Saturday, September 6, 2014

Writing a Blog Hop

Sarah at Harry Times tagged me for this Blog Hop. I started reading Sarah's blog way back when I was writing a dissertation and thinking about getting pregnant. I guess I googled something related to that and ended up on her blog--she's a PhD who had two kids when I first started reading and now has four, so she seems to know something about balancing academia and motherhood (I could be wrong, but I believe her secrets include fresh-baked cookies and also wine).

Anyway, here's Sarah's blogpost and here are my answers to these questions:

What am I working on?

This would be more accurately phrased "What should I be working on?" or "What would I like to be working on?" or "What do I imagine I'd be working on, if I were motivated to work on something?"

In that case, I'd be working on revising the novel that met the word count but was still quite unfinished/unpolished/hanging together by a thread at the end of NaNoWriMo last year. I really do want to revisit it, but I've definitely been preoccupied. Still, I should try to carve out some time...

I should also be working on revising the paper I wrote for that conference back in April. It's about how Charles Dickens uses child abuse as a rite of passage for his characters. I was kind of drawing on a biographical approach, though, which is tricky. I got a lot of useful feedback, though, and I'd really like to turn that paper into an article.

If my blog counts as "work," then I'm still doing that--and these days it's mostly keeping track of Coco's early weeks and life with two lively little girls.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Oh this is the kind of existential question that plagues all writers, right? I can remember having a meltdown with a friend in graduate school and I was like, "I think everything I wanted to say in my dissertation has already been written by other scholars who said it better than I ever could!" My practical friend was like, "Yeah, that's what every academic says. Just get over it and keep writing."

I think that I do have a unique writing voice and I like to use humor in my writing (even when I'm writing about grief or writing scholarly articles). My novel is a small town murder mystery love story that also involves research and made up facts about the Ku Klux Klan and a white supremacy church in Southwest Missouri. Honestly, I'm not sure how different it is from other small town murder mystery love stories except that I'm the one writing it.

Why do I create what I do?

The novel is truly just for fun. I don't have a thick enough skin about fiction writing to put it out there. I just like to write stuff. I keep considering taking some fiction writing workshops for fun and the thought freaks me out--oh, my fragile little ego. One of these days I need to just go for it.

The scholarly article is partly because I find Victorian novels endlessly fascinating and partly because I want to prove to myself that I can do this--that I have what it takes to be a published academic even though I'm not teaching at an R1 school. (Also it helps my case for a course release when I can prove that I'm doing scholarly research that gets published.)

And I write on the blog for a bunch of reasons--because I want to have a record of what my life is like ever since I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books at age six or seven and decided I, too, should have a multi-volume memoir, because I want to connect with other people, because putting my thoughts into words on a screen is incredibly therapeutic for me, and because it's still a nice way to keep long-distance friends and family up to date on what's going on here.

How does my writing process work?

I usually sketch a very vague outline and then I write the way I would talk if I were telling the story to a friend or lecture to a group of enthusiastic students. I almost always have to write a "zero draft" which is messy and terrible and then I do a lot of revising. For my scholarly work, I ask for feedback. I used to meet weekly with a friend and we'd read and comment on each other's work and it was so fun and helpful and I really miss that since she up and moved to Japan. Obviously I find deadlines to be extremely helpful since I could write a novel in a month when I had to, but seem unable to find the time to write ever since.

I do most of my writing on a laptop and I like to write in coffee shops but I can also write at home on the couch or at the dining room table--assuming I'm the only one home or everyone else is asleep! I can revise in my office, but I don't write well there at all (strange, but true).

When I was writing my dissertation, I would force myself to sit down for 30 minutes and just see what I could get done. (It's amazing how much I can get done in half an hour.) When I was doing NaNoWriMo, I had a strict word count I had to meet. I think the timer thing would work well for me, so I should really just try to carve out 30 minutes a day... even if it means getting some help from Daniel Tiger.

Okay! Enough of my angst about the writing I'm [not] doing. Now I'm passing the torch to a friend and fellow St. Louis blogger, Kristin at thirdstory(ies).

I found Kristin's blog when her daughter E's nursery was featured on Young House Love and when I realized we lived in the same city, I e-mailed her to ask if she could recommend a day care in the city. That's how we ended up at the children's center we love so much, and after meeting Kristin in person at the Farmer's Market (she actually recognized David from photos on my blog), we became friends in real life, too. She's an architect with the kind of artistic talent that easily translates to various DIY projects, including some serious cookie decorating, and she and her family are some of my favorite people on the internet (and in St. Louis).


  1. Now THAT'S who should have done Zuzu's birthday cookies. Are you kidding me with those school houses?!

    1. I did Zuzu's first birthday cookies, and Brooke was being extremely thoughtful in not asking me this year because she knew I was cramming for some professional exams and she's thoughtful like that. Plus, we got a terrific story out of, some of the most pitiful looking '2' cookies, and some pretty tasty 'sea creature' cookies in the end. So it was a win-win-win! (And I passed my test!)