Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Prayers for the Season

On December 6th, Bill O'Reilly reported that a six-year-old girl in North Carolina wrote a poem for Veteran's Day about her grandfathers who both served in Vietnam. In the poem, she wrote, "They prayed to God for peace. They prayed to God for strength." Someone complained, and the Superintendent of McDowell County Schools decided this child couldn't write about her grandfathers turning to God in times of trouble--at least not at school.

I prepared to write a post about all the books I love--from Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terebithia and Kate Dicamillo's Because of Winn Dixie and my Arizona author friend Amy Dominy's debut novel, OyMG--that all have characters who pray. Maybe someday I will write that post and share quotes from those prayers, and my worries that we are replacing spirituality with magic, but not today.

The testimony of twenty first graders in Newtown, CT, speaks far louder that I ever could. As the entire nation, "prayed to God for strength" and "prayed to God for peace," we learned what the young girl in North Carolina learned from her grandfathers. God is there. He is real. He hears and answers prayers. And sends strength, peace, love and comfort. He soothes broken hearts and teaches us how to bind each others wounds.

I've felt His power in times of loss in my own life. In Leesie's words, "Happiness . . . filled me up. Tangible--like you could pour it from a pitcher." Like Leesie, I was "overcome" with the power of God's love. Prayer unlocks it. All you need to do is ask.

I don't know why a troubled young man shot those beautiful children in a sleepy Connecticut town, but I do know that now they are wrapped in God's loving arms--and he won't let them go until their parents are ready to join them forever.

All my love and prayers for you, my wonderful friends and readers, this season of celebration and goodwill,


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Free Ebooks and English Teachers!

Starting at midnight tonight, Unbroken Connection and Cayman Summer  are free on Kindle for 3 days!! I'm flying up to Las Vegas for the National Council of English Teachers (NCTE) annual conference. I'm excited to spend three days sharing with and learning from the nation's English teachers.

I'm presenting "An Author's Toolkit: Techniques from the Pros," with two friends from Vermont College. I'm so excited to see them again. I'm also part of a roundtable discussion on digital storytelling, "Getting Digi With it," where I'll be telling them all about my amazing readers and what we did together over on my Cayman Summer blog.  

English teachers are my heroes, past and present, so I'm offering the free promo for them, and also to thank you! Thanks for all your patience, love and support.

Next stop, Vegas!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Free "Plot Challenged" Webinar

My free 2-hour webinar, "Plot Challenged," is Wednesday, October 17th, 7 PM EST. Follow this link to register http://www.writingforchildrenlive.com/Angela_Morrison.html 

If you have a hard drive full of great ideas and a few opening chapters, this webinar is for you. I'll go over four plotting strategies that I use and editors expect.

The webinar is available online, so writers can join us from anywhere in the world. If you can't make the live broadcast, no worries. Registrants have free access to the call for 24 hours following it.

If you missed my first teleconference, "Get them Talking: From Dialogue to Scene," you can download it for a small fee at http://www.writingforchildrenlive.com/Angela_Morrison.html 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

FREE Teleconference Tomorrow!

My free teleconference for writers, "Get them Talking: From Dialogue to Scene," broadcasts October 3rd--tomorrow! Kim at Writing for Children Live tells me that if you phone in or tune in online for the live broadcast, you'll get to ask questions. 

If you've ever had an agent tell you to "show not tell," you need this teleconference.

I teach an easy-to-understand, no pressure technique that will help you craft dynamic scenes that will create a movie in your readers' heads. 

This teleconference includes a detailed handout you can download plus my guide to punctuating dialogue as a bonus.

We're offering a follow-up, free 2-hour webinar, "Plot Challenged," on October 17th.
The broadcasts are available via telephone and online, so writers can join us from anywhere in the world. If you can't make the live broadcast, no worries. Registrants have free access to the call for 24 hours following it. Following that you can purchase the teleconference for a small fee.

