9 Things I Wonder About Other Writers

While I was reading blogs–yes, I still do that–I came across this post by my friend Alison, which was inspired by Kristen. I really liked it.

I have been thinking a lot about that label “writer” lately. Are “blogger” and “writer” synonymous? I suppose so. I tell my students that if you write, you are a writer. However I think there is a difference between “writer” and “capital ‘W’ Writer”.

I definitely consider myself a writer (well, a Teacher-writer, if you want to be specific), but a Writer? I’m not sure.  I don’t think being published means you are automatically a Writer. I think there is more to it than that, but I haven’t figured out what. In the meantime, here are my answers to some interesting questions.

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1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet?

Yes, always. Cortney reads my blog regularly and I send him almost every draft of something I am going to submit for publication elsewhere. He is my biggest cheerleader in anything I do and really pushes me to go to the next level in teaching, learning, and writing. I smiled when I read that Stephen King also has his wife read everything he writes.

2. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback about it? 

Most of my readers are people I know “in real life”. My mom is probably second after Cortney in being my support. She doesn’t always agree with what I have written, but she proudly shares it with everyone and encourages me to keep writing.

My friends and other family members read it from time to time–when they see me post on Facebook and the topic interests them. Many members of my church have become readers, as well as some of my colleagues. Our church library even has one of the books I was published in on its shelves.

I’ve always been deeply honored when people I know tell me they read my writing and enjoy it. It’s also very humbling when former students, people I went to high school with, or past co-workers either approach me “in real life” or reach out via email or Facebook to tell me they enjoy what I write.  That keeps me going.

3. What do you do with the pieces that continually get rejected–post on your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let it go?

The pieces that I have had rejected are either posted to my blog or kept for something else. I never know what I could revise and use again.

Rejection has taught me about who I am as a writer though, and what sorts of publications are more important to me than others. I find that I don’t fit many of the places that other bloggers find success submitting to. I don’t fit the mold that many places like the Huffington Post, Mamalode, etc are looking for.

While I do write about motherhood, most of those essays get rejected, and I’ve become Ok with that. I don’t naturally write beautiful, flowy pieces about being a mom. When I do, it’s usually something that just happens by chance.

The writing I get most recognition for are my opinion pieces and my posts on education. In fact, I’ve been published twice now in academic journals, and that is probably what I am most proud of.

4. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?

I don’t think I have ever just “let go” of a piece. If it didn’t start as something here on my blog, I will publish it here in some embodiment of it’s original whether I have to make it more “blog friendly” if it was academic, or revise it down to fit the attention span of blog readers.

5. What is your main source of reading-based inspiration (especially you essayists)? Blogs? Magazines? Journals? Anthologies? Book of essays by one writer?

I read a ton. I take very seriously Stephen King’s idea that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.  I like to read books on the craft of writing, but I also just like to spend time with good writing–a good book that I can fall into for awhile. I get inspired by good writing.

I also try to read books on teaching pedagogy so I can stay abreast of best practice teaching. This leads me to try new things in my classroom and to write about it here (like I did with Reader’s Workshop and not assigning homework). I also read academic journals which both inspire me as a teacher and writer, but also give me ideas of what I can write about.

I like to read blogs as well. Lately I have been reading lots of political blogs and opinion blogs (but not the comment sections!)

6. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?

I think it’s equal parts experience and reading especially my teaching/writing posts and essays.  It’s hard to write about something you don’t experience, but reading really motivates me to write.

7. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so under-appreciated?

I think young adult literature is often under-appreciated. I know I never thought of it as “literature” until I started reading a TON of it over the past year in preparation for implementing a Reader’s Workshop in my classroom.  When I was the age my students are now, what I had available to me with teen protagonists was hardly good writing. Now I find myself spellbound by authors like Rainbow Rowell, Andrew Smith, and John Green.  I don’t think you have to have teenagers or teach them to fall in love with these books.

8. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”?

I think it depends on the kind of writing you love to do. I appreciate Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, but I also read a lot of “shop lit” (books about teaching writing) by Kelly Gallagher, Kylene Beers, Katie Wood Ray, Penny Kittle, and many others.

