Posts tagged character
Self-publishing is a big industry right now. Which means big money. Not necessarily for authors but for companies who sell self-publishing services to authors wanting to self-publish. One contender, Balboa Press has been calling my cell phone every month or so. Writers Beware!
A class action complaint has been filed against Balboa Press’s parent company, Author Solutions, for its sketchy dealings that are bringing in the big bucks. The class action complaint breaks it down:
4. Author Solutions’ revenues are estimated at $100 million per year. Of the $100 million Author Solutions earns as revenue, approximately one third of that amount, or $33 million annually, comes from book sales. The rest of its revenue is derived from the services it offers, such as editorial services, formatting and design services, production services, and marketing services (“Services”).
5. Despite its impressive profits from book sales, Author Solutions fails at the most basic task of a publisher: paying its authors their earned royalties and providing its authors with accurate sales statements.
6. Author Solutions also fails to take diligent care of its authors’ works, making numerous and egregious publisher errors — errors made by the publisher, not the author. These errors include errors on book covers, in addition to various typographical and formatting errors. In fact, Author Solutions profits from its own mistakes. Aggressive sales techniques ensure that these errors are corrected only for a fee of several hundred dollars. Even though, as a matter of policy, Author Solutions promises to correct publisher errors for free, it rarely does.
7. Most of Author Solutions’ earnings are derived from its publishing and marketing Services. These Services, which can cost authors tens of thousands of dollars, likewise fail to deliver what they promise: more book sales and more opportunities for authors.
8. Therefore, even while Defendant Author Solutions prominently markets itself on its website as “[t]he leading indie publishing company in the world,” authors often discover, once it is too late, that Author Solutions is not an “indie publisher” at all. It is a printing service that fails to maintain even the most rudimentary standards of book publishing, profiting not for its authors but from them.
The apple doesn’t land far from the tree. I’ve had a pretty shady experience with Balboa Press so far. I’ve checked them out and everything I’ve read indicates they are ripping off their own customers. If you want a prime and horrific example look no further than this author’s experience:
The illustrative sketches and colorization were a disaster. It was apparent that there was a problem with adherence to the RAD/character description form. Pictures that were provided, or the coinciding text (page number and line number) from the manuscript provided to aid the illustrator were obviously ignored or subjectively reviewed. It was so evident, to the point where I was wondering if anyone bothered to read, or if they even couldread the RAD form. There was clearly no oversight of the illustrator’s work before remittance to me. I had continued to write, please call if you have any questions…
After months of inexcusable errors, it was apparent the Art Director, or whomever, did not adhere to “set up an artist that best suits your project.” The project was/is light, airy, and whimsical. I received “dark.” In most cases, the illustrations were sparse (not intricate detail) with no color consistency, no innovation, wrong genders, wrong race, missing or incorrect features, etc. An ancient woman was drawn as a bald-headed, old man numerous times, despite repeated pleas and request for adherence to the RAD and characterization forms. The little girl’s bed looked like a cot out of an army barracks or prison. Angel wings on a helicopter were inverted, objected to, and objections to the CIAC remained ignored – a lame excuse was offered.
My own experience with them so far has been subpar at best. They called me up and tried to rope me in by getting me excited about my novel’s potential. They told me how great my ideas were and how much I deserved to get my book out there. They wanted to help me achieve my publishing goals. All they needed was to relieve me of $999 to $7,999 of my money, and we could get started. Even if I had that kind of money lying around I wasn’t totally sold that first call. No deal.
A few months later someone else called again. But this person had no clue about me or my novel. What was my book about? No idea? Back to square one. Apparently no one at Balboa ever cares enough about what potential clients say to make any file notes. No points gained there. * Click.*
And on it went. For a few years now. (Yes really.)
Which brings me to another call today. Same thing. Starting from scratch with another clueless representative from Balboa. I wasn’t buying. *Click.*
Then I get the following email. Then it hits me. Not only did they pack this letter so full of stupid writing cliches that it reads hilariously, but they are preying on the dreams of writers’ with this letter and others like it.
Subject: Believe in Yourself
Be proud of who you are as a writer. An author’s voice is unique and no one will tell your story like you do. Don’t lose your voice. Stand out by having your own style. And your book doesn’t have to have an outrageous plot to be important. Simple can be good. Stick to who you are as a writer and your message will always hold significance.
