PitchWars, WriteOnCon, and Frustration

I’m involved in PitchWars this year. Here is what it is:


I even posted a link to my bio here:


I’m hoping it will help me jumpstart back into writing regularly. Maybe it will just drive me mad.

I’m also taking part in an online writing conference called WriteOnCon. I hope to use it to learn better about pitching and querying. Here is that: http://writeoncon.com/

And I’m a little frustrated and kind of near my wits’ end. I had a nice email today from the very kind and competent agent who had 50 pages of my work. Here’s what that agent said:

Dear Jared,

Thank you for the chance to consider this work. While I think the subject matter is fascinating — and I’m very impressed by your ability to write so well about your own experiences — I’m afraid I’m not sure how I would place this in the market as a novel. I’m afraid that, for me, the narration felt a little too matter-of-fact and I wasn’t drawn in enough by the narrative. I’m sure it’s incredibly difficult to rework your own life story into a novel, and I think this still read a little too much like an adult memoir, not a YA novel. You’ve set yourself a challenging and valuable task, but I’m just not confident I’d be able to place this in today’s very difficult YA market.
Have you thought about writing this book as a piece of nonfiction? I wonder if it might not be more marketable as a memoir aimed at teen readers, about your life and overcoming the challenges of your childhood, than as a novel. There is some resurgence in the YA memoir market right now.


The problem: I’ve heard this before. I thought I’d fixed it. So I’m left wondering if I really do know what I’m doing.

So it’s not a YA novel. It’s an adult contemporary novel with a young protagonist. Can that even sell?


So do I rewrite again, this time trying to add more narrative oomph, mostly via voice I believe– or do I give up on this and just stick to the non-fiction side of it?

I love this story. So much of me in it, but I took enough liberties that it’s also a dang good story. I love the end. Love it. Love the middle. Love the arc. I think the beginning still needs work.

Anyway, I guess I need to sleep on this, try to figure out what’s next. I don’t think there’s going to be an agent out there willing to give this a go, considering I’ve queried nearly 50 and had one nibble. And that nibble has passed now.

Those typical thoughts are back, too, by the way. Am I doing all of this for no good reason? All this emotional turmoil, all this angst, all this work, all this stress, all this time and in some cases money.

Is it even worth it? Am I going to succeed or not?

I don’t even have an 8-ball to answer that question.

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The Year of Job

Sometimes I wonder what we mean when we encourage someone going through tough times to “stay strong.” Or what do we mean when we feel like we have to be strong to help someone get through a trying time?

Do we mean that the person or people going through the trying time should try to keep quiet because we don’t want to be discomfitted by the real difficulty they’re going through? By “strong,” do we mean silent? Uncomplaining?

Maybe we mean ‘keep the faith.’ But if we mean keep the faith when we say “stay strong,” are we implying that we think the trial being experienced is one that could make you doubt your faith? Or that we think the sufferer’s faith is weak and we hope this doesn’t knock it down a lot? Are we telling the sufferer of the trial that we don’t want them to leave the community of faith over this?

I really don’t know what is meant by this phrase.

I ask this because this year has been one where I’ve been told, by others and myself, to “stay strong.” Mostly by myself.

What do I mean when I tell myself to be strong? The same thing as above? Do I want myself to keep quiet, not complain, be on my knees in prayer– not asking of course for relief from the trial but for a lesson I can learn from it (sorry, trying not to roll my eyes at that blathering platitude right now)– or just keep on keeping on and push through until it passes.

Because this will all be for my good.

I’m not rolling my eyes at that, because I do know that’s true. I don’t feel it right now, but that’s okay.

It’s hard to know when it’s okay to open up and lay out how damaged and broken we are by the events of life. We (read that as “I”) don’t want to make people think that we’re doubting our faith; we don’t want people to feel beholden or guilted into offering sympathy and the like; we don’t want to come across as needy.

I don’t want to do any of that. I don’t want to be needy. I don’t want to guilt anyone into feeling sympathy. I don’t want anyone to manipulate anybody into feeling like “Oh, poor Jared. Poor Garretts. Those poor people.”

