Gem State Writers began on April 1, 2011. Since then, we have posted 572 blogs. Along the way, our members have been published, been successful in writing contests, and developed their craft.

As with much in life, things change.

As we devote more of our time to writing, the group has decided it’s time to retire Gem State Writers. We all want to making writing the best books we can a priority in our lives. We leave knowing GSW has helped us grow and learn about this time-honored profession. And we’ll miss all of you.

Our members share their thoughts below.

Stephanie Berget: When I was asked to be a contributor to Gem State Writers, I was so excited that this group of talented women considered me good enough to write alongside of them. I was also terribly nervous. I’d never blogged before, had really never written with any kind of deadline, and that scared the crap out of me.
Throughout the last year and a half or so, blogging at Gem State Writers has expanded my knowledge of writing craft, taught me to have the post ready whether I feel like it or not, and how to research topics. I’m thankful for that, but I’m more thankful to have had a great group of writers to learn from. I’m going to miss each and every one of you.

Peggy Staggs: In the short time the group was together, I learned a lot about my fellow bloggers. I’ve enjoyed everyone’s perspectives and techniques. Even when I sometimes struggled for ideas, I still looked forward to stretching my mental muscles. The good news is I have a ton (or at least a few pounds) of blog under my belt. The bad news is I will miss you all.

Janis McCurry: When Gem State Writers began I asked myself what interested me about writing. Language was the answer. I loved researching for the language blogs I wrote. The evolving of the language and the continual change intrigues me. I loved having deadlines to “keep me honest.” I loved getting to know my co-GSW-ers and learned something from every blog. Reader comments were delightful and insightful (how’s that for rhyming?). It was a great 2 ½ years and I don’t regret a minute. Thanks to all of you, both bloggers and readers.

Judy Keim: Blogs are considered a waste of time by a lot of people. In my opinion, some are; some are not.

If one is committed to write blogs to the detriment of writing stories, then it is a waste of time. If one thinks writing blogs is a sure way to get the attention of an editor or an agent, it is a waste of time. If one thinks you can sell a large number of books by blogging on a regular basis, it is, in my opinion, another waste of time. (There are other ways of promoting your work.)

On the other hand, if you are writing or participating in a blog to learn about others (both in your group and those who respond) it can be worthwhile. If you’re blogging as a means of sharing industry information or skills, it also can be valuable.

What I’ve learned by blogging with the Gem State Writers is that we have a group of talented, interesting, knowledgeable people whom I’ve gotten to know a little bit better. That’s been time well spent!

Mary Vine: I’ve enjoyed being a part of Gem State Writers, a shared effort to get our blogs out to the world. I will miss Neysa writing how important it is to go to conferences; I will miss Janis giving us a look at language and sharing about her travels; I really appreciate Peggy’s piece on The Bad Guy Tree for mystery writers; I enjoyed reading about Corina’s life near McCall; Lynn helped me understand trying to write with a tiring, busy schedule; I’ve gotten to know Judith through her move and writing journey; I’ve learned more about the rodeo from Stephanie; Through Jennifer I am reminded what it was like trying to write with children in my home; Meredith gave me a glimpse of living in a faraway place where one can meet up with a wild animal or nearly get snowed in; I’ve already missed MK and her individual pursuit of writing. Yes, every time someone has moved on to other writing pursuits, I regretted seeing them leave. Finally, cheers for Marsha who has stayed with us to the end, to inspire us in our writing, and to share her own journey.

Lynn Mapp: At the inception of Gem State Writers, we blogged every two weeks. I didn’t think I had that many blogs in me. What I learned during my time with the “Gems” is I actually had the ability to write two articles a month. It doesn’t sound earth-shattering, but it was for me.

I also had the opportunity to be with a group of women committed to writing and sharing their journey with other people on the same path.

Someone told me that my blogs tended to be of the “you can do it” nature. I am a cheerleader, a supporter, a believer. Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you.

Neysa Jensen: I’ve enjoyed blogging about writing, specifically children’s writing. It helps me put things in perspective when I try to explain it to someone else. Anyone who would like to be with and learn from fellow writers is welcome to join our SCBWI events. You can find out more on

Corina Mallory: Thank you to everyone on this blog for letting me join your ranks. It’s been a real pleasure to read your work and get to know you better through your comments. I’ve learned a lot, not just about my fellow writers, but about myself. You’ve made me think about why I write the way I do, why I love some things and others leave me cold. You’ve helped me become a better writer. I’ll miss coming here and seeing your bright happy faces in your avatar photos and hearing what’s going on in your lives and what topics you’re finding interesting. But the internet is forever, right? We’ll always have pixels.


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Thank you!