Financial stability is a challenge nowadays. Money is something achievable but it will depend on you. It will depend on how committed you are in publishing and sharing your message to the world. Money comes and goes in life. If it is meant to be, it will happen. We can’t just wait for it to happen though. We need to do something about it. Dreaming for success is for everyone but putting it to reality is for those who are brave enough to take the next step even if there is fear of the unknown. Let us take this one step at a time.
Why make excuses when you can start your dreams? Why do nothing when you can begin something? Look, you have a lot more power within you that you’re revealing to the world. We all do. But because of distractions and interruptions and responsibility and excuses we sell to ourselves, we coast along at the same level for the best of our lives.
Only few have the guts to make A LEAP – a leap to new habits, new routines and a whole new story about their new place in the world and their service to it.
The Gandhi’s and the Mandela’s and the Zuckerberg’s and the Mozart’s were just ordinary people who had an idea, protected it from the voice of dissent, advanced it via tiny wins and got up every time they got knocked down.
You have this power too, but power unused deteriorates and potential not expressed turns to PAIN.
Now is your time to fly and to shine and to rise up. This is the day to show the world who you truly are.
I would like to assist you with your dreams. Yes, publishing will ask you to shell out money from your own pocket, but what I can assure you is that Balboa Press can expose you and your book to the rest of the world. This way you truly get to say to yourself, “I’ve done my part, let the book speak for itself now!” It is not easy to invest in something that you’re not sure of its future, but nothing is ever certain. What you can do as a writer is to invest in your dreams and believe that you can be someone that you never expected to be. Your sacrifices can result to a life changing journey if you give your book a chance.
All the best,
A DIVISION OF HAY HOUSE
[Contact Information Redacted]
This email is an advertisement.
So I’ll be staying away from Vanity Presses. There are ways to legitimately Self-Publish but using Balboa Press isn’t one of them. If they contact you, remember it is called a vanity press for a reason. They play to your vanity and emotions. I know they tried to get me that way. It’s enticing to think that the only thing standing between you and your dream is your savings. But it’s a gamble. And Balboa Press is the house that always wins. The only way to beat them at their own game is to not play.
As I was sitting in during Sacrament, I prayed for the best way to deliver this talk. I received the strangest prompting – to give my talk in a completely different order than I have written it. I had spent at least 15 hours researching and preparing for the talk, so I was rather surprised and extremely nervous about going out of order. But I’m not in the habit of ignoring promptings from the Lord, so I did what I felt urged to do. The following is my memory of the order in which I gave this talk.
I’d like to begin with a story in President James E. Faust’s talk, The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope, that retells a story by President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Some years ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley told “something of a parable” about “a one room school house in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough no teacher had been able to handle them.
“Then one day an inexperienced young teacher applied. He was told that every teacher had received an awful beating, but the teacher accepted the risk. The first day of school the teacher asked the boys to establish their own rules and the penalty for breaking the rules. The class came up with rules, which were written on the blackboard. Then the teacher asked, ‘What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’
“‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response.
“A day or so later, … the lunch of a big student, named Tom, was stolen. ‘The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old.’
“As Little Jim came up to take his licking, he pleaded to keep his coat on. ‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’
“The boy took off the coat. He had no shirt and revealed a bony little crippled body. As the teacher hesitated with the rod, Big Tom jumped to his feet and volunteered to take the boy’s licking.
“‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’ the teacher asked.
“After five strokes across Tom’s back, the rod broke. The class was sobbing. ‘Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. “Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!”’”
President Hinckley then quoted Isaiah:
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. …
“… He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
No man knows the full weight of what our Savior bore, but by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know something of the supernal gift He gave us.10 In the words of our sacrament hymn:
We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.
So as you may have guessed the subject of my talk today is the crucifixion of our Savior Jesus Christ, in which He died for our sins so that we might live again with our Father in Heaven.
The events leading up to the Crucifixion give us vivid examples of both absolute faith and the absence of it. The absence of faith can often be characterized as fear. As I describe the following events, I invite you to think about which events are representative of faith and which represent fear.
Christ perfectly endured the Atonement in all its agony, according to the will of the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve Apostles. Jesus was arrested, and the rest of his Apostles fled. Jesus was then subjected to multiple counsels and trials having false witnesses brought against Him.
