Tuesday, February 10, 2009


We seem to have a theme going in blog land where we explain how we got started writing and/or what books mean to us. Since Valentines’ Day is coming up Saturday, I decided to jump on the theme train and talk about my love for reading and writing.

One of the very first words I learned to read as a small child was the word Boyd. You see, we lived on a farm near Arco, Idaho, and my dad bought gas for his car at a service station next door to Boyd Coal Company. After asking what the big black letters stood for and having every member of my large family explain how to sound out the words, I read them over and over every time I sat in the car waiting for my dad to buy gas---and a bottle of Nehi orange pop. Is it any wonder I grew up, fell in love with, and married a man named Boyd? But this blog isn't about romantic love; it's about my love for the printed word.

Being invited to a birthday party was a big deal for me when I was very young. Living on a farm, some distance from other children, I saw my friends at church on Sundays but didn’t often get to see them during the week except on those rare occasions when someone had a birthday party. A little girl named Laurel invited me to her sixth birthday celebration. My mother curled my straight white hair and dressed me in my best blue satin Sunday dress. At the party we played games and received prizes until someone commented on how many cats were running around. Laurel’s mother who was probably pretty exhausted at that point from entertaining a couple dozen wild farm kids and who didn’t take time to think things through really well, remarked that anyone who could catch a cat could have it. We thought it was a new game and off we went. Can you imagine two dozen kids crawling under fences, diving into bushes, sneaking through the barn, and stampeding hogs? I considered myself the winner since I was the only kid who caught a cat. I had to crawl under the granary, but I caught the most beautiful black kitten. My mother wasn’t as pleased as I was. About a year later, I read a story in one of Daddy’s farm magazines about a cat. It wasn’t nearly as clever or wonderful as my cat, so I sat down to write a story about my pet, borrowed a stamp from my mother, and mailed off my story to the magazine to let them know my cat was far superior to the one in the article. To my surprise they sent me a check and printed my story in the next edition of the magazine. Right then I knew writing beat hunting for eggs as a way to earn cash. I wrote for that farm magazine off and on until I graduated from high school.

I did the usual high school and college newspapers and literary magazines and eventually became a stringer for a weekly newspaper. (I was paid ten cents per column inch.) That led to becoming a reporter and eventually an editor.

When journalism proved to be incompatible with raising five children, I left the paper to freelance, but didn’t really like writing magazine articles. That’s when I accepted a library position. I loved working with books; I think I’m a bookaholic, but eventually the urge to write more than technical reports had me toying with the idea of writing a novel. It took two years and a lot of support from the critique group I joined, but eventually I had two books ready to submit. I was delighted when a New York publisher showed interest in them, but disappointed in the changes the editor wanted. That’s when I met a Covenant editor who asked to see one of them. I liked the changes she wanted and sixteen years later, I have published twenty books through Covenant and have another scheduled for this coming August.

One of my major complaints after my first few books were published was the difficulty I found in getting my books reviewed. It seems no one took LDS novels seriously, and quite frankly, most of them weren’t all that good. But something exciting was beginning to happen in the LDS fiction market. More novels by more authors were being published. No longer was the “one-size-fits-all” style of writing acceptable. Novels were being directed toward specific audiences and interests. The quality of writing took a giant leap forward. Perhaps because of my newspaper background and perhaps because I had been so vocal in complaining about the dearth of qualified reviewers reviewing LDS fiction, Meridian Magazine contacted me and invited me to become a reviewer for them. That was over seven years ago and though I still don’t get my books reviewed, I love reading and reviewing everyone else’s books. My love affair with LDS fiction has left me with one problem. I’ve run out of space for all those books. There are now over a hundred LDS novels published each year and I receive most of them to consider for reviews. I’ve decided the only solution to this problem is to begin giving away some of these dearly loved books so I’m starting a regular ongoing series of contests on my personal blog. My plan is to make this a twice a month thing. Winners need only respond to the question I pose on my blog to get their names in a drawing to win a book.

May I add a post script? It is my opinion that the most truly thoughtful and romantic Valentine gift would be a book, chocolate, and a few hours of blissful peace and quiet in which to enjoy them. Ahh--true love!


Gale Sears said...

Enjoyed learning about your early writing adventures! What fun. I too love books, and between my husband and myself, we have 8 bookcases filled with books,and as many boxes in the basement. I've often thought of having a yard sale featuring only books!

Cheri J. Crane said...

I agree with Gale, I enjoyed learning about your earlier writing experiences. Great blog. =)

Michele Ashman Bell said...

Loved your blog. You are such a gift to LDS fiction and such a wonderful person. So glad I can call you friend.