I’m the kind of person that thrives on keeping busy. I like to see a full calendar spread out before me with  various events filling the spaces. Being a stay-at-home mom makes me especially excited to attend gatherings where I get a chance to interact with other people whose ages are of the double digit variety. As a matter-of-fact, the busier I am the more I usually get done. There is something about knowing I only have a small amount of time allotted to accomplish something that forces me into action. The more time I have to do something, the more likely I am to put it off until later.

However, even someone like myself has a point at which maximum capacity has been reached. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any busier, they did. I’m going to spare you the gory details of my hectic schedule. Sufficed to say, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that if I am ever going to finish that book, I ‘m going to have to let go of some of my commitments. Unfortunately, blogging is one of them so this will be my last post with Gemstatewriters.

Thank you to my fellow bloggers for giving me a forum to discuss one of my favorite topics. Also, thanks to all the people who have read my blogs and left comments.

Happy writing!


Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Idaho


NaNoWriMo-Who’s In?


November has become one of my favorite months of the year. In eight days, National Novel Writing Month will arrive with all its excitement and angst. My excitement comes from the anticipation of writing another book (in rough draft form), seeing characters come to life and marveling at where the story will lead me. The angst comes from diving into a book with no preparation and no idea where it’s going to go.

I’ve written the first draft of five books during various NaNo’s, winning the last three times. Sugarwater Ranch was written two years ago during NaNoWriMo with Cherry Adair’s Write the Damn Book contest at the Emerald City RWA conference in mind. I’m revising a WIP I wrote three years ago during November of 2010.

2013-Participant-Facebook-Cover#1All of my NaNo Novels were written with no pre-planning and not much of a plot. I usually had a character or two in mind and maybe an idea of a setting. I just dove right in and wrote.

This year, for the first time, I’m developing an outline. The thought of plotting a story gives me the trembling shudders, but in a class I’m taking, the teacher promises we don’t have to stick to the outline, just make it.  So I’m working on plotting my story, doing character studies on my hero and heroine and preparing for November first. I’m looking forward to once again jumping into the fray that is NaNoWriMo.

Plus they have a great store with all kinds of fun writing things. I love these stickers.


Have any of you participated in National Novel Writing Month in the past? Are you a plotter or a plnaster? Who’s doing NaNo this year? Post your buddy name here, and I’ll friend you. We can support each other during this outrageous, stupefying, matchless month.


Posted by on October 24, 2013 in Idaho


Why Do I Write?

Why do I write?

The answer isn’t complicated. I have stories I want to tell. People I want to create. Adventures I want to live.

It’s sounds simple enough.

That’s the twist. It isn’t, at least, not for me. I have confessed my many problems. I hate to torture people.

I am a member of the local Romance Writers of America chapter. I remember a meeting we had a guest was in attendance. She introduced herself and explained she had aspirations of becoming a writer. She said she thought she’d start writing romance novels because they would be an easy starting point to launch her career.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am a kind person, and tend to go out of my way to make people feel comfortable. But, on that day, her words caught me off guard. I laughed. I couldn’t help myself. That reaction set off a chain of responses. The poor thing. Bless her heart, that’s code for “what an idiot.” She was wrong.

The woman in question didn’t join the chapter and to my knowledge never wrote the great American novel.

I don’t think there is an “easy” genre out there. Storytelling is a calling.

Crafting characters readers care about takes skill. Plotting a book’s intricate twists and turns take skill. Bringing all those elements together take skill. But sometimes skill isn’t enough.

I’ve known writers who have walked away due to frustration with and the industry. They abandoned their dreams of publication.

Maybe I should have given up, reassessed my dreams, but this is part of me I want to share. I want others to see the world through my special lens. I want them to come with me on the journey. I want to bring them an escape from their everyday lives.

Why do you write?


Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Idaho


Boot Camp Tips for All Authors

I was just in Salt Lake City for a wonderful workshop with Alane Ferguson sponsored by the Utah/southern Idaho region of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). During this self-titled Boot Camp, Alane tackled 15 manuscripts’ first few pages.


Some Boot Camp authors hard at work

I took notes, and here’s what I discovered, from which we all might learn.

