often don't start caring about someone until we've spent some time together. Until that happens, you're on my periphery. I don't really give a fig what you think about me. I'll be polite, but reserved. I'm sort of waiting to see if you'll stick.

3. The lightbulb moment. This typically happens about three or four months after I first meet someone. Something clicks and I think, "Oh, I actually like him (or her)." It could be an especially funny joke he made or a time she let her guard down. It's a nice moment though. It's the moment I think, "This is the start of something. We really are friends now."

4. The awesome friends part. I LOVE this part. Friends are the best. All you have to do now is breathe a sigh of relief. You made it to the good stuff. Until . . .

5. The not-at-all-awesome maybe-we're-more-than-friends part. I HATE this part. (Obviously at this point, we're moving from platonic friendships with guys and girls to just talking about boys . . . er . . . men. Male people. Whatever.) Anyway, this part is the worst. I hate it because you just don't know. You don't know anything. You don't know if they like you as only a friend or if they like you as more than a friend and either way you don't know if it matters because even if they do like you they may not be willing to do anything about it and then you're stuck wondering if they're waiting for you to make a move or if you should just accept that this is a lost cause and try to move on with your life. See what I mean? It's the pits. I hate getting stuck here in limbo. And yet, I do get stuck here All. The. Time. Not cool, universe. Not at all cool.

6. Oh, so we're dating now. To be honest, this phase has only officially happened once in my life, but I'm pretty sure that if/when it ever happens again, it will most likely take me by surprise. Again. 

Why do any of you care about this? You probably don't. Sorry. But I've been thinking about it a lot because for one thing my dad was here last week and wanted to know why I'm not dating more and for another thing, I started up the online dating thing again a few weeks ago. 

I know. Online Dating: SO. LAME. But I have to admit, it hasn't been that bad. I've done it before so I'm over all the initial squickiness and I know what warning signs to look for and how to stay away from serial killers, etc. Now it just gets down to the actual mechanics of the thing. 

Frankly, I'm not sure I'm cut out for this. But whatever. It's not like I fare much better in real life so . . . yeah.

In terms of sheer numbers, online dating makes sense. I rarely meet single people in my offline life right now. Seriously, I pretty much go to work (99 percent girls or married guys), church (family ward), and the gym. And I'm not a social gym person. I've got my earbuds in the entire time I'm there. 

So it's nice to have a sort of built-in mechanism to remind myself that there are actual males out there. And some of them are single. And some of those single ones are genuinely cool, interesting people. 

One benefit of online dating is that if my initial impression comes from reading something someone wrote about himself, there's less of a chance that I'll get it wrong (assuming people are generally honest). Instead of misreading his expression from across a crowded room, I'll just read about how he loves working out and hates books. And then I'll move on to the next profile. But seriously, there is something to be said for having the opportunity to get to know someone before I get tripped up by my own awkwardness or my bad judgment.

On the other hand, online dating is . . . ugh. It's so hard. I hate it. Whine, whine, whine. Grumble, grumble. 

Okay fine, it's not that bad. If it were, I'd stop doing it. 

It's just that most of the time it takes just as long online as in real life to find someone you actually like. And the chances of him liking you back are also similar to real life, with maybe a slightly better edge online because:

a. Presumably he's also on this site because he's actively looking for a relationship—not the case with most guys you meet on the street (or even in the singles' ward).
b. You've already eliminated some key unsuitability factors by limiting your search criteria.
c. There's less commitment involved. If it doesn't work out, no worries. You never have to see him again. Unlike real life where that guy you went on one or two dates with is still in your ward or at work or in your group of friends. Awkward.

Honestly, online or not, dating of any kind is a pain and a half. It wouldn't be worth it at all if the reward at the end wasn't so great. For reals, though.

I guess that means I do believe in love at first sight because I have to hope that there's something easier than this long and drawn out process that I usually go through. But even if there's not, what I really need to hope for is courage. I hope that when it's right I'll either have the fast burst of courage to jump into something new with both feet. Or that I'll have the long drawn-out courage to not give up on the process and to keep my chin up when nothing seems to be working.

Whether it's love at first sight or love at five-hundredth sight, I have to keep believing in love. Life would be pretty darn boring without it. 

And besides, a little heartbreak is good for the soul. Trust me, I would know. You don't get to age thirty still single without getting your heart broken.

But it's okay. It's life. It happens. And the good moments make it all worth it.


Or at least that's what I hope.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How's Nanowrimo going?

It's good. I'm nowhere near where I should be at this point in the month, but I've written a little over 15000 words so far and that's waaay more than I would've without the motivation of a word count graph.

I like to use Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) as a way to get a good chunk of a first draft done. I think it's most productive for me that way. I could obviously write tons more words if all I did was write dribble on and on and on and on. Like if I just kept adding more and more and more words to this sentence or this paragraph or this blog post just because there is such a thing as a conjunction and its function is to combine clauses and so theoretically you could have a sentence that just keeps going forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and has like a bajillion words in, including some words that aren't even real words, like "bajillion." See?

I could do that. But all it would mean is a bigger mess for me to clean up later during the revision process.

Instead I prefer to keep the pace of my drafting firmly fixed between "faster than my normal rate" and "so fast that none of this will be salvageable later."

Anyway, like I said, the writing is going well. But I do miss this blog. So I decided to post a couple little bits of actual news that I thought might interest you readers. (All three of you.)

1. My sister is having a baby like right now.

Super exciting. I can't wait to meet my first niece!

2. Tiny Talks volume 15 is now for sale!


It arrived in our warehouse last week so it should've had time to make it onto bookstore shelves by now. If you live near an LDS bookstore, you can probably find it there. If not, there's always the internet

Or maybe you pre-ordered it from Amazon and you're already holding it in your hands. If that's the case, thank you! I hope you enjoy it. The nice thing about this book is that even if the words on the page don't live up to your expectations, the illustrations are guaranteed to be awesome. Go Corey!

