It’s that time of year again, the whole resolution thing, but I do better with words. Specifically, One word…
Check out my word of the year over at my new blog, Writing at the Table.
Hope to see you there!
My dear readers, this will be my last post on my much beloved blog, celiac kiddo (sniff!), but you can still find my gluten free recipes, and my musings on writing, kids, and life in general, on my new blog, Writing at the Table. If you’re following this blog, you won’t receive many more alerts, but you can follow me over there, if you’d like.
I hope you know how much I appreciate you reading my words here, and perhaps, over there, but either way, I’ll always be grateful to you for visiting this blog and making me feel like I wasn’t writing into a void. I’ve made such lovely and heartfelt connections and friends during my three+ years here.
I will miss this space, but part of life is knowing when to move on. When I first began this blog it was on instinct. Bunky was diagnosed with celiac in 2011 and it felt like my life was crumbling (faster than 1970s gluten free bread). It didn’t, of course, and that was in part from the support and comfort I received from you. Living gluten free will always be part of our lives, but it’s no longer my sole focus. Also, my dear girl is growing up (as is my little guy!) and I would like to respect her privacy more and not focus on her life with celiac.
My childhood dream, one that continues to follow and haunt me (in a good way), is to write. That’s what I’ve done here, and will continue to do on my new blog.
Feeding my dream and my family is my new tagline. I’m claiming my title as a writer more firmly now, but I’m still a mom, and my gluten free family needs to be fed. A lot.
Wishing you a happy and peaceful New Year. See you in 2015!
*First of all, congratulations to Ruthie, who won the free copy of Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing! Thanks to everyone who signed up for my newsletter. The good news is you’re still eligible for the next three drawings, and there are three more great books to give away…
If you haven’t signed up yet, go now! I’m choosing winners at random from my email subscription list.
The next book up for grabs is one of my all time favorites, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by the acclaimed and lovely Anne Lamott. First published in 1994, this book is a classic and enduring read. You don’t need to be a writer to be inspired by Lamott’s wise words.
The results of this random drawing will be posted here and on Writing at the Table on Tuesday, December 16th.
That’s the goal, isn’t it? To finish, to sit back and say: Yes, this is DONE.
I’m not talking about finishing a draft of something (short story, novel, play, painting – you get the idea), although that absolutely IS its own awe-inspiring feat.
I mean finishing to completion, realizing you’ve done all you can to say, a manuscript. You’ve toiled and rewritten, edited and deleted, you’ve pounded your desk in triumph and cried into your coffee.
You’ve cycled through euphoria and depression, you’ve persevered and come out the other side. You’re ready to share your creation with others. Perhaps this means pursuing traditional publishing á la querying agents, or going DIY and self-publishing. But the point is, you’re ready. Your work is ready.
To finish (ha!) the rest of this post, click here…
Today I’m posting over at my new blog, Writing at the Table, about two sensitive topics that are near to my heart – my children, and also, my writing.
The title is Being a Mom is NOT Enough (For Me) and I hope you’ll pop over there and check it out.
Also, don’t forget about my contest to win a free copy of Dani Shapiro’s incredibly inspiring book, Still Writing. All you need to do is subscribe to my email list and voila, you’re in the running not only for this book, but for the next three I’m giving away!
Below is the beginning of my post…
Being a Mom is NOT Enough (For Me)
Writing those words is not easy. Feels a little taboo, like something a mom is never supposed to admit.
Then there’s the whole people pleaser part of me that doesn’t want to make anyone mad. But this idea has been sitting on the back burner of my mind for a while now, simmering like a pot of water. Steam is escaping out the edges and the lid is rattling. Time to look inside.
… head over to Writing at the Table for more …
Oh, it’s been on the horizon for months now, I’ve hinted at it, and now, FINALLY, it’s happening. Please don’t panic, I’m not going anywhere – well, not entirely true, I’m going somewhere, but I do hope you will come with me to… dum da da dum…
Writing at the Table, writer + mother feeding my dream and my family
For three and a half years now I’ve been blogging here at celiac kiddo. Recipes and rants, I used to say, but it’s been more than that (I hope so anyway!). I wrote from my heart about having a child with celiac, about living a gluten free life in a gluten loving world. Over the years I grew a small but solid band of readers, and I am so grateful to every single one of you.
