The Blog Tour: My Writing Process

 

Thanks to my friend, and amazing writer, Alia Yunis, I have been asked to be part of The Blog Tour, where I get to share a little bit about my own writing process as well as talk about three writers whom I love, and who each have blogs that you should check out!

In 2006, I went to the Hedgebrook Writers Colony off the coast of Washington on Whitbey Island.

Hedgebrook is the kind of writer’s Fantasy Land people dream about. It is built on about fifty acres. Each of six female writers, gets her own cottage, complete with wood burning stove, kitchenette, and loft.

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The days at Hedgebrook are private and filled with solitude. In the evenings, the writers get together in the large farmhouse. We would talk about our writing, about politics, religion, and life. All the writers come from different backgrounds, each with her own story to tell. I met a few of the smartest people I have ever known at Hedgebrook.

One of the best writers I met was Alia Yunis.

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Alia was working on a novel at Hedgebrook titled The Night Counter.

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The Night Counter is a wonderfully rich and hilarious modernization of The Arabian Nights. Alia quickly found a publisher for her book.  Currently, she resides in the United Arab Emirates where she teaches film and is working on a documentary.  You can check out her blog,  http://nightcounter.wordpress.com/

The other two writers I want to highlight are a couple of people I have known for some years.  Tanisha Wallace Porath’s blog, http://lifeinthewidowhood.com/, is a blog based on the loss of her husband.  Tanisha’s blog has a strong level of pathos and determination, with unbelievable comedy in the face of adversity.  I highly recommend this unconventional and well written blog.

My other good friend, Tracy Simmons, is a pastor in Anchorage, Alaska.  I have known Tracy and enjoyed his writing for many years.  He has a unique and original voice in the Christian community.  There is something in his blog for everyone and he comes to it with deep honesty and a great poetic voice.  Check out his blog here:   http://tracyblog.c3ak.com/

Please read more about Tanisha and Tracy’s blogs at the end of the article!

1) What are you working on?

Right now, I am managing a few different projects.  I am working on a Young Adult novel as well as a book of essays about growing up as a pastor’s daughter.  I am also refining one screenplay and working on a new one.  I am focusing attention on blog development and feeding the endless Twitter machine.

 

2) How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I’m a quirky girl.  I love funny stories and I am drawn to characters that look at life differently.  I love to laugh and I try to bring that out in my writing, though I’m not always successful.  🙂

 

3)  Why do you write what you do?

I think I write for the same reason anyone writes, which is to be heard.  I was raised in a very religious culture in Texas, and I was surrounded by some sweet and kind people, and certainly some delicious pies… But, it wasn’t necessarily always the most accepting upbringing.  Certain opinions or ideas, or lifestyles were automatically shut down.

I remember the first time I wrote something that felt honest to me.  It was a play called The Day Maggie Blew Off Her Head. It is a metaphysical play that takes place in heaven, where a young woman who is trapped on an Elliptical Trainer is facing the final judgement after she commits suicide.  I was nervous about some of the ideas in the play, but I was determined to tell the truth.  In the end, the experience was positive.  I had so many people approach me and say they identified with the play on a deep level and they were comforted by it, which was comforting to me.

 

4)  How does your writing process work?

Each project is different.  Sometimes I begin with a specific conclusion in mind, and other times, I start with a character that I find compelling and see where the writing will take me.

I am trying to outline more and have a better roadmap as to where I’m going, but honestly, I always find the best stuff comes when you least expect it, and that’s where the story is made.

 

Look for these blogs next week:

 

Tracy Simmons:  www.c3ak.com                                                      10678436_10204806223054976_6450775474650014244_n