3. You can come see me tomorrow night at our Cedar Fort Nanowrimo write in!


There will be snacks and I'm going to stand up and talk for a few minutes (but you don't have to listen to that part) and basically it will be a rockin good time. Just imagine how cool it will be to hang out at a real publishing company in a room full of real writers all tapping away on keyboards and not talking to each other. It's an introvert's dream party!

4. I finally read The Fault in Our Stars.

Quite good. Yes, I did cry. And I'm listening to Freakonomics. And I'm reading Delirium by Lauren Oliver. So far it's good, but I have to say there's a big part of me that's just hopping jealous of the fact that per her acknowledgments page Lauren basically spent an entire summer lounging around in Maine doing "research" for this book. I would LOVE to be able to do that. In Maine. Someday I will be that cool of an author. Someday.

5. I'll be thirty years old in less than three weeks.

Maybe this doesn't qualify as real news. I think I ran out of that after #3. But the list just looked so short. I had to keep going.

5. I'm going to Palm Springs in less than a month!

So much sunshine. So close to beaches. The colder it gets here, the more this place sounds like paradise to me. Last time we went there as a family, we spent a good portion of our time eating chocolate covered raisins, watching Lark Rise to Candleford, and doing a puzzle. All good things.

6. Okay now I really am out of news.

And probably I should get back to writing. I hope you're all enjoying November! 

National Novel Writing Month is a great excuse to just write more in general. You could celebrate by writing a journal entry. Or writing an email to someone. Or writing a list of all the things you need to buy at the grocery store. Whatever. Just write. It's good for your brain and really, really fun. And you might learn something about yourself from reading your own words.


As some quote on a poster in my junior AP English class told me: "How will I know what I think until I see what I wrote?" I'm sure someone famous said that, but I can't be expected to find out who it was while I'm in drafting mode. That's what's so fun about it. You get an excuse to procrastinate all the boring research-y stuff in favor of putting more words on the page.

So write, write, write. 

Right? 


Right.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What's the deal with November?

Dear Blog,

Remember how in June I said I was going to blog every day? Well, I think November is going to be the opposite of that. I have all kinds of things I want to talk to you about. Like whether it's better to be a creator or a consumer. Or how I've decided my apartment is too big for me so I've moved out of half of it. Or what I think about Once Upon a Time.

But the fact of the matter is, I have only so much room in my brain and time in my day for writing. And there are times when I need to prioritize. Right now that means you'll just have to wait.

You see, November for me means National Novel Writing Month. I've actually never officially completed 50,000 words in a single month, which is what the goal is supposed to be. But last year the book I started writing actually turned into something. And now I'm working on its sequel, which is super, super exciting!

And what with that and writing at work and keeping a journal (which is a non-negotiable habit for me), I'm afraid my writing resources have been stretched a little thin lately. So I thought I'd post this just to say that I hope you all have a wonderful November and I'll see you next month, after I'm finished drafting!

Speaking of which, I'm going to get back to it! Happy early Thanksgiving!! I'm grateful for you this year, friends. Thanks for all your love and support. It means the world to me.

—H.D.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Do you measure out your life with coffee spoons?

No, because I don't drink coffee. But props to you if you got the literary reference.

Instead, apparently, I measure out my life with Taylor Swift albums.

The new one came out this week, and it's caused me to pause and reflect seriously about where I was in life when the others debuted. Allow me to escort you down my personal memory lane. . . .

I don't remember the exact moment I first heard Taylor Swift sing, but I remember the first song of hers that I actually liked. It was Our Song. The year was 2007, and I was working as an editor at BYU Independent Study. I was in the middle of my first of two senior years at BYU and I felt like I would NEVER be out of college or Provo. I remember hearing this song on my drive to work and thinking, "You know, this is pretty cute." I was not a fan of Teardrops on My Guitar. I don't mind it now, but at the time it was so overplayed and a little too weepy for me. But Our Song was different. I loved the fun fast lyrics and the twangy banjo. I'm a sucker for banjo music. Pretty soon I was singing along. Little did I know this was only the beginning. 


By the time her Fearless album hit stores the following year, I'd become a big fan. Of course, I was still a poor college student, so I couldn't afford to buy it right away. But I picked it up as soon as I could and in the meantime, I watched her music videos on Youtube repeatedly. Taylor's album came out in September, and in November/October of that year, I quit my job at BYU Independent Study so I could start full-time at Cedar Fort. Then in December, I finally finished my classes at BYU and moved into the world of real adulthood. I wasn't used to working in an office all day, so it was nice to have Taylor's voice in the background as I honed my book editing skills or worked on layouts and typesetting.


I distinctly remember the Speak Now release. By then I'd bought a house and was living in it with some roommates. One of them—Jess—was just as obsessed with Taylor as I was, so we drove in the snow to the Orem Target at like 9:00 at night to buy the new album and then we took a long circuitous route home so we could listen to it the whole way. So great. A few weeks later Jess and Josie, our other roommate, and me drove up Hobble Creek Canyon with our good friend Katie. The four of us sang along with Taylor the whole way. I still love that album. And those girls. And Hobble Creek Canyon.

This is Josie and me and Katie. They're going to hate me for resurrecting this photo. 
Sorry, girls! Still love you! :)

The next year when Taylor was on tour, I bought ridiculously overpriced tickets for the Salt Lake City show and took my littlest sister, Ali, who flew out here for it. It was actually my first concert ever, and we had a blast. Ali's all grown up now and all the way across the world in the Netherlands, serving a mission. I'm so proud of her. She may have outgrown Taylor by now; I don't know. But I'm glad we got to make that memory.


Red came out in October 2012, right after I bought an iPad and right before I went on a week long-trip to the East Coast. I know this because it was the only music I had on my iPad. So for that whole week, it was the only thing I could listen to. This was back in my pre-iPhone days, and my iPad only has a wi-fi connection, so for the most part as I was traveling there was no such thing as streaming music. 



