Hiking Badger

From a distance, Badger Mountain looks like a barren pile of dirt crowned with cell phone towers. There are no waterfalls, cliffs, or forests—not even a single tree. Yet there is beauty here, and life in abundance, but you have to let go of your expectations of beauty to really see it. (more…)

Going Undercover, Saving Sex Slaves

The auditorium of the old Rexburg Tabernacle is packed. Everyone here has come to hear Tim Ballard speak, the man who founded Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit devoted to liberating child sex slaves. O.U.R. jump teams travel to countries like Colombia and Haiti, pose as buyers for sex slaves, and organize big deals with local sex traffickers. At the right moment, local police burst in with weapons drawn, arresting traffickers and O.U.R. team members. The traffickers are taken to jail, the teams are released, and the rescued children are placed in reputable care. It’s as intense as any sting Hollywood could contrive, but this is completely real, dangerous, and far more rewarding. (more…)

Why Stories Are Weapons

I am reading a collection of nonfiction essays by Brian Doyle called Grace Notes. Doyle’s writing is a nice balance between the lighthearted and the serious. Though his writing is sometimes goofy, he truly believes that “stories maybe save lives.” He knows his writing has the power to heal and to build. He also knows his stories are weapons, as shown in his essay, “What Am I Doing Here?” In part, this piece describes his desperate desire for justice in the aftermath of 9/11, in which three of his friends were killed: (more…)

Advice to My Roommates

Don’t leave it there. Do clean it up. Don’t pretend to be the crusader of cleanliness. Do make your bed. Don’t pee on the toilet seat or on the floor. Do clean the toilet and the floor when your aim is off. Don’t let cooking oil collect under the element on the stove after you deep-fry chicken to the point that it causes a grease fire. (more…)

An Evening Meditation

Dad plays lullabies on the piano (songs he wrote himself) as eight-year-old Hannah tries to sleep. She hurt her knee earlier today and is having trouble getting comfortable in bed. I listen from the family library, my makeshift bedroom when I visit home. The house is silent except for the haunts of Dad’s simple tunes. (more…)

How to Become a Great Writer

I always say that it’s better to hear than to be heard, and I think this applies to writing. Some writers think they can sit at a desk all day and come up with some great stuff that people want to read. I hate to break it to you, but if the only thing you ever experience is your desk, your writing is going to be really boring. To tell a great story, you must first live a great story. So here’s how you become a great writer: (more…)