I hesitated to make a change for a while because I didn’t want to lose anyone, and let’s face it, change is scary. Well, it is for me.
But I’ve been shifting and drifting on the blog for a while now, as you may have noticed, writing more about my life and less about celiac. I’ll still be posting gluten free recipes because feeding my family (body and soul) is as much a part of my life as writing is.
Part of the reason I’m starting this new blog is to show how the two can be integrated, how for some of us, they have to be.
I hope you will join me in as I turn this corner of my blogging life. But if not, please know that I appreciate the time you spent here! I realize that you can’t please everyone, or write for everyone, so I’m letting go of my fear and leaping into the future.
As a fun little incentive, I’m having a month-long contest running the first four weeks of December. Each week I’ll randomly select one person who subscribes to my email list to win one of my favorite writing books!
Enter to win, the first drawing will take place and be announced on Tuesday, December 9th!
The first is “Still Writing” by Dani Shapiro, an incredibly inspiring and practical book that helped reinvigorate my writing life.
If you’ve already read it, you can gift it to a friend! It is the holiday season, after all.
*This contest includes my entire email subscriber list, so if you’ve already signed up you’re eligible!
Thank you dear readers for all your support over the years, and please let me know what you think of my new blog!
(Also, I’d love any advice or tips on transitioning from one blog to another from those who’ve done it before, since this is quite new to me.)
I haven’t written in days and I’m starting to twitch. We’re moving in T minus two days. And when I say “moving” I mean we’re packing up our Brooklyn apartment, putting most of it in storage and going to stay with my dad in New Jersey, and then, after we trash his house, on to our upstate place. We were supposed to close on our new home at the end of August and move in just in time for school to start… but that’s not happening.
Why? Because life is not some stylized photo shoot. You can’t plan or stage it. You can’t decorate it with pretty props. Life is not a pristine layer cake, like the kind that populate Pinterest and fancy foodie blogs, with frosting smooth as shellac, fondant decorations, the whole thing resting on a porcelain platter atop of a rustic wooden table all beautifully backlit with a vase of flowers and a glass pitcher of milk.
Nope. Life is messy, chaotic, ruthless. Life is one of those sloppy homemade cakes. The kind where the layers are uneven, the whole thing leaning precariously to one side, crumbs litter the frosting, a mess of sprinkles dumped on top, a lumpy slice slapped on a plate with a plastic fork. More like this:
Life happens and you’re supposed roll with it. Or you don’t. But there is always choice involved in how you deal with your sloppy cake. You decide if you’re going to freak out, blame everyone else, scream your brains out, yell at your kids/spouse, tear out your hair, cry, rage, throw yourself out the window (or just threaten to do so). You decide how to look at the mess. Is it garbage or a hidden Picasso? This has always been my problem. I tend to choose the dark side. I blame, rage, cry, yell, lash out. I let it take over. I let it control me.
I’ve been having some unfortunate bouts of insomnia lately, as our departure approaches. And in those late night eyeball wide moments, I see everything so clearly. I see the right way, the light way. I think, okay, I can do this! I can choose not to dwell and complain, I can choose love over anger, I can choose to see this new twist/roadblock as an adventure as opposed to a disaster.
But then I wake up. And I’m bone tired and my kids are hungry but won’t eat anything, and I’m wiping butts and making smoothies, and before I know it, all those good intentions fly out the window and my impatience and anger rolls in. I lose it and then feel sunk by my failure. By my inability to change.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I am changing, or at least trying. I’m having enlightened moments in the darkest hours of the night, even if they often disintegrate by morning. I see glimpses of difference, other ways of being.
Yesterday in between the usual child tantrums and parental misery, we had a magical moment in the park. I took Little Guy to pee behind a tree (the kid is like a dog, loves peeing outside) and it happened to be a pine tree and it happened to be populated with dozens of fireflies. It was dusk, later than we’re usually out, and we had just been talking about how we hadn’t seen any fireflies this season, and there they were alight all around us, pausing to rest on blades of grass, on the needles of the tree, inches from our faces.
