Doin’ the Blog Hop

Way back in April, my writer friend and fellow AROHO attendee and Haiku Room contributor Lisa Rizzo invited me to a blog hop. Unfortunately, the timing of that blog hop coincided with the first week of graduate school and I never had the chance to write that blog. Earlier this week, my good friend Cami Ostman accepted an invitation to a blog hop, and though she didn’t explicitly invite me to participate, she did list my blog as one of three that she “keeps an eye on.” Both of these women inspire me and when I read Cami’s blog I realized with dismay that I’d never completed my commitment to Lisa. Then today I got a ping from my good writing buddy and recently published author Kari (Rhymes with Safari) Neumeyer asking me to participate in her blog hop. I am honored and yes! I will participate. Thank you for the invites ladies.

The various blogs had different questions, so I present to you a bit of a mash up:

What are you working on?
I am happy to report that I just finished my second paper for this quarter, this one for my Systems Perspectives in Family Therapy class, entitled (hang on to your hats, kids, this is really exciting) “The Butterfly Effect: Looking at Strategic Therapy Through a Dynamic Systems Lens.” So happy to have that one wrapped up. My pal Linda read it this evening and said that while it wasn’t my finest bit of creative writing, I’d done a heckuva job making an academic topic easy to understand. I’ll take that. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a personal reflection paper for my Human Development in Context, Gender: A Lifespan Perspective course, entitled “A Heavy Gaze: My Gender Identity Development. “ I’m still pondering posting that paper to my blog—I found it much more difficult to write than I had anticipated as it touched on some very personal (and deeply seated) experiences. Between my papers for the Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) program in which I am enrolled, I dabble in haiku and non-fiction essay writing via my blog. I do, of course, still have the proverbial “book in the bottom drawer,” my memoir to which Kari referred that I pull out occasionally to work on. Mostly though, I just think about it and pilfer material from it for my personal reflection essays for school.

Why do you write what you do?
I write to make sense of my world. I know that sounds cliché, and I think Joan Didion said it first (and more eloquently, perhaps), but it’s true. Everything I write, academic papers included, puts my life in some perspective. The two essays I’ve had anthologized deal with my experiences as a lesbian and how I struggled (and still struggle) to make that identity work for me in a world that would prefer I be something than who I authentically am. I write haikus to make sense of daily occurences—quick, distilled sense of individual moments. My blog is a sort of sounding board where I put stuff up that I’ve been pondering to see if it makes sense to other people as well. Also, I write because I totally dig feedback. I love people’s reaction to my writing—I want to read and hear what they think about what I’ve written, the questions I raise, the points I make.

How does my writing process work?
I loved Cami’s answer to this question—she wrote about her very literal process, from blocking out the time on the calendar to putting her butt in the chair. For me, my writing begins with a niggling idea in the back of my head, a thought that won’t go away and begins to gain traction. I am a poor scheduler—I write when I feel so moved, when that idea can’t be contained in my head any longer. Then I pull out my laptop and sit my butt in the chair. That’s my process for essays/blogs anyway. With haiku, I’m more intentional. I write in my journal or, just as often, on my iPhone’s notepad application, and jot down a word or a phrase that has caught my attention. Then I word map/free associate and jot down related words or images. I try to think in metaphors and similes when I write haiku. Of course I count syllables. Occasionally, a haiku will come to me as if the heavens have opened up and the angels are singing the Alleluia chorus, but that’s rare. Exciting, but not very reliable.

Where do you like to write?
I am most productive when I write at home. I write a surprising amount of haiku while I’m in bed, either before I go to sleep or first thing in the morning. As I type this blog, I am in bed, in fact. That said, I am a very social writer. I prefer to write with friends in coffee shops around town or at our local independent movie theater, The Pickford where they have a nice selection of beverages and inexpensive popcorn. I like to be out and about—I begin to chafe if I am alone with myself for too long.

What are your favorite books to give as gifts?
For baby showers, I always give Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions. Other than that, it really depends on the person. I like to give books that will speak to the recipient. Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and Children of God are probably the ones I would give most often—they are absolutely one-of-a-kind books. Practically indescribable and altogether brilliant.

Three blogs—besides Kari’s, Cami’s, and Lisa’s—that I read regularly (but with whom I have not discussed a blog hop):

Jolene’s Life in Focus—Jolene takes amazing photographs and writes just as well. Her blog is a wonderful combination of travel adventure and photography. She has a great eye and is a funny, astute writer. We met in a memoir class and continue to meet regularly to write and to talk about writing and her memoir, Spirited Away which chronicles her adventures across Ireland.

