Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harry Potter 7 Update

No, I haven't finished the book and this post isn't going to be full of spoilers. In fact, we're still barely at the beginning. Our tradition has been to read the Harry Potter books aloud together as a family, and finding times when we're all ready and able to read together has been a little tricky. So, alas, I am still unaware of how things work out for Harry--whether he lives or dies (though I suspect he lives), whether Snape is good or evil, who dies, whether Ron and Hermione end up together, and all that other stuff.

So, if you start spilling information about book 7, I'm going to stand here with my fingers in my ears and HUM LOUDLY so I won't find out anything too early. Unfortunately, I know this strategy won't work forever. It won't be too long at all before the world is freely discussing everything that happens.

You'll have to excuse me now...I've got some reading to do.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Moving Experience

Packing up everything in your home and moving it someplace else can be an overwhelming task. You don’t realize how much “stuff” you have until you try to pack it up and fit it in a truck. Just when you think you have things under control, you find another cupboard you forgot to empty, or you run out of boxes to pack things in. Some of the worst things are the odds and ends scattered throughout the house that manage to avoid getting packed into boxes until the very end.

During the past couple of days, we’ve had the opportunity to help a family in our ward prepare to move to another city. Despite their good-natured accusations that we’ve just been trying to get them out of here faster, we’re sad to see them go; they’ve been good friends and great assets to our ward.

As we and several other ward members helped this family last night with those pesky odds and ends and the ever-looming house-scrubbing, I remembered the help we received during one of our own moves. It was when we moved from our apartment in student housing to a house in the city. Feeling over-ambitious, we decided to fix some things in our new house before packing up our apartment. We were sure we had enough time to make our renovations before we had to get packed.

To make a long story short, the work we wanted to do on our new house was much more difficult and time-consuming than we’d anticipated. We finally had to admit defeat and turn our attention toward packing and cleaning our apartment. And the evening before we had to be out (by 7:00 in the morning), we weren’t anywhere near finished. We were already exhausted from the packing and moving we’d done so far, and all the work we’d tried to do on the house before that. At that point, I felt very small and pathetic as I followed the move-out checklist from student housing and attempted to clean the windows of our apartment with a bottle of Windex and a stack of newspapers and tried not to think about the catastrophe in the rest of the apartment.

One of the nice things about student housing at the University of Utah is that your apartment complex is also your ward. Ward leaders, home and visiting teachers, and those you have stewardship over yourself are all right there. And when the Relief Society president strolled by and saw me struggling with the windows, she not only offered to help but she also rounded up a couple of other sisters to come help as well.

That was several years ago, and it still means a lot to me now. The few hours that they spent cleaning windows and scrubbing the kitchen probably made the difference between us getting out on time and paying a fine, for starters. But there was more to it than that. It meant so much to know that others cared enough to help us with our struggles—even though those struggles could have been avoided if we’d used our time more wisely in the first place. They didn’t judge us for that. They didn’t even ask why we had so much to do at the last minute. They just went to work, knowing full well that we were moving out of the ward and we wouldn’t be around to repay the favor when they needed help in the future. It was help we perhaps didn’t deserve, but desperately needed all the same.

I’d like to wrap this up with a profound statement, but anything I can think of to say only sounds arrogant. I just know that, no matter how often I have to remind myself of this, helping others truly feels good. The Lord meets the needs of His children through the hands of others. Sometimes that means others are sent to help us. Other times it means we are sent to help others.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Spotlight the Youth Contest

To finish out the week, I wanted to put in a plug for the contest that fellow LDS YA author Anne Bradshaw's running over on her blog. It's your chance to give a special young person the recognition he or she deserves.

Here's what Anne says:
"Because of my concern for our young people's sense of worth, I’m creating some space in my blog for a competition of sorts. It’s a way of featuring young people out there who are doing fine things with their lives, maybe against all odds—or who love to serve others in some way, large or small—or who have an unusual talent."

For complete information and rules, visit

There are some fabulous prizes lined up for the winners, so send those entries in and show those youth you care!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

LDStorymakers New Releases Newsletter

This week I'm spotlighting a few new resources in the LDS publishing world that bring authors and readers together. Earlier I mentioned the Whitney Awards. Today I'd like to discuss the LDStorymakers New Releases Newsletter.