I also think sometimes reading authors that inspire your writing is sort of like reading a “craft book”. For instance I am largely influenced by Hemingway’s writing style of using very few words to convey very large ideas, but other than his posthumously published A Moveable Feast –which is more memoir than writing direction–there is not much writing advice he gives. I think many Writers don’t claim to know what will work for everyone; they only know what will work for themselves.

While I enjoy a good “craft” book, I don’t lean on them for a direct “Here is How to be a Capital “W” Writer” so much as I glean suggestions and ideas from them.

9. Have you ever regretted having something published? Was it because of the content or the actual writing style/syntax? 

Nope. No regrets. There have been a piece or two that I didn’t think was my best writing, but I don’t regret that it’s out there.  There are also pieces that I put out there that people read into in a way I didn’t expect, but again, I am not regretful or upset that I pushed “publish” or “send” on those pieces because they started conversations.

I’d love it if you answered a few of these. I’d also love it if you shared what YOU wonder about other writers too.

Daily Writing

I’ve now written and posted for 7 days in a row.  After all the lack of posts in the past few months (ahem, pregnancy), this is sort of a big thing. I posted on November 1st and then realized that National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo) is this month, so I thought, “what the heck? I’ll give it a try.”

I’m not sure what I thought would happen. Would the flood gates open and I would just start writing the best stuff ever? I mean, I had let the words pile up in there, surely words are like wine…getting better with age, right?

Yeah, no. Those words have gotten dusty and fat. They tumbled out all out of shape and clumsy. They are grubby and unpracticed. They are awkward and lame.

But they are coming out.

I was afraid I wouldn’t have something to say every day.

I was wrong.  In fact, I find myself looking at the world as a writer again. Everything is a potential story to tell. My writer lens is sort of scratched from being tossed aside for a few months, but it still fits. In fact, to my surprise, it’s quite comfy.

I find myself composing in my head on my commute to and from school. I’m jotting down ideas again.  And because I have committed to posting something every single day, I don’t even worry that I am not writing the next amazing masterpiece. I feel like there is so much dang pressure out there lately to write only polished, wonderful pieces…and then also submit them elsewhere, that it feels kind of good to know that I can just come here and write some stuff and post it and not feel the pressure on myself to be more amazing than the last link you clicked on.

I’m just being me here in this space.

What I am right now is a writer finding her way back, dusting off the words, and putting them down. One post at a time.

My Other Ex

When I was a kid, I used to lie on my bed on Sunday afternoons and plow through one, maybe two books in an afternoon. Once I had read all the craptacular YA lit that our local library had to offer back in the late 80’s, my mom started bringing home Agatha Christie mysteries for me to read.  I was hooked. Before I even made it to high school I was a voracious reader.

I didn’t do a lot of my own writing back then, but I did fantasize about being a famous author.  Not so much that I would be a celebrity, but that I could think of stories like that.

Well, fiction has never been my thing, but at some point all this writing that I have done on my blog since 2007 started to be something. Something I didn’t know I had in me.

It started to be good.

Maybe I couldn’t make up stories, but I could definitely tell my own.

This year my dream of becoming a published author came true when Three Minus One came out.  In September more of my writing will be published.

I am one of the author’s in the HerStories Project anthology called My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friendships.

The book is due out in September, but you can pre-order here (which also means you’ll get your book early!  WOOT!), and get a $1 off by ordering early. Aw yeah.


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my grateful heart

As Eddie tried to fall asleep last night, he rolled to me and said his hand hurt.

I took it in my hands and traced his palm and fingers with my fingers trying to ease any aches he had.

I watched his eyes flutter almost shut, as he took his hand out of mine to roll into a sleepy little ball, but before he nodded off for good, he leaned in and gave me a small delicate kiss on the back of my hand and smiled.

“I love you, mommy,” he whispered through his smile.

And then he was asleep.

I thought about all I had to do and how I should get up and leave my sleeping buddy and get to work.

But I was so tired.

So I let my eyes close and I started counting my blessings…

I have a sweet four-year old who is not shy to tell those he loves how much they mean to him.

I have an adventurous 18-month old who makes everyone happier with his belly laugh and his smile.

I have a husband who is truly my partner in this world.

I have three nephews and two nieces in this world, one nephew on the way, and one niece in heaven.

I have a faith that comforts my soul in hard times.

I have understanding students who are Ok not knowing the full-story, but understand that family comes first.

I have a family who loves and supports each other.