I pointed at them and said, do it again, and they did. Little Guy was entranced. We brought over Bunky and her dad and we all watched with wonder and awe as dozens of people streamed into the park for a concert, oblivious to our little piece of magic. Then my husband looked up and there were two baby raccoons in the tree, lounging on the upper branches, rolling around, but mostly resting and watching us watch them.
Moments earlier we had been sitting on a cement ledge at the entrance of the park across from the apartment I lived in with my husband before we were married.
We looked at it, trying to remember where our apartment was, in the back or on the side, what we saw when we looked out the window. We told Bunky about how we used to hear the concerts in the park from our living room. We talked about how she would always remember Brooklyn, but Little Guy would not. Just like my husband, who had been three years old when he left Brooklyn.
I looked at my husband over the kids’ heads and we shared a silent bittersweet moment at this realization.
We told Bunky she could tell him stories about Brooklyn. We talked about how wonderful our time had been here, that we had a good run, but we would begin fresh adventures in New Hope. I smiled as I said these things, which are all true, but it’s not my natural tendency to look at change as adventure. I usually look at it with doom, or at the least, trepidation.
But having kids changes things, people. I don’t want my kids to soak up my lifelong tendency for negativity. I’m trying hard to do what my mom used to tell me to do: see the glass half full, make lemonade out of lemons, choose sweet over sour. But it is not easy. My poor mom, I can see how I must have broke her heart with my bouts of gloomy sadness. How I refused to choose joy even when it was laid out in front of me.
I see so much of myself in my daughter and it kills me. I want to save her from myself, from herself, but I can’t. I want her to love herself and love her life and choose love, but I can’t make her do any of those things just as my mother couldn’t make me. Being a mom is brutal that way. You relive the hardest moments of your life through your kids. And the best ones, too. Like these.
So, life happens. But I’m learning to roll with it. The fireflies will be there no matter where we go. We just have to look.
I knew I wasn’t the only one! Who loves Judy Blume, I mean. Obvs. Two awesome bloggers, Dana from the Kitchen Witch and Kim from Gane Possible have created this incredible project, aptly titled, The Judy Blume Project, for all of us writers and readers who love JB. They invited any like-minded folks to write about their own personal Blume-esque experience.
So, here’s mine…
I have always been a reader, and fortunately, I had the kind of parents who put up with my (obsessive) habit. I read in bed, on couches, at the kitchen table, while walking down the street, leaning against trees, and even in movie theaters and concerts (I never left home without a book in hand). It was like my adolescent security blanket.
Reading was my comfort, my pleasure, my escape. I could do anything, go anywhere, be anyone.
Not surprisingly, one of my favorite young adult authors was – and still is – Judy Blume. She is a prolific author with a gift for writing in both female and male voices, but for obvious reasons, I gravitated to her books about adolescent girls. I loved their awkwardness, confusion, humor, and social anxiety. It mirrored my own. I read and reread Deenie, Starring Sally J. Friedman As Herself, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Tiger Eyes and others, wishing I could reach into the worn pages and pull out the characters. Blume’s stories nourished me, they were my surrogate friends, and in some ways, they taught me how to be a person.
Blubber, about the bullying of an overweight girl, was tough to get through. I read it with butterflies in my stomach the entire time, and whenever I thought about stopping, I kept on. Writing a book in the voice of a less than sympathetic character, Blume forced the reader to share the perpetrators’ perspective, an uncomfortable place to be. The lessons I learned about the consequences of choosing cruelty over compassion, taking the easier road over the higher one, and the price you pay for both, astounded and confounded my adolescent self. They still do.
Years later, in my early twenties, I had the opportunity to meet my hero, the author whose words shaped me, and helped solidify my desire to become a writer. I lived in Manhattan where celebrity sightings were as common as pigeons, yet I was never more star-struck than that evening.
When I saw her across the room at a National Book Award party in Gracie Mansion, I was terribly nervous. The fear of making a fool of myself was high on my list of anxieties, but so was another concern that I couldn’t put a finger on at the time. Now, I see what was at risk: a deflation of my admiration.
Well, turns out I had no need to worry. Judy was so gracious, smiling kindly as I spilled out my lifelong love for her stories, and together we talked about her books and writing.
Oh, be still my heart. I don’t think I stopped smiling the rest of the night.
I still remember talking to my mother on the phone as I walked home, dazed and gloriously happy in the cool night air, under the blazing city lights.