Even the faithful disciple Peter ultimately denied Jesus and Jesus Himself prophesied he would earlier in Christ’s ministry. In John 13:38, it reads:
Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice. (John 13: 38)
Then at one of Jesus’s trials, the prophesy came to pass. In Matthew 26:69-75 it reads:
Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.
But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.
And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.
And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.
And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.n (Matthew 26:69–75)
Christ was mocked and ridiculed. In Matthew 27:28-30, it reads:
And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. (Matthew 28–30)
Christ was made to carry His own cross most likely weighting 75 to 125 pounds until a passerby named Simon was compelled to do it for him by the Roman guards.
When they reached the site of the crucifixion, Christ was nailed to the cross. At the head of the cross was affixed a title, “Jesus of Nazareth The King of the Jews.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie describes the brutality of what the Savior must have physically experienced:
A death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of the horrible and ghastly—dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds, all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness. The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries, especially of the head and stomach, became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and, while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst. Such was the death to which Christ was doomed. ( Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:816)
Even is this moment of extreme physical torment, the Savior was merciful, asking Heavenly Father to forgive those who crucified him. In Luke 23: 34, it reads:
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (Luke 23:33-34)
Despite his tortured state, He thought of others before himself. In John 19:26-27, it says:
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. (John 19:26–27)
Then darkness came over the land as Heavenly Father withdrew his presence from the Savior. In Matthew 27:46 it reads:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)
It’s hard to imagine the utter terror at being cut off from Heavenly Father for the first time in such a moment of tremendous suffering. But Christ needed to feel what it is like to be utterly alone, to descend all things. To completely fulfill upon what He came here to do.
Andrew C. Skinner said in his book, Golgotha,
The scriptures teach us that God has not forsaken us nor will he ever forsake us. He is waiting and able to help us in our extremity. No less powerful to help is his divine Son, who has perfect empathy for us and can carry us through those times when we cannot go on, precisely because of his own experience. In fact, one reason Jesus was abandoned by his Father in Gethsemane and on the cross of Golgotha [or Calvary] was so he could descend below all things to know every human circumstance and thus emerge victor over all things, with the knowledge and power to help us. By his confirming witness, I know that Jesus suffered on the cross the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God, and because Jesus suffered that wrath on the cross, I do not have to. Even more important, I know that because Jesus was lifted up on the cross, I can be lifted up also—to eternal life. Furthermore, I know that because God forsook his Son on the cross, he will never have to forsake me.
James E. Talmage, in his book, Jesus the Christ, wrote about Christ last moments:
Fully realizing that He was no longer forsaken, but that His atoning sacrifice had been accepted by the Father, and that His mission in the flesh had been carried to glorious consummation, He exclaimed in a loud voice of holy triumph: “It is finished.” In reverence, resignation, and relief, He addressed the Father saying: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” He bowed His head, and voluntarily gave up His life.
[…]Jesus the Christ was dead. His life had not been taken from Him except as He had willed to permit. Sweet and welcome as would have been the relief of death in any of the earlier stages of His suffering from Gethsemane to the cross, He lived until all things were accomplished as had been appointed. In the latter days the voice of the Lord Jesus has been heard affirming the actuality of His suffering and death, and the eternal purpose thereby accomplished. Hear and heed His words: “For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.”
The Crucifixion can teach us much about living our lives after the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ. These are the five main things we can learn from the crucifixion:
- Be forgiving.
- Be filled with mercy.
- Be in service of others.
- Following Christ.
- Endure all things.
The first thing we can learn is to forgive others. Even when Christ was on the Cross he said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. This very Spirit of forgiveness teaches us that we need to forgive all. Even and especially those who hate and persecute us. In Doctrine & Covenants 64:10 it reads:
I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. (D&C 64:10)
Second we learn to be filled with mercy. To have mercy we must have compassion for people in our lives including ourselves. Having compassion for and extending mercy towards others as well as ourselves is one of the greatest gifts we can give.
Matthew 5:7 reads:
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
Third, we learn to serve others. Christ’s ministry was one of continually service. Healing the sick, feeding the poor and hungry, raising the dead, teaching the masses. Mosiah 2:17 reads:
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)
Fourth, we learn to carry our cross and follow Christ. This mean forsaking anything in our lives that are not in the manner of Christ. Giving up unrighteous thoughts, music, clothing, and activities, and exchanging them for righteous ones. Then follow the Saviors example in all things.