Follow this link to register:  http://www.writingforchildrenlive.com/Angela_Morrison.html  Please join us!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Reading at Changing Hands

I and several other Phoenix area authors will be reading and signing books at Changing Hands, Thursday, Sept. 27, 6:30-8:30 at Writers Unite to Fight Cancer's awards ceremony for their first writing contest. I was honored to judge. You are all invited! Its so much more fun to have friendly faces in the audience. See you there.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Free Teleconference and Webinar Starring ME!

I'm excited to announce I'm presenting my workshop, "Get them Talking: From Dialogue to Scene," on a free teleconference call, Oct. 3rd, 7 PM EST sponsored by Writing for Children Live. Registrants have free access to the call for 24 hours following it. 

I'm doing a follow-up free webinar, "Plot Challenged," on October 17th. 

I love this concept. As an author, I get to share my expertise with fellow writers without leaving my cozy office. And writers get a lecture from the comfort of their own homes. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

From Faith to Fiction or Write from Inner Truth and Don't Wreck it!

My daughter is training for Teach for America this summer. She just sent me an email asking how to teach her class about the moral or main message of the story. She needs this post--now! It's based on my MFA critical thesis and my favorite presentation. The photos are slides direct from my presentation. I made them extra-large, jumping off the page, so you can read them clearly.

From Faith to Fiction: Lessons from Katherine Paterson
or Write from your Inner Truth and Don't Wreck it!

In my last post, I listed writing from your deepest beliefs in my revised, “Write What you Know,” mantra. 

The wise and wonderful Jane Yolen, in her book Touch Magic, explains:

My inner truth is my faith and when I tried to add that to my creation, I ran into even more difficulties. Regardless of what a writer’s inner truth is, it must make up the core of your story. BUT, doing the very thing Jane Yolen tells us and our heart urges us to attempt, can lead to some egregious errors that can turn your fiction into something you didn’t intend.

When I was trying to do this and making an awful mess of it, I turned to Katherine Paterson’s work--artistic and critical--for advice. Katherine has always been public about her faith and is not shy about discussing how it impacts her work. Hallelujah! I studied her and that study became the basis of my MFA critical thesis, graduate lecture, and a lecture I recently gave at BYU’s annual writing for children and young adults conference. (Fabulous conference, by the way. Go if you ever get the chance.)

I can’t include the whole lecture in this post, but I can share the most important highlights. 

For me it all started with fellow LDS novelist, Ann Canon. Her editor, Wendy Lamb, vice president at Random House Children’s Books and publisher of the imprint that bears her name, told a packed ballroom full of children’s writers at SCBWI’s 2001 annual conference in sunny Los Angeles that she “keeps finding books that deal with teenagers and faith” and would like to see more.  Good news.  She explained she didn’t want to see “overly” religious novels, but appreciated novels that explore “the meaning of faith in kids’ lives today.”  She had just finished editing Charlotte’s Rose. This was such a revelation for me. It was the first time I thought it was possible for me to “write what I know” and have an audience outside Mormondon.

I wrote to Wendy Lamb and asked her what characterized an “overly” religious novel.  The first thing on her list was, “PROSELYTIZING.”  Critics used to call this egregious mistake, didacticism.

For centuries, didactic books, meaning books that instruct in “moral, ethical or religious matters”—not simply books that teach-- (Holman 131) dominated children’s literature.  Today, overt preaching is not tolerated by children’s editors, librarians or the kids themselves.  An author who intrudes religious doctrine that does not play an integral part in the life of the character into her narrative at best bores the reader at worst annoy him/her enough to disrupt the fictive dream she has worked so hard to create.  Critics will lay charges of proselytizing.  The art the writer has endeavored to create will fail.  And editors, like Wendy Lamb, will reject the manuscript. (Believe me, I know.)

Our wonderful expert, Katherine Paterson, clarifies this issue in terms a writer can apply.  In an article for U.S. Catholic entitled, “The Spiritual Reading Life of Children,” she explains: 

Stories that teach religious doctrine will always have their place.  Christ’s parables in the New Testament will never go out of style.  Moses, Job, and Esther teach important religious truths to the faithful far better than straight sermonizing.  Religious presses, magazines and curriculum departments all appreciate the power of story to strengthen the faithful and convert the doubting.  But, as Paterson says, these stories are not fiction and “have little to say outside their faith communit[ies]” (Terabithia.com “Questions” 2).

