LDS Storymakers Writers Conference, 2nd Annual Whitney Awards, and a House Full of Friends

This past weekend, my hubby and I attended the annual LDS Storymakers Writers Conference in Provo, Utah. And let me tell you all - IT WAS AWESOME!!!

I had an incredible time with my writers friends, meeting with editors from various publishing companies and even from the Ensign magazine. The Storymakers conference is my all-time, absolute FAVORITE writers conference I attend each year. I've been to several different workshops and conferences, and have never been to one as awesome as this one. Thanks so much to all the Storymakers!

John and I attended Boot Camp again this year. What's that? Well, basically it's when all the Storymakers torture us because of our poor writing. Just kidding! It's an optional section of conference that fills up really fast. Friday and Saturday morning, some of the conference attendees got up super early to attend a special "mini-conferece" with published authors and get more one-on-one critiques to improve our writing skills in many areas - characterization, dialogue, and exposition to name a few. I joined the Non-Fiction table this year, which was led by C.S. Bezas. She was an incredible instructor! Wow. I learned so much from her and the other writers at my table. Thank you, Cindy! I can't wait for next year. I hope you'll host the non-fiction table again!

Some pretty exciting stuff happened at conference this year. Like I said, I met with some editors. Heather Justesen and I pitched our new non-fiction book, Lost: One Sheep to Lisa Mangum at Deseret Book. She really liked the advance chapter and outlines we sent her. She gave us some great feedback on structure so it's not so overwhelming for the reader. Lost: One Sheep is about service and how it leads to missionary opportunites.

I also chatted with Kirk Shaw from Covenant Communications, which is the publisher who currently has Teaching Special Spirits. So far, everything is looking great in that area. TSS is out to readers for evalution. I enjoyed chatting with Kirk and now he has a face to take back with him to put with the TSS project.

The other exciting thing happened during the Storymakers First Chapter contest. I submitted four chapters into the contest . . . and two of them won! Lost: One Sheep won 1st place in the Non-Fiction category and Take Back the Night won 2nd place in the Women's Fiction category. It was so awesome, exciting, overwhelming, and completely humbling. All I can say is wow.

Each year, the Storymakers entertain us. This year, they really went the extra mile with an awesome video. Totally fun stuff!

And now - for some Storymakers Conference photos . . .

Danyelle & Heather Justesen catching up on gossip while relaxing in their hotel room. Notice the totally cute Tinkerbell skin on Heather's computer. I want one too!

Danyelle and Haley Freeman Hatch, author of A Future for Tomorrow. I love Haley's book. It gives such hope for those who have or are struggling with anorexia.

Dude - my babysitter was at the conference!!! She came all the way from Kansas! This is Kaitlyn - she's 16 and an incredible aspiring writer. You go, girl!

Ah yes - a picture of me and my hubby. It's funny, but I don't think
we've ever actually come home with pics of just the two of us. It's kind of nice.
Notice the stubble ladies? He hasn't been able to shave since the accident. He's kept it trimmed,
but he can't shave it all off. And let me tell you - I'm really liking the new look. Very sexy.

Dean Lorey and John. My hubby was really excited to meet Dean, who is an author and screenwriter. He wrote My Boyfriend's Back (Disney), Friday the 13th: Part 9, Happy Gilmore, and some other big movies I forget now. He's also the author of the Nightmare Academy series. Dean sat with us during lunch and John picked his brain. I hope you find it again, Dean. Seriously, Dean's a really nice guy - even if he did write a Freddie Krugar movie. :)

Friends from Oz - John, Danyelle, Kaitlyn, and Keisha. If you can't tell, Kaitlyn and Keisha are related. They look like sisters, but are actually mother and daughter - and both are writers! It was awesome to have them come for the Storymakers conference!

Who in the world is that crazy bunch of wackos?
Oh yeah! That's my AuthorsIncognito group! Man, I just love these guys . . . and this is just a small representation of our group!

Danyelle & Tristi Pinkston, author of Nothing to Regret, Strength to Endure, and Season of Sacrifice. Tristi is an awesome friend, but I must say I was quite disappointed when she didn't dress up this year. Although, I must admit her contest entry about Stella and Tedward went a long way to making up for her lack of disguise. On a more serious note, Tristi is one of my biggest supporters. She has talked me through many rough writing patches. I know I would not have finished Teaching Special Spirits without her support. Love you, Tristi!

Two totally cute chicks! Danyelle & Heather Justesen.
We just had to show off our first place certificates for our chapter from Lost: One Sheep. Are we awesome, or what? Heather has a book coming out this October. Just in time for Christmas, everyone!