Fifth, we learn to patiently endure all things. Christ never complained, never object, never asked “why me?” He bore his burdens with tolerance, long-suffering, and dignity, always submitting to the will of the Father.
This perfect example of how to endure all things can especially help us in times of trial. Over the last ten years I’ve spent a significant amount of time in the hospital, often the ICU, often for several months at a time due to an autoimmune disease called Myasthenia Gravis. Myasthenia Gravis, which means grave weakness in Latin, causes its patients to become so weak during an acute flare or it that they cannot move any of their limbs and sometimes cannot breathe on their own, requiring the assistance of a ventilator. I have experienced this many times. It’s hard when lying there in the ICU unable to move or breathe on my own to feel like things are going to be okay, but the thing that gives me the most strength is the sweet knowledge that our Savior descended below all things so that I don’t have to suffer that alone. He knows exactly what extreme physical pain is like, beyond what I can even imagine, so He certainly can feel what I feel in those times. And it gives me the ability to endure to know that He endured all things. If he endured all things, then certainly I can endure this one trial I have been given as difficult as it seems. And this gives me eternal hope.
We also accept that Heavenly Father is giving us trials for our own benefit. Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-8 said:
And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? (D&C 7-8)
Since we are not greater than our Savior Jesus Christ we can take so much comfort in all He has done for us. All the pain He has suffered so that he could descend below all things was for our benefit because He has so much love for each and every one of us.
I want to share my testimony that Christ not only atoned and died for our sins but that He rose again three days later. He lives today. He knows and loves me personally. The Holy Ghost testifies of this to me on a daily basis. I am so grateful for my Savior and for his atoning sacrifice that through it I can return to live with my Heavenly Father for all eternity. I know that my Heavenly Father lives and loves me as well. I am grateful for all of you and the Spirit that is felt here today. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
It was well past the stroke of midnight. My room had been turned upside down, and I was ready to cry in frustration. How could I have lost a letter I’ve been waiting for 15 years to open? A letter from one person who would never forgive me if I never read it – a letter from 15 year old self. It was 2:30am on October 23, 2013, and my 30th Birthday was already turning into a disaster.
Fifteen years prior, I had watched an episode of Northern Exposure in which one of the main characters, Maggie, receives a letter from her 15 year old self on her 30th birthday. She is then haunted by her 15 year old self while she comes to terms with who she is, who she was, and who she is becoming. I watched that episode on the last day of my 15th year. I was inspired! And I had little time to lose. That night after my family had gone to sleep I got back up out of bed and spent a few hours composing this letter to myself. I poured out my soul, instilling every ounce of my being in that letter, intuitively knowing that it would be so needed in 15 years. Flash back to the wee early hours of my 30th Birthday. The letter was nowhere to be found. But sitting around feeling devastated would get me no where. There was only one course left to take. Fervent prayers were answered. Inspiration struck. I remembered a 15 year old external hard drive that might contain a digital copy of the letter – the next best thing to the physical signed copy. And there it was. Right where I left it untouched by time for 15 years. I printed it out and started to read as the tears flowed down…
To: Lauren Drew Soffer
(This letter is not to be opened until October 23, 2013.)
It has probably been quite some time since you have heard from me, at least fifteen years to be exact. I just thought that you might want to hear from your fifteen-year-old self now that you are twice as old.
I try to imagine what you will be doing in your life right now. If we are anything alike then you are most likely taking a break from your incredibly busy life and something really important that you are suppose to be doing in order to read this letter. So where are you? Did you become a famous actress? Did you write a brilliant screenplay? Are you directing great movies? Or did you do something completely different?
Have you changed a lot in fifteen years? Are you closer to that idea person I am now working so hard to become? Do you still dream all of the time? I hope so. I love to dream. You remember that, don’t you? I love to occupy my hours with imaginary alternate realities of my life, present in future. Did you ever go on the Rosie O’Donnell Show like you so often dreamed? Did you ever meet Gillian Anderson? Well, it doesn’t really matter. My dreamtime is only a few steps above childish fantasies.