If a writer is steeped in a particular faith, it is difficult for her to discern if what she writes will feel like proselytizing to a reader outside that faith, and a writer who has spent years writing for her faith community faces a constant struggle to keep propaganda out of her attempts.  No writer of fiction who is serious about her art will be pleased if the novel she has poured her blood, sweat and tears into only rises to the level of propaganda. Of course, most are too humble to claim that what they have created is art, but a writer who is religious will probably want her fiction to do more than entertain. 

Paterson provides an important key.  She says, “When authors write serious fiction, even if the reader is to be a child, they are struggling to find an answer for themselves” (“The Spiritual” 3).   Propaganda will result if the writer begins with the answer.  Fiction is a writer’s tool for discovery.  Questions give life to fiction.  

You must learn to . . . 

Leave those statements for critics, editors and lit classes.

When people who have not read her books ask Paterson what “message” or “moral values” she tries to teach children, she says, 

Remember Sam Goldwyn?  Messages belong in telegrams.  Stories are born of questions.  What if?  What would happen if?   How would he feel if that happened?  Then what would she do?  If a writer is an expert on religious doctrine, he should write essays.  If he has a question or a problem that excites or torments or terrifies his adult or child self—that’s the stuff of fiction.   Fiction can rise to the level of art if it is an honest quest for personal answers.

This is a huge challenge, for writers who, because of their faith and life experience, feel they already have the answers—the truth.  Maybe these writers can ask themselves if they understand the truth.  Can they live up to the truth. How does the world around them react to the truth.  I have found through my own attempts that my novel wouldn’t work until I discovered the thing that scared me the most and faced it through my characters.  

What freaked me out most as a teen? What did I least want to deal with as a fiction writer? Sexuality. Let’s be frank, sin. What is TAKEN BY STORM all about? Grief? Yah. Faith. Of course. Spirituality. I even managed that. But it comes right down to, Michael expresses love through sex and Leesie is a righteous girl with a loving, compassionate heart,  and healthy hormones, trying to keep the law of chastity. All these other LDS authors are writing noble fantasy with sweet, pure romance in them, and I’m writing a standard’s night girls won’t put down. I get abstinence. Thanks a lot. At least, the powers on high sent Stephanie that dream and her Edward made abstinence hot so I could FINALLY SELL THIS BOOK!

When those same powers on high made it plain, how far I had to test Leesie, and I realized I would have to write a couple of fairly frank, not explicit, but honest, temptation scenes, I did not want to go there. It was painful writing those scenes. They took revision after revision. I fretted, I cut, I prayed, I rewrote again and again and again. I ran out of time or I’d still be trying to perfect them. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written. 

Paterson has often said that she writes “out of [her] own needs” (“The Aim of the Writer” 227).  When she hears the fears expressed by her children—and now grandchildren—and the thousands of young people who write to her, she remembers her own fears as a child.  She says, “I seem to be in tune with the questions my children and their friends are asking.  Is there any chance that human beings can learn to love one another? Will the world last long enough for me to grow up in it?  What if I die?” (“The Aim of the Writer”  227). 

I know why I wrote TAKEN BY STORM, why I had to craft those difficult scenes. It was for the young women in my early morning seminary class in London, Ontario, Canada—who faced this challenge every day of their lives—and all the young women like them. In the LDS community, we lose so many young women to non-member boyfriends. The culture around us is saturated with temptation. We have to face it—confront it—and cheer for the righteous if we can.

Painful questions yield fiction that has the power to move people, change people, but not through means of persuasion. Through a story that evokes that truth. This is the power of art.

I also learned that nauseatingly good characters who never make mistakes are impossible to write about and how to judge what type of religious detail and experience to include in your novel. I’ll include some that material in later posts. 

Today, let’s just start asking questions and take heart from some inspiring words from Katherine:

Amen, sister, amen!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Write What you Know? Bleck!