This year, John and I also attended the Whitney Awards Gala. We had a great time and got to sit with some pretty awesome authors - Jessica Day George, Brandon Sanderson, and Greg Luke. Very cool stuff - and a HUGE thank you to Kerry Blair for being so awesome and sitting us at their table. Here are some fun pics from the evening . . .

You can't quite tell from this picture, but the person across from James Dashner (the announcer) is J. Scott Savage dressed up as Stephenie Meyer (who didn't show up for the Gala) to announce the winner for Best Speculative Fiction.

Heather Justesen and Danyelle

Danyelle and Gregg Luke, author of Do No Harm.
I had a great time talking with Gregg during the Whitney Award dinner. He's a super nice guy. I'm really excited to read his medical thriller!

John and Brandon Sanderson, author of the Mistborn series, the Alcatraz series, and the totally cool person who gets to finish THE Robert Jordan's final novel.

The Bodacious Babes!
Julie Wright, Crystal Liechty, Danyelle, and Jessica Day George.
Congrats to Julie on landing Jessica Day George's totally awesome agent. And congrats to Crystal on finding out she's having a beautiful baby girl! Jessica - it was awesome to meet you!

Danyelle and the awesome Kerry Blair, author of way too many books to write here!
Although my very favorites are her Heart/Baseball series. Love them!!!

Danyelle, John, and James Dashner, author of the award winning 13th Reality series.

Danyelle, Michele Ashman Bell, and Josi Kilpack.
Can I just say, five years ago when I attended my first Storymakers conference, I was TOTALLY star-struck and nervous to meet Michele and Josi. I had admired their writing and read their books over and over and over and over. But I soon discovered they are both the most generous and supportive women I've ever met. What a blessing they've both been to my life and writing!

And this, my friends, is the stack of books being shipped back to my house. Some of these books are for contest prizes on my blogs. Hee hee!

Sunday, my friend Robin opened her house to my friends. John, Isaac, and I had an awesome afternoon & evening visiting with everyone who stopped by. Thanks so much for coming everyone. Of course, I totally forgot to get my camera out until the end - so I missed lots of photo opportunities, but here are a few pics from later in the evening.

Isaac & Alayna

Alayna and her Daddy, Ben.
Look how huge that bear is! It's almost as big as Alayna!

Kimmy, Robin, & Danyelle

Danyelle, Isaac, and John with Dana & Jared Wise

Two totally goofy guys with laundry baskets on their heads.
Michael & John

Robin & Danyelle, crashed on the bed & laughing at the guys!

This was one of the most awesome parts of the night.
Dan Marrott is the missionary who, with Elder Jeff Beard, taught me the first discussion.
Dan was also the one to baptize me many months after the first discussion.
Here we are - 15 years and three months later. It was great to catch up with him and introduce him to my hubby.

The next morning, we hopped on a plane and headed back to Kansas City. Rob & Anna were sooooo excited to see Mama and Daddy!

John's taking the picture and Anna wouldn't take her eyes off me to look at the camera!
We were smothered with hugs and kisses for the rest of the day. It was awesome!

Our trip was fabulous, awesome, incredible . . . .truly, there's no one word good enough to describe it. Being home with my family is equally wonderful. I hope that next year, we'll be able to take the whole family out like we did two years ago for a long family visit. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

Association for Behavior Analysis International: 35th Annual Convention

Lauren Cushing from the Association for Behavioral Analysis emailed me and asked me to share information about their upcoming convention with you. If you're interested in behavioral analysis, either professionally or as a parent, you may be interested in attending this conference.

The Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) is hosting its 35th Annual Convention from Friday, May 22 to Tuesday, May 26, in Phoenix. Of the numerous presentations throughout the convention, a large number of them will focus on autism, the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States. Below is a brief overview of the components of the conference.

The convention, which will be held at the Phoenix Convention Center, is expected to attract approximately 4,000 attendees from across the globe. Hundreds of experts will present resources and information that parents, teachers and therapists can use to improve the lives of those living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Presentations will focus on a variety of topics including:

  • Evaluating the interventions available for children with autism and the importance of evidenced based treatment.
  • Moving beyond imitation to observational learning for children with ASD
  • Combating common sources of stress among parents of children with ASD
For more information, please visit:

Book Review: Life is Tough - I Doubt I'll Make It Out Alive and Give-Away

As I said in my last blog post, this past week has been very stressful for me. My computer crashed just as I was getting everything ready for my upcoming writers conference. Life went crazy and out of whack as my hubby and kids became sick. It seemed like one thing piled on top of another thing. The only things that kept me sane were chocolate and a sense of humor.