Thank you Judy Blume for meeting every one of my expectations, and blazing such a kickass trail of stories that helped shape a generation, and beyond.
Did you read Judy as a kid? Tell me your favorites. If not, what were (or are!) some beloved Young Adult novels?
Be warned: I’m about to go wide and deep. Down low, where the sun don’t shine, etc. So, if you’re here for the sugartastic kickass confection I promised for a few weeks now, the amazing Gluten Free Rainbow Birthday Cake I made for Bunky, please scroll All The Way Down. Thanks. See you there.
And now, for those of you who are still here…
My daughter, that sweet wild handful of mine, known here as Bunky, just turned six years old.
She is finishing kindergarten and she is growing UP. Fast. It’s like a race to the finish, but there is no finish for a parent (ideally), and I feel like I’m running behind her, struggling to keep up, trying so hard because I can see her tangled blonde ponytail swinging in front of me like a metronome and I can see the sun shining on her still soft skin, but not as new as it once was, and I see the dirty bottoms of her heels, flapping out of her crocs, and oh my god she’s nearly out of my reach.
That’s the goal, I know. Letting go. Not pretending to own our children. To respect them as miniature humans, growing like fruit on a tree, ripening before our eyes. We can’t keep fruit from falling off the tree. If we do, it will rot there. So, we let it fall and hope it won’t get too bruised when it hits the ground.
My kids are out right now with their dad at the playground while I wait for the worker guys to clean out our dryer vents. I was doing dishes when my husband buzzed and told me to come to the front of our apartment to get Bunky, who had to use the bathroom.
I slipped on my shoes and went into the hallway, past the dryer vent guys, stepping over the snaky green hose they’re using to suck out all the lint and crap that has been collecting and gunking up the pipes ever since they came here last year. She runs to me all smiles and using her goofy baby voice, goes pee, asks me to wipe her (!) and I do (!!) and then tells me she can run down the hall herself, out past the dryer guys, over the snaky hose, and I’m smiling trying to be all cool, like sure, you’re six now, you’re a big girl but I’m still your mom and I have to make sure you’re safe, and I see her almost but not quite rolling her eyes (soon, coming SOON) and saying, but mom I can do it, I’m old enough.
I compromise and walk down the first part of the hall with her, telling her to be careful not to trip on the green hose and then she is about to turn the corner. “Do you see dad out there?” I ask and she nods, and in a flash she’s gone, her still little but not as little legs running off, dotted in the bruises of being a kid, but with a glimmer of the future, too, when they are smoother, less knobby, lean and strong and gorgeous (to me) but perhaps lacking in some way to her (alas).
She’s gone and I walk alone back to our empty apartment and go straight to my phone to text her dad. “She’s on her way. Did you get her?” And nothing for a few seconds and my heart starts to speed up as I imagine all the horrible things that could possibly happen in the span of seconds when she turned that corner and disappeared from my view. An entire horror movie of things. The silver car she saw that she assumed was her dad’s, what if it wasn’t? I start to panic. (Because kidnappers are clearly just waiting outside my apartment for little girls who think they are big kids to run outside to meet their dads in matching cars.)
“I’m sure you have her, but text me anyway,” I write to my husband and I wait.
Unable to do anything but imagine more terrible things, and I can’t help but think about the terrible nightmare I just had about Little Guy, who disappeared when I turned my head for a SECOND and how I felt so much panic and horror in that dream, and I was a wreck, a total mess, crying and screaming and freaking the F out about never seeing him again, about how it was all my fault, about the terrible things that happen to children that should NEVER EVER happen to children, or adults too of course, but children, never ever ever. When he woke me up from that hellish dream, all squirmy and hot and irritable in bed beside me, I was SO relieved that it was only a nightmare and that he was safe, I rubbed his back and helped him fall back asleep, and when he woke me up several times after that, whimpering and sweaty from his own dreams, I didn’t feel annoyed, just grateful.
Now, waiting for my husband’s text, I can’t do anything. I can’t do the dishes or touch the computer or eat my gluten free bagel, I just stand there, heart thumping, and I wait.
Then the text comes. “I got her.”
And I nearly cry with relief, and laugh a little at my dramatic thoughts. Then I stop laughing and shake my head, and I think: why, why, why did I ever think having kids was a good idea?