I have a mom and a mother-in-law who are excited to each take a grandson this weekend so Cortney and I can help a friend celebrate his birthday.

I have friends who check in with me just to say, “hey. thinking of you.” I”m not sure they know how much that means to me.

I have the best therapist.

I have a job…er jobs…that I love.

I have co-workers who make me laugh.

I have students who make me smile.

I’m good at what I do.

I have so much…

and then my eyes grew heavy and I let myself doze next to my little boy.

When I woke up, instead of going upstairs and getting out my homework and computer, I brushed my teeth and climbed into bed.

Because sometimes it’s better to be rested.

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I am excited to announce that I have been included as a contributor to a free ebook, Embracing Life: Loving Boldly with a Grateful Heart. You can get it and read my words (and those of the other 22 contributors) here or by clicking the cover of the book below.

Embracing Life

Daily Writing Manifesto

Writers write.

That is a simple truth. Every single book on writing you will ever read will tell you that if you want to be a better writer (or any writer at all), you will find time to write every. single. day.

It doesn’t have to be good writing, it just has to be writing. It does need to be more than just a grocery list or post-it note reminder, though.

Writing is thinking.

When you write through a story or an opinion or a process, you are thinking about that story or opinion or process.  Writing itself is a process, not a product.  My students are sick of my telling them this.

WRITING IS A PROCESS, NOT A PRODUCT, PEOPLE.

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We write every day in my classes. All of my classes: Senior English, Mass Media, and my Freshman Comp course at the Community College.

Each student has a notebook to call his/her own. They put their names on them, they can personalize them.  I encourage them to OWN them. At the high school I collect these notebooks quarterly (once a report card) and just once at the college level.

Each day there is a writing task or strategy projected onto my screen in my classroom. Sometimes it’s a focused- prompt–something I want students to start thinking about because it’s something in the literature or a big theme (today, for instance I am asking them to think of five words that are fairly new to the English language and then choose one to write about because we are going to be learning how to take Cornell Notes during a presentation on the history of the English language. Follow me?)

Sometimes it’s more open because I just want them to brain dump.  I usually use this after a weekend to get their “head in the game” or before we have an essay assignment come up to get their gears turning.

In the beginning, I could tell students didn’t think I was serious about writing for 10 minutes every single day. But now that we are in our third week, it’s starting to sink in that this is the routine.

Come in class, see the WRITE assignment, tardy bell rings, pull out notebook, shut mouth, start writing.

Every day.

Runners run, ballers ball, rappers rap, racers race, dancers dance, gamers game, and writers WRITE.

Football players run different plays so they are not good at only one pass, run, or defensive tactic. Musicians practice different scales and chords so they are not good at only one technique. And writers write in all different voices and tones and styles so that they are not good only at one genre of writing.

Over 90% of my students say they are going on to college after this year, but 100% say they will graduate.  This means they will be going out in to the world and will need to effectively communicate in some form.

They will need to be able to think.

Writing is thinking.

We write to know what we feel and to know what we know. We write to process ideas and solidify arguments. We write to inform. We write to feel.

We write to get it right.

Therefore we write every single day.

We write until we believe we are writers.

my words

I have been so blessed with this little gift for the written word, and more than that, I have BEEN blessed by my gift with the written word.

I don’t always get it right. I don’t always say it just how it was wanting to come out of my head.  But I get it right enough.

This week I’ve had wonderful things going on.

I wrote a post about a book I liked.

I have a giveaway to CafePress going on (a site I LOVE!)

I was syndicated on BlogHer.

I wrote a letter to Marissa Mayer.

And this other little letter I wrote grew legs and ran across the internet.

But the big thing…the thing that made my tummy do flip flops and my feet tingle…the thing that made me send an ALL CAPS EMAIL to Cortney was this:  I got news this week that some of my words {and my picture!} will be included in the May 2013 copy of Baby Talk Magazine.

My first time in actual print.

So if you find yourself in a Babies R Us or Buy Buy Baby or really any baby-related store in May, they will probably have some copies of Baby Talk on hand and if you want you can flip through and find me.

Because I AM GOING TO BE PUBLISHED IN A MAGAZINE!

ahem.

Good things.  Happy things.

No wonder I am so darn tired.

How about you? Tell me something good in YOUR life.

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