There were a few things that happened with my kids where I could have totally lost it, but instead just laughed and laughed. What a difference a sense of humor made during some very stressful moments.

This past week, I've also been reading Stacy Gooch Anderson's newest release, "Life is Tough, I Doubt I'll Make It Out Alive." I pulled it out in anticipation of reviewing it today as part of Stacy's blog tour. When I first pulled it out, I was kind of dragging - just one more thing from my to-do list. But my attitude changed very quickly.

Right from the first chapter, I connected with Stacy talking about her childhood and family. Then she goes on to talk about dating, marriage, and motherhood. There were so many times when I could totally picture the situation she was re-telling, and her reactions. My very favorite so far (I've not completely finished the book), is when she and her hubby take their baby out on a date night with them. While waiting for their food, they hear this great big toot (not from a train, but from someone's pants). At first, Stacy's hubby thinks it was her, but they very quickly realize it's the baby as he fills his pants . . . and keeps on filling, and filling, and filling until it overflows out of his clothes and all over Mama. Oh my heck . I was laughing so hard! All of my kids have done this exact same thing - each on their blessing day!!! It seems like they've each been wonderful and calm during the blessing, then they get passed back to me and within thirty minutes -EXPLOSION!!!

The thing I love about Stacy's book, is how she uses her own life examples to show us how to take difficult situations and how to lighten the load on our shoulders with laughter. This past week was certainly a time I needed a reminder to find a little bit of humor each day. I totally recommend Stacy's book to all women, no matter what stage they are in - single, married, mother, or grandmother. This is a book that will bring some wonderful delight into your day and while imparting a bit of wisdom as well.

Contest: Win an autographed copy of Life is Tough - I Doubt I'll Make It Out Alive by Stacy Gooch Anderson

Leave a comment on this post with a personal short humorous story (yes, it must be about you!). All comments/short stories must be recieved by noon on May 1st. The winner will be drawn that afternoon and announced later that day.

Good luck, everyone!

American Idol vs. Brittain's Got Talent

Today, I'm taking a break from my autism awareness month stuff. I've had a crazy past week. My computer's hard drive crashed and died mid-last week - as you can since my last post was last week on Wednesday. It's still in being repaired, and hopefully the data will be recovered as well. In the meantime, I just got my super slow laptop set up in a way I can do a bit of work on it. Of course, it all had to happen less than a week before I leave for my annual writer's conference in Utah. Yeppers. Not only that, but I've now received two rejections for my Teaching Special Spirits book. Depressing - heck, yeah. But nonetheless, I'm pushing on and it's out to two more publishers right now. So far, both are interested in it. It will be interesting to see what happens.

So, today I really, really, really needed a laugh . . . and some inspiration.

I've just recently (this season) started watching American Idol. And I discovered something about it I really, truly like - Simon Cowell. Can I just say, that man is gorgeous! AND his comments totally make me laugh. OK - it's totally not nice to be mean to people, especially on national television, but the crowd's reaction to him just makes me laugh! And most of the time, the guy is spot on. He really knows what to look for and is brutally honest in his feedback. In keeping with my recent Simon fascination, I discovered some totally hilarious Simon You Tube videos. These are from both American Idol and Brittain's Got Talent, as Simon is a judge for both shows.

First, the hilarious - get ready to fall out of your chairs from laughing so stinkin' hard!

Brittain's You've Got Talent loves Michael Jackson!

American Idol and the world are blessed because Simon Cowell a part of it.

And now, the inspirational - get the tissues ready!!!

Brittain's Got Talent and so does Paul.

I couldn't post this last one on my blog. You can only link to it. So here it is: Brittain's Got Talent presents Susan Broyle. I absolutely LOVE Simon's expression.

So there you go. A little bit of what cheers up my day. May your day be wonderful and your week fabulous, too!

Jason McElway - An Inspiration

This is one of my very favorite videos! Jason McElway has autism. His example, and the example of his peers, shows how anyone - no matter what their abilities are - can enjoy life and form great friendships. I just love the acceptance he found in his high school. Get the tissues ready!!!

Autism and Law Enforcement

One of the scariest experiences I've ever had with my son was during a play date at the park. I was with another friend, who has two sons with autism. My kids and hers were having a ball playing, when another boy approached them and asked to play with them as well. I had seen his mom, who was there on a play date with another family, and knew she was helping her kids on the swings. I'm one of those moms who pays attention to who's kid belongs to who when I'm at the park and am very aware of our surroundings in case our son decides to run away.