Well, enough with the questions I can’t get answers to. I will remind you a little bit of a little bit about me. Aside from school where, in my junior year, I am taking one honors and two AP classes, I am involved with a few (ha ha) extracurricular activities. I am the first alternate for Varsity Tennis, I really wanted to be one of the nine players on Varsity, but my serve isn’t ready yet. Next year. I hope that by the time you read this letter, you can really serve the pants off people, or at least have a good serve. Right now I am working on a Comedy Scene for the Drama Festival with Johanna Fair, Jeff Newman, Jeremy Nation, and George something or other. Jackie Luttrel is directing. We are doing the last scene from Play It Again, Sam by Woody Allen. Now that will be an old movie when you read this. Which reminds me, do they still have videotapes, audiotapes, and CD’s? Probably not. Anyway, I just tried out for our Senior Produced Winter Drama that is Love, Sex, and the IRS. I don’t think that I did that well. Only you know if I will get a part. I am also going to do Psychodrama for Advanced Peer Counseling, which is another thing I am doing. I love it. We went on out retreat together up to JCA Shalom, and it was one of the best experiences I had in a long time. I am on the grant writing committee for PC as well. Let’s see, there is also Comedy Sportz. It is one of the best things in my schedule. It is just so much fun, and I always look forward to it. I also am training Beginning Peer Councilors, going to Film Club (when it doesn’t interfere with writing the PC grant), and going to drama club. I believe that brings me to the last but not least thing on my plate, my job at temple as an assistant teacher. I have a second grade class this year, and I enjoy everything about it but getting up early on Sunday mornings. I’m pretty busy for a fifteen year old, huh? I am a little stressed over it all right now, but I enjoy doing everything so much I can’t give anything up.
So, that’s what I’m doing. Now, onto what I am like. I believe in believing. I like to think that there is still a lot in this world worth believing in. And, if the whole world keeps on believing, there will always be hope for the future. That’s another thing. I know that the young people are our future. That is why I love my job where I get to be a part of making the future. I believe that there is no greater gift you can bestow than your love. I try to give my love everyday. I’m not perfect yet, but I’m working on it. My goal is to be a person who never runs out of love to give and who is a strength and a model for those trying to be better people. And, I don’t think that my progress is going so badly. My best friend, Leslie, tells me that I am her strength. Basically all of my beliefs can be summed up in my goal for life: Before I die, I want to leave a lasting and positive impact, I want to make a difference to at least one person, I want to leave the world a little bit better than when I entered it, and I want to be a living example of love and kindness. That brings me to what I want to do with the rest of my life. I think that I am best suited to fully that goal by doing something in the entertainment industry. I think that I can really make a difference to a large number of people though work in that field. I want to act, I want to write screenplays, I want to direct, and I might want to produce (funny how my I-Search that I am working on for English is on this very topic).
Here are my other interests. In the area of television, these I the shows I watch: I watch X-Files religiously and consider myself a devoted X-Phile, I am addicted to the Simpsons (a highly intelligent and brilliant satire of society which also happens to be a hysterical cartoon), I am almost completely hooked on Ally McBeal, and I enjoy watching Inside Actor’s Studio. I must also make a note to a show I always love to see and without I wouldn’t be righting this letter right now: Northern Exposure. There was this one episode where in a flashback to 15 years earlier Maggie writes a letter to herself in thirty years. In the present, Maggie gets a hold of the letter and a whole thing plays out, but that isn’t the important part. The important thing is that I got the idea for writing this letter from the show. There are also an endless number of movies I love. One of my very favorites is The Princess Bride. But there are so many others I adore that I couldn’t name them all or I’d be here forever, however, for a dramatic piece, I liked the Piano, for a comical piece I like Forget Paris, and for one that just sticks out in my mind as being really good, I enjoyed Fried Green Tomatoes. Some of my favorite books include The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, Exodus by Leon Uris, and The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert.
My social life is as follows: My two best friends are Leslie Klein and Jackie Luttrel. I am closer with Leslie, but we also go through more rough spots, like the one right now, for example. I should also mention that we went to Spain together this past summer, I’m sure you didn’t forget that. I love them both to death though. I don’t know how I would possibly get through my high school life without them constantly being there for me, mostly to just let me vent. We understand each other in a very special way. They are what real friends are, or at least are the closest things to it that I have ever experienced. I also hand out with a lot of more casual, mostly drama friends. There is Johanna Fair, Blair Anderson, Jessica Yuda, Lauren Hubert, Tarren Polack, Shelby Schulman, Miriam Krikorian, and Brittany Stabile. I have especially been getting closer to Johanna lately because of Peer Counseling and the Drama Festival Scene.
