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 Carolyn, winner of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird! Thank you to everyone who signed up for my newsletter. If you haven’t signed up yet, go now! I’m choosing winners at random from my entire email subscription list.
Next up to give away is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, a clever and entertaining book filled anecdotes about his life interspersed with practical advice.
I had it in my collection for years, but for some reason it took me almost a decade to pick it up. Big mistake. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re in for a treat.
The results of this random drawing will be posted here and on Writing at the Table on Tuesday, December 23rd.
Now for the post…
During the thirteen years I lived in Brooklyn, I never went to Starbucks. Why would I? I lived in the land of Quirky Cool Coffee Shops (that’s a direct quote from the linked article, by the way, I’m not trying to be a snob), and besides, the closest Starbucks was too far of a walk.
But I love writing in cafes, and the closest one to me in Brooklyn was a little sliver of a cafe called Steeplechase, which had the most delicious cinnamon chip scones (alas, not gluten free). I used to go there once a week when my son had a sitter.
When we moved to New Hope, I knew I’d have to find a place to write. Sure, I had a whole house instead of a tiny apartment, but the thing is, I like the background noise of coffee shops. Plus, I love coffee.
I tried seeking out a cute little independent shop, but seating was a problem. The local Starbucks, however, has some rather comfy armchairs. And did you know they now offer a blonde (light) roast? It’s pretty tasty and far less intense than their dark roasts. Just my personal preference because I know plenty of people who can’t get enough of their regular sludge, I mean coffee.
Anyway, I was also pleased to see that they added some healthy and hearty food options to their menu. Including this awesome salad, which to my knowledge is gluten free (though not labeled as such):
(Yes, it’s sitting on my dashboard because I was too hungry to take it home for a proper photo shoot.)
So, after buying it several times, I decided to make it myself. It’s a bit labor intensive, but it makes a week’s worth of lunches (unless someone in your household steals half of them…)
DIY Kale, Brown Rice + Roasted Veggie Bowl
For the recipe, head over to Writing at the Table…
*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 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?
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…
I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes kind of girl. The whole peeking around the curtain thing is exciting (please don’t read into that line, this is a family blog). I’m talking about the process, people. The artistic process.
Writing can be such a solitary practice. By nature it has to be, unless you’re one of those collaborators (lucky you). But for most of us hunched-over-screens-all-across-the-globe kind, it’s solo stuff. Which makes it doubly more fantastic to read behind-the-scenes about writers.
That’s probably why I’m totally enamored by this Writing Process series that I discovered over at one of my favorite blogs, via one of those “blog hops.” (WARNING: rambling sidebar happening now – I’m sorry, but I have a hard time getting behind the “hop” name, since for me it conjures up such a bizarre juxtaposition of frogs, bunnies, and 50s dances. But moving along…)
Inspired by this, “hop” I decided to write a bit about my own practice. Specifically, my blogging practice, because my fiction one varies, as you might expect. I’m more flexible and fancy free with blogging, which may or may not be a good thing.
So, here’s the thing about me:
I’ve never been much of a planner. In writing or life in general. I’m more of an instinct girl. Inspiration turns me on (again, not in that way, come on!). I feel a stirring, sense a seed (WHOA, no terrible puns unintended, I swear) and I go with it. Sometimes I fall on my face, other times I soar.
Like right now I’m thinking the above paragraph is a bit of a face plant, but I’m leaving it since time is of the essence. Which, ultimately, leads us to my biggest challenge in writing ANYTHING:
I have no time.
Seriously. Sometimes I don’t even let myself pee. Well, not until it’s a real emergency anyhow. I forget to eat, shower, and brush my teeth because I’m often too busy feeding, bathing, and brushing everyone else’s teeth (not my husband’s, just to clarify).
Since I don’t have time to pee, I don’t have much time to do anything else.