What kind of crazy f-ed up, selfish a-hole has kids when so many horrible things can happen to them? When you can’t keep them protected and safe forever? I wonder, not for the first time, why didn’t anyone tell me this before I had kids? And then, for the first time, I realize, someone did warn me. And that person was my mom.
I remember being a kid, probably a teenager, and my mom talking about how awful the world can be (what kind of awful, mom? No answer) and if she knew then what she knew now maybe she wouldn’t have had kids. BAM. Did I hear that correctly? I may have tried to clean out my ears because frankly I was horrified. I was her kid, and she loved me, so what the hell was she talking about? This was totally not allowed and against all the rules, and I promptly disregarded what she was saying, chalking it up to nuclear war or earthquakes, never for a second thinking beyond that, deeper than that, darker than that.
But of course. That is what she meant. The deepest fear and deepest truth of being a parent is knowing that you can NEVER KEEP YOUR CHILD TRULY SAFE. Even when they are babies and you carry them everywhere, there are NO guarantees. OhmygodwhatthefuckhaveIdone?!
Sidebar from YOU: Enough of this horrible doomsday crap, where is that gluten free rainbow birthday cake that you promised us?!?!
You are pissed, I know. I’m sorry. I warned you.
So. I do the dishes and talk to myself, to my mom. I say, now I get it, mom! I understand what you were talking about, and as sad as this realization is, it’s kind of awesome too, to have a connection with my mom like this, and she’s been dead for almost seven years. I love that I can still learn from her.
I start to make deals with God, or whoever, because this is what I used to do as a kid and I’m feeling a little like I did then, when things felt so bad and out of my control that the only thing to do was to pray, even if some of those prayers were pretty selfish (the kind about growing boobs, for example) and even the not selfish ones (please don’t let my mom’s multiple sclerosis get any worse) and I was kind of sure even back then that they would not, could not, be answered.
But I’m making deals anyway. I’m saying, please God or whoever, let my dear Bunky and tender Little Guy grow up safe in the world, let them experience the normal range of pain and heartache, the kind that you have to feel in order to be human, in order to feel the flipside, joy, but please please please keep them safe from the other stuff, the kind of stuff that nightmares are made of, the kind of stuff that happens to other people’s children, please let mine be spared. Selfish. Totally. I know.
And I also know there are no guarantees, no deals I can make with anyone to keep my children safe, but I say it anyway because it’s all I can do.
My daughter is six years old. She is beautiful and terrible all at once. She throws tantrums, still (sigh) and she has emotions that are so powerful, so big, she’s like a miniature tsunami, and watch out, she will explode on you, and many times I don’t have the patience or the presence of mind to help her and I yell or shut down, but I’m trying to be better because she needs me to be better, and I love her.
Every now and then, like this morning, I make it through her storm with love in my heart and in my voice, and I hold her while she is screaming and kicking me, trying to hurt me, telling me she will hurt me, and I say, completely calm, “I love you, you can’t hurt me because I will always love you, but I’m holding you because I won’t let you hurt yourself,” and I repeat some form of this for a while, until I feel her body stop fighting so hard, the slaps less forceful, and then she is calmer, still pissed as anything, but calmer, and I let her go and she gets up and walks away talking shit, but I know she feels my love and I know she doesn’t feel shame about her big feelings (she gets them from somewhere, after all, and I know that shame myself) and she grumbles and groans, but she is safe.
Little Guy gets worried about her, but he also feeds off my energy, so while she was railing, before I went to her, I talked to him about his sister’s big feelings, about how she will be okay, and that she needs to be loud sometimes, and he nodded – so wise, this boy, I’m not even kidding – and he was calm too, instead of yelling and holding his ears, and we ALL got through it in one piece, which doesn’t always happen (like the night before, and the day before that).
Being a parent is HARD. It’s hard to feel love for your child when they are screaming at you, hitting you, hating you, but you have to dig deep and find it, remember that look on their baby face when they were sleeping, when their lips were full and dewy and pursed, like a sweet rose bud, and their face composed, relaxed, and soft.
Think about the look on their face when they felt fear, their eyes wide and scared, their bodies shaking, their mouths wrenched open in pain. Think of whatever you have to think about to remind yourself how small they are, how young, how vulnerable, how much they need to be loved. By you.