Well, I guess that just about wraps it up for now. But I do want you to remember a few things. Lauren, you are an amazingly strong person. You have the power to change things in your life. Never feel like you have to settle. Remember the wisdom of the car commercial: “If everything were just good enough, would anything ever really be good enough?” Never loose hope, never stop dreaming, and never loose sight of those dreams. Don’t be afraid to make your dreams a reality. You are an incredibly talented person. You can do anything. “If you think it, want it, dream it, then it’s real. You are what you feel.” Never forget that Matt Kaplan always believed you could make it as an actress. Remember to remember what is really important in life, what makes life worth living, and place that thing above all else. Remember to spread light and to give and receive love openly. If you have forgotten any of this in the past fifteen years, then remember that it is never to late to change. Don’t forget the road less traveled by, it can make all the difference. Remember that, as Abraham Lincoln said, “People are just about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” And finally remember the great Dr. Seuss’s words from Oh, The Places You’ll Go,
“So be sure when you step
Step with care and great tact
And remember that life’s
A Great Balancing Act
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)
Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
Lots of love,
(Fifteen Years Old)
October 22, 1999
When I finished reading the letter, I went right back to the beginning and read it again. Crying all the way though. It was so full of hope. So full of love. So full of excitement. So full of confidence. So full of wisdom, especially for a 15 year old.
Lots of things stood out to me. For instance, I did meet Gillian Anderson and I did get the part in Love, Sex, and the IRS. But what stood out to me the most was the last paragraph containing advice. It was wise beyond years and exactly what I’ve been needing to hear. In fact the one line that most stood out to me was, “If you have forgotten any of this in the past fifteen years, then remember that it is never to late to change.” That hit me really hard. And I have forgotten some of the qualities I had at 15. Namely that level of confidence I once had. I want that back. And as I said, It’ s never too late to change.
The only thing I have left to do is write another letter to my 45 year old self, but this time I need to find a way to hide somewhere more obvious. No need to go through all that stress on my 45th birthday again. Until then, I have mountains to move!
Today I gave my first ever talk in Church! I got the topic, faith, almost a month ago now, and I’ve been preparing ever since. It was exciting to get up there and share my thoughts on faith with everyone. And in honor of Easter, I ‘ll share it here:
Developing and growing your faith in life often occurs in the midst of great trials. One of my favorite scriptures on faith is from Ether 12:6:
“faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”
This really resonates with me and my own experience with faith and trials. First of all it defines faith as things “hoped for and not seen”. Faith is when we believe despite a lack of tangible or concrete reasons to do so. The second part of this scripture talks about the “trial of your faith” which tells us not to question due to the lack of evidence because we won’t have that evidence until after that trial. During trials we have the opportunity to exercise our faith or act in faith. Our faith then grows. And as our faith grows we receive witness confirming our faith through the power of the Holy Ghost.
But how do you start to develop faith when it isn’t strong in your life or even when it seems to be totally absent? Most of my life I considered myself to be a person of little faith. Though I was raised as a Reform Jew and was Bat Mitzvahed, Confirmed, and even assistant taught Sunday school at my temple in high school, I didn’t really believe in a higher power. And a belief in Christ wasn’t even on my radar. As a child I never felt I was loved unconditionally, so the idea that something I couldn’t even see could love me unconditionally was beyond my understanding.
But I saw the way that my Christian friends felt connected to God. I saw that the connection they felt was a deep and profound source of joy, comfort, and surety in their lives. I longed to have that in my own life. The question was where find it. Up to that point, Judaism had never given me that sense of a personal connection with our Heavenly Father. I wanted more than anything in my life to feel close to Him and to know Him as my Father in Heaven who loved me unconditionally. So I began searching for the religion that would bring me to Him.
I began to research and check out other religions. But the fundamental problem I kept encountering was that I just plain didn’t believe in God. However, I realized that my life would be so much happier if I could just believe. I wanted to feel connected to something larger and feel unconditionally loved. I realized that if I could just believe in God, my life would be better for having this faith in it. Logically I figured (and I tend to be a very logically minded person), that if I could just make that leap of faith and believe it wouldn’t even matter if God really existed because the act of believing in Him would bring me so much intrinsic happiness.
