The Perils of Being a Writer and Other Favorites

This month marks WordSisters’ three-year anniversary. To celebrate, we’re sharing a selection of blogs—our favorites and yours.

crazyquiltWe hope our new readers will enjoy getting to know us better. If you’ve been reading WordSisters from the beginning, we hope you’ll enjoy rediscovering some of our perspectives on parenting, families and relationships, working women, and the writing life.

On Losing My Ambition (Open Letter to 35-Year-Old Hiring Managers) 

My friend C. mentioned that after years of freelance writing, she was interviewing to be a marketing communications manager—a position she’s eminently qualified for. During the preliminary phone interview, the interviewer expressed concern that C. wouldn’t be satisfied with being a mid-level manager. We both burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. More

The Perils of Being a Writer

“I knew it,” she says. “I knew it! I knew you were going to say it one day!” She jumps up and runs out of the room.

“What!” I say, alarmed.

I look down at the writing on my laptop and immediately know what happened. There in black and white it says Antonio and Crystel aren’t my children….More

It’s a Good Day When I Kick Somebody in the Head

I started Tae Kwon Do, at Kor Am Tae Kwon Do School when I was 50 years old. Yes, it was an age thing, time to do something new, challenge myself, and show the world that I’m really not all that old. More

Competing with Friends for Writing Awards

Earlier this month, I applied for an Emerging Writer’s Grant and a Loft Creative Prose Mentorship, knowing full well that I’m competing with my good friends for these honors. I really want to win. So do the women in my creative nonfiction writers group. More

Your Moms Can Get Married Now

I imagine someone at school saying that to Antonio and Crystel and them responding, “Huh?” As far as they are concerned, we are already married, and Crystel, much to her chagrin, wasn’t a part of the wedding that we had before she and Antonio came home from Guatemala. She can hardly believe that we had a life before them. More

God Bless Middle-Aged Daughters

As I walk into the skilled nursing center where Mom is rehabilitating, I see other women like myself and think, “God bless middle-aged daughters.” We’re the sensible, competent women who make it all happen. More

When we launched this blog, we envisioned making new friends and sharing our perspectives. But the reality of our weekly conversations with you has exceeded our expectations. Thank you for reading WordSisters and sharing your thoughts!

Advertisements

What Was This Farm Girl Doing at AWP?

Ellen, Brenda, and Jill  Members of my Writing Group

Ellen, Brenda, Elizabeth and Jill
Members of my Writing Group

The Association of Writers and Writers Program (AWP) had their annual Conference and Bookfair this past weekend in Minneapolis and over 13,000 people attended, including me.

I could have left after the first panel discussion I attended: Stranger than Fiction: Personal Essay in the Age of the Internet. I got my money’s worth in the first hour of the four-day conference.

I heard, “What is our truth and are we doing that on the page?”

I heard, “I allow myself to be a person who can change.”

I heard, “Let’s put out shit that matters.”

Those few words gave me the courage to own my story in its entirety.

When asked what I write it was easy for me to say, memoir, adopting infants from Guatemala, raising them with another woman, etc…but I generally would not say the whole of it.

Fear of how people would see me was part of that.

But, no one else can tell my story.

My completed memoir manuscript, House of Fire, uses fire as a metaphor for the dysfunction in my family of 14 growing up on a Wisconsin farm. I interweave the incest that defined my childhood and teenage years with how I healed. The book describes how my partner, Jody and I, intentionally created a safe healthy family by adopting and raising two infants from Guatemala.

I’ve spent over thirty years working on myself to have my past not define me.

And, to that end, I’ve been successful.

I contain multitudes: the Tae Kwon Do black belt who is a goof who loves to spar at the Dojang, the mother of two twelve-year olds, the police reserve officer, the human resources manager, the soon to be Assistant Scoutmaster, the writer and author, and the woman who married her partner last August.

I’m also the woman who suffered repeated sexual abuse, who had a hushed-up abortion after I was impregnated at 14 by one of my brothers, who was pregnant again within a year by another brother, who gave up a son and never saw him again.

What I wanted most in my early twenties was to know that people could not only survive what I did, but heal and live a good life.

Now, my book, House of Fire, will help me be that person for others.

I didn’t go home after that first hour of the AWP conference. I remained among my tribe of 13,000 writers.

I also have another tribe who I hope to reach through the printed and spoken word.

Welcome to WordSisters!

We are Elizabeth and Ellen—sisters in writing—in it together from inspiration to publication. We’ve been part of the same Twin Cities writers’ group for close to 10 years and admire each other’s work. We love to write, and we both have memoir manuscripts that we want to publish. Although our lives have taken different paths, we share similar values.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth recently experienced the Mudder—10+ miles of mud, freezing cold water, climbing walls, and electric shocks. She was team captain until being fired for bringing two left running shoes to the race. She ended up running the hilly muddy obstacle course in her Sketchers. The Mudder is a team race, which is not Elizabeth’s forte. She is mostly known for getting in fights with the “real” captain on a team. “I just kind of always disagree with the leader,” Elizabeth explains. She is not known for following rules either. Her team “We Be Slow,” would have started before their assigned start time but fortunately, a team member’s father hadn’t arrived, so the team had to abide by the rules.

Elizabeth continues to evolve. She started the race with four teammates and ended the race with the same people . . . though it took her the first two miles to understand there is no “I” in team. Her spiritual growth was assisted by the real possibility that the 67-year-old member of the team might go into cardiac arrest. Plus, another team member threatened bodily harm if Elizabeth didn’t stick with the group. Most days, she can be found working as a Human Resource Manager for a foundry in Minneapolis. Always liking the heat, the unknown, the adventurous, she hopes she’ll grab your attention and keep it.

Ellen

Ellen is decidedly NOT adventurous and certainly not athletic. The only reason she’d ever be running is if someone were chasing her. And even then, she’d probably try to talk the thug into giving up the chase and getting something good to eat instead. Cooking and eating good food are a big focus in her life. That’s why both her 20-something sons are into food (they’re downstairs making Cuban pork right now, while her husband John is making strawberry shortcake from scratch).

Her version of “mudder” involves dirt. And flowers. Lots of them. She haunts the St. Paul Farmers’ market and garden stores this time of year, dreaming of wonderful color combinations—the red marguerite daisy. No, the yellow one. No, the orange zinnias. She’ll calm down by August. But until then, a knockout garden still seems possible.

The rest of the time, she writes marketing communications for a small children’s hospital and does the occasional freelance copywriting project. After having her own copywriting business for 18 years, she still likes working with a handful of fun clients.

WordSisters will appear weekly and focus on topics such as work and motherhood. Ellen’s blogs may also include observations about politics, women’s rights, and middle age. Elizabeth’s may include her outlook on spirituality, adoption, Tae Kwon Do sparring, Guatemala, being part of a two-Mom partnership, and being in a relationship with that same woman. Occasionally, other members of our six-person writers’ group may also contribute.  Ellen & Elizabeth