Now. For that cake…
Oh, hell, come back next week. It’s a boxed mix and about seven tubs of Betty Crocker frosting, for crying out loud. I will post pretty pictures and funny directions. I just can’t do it now.
Postscript, to all the people who don’t have kids, who may be cursing me for writing this post, and to all the parents who don’t want to be reminded of this horrible bullshit:
Most of the time, pretty much 97% of the time, when you’re a parent, you don’t think about this stuff. You can’t. Because it would make you ape shit crazy. Because you would wrap up your entire family in bubble wrap (something my mom used to joke about, hmm, not such a joke). Because 97% of the time, you’re on autopilot, getting shit done, driving kids places, making meals, reading books, playing legos, wiping butts (not forever, hopefully), bandaging cuts, wiping away tears, baking cookies, and having dance parties.
You shelve this stuff, you bracket it, because you have to. It’s only in those rare fleeting moments, where you read a post like this, or see or hear something awful in the news, or have a nightmare, and then suddenly your heart skids to a stop and you have to hold onto something so you won’t fall down.
Most days it’s business as usual. And sometimes that business is annoying as anything, and sometimes it’s beautiful, and sometimes it’s just the crap in between. All you can do is hang on tight, because being a parent is the ride of your life.
I first came across Claire DeBoer’s beautiful site, The Gift of Writing, about the art and emotional relevance of journaling, when she did a guest post on one of the writing blogs I follow. Her last sentence felt almost like a dare:
“You are the only person who can tell your story, and it is only by writing, sharing and releasing it that you can begin to rewrite your future.”
Despite the fact that I mainly write fiction (except for here, of course!) I felt an itch to meet that dare, and the seed of an essay began to take form. I somehow managed to write the first draft during spring break while Little Guy napped. It’s the story of my mother’s death, which I will revisit over and over again, in many forms, for the rest of my life. This is the latest one:
Please take a look, if you have a moment. I know it’s not the Gluten Free Rainbow Birthday Cake recipe I promised, but that post is coming soon!
One last thing, I’d like to spread the writing love around and offer a link to my dear friend Anastasia Higginbotham, who is a hugely talented writer and illustrator (not to mention a kick ass self-defense instructor, but that is another story entirely).
She is publishing a series of gorgeously illustrated nonfiction books for children about “ordinary terrible things” that can happen, such as divorce, death, and illness. Her first book, “Divorce is the Worst” will be coming out in 2015 by Feminist Press. Check out her website for a preview. I couldn’t take my eyes off her many beautiful images.
Note to my readers: This post is about my personal writing, so if you come here for the gluten free recipes and celiac banter, you can skip this and come back next week when I post a recipe for this insane GF Rainbow Birthday Cake.
However, if you’re curious about my “other” writing life, read on…
For weeks I’ve been reading through the many wonderful posts from the Writing Process blog tour, and now, in an exciting turn of events, I have been invited to join!
Big thanks to Kath Unsworth of Minuscule Moments of Inspiration, one of my favorite blogs, for including me on the #mywritingprocess tour. Kath is a fabulously talented illustrator and author-to-be who writes poignantly about motherhood, writing, and the magic of life. Her posts are inspiring and beautifully written. Please check out her contribution to this tour.
My mind is whirling with lots of ideas right now (which is unusual for me, since I’m not really a talented multi-tasker) but mainly I’m trying to rewrite the novel I finished when I was nine months pregnant with Bunky. After she arrived three weeks early, it sat in a drawer (in various homes) for FIVE YEARS.
Yes, I know, crazy. I had been putting off reading it for, well, years. First out of necessity (hello, new colicky baby!) and then out of FEAR. I was scared that it would suck. The longer I waited, the more anxious I became.
Then, this past November I finally got the nerve to dust it off. And guess what? It SUCKED!
And … I was okay with that. Sure, there was a prickle of disappointment for a few mopey seconds until I laughed at myself. Of course it sucked. It was my first draft of my first novel. If it didn’t suck, I’d be some sort of crazy writing genius and that’s simply not the case.
I knew in that moment I had an important choice to make. I could succumb to my fear and use the manuscript as fireplace kindling, or, I could START AGAIN. I opted for the latter.