So how do I write blog posts (let alone anything else)? Well. To clarify, when I say “no” time, I really mean extremely limited, and when it occurs, it can be interrupted at any moment. I write when Little Guy naps and Bunky’s at school. Both have to happen at the same time. I write when I have a babysitter, which is for about three hours one morning a week. I occasionally write at night after I wrestle LG into bed – but sometimes this doesn’t happen until 10pm. Not even kidding about that.
For example, right now it’s early evening and I’m writing this while Bunky takes a shower and Little Guy is dancing to the Frozen soundtrack. I’m standing in a corner of the kitchen (where I can see LG out of the corner of my eye since we live in an apartment) so he doesn’t see the computer because if he does, he’ll want to watch Frozen videos on it, or play Thomas the Train games (torture). Right now he’s asking me to help him because he’s spinning in circles and threatening to fall into the train table.
Thirty minutes later… okay, I’m back. It’s mere seconds until the bedtime bomb explodes so this will be brief. I quit earlier so I could dance with my two-year-old son to “Let it Go” while we both belted it out, in pale comparison to Idina Menzel’s version, but rather adorably if I say so myself.
Yet, you can see how the time thing is not on my side.
So, here’s what I do. Here’s the HOW.
I write in PIECES. A little here, a little there. It can take me weeks to write a post. Some days it’s all I can do to upload some photos.
What also helps is to THINK about my posts in advance. I do some of my best thinking in the shower (maybe because I’m alone?! Though not recently since LG has become a shower-addict). I think when I’m waiting for Bunky at school pick-up, when LG is falling asleep. Thinking helps. I can formulate my ideas, take notes on my phone, maybe even think out loud. Ever see a woman pushing a stroller talking out loud to HERSELF? Might be me. Some posts are written entirely in my head first.
It’s a piece-meal process that took some getting used to. In my early blogging days (as in almost 3 years ago!) I used to get a little OCD about finishing. I’d start a blog post and feel this NEED to finish it. And when forced, inevitably, to stop, I’d get upset. I quickly realized I’d have to change my ‘tude because my life was not going to be changing any time soon. Interruption is a parenting byproduct. To get upset by it is futile and exhausting. So, I got used to it. I started to expect it. Knowing it may take a dozen (more or less – this post took exactly 12!) little moments to make up one post, makes it easier to put the computer away when I have to.
Now, there are some times when I have a chunk of time – when the sitter comes and during LG’s naps. He will sleep at least an hour, maybe two, and sometimes if the stars are aligned, three (!). Something Bunky NEVER did, so I really and truly treasure and appreciate his nap times. I try to squeeze out every single minute of them. For writing. Dishes, laundry, and sadly, dinner planning often get sidelined. Sorry, but I have my priorities.
When I have my block o’ time the best thing I can do is PLAN AHEAD. Meaning, THINK AHEAD. If I think about what I want to write about, what I’d like to accomplish – be it finishing a blog post or a scene in my novel – I am better equipped at making it happen. If I force myself NOT to go online (not for email, not for research if possible), I am more productive. If I make an effort NOT to look at my phone for vital texts (I don’t actually get vital texts, but sometimes I forget this), I get more done. When time is of the essence, you do all you can not to waste it. I spent a good decade or more putzing around the computer, with entire DAYS at my disposal, and even though my time is so incredibly limited (in comparison), I might actually be writing more. Crazy, but true.
It seems obvious in retrospect that this blog, Aliventures, should have made my Top 10+ list, but here are two great posts by this lovely UK writer who is also a mom. The first is about making the most of your writing time. Along the lines of what I wrote, but without all the rambling. Second, this inspiring post about whether to call yourself a writer when you’re not writing. I definitely could’ve benefited from reading this when I was too exhausted by new motherhood to think about writing, and feeling crappy because of it.
So, go forth and write (or not). Write in long luxurious stretches, or short choppy ones. Write while “hiding” in your kitchen, or compose gorgeous prose while you shower or go for a run. Steal a few minutes to jot down some notes when your boss isn’t around or your kids are watching TV.
Please, share your tips and tricks for getting those words to appear. Despite the chaos of life. I’d love to hear them.