Common mistakes and comments:

  • Great description and lyrical prose is a lovely talent. However, without plot structure and character development, it gets you nowhere. (Kind of obvious, but still, almost every single manuscript received this comment, and these were really good writers.)
  • No matter how you start a story–whatever genre, whatever age group–if we don’t get to know the character enough to care, you have lost your reader.
  • Conflict and tension must enter very early on. It’s not enough to just introduce the character and allude to the plot. We need to get a sense of the conflict.
  • You make a promise to your reader within the first few pages. You have to write the book that keeps that promise. So make sure what you promise is what you intend to deliver. In other words, don’t start the book with a character who isn’t the main characters; don’t start the novel with a love interest (or other element) if that’s not the main focus of the plot; don’t promise a story about one thing when the rest of the book is going to be about something else.
  • You cannot tell a story using only one technique: just dialogue or just narration or just internal thoughts. Your story has to have a careful blend of dialogue, action, narration, and internal emotions of the the character. It’s a skill that you can learn, but you have to do it deliberately and it has to be woven with skill. It doesn’t work if you have a scene of dialogue then a scene of action. No. All the techniques have to be woven into each scene.
  • Story is essential. A lot can be overlooked if there is a good story. However, if story is missing, no matter how great your writing is, no one will want to read it.
  • READ YOUR GENRE. (Again, this seems pretty obvious to me, but you’d be surprised how many people have no idea what the conventions are for certain genres, especially within the children’s age groups.)

Of course, you can pull of breaking these rules if you are experienced and if you do it for a specific reason. Practice following the rules until you have mastered them, then you get to experiment.

Alane was a fantastic cheerleader for each and every manuscript, giving encouraging advice even for beginning authors. I learned by watching her excellent critiquing skills how to be positive to each author no matter what.

By the way, here a some of my favorite books by Alane.


Posted by on October 17, 2013 in Idaho


Riding the Roller Coaster with Friends

One of the things I love about other writers is their ability to climb on the roller coaster with you. It isn’t always fun. The highs are highs and the lows are very low and they usually come close together.

The other day I was trying to explain to a new friend about the process of writing. She’d like to write a book and said she’d started and it was very, very hard. I, of course, assured her it was very hard indeed, producing ups and downs to a crazy degree that non-writers might not understand.

Long after we parted, I thought about it. I’ve laughed, cried, been delighted with my words, and wondered how I could ever keep going when it all looked terrible. But as I’d explained to my new friend there is something inside me that is willing to work hard to get my stories out. I can’t stop doing it, even though there’ve been many times I’ve wanted to.

The following day, a writer friend showed me a revision she’d made to her book. I was and am totally thrilled by the changes she made, taking the story to a whole new level. I might be even more excited by the book than she is because I truly think it will be her breakthrough novel.

That got me to thinking about fellow writers and how we’re willing to climb aboard a ride that we never seem to be able to stop. But sharing the ups and downs of writing is a wonderful thing. It brings out the best in you, even when you’re hanging on for dear life and swooping down before making another climb up.

Being part of a group is essential for writers. Who do you get your inspiration from?


Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Idaho



What makes a catchphrase?

The dictionary definition is:  1) a phrase that attracts or is meant to attract attention. 2) a phrase, as a slogan, that comes to be widely and repeatedly used, often with little of the original meaning remaining.

I came across a list of “TV’s 60 Greatest Catchphrases” and looking at them out of context, how on earth did they become so engrained in our popular culture? I think the answer is the “context.” We attach significance to programs we watch that we enjoy, usually more than one time.

When we write, we try to make every word count, but I’m sure our readers like some passages/scenes more than others. It’s what makes writing challenging. Reaching out to readers and making their experience enjoyable. I hope they would read my books more than once.

Below are a few of my personal favorites. Click on the link above for all of those on the list.

1. “Heeeere’s…Johnny!” Ed McMahon hailed the arrival of Johnny Carson from behind the Tonight Show curtain for 30 years and it never got old. Just ask Jack Nicholson.

2. “Yada, yada, yada.” The ultimate show about nothing gave us more than its fair share of catchphrases, but this Seinfeld signature uttered by Elaine to gloss over a bad date and favored by George’s felonious girlfriend is still really something.

3. “And that’s the way it is.” Long before the advent of cable news, revered newsman Walter Cronkite closed his nightly broadcast with these iconic words. And we understood we’d just seen and heard everything we needed to know.

4. “It’s gonna be legen — wait for it — dary.” He’s a one-man one-liner machine, but our favorite Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) quote on How I Met Your Mother brilliantly captures his bro-vado.

Other favorites of mine (by older decades)

“Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!” — Adventures of Superman
“The thrill of victory and the agony of ¬defeat.” — Jim McKay, Wide World of Sports
“Ruh-roh!” — Astro, The Jetsons
“This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.” — Mission: Impossible
“Live long and prosper.” — Spock, Star Trek
“Who loves ya, baby?” — Kojak, Kojak
“Let’s be careful out there.” — Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues
“Make it so.” — Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation
“Resistance is futile.” — The Borg, Star Trek: The Next Generation

And then there’s is the movies…

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” — Rhett in Gone With The Wind

“I’ll be back.” — Terminator

And, so on.

Check out the list and see if your favorites are in the list and let us know which ones. Or, if there is a catchphrase you didn’t find but love, share it with us.


Posted by on October 10, 2013 in Popular Culture, readers, writers, writing


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