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!!!


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:


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.