But I didn't care. Taylor and I had a great time traveling from my parents' house in California to my sister's apartment in New York City. Then we took a megabus to Philadelphia and stayed with my college roommate Shelly and her awesome family before ending the trip in DC. Incidentally it took longer than a week because I was supposed to fly out the day after Hurricane Sandy. When all the flights got cancelled, I got to stay an extra few days with my best friend Nani. We were in Virginia, so we didn't get any major damage, but now I can say I've been through a hurricane!

And that brings us to 1989—Taylor's new album, not the year. 


Where am I now? Well, I live in Springville, only about 10 minutes away from my old Independent Study office. I've now been out of college for longer than I was in it. But the weird thing is, my college years felt like an eternity while working in an office seems to make time go on fast forward. I can't believe how fast the years have gone by.

I no longer live in a student apartment—thank goodness. And we sold that house I bought and rented to roommates. I'm not currently crashing in my parents' place, although that is always my backup plan and I obviously still stay there when I go back to visit during holidays. But yeah, I have my own place. I have a job I love (mostly) and a writing career that's gaining momentum. I guess you could say I'm like a real grown up now.

Of course that doesn't mean I'm going to quit having T. Swift dance parties by myself while I'm cleaning my room or singing along to her songs in the shower. Because honestly, the day I quit doing those things will be a sad, sad day.

And yes, Taylor's music has changed and life has changed and I've changed too along the way. But I'm grateful for everything I've learned in the past seven years and so excited about my future that I can't wait to see where I'll be by the time her next album comes out! 

Although there is always that small part of me that wonders if I'll have a boyfriend by then or have gone on even a small fraction of the number of dates Taylor will have gone on in that same timeframe. Oh well. If anything, her sadder songs remind me that there are worse things than not having a bf. Sometimes you're better off single than screaming or crying or missing someone like crazy. Just a little life lesson from our dear friend Taylor.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why did you go hiking with a purse?


It was an accident. Sort of. Mostly.

Yesterday morning I woke up with wanderlust. Those who have it know that wanderlust is a serious chronic condition and must be treated as such. If you fail to periodically give into your urge to roam, you'll suddenly find yourself on the far side of Utah Lake an hour and a half into your one-hour lunch break or looking at flights to London when your passport expired years ago.

Anyway, given how I was feeling when I woke up yesterday, I knew from past experience that any attempts at mundane productivity would be futile. So I decided this would be a Saturday for satisfying my travel bug. I decided to go on an adventure. Famous last words, right?

At first I thought I'd just drive to a lake, park myself in my camping chair, and read all day.


I did that. But by noon the yen to explore struck again. I packed up, headed back to the car, and kept driving. That's how I wound up in Park City.

In case you've never been there, let me just tell you that Park City is a magical place where anything can happen. No, I'm serious. How else do you explain what followed?

One minute I was parking my car in a garage off main street. I thought: I'm low on steps today. I'll just do some window shopping. Then I saw a cool house down a side street that I wanted to get a closer look at. And then there was one of those metal staircases made for snow, and it led up to a super steep road with old ski shacks on either side. When the pavement ended, there was a mountain biking trail past these long-dead cars that have been slowly rusting since the 60s. And finally I realized I was in a veritable forest of pine trees and there was a bull elk chilling downhill about twenty feet away from me.







And I was still wearing my purse.

Obviously, I blame the wanderlust.

At that point I realized my only option was to take advantage of this unexpected plunge into the wilds (can you plunge uphill?) and sit down on a rock off one side of the trail to write in my journal, which I keep in my purse at all times. And this is what I wrote:

I love pine trees.

I love the way they swing gently back and forth when the wind blows, and I love that low but urgent whistling sound they make. I love how they stay green, even when everything else has turned brown. I love that they remind me of childhood field trips to the rain forests in Washington. I love the way they smell of earth and eternal things. I love how their tops catch the sunshine and filter it greenly down to me.


And then I wrote more and more and more until my bum was sore from sitting on the rock and I got tired of having to stand up and move out of the way whenever a mountain biker came past.

I will likely never go back to that trail in Park City. That's the way wanderlust is. There are too many other places to explore, too many things to see. But because I stopped to write and think, maybe I'll never forget how it felt to be there. That's what I hope anyway. I hope I can take the peace of that place with me and hold onto it for awhile.

I wonder if that's all writing really is. I think in a way it's just collecting. Collecting people and places and feelings and dreams.

This is all starting to sound really pretentious. And I'm sorry about that. I hate it when artsy people step outside reality and I try not to do it very often, mostly because I'm not really as artsy as you might think. There's a reason I don't write poetry—I wind up sounding hopelessly trite.

But I feel it's important to periodically immerse yourself in soul-enlarging things. Whether it's a walk in the woods, an afternoon reading T.S. Eliot, a trip to a museum, or an hour or two listening to Gershwin or Ravel. Don't forget that your soul has needs just as much as your eating, breathing body.

I don't know what fuels your spirit. Maybe it's sports or science or desert scenery. For me it's beaches and bungalows and stars and sonnets and wind chimes and willow trees. And many, many other things.

All I know is I'm grateful for a world full of unexpected adventures and new things to see. I plan to keep collecting them, even if it sometimes makes me a little too artsy, a little too pretentious for my own comfort. Writing is just my way of making the world a part of me.

And in case you don't have ready access to the magical land of Park City, here is my parting gift to you all on a Sunday night: two hours of organ music.

Pipe Dreams from American Public Media

It will feed your soul. Trust me.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What's the coolest thing about being an author?

Hands down, it's when you see the cover of your book for the first time.

Author signings are pretty cool too because you get to meet people and stuff, but that can be kind of intimidating.

That's why the best part for me is seeing a new cover. That's the moment when something just clicks and I suddenly realize that this idea I had in my head is about to become an actual physical thing that—for good or ill—the entire world will be able to read.

It's awesome. And terrifying. As all good things should be.

It's the moment at the top of the roller coaster when you realize there's really no going back now.


