Monday, May 19, 2014

My Writing Process: A Blog Tour

My first 'blog tour' and I'm about to miss the train...some things never change.


I used to stay up all hours of the night typing my high school English essays until my mother would beg and plead with me at 2am to PLEASE go to bed.  I argued that I needed to finish hunting and pecking out each word.  She argued that I needed my sleep and she'd type it for me like my own personal secretary and assured me that wasn't considered cheating since I'd already written and rewritten and edited and rewritten the first, second, third draft..  I argued back that it totally was, but would eventually cave in, skip out on school during lunch the next day, and pick it up from her office.  Pretty sweet move, Mom.  And it happened more than once.  More than twice, actually...

Sixteen years out of high school and I guess it's safe to admit that I also rarely read a full novel in any of my classes, but somehow managed to write damn good essays, citing examples from a book, and incorporating quotes into my work.  Cliff Notes were my friend and somehow weaving characters together that I only half knew allowed me to get by.  Succeed with a few A's even.  It was thanks to my 11th grade English teacher that I learned how to pick apart a piece of work, make connections to others, analyze characters, identify meanings, recognize and understand symbolism, and dive so deep into a book that I found myself thinking about its content all the time.  Imagine what would've happened if I'd read entire books!

My English teacher from 10th and 12th grades was a stickler for good writing.  She had us write entire five paragraph essays without one 'be' verb (helping verb).  Ever done that?  It's hard.  HARD.  But she also conferenced with every single one of us over each of our college essays and she made us write and rewrite until our point was concise, poignant, moving, and clear.  She drilled new vocabulary into our heads, made sure we varied our sentence length and structures, incorporated vivid word choices, and captured and maintained our reader's attention from the beginning to the very end.

On the flip side of all these scenarios, I also wrote a paper in college once half drunk.  That was real fun to edit the next morning.  It should've been completed before heading off to a sorority social.  Priorities, priorities.

Then there was the time in grad school when the last of my 36 page case study was completed and just as I hit the 'save' button at 3am, my computer screen went blank and blue.  I called my dad by 3:01, somehow thinking he could teleport himself to my apartment bedroom and save me.  No such luck.  But then again I shouldn't have been burning the midnight oil to the final hour anyway.  If I'd planned better this would have happened two days prior and I would have had time to right the situation!  Damn it.

Oh, and then there was the incident in Heathrow Airport when I was paged over the loud speaker to 'PLEASE BOARD PROMPTLY' because the gates were CLOSING and this was my one and only ride back across the big pond. I mean come on...the British accent that was hard to understand, combined with the irresistible deals in the duty free shop, might have made me a bit out of touch with the time on the clock.

Clearly, old habits never die and in my case, once a procrastinator always one.  Case in point, as it's almost May 20 and this post I agreed to do for a 'blog tour' is due May 19. NOW.


Just before the start of my third year as a classroom teacher, I was moved from a third grade position to a kindergarten position.  I had about 48 hours to dismantle my current classroom (see, what was the point of actually getting set up ahead of time?!?!), move to a different section of the building, and set up a kindergarten classroom.  Let's just clarify right now that there is a VERY special place in heaven for kindergarten teachers.  I give 100% credit to the fabulous group of ladies that welcomed me on their team with the start of school less than two days away.  They helped me survive countless phonics lessons, early writing activities, science experiments, fine motor centers, messy painting projects, bathroom accidents, daily rest time, silly songs, and endless activities to develop number sense.  They kept me sane in the midst of handling 25 four and five year olds for 9 1/2 months.  I quickly learned kindergarten is NOT my place in an elementary school.  But for some teachers it's exactly where they're meant to me.  Sarah, author at live, laugh, and learn, is one of those people.  An amazingly talented early childhood educator, turned stay-at-home-phenom, invited me to join up on this blog tour all about how various blog writers tackle their writing process.  I don't feel quite adequate answering these questions in the company of other, more serious, more experienced blog writers.  I mainly compose my thoughts while nursing a baby in the dark and quiet of night or while driving down the road listening to my boys' current favorite tune for the 2,314th time.  If I actually find the energy and take the time to transcribe those thoughts, I'm happy to see a post hit the web once or twice a month.  Good thing there's always room for improvement.  But really my writing exists to log the long days but short years of early motherhood; to serve as a memory keeper for my children and myself; and to keep in touch with friends and family near and far.

