Monday, March 31, 2008

Unexpected Reunion

Shirley Bahlmann
If you love your family or have ever wanted something very badly, you might be able to sympathize with how I felt when I realized I couldn't go see my new grandson in January because the roads between Utah and Colorado were too snowy. I thought it would be summer before I ever got to meet the little feller.
But then, last week when I was visiting family in southern Utah, we got a call from our Colorado kids. They were making an unexpected trip to Utah for a beloved friend's family funeral. They agreed on a detour to St. George. So for the first time in a long time, we had all our immediate family together, and I got a smile from that cute grandson, who now is truly cute because at four months old, he's past the squishy stage.
I just wanted to remind you that happily ever afters don't just happen in books. Yours may be just ahead of you, only moments away.
Sweet dreams.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Stepping-on-Foot Award

by Shirley Bahlmann
I recently returned from the Storymaker Conference in Salt Lake City. What a literary blast! I was energized by all the presenters, the committees, and the AWARDS!
There were several gift baskets and awards, one of the most notable given by Authors Incognito, an on-line group open to anyone who attends a Storymaker Conference. After their entertaining skit, they gave an award for the most rejections (which interestingly enough also coincided with the most published work) to (drum roll) Cindy Beck!
You may not know Cindy, but she is part of my writing class, so I clapped until my hands hurt. They held up the wondrous award and looked around the room, panning from one side to the other. My heart began beating faster. Where was Cindy? Why wasn't she jumping up and dancing on the table for joy? The presenter lowered his arm. Oh, no! Cindy's award was in danger of being un-presented! But I could take it to her. I could personally put it into her ink-stained hands and give her a "Hooray!" hug besides. So I stood up and hurried toward the front of the room, ready to say, "I'll take it!" but then I felt a lump under my shoe. I turned, horrified to see that I has just stepped on a young lady's foot. This made me feel especially bad since she was petite and had left her steel toed boots at home. I, on the other hand, am six feet tall and pushing more pounds than I care to mention.
I bent down, looked her in the eye, and said, "I am so sorry."
She took a breath, then gave me a trembly smile and said, "That's okay."
I knew it wasn't. But what else would she say? "Watch where you're going, you big lummox!" She didn't seem to be the type.
I turned back to see the presenter stepping down off the stage. The emcee moved to the microphone. I stood there awkwardly for a moment, my heart sinking, as Cindy's marvelous award disappeared into the crowd.
Beware award fever. It can strike anyone, anywhere, even if the award doesn't have your name on it. And you may forever carry an unwanted brand, something like "The Six Foot Tall Foot Stomper." That's gonna be a hard one to live down.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Gentleman Toweler

by Shirley Bahlmann
A lot of people wonder where authors get their ideas. Here's an example that worked for me.
I was at the LDStorymaker's Conference in Salt Lake City this past weekend. I wound up sitting by a door that author Candace Salima's husband, Alvin, opened to let me in. He saw me tippy-toeing around the corner after trying to get in behind the presenter's screen. (There was an actual door there, but no one opened it for me. They probably thought I was a crazy lady, tapping on the glass, yelling with blue lips, "Let me in!")
But Alvin is big, Alvin is brave, he knows me, and he STILL opened the door!
Alvin gave me one of his big, warm Samoan hugs to thaw me out. I appreciated that the room was warmer, but not by much. After a bit, Alvin got up and left the table. He came back a few minutes later with a white hotel towel. At first, I thought something had spilled. Then he walked over behind me and draped the towel over my shoulders. I looked up in complete surprise. "How did you know I was cold?" I asked.
"Because I'm hardly ever cold, and I thought it felt a bit chilly," he replied. "I tried to get you a blanket, but they didn't have one, so I hope you don't mind the towel."
"No," I said, snuggling into the soft, warm terry cloth shawl. My grandma never had it so good.
Now, how's that for character? Can you see how that event could be worked into a book in so many ways?
Thanks, Alvin, for the inspiration.
And the towel.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Applause from an unexpected source

When I'm not plotting or characterizing I'm still reading books at the local library during pre-school story hour. This past week our subject was the alphabet and how it spells our names. One of the books I chose to read had the charming old song that goes, "A," you're adorable, "B," you're so beautiful, "C," you're a cutie full of charm..." Of course I couldn't just read the words when the tune was haunting me from the back of my brain. Even though I wasn't 100% sure of the tune, I did my best to sing what I could remember, and ended joyfully on the final line of, "It's fun to wander through the alphabet with you to tell you what you mean to me."
Just as the final note drifted off to silence, a cute little girl with brushy horizontal pigtails sticking out behind her ears put her small hands together and clapped. Startled, I looked down into her adoring blue eyes staring up at me. Then I said, "Thank you," and gave a little bow.
I've been floating on that tiny bit of appreciation from a tiny little person for days.
So say something nice. Give a smile. Clap for someone. It doesn't hurt a bit, and it will help more than you imagine.
Shirley Bahlmann