You're strapped in and you're about to be launched on a crazy adventure with twists and turns you won't see till you take them and an ending that will probably come way too soon. But then you'll get to do it again with your next book, and chances are you'll be just as terrified about that one too.


Do you like how I'm saying this like I'm a seasoned author and I know everything? I'm not. And I don't. The title of my blog is ironic. In case that wasn't clear.

I know, I know. I've written Tiny Talks for five years in a row now and that's cool. But that was like the kiddie coaster at the amusement park. At first it was scary but I'm used to it now. I'm taller than the clown's hand or whatever it is. But honestly, I'm not that much taller.

And on that note, I have big news about The Jane Journals. We've finally settled on a title! I don't know why it took so long for me and everyone helping me to come up with something that fits but I'm really happy with the final version.

And by "final" what I actual mean is, this title could still potentially change before the book comes out, but I really don't think that it will, so I'm going to tell you what it is now.

The series will be called: The Jane Journals at Pemberley Prep

And the first book is titled: I Loathe You, Liam Darcy

Like it? Me too. Or if you don't that's okay. You don't even have to like the book when it comes out. We can still be friends either way. But I hope you'll like the book, if you're into that sort of thing.

Anyway, another exciting thing that happened with The Jane Journals this week is that I got to see a preliminary cover. It was soooooo cool. I was almost speechless. Because it really was that top-of-the-roller-coaster moment, except this is a whole new ride for me. I'm not on Star Tours or The Haunted Mansion anymore. This is Space Mountain or The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Top Gun, for those who grew up in the Bay Area.



Funny story about Star Tours: The first time I went on that ride I was five and I was so scared I closed my eyes the entire time. My three-year-old brother loved it and he found a five-dollar bill under his seat. Life is so unfair as a kid.

Back to the Jane Journals. While I would love to be able to show you that cover, unfortunately I can't because it's not actually done yet.

But what I can show you is the never-before-seen brand-spanking-new front cover of Tiny Talks vol. 15!!!

Ta-da!


Of course all credit goes to Corey Egbert for the illustrations and Shawnda Craig for putting the whole thing together. I'm so lucky to have such talented people making me look good. If either of you read this, thanks!

And even though Tiny Talks isn't a scary amusement park ride to me anymore, I'm really excited for this book to come out. I'm excited for other people to read it and I hope it helps kids and families.

It should be back from the printer in just a few weeks and it's already available for pre-order on Amazon and other online places. I want it to be clear that I'm not encouraging you to shop on Sunday. That's against my religion. I'm just informing you of your options so that tomorrow or whenever, you can think about it.

Want to know what the least cool thing about being an author is? When you have to talk about how cool you are and ask people to buy the stuff you write. So lame. But it's part of the job, I guess.

Happy Sabbath, everyone! I hope you're enjoying some quiet time with friends or family. That's what I plan to do today.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What do you miss about California?

Guess what.

I have now lived in Utah for six whole months.

How am I feeling about this?

I’m . . . hesitant. In the same way that whatsherface is hesitant about Decemberween gift exchanges.


On the one hand, yes. This move has been very good for me in many ways. My writing career, for example, has clearly taken off since I moved here. And that's awesome. 

Speaking of which, stay tuned for a sneak peek of the new Tiny Talks cover later this week!

On the other hand, there are tons of things I still miss about California, like my family and all the friends I made there and the absence of that sinking dread that has taken up residence in my brain since the beginning of September. It’s the dread of winter. I know it’s coming. I’m powerless to stop it. All I can do is brace myself for the onslaught and stock up on warm fuzzy socks.

But I think the biggest thing I miss is not being in a minority. (Cue the Greenday song, right?)

It's true, though. I don't like being exactly the same as everyone around me.

I've always known this is a downside of living in Utah, but lately it's been made especially clear to me how much I dislike this fact of life here. Want to know why?

This movie came out:



I want to support this film. If I lived in California, I’d be all over it. Well, not really. I’m rarely all over anything. But I can think of at least one or two people I’d definitely talk to about it: my good friends who are not LDS and with whom I’ve had conversations before about my religion.

Speaking of which, if any of you are reading this, you should maybe think about seeing it. I can’t actually recommend the movie until I see it myself, but I've heard good things.

The problem I have with the movie is that it's reminded me that here in Utah, if I want to meet a mormon, I don’t have to go to a movie theater to do it. (Although if I did go to a movie theater, I am sure I would meet many Mormons there.) The fact is, I don’t have to go anywhere to meet a Mormon because the chances are very, very high that if I sat out on my front porch for a minute or two, the first person who drove past my house would be a Mormon. And so would the next person. And the next one. And the one after that.

In fact, according to Wikipedia—most reliable source on the internet, I know—If 10 people drove past my front porch, 9 of them would be Mormon. And the other one would be non religious.

And I hate that. I mean, I don’t really. I love my church and I’m glad other people love it too. It’s true. It’s good. I want other people to be a part of it.

It’s just that I miss constantly knowing that I’m different. And I miss hearing outside opinions and having my beliefs challenged and my eyes opened by people who think differently. I miss knowing that my political beliefs don’t match those of the people around me. I miss people being weirded out by the fact that I’m the oldest of seven kids. And I miss looking different. Here I’m just another white girl in a knee-length dress.


I suppose part of what I miss has its roots in that teenage desire to not be ordinary, as illustrated in this song from my favorite musical.


Gosh, I love the Fantasticks. Although, I'm not exactly sure that being "kissed upon the eyes" would be a pleasant experience. Maybe it would if you like that sort of thing, but it sounds a little disconcerting to me.

Anyway, here the only minority I’m a part of is the almost-30-still-single club. That’s not exactly the way I dreamed of being identified when I was a kid. Oh well.

Honestly, there are good and bad things about both places. And I'm happy to be where I know my Heavenly Father wants me to be right now. But the moral of the story is this: be grateful for the people around you who are different. They’re the ones who remind you who you are and what you stand for and why.


