Let Marsha Ward Take You Away

She blogs here

Visit her website here

Marsha, who are you as a person, versus an author?

I am a hermit. I love solitude. I'm quite uncomfortable in crowds because I'm usually alone and don't have someone to hang out with. However, I'm also a ham, and have enjoyed being in musical productions through the years. I was raised in a musical family, and studied in college for a career in opera. That plan took a sidetrack, though, and never came into being. Instead, I've taught in many venues and many subjects.

What genre(s) do you write in?

I started writing commercially for LDS newspapers, so feature and news articles were my thing for several years. I've won national prizes for poetry, and published columns in several periodicals. I've also written chapters for non-fiction books on writing and publishing. My fiction works are historicals, though, set in the 19th Century West. All of my books include romantic elements. There may come a time when I'll write a mystery.

Do you seek to educate or entertain?

There's always an increment of education in my books, but mostly I write to entertain, to take people away like Calgon (old TV ad for a relaxing bath product) and give them hope.

Where do you write your best stuff, and when?

Because I'm now single, I have the luxury of writing in seclusion. That wasn't the case when I had kids at home and a husband, so I guess I can write in many circumstances. My best time is afternoon and evening, into the night. I'm not a morning person. Although I've tried to get myself on a schedule, life keeps happening, and I have many obligations, so I write in spurts when I have time available.

Why do you write?

According to my older sister, I wrote from the time I could hold a pencil. I believe her. There's never been a time that I didn't have some kind of story to tell. However, it wasn't until the 1980s that I seriously considered sending work out to publishers. I'd been reading certain books and told myself I could write as well as any of their authors. I dusted off my “Great American Novel,” realized it was only a summary, then studied creative fiction writing with several teachers and through reading many instruction books.

My characters are real people to me, and I've driven them up some high, rough trees and put crocodiles at the bases, with sharp, snapping teeth. I have to get my people out of danger and give them satisfying conclusions.

I had an epiphany several years ago when I realized that I write to let people know there is always hope, and to show them through the experiences of fictional characters that they can get through hard times, even really, really terrible times, and find happiness at the end of it all.

Vanilla or chocolate?

Vanilla, because it can be embellished in so many delicious ways, but it's also awesome just the way it comes.

Laptop, PC, Mac, longhand, other? Why?

I use a desktop PC for much of my writing, but I also use a laptop, a netbook, and an AlphaSmart 3000, depending on where I am and what my circumstances are. I don't write longhand anymore due to hand cramping. Besides, I think faster than I handwrite. Why PC? I couldn't afford a Mac when I was buying my first computer. Additionally, back then, Macs were principally used for typesetting and graphics, not for word processing. The first WP program I ever used was WordStar.

What is your current book?

My latest novel is Trail of Storms, the third in a series of novels about the Owen family and their neighbors from Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, but the work stands alone if readers haven't sampled the first two books.

The aftermath of the Civil War creates cruel circumstances for the Bingham family. A brutal attack on Jessie's sister, Hannah Fletcher, drives the extended family to flee to the West. They are soon joined by Heppie Bingham's beau George and his brother, Ned, who bring news that the Binghams are being pursued by cronies of Hannah's attacker. Even after they fight off that onslaught, poverty, bad weather, and Hannah's frightful secret plague their journey. Nursing her battered heart when she hears James Owen took a wife, Jessie accepts Ned's offer of marriage. But a stop on the trail holds surprises that launch Jessie into a bewildering tangle of values, emotions, and high adventure.

One of the hallmarks of my fiction is fast-paced adventure peopled with believable characters. Readers tell me when they're forced to put a book down they worry about my characters until they can read about them again. If I can take people out of their own worrisome lives enough to be concerned about fictional folks and see them through to a satisfying ending, then I've done the job of relieving some of their day-to-day stress. Isn't that what books are for?

One piece of advice/wisdom for the world?

Have faith in a brighter tomorrow.

Dogs or cats?

Right now, neither, although I'm battling with mice. I've had both dogs and cats, and they've been enjoyable, but now is not the right time for pets.

What do you want to be remembered for, or as?

I'd like to be remembered personally as a kind and caring individual, and as a writer for being able to sweep a reader away into a good story they couldn't bear to put down.

Reader Profile: Corinne



She blogs about books here

Corinne on life:

First and foremost, I see myself as a mom. I love being a mom for many reasons, but probably my two favorite things to do with my children is reading together and traveling together. I really like to explore museums and national parks and I love photography and blogging. I have two blogs, one is more personal where I document my travels and the chaos that is being a mom of three. My other blog is a "book blog," where I participate in reading challenges and review the books I read. Mostly I like feeling like I am living the fullest life that I can, squeezing out every drop of experience available to me.

