Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In the Quiet Heart is Hidden Sorrow that the Eye Can't See

Today is the last day of April:  Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Abuse Awareness Month.

It's not the last day to be aware and educated, but I won't be focusing on it in my posts.  I hope that you gave some thought to the children and teenagers in your care and resolved to make a difference.  I hope that you will share with them some empowering thoughts and tools.  Allow me to share one last story.

Orange Jell-o.  The girls were excited.  My friend had made it for her mutual class.  As she peeled back the foil, their delight turned quickly to dismay.  Something was wrong. 
“What’s that in the corner?” asked one of the girls.  “It looks like dog poop.” 
“It is dog poop,” said the teacher, “but don’t worry.  It’s just in this one corner.  We can cut around it.  Who wants a piece?”
“Ooh, gross.”  “Yuck.” “Disgusting.”  “Are you kidding?”  “I’m not touching it.”
It was an effective object lesson on the content of movies.  You get the idea. “It was a great movie all except that one part.”  We’ve all said it.  It’s not quite the same with Jell-O.

What if instead of a movie, the Jell-o represented a human life and the dog poop represented sexual abuse?   Just as the dog poop changes everything about the Jell-o, sexual abuse changes the texture and landscape of an individual life.  Cutting around the dog poop is not an option.  The Jell-o will never be the same.
Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.”  (Herbert Ward)

Sexual abuse is one of the most damaging experiences imaginable.  Whether it happens once or a hundred times, the damage is often deep and lasting.  Some children bury the secret and never tell or talk about it.  These are the ones I worry most about.  A child who doesn’t get help may have a very hard time healing.
"In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can’t see." (LDS hymns p. 220) Watch for damaged children.  Ask the questions.  Be there.  Be a safe person that kids can talk to.

We can't afford to look the other way.

Linda Garner

Monday, April 29, 2013

Shapes of Stories

Here's a post from Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughter House Five and Cat's Cradle. His Shapes of Stories is a great reference for us all to have.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Afraid to Tell

I was so thirsty.  We had been traveling for hours.  I was about 12, too old to complain.  It had been a while since our last pit stop, and I was bone dry.   I was relieved when Dad pulled into a gas station.  I jumped out of the car and ran for water.

We were traveling across the country, and I was small town girl.  I had rarely been out of Idaho.  On this trip, I saw new and different things every day.  At the gas station, I saw a large blue barrel with a spigot in the top.  Eureka, I thought.  Water.  I ran to the car for a cup and filled it.  I couldn’t wait to quench my thirst.

What a disaster.  One taste and I spit for all I was worth.  Yuck!  It was awful, and it wasn’t water.   I spit it out as fast as I could, and dumped the rest on the pavement.   I found water inside the little station and drank my fill.  I couldn’t get the taste out of my mouth.  To make matters worse, I burped it all day.
I never knew what that nasty liquid was, and I didn’t tell anyone.  At first I was embarrassed.  Then I was worried.  What if it was poison?  Was I going to die? 

I lived with those scary thoughts for hours and then days.  Instead of being relieved when I didn’t die right away, I wondered if it was a slow acting poison.   Would it be a painful death?  Was there an antidote?  If I told, could my family get help for me, or was it already too late?
No, I couldn’t tell.  I might get in trouble.  They wouldn’t understand why I had drunk from the barrel.  They wouldn’t understand why I hadn’t told right away.  Would they be angry? 

I was more afraid of telling than I was of dying.

That was nearly 50 years ago.   I look back on that experience with soberness.  I could have died.   I am astonished that I didn’t ask for help from the people who loved me most and would have been devastated at my death.  Though it seems ridiculous from this perspective, I remember with clarity the fear I felt about telling.

When a child is sexually abused, they are confused and frightened.   Telling is the only way to get help.  Telling is the surest way to stop the abuse, yet most children are afraid to tell.  They wonder who to trust.  They wonder who will believe them.  Sometimes they are more afraid of telling than they are of the abuse.
To us, this is hard to understand.  We want to help.  We cannot help if we do not know.  Understanding the fear of telling can teach us how to help our kids.

1.        Be a safe person for your child to talk to.  Build a strong relationship.  Spend time with your child talking things over.  Be a good listener.  Don’t over react when your child tells you things that are sensitive.  Let your child know that you are willing to talk about anything.  If your child feels that some subjects are taboo, you will be the last person they will tell if they experience abuse.

2.       Teach your child that no one has the right to touch them in uncomfortable ways.  Teach with clarity so that they understand which parts of their body are private.  Have frank discussions with your teenagers.  Teenagers need someone to talk to about sexuality.  You do not want to leave this to chance.  Teach teenagers to respect their bodies and to stand up for themselves if they are being manipulated , bullied, or abused.  Teach children and teenagers to recognize situations where they need help.  Teach them to tell.