And on that note, I’m going to cheer myself up from this minor bout of homesickness with more Teen Girl Squad!!!!!!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Was today a great day or what?

Um. No. It was totally not.

As you'll know if you spent any time in the same room as me at work today.

By 3:30 I was blasting Kongos in my headphones and violently popping bubble wrap as a stress reliever. Not even joking. Then I came home and screamed into my pillow for a few minutes.

After that things started getting better.

Exhibit A:

THERE ARE HOUSE HUNTERS EPISODES ON NETFLIX.


Seriously, though. My life is now complete.

Also, ten points to anyone who can name the person in the above image without consulting google.

Exhibit B:

My phone is currently playing the new Taylor Swift song on repeat. Out of the Woods. Pretty good stuff. This is what happens when you pre-order the album, people.

Do you like how I said that like I'm one of those people who frequently pre-orders albums? Instead of like a person who has only done it once ever. Totally worth it in this case, though. Normally I'd be hesitant to make that kind of a commitment without actually hearing the songs, but I'll happily bet my best buttons that I will love any album by Taylor Swift.

Exhibit C:

I've been wearing my PJs since 6:00 pm. This automatically equals a good day. Well, at least a good evening, even if the first part of the day was blech.

Anyway, let's not dwell on my negative day.

Instead, let's look at these pretty pictures of fall that I took in Wallsburg, Utah last week. If you've never been to Wallsburg, you should check it out sometime. Pretty cool place. I might decide to be buried there. Not anytime soon. I may have had a rough day, but it wasn't that bad.

I'm just saying, the cemetery is nice.

See for yourself.














My favorite thing about this last photo is that in 1939 there was still only one World War to be a veteran of.



Also, today marks 75 years since Elmer Wall died. I'm guessing that guy could've told some cool stories. This is why I like cemeteries. All of these people. All of their stories. There's so much life in a cemetery.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Are you going nocturnal?

Gosh, I sure hope not.

I will tell you it was a weird weekend.

Friday
6:00 pm - left work
6:22 pm - fell asleep, still in my clothes
10:43 pm - woke up, brushed my teeth, decided to be productive

Saturday
1:32 am - considered going back to sleep
1:33 am - started writing
5:59 am - actually went back to sleep
6:00 am - my fitbit alarm went off
9:18 am - woke up for the day

Sunday
1:02 am - bedtime
8:15 am - woke up
10:23 pm - got ready for bed
10:26 pm - started doing family history

Monday
2:14 am - actually went to bed
6:46 am - woke up

And now it's 10:20 and I'm thinking I should really try to get myself back on a normal schedule and go to bed now so that I can wake up at 6:30 like I'm supposed to in order to have time to go for a walk, write, eat breakfast, and get ready before work.

Sadly, I have every reason to believe that this major disruption to my sleeping habits is entirely to do with the advent of wireless internet at my house last week.

Lesson to be learned: The internet never sleeps. You still should.

Also, family history work can wait. Those people have been dead for years. They won't mind if you leave it until the morning.

So without further ado I will "go to sleep at once." Just like Lord Goring.


I know it's random, but that's what I always tell myself to do in my journal when I stay up too late writing in them.

PS—If you haven't seen this movie or read the Oscar Wilde play, I highly recommend them both. Might even be worth staying up past your bedtime for. ;)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Do you believe or do you know?

I prayed for something strange yesterday.

Now that I live alone, I've started saying my prayers out loud, which is a bit of a switch for me. I'm normally more the silent-prayer-in-my-heart type. Sure, I bow my head and think the words, but I don't get my lips and teeth and tongue in on it.

But I was listening to a talk or something lately—can't remember where or when—and the speaker encouraged us to pray vocally more often. It occurred to me that I should probably do that now that I won't be disturbing anyone. So I have been, and it's been eye-opening.

There's something completely different about saying a prayer out loud.

I think for me it's related to the difference between my writing self and my speaking/in-person self. Lately I've come to the realization that there are subtle differences between the me I am on paper and the me you meet in person. Not that one is necessarily better than the other. They're both me. But they are a little bit different. I think the paper me is more authentic because I'm braver when I'm saying things to my computer or my journal than I am when I'm saying them to an actual person. Plus I worry less about being boring when I'm writing because I know that if I am boring, people can always stop reading. Whereas in person, people are sometimes so polite that they let you just ramble on endlessly about work and how stressed you are when really they couldn't care less.

Furthermore, I've decided it's good that God gave me this talent for writing as a means of expressing myself in ways I would never otherwise be able to. I also think He did it for a reason—or several reasons. One of them, I'm guessing, is that there are people I can only reach through my writing. Whether because they're far away or because they get along better with the paper me than the physical me or for some other reason, the fact remains that I can have a wider reach with this medium than otherwise.

Is this making any sense or do I just sound like I have a split personality?

Sorry, this is so ridiculously off topic.

Getting back to my prayer.

The thing about praying out loud is that sometimes you start saying something without really knowing how you're going to finish your sentence. When you're thinking your prayer, you can sort of pause and come up with a better way to say it. But when you're speaking the words, your mouth keeps moving so you end up sort of babbling.

And on that note yesterday I prayed, "Help me to have the faith to believe in... in the things I already know."

After I finished my prayer, I couldn't stop thinking about what I'd said. And I realized that there are lots of things I know. I have a testimony. But even though I know things, I still need faith sometimes. Why is that?

You would think that once you know something, you don't doubt it again. That's how it is when you know a scientific fact or when you know the ending of a really good book. It's not like the next time you read the book, the ending will change.

(Sometimes I wish I could un-know books so I could read them again for the first time, but that's not the point.)

With faith and spiritual things, it's different. Just because you had an experience in which your spirit learned the truth, doesn't mean you'll necessarily believe that thing later on. You might even still know intellectually that it's true, but even that's not enough.