The Newsletter is distributed via e-mail. It comes out bimonthly, with full-color images, and it features recently published books written by members of LDStorymakers. Many of your favorite LDS authors are members of this group. Check the bios page of the LDStorymakers website for a current list--we've got quite a group going here! Be sure to scroll all the way down--authors with last names that start with "P," for instance, don't show up until you're well through the list.

One of my favorite parts about the New Releases Newsletter is that upcoming releases are spotlighted (spotlit?) as well. So you get all the juicy information on new books that won't even hit stores for another month or two. Usually you get pictures of the covers as well.

We also include big news items. Our upcoming issue is going to cover the Whitney Awards and the "Spotlight the Youth" contest that is currently running. Previously we covered author Annette Lyon's "Best of State" award. There's always something important going on!

To subscribe to the LDStorymakers New Releases Newsletter, visit and click on "New Releases" at the top. You'll be taken to a page with a button to bring you to the subscription page. You can also find us on, but I think it's easier to just visit the Storymakers website and click the button. If you're having trouble with any of the links, you can find the LDStorymakers website at Follow the links to the page you want.

There's still time before the next issue comes out, so be sure to join soon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Announcing the Whitney Awards!

You've heard of the Pulitzers, the Oscars, the Grammys, the Latter-day Saint fiction has an award all its own : the Whitney Awards! Best of all, you don't have to just hope your favorite book gets nominated. You can submit your own nominations right now.

An online nomination form is available at the Whitney Awards site at, along with complete rules. I think it's pretty cool. However, while I know everyone is dying to nominate my book Just the Way You Are, only books published in 2007 are eligible for awards.

Send in your nominations!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Seven Tips for Saving Time

Today, as promised, I’m going to share some tips to help you save time in your busy lives. I had a huge response from readers hoping to share their tips; I’ll integrate some of them in here and discuss them as we go.

When you need to chop an onion for a recipe, try chopping the crosshatch pattern on the end of the onion first, before slicing. Then slice off the chopped-up end, and voila! You’ve got chopped onion. It beats slicing it first and then trying to chop up the slices.
--K.T. Parker

Thanks, K.T. I’ll have to give that a try.

Climbing stairs can wear you out if you aren’t in shape, and it can take precious seconds from your day. When you have something in your home that you need to take upstairs (or downstairs), try placing it at the foot of the stairs and taking it with you the next time you need to go that way, rather than making a special trip up or down the stairs just for one little thing.
--Kaytee Pahrkerr

Another excellent idea.

Two words, Katie: audio books.

Actually I think “audiobooks” is often used as one word, but my spell checker doesn’t like it. But yeah, these are great to listen to while you’re doing other things that don’t require your full attention. You can wash dishes or drive to work and “read” at the same time!

It often seems like cleaning up and keeping things organized takes extra time, but it can actually save you time later on. For instance, when you sit down to pay the bills, it can save you time if you already have a clean spot to work in, and if you know where your checkbook and calculator and stamps are.
--Kate E. Parkur

Good point. Sometimes we cut activities in our lives in order to save time, only to pay back double later on. The next comment brings this point home.

One thing to remember is that life isn’t just about saving time. Unimportant things can be cut out, and some tasks can be done more efficiently, but it’s important to recognize the important things and make sure they’re taken care of correctly. What happens if you cut out scripture study or church attendance in order to save time? Or family time? Will that help you make your life more effective?

The point is to make sure there is time for the important things, and use your time that way.
--Cady “Lady” Parkoor

You know, I don’t think I could have said it any better myself.

Finally, here are a couple of other ideas, in case all else fails:

Don't clean your house!! That saves lots of time!
--Tristi Pinkston
LDS Historical Fiction Author
Movie and Media Reviewer

Hey, if we cut out laundry and dishes, we could have all sorts of time!
Erin Klingler
LDS Author

Very true, ladies. And sometimes, to make room for the important things, we need to do just that. Our families don’t exist for our clean houses; we clean our houses for our families. Sometimes our families need more than just a clean house.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lengthen Your Stride

President Spencer W. Kimball challenged us to "lengthen our stride" in the context of missionary work, but in the context of time management and getting stuff done in general, it still works pretty well.

Here's part of the original quote: “I wonder if we are doing all we can. … Are we prepared to lengthen our stride?” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, p. 5).