When I was younger, I detested this age-old advice to writers. What did I know? Would anyone really want to read about a pig farm . . . oh, I mean wheat farm in a tiny town on the Idaho edge of Washington? And the grumpy Mormon girl imprisoned within its walls? Write what I know? Yuck. I was too busy fleeing to even consider that.

I am positive, “Write what you know,” gave me writers block for decades. But when I found myself in a safe, supportive place with a mandate to create, what did I do? I went home. I longed for what I’d known so long ago. I was far, far away, but could go home in my imagination. I didn’t realize how homesick I was until I started writing TAKEN BY STORM.

So, I pass this adage on to you with a twist and a cautionary tale.
I don’t want you to experience decades of writers block or end up writing a horrid self-absorbed tale that is great therapy but lousy art.

So here’s the twist:

What you know tomorrow is different from what you know today. That is the beauty of it. As we learn, discover, test, experience, what we know grows and grows. What we can pull out of our lives and put into our creation increases every day that we open our eyes and look around, read a new book, watch a documentary, listen to the news, or touch someone we love.

Now, the cautionary tale. When I put Leesie into my house, my high school, and gave her my faith and some of my most ghastly high school experiences, I kind of got carried away. I smothered her with way too many of those experiences, way too much me. I was using what I know, but I wasn’t letting Leesie develop into a fictional character. Ron Koertge, my first Vermont College MFA mentor, sent me the following:

Great. I’d totally failed. Messed it up. “Write what you know,” was garbage after all. Ron recognized the strengths of the chapters I’d written and wouldn’t let me junk them. He made me revise. I cut the nasty high school experiences that didn’t fit and left the one that did. I gave Leesie long beautiful hair and a thrift store leather jacket. Michael totally fell in love with both.

Then I started listening to both of them. A lot. They would wake me up in the middle of the night. I’d crawl out of bed and dash for my office where I could turn on a light without waking up my husband and scribble down another online chat.

As the story grew, it started swallowing up everything in it’s path. Not only my own memories and experiences, but everything and everyone around me, including books I’d read, movies I’d seen, even a yellow Valentino tie we bought for my brother-in-law when he and my sister-in-law watched our kids. Ebay and Facebook, church dances, and hill jumping, all fed my voracious stormy story.

I kept failing, kept messing it up, kept revising. I saved the good stuff and kept rewriting, kept resubmitting it. And finally, I got it right enough to hear those wonderful words, “We’d like to publish your book!”

Yeah, write what you know--but let it breathe. Let it germinate. Let it grow. And it will surprise you as much as TAKEN BY STORM surprises me every time I open its cover.

New eBook and paperback cover! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012


This is so cool. I'm participating in my first ever book bomb promotion today. Scroll down the prize list. What do you see? An all new ebook version of TAKEN BY STORM?? Yes!!! I've been dying to announce it. Check out all the cool gifts you can get if you buy CARIBBEAN CROSSROADS on your Kindle or Kindle app today! Then drop by for the new TAKEN BY STORM cover reveal!!

Celebrate the release of CARIBBEAN CROSSROADS by Connie Sokol with a special price today!

 I have a special offer for you—it’s only good for today—Thursday, June 14, 2012. Purchase CARIBBEAN CROSSROADS  from Amazon.com for only $1.99. Then email RachelletheWriter@gmail.com with your order confirmation/receipt. Once Rachelle receives your order details, she will email you an amazing selection of over 10 free gifts from Connie Sokol and several others!

 Here’s what’s in store when you purchase CARIBBEAN CROSSROADS  today:
(All items will be emailed to you from Rachelle after she receives your order confirmation.) You can purchase the Kindle Edition HERE for $1.99 today! Paperback also available.
To celebrate the launch of her new romance novel, Connie Sokol- author, speaker, and life coach is offering two incredible free gifts when you purchase CARIBBEAN CROSSROADS TODAY. 