So one day I made a choice. I chose go forward from that moment in my life as if God existed. I figured I had nothing to loose. So I made that great leap, and I was rewarded. I didn’t have the context to understand it at the time, but that act of faith of choosing to believe was soon rewarded with increasing genuine certainty that God existed.
Upon reflection it was much with me as it is described in Alma 32:27:
“exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.”
It goes on to say that finding faith is like planting a seed inside of you, and if you do not resist it and allow it to grow inside of you…
“will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.” Alma 32:28-43
So I made this choice to believe in God and let Him into my life, and the seeds of faith were planted inside me and began to grow.
In the meantime, I was going through probably the most significant trial of my life to date. When I was 18, I started getting sick. It started with strange but fairly mild symptoms like fevers and joint pain that the doctors couldn’t explain. But as the years progressed, so did the symptoms. By my mid 20s, I was spending sometimes months at a time in the hospital. And the diagnoses started to pile up. I didn’t have just one illness. I had five of them. All of them were autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are a type of illness where your immune system starts thinking your own body is a foreign invader and begins to attack your own tissue. There is no known cure and the only medications for it have serious and sometimes life threatening side effects.
It was a very difficult time, going through the years of not knowing what was wrong. I lost a lot of friends who just didn’t know how to be there for me through my illness, so it was a very lonely time. And at the time I didn’t have my faith to lean on. I had no knowledge of Heavenly Father and his love and plan for me. So it was very lonely in that way as well. I did, however, have an an unidentifiable feeling that I would get through it and that somehow everything would be okay. At the time I didn’t know how to label it other than faith in myself. Now I know that sense of peace with the situation came from my Heavenly Father, but at the time I didn’t even know what it meant to have faith in someone other than myself. And I certainly hadn’t a inkling that my illness would be the thing that lead me to this Church and the Gospel. That through my own infirmity my prayers would be answered.
There came a point where I could no longer completely care for myself due to my illness. My joint pain was so severe that I needed to use a wheelchair full time, and I no longer could preform basic tasks by myself like dressing or making meals. My mom who I live with couldn’t do this every moment for me, so I ended up hiring a caregiver to help. The second caregiver I hired is the one who first introduced me to the Gospel. At the time I knew very little about what it meant to be LDS, but we would talk a lot about it. She shared her faith with me and her testimony almost every day. I was fascinated. I shared with her my religious background and it led to some amazing conversations. I also shared my own quest to find a way to have a close relationship with Heavenly Father.
She encouraged me to start to pray. I had never really done so before. At least not in my own words with my own personal hope and dreams, wants and desires and needs. At first it felt so strange. So unnatural. But it soon became more and more comfortable. And also a comfort. But I still sensed that something was missing. And I deep down I think I knew what it was. So I did an experiment. I started adding the words “in the name of Jesus Christ” to the end of all my prayers. The difference that made was subtle but profound. So I planted that next seed of faith inside myself. But I didn’t really believe in Christ at that point. It was just something that I was trying on. But that is how it started for me.
There’s one conversation that I had with my caregiver that stands out in my mind. I said out loud that “I wonder what kind of miracle I would have to experience to make me go from not believing in Christ to believing in Him.” At that point I honestly didn’t think it would be possible to experience that kind of miracle in my life. Fortunately I was wrong.
If I recall correctly, it was only a few days later that my caregiver convinced me to attend Church with her and getting a blessing for healing afterwards. When I entered the Chapel I had this sense of peace that I had rarely experienced before. But it wasn’t until I got the blessing that things really shifted for me. From the moment the missionaries put their hands on my head I was overwhelmed with such an intense sense of Heavenly Father’s presence that I nearly couldn’t bare it. It was so intense that I thought I was going to pass out. I felt God for the first time in my life. And I knew that He lived and that He loved me. More than that I knew that this experience occurred where it did for a reason. I was suddenly sure that it wouldn’t have happened anywhere less than His true Church. And that church must be called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for a reason. I knew that Jesus was the Christ. Heavenly Father had heard my words spoken a few days prior and granted me that miracle that would allow me to believe in Christ as the Son of God and my Savior.
But the miracle of that blessing didn’t end there. I was surprised a few days later to notice that I was suddenly in much less pain especially in my joints. And so I started walking again for the first time in over a year. I walked “by faith , not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7
That week I also started taking the missionary lessons and I was baptized about 6 weeks later.