Tracy Simmons is an ordained Baptist minister who has lived in Alaska for forty-two years. He currently pastors Christ Community Church, Alaska (www.c3ak.com) in Anchorage, and has been a pastor there for seventeen years. He loves making and writing music, and has been featured as an artist on A&E’s “Sister Wives”, and as a performer at the Alaska State Fair, the Anchorage Folk Festival, and numerous other venues around Alaska and the Lower 48. His original music had been featured in local theatrical productions, including Erin Williams and Amy Bridges, “The Unraveling of Edison P. Rupright”. Tracy is sometimes seen on the local theatre stage, with TBA Theatre (www.tbatheatre.org), most recently as Dr. Seward in TBA’s production of “Dracula”, adapted by P. Shane Mitchell. His current projects include casting vision and leading Christ Community Church, scoring original music for another P. Shane Mitchell original play called “Shadow Hour”, two book projects, a novel and a handbook for parents in the digital age, and a feature length documentary project. But, his best, and most important time, is spent with his beautiful wife of 26 years, Karen, his two sons Stephen and Kristofer, and their four pound Maltese puppy, Haleakala. You can find Tracy on various social media platforms such as FaceBook, Instagram at “Mortis_Alaska”, Twitter @CasualHeretic, and YouTube at TracySimmonAK. Finally, his personal blog is hosted at TracyBlog.c3ak.com. As wonderful as all of that makes Tracy out to be, please keep expectations at a moderate level.

 

Tanisha Wallace Porath

http://www.lifeinthewidowhood.com

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I was born a poor black girl in…well actually I had a pretty middle class existence in Anchorage, Alaska where I was born and raised.  I studied photography at an art college in Seattle, the name of which, try as I might, I can’t quite remember. Soon after I graduated I moved to Portland, Oregon, with my husband and started my career as an editorial photographer. Some of my clients have included: Willamette Week, The Oregonian and several other periodicals. I have two roommates that I happen to have given birth to, my daughter 11 and my son 14. I became a widow on April 2, 2013. I became a writer on April 3, 2013.

Baby on Bjorn or (step on a crack break your mother f-ing back)

“All major changes are like death. You can’t see to the other side until you are there.”
― Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park

 

You can’t be invisible when you have a baby.  Even if you were a person who lived in virtual anonymity and walked through life and department stores without being noticed… When you have a baby… Even when you are pregnant… It changes.  Wherever you go, someone will notice you and they have plenty to say…

I was six months pregnant with my daughter, Harper, and standing in the waiting area of a Chinese Restaurant in Reseda when the hostess came up to me, and without asking, put her hand on my stomach and said, “What are you going to have?”

“Are you taking my order?” I asked, taken back by the strange gesture, “I need to see a menu.”

“No, no…” She said… laughing… “Are you having a boy or a girl?”

“Oh, right,” I said, laughing uncomfortably.  “I’m having a girl.”

“Girl,” the woman repeated, running her hands across my belly like she was rubbing it for good luck.  “This is a good year to have a baby.  This is the Year of the Pig.”

She gestured to a large Chinese Zodiac banner above the register which read YEAR OF THE PIG.

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Quite honestly, I felt like a pig that year.

I’d gained close to thirty pounds and I wasn’t exactly svelt when I started…  And a stranger rubbing my belly in public wasn’t helping.

“Pigs make good babies,” she continued, at the keen interest of everyone in the waiting area.  “They are friendly.  But you can’t force them.  Pigs will be friends, but only if you are gentle.  Be gentle with this baby.”

“Thanks.  I will,” I told her, wanting to put a period on the interchange so it would end.

But the woman kept her hands on my stomach for a moment longer, then looked at me like she was going to impart some kind of ancient wisdom.

I braced myself…. Imagining words of prophecy that I could write down in Harper’s baby book that she would one day read, and would give clarity for the rest of her life.

The woman leaned into me, smiled and said…

“I’m giving you a free appetizer.  Free Pork Buns.  My blessing for the baby.”

And that was the end of it.

Several more times throughout my pregnancy this would happen.

A friend I hadn’t seen in awhile came up to greet me… But instead of hugging me, she put her hands on my stomach. “I’ve always wanted to do this she said.” She ran her fingers around the full circumference of my belly, feeling under it, then resting both hands right in the middle.  “Your tummy is hard like a watermelon. That’s weird.” She laughed while she groped me.  “This is so cool!  Like a giant coconut!!! Could the baby bang her head in here?  Don’t jog or run too hard.”

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An elderly woman even snuck up on me in the grocery store while I was reaching for Triscuits.  She placed her small hand on my stomach.  “Can I tell you a secret?” she asked, speaking softly.

“Sure.” I told her…  And when I turned around, she took my very pregnant belly in her hands and rubbed me like Buddha.