Corinne on reading:

I like so many different kinds of books. When I get to choose, young adult books are my favorite - fantasy or modern, historical fiction or coming of age. I appreciate the romance that is typically in these books - it's not graphic but there is nearly always some kind of love interest for the protagonist. I like that usually these stories have someone coming into some kind of power, there is a self-fulfilling journey that makes the protagonist realize that they have something special to offer, a pretty powerful idea.

Books that make me laugh usually are character driven, where the absurdity of a character's behavior (or a narrator's rendition of events) strikes me as wonderfully absurd (Jeeves or Cold Comfort Farm or The Princess Bride all have characters and narrators that have made me laugh out loud) Books that make me cry have characters that I really care about and when tragedy strikes them, it hurts me and it's hard to remove their pain from my own. Generally, my favorite books are fiction because when I read non-fiction (memoirs, etc) I usually spend too much thought wondering which parts are real and which parts the author made up (call me quirky, it's okay). I like to know when a story is just a story.

My dream LDS fiction book would have tight and superb writing. It would have characters that are flawed and yet powerful and not based on anyone real. It would probably historical fiction of some kind and would be very well researched. On the other hand, I'd also love to read a fiction book about a stay-at-home-Mormon-Mom like me, it mostly depends on how the book is written. I tried some books that are written to mock or poke fun at Mormon culture and those tend to turn me off. I don't want to read a caricature, I want the deep stuff, the real stuff. I don't typically buy "gift" books, and I'm not particularly into Christmas books. I think they seem to have a level of cheesiness in them that turns me off - I don't want to read something that is designed to make me cry - I want to just care enough about the characters that I cry all on my own because of my connection to the story.

Why Corinne reads:

I think I read to be entertained. I read to spend time in a world beyond my own. I read to learn. I read so I can write about a book afterward. I read to have something to talk about with my friends. I have become more particular about the books I choose to purchase, since my shelf space is limited :) A book I buy I would be comfortable having my children read someday. I would expect it to have writing so well done that I'd want to pick it up and read parts of it again. I would buy it because I want to be able to underline my favorite parts and write in the margins.

I have never checked out an LDS book from the library because I don't think my library has any and frankly, I wouldn't even know what to look for. I would love to read and support works by LDS authors, but I am picky about what kinds of books I read. Shannon Hale, for example, writes exactly the kinds of books I enjoy. The plots are intriguing and the writing is fantastic. There are no LDS elements, but the stories have moral underpinnings that I appreciate. Orson Scott Card is another example of an LDS author I really enjoy - but I think I like Hale and Card because I just like the kinds of stories they tell, the fact that they are LDS is superfluous. I would have read them anyway, if that makes sense. I have tried buying "LDS fiction" books online before, but I was a bit disappointed in the quality of writing, it felt more like a clean romance novel to me and I like my stories to have more depth than JUST the romance.

In all, the fact that an author or a publisher is LDS doesn't matter to me as much as the quality of the writing. I want a good story with strong characters and lyrical, thoughtful writing. If you find one, please pass it my way :)

Today I Live and A Future for Tomorrow

When I attended the recent LDStorymakers Conference in Provo I met someone who left a lasting impression on my life. When I first saw Haley Hatch Freeman I was struck with her beauty--tall with long blond hair, Haley could easily pass for a top model. But as I talked with her for several minutes what really impressed me was the fact that her beauty is far more than skin deep.

An anoxeria survivor Haley possess a strong and valiant spirit. Her journey through despair, and her triumph over the disorder that left her near death, attest to remarkable courage. That she chose to write a book--A Future for Tomorrow--and unveil her experience, in pursuit of helping others, touched me deeply. She deftly conveys the message that our Father in Heaven knows and loves us--that we are all of infinite worth to Him--as she brings hope and comfort to those struggling with eating disorders and self-esteem.

Haley has teamed with Karen Eddington to spread the message of the importance of self-esteem. The founder of the Cauliflower Retreat, Karen is the author of the highly acclaimed book Today, I Live.

Take the opportunity to visit Haley's blog where she is offering a copy of Today, I Live for a simple price: leave a comment on her blog naming three of your best traits. Deadline to enter is midnight tonight.

A New Group

Tomorrow night I get to meet them--my new critique group. It's a bit like knowing I'm going to get a birthday gift, except it's not my birthday. Though I'm involved with an online group for children's writers that I absolutely love, I've missed the in-person, hands on, let's get down and really discuss these words aspect of live critique. With several novels in the works I'm looking forward to fresh perspectives with new insight.

Thanks, Josi, for putting me in touch with these women.