I know it's common for us to be incredulous when we read stories in the scriptures of people who had miraculous experiences and later turned their backs on God. People like David in the Old Testament. Or those who witnessed Christ's miracles and then said he was using the power of the devil. In the Book of Mormon we read about Laman and Lemuel who saw just as many miracles as their brother Nephi, but who could never stay obedient to God for long. Or the early church members in our day who witnessed amazing things but later fell away.

I think I know why this can happen. Back home we have a general authority, Elder Packer, who is fond of reminding us that "the shelf life of faith is twenty-four hours." I sort of got what he was saying before. He wanted to remind us that it's important to participate in the gospel every day.

But now I realize that what he meant is that you actually need to exercise your faith every single day in order to believe the things that you already know. Knowing something doesn't mean you're done having faith in it. You will always have to have faith and hope because those things—not knowledge—are what compel you to action.

The struggle is constant. There will always be something that will make me question who I am, where my life is headed, how I'm going to get there, and if I'm really up to the challenges ahead.

But I know that with God nothing is impossible. I just need to have the faith every day to believe what I already know. I need to believe and keep my hope strong because that's what will drive me to obey God's commandments, keep progressing, and serve others around me as I know He would want me to.

So I plan to keep praying for that faith and hope, out loud and in my heart.

And since he's way more eloquent on this topic than I am, I'll leave you with this message from President Uchtdorf. It's a good one.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What happens to a book once you're done writing it?


So I've technically been an author for five years now; I've been an editor for eight years; and my first novel just got picked up. I figure it's about time to start getting delusions of grandeur and giving unsolicited advice to my fellow writers and friends. ;)

Plus my friend Christy asked me today to tell her how I got my novel published or what the process was like, and I realized that the story might be of interest to others out there too. 

I actually do know a lot about the publishing process and what goes on inside those ivory towers that can be so intimidating to first-time authors.

Keep in mind that most of my personal experience comes from outside New York City, so if you're hoping to become the next J.K. Rowling, I may not be your best resource. But if your goal is less lofty and you really just want to get published—which is probably where J.K. was at some point, too—I can totally help with that.

Here's my main mantra as an author: take yourself seriously but not too seriously.

Just make sure you care about the things you should care about and have patience with yourself and the process when it comes to things that aren't as important. Vague enough?

Here's an example: About five years ago, I wrote this book that I thought was going to be the first in a phenomenal bestselling YA series a la Twilight. I stopped just short of casting people in the movie version. But mostly because I retained enough sense to realize that movies take a long time to come out, so probably everyone I casted would be too old for the parts by the time the film went into production.


Here's what happened with that book . . . nothing.

But the thing is, I actually could've published it. I had a contract in hand. I just didn't know enough yet.

I actually don't regret it because I learned a lot from the process and I wrote the book wanting to experience that process. Plus, turns out I didn't care enough about that book to keep writing the series. I may recycle some of the characters because I still like them, but the overall plot was flawed to begin with.

The point is, I learned a lot about what was really important to me as an author, especially in terms of my long-term writing career. Most of the successful authors I know have things in common, and one of those things is that they are in it for the long haul. Of course your first book is supremely important, but it's still just your first book. And if you never finish working on it or you don't know what you want from it, it will likely be your only book. And that's really a shame because there are so many more inspiring, entertaining, exciting words that could come from you if you'd only push through the tough parts, get published, and keep writing.

Okay, enough with the big picture stuff. Let's talk about the nitty gritty.

Here are the basic steps in the publishing process. For the sake of this exercise, I'm going to assume you're writing fiction. (Nonfiction is a little different because you can get a book accepted based on only a proposal, but you kind of have to be an expert in something first.)

1. You write a book.
2. You edit and revise (please don't leave this out, but don't get stuck here either).
3a. You write a query letter, synopsis, and all the extra stuff that talks about your book.
3b. You submit the book or query letter (depending on what they ask for) to agents and publishers.
4. Your book gets rejected. A LOT. (Don't worry. This always happens.)
5. You re-evaluate. (Maybe you tweak your book. Maybe you reconsider who you're sending it to. Maybe both.)
6. You resubmit. Then you go back through steps 4-6 until...
7. Your book gets accepted!
8. You sign a contract.
9. You go through more editing, this time with help from your agent and/or publisher
10. Your book gets published! You hold it in your hands, and it's awesome.
11. You celebrate with all your friends! (This step is very important. Don't skip it.)
12. You do everything you can to spread the word and make sure your book keeps selling so that when you want to publish your next book, your publisher wants to publish it too.

The only way step 4 doesn't happen is if you've been through the process before so you go into it this time having already re-evaluated (per step 5).

I know because that's what just happened with me.

It's also important to be realistic about your timing. All of these steps together never take less than two years and can take up to an entire lifetime. So... that's encouraging, right? Plus, just as a heads up, the chances of you ever making enough money to quit your job and write full time are... I don't want to say nonexistent, but...

I could talk a lot more about any of these steps, but for simplicity's sake let's leave it at that for now.

For those who only want to know about publishing in general, you can stop reading now. But for those who want to know my personal story about how I got my first novel accepted, here it is:

I started working as an editor when I was still an undergrad. It was educational material, so not exactly book publishing, but at the time I was also taking editing classes and writing and editing fan fiction. It sounds dorky, but it actually helped me a lot as a writer. I had never really considered writing a book because I got annoyed by the "writer types" in my English classes who were always talking about their manuscripts and grand literary dreams. I'm a much more private person. It's weird for me even now to talk about my books and some of them have been on shelves for years.

Anyway, that was when I really started to write. But I was still much more interested in becoming an editor than an author.

Fast forward a few years to me graduating and being offered a job as a book editor. Not in New York, where I'd always dreamed of going, but in Springville Utah. I almost didn't take it. But I'm so glad I did.


This is Springville. Not New York. I know you might be confused because they look so similar, but...

Fast forward again to when I realized, after working as an editor for awhile, that I could write better than some of the authors I was editing. So I tried to write a book. And I failed. Writing an entire book is hard and it takes way longer than you think it will. So I tried again.