The kids played together for about twenty minutes, when my son asked if he could ride the little boy's trike. The boy said yes and that all the kids could take turns. My son happened to be the first, and rode the trike down the sidewalk and into the tennis court where he turned around. The kids ran behind him, yelling and laughing, while my friend and I walked behind them. I remember seeing the other kids' mom stalk into the tennis court. From the way she was carrying herself, I could tell she was upset about something. I quickened my pace, then began to run as I saw her yell at my son, grab his arm and start yanking him off the bike. She kept pulling him against the handlebars while he screamed and cried until he came free of the bike, then held him suspended in the air for a few minutes, and dropped him onto the court where he landed on his knees and rolled away. All of my children were bawling and came running to me, clinging to my legs.

Then the mother came screaming at me about how I'm such a bad mother and that I needed to keep better track of my kids. How they had no right to be on her son's bike, etc. I remember I just wanted to rip this woman's face off. I wanted to punch her until she couldn't ever speak again. How DARE she touch my son! I remember repeating over and over, "You don't ever touch someone else's child." while she continued to tell me I was a horrible mother. I told her my son had autism and I was shocked when she said, "Well congratulations, my son does too."

I turned away and took my kids to the picnic table. There were already bruises forming across my son's chest from where she yanked him against the trike's bars, as well as bruises on his arm from where she had grabbed him. I put my kids into my van and called my husband who worked two blocks away from the park. He left a meeting to come meet us. Along the way, there was an officer on the side of the road. My husband approached him and told him our son had just been assaulted at the park. The officer accompanied my husband to the park.

The woman became so upset, yelling and screaming at the officer, he had to call back-ups and they threatened to call DCFS if she didn't calm down. She was charged with child abuse and a few other things. This is just the beginning of a long, disappointing battle.

Our lawyers talked. She wanted a lesser charge because she wanted to adopt more children. We found out she really does have a son with autism. I couldn't imagine how she treated her family based on her conduct that day. Do you know what we asked for? We asked that she take anger management and parenting classes. The best thing I could think of was counseling to deal with situations better - especially since raising a child with special needs is extremely stressful.

The results? The judge gave her a smack on the wrist (she did get a lesser charge of child abuse because we wouldn't budge on it) and said we were holding up the courts over a misunderstanding during a play date. I still have very upset feelings about the results.

I walked away from this incident with a whole new set of fears.

What if one day my son wanders off? What if a police officer interprets his behavior as aggressive and unco-operative? What if someone thinks it's a domestic violence situation during one of his melt-downs, especially with him getting older and bigger? What if, one day, I can't protect him and help others understand him anymore?

I am truly afraid of how others misinterpret my son. I see all this progress he's made and I see the joy and love he has inside. But I also see the difficulties he has in certain situations and how upset he can become.

My friend, Teri, sent me a link to this video from Utah's KSL news station. I'm not sure if the video below will work or not. If it doesn't, click on the video link and it will take you to the KSL website.

Video Courtesy of

In the news clip, they talk about Sahara Cares and their new DVD teaching law enforcement officers how to recognize signs of autism in children, teens, and adults, as well as how to communicate and help them in a variety of situations. It was difficult for me to watch because it brought all those fears to the surface, but it's actually a very informative video. You can watch it for free on their website. It's available for purchase for just $5, basically the cost of supplies and shipping. You can watch the DVD here.

Change Her World

There are three things from this video I want you to pay particular attention to:

1. More children will be diagnosed with Autism this year than AIDS, Diabetes, and Cancer combined.

2. There is NO cure for Autism. However with early intervention and intensive therapy children CAN lead full and active lives. ***I wish the media emphasized this more. There are some children who will never leave the world they are caught in called Autism, but others will learn how to cope and grow and learn and WILL go on to lead happy, full lives, including going to college, getting married, and having a loving family.

3. Claudia's parents say, "I want a world where my daughter is not pushed aside and told to wait for two years . . . What happens today will have a direct impact on the rest of her life."

Autism Awareness with the Teletubbies

A Metaphoric Cure for Writer's Block

One of my fellow AuthorsIncognito group members sent me this hilarious cure for writer's block. I just had to pass it on to you! Enjoy!

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

Jaden is . . . Amazingly Autistic

Autism Awareness with Wubbzy!

Also, check out this website for an Wubbzy Autism Awareness Coloring book!