I don’t need things to change; I don’t need pitying looks; I don’t need a response even. I simply have some things to say, and some damage to get out. Mainly because I think I need the emotional catharsis of the saying of these things.

This year started with a singular, extraordinary miracle. It was a miracle that turned my faith in revelation and the existence of God and the love of my Savior into certainty.

It was also a miracle that had a lot of emotional weight to it. A lot of heart shredding attached to a lost pregnancy and malignant carcinoma and the major surgery needed to remove the tumor and the kidney it was attached to.

Of note: that baby was due in July, most likely.

I spent probably too much time thinking about that last month.

So that’s how 2014 started for us. A pregnancy that was an act of faith, the result being a malignant tumor miraculously found. And a lost pregnancy.

It hurt. And my wife showed incredible might and grace through it. And it was hard.

I knew in my head and on a spiritual level that she would be okay. But my emotional state was raw and slashed. Cancer and I are not on speaking terms– not after all that it has taken from me. Or, I might say that all I have to say to cancer is endless angry swearing.

After the surgery, we waited three months and had a cancer screening. Given cancer’s abominable record with my family, my emotional state (again, remembering that I knew on a spiritual level that all would be well) was gibbering panic as we approached this next screening.

The results came back: she was clear. The panic subsided. For the meantime.

You see, it turns out that my default emotional state is fear of things that I have no control over taking away the blessings and happiness that I have somehow ended up with. I love and am daily grateful that my wife chose, and chooses every day, to work with me to make an amazing relationship. We have phenomenal kids. I love my life. I’m living my greatest dream.

I worry that I’m going to lose it somehow. I think this is probably a normal worry.

But I have to white-knuckle through this stuff. I don’t want to make things harder for my wife– she shouldn’t have to take care of me during times that are hard on her. Now, we did talk about the large amount of money that was involved in her care- and I don’t want her to feel responsible for that. The fact is that medical care costs money. It would cost even more money to try to fight back cancer that had taken deeper hold of her internal organs, so I’ll take it.

So the year went on and we tried to recover from the financial slamming. Some emotional healing happened, although as July rolled around, and I saw it coming, my heart turned to the baby I thought we would be holding. I kept quiet. And I tried to keep quiet and keep it together when people would ask me, totally unknowing, if we were going to try to have another kid. Almost as if to replace the one we lost.

Then I was laid off in mid-July. It came without warning. We have to use COBRA, due to the amount of money we have invested into our current plan, at least through the end of November. This costs a fortune. And I’m frantically looking for a full time position somewhere that will give us benefits quickly– because COBRA for my family costs a fortune. And nothing on the Healthcare Exchange is cheap enough to make up for the amount of cash we ostensibly save by keeping our current coverage through COBRA.

And my right foot is acting up again and I’m limping everywhere I go now.

Then my final grandmother passed away almost two weeks ago. It was expected to be soonish, and I know she’s in a better place but having this come on top of everything else makes me feel a little Job-like. Not to mention I had my first spider bite of my life about two months ago and it took over a month to heal and I kept thinking about flesh-eating bacteria. So sores.

Next, is my roof going to fall in? Nope, but we did have a little bit of flooding earlier. And since I’m venting now, I don’t get why my books aren’t getting any traction with agents or publishing houses. I have studied the craft and have put a lot of work into what I send out. I know it’s good. Not perfect- but in at least one case, pretty dang great.

This year has been tough. And I need to get through it. And I will. And I sometimes think I’m hearing that whisper heard in Carthage Jail. “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? Therefore, hold on thy way… Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.”

But sometimes I need to be a weak complainer. Thanks for listening.

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A Poll About Relationships

Look over there >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I have put up a poll about what men need most in a relationship. The objective for me is to find out what people, both men and women, believe about this question.

I’m really not sure what I believe about this question, honestly.

Weigh in! If you have comments, make them on this post.

This will be much more effective if you share this post and poll with everyone you know. Help a brother out?


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Our Default Mode Is Love

There’s a lot being said about John Dehlin and Kate Kelly in Mormon circles these days. You know who these two are: John is the runner of the Mormon Stories podcast and Kate Kelly is the founder of the Ordain Women movement.