3.       Let your child see what healthy relationships look like.  It’s okay for them to see parents hug, kiss, and hold hands.  Show your children that you respect each other.  Show respect for your own body.  Respect your child.  Value his/her opinions, ideas, and feelings.

4.       Model problem solving and negotiation.  Create opportunities for your children to voice opinions and share decision making.  Give children responsibility and ownership in family work and family values.  Give them lots of practice in problem solving and making choices. 

5.       Consider role playing.  You can make up situations which will give your child a chance to problem solve in a safe setting.  A child who can think things through and come up with solutions is less likely to cave under pressure.  Problem solving skills empower children to take control of their own decisions, their own bodies, their own lives.
Linda Garner









Tuesday, April 23, 2013



Respect.  Every human being deserves to be respected.  Our culture doesn't always teach respect. In our culture we sometimes miss the boat.  Around the world it is often worse.

Women and girls should be cherished and respected. We need to model respect.  We need to teach respect.  If you have sons please, teach them to honor womanhood. 

No one deserves to be abused.  We can't afford to look the other way.  We can make a difference.

Linda Garner

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Characters

I had an interesting experience the other day. I met with a group of writers that was going to form a critique group. They didn’t live in my city, and I didn’t know any of them so it was fun to see if I could figure out what their personalities were like.
One lady stood out to me. She bounced into the meeting late. “I just got new boots.” She pointed her toe and turned around. “Do you like them?” She giggled. “My scarf is new also.” This time she twirled around.
I think she was a little nervous because she talked very fast, running her words together so it was difficult to understand her. She went on to show us the purple sparkle on her nails. “I just had my hair trimmed also.” She pulled her hair over her left shoulder and combed it with her fingers. Then she flipped it to her back. It was long—down to her waist, and she spent the entire meeting running her fingers through it, fanning it out while she turned her head to study it’s beauty—as if she were preening.
I began to think that she would make a good character in a book. I could give her a nasal sound to go along with her fast-talking. She would be judgmental of others.
What characteristics would you give her? Would she have any compulsive behaviors? Anything she couldn’t stand?
It’s fun to take a little time and flesh out a character. Happy Writing! Christy

Friday, April 19, 2013

Stolen Childhood

I returned home from a meeting to find an unfamiliar cord plugged into the power outlet in my carport.  Following the cord led me to repairmen next door who had plugged their heavy duty equipment into my power.  My neighbor wasn’t home, his house was locked, and the repairmen had no access to power, so they plugged into mine.  Since I wasn’t home they didn’t ask.

I wasn’t excited about their creative use of my power and there was some unpleasant discussion.  The men moved their power cord across the street to an unoccupied home.  No one would ever know, no one, except the repairmen, and me.  I don’t know what you would call this, but I call it stealing.  Perhaps the men thought there was no harm in stealing a little power if it was done in secret.

Have you ever had something stolen from you? It can be a devastating experience, creating sadness, anger, and fear.  If the stolen item had great value to you, you may have been heartbroken.  No matter what the value of the stolen property, you probably felt somewhat violated.

When a child is sexually abused something has been stolen from them; something that cannot be replaced.  I call it stolen childhood.  For an abused child, childhood will never be quite the same.  An abused child may feel sadness, anger, or fear.  This is a crime that is veiled in secrecy.  In fact, secrecy is the abuser’s best friend. 

 No parent expects that their child will be sexually abused, yet the frightening truth is that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday.  Since parents cannot be everywhere, wise parents take opportunities to instruct and empower their children.  Here are some things you should teach your children about abuse.

  1. Teach children that they are in charge of their own bodies and that no one has the right to touch them inappropriately.  Children should know which parts of their bodies are private.  A simple definition of private parts is the parts of their bodies that are covered by a swimming suit.
  2. Teach your children what to do if someone touches them inappropriately.  Teach them to get away as soon as possible, and always tell.  Be aware that an abuser will warn your child not to tell.  Tell your child that telling is the only way to be safe.
  3. Teach your children to trust their feelings.  If something feels uncomfortable, there is something wrong.  Tell them they can talk to you about anything that doesn’t feel right. 
In addition to talking to your children about abuse, it is smart to cultivate an open relationship with your child and to talk about all sorts of things.  Be a safe person for your child to talk to.  Let them know that you are on the same team and that together you can always work things out.  This will develop trust and make it easier for them when they need someone to talk to. 

