With school starting this month, my life has gone from lazy summer days to every spare minute being cram-packed with activity.

This year, the craziness of back-to-school was amplified by several factors. First of all, my baby started first grade. Am I a bad mom for not crying and wishing she were my little girl some more? Part of me is a little wistful, but mostly, I have to admit that I'm loving this stage of my life. My oldest child is baby-sitting age and actually able to cook some basic meals, and all four of my kids are in school full-time, and old enough to mostly take care of their own needs. No more potty-training in this house! No more diapers or forcing baby food down unwilling mouths!! And no more endless days of trying to keep bored preschoolers occupied while their older siblings are in school.

So, you'd think my life would be less crazy right now than ever, wouldn't you? But if you thought that, you'd be very, very wrong. Because I decided to go back to school myself this fall and pursue a degree. That's right - while my kids are at school and the house is nice and peaceful, I'm not even there because I'm going to school full-time.

I'm so, so excited about it, though! I love school - always have. I'm learning so many interesting things and engaging in so many interesting conversations with so many interesting people.

So, the degree I've decided to pursue shouldn't come as a big shock - I'm going to get my degree in English with a creative writing emphasis, and I'm going to minor in editing. I've found over the years that I love the critiquing and editing and revising parts of writing even more than the writing itself, and I think editing is just the thing that I would love to do if I have to go out and get a job someday to support my family.

Ready to Roll

So, it's been a while since I've posted.

I've been an even longer while since I posted anything other than a book review.

It's also been a long time since I've written anything at all.

Until this past weekend. I went to the iWriteNetwork conference in American Fork, and it was awesome.

I even had the Simon Cowell of the writing world say he actually kind of liked my sentence. Woohoo! :o)

He wanted us to write a unique one-sentence description of a lake. Here was mine: "The morning sky paints orange and red streaks on the blank canvas of the water."

I was a little bit terrified as he tore apart almost every other sentence, but he actually kind of liked mine. *phew!*

The thing I loved absolutely most about the conference was that most of the classes were workshop-style. In other words, we learned for a while, and then we PRACTICED. Loved. It.

One of my favorite classes was Karen Hoover's class on poetry. I really need to write poetry more. It's so therapeutic, first of all. But secondly, it does help get me in the mindset of writing prose more beautifully - and powerfully.

Another great take-away was Cindy Hogan's brainstorming technique. She goes walking in the morning (slightly earlier than I'll be going walking, I can tell you that) ;o) and talks into a voice recorder about her story. She doesn't actually /write/, just brainstorms, talks through problems, etc. We tried it out for a few minutes, and I actually really liked it. Got the juices flowing.

Honestly, all the different presentations on brainstorming were great. And I think I know why brainstorming in the shower works so well - not only are you alone, without kids interrupting every thought as it flits through your brain, but there are no electronic devices to distract you from your purpose. I think we don't get enough time to just think. Don't you think? :o)

There were quite a few other things I found very helpful, but those are the ones that really stand out in my mind. I feel energized and ready to jump back into writing. Wish me luck!

"Promises" Blog Tour

I'm not always the best at keeping promises. I try to be, but my procrastination often gets the best of me. For instance, I promised my friend Carolyn that I would read her new book, "Promises" and write a blog post about it by March 29th. As I type this post, it's about 10:30 p.m. on March 29th. Hopefully I'll have it up before midnight.

If the results of the photo finish come back and show that I made it - that my post went live before the date changed - does that mean I kept my promise? Technically, maybe. But I don't think that kind of finish inspires people to trust you to keep future promises. It sends a message that you didn't truly value them or the promise you made. I hate sending that message so consistently, but I haven't figured out how to break out of the cycle.

The problem, I think, is that I put things off, knowing that I have time to do it later and I have other fires to put out from other things I've procrastinated. When I buckle down and start working on the thing, whatever it is, I usually do have time to finish it without such a rush --- IF the world were perfect and nothing ever came up out of the blue, I never forgot any of the other critical things I also had to get done, I hit every green light, and none of the kids' shoes ever wandered off.

Sadly, although I do believe in the maxim, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today," I end up living the reverse: "Don't do today what you can put off until tomorrow."

So, what do you do to keep yourselves on track without getting in the vicious constantly-putting-out-fires cycle? I'd love to get some advice!

At any rate, here I am, ready to tell the world about Carolyn Twede Frank's new book, "Promises." It's about Hattie, who has to move to a new town as a 12-year-old and has to struggle to make new friends and adjust to a different lifestyle. She stumbles upon a mystery in the process, and that's when things start to really get interesting.

The book blurb says: Promises is a heartwarming story of friendship with a touch of mystery and adventure set in the days before Bryce Canyon became a national park. Drawn from the memoirs of Hattie Adair Jolley and her children, it is a realistic glimpse into the past and a delightful story for readers ages eight to eighty.

This is the first time I've read any of Carlyn's writing, and I'm impressed. I felt drawn into the story immediately, and I really liked Hattie. She was cute and spunky and just an all-around sympathetic character. I wish I had asked my daughters to read it, too, and get a kids' perspective before writing this, but of course, that didn't happen what with the procrastination and all. But I felt like her voice was authentic and I really enjoyed the story. I love historical fiction and I don't read enough of it, so this was a nice treat.

You can find out more about Carolyn by stopping by her blog.

Check out Cindy Hogan's blog, too, and find out about another book, "Protected," which is the second book in the "Watched" series.