So here's the big question to all of us (especially me, I might add): Are we doing all we can? Or are we stopping our own progress by doing less than all we can?

What does it mean to lengthen our stride? It means we keep doing what we're doing, but we do it more effectively. We push ourselves a little harder and take bigger steps.

Once when I was walking home in the frigid Wisconsin winter, I wondered what I might be able to do differently that would get me home sooner. I was so cold, I really couldn't walk any faster. But it occurred to me that if I "lengthened my stride" and just took bigger steps, I'd take fewer of them and I'd theoretically get home faster.

Did it work? Actually, I don't remember. I was so cold that no matter how quick the trip was, it was still too long.

But the idea's still a good one. What can we do in our lives to lengthen our strides? Or, if bigger steps aren't possible, how about taking faster ones? Sometimes improved efficiency is the key. Sometimes we get so caught up in taking our time that we spend too much time on routine tasks that really could be done more quickly.

The real key, though, is to determine what you need to do and then do it. (Another of President Kimball's slogans.) Just do it. Period. I can tell you that I probably need this advice more than anyone else reading this will. It's easy to think big and decide you're going to do something different, but it's a whole 'nother thing to actually make it happen.

I hope you all feel suitably motivated now, because next time I'm discussing some time-saving tips that can help you "quicken your stride." Tips from readers are very welcome. What do you do to save time in the routine things in your life so you have more time for the important things?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Flexible Time

So much for the snappy title. I think one of the hardest things for me to deal with in terms of time management is flexible time. By this I don't mean free time, necessarily. I mean time that I have where I could do a variety of fairly important things, but none of them are pressing.

For example, in terms of taking care of my home, I've determined that washing the dishes and keeping up with the laundry are almost essential on a daily basis. (Yeah, I did say, "almost essential." There are ways around doing these things on a daily basis. But they usually don't end up very pretty.) Beyond that, and making dinner, I have a variety of choices. Do I balance the checkbook? Do I vacuum the floors? Do I clean out closets? Do I weed the garden? Or do I drop everything and go for spending "family time" with someone (preferably someone in the family)?

Well, any of you who have tried to take care of a family, or even just your own room, know that there are millions of choices you could make that fall under the umbrella of "Take care of the House" (or "Take Care of My Room," etc.). And that's where I often get stuck. Sure, everything's important, but I don't have time to do all of it today!

Nor should I have to. But, at the same time, I do need to make some progress or I'll never get anywhere.

The same thing goes for writing a book. Once you've written your quota for the day, what do you do? Do you work on promotional activities? Do you write something else? And if you do write something else, what do you write? Should you work on a new book, or churn out an article in hopes that some magazine will pick it up? Or should you post something to your blog? If you've made a name for yourself as a romance author, but you always wanted to write a fantasy, do you try that? Or do you stick with your romances?

Or do you clean out your closets?

That's where goal setting and prioritizing come in. When you know what's most important to you (and it may change sometimes), you're better equipped to make those choices about how to spend that flexible time.

You might take the Franklin Covey approach, where you divide your activities into broad categories of importance and then order them within the categories. Stephen Covey takes it a step further and uses four "quadrants" of importance. I've learned a lot from these systems, but I think Randy Ingermansen has a point in the article below: When you have too many to-do's on your list, it doesn't matter whether an activity is A29 or B32. You're probably not going to get to it today anyway.

Regardless of what planning style you choose, whether you go for the casual approach advocated in the article posted below, or something more formal like the Franklin Covey system, the goal is to move forward. Get the essentials done, and then do more. Maybe only a little bit more. Sometimes even the essentials won't get finished. That's life. But those days when you can stretch and go beyond the essentials--that's when you're really going to move forward.

(Those time management companies ought to pay me for this.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Time Management Revisited

As someone who has spent far too much time stressing over her daily task list and whether a particular chore should be prioritized as #21 or #22, or whether it's a "low A" or a "high B" category, I found the following article very helpful. (For a take on my own "Time Mismanagement" system, see my post from May 19, 2005. You can find it in the archives.)

By the way, the following article is pretty long, and I didn't write it. I'm posting it here with permission from the author.