So, I’m rewriting my novel. There have been times when I wanted to chuck it out the window of our apartment (though it wouldn’t have gone far since we live on the ground floor) and give up, but I’ve muscled through. The story speaks to me. I feel a loyalty to my characters, to myself, and I’m determined to see it to the end, at the very least, the end of this new and better draft.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This question is a tough one for me because it brings up all my old (and not so old) insecurities and fears about my ideas being unoriginal and/or mundane. Honestly, I don’t know if my work IS that much different than other novels, except that it is MINE. I write from my heart, culling old wounds and dreams for inspiration, unearthing betrayals and mistakes and lessons learned in order to write honestly. I’ve always wanted my words to affect my readers, to pull them so completely into my story that they forget the outside world, so my story becomes part of their own.
Why do I write what I do?
I write fiction because that’s what makes my heart beat the fastest. It’s also what I love to read, and really, it’s what I’ve dreamed of writing my whole life. Novels, short stories. Reading fiction, escaping into fiction, is how I spent my childhood, my adolescence, and beyond. I would love to contribute my own.
But I also enjoy writing nonfiction, like blog posts and essays. I’ve written personal essays sporadically over the years, but I tend to shy away from them because they can feel too raw, too revealing. With fiction, even if it’s loosely based on my life, or something I’ve witnessed, I get to call it Fiction and automatically there is a distance. Yet, lately, I’ve been writing more personal essays because I think uncovering my own vulnerability makes me a better writer in general.
How does my writing process work?
Basically, I write when my kids are asleep or not around, which is not very often. I have a sitter that comes one morning a week, which gives me about 2.5 hours of uninterrupted time. This is my prime writing time, where I can run off to a café and disappear into my laptop.
But fortunately, I can also write during my son’s naps, because unlike his big sister who never slept more than 45 minutes at a time, his naps are wonderfully predictable and long. I am super lucky for this and try to make the most of this time (sorry to my husband for all the laundry pile-up and dirty dishes).
If I had to describe my actual “process” I think it’s a combo of instinct and continuing education. Since I started revising my novel, I have discovered some truly life/write saving blogs. I am trying to teach myself what I don’t intuitively know, which is the rather large and looming question of how to write a novel. That said, if I spent all my time reading about HOW to write, I wouldn’t get much writing done.
The true secret to being a writer is to actually WRITE.
So, when I have time to write, I try to do only that. I put my phone out of reach, I opt NOT to go online if I’m at a café, and focus solely on the task at hand, writing. If I’m at home, I gather everything I need first, like my coffee and snacks, because once I’m on a roll, I don’t want to move from my chair.
Dani Shaprio wrote an excellent book entitled, Still Writing, and there is a great section about creating a pre-writing ritual to get your brain ready to work. Drink a cup of tea, ring a bell, light a candle, take a few meditative breaths, anything repetitive that you do every time to get you in the mood, so to speak.
When I don’t have time to write, I brainstorm: on paper, on my phone, or just in my brain. The awesome part is I can do this anytime, anywhere. I love working on dialogue when I’m pushing my toddler in his stroller, or when I’m (blissfully) alone in the shower. I find it super helpful to take notes and plan out the next scene I need to work on so when it’s time I am READY to GO.
Abigail Watkins writes at www.writingwhilethekidssleep.blogspot.co.uk. Her blog first caught my eye because of its perfect name (I mean, isn’t it the truth!) and I love reading her updates about how she manages to juggle four children and work along with her writing. Here is her bio:
I have been following Amber Strocel’s blog for years, perhaps longer than any other, never wavering in my readership, because I love her down to earth demeanor and her insightful commentary on family life and beyond. Here is her bio:
Krista is one of my oldest friends, as in pre-millennial. We met at work and became fast friends/partners-in-crime in 1999. Our shared love of words inspired a website called readingdivas.com (only the homepage is active now, alas) – long before there was such thing as a “blog.” She is both literary and fantastical; her stories stretch the bounds of reality in the most fascinating of ways. I’m SO excited she agreed to join the tour! Here is her bio:
I hope you visit them on May 12th when they post their Writing Process posts, I know I will. Thanks for sticking around for this post! Next up, secrets of making the most sugar-tastic GF Rainbow Cake…