“If your water breaks in the store,” she whispered, “grab a jar of peaches and drop it. Then, just walk out.  My daughter-in-law did that and it worked.”

“Really?” I asked her.  “Will my water break that hard?  Will it be like a river gushing out of me?  And what if I’m not near any peaches?”

“Well,” she said, looking perplexed.  “If the peaches are close….  Find some.  I guess a jar of anything could do… Even pickles…  It will save you some embarrassment.”

That was the most bizarre information I received while pregnant and begged the question… If you drop a jar of peaches in the woods and no one sees it, are you still liable?  And how could dropping a jar of peaches on the ground save me any embarrassment?

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I would be the woman whose water broke AND she dropped peaches.  Should I also accompany dropping the peaches with a loud exclamation like… “I’m sure glad my water did not break…  But I’m sure sorry I dropped these peaches and they splashed all over me like a flood of incontinence…”  Then I run…. No one would suspect anything I’m sure… No one…

The inquisitiveness of strangers continued once I had the baby.

Take for instance… The Baby Bjorn… I had a Baby Bjorn and I was very proud of it.  Baby Bjorns are the Mercedes model of free-handed baby carriers.  It was red and black and I found it actually looked quite slimming on me despite the human being dangling from the front of it.

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I would soon learn, however, that whenever you saddle a small human to your frontside and carry her in a contraption that fastens about your back, the way the Baby Bjorn does, you will be subject to LOTS of concerned people CONSTANTLY making statements about whether or not it is good for your lower back.

“Does your back hurt?” random people who’d never given a crap about me before, would say… “I don’t see how that could be a good thing. It puts too much pressure on your back. I don’t want you to have a back problem.”

WHO ARE YOU?!?!?   This thing was tested by loads of Swedish So-and-Sos. Can a mamma take a walk?

God help me… Once I ran into an actual Chiropractor while I was walking in our residential area. Harper had fallen asleep in the Baby Bjorn and this man stopped me and talked to me for ten minutes at least about his “concern” for my lower back. By the time I had gotten away from the good DC, I of course had his card and a promise to give him a call so he could “manipulate” me later that week.  Then Harper woke up, realized she was trapped in a straight-jacket, and proceeded to scream-cry the full twenty minute walk back to the house.

But the group of “back supporters” weren’t the only people I had to look out for.

Concerned old women who thought my baby was cold seemed to magically appear from thin air.

It didn’t matter where I was, either…. I could be standing next to an oven inside a tanning booth, surrounded by  Heating Lamps in the middle of the desert… But if Harper wasn’t bundled up like a papoose, these old women would step up and make comments like,  “Do you have a jacket for that baby?  I think that baby is very cold.”

“No,” I would say,  “She’s not.”

“Do you always take your baby out on such cold evenings?” an old woman sitting in a car actually asked me as I passed her on foot.  “It’s too cold out here for a baby.  You’re baby is going to catch a cold.”

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“First of all,” I told Driving Miss Daisy, “She’s not cold.  But anyway… Even if she was… You can’t catch a cold simply from being cold.  A cold is a virus.”

“You can catch hypothermia, though,” she called after me… “And your baby might get it if you don’t get her inside.”

Right… Hypothermia… On a freezing California evening in the middle of summer…I walked away from the woman between palm trees and a man mowing his lawn in shorts.

Then… There are the people at the grocery store… These people are terrific.  They love to talk to your baby.  Feel your baby’s feet and give unsolicited parenting advice that can range from what type of diapers to buy…. To what to feed the baby and the kind of formula to use…

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All this… while you clumsily try to get in-and-out before another major meltdown.  And when your baby does melt down, or is driving you crazy… And you think the line might stretch on for eternity…

Someone will always say… “Remember this time.  It passes so quickly.  It feels like my kids were that age just moments ago.”

One of my favorite poems by Kahlil Gibran says:

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, they belong not to you.

Though it’s hard sometimes in a fast world with places to go and things to do… To appreciate those people driving me crazy with tips and anecdotes… I try to remind myself that from that first moment when a woman placed her hands on my stomach and gave me free Pork Buns, it was clear that Harper’s life didn’t belong only to me…  There was a world of people excited about her entrance into the world… Excited about her life, and the care of it.  Concerned about mine too…