Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Smashed Coke Bottle Poodles

A very long time ago when I was far too young for the responsibility, I served as a counselor in a Relief Society presidency in charge of the monthly workshops. The stake Relief Society president gave me some advice that has stuck with me, and now more than twenty-five years later seems oddly applicable. She said, don’t measure the success of the workshop on the number who attend. Your success will be discovering and offering the workshops that the women in your congregation need.

What she meant was that the classes that teach the latest fad craft might bring the largest crowds, but that was beside the point. For example, when I was a little girl there was a time when it seemed every woman who attended our church had poodle shaped wall-hangings made from smashed coke bottles hanging on their living room walls. What the good stake Relief Society president meant was that smashed coke bottle poodles are very nice, but they shouldn’t be valued above the more necessary classes dealing with weighty matters, even if the women seem to want smashed glass poodles.

Fast forward twenty years and I’m the Relief Society president leaving my first stake leadership meeting. My counselor has a bag filled with candy and instructions on easy crafts. In my arms I’m carrying a notebook filled with information on suicide, eating disorders, addictions and sexual abuse. My counselor looks at my notebook and says, I’m glad I’m not you.

The world became a darker, grittier place for me during my time as Relief Society president. I’ve since learned that candy and easy crafts have their place. The trick is to learn what’s needed, not necessarily what is popular and the latest fad.

I’m trying to keep this all in mind as I watch the number of sales of my novel. The romance industry far out sells all the other literary genres, and quite honestly, if most of the romance novels that sell were on TV, they’d be limited to the Playboy channel. I think romance should be spelled without an X and that’s the type of story I set out to write.

I'm reminding myself of that lesson I learned a long time ago--success is recognizing the need and trying to fill it.

Even if everyone around me is obsessed with smashed coke bottle poodles.


  1. Well said. What matters is that your writing makes the world a better place. And if you follow the Spirit when you write, you know it will.

  2. I enjoyed your post. It reminded me of a time when I was a young mom serving as the homemaking counselor. We had a class once where I asked a sister speak about working moms. The first thing she did was ask, "Who in this room is a working mom." Everyone put up their hands. I smiled. Then she said, "No, I mean the mom's who really work, the ones who have a job outside the home." And I knew I was in big trouble.
    People are interesting. There are a lot of opinions out there. I agree with your idea that success is recognizing the need and trying to fill it. Sometimes I think we have to do that despite the opposition we find even within our own community. I think that's why it's important to support each other as writers. Thanks for your thoughtful blog.

  3. My sentiments exactly--about both writing and serving in RS.