Hooked: One Woman at Sea Trolling for Truth—I met my friend Tele in memoir class as well. Her book, with the same name as her blog, is forthcoming from Riverhead Books in the next year. When she’s not fishing in Alaska, she makes her home in Bellingham. A self-described feminist, yoga-posing, vegetarian, tree-hugging fisherman, Tele is warmth and grace personified, qualities that show up in her writing as well as in her life.

Jennifer Wilke—Jennifer is another Bellinghamster who writes with wit and courage about caregiving for her aging mother. Her blog is full of poignant and humorous moments—insights in the most difficult moments. She is also working diligently on a Civil War novel, The Color of Prayer, based on her great-grandfather’s letters.

The First Time

Beyond Belief Contributors:  Cami, Pam, Susan, Colleen, Elise

So, Readers, the reading at Elliott Bay Book Company was fantastic! The first time was all I expected it to be ~ magical, terrifying, exhilarating. Every last one of us did ourselves proud—Cami, Susan, Colleen, Elise, me. At first, I didn’t think anyone was going to show up, and I wondered if we’d still carry on with the reading for a crowd of six, five of which were us, one of which was The Little Woman. 
But then Greg—our Elliott Bay liaison— told us to wait til 10 after the hour and sure enough, next time I looked up, the place was packed. And while I definitely know that a full house is the better than an empty one, I had a small moment of panic.  That panic I wrote of last week—the fear of being seen.


I had practiced my reading the night before with TLW who told me that I needed to be more passionate in my delivery.  So, I had that in my head as I stepped up to the microphone there in the basement at Elliott Bay Books (what is it with basements as reading areas?).

I intro’d my reading with the story of the Jehovah’s Witness flyer with its metrosexual Jesus that arrived on my doorstep the same day I got my copies of the BB anthology in the mail.  That got a good laugh—a good sign.  And I tried my darnedest to read with passion.  (TLW reported later that I nailed it, passion-wise). Still, I was nervous, nerves that come from the fear not just of being exposed, but of being misunderstood by strangers and misinterpreted by those closest to me.

Anne Lamott advises to “write as if our parents were dead” and that seems good in theory, but it’s scary in reality.  My story paints a rather unflattering portrait of my parents, and this is one of my primary anxieties—both that my parents will be hurt/angry/sad that I wrote so honestly about what transpired AND that the audience will think they are bad people with whom I’ve severed all ties. 

That’s ME! At Elliott Bay Books!
So, it was with great relief that an audience member asked The Question—the one question I hoped hoped hoped someone would ask:  “How is your relationship with your parents now?” I’m happy to report that I have solid relationships with both of my parents and that we’ve all come out the other side of this crazy religious nonsense.
And really, that’s the best part of my story. 

Dash of Dysfunction. Pinch of Crazy

I’ve started working on my proposal for my memoir, and one of the features of said proposal is a list of competitive titles. You know, books that might be similar to mine, books that might share a theme with mine. Books that might share shelf space with mine—when and if . . . I came up with this short list off the top of my head:
The Commitment by Dan Savage (Gay marriage)
The Kid, by Dan Savage (Gay parenting)
Kramer vs. Kramer by Avery Corman (quintessential acrimonious custody battle)
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott (unexpected parenting)
Why be Normal by Jeanette Winterson (adoption, religion, lesbianism)
Jesus Landby Julie Scheeres (religion, cross-cultural adoption)
In each of these books, I can find one thread of my story, but I couldn’t think of a single book in which two white lesbians adopt two racially diverse children, split up when one mother decides she can no longer send her daughters to daycare and so quits her job, a move that gets her kicked out of the house, and forces her to spend the next 16 years and tons of money on therapy trying to remain relevant in her daughters’ lives.
I think I may have found a niche in the market, Dear Reader. Throw in some subtext about fundamentalist Christianity, add a dash of dysfunction and a pinch of crazy. I think I just might have a winner.
The thing about writing a proposal . . . the proposal goes out to agents with the intent of wowing an agent who will then sell the book to a publisher. Selling the book to the publisher means the story will be, uhm, published. For the entire world to read. For family and friends to read.
What if family and friends find the book distasteful? Objectionable? Disastrous, even? Then what? What if our words change the way people see us? What if our words reveal our deepest truths and our families and friends and co-workers reject our truth? Unfriend us? Treat us differently? What then, Dear Reader?
Experience tells me that some will be upset when I speak my truth and that some will find me brave. Some will admire me and others will turn away. But I will be able to face myself, and that, I think, matters the most.