Essay Contest


Rachel Leavitt from the blog The Beginning of Motherhood is seeking essays on birth. The winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to a holistic Japanese spa in Salt Lake. Details can be found here. Scroll down to the post that announces the contest.

Dogs or Cats? Vanilla or Chocolate? Tristi Pinkston on Life and Writing


Tristi Pinkston

She blogs here

Launch party for her new book here

Tristi, who are you as a person, versus an author? What is your passion, and what are your hobbies, other than writing?

I'm passionate about families and the responsibilities we have as parents to raise our children with the knowledge of the gospel and to instill in them the seeds they will need to grow testimonies of their own. I enjoy trying new recipes, even if no one but myself will eat them, and I enjoy good movies. But it really all does loop back around to writing for me. You ask what my passions are ... writing! Reading! Reading about writing! Writing about reading! Oh, and talking. So, talking about writing and reading! I'm very cyclical that way.

What genre(s) do you write in?

I started out in historical fiction. My first three novels, "Nothing to Regret," "Strength to Endure," and "Season of Sacrifice" are all historical. Recently, however, I started writing contemporary mysteries, quite a departure from what I'm used to. I'm really enjoying the change, however. I'm thinking in whole new directions now, exploring different facets of myself. I will always love historical fiction and I have several ideas along those lines, but for right this minute, I'm doing contemporary. And, the other day I even got an idea for a Chick Lit novel. I might end up trying a little bit of everything before I'm through.

Do you seek to educate or entertain?

With my historical novels, I hope to educate and uplift. My contemporary novels are sheer entertainment. Sometimes we need to just relax and enjoy ourselves, and I hope I'm creating a place where my readers can come, laugh, and know they aren't going to come across any content that would offend them.

Where do you write your best stuff, and when?

I take it when I can get it. I get all my e-mails checked fairly soon after I get up in the morning, and then I pull up whatever editing project I'm working on and leave it up on the desktop throughout the day. I homeschool, so I sneak over as I'm able and do a little here and a little there. I do my best writing at night after the kids are down. My husband oversees the bedtime routine so I can work.

From nine until midnight,you'll find me at the computer, either writing, editing my own writing, or editing someone else's writing. My computer is right in the middle of the fray. I used to have it off in my bedroom, but my kids felt left out and then they discovered they could get away with stuff if I wasn't right there. So now my computer is in the living room, in the flow of traffic. They have instant access to me, and I have instant access to squelch any simmering revolutions. I write regularly, every day but Sunday, but I don't always work on the same thing.

Why do you write?

It's the only way to keep the voices in my head happy.

Vanilla or chocolate?

I didn't know there was another flavor besides chocolate!

Laptop, PC, Mac, longhand, other? Why?

I wrote my first novel longhand and then transcribed it onto the computer. I wasn't very computer-savvy at the time and I felt intimidated by it. But as I transcribed it, I learned how to use the computer, and from then on, I've written directly on the computer. Sure saves a lot of time over transcribing! But I do have another reason for that. I developed carpal tunnel as a teenager, and while I control it with flax seed oil and vitamin B complex, I now can't hold a pen for very long. I also have to use an ergonomic keyboard (which I highly recommend, by the way. It takes about a week to get used to, but is so much better for the hands.) I can't use a laptop because the keyboard is so tiny. And I'm a PC user.

What is your current book?

My current book is "Agent in Old Lace," and is the first of my contemporary mysteries to be released. It's the storyof a young woman named Shannon who discovers that her boyfriend has embezzled money from her father, and has made millions through shrewdly investing that money. Now that she's uncovered his secret, her life is in danger. The FBI sends out their best agent to protect her, and he will do anything ... and I do mean, anything... to successfully complete his job. It's a romantic suspense that's also humorous. I guarantee you, there's nothing like it on the market.

One piece of advice/wisdom for the world?

There's a Shakespeare quote that often gets misconstrued. When someone wants to justify a selfish decision, they'll sometimes say, "To thine own self be true." But they forget the rest of that quote. When you put it all together, it actually says, "To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." Stop lying to yourself. Then that determination to look truth in the face will show in your interactions with others. Entirely different meaning, and excellent advice.

Dogs or cats?

Dogs. Cats are too dang sneaky.

What do you want to be remembered for, or as?

Someone who was always herself. I've spent a lot of time working up the courage to be myself, and now that I'm there, I want to have the courage to stay there.


A launch party will be held for Agent in Old Lace tomorrow, Saturday, May 16th, from 3-5 p.m. at Provident Book in Pleasant Grove, 661 W State Street. Refreshments, door prizes, sales and a guaranteed wonderful time. Bring a friend!