It’s important to know where your kids are and who they are with.  This isn’t controlling, it’s just smart.  Let your kids know that you want to know what’s going on in their lives because you care about them.  Trust your feelings.  If something doesn’t feel right, find out why.  The only thing worse than finding out that your child is being abused, is not finding out.

Always listen to your child, and always believe him or her.  If you find out that your child is being abused take steps to protect him or her from further abuse.  Report the abuse to local authorities and seek help from your family physician.  Counseling may be a good idea.  Though sexual abuse is devastating, healing is possible.  Support your child in the healing process.  Never blame your child.  Abuse is never the child’s fault.

 Stolen childhood is everyone’s concern.  We are a community of caring adults. Let’s stand together.  Let’s stand up for kids.

Linda Garner






Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Erin's Law

Have you heard about Erin  Merryn? Here’s a bit of her story:

“All it took was one night for my innocence to be stolen.

From ages 6-8 1/2 and 11-13 two men molested and raped me. One a neighbor the other a family member. I wasn't telling because nobody had educated me to tell. The only message I was getting was from the men abusing me. These men told me they would come get me, they knew where I lived, no one would believe me, I had no proof, and I would destroy my family if I told our secret.

There are children across this world being told the same thing I was told, and I have now made it my mission to educate and empower every child with their voice through Erin's Law. A law I am determined to get passed in all 50 states.”

The mission of Erin's law is to get education in all 50 states on the prevention of sexual abuse by empowering children with their voice instead of allowing sex offenders to silence them.

“Growing up in Illinois public schools every year I was educated with my classmates on tornado drills, fire drills, bus drills, stranger danger, and learned the 8 ways to say "NO" to drugs through D.A.R.E.

As a child I never had to take cover because of a real tornado. I never had to stop, drop, and roll or run out of a burning building. I never had to evacuate a school bus due to an emergency, but I had the knowledge to know what to do if any of those situations happened.

Where was the drill on how to escape a child molester? Where was the lesson plan on sexual abuse, safe touches, and safe secrets? It never came. I was not educated on “How to Tell Today or How to Get Away.” I was never educated on “My Body Belongs to Me.”   Erin Merryn

I applaud Erin for her courage in standing up for kids.  Let’s give children a voice by educating them about sexual abuse.  We can’t afford to pretend that sexual abuse doesn’t happen here.  We can make a difference.

Talk to the kids you care about.  Let them know that sexual abuse is not okay.  Tell them they can trust you to listen. Care.  Start talking.

Linda Garner





Monday, April 15, 2013

The Synergy of a Critique Group

Love the Synergy of our critique group.
I know I’ve talked about this before, but I have been blessed to find such a wonderful critique group. There are eight of us—a fairly large group, and we have to hustle to get through everyone’s works.
We meet every Thursday night, come rain or come shine. It doesn’t matter what the weather is, we meet. Even met by candle light one night when the power was out.
The genres we write are all different—everything from wolves to high fantasy to sci fi to humor to self help. What a fun time we have joking about spicing up the manuscripts by adding a family council (self-help I’m writing) to the high fantasy a friend is writing—or adding a gouged-out eye to one of my self help stories.
We have lots of fun, but there are always great comments about the flow of paragraphs in a piece, the order of sentences, and many questions about character motivations.
Every week, I think I have my five pages just perfect, and every week there are comments bump my writing up a notch. I am very grateful. They help me become better than I could be on my own.
All-in-all I’m blessed to belong, and my writing is getting better because of those great people. Four of us have published works now, and the rest will follow.
So my recommendation: find a critique group and use their knowledge and expertise to become better than your best self!
Happy writing, Christy

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dirty Little Secret

I couldn’t find what I was looking for in my vanity drawer, so I pulled out the drawer to see if it had slipped behind.  I had never pulled this drawer out before, and was startled at the mess I found. I found a number of lost items mixed with a disgusting amount of dirt and debris.  I had never imagined such a disaster lay just inches from the sink where I wash my face and brush my teeth.  It completely grossed me out.  I had a dirty little secret in my own bathroom and I had never once suspected.

I was quick to clean up the mess.  I vacuumed.  I scrubbed.  I tossed.  It felt good to get rid of that dirty little secret.  I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I was glad that I had pulled out the drawer and discovered something that needed my attention.

Hidden in some of our homes are disgusting little secrets, but not behind drawers.  Right under our unsuspecting noses children are hurting.  Often they do not know how to talk about what is happening to them.  They may not have the words.  They may doubt their feelings.  No one has told them what to do and they have no experience to lean on. 