In the meantime, there was this book series that we published at work. A little, nonfiction book called Tiny Talks that came out each year. The author who was writing it at the time was no longer interested. And because I happened to be in the right place at the right time, I volunteered and suddenly I was on my way to becoming a published author. I realize not everyone gets that chance, and I hope you don't discount my story because I got lucky. Honestly, when it comes to getting published, it's really similar to getting a job. There's always a little bit of luck involved. But only a very little bit and your odds go way, way, way up when you're being persistent and doing your homework so that you're ready when the chance comes your way.

Fast forward again to last October, which is when I started writing the book that's going to become my first novel. I'll call it The Jane Journals because even though I'm hoping the title will change before it gets published, that's the title I've been using until I came up with a better one. (By the way, I skipped right over what was almost my first novel and the novel I only half finished and several other projects that never even made it close to novel form.)

Anyway, last October, I began drafting this book. At the time, I wasn't sure it would become anything, but I did know that if it did, I wanted to submit it to my Tiny Talks publisher, Cedar Fort, who at that point, I was no longer working for. I knew enough about Cedar Fort to know that they would probably accept this book because of the kind of book it is and who their audience is. So I had done my homework. In fact, I had actually been looking for an idea that I thought would fit Cedar Fort because I'd decided that I wanted them to publish my first novel. I could go into my reasoning behind this decision, but it would take too long and we need to continue with the story. But if you're interested, let me know. I'm happy to talk about Cedar Fort and why I like being one of their authors and now their production manager.

So I wrote and wrote and wrote. And then revised and revised and revised. And finally, I was ready to submit it. I skipped the querying process because Cedar Fort prefers to have authors submit a full manuscript. And I didn't feel the need to get an agent, so I just submitted it.

Actually, because I was working here again, I mentioned it in passing to the fiction acquirer just to confirm with her that it would be something Cedar Fort was interested in. She was excited about it. So then I was even more excited about it.

But still the process took a long time. There were a few weeks when I felt like I was living in limbo because I had no idea which way the pendulum would swing and I wasn't sure what I would do if it wasn't accepted. I was considering self-publishing, which I've never done before. I may still do that someday if I write something I love but no one else seems to care about. We'll see. Anyway, I thought it was a good sign that I cared enough about this book to want it published, even if it meant self-publishing.

Then it got accepted! Yay!

After that I had to review a contract, which I'll confess I didn't really read closely because it's basically the same as my Tiny Talks one. Then I signed the contract and sent in some more paperwork and now I wait. In about January I'll start some rewriting per my editor's suggestions. Then in March the editing will stop and we'll send the book to a printer. Then in May it will be an actual physical thing with a cover and a spine and all that good stuff. And that's when you'll probably all get sick of me begging you to buy my book or share it with your friends.

Don't worry, I'll do my best to keep my appeals of the non-annoying variety. And I solemnly swear not to spam everyone who has ever emailed me. That's not how I roll.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep writing. Because I guess, now that all of this has happened, I really am an author. I know. It surprises me too.

Especially because I still sometimes get annoyed by those "writer types" and their grand literary aspirations.


PS—Christy, I hope this answered your question even if it was probably a much longer explanation than you wanted.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What are you so happy about?

So when I'm happy—like really, really happy—I do this thing where I get so excited that I kind of wring my hands. I call it being hand-wringingly happy. And that's what I am today.

Want to know why?

There's actually a bunch of reasons . . .

1. I finally, FINALLY have wireless internet at home.

2. I also have a couch now. It's awesome.


See those pillows on it that look like purses? That's because I made them out of a couple old purses. I'm cool like that. Also, poor.

3. I'm reading Allegiant, which a friend loaned me so that I didn't have to wait for it at the library, and it's really good. I love Four. SO. MUCH. For reals, though.

4. My sister Ali left on her mission to Belgium and the Netherlands, which is sad because I'll miss her. But also happy because I inherited her Macbook Air while she's gone and it's like at least fifty thousand times better than any other laptop I've ever owned. Ever.

5. I got to spend time with my mom and sisters last week when we dropped Ali off, and it was really nice, especially the one-on-one time I got with my mom. We started this puzzle together, and when she had to fly back to California, she left me a note . . .


I love her too! Especially when she sorts all the puzzle pieces because that is my least favorite part.

6. And last, but . . . yeah, you know the rest:

I'M GOING TO BE A REAL FICTION AUTHOR.

AND MY BOOK IS COMING OUT IN MAY.

2015.

That's only like six months away. If you don't count October. And really, how can you count October? It's my favorite month, so I always think it goes by too fast anyway.

Plus with this book and Tiny Talks and that board book I mentioned awhile back, that's three whole books of mine that will come out next year!

I'm kind of still in shock. This is all happening so fast. I mean, I've been dreaming about publishing fiction for at least six years now and maybe even before that. It's amazing. And I feel so, so grateful to have this opportunity.

I know it's just a silly little YA novel. And I'm not expecting it to make me rich and famous, but it's a start. And I love this book. I want other people to read it, even if they think it's dumb. (Which, let's face it, will definitely be the case for at least one reader. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, as Taylor would say.)

So anyway, about the book. You may actually remember me mentioning it on this blog before, back when I was writing it.

Basically, it's a modern version of Jane Austen's novels, set in a Northern California high school, and each of the heroines is writing in a journal. So the book is just their journal entries and it was SOOOOO much fun to write.

Here's the blurb I posted awhile ago:

Lizzie's family is big and crazy. Nila's best friend just moved to England. Fiona's good at school and nothing else. Alice and Vivian are two sisters who couldn't be more opposite. And Catherine reads vampire novels. What do these six girls have in common? Not much.

But they do all attend Kellynch High School where their English teacher, Ms. Elliot has just given them a year-long journaling assignment to write down everything that happens to them, from beach trips to boys to picking out ball gowns.

Quirky and cute, this is Jane Austen with a modern makeover. A laugh-out-loud read that will reunite Austen's fans with their favorite heroines and send the younger set straight to the originals to find out what happens next!