Baker's Secrets

Writing, publishing, and marketing are like baking, frosting, and serving a cake.

Sometimes you neglect to add an ingredient, or the correct proportions of it, and you have to start all over. Sometimes despite every attention to detail, somebody sets the oven to the wrong temperature and the cake never gets done. Frosting can be tricky too. Some prefer it thick and sweet, others like only icing. The trick to baking the best cake is to learn from your mistakes. Practice and persistence yield results. If you want to make the perfect two-layer chocolate cake, work at it until you master the process.

Even then, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, taste is subjective.

So it is with writing.

Rick Walton's Picturebook Workshop in Brigham City

NOTE: This workshop was originally scheduled for May 23.
The date has now been changed to May 30.

Children's author Rick Walton will present a picture book workshop from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. (with a break for lunch) on Saturday, May 30 in Brigham City at the Brigham Museum Gallery, 24 North 300 West.

"It's been a long time since I've done anything that far north. So if that's convenient for you, this is your chance," said Rick.

A condensed version of Rick's semester long class at BYU, the workshop will packed with information. From discussing what makes a good and a bad picture book to idea development, writing tips, selling your manuscript, and marketing, Rick's workshops deliver a punch that will jump start your creative juices, and help get your manuscript in top form. The day will also include a critique session and approximately $40 of free signed picture books.

Rick notes that for those who will be attending Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers at BYU in a few weeks this is a good opportunity to fine-tune your manuscript, and learn more about the industry.

The author of over 75 children's books, including Bullfrog Pops and Pig, Pigger, Piggest, Rick teaches classes on picture book writing and the children's book business at BYU.

Cost of the workshop is $80. Other fee options: no manuscript critique (though you should sit in and participate in the critiques - a great way to learn)--$60. Come and learn, get all the stuff, but Rick critiques your manuscript before or after--$70. If you really want to come, and can't afford to, e-mail Rick at rick@rickwalton.com.

For more info, or to sign up, drop me an email at nawyn@vii.com, or contact Sarah Cutler at scutlet@googlemail.com.



Truly my grandmother’s granddaughter I hate to see anything go to waste. So when I visited the Homemaking Cottage blog last month I was immediately interested in LinkWithin, a related posts widget that links related archived stories under each of your blog posts. The widget is free and ad free, set up is fast and easy. When I had a question customer support responded in a very timely manner. Since this blog is so new, I haven’t yet set it up here. You can see LinkWithin in action at my Hearts and Hands blog. My page views have more than doubled, and I’m pleased with the results.

Reading Between the Lines

Twenty-one years ago the Box Elder Chapter of the League of Utah Writers compiled a Christmas book. At the time the book was printed noted poet Ellen Paul served as president of the group. Author Bethany Chaffin (Legacy of a Long and Gentle Season, On Extended Wings: The Art of Writing Poetry, Jenny’s Window) served as president elect. Bethany lived and breathed writing, and instilled a love of the craft in countless starry-eyed wannabes—I was one of them.

This morning, as I thumbed through the little volume, I was taken back to a time of excitement and anticipation. Save for a couple of articles in a high school newspaper, my story’s inclusion in the book marked the first time my work had appeared in print—it was dead last, but it was there. Under Bethany’s tutelage, I felt certain my future as a writer was bright. Little did I know my life would take on perilous twists and turns that would push my path to publication years into the future.

Back to the book.

Reading the narratives of Christmases past, most forgotten in the last two decades, I came upon a haunting tale that had nothing to do with Christmas, and everything to do with hope.

The details of this particular story, and the life of the writer, have never really left my mind.

Kathlyn was bright, beautiful—a model. She had every going for her, or so we, those in her writing class, believed. I remembered that when I first read her story, "An Early Winter’s End," I was impressed with her writing prowess, envious of her ability to evoke raw, pure emotion. The compelling piece tells of a woman named Karen who thought she had run out of options. After being pulled from the frigid waters of a lake by a mysterious old man, she discovers divine love and protection are never far away.

Not long after the Christmas book was printed, Kathlyn committed suicide. The circumstances surrounding her death were confusing, even disturbing.

There was little hope to be found.

For months afterward, there were those who wondered about possible foreshadowing in the story—was Kathlyn really talking about herself when she refered to Karen? Was there a message that could have, should have, been unraveled in order to save her?

Today as I read "An Early Winter’s End" I found a shred of hope I missed when reading it twenty years ago:

“Sir, pardon me, but who are you?”

His smile vanished. He looked at her solemnly, his eyes pierced her soul. “Someone you need to know better, Karen. With time and a little help you will.”

I have faith that, like Karen, Kathlyn has ultimately discovered that divine love and protection are indeed never far away.
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