  • ·         You’ll receive a free Ebook of Life is Too Short for One Hair Color-- A humorous collection of anecdotes and helpful tips to survive being a woman, wife, and mother. Laugh a little, lighten up a lot, and take something from each story to practically and positively help you change your life and perspective–one tip at a time.

  • ·         Mp3 file of Get Organized -- Need extra hours in the day? You can find them today! Learn how to realistically streamline repetitive tasks such as bill paying, laundry, meal planning and cooking to create FREE hours for what you need most. Discover a fabulous organization formula to use in ANY area of your life for more effective time management. Get organized and stay organized to enjoy a more fulfilling life!

  • ·         Shear Luck free ebook by Heather Justesen—a romance novella-- When salon manager Chelsea Robison walks into the restaurant next door, she's surprised to run into her teenage crush Vaughn Krenshaw. Though he is still mourning his wife's death, he can't help but take a chance and ask her out. As things start getting serious, family pressure about dating again, and rumors from his past surface, making the chance for happily ever after look farther than ever.

  • ·         Vertex42.com offers the ultimate money management spreadsheet! Create and monitor your budget. A free alternative to Quicken.

  • ·         TheSeedtouch--An Epic Fantasy Romance by Rebecca Lyn Shelley
 When Keil's father succumbs to dementia, she disguises herself as a man to save her family. But her quest is threatened when she accidentally bonds with a man who has traded all his wealth and land for the addictive drug, tam. Furious, she rejects her new bondmate and takes control of the landholding that she believes will keep her family safe.  But the tam is spreading and will soon destroy not only her land but also all life if she cannot find a way to stop it. Like it or not, she's forced to team up with her bondmate to save their world. 

  • ·         Angela Morrison is the author of Sing me to Sleep, 2010 Goodreads Choice Nominee and USA Best Books 2011 winner for Young Adult Fiction, and the critically acclaimed Taken by Storm saga. Her free gift: All-new Taken by Storm ebook. 

Mormon girl, Leesie, has life figured out until devastated Michael lands on her doorstep. Originally published by Penguin, this intimate novel is a rare journey into a Mormon teen's inner life. Ebook includes a never before published scene and free chapter from Unbroken Connection (Book #2). Follow Angela's new "liv2writ" blog at http://angelamorrison.blogspot.com.

  • ·         Enjoy the incredible YA Paranormal Bestseller--Bound   by Christine Bryant.
     When a photo shoot ends in tragedy, Kira discovers her best friend, Lydia, has been keeping a secret. Knowing the truth, and accepting it, will change Kira’s life forever and thrust her into a world of ancient curses, magical objects, and savage enemies. What happens next will challenge everything Kira knows about her world, herself and the shape-shifting warrior she’s falling in love with.

  • Three free ebooks from award-winning author Karen HooverThe Sapphire Flute ( Book 1 of The Wolfchild Saga) Seven Keys and seven guardians born to save a dying world.  AND
  The Armor of Light (Book 2 of the Wolfchild Saga), TheMisadventures of a Teenage Wizard, Book 1: Two Souls are Better Than One
Chased by dragons. Saved by a Pegasus. Sharing his mouth with a wizardly spirit.

  • ·         Amy Chandler’s free gift offering--Where are your photos? Sign up today for a FREE account and get those photos out of a box, off your computer and into 100% customizable beautiful books your whole family will cherish!

Why a book bomb? A book bomb is when a large group of people purchase a certain book on a specific day on Amazon. This pushes the book's popularity up the Amazon ranks, which in turn gives the book more visibility to Amazon shoppers. That’s the goal today for CARIBBEANCROSSROADS. Grab your copy and help us celebrate! Just remember to email Rachelle with your order receipt! 

So feel free to pass this on to your friends and shout it out on FB, Twitter, etc. We’d like as many people as possible to benefit from these bonus gifts. Connie is giving an extra gift to you just for spreading the word about the book bomb. Visit 8basics.com and click on the green button to share for a FREE audio download of "CoachCast: Joy In Womanhood"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


This morning on my CaymanSummer blog, I was reminiscing about the very first free write I ever wrote and decided to share my favorite writing technique with you. I adore free-writing. I try to include a free write exercise in every class I teach--from grade school to high school to SCBWI! Everyone who has to write anything can free write. I'd never heard of free writing until I went to Vermont College of Fine Arts. I wish I would have heard about them when I was six and crazy to be a writer.