1) What am I working on? 

I'm working on how to keep my head afloat from day to day.  I'm working on how to figure out why it's so hard to leave my house and why chaos must ensue five minutes AFTER we should be pulling out of the driveway.  Why must Garrett fall over the bike and drop and break the iPad cover right now?  Why must the baby start crying right now?  Why must Gavin insist on buckling himself in right now?  WE'VE GOT TO GO!  Patience is what I'm working on.  But if I had an hour of uninterrupted quiet time and a cup of coffee that never got cold each morning, I'd be working on more blog posts.  More records of the funny things my kids do and say. I'd also love to review restaurants.  I'd love to write a children's book.  And I'd love to be a better pen pal by actually dropping a handwritten card in the mail (not Facebooking, tweeting, emailing, or texting) to friends when I think of them.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
I don't think my work is that different from other mommy blogs out there.  I actually think many of us write about the same types of topics, but in ways unique to our respective situations.  Blogging and social media sites have allowed us to create international communities where people with common interests can come together and simply share their experiences from various perspectives, allowing those of us in similar shoes to feel more normal, more connected.  Birds of a feather flock together.

3) Why do I write what I do? 
Writing allows me to succinctly compose my thoughts.  I can say what I want to say, when I want to say it, exactly how I want to say it.  Like running and baking, it's another form of free therapy.  It logs my memories and allows me to reflect on everyday, mundane moments that one day I'll look back on fondly.  It also allows me to find humor in the smallest anecdotes of everyday life, process emotions, problem solve, draw conclusions, and consider alternative perspectives.

4) How does my writing process work? 
If a pen would automatically record my stream of consciousness this blog would have a hundred times more posts than it does.  These days my writing process involves just typing what comes to mind, spell checking as I go, maybe making a few deletes if things don't flow quite right.  I start countless blogs posts in my head, but about 1 in 5 make it to a published state.  As a teacher, I used to walk my students step by step through the writing process...brainstorming, the first draft, revising, editing, peer conferencing, teacher conferencing, the final draft.  As a student I was always required to turn in each step of my writing.  But I'll let you in on a little secret: since the beginning it's always been easier for me to just sit down and start writing.  Any pre-writing I used to turn in was actually made up after my final paper was complete.  I just didn't get it and those mind maps didn't help me organize my thoughts at all.  I have to get the pen to the paper and delete/reorganize what's unnecessary later on.  I pretty much do the same today and keep the register of my blog casual, often riddled with typos (which actually drives me nuts), run on sentences, and even fragments.  It's intended to sound as if I were talking out loud.  It's meant to come across as real, casual, intermittent, discombobulated, funny, sad, hectic, nostalgic, sometimes short, sometimes long winded....all descriptive of how a conversation might go if we were sitting in my kitchen trying to catch up over coffee with kids playing at our feet.  I'm a list maker and easily unfocused, both of which appear in my writing; but I'm also a mom and life is hectic and kids are funny.  So when it's all perfectly combined there's always a good story to be told.


The next stop on this tour will take you to one of my dearest friends, Kelly at Kel-A-Rella.  To describe her as hilarious is an understatement.  She's an absolute riot.  A tell-it-like-it-is, no nonsense, 100% endearing, generous, kind, hysterical girlfriend.  We've been friends since second grade.  I could go on all night (clock is ticking and remember this is 'due' May 19!) sharing laugh-so-hard-you'll-cry memories, but I can quickly sum things up by telling you I'm the lucky one to call her my friend.

So as much of a rule follower as I am, I'm breaking them a bit this time.  I'm supposed to invite two more bloggers on this tour, but after asking four other friends/relatives and getting turned down, this is all I've got.

Regular blogging and glimpses into my life will resume shortly.  Or whenever I can find a few minutes to compose my thoughts.  Give me a few days...weeks... shoot, at least till next month...

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