It reminds me of D&C 63:9-10
“10 Yea, signs come by faith , not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God.
9 But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe.”
I’d like to conclude with this quote from Richard G. Scott from October 2010 General Conference:
“Thus, every time you try your faith—that is, act in worthiness on an impression—you will receive the confirming evidence of the Spirit. As you walk to the boundary of your understanding into the twilight of uncertainty, exercising faith, you will be led to find solutions you would not obtain otherwise. With even your strongest faith, God will not always reward you immediately according to your desires. Rather, God will respond with what in His eternal plan is best for you, when it will yield the greatest advantage. Be thankful that sometimes God lets you struggle for a long time before that answer comes. That causes your faith to increase and your character to grow.” (The Transforming Power of Faith and Character)
I’d like to bare my testimony that it is through trials that we are able to develop our faith in Heavenly Father and Christ. As we act in faith we will be rewarded with increasing faith. I have a testimony that Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us and loves us all unconditionally. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I often get asked where my ideas for my stories come from. I never feel like I can adequately answer this question. In fact, I find the whole question frustrating. I want to shake the person who asked me and yell at them, “Look around! There are ideas EVERYWHERE! The real question you should be asking is where do ideas NOT come from!”
And it’s really true. If you view the world in the right way there’s ideas for stories everywhere you look. Now I’ll admit they might not all be fantastic ideas that will make best selling novels, but they are there none the less. For instance, sometimes while waiting in line at the grocery check out I’ll make up a story about the person ahead of me based on what they have in their basket. If the guy ahead of me has cheese, garlic, and mouth wash, I might make up a story about a guy with a pet mouse who is secretly afraid that his upstairs neighbors are vampires, so he consumes lots of garlic to make his blood less appetizing and uses mouth wash to keep his girlfriend from finding out his fear and telling him he’s being ridiculous. Hmm… I might have to write this story now.
My point is that there’s no lack of ideas in the world. Life itself is full of drama and conflict. The essence of a good story. I often look into my own life for ideas for stories because I really believe you should write what you know just not necessarily in a literal way. I write a lot of fantasy and science fiction, so obviously the plot of those stories aren’t directly drawn from my own life, but the characters emotional experiences are. I know what it feels like to be deeply hurt, so I can write about a character going through that in any crazy context and it will still be authentic.
But the bottom line is, I don’t really know how I think of my ideas. I really mostly just feel like they fall into my head from nowhere and I’m just fortunate enough to be around to write these ideas down.
Lastly, I thought I’d share with you a writing exercise I did in my writing group last month. The prompt was simply to write about a character that was invisible for 20 minutes. This is what I came up with on the fly. I didn’t take any time to plan it out before I just started writing. I challenge you to do the same, and if you are up for it, post what you come up with in the comments!
by Lauren Soffer
Jen tried to slam the door shut, but it bounced open like it had hit something. That was not the first odd thing that day. Earlier in the fish market she kept feeling like there was someone standing right behind her. She was even sure she had imagined the feel of hot breath on the back of her neck. She had whipped around to look, but no one was there. On the way home she kept thinking she heard footsteps following her as she walked back to her apartment. She kept glancing back at the empty street.
Now the door had bounced open. She walked back to the door and shut it slowly and deliberately. Jen had prickles on the back of her neck like she was being watched again. The feeling was becoming familiar and she didn’t like it. The feeling had started the day her boyfriend Dave had vanished last week.
She had woken up that morning and he wasn’t laying next to her like he always was. That was odd in itself because he normally slept long past when she did. She thought he must have just left the bed because there was still a depression when his body had been. But when she began to look around the apartment for him he was no where to be found. However, his keys and wallet were still sitting on the table where he had left them the night before.
When his work called to ask where he was, she began to worry and called the police. When they finally agreed to let her file a missing person report after 24 hours they wanted to know if anything unusual had happened before he had disappeared.
She wondered if she should have told them about their fight the night before. The one where she complained about how he never stood up for himself at work or anywhere. How he was so quiet it was creepy sometimes. How it was like living with an invisible man.
“I’ll show you what it’s like to live with an invisible man,” he had said.
Jen had just laughed. What an odd thing to say. She didn’t mention that to the police. They would have laughed at her if they knew what she was beginning to suspect. That Dave wasn’t missing at all. That he was right there all the time. Just invisible.