People have opinions on what John and Kate are doing. I will say that both of these people have done me a service: they, and the people associated with them, have helped me gain greater empathy, maybe even some charity, for my brothers and sisters. I’m a straight guy in the LDS church. Sure, I’m a convert, but I cut my long hair a while ago. But my experience in the LDS church and Mormon culture has been pretty straightforward, and having that experience disrupted by these folks has been of personal and spiritual value.

I think that is the case for many.

Do I agree with every thing that these two do in their movements? Nope. Do I agree with all of their methods? Nope. That’s not the issue here.

The issue here is that things have come to a head for John and Kate. They’ve both received letters inviting them to join in a council wherein their membership in the church will be discussed. Following that, Kate has in fact been excommunicated and she now intends to appeal that action.

I’m not going to talk about how disciplinary councils function in the LDS church and I’m not going to defend either the church or Kelly and Dehlin. I don’t have the entire story—in fact, I think it’s safe to say that very few people have the entire story.

What needs addressing is how the members of the church are reacting. Particularly my friends on Facebook and other social networks. You might have seen (or said) something similar to what I’ve been seeing. I quote:

“If they don’t like the church, fine. Good riddance.”

“They obviously don’t have a testimony, so why are they even here?”

“They need to find a different church that they actually believe in.”

“I’m glad they’re getting excommunicated.”

I brought this up in my Elders Quorum two weeks ago (disclosure: I’ve just been called to be the EQ pres—for the 2nd time) during a lesson. The teacher had prepared a lesson, I believe through great inspiration, on charity. I knew that Peter, our teacher, had been motivated by what’s been happening with Dehlin and Kelly, and many in the group were kind of talking around the issue. I took a moment to see if the Spirit approved and, feeling no reason not to, I decided it was time to say what has been on my mind about this.

Here’s what I said:

“You’ve heard about what’s going on with John Dehlin and Kate Kelly. Approve or disapprove of their questions and/or methods, there is a lot of stuff being said about their membership. Many are saying the church is better off without them. Many are saying they’re happy these two might be facing excommunication. Many are saying good riddance.”

I took a moment and caught some eyes, wanting to make sure I had their attention. This was important.


I waited a beat.

“No, no, no. That’s not the spirit of Christ. That’s not the spirit of peace and love. The table of Christ always—always—has a place for them, should they choose to be there. It’s not now, nor will it ever be, our place to judge these two people. That’s Christ’s place and we will trust Him to do that in His own time and place.”

“Our place is to love. Always love. Whether we disagree, agree, are uncomfortable, have our own doubts, or whatever. We must love. That’s our duty. Because Christ said it was one of the greatest commandments, love is our default mode.”

Some silence greeted this. Then a brother said, simply, “Amen.”

We don’t have the whole story. Even if we know these two personally, we don’t really have the whole story. Who knows where lies and truth end and begin here? Not me. I have my suspicions, but I choose to behave like a mature adult and stand ready to get more information as it becomes available.

What I know and will repeat always is the certainty that contention and treating people as if the kingdom of God were some kind of exclusive club, or a popular clique, is not the way of Christ. We don’t tell people His kingdom has no place for them. We open our arms to all.

Or at least we should.

Our default mode, like His, should always be love.

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My Mothers

Of course I’m thinking about mothers on Mothers’ Day. Interestingly, by the way, this was a day originally enacted by women as a protest against war.

In any case, I’m thinking about mothers. I knew my mother. I suppose I spent the first five or six years of my life with her. I guess she must have been responsible for potty-training me. Maybe she was the one who taught me to read.

But I was one kid among around thirty. And by the time I was aware enough of my surroundings to understand things, I didn’t feel part of a mother/son relationship, much less a family. I felt part of a group of cult orphans- children who for the most part were orphaned by the Process/Foundation Faith of God’s demand that its members have one single primary relationship: with the group.

So, in a formative sense, I didn’t have a mother.

I do spend quite a bit of time thinking about my mother– who I never called “Mom” and still can’t do in my head. I am unconditionally grateful for her goodness and her love. I admire her purity of purpose. She certainly didn’t spend much of her life or my life being what I understand now is a typical mother, but I don’t have it in me to bear her ill will for it.