Whenever I get stuck with a scene--especially if it's something difficult or emotionally powerful or painful--I write what I've got to do at the top of a blank piece of pink paper, put it on my nightstand table, sleep on it, and as soon as I wake up, I pick up the paper and scribble away. I have a lap desk that I've used for years to make scribbling in bed easier. It feels so much less like work if I'm still in bed propped up by feather pillows. You don't have to free write in bed or first thing in the morning. This works anywhere. Anytime.

And you don't have to write on pink paper. White intimidates me. Pink works for YA romances. Pale pink. When we lived in Switzerland, I found this lovely ballet pink A-4 size paper that made me feel poetic every time I touched it. The pastel pink I use now isn't quite as inspiring, but it works for me--unless I'm trying to write for middle grade boys. I basically free write my entire first drafts so pens and paper are critical. (I'll have to devote an entire post to black Zebra gel pens with cushioned barrels.)

The book I just finished, The Order of the Flick, is a middle grade sci-fi adventure for boys. Big shift from "luminous" YA romances. I was having a horrible time getting the first draft going. Stuck all the time. I kept researching and putting off writing. Not good. Then I realized, I was trying to write it on pink paper. I went to my favorite store on earth, Staples, and perused the stacks of colored paper. Big sale!! So I had to stock up on extra reams of pink, and the peach was so pretty, and I couldn't resist the lilac. I bought a lovely yellow, too. The yellow worked for Flick. I got the draft finished. My agent has it. Next step, revision.

Okay, back to free writing. Bonus points if you've made it this far through my rambling. Here's a crash course.

rules for free writes

  • it must be done by hand
  • the leader will give you a prompt or give yourself a prompt (I like to make up my own.)
  • when the leader says, "go," start writing
  • you cannot lift your pen from the pad until the timer goes off (you decide 3-5 min.)
  • don't worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation--just scribble away
  • use unlined paper if you can--lines can restrict your creativity
  • writing, "ummmmmmmm," or "I hate this" is allowed--just keep writing
There are all kinds of writing books full of prompts, but I prefer to come up with my own. Students, if you have an assignment to write something, use that as your prompt. You'll be amazed how much you get done. Teachers, try free writes during journalling time. Give them a prompt and set the timer. Be sure to let the kids share what they've come up with. That's my favorite part when I'm in a classroom.

Writers, try a "what if" question relating to whatever is percolating in your brain today. Free write to get it on the page. You'll be so excited. I promise. I always am. Every time. I no longer time my own free writes because once I get going, I don't want to stop. Try it with or without a timer. What works best for you? 

Free writes can be transformed into free verse poems . . . but that's another post! 

Thanks for dropping by.

Happy writing,


Monday, June 11, 2012


Hello friends, writers and readers,

Welcome to my new liv2writ blog! I'm moving it from my website to blogger and expanding it.

I fell quite in love with the blogosphere when Sing me to Sleep launched. So many bloggers reviewed it with lots of tears and tissues, hosted me for interviews, character interviews, and guest posts, and ran great giveaways.

When my editor left Penguin, leaving Unbroken Connection (Taken by Storm #2) stranded, wonderful bloggers were there to help me make lemonade from all those lemons--launching the "Don't Break the Connection" blog campaign. To express my thanks, I launched a new blog, http://caymansummer.blogspot.com, and wrote Michael and Leesie's final chapter on it.

The Cayman Summer blog will now be devoted to all things Michael and Leesie.

On this blog, I'll share my every day ups and downs, rants and raves, best writing tips and news on upcoming books and sneak peaks at works in process. And contests. There must be contests!

This month I must archive and launch a new website. Apple has retired from the hosting business. I plan to rescue some of the posts from the four blogs I wrote on my old site and re-publish them here.

My brand new and improved website will appear at www.angela-morrison.com soon.