Time Management for Writers -- Summary

Randy Ingermanson, Advanced Fiction Writing E-Zine, October 3, 2006, Volume 2, Number 7
I've been talking about time management in this e-zine
for the last several issues because it's important to
me and because I strongly suspect it's important to
many writers too. After all, we're the people who are
saving the world. And saving worlds is a big, big job.

I've laid out a number of ideas in recent articles. Now
I'd like to summarize and synthesize. You'll see that
I've improved on last month's Divide And Conquer method
by adding in an idea from an earlier column.

So here are the things I've been finding useful in
managing my time better:

a) Keep a log of how you spend your time each day. You
can't optimize something unless you can measure it.

b) Spend less of your time and money on things you
VALUE, and spend more of your time and money on
learning SKILLS or buying TOOLS that will make you more

c) Outsource or delegate stuff, but only when it makes

d) Make a list of the Big Things you'd like to achieve
in the next year. Put a star next to the ONE thing on
the list that you simply must get done, even if you
achieve none of the rest.

e) Make a list of several things you'd like to achieve
in the next quarter. These can be pieces broken off
from the tasks on your annual list, or they can be
smaller tasks that can be done in one quarter. Put a
star next to the ONE task on the list that you MUST
achieve this quarter.

f) Make a list of the things you'd like to achieve this
month. Again, these can be stepping stones to your
quarterly list, or standalone tasks. Put a star next to
the ONE thing you really insist on getting done this

g) Make a list of things you want to get done this
week. You are clever and will know how to break down
your monthly list as needed. Put a star next to the ONE
thing that had better get done this week at all costs.

h) Make a list of things you want to do today. Put a
star next to the ONE thing that you will bust your gut
to get finished by the end of the day, (even if you get
nothing else done).

i) Every day (and week and month and quarter and year),
MAKE SURE you get the starred task done, even if it's
the ONLY thing that you do. It's nice to do some or all
of the other tasks on the list, but there is only one
that's required and you know which one it is because it
has a star beside it. Whatever else happens, DO THAT

k) Whenever you cross a starred item off one of your
lists, decide whether you want to put a star on a
second item, or whether you're done with the heavy
lifting for that time period. It's OK to take a
breather after you accomplish something important.

l) If something happens to change your priorities,
change your lists to reflect them. This may even mean
(heaven forfend!) moving that star to another task.
You're the boss, so you get to decide.

m) At the end of the day, ask yourself two questions:
Did you spend your time well? Did you achieve your
starred item for the day?

If you read last month's column, you'll know that I've
souped up the Divide And Conquer method by adding a
partial prioritization to each list (putting a star on
ONE item). Note that assigning priorities to EVERY item
on a list would be a lot of wasted work and anyway it's
not very accurate. But you generally know what the #1
item is on the list. That's the one that should get the

Here's why this scheme is efficient: It's a whole lot
less work to set one priority than to set 10 or 20.
When things change in your life, it's a lot easier to
reset one priority than 10 or 20. Be lazy! That's how
things get done.

Just so you'll know, I'm eating my own cat food (so to
speak). My list for today has 17 items on it. Of these,
the one with the star is "Write e-zine." The fact that
you are reading this is proof positive that I
succeeded. I've also crossed off 7 of the others. Yes, I
did some of the "lower priority" tasks first -- but
only because I knew they wouldn't interfere with
getting the e-zine out. I also delegated some tasks to
my wife.

If you ever cross off every item on your daily list,
call Oprah. You will have achieved Ultimate Success
and will probably get a book deal out of it. I have
never, ever crossed off every item on my list for the

However, the odds are very good that I'll get
everything on my Annual List done by December 31. And
is that cool or what? Because it's the Big Things that
matter. Life is about selectively ignoring the Little
Things so you can achieve the Big Things you really
wanted to do all along.

This scheme is actually working for me. Some days it
works better than others, but it works. If it works for
you, don't tell me. Just send me large numbers of
unmarked $100 bills, because my Life Goal (achieving
Total World Domination) is going to be expensive. And
tell your friends that I'm responsible for making you
smarter, happier, sexier, and taller.

If it doesn't work for you, then please blame Congress.
They deserve a little recognition now and again.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the
Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing
E-zine, with more than 5000 readers, every month. If
you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction,
AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND
have FUN doing it, visit
Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing
and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

blogger templates 3 columns | Make Money Online