I love her. I’m confused by her. But I love her.

I’ve had the privilege of having several remarkable women fill in for a time as sort of mothers. They filled a gap here or there. They’ve been crucial to my life and I have tender feelings for all of them. Some moms that have made a significant difference in my life– in some ways changing the course of my life:

Susan Garrett. My first look at a mom acting like what I imagined a mom would be. Her protectiveness and fierce support of her daughter, my lovely half-sister (and my only sister so she’s my sister, period), helped me understand a little bit about what parenting should be. That Susan was also a mother in many ways to me, showing me love and support and kindness and teaching me, usually indirectly, about family is huge. I love my step-mother. I wish money and geographical distance weren’t in the way of our being closer.

Bridget Lester. She was in the cult with us and she became the teacher of my age/grade group in the Foundation’s little school they called Faith School. She made things fun at times. Looking back, I can see how seriously took what she was doing- and today that is very affirming. I can see she was looking out for us. I remember a time on the porch of the building we held Faith School in when she was expressing disapproval of some books I was reading. I kept reading them, but that she felt I was important enough to have her take that time is comforting. I wish I’d appreciated it then. I love Bridget for her having my back.

Bev Willis. Bev was friends with my father and Susan when they left the Foundation and started a regular life in Kanab. When I moved in with them, she adopted me as a friend and I think she saw me as a project. I was godless, arrogant, directionless, but overall a good kid. She gave me unconditional affection and love and hospitality. She still does on the rare occasions I see her. I think her husband is mildly amused at the way Bev does this adopting, but he’s also an example of a good, service-minded, righteous life. I’ll always love Bev for her invitations to her home and church and for her ceaseless cheerleading for me.

Donna Casebolt. Donna was the drama club teacher. She was fun, demanding, creative, determined, sweet, loving, adorable, and she raised extraordinary children. How she had space in her heart and life for me I don’t understand, but she also gave me unlimited love and was always deeply supportive and good to me. I’ll never stop appreciating her goodness and example.

Cherry Owens. Cherry is the mother of some dear friends and her home regularly was filled to bursting with a bunch of loud, smelly, mess-making gamers. Cherry has passed on and the world grew slightly dimmer when she did. She could tolerate and accept the most insane behavior and some truly weird people. And she did it with love, kindness, and warmth. Her home felt like home. One of the first truly comfortable places I’d ever spent time in when I was young. She raised creative, original, strong-minded individuals. I’ll always love this woman for her unflagging support and hospitality.

Dianna Hintze. Dianna has seven daughters. Her sixth daughter is named Annemarie. Annemarie is incredibly smart and has an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Dianna supported that and made sure Annemarie had the opportunities she needed to spread her wings. Annemarie went to Japan on an exchange right after high school, followed by moving to Provo to attend BYU. I met Annemarie at BYU and fell in love pretty fast– although I only understood what was happening several months later. I love Dianna for raising the woman who is my wife. And I love Dianna for being the only person I’ve ever called “Mom.” She is fiercely devoted to her family and has welcomed my family into her home on countless occasions. I have a great mother-in-law and I love her and the incredibly family and legacy she’s built.

Annemarie Hintze Garrett. Nothing I write can capture how much I cherish this lady. When we met, I was an immature kid still trying to find my way into thoughtful faith. I’ve done a lot of growing up since then. I’ve spent the better part of my adulthood with her. She’s been a mom for over 14 years and I can truly say she is awe-inspiring. She doesn’t hesitate to put our kids first- a fact of our lives that I’ve seen since she first got pregnant. Seeing her and being a part of the relationship she has with our kids is part of what makes me wish I’d been able to have a more typical mother in my life. If I were a kid, I’d want her to be my mom.

The family that she and I have created is the living fulfillment of my greatest lifelong dream. This is a family I would not have had with anyone else. She’s fun and sweet and good and strong and thoughtful and mighty and lots more.

So happy Mothers’ Day to all of you lovely women, whether you’re a mother or not. You’re changing lives and lighting up the world.

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