When a child is sexually abused, their innocence is violated as well as their privacy and their personal space.  The abuser is often a family member or close family friend, someone the child knows and trusts. Imagine the dilemma for a child who has been taught to respect authority and be obedient, when a trusted person asks him/her to do something that doesn’t feel right.  Most children do not have tools to deal with this awful situation. 

The child may feel guilty.  Abusers feed that guilt by saying, “you will get in trouble if you tell.”  The child may feel confused and frightened.  Where can children turn for help?

 We can do better.  We can give children accurate information.  We can give children tools.  We can teach children that they are in charge of their own bodies and that no one has the right to touch them inappropriately.  We can tell them which parts of their bodies are private.  We can teach them that abuse is not okay, and that is not their fault.  We can encourage them to tell if someone touches them inappropriately.

 The statistics are frightening.  1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience sexual abuse before they are 18.  Many will never tell.  Most children know their abuser.  Only about 10 % are abused by strangers.  

 What can we do?  How can we turn fear into hope?  How can we make a difference?  Here are some ideas for giving your kids a fighting chance against an abuser.


  1. Give kids lots of experience in making choices.  Help them learn to trust their feelings.  A child who is always told what to do may not know how to stand up for him/her self in a difficult situation.
  2. Empower kids. Talk things over with them.  Help them learn to problem solve and negotiate. Give them responsibilities.   Kids with confidence and skills may be less likely to allow themselves to be victimized.
  3. Be a safe person for your child to talk to.  Do you over react?  Can they tell you anything?  If you sweat the small stuff, they may not feel comfortable telling you about abuse, because abuse is not small stuff.  Does your child feel that you are on the same team?
  4. Model modesty.  Let your kids see by example how to show respect for their bodies.  Close doors when dressing and using the bathroom.  This sends a clear message about what is appropriate and gives children guidelines that they can use when confronted with behavior that is inappropriate.
  5. Talk to your kids about sexual abuse.  Teach them that they are in charge of their own bodies and no one has the right to touch them inappropriately.  Teach them that their bodies are sacred.  Teach them to say no to anyone who violates their trust, and always to tell.
We can make a difference for our kids by being actively involved in their lives.   We can be aware of their activities and associates.  We can notice any behavior changes that might suggest stress or trauma.  The only thing worse than finding out that your child has been sexually abused, is not finding out.

Be a good listener.  Give your child lots of opportunities to talk to you and always believe him/her.  Make certain your child knows that you are there for him/her.   

Notice when something doesn’t feel right.  I didn’t expect to find a dirty little secret behind my vanity drawer, but cleaning it up was the right thing to do.  If you find a dirty little secret, don’t cover it up.  Don’t close the drawer without cleaning up the mess.  Have courage and take appropriate steps to protect and support your child.  Remember, abuse is never the child’s fault.  Never.
Linda Garner









Monday, April 8, 2013


I heard a speaker at a workshop say once that after you are published, you spend more time marketing than you do writing. I didn’t believe it, of course. I love my writing and want to spend my time with that love.
That thought has stayed with me as I’ve journeyed through the publication of my first book, and now my second. My third is a picture book, Love Hugs and Hope, a book about helping children deal with tragedy. My fourth one is coming out this fall. Becoming Free, A Woman’s Guide to Inner Strength. Little by little—like the story of the frog getting cooked when the heat was turned up slowly by degrees—I am spending more time marketing.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Under the Bandaid

When my children were young, I attended a workshop in another city.  I left my children in the care of others while I was gone.  Daddy was home at night, and my capable neighbors helped out during the day.  My five year old daughter took a spill from her brother’s bike while he was pumping her around the neighborhood.  Our son and his friend put a bandaid on the scrape and carried on.

 When I returned home a few days later, the leg was still tender and my daughter resisted walking on it.  Fearing that the leg was broken I made a doctor’s appointment.  The doctor removed the bandaid so that an x-ray could be performed and we both gasped in horror at what we saw.  Those well meaning boys had not thought to clean the wound and had covered up a messy sore.  A nurse carefully cleaned the area and even picked rocks out of the raw flesh.  Several adults including my darling husband had inspected the bandaged leg, but no one thought to lift the bandage and see what was underneath. 

 Since the wound was several days old and badly infected serious measures had to be taken.  Antibiotics were administered topically, orally, and even with a needle.  The wound had to be soaked and rebandaged several times a day.  I was to call the doctor immediately if anything worsened.  A follow-up visit was scheduled for the next day.  There was grave concern.

The danger could have been averted if an adult had looked deeper and taken appropriate measures to stop the damage.  Under the cover of a bandage a serious infection had grown and threatened my daughter leg.