So, yes. Life is good. Really good. Hand-wringingly happy kind of good.

And this is the part where I thought about inserting a certain Pharrell Williams song, but I'm a little sick of it. So I'll spare you guys and share this one instead because it's my favorite song of this very good week.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

What more could I do to put my marriage first?

Today I feel a bit chastened.

Why? Because I haven’t been putting my family and my marriage first.

“But Heidi,” you’re saying, “you’re single. Doesn’t that give you a free pass to not worry about the state of your marriage?”

Uh… I don’t think so. Let me explain.

It’s Sunday, and instead of regular church services, we had a special meeting today to rededicate the Ogden Utah temple. For those who aren’t familiar with LDS temples, after they’re built we hold a special meeting in which we dedicate the temple to the Lord. Before a temple is dedicated, anyone is welcome to come in and tour it. But after, you have to be a member of the church and keep specific rules in order to qualify you to enter.


Anyway, during the dedication today, one of the speakers said something that I’ve known all my life but have been ignoring lately. He said, “Eternal families and temples should be your highest priority.” (This was M. Russell Ballard in the 4:00 session.)

In an earlier talk, a speaker reminded us that eternal things have no beginning and no end. This means that if I really believe in an eternal marriage—one that lasts beyond this life—I also believe that it doesn’t really begin the moment I say I do. It can and should be a part of my life right now.

In the excitement of taking on new responsibilities at work, moving into my first apartment without roommates, and seeing my writing career take off (stay tuned for an exciting announcement about this), I’ve let other things take first priority, instead of the temple and my marriage and future family.

But I’ll admit that it’s hard as a single person to put family first. I feel like I’m doing okay in terms of my relationships with the family I already have. What I haven’t been doing is focusing on the family I might have someday.

So my question is, what more could I do right now to become a better wife, mother, grandmother, or daughter-in-law? These are roles I have yet to take on. And it’s entirely possible I never will in this life. If that’s the Lord’s plan, I’m okay with that. But in the meantime, I want to be ready in case the opportunity arises.

More than that, I want to do all I can to help the opportunity to arise. This is where I get frustrated. I’m not saying guys have it easier. I know dating is hard no matter what. But I wish sometimes that I could take more action, maybe even more initiative in pursuing someone I was interested in without becoming Helena from a Midsummer Night’s Dream, who basically falls in love with a guy and then follows him around, begging him to like her for the rest of the play. Even when he flat-out tells her he’s not interested. Why is it okay for a guy to demonstrate persistence in pursuing a girl but when a girl does the same thing it’s pathetic? Whatever. That’s not really the point I want to make.

What frustrates me is that no one will tell me what to do in order to make marriage happen for me.

To all who are about to post things like, “Don’t worry about it. You’re amazing the way you are. It’ll happen when it’s meant to be.” Thank you, in advance. That’s really very sweet. But ultimately, unhelpful.

I don’t want platitudes; I want a plan of action. I may not be able to make a goal to get married by X date. That’s not really up to me. I can’t actually force someone to marry me just because I set a deadline. But I’m a goal-setter. I want actual suggestions for things I can do to put my marriage, my family, my potential eternity first in my life right now.

It seems like the guys get all the scoldings when it comes to dating. No one ever tells us girls what to do. It’s like we’re all afraid we’ll hurt womankind’s self-esteem if we even hint at the fact that we’re not already perfect. But once a group of women has passed the fragile teenage years, I feel like it’s okay to say, “Ladies, shape up.” Maybe even literally.

Which brings me to the elephant in the room. Weight loss. Yes, it’s entirely possible that the reason I didn’t date much when I was younger and still don’t go out as often as I could is that I’m overweight. Not that you have to be skinny to get married, but from what I’ve observed, it doesn’t hurt your chances. So that’s something I’m working on—with a moderate degree of success at the moment, actually.

But aside from that, what else can I do? I remember one specific time when a church leader called the men to action and told them x, y, and z things they could be doing to get married. Then he said to the girls, “You’re amazing. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Oh, and make sure you’re wearing make up and that you make yourselves look attractive.”

Sigh. The weird part is, I was actually grateful to be given something concrete for once.

But that can’t really be the answer. Plenty of overweight, non-make-up-wearing people get married and have perfectly good relationships.

Maybe it would help if I came up with a list of things that I already know will encourage me to pursue marriage or to make my future marriage a higher priority.

1.     Go to the temple more often.
2.     Lose weight. Wear make up. Improve my physical appearance.
3.     Become a more attractive person intellectually by setting goals, learning new things, and sharing my talents.
4.     Establish gospel habits now that I will continue with my family someday: prayer, scripture study, church attendance, tithing, keeping the Sabbath day holy, etc.
5.     Save money. Learn how to budget better.
6.     Be happier. Guys are more attracted to girls who are happy and confident. I feel like I’m doing okay in this area. (In fact, I might be a little too confident sometimes.) But I’m putting it on the list because there’s always room to improve.
7.     Build a time machine and go back to age 21 or 22. My mom got married when she was 22. Lots of my friends did too. Did I miss something? Was there a point at which I should’ve found someone but I wasn’t paying enough attention or I was too focused on other things?
8.     Make an effort to meet more people and to keep an open mind about them.

What am I missing here? What could I add to this list?

I want there to be some magic ingredient I’ve been leaving out all my life. I want someone to say, “Just do this one thing and bam! Instant husband.”

I know that’s unlikely. There’s probably no magic ingredient. Probably the answer really is: Just keep doing what you’re doing and it’ll happen when it’s meant to be.

But hey, a girl can dream, right?

Besides, my marriage and future family really are important to me. And if there’s anything else I could be doing to make them a reality, that’s what I want to do. So please, comment with your suggestions. Don’t worry about my self-esteem. Just tell me what else to do because I’m running out of ideas, I’m not getting any younger, and even though I do have a lot of confidence in myself, I don’t actually think I’ll be able to build that time machine.