When a child has been abused, the damage is not always easy to see.  A cloak of secrecy covers the abuse just as a bandaid can cover an infected wound.  Secrecy is the abuser’s best friend.  The abuser depends on secrecy to carry out his or her works of darkness.  The secrecy is enforced through threats, guilt, presents, or flattery. 

 The child often keeps the secret out of embarrassment, worry, guilt, fear, or confusion.  Parents may contribute to the secrecy by ignoring warning signs.  Sometimes a child comes forward and is not believed or even blamed.  Most parents believe the child, but are often unsure about what to do.  They may be tempted to minimize the damage and encourage the child to move on without proper validation and support.  Under cover of secrecy the damage can grow and fester into a nasty infection. 

 We can make a difference. 

 1. Know the warning signs of abuse. If anything doesn’t feel right, check it out.  Notice things like unexplained sadness or fears, withdrawal from friends and family, change in sleeping or eating habits, nightmares, bedwetting.  In teenagers suicidal or self injurious thoughts may be present.  Teenagers may have a sudden dislike for the opposite sex.  Some teenagers may turn to drug abuse or promiscuous behavior. 

 2.  Build a trusting relationship with your child. Be a safe person for your child to talk to. Create opportunities for talking things over. Talk about all sorts of things, serious and not serious. Be a good listener.  Let your child know that he/she can talk about anything with you.

 3. Model modest behavior for your child. Model appropriate dress.  Help your child to understand what is normal and natural. Teach correct principles.  Be sure your child understands what inappropriate touching is and what to do about it.  Teenagers need this dialog as much as young children do.  Give clear guidelines without creating panic. Knowledge is power, not fear.

 End the Coverup.  It’s time to start talking about sexual abuse.  Get yourselves some tools and open the lines of communication with those you love.  Give them information and tools to protect and empower them. There is a free Parents Guide at  www.somesecretshurt.com.  Print it, share it,  and become familiar with it.   

Start Talking.

Linda Garner





Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Preventing Abuse is Everyone's Job

Did you know?  April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Abuse Awareness Month.  Prevent Child Abuse Utah will be busy this month raising awareness.  You will see their pinwheels in parks and other public places.  Pinwheels will dot the landscape, each representing a child who has been abused.

I will also raise my voice against child abuse during the month of April.  Child abuse has many faces, and none of them are okay.  Every child has a right to be nurtured.  Every child has a right to be safe.  Caring adults must protect children and nurture children.  We can not afford to look the other way.  We must stand up for children.

Many people believe that abuse happens somewhere else.  In seedy neighborhoods, in other towns, in other places.  Abuse happens here. 

We have a special kind of denial for sexual abuse.  It happens to other people.  In the United States today nearly one in three girls will be sexually abused before the age of eighteen.  About one in six boys will be sexually abused in the same time period.  That is much too high.

Education is the key.  We cannot protect kids from sexual abuse by pretending it doesn't happen.  We can protect kids by empowering them to take control of their own bodies.  It isn't complicated.  Here are some things you can do to make a difference for the children you care about.

1.  Talk to your kids about all sorts of things, including sexual abuse.
2.  Be a good listener.  Let them know that you are there for them and that they can share anything with you.
3.  Click here to download the free parents guide.  Print a copy for you and one to share.
4.  Read Some Secrets Hurt to the kids you care about.  Talk about it.  Listen.
5.  If you don't own Some Secrets Hurt, what are you waiting for?  Every home needs a copy.  Click sidebar to order. 
6.  Copy this poster and post it as your facebook picture for one week.  Post it on your blog or send it to your email contacts.  Be creative.

Choose three of the above activities and you will be entered to win a $25.00 amazon gift card.  Comment to tell me what you did.  You can enter anytime this month. 

I will be posting Sexual Abuse Prevention articles throughout the month.  The first will appear on Friday, so be sure to come back.

Preventing abuse is everyone's job.  Make a Difference.

Linda Garner

Monday, April 1, 2013

Story Premise

The story premise is one of the most important decisions we as writers make in the entire process of creating a story. Every other decision stems from the premise. If a story is to be grounded, the roots of the tree must be solid and deeply anchored.
A premise is the basic principle or argument of the story. It starts with an event that is the opening scene of the story. The main character is in the middle of the action, and is part of this main idea. From here, there is a story promise the author gives us, and then the rest of the story unfolds.
It is the underlying theme and the overarching arc of the story. Make it a good one.
It’s important to consider the premise from all viewpoints—how does each of the characters look at the basic argument of the novel? How will your reader react to it? How do you as the author see it? What do you think future generations will make of your writing?
Yes, future generations. Think big!!
Happy writing, Christy