Archive of ‘The Write Stuff’ category

Writing for My Life

Last night, I had the honor of meeting Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist and best-selling author Anna Quindlen.

Okay, when I say I “met” her, I sat in the audience and heard her speak about her new book, “Write For Your Life,” asked her a question about writing my memoir, and stood in line for her to sign my book. I spoke to her for no more than a minute, and yet her words have changed me as a writer.

For instance, why write? Yes, I have a personal connection to Parkinson’s Disease and often feel I was put on this Earth to raise awareness and tell that story. However, it isn’t the only reason. I also write to be known. That doesn’t mean I long to be famous or win awards, far from it. I hope someday my 50-year-old grandchild (f I should be so lucky to have one) discovers my blog, reads my stories, soaks in my words, resonates with them on a personal level, and ultimately knows me as a person. And then, my writing becomes my legacy long after I’m gone.

Another gem from last night was during the Q&A when someone asked Ms. Quindlen what advice she has for aspiring writers. I love when people ask this of other authors. The answers always vary and are often either practical, inspiring, or esoteric. Quindlen did not disappoint.

“Put your butt in the chair,” she said. It is the only way to be a prolific writer. She said to write when you are in the mood and when you aren’t. Write when you feel you have nothing to talk about. And write the minute something strikes you because if you don’t, you run the risk of forgetting about it.

She is so right. Sitting down to write can be a challenge for me. It isn’t that I don’t have something to say. (I always have something to say. 🙂 ) It’s the real-world distractions like housework and errands that keep me from my passion. I also have a day job that I love, but where I constantly write, leaving little creative juices left for writing my memoir. All of this is why this blog too often winds up at the bottom of my to-do list.

So, I’ve taken a few actions to remedy this problem. This week, I signed up for HippoCamp, a small writer’s conference in Lancaster, PA, specifically for creative non-fiction writers. This is an important distinction because so many events focus on fiction writing, with only a handful of workshops dedicated to personal essays, biographies, and memoirs. At HippoCamp, I’ll learn to fact-check my family story, use my five senses to bring back long-lost memories, and how to infuse my weird sense of humor into complex topics. The writers who attend this conference are supportive, brilliant, inspiring, and, like me, they want their stories to be known.

I’m also putting my butt in the chair. This requires a drastic change to my morning routine. No more sitting on the couch for an hour and scrolling through Facebook. I waste precious time there. Mornings are the best time for me to write. So, I will set my alarm and stop hitting the snooze button. When I wake up, I will drink coffee, do the Wordle, and write. Because this book isn’t going to write itself, and this blog will soon be forgotten if I don’t give it some love and post more often.

Most importantly, I will never be truly known, and that yet-to-exist grandchild will never read these stories until I sit down to write them.

Anti-Oxford Comma

Yes, it’s true. I am anti-oxford comma.

There, I said it.

I feel much better now.

Do you still like me?

Are you going to unfriend me?

Unsubscribe to my blog?

Call my mom and tell on me?

All of the above?

For those unfamiliar with this ongoing debate, this discretionary punctuation mark has caused quite an uproar in writing workshops, high-school English classrooms, and even courtrooms around the country. It is a fight to the death over whether or not a comma needs to precede the last element in a series – like red, white and blue.

Does it make your skin crawl that I didn’t use an Oxford comma just now? I’m sorry. I can’t help it. Baby, I was born this way.

I know I’m in the minority here. Lots of people disagree with me. Even Grammarly is against me. Every mistake it catches in this post is comma-related. Hey! I pay for Grammarly premium. I expect a special setting for comma preferences with my subscription.

Here is the tricky part. As a non-profit communications professional, I am obligated to follow the style guide assigned to me by the powers that be. If they follow the Associated Press (AP) style guide – as many sensible organizations do – AP is much more liberal and doesn’t care whether you use it as long as you pick a side and remain consistent throughout the document. It’s very democratic, and I, for one, am quite pleased with this compromise. There is no judgment. No muss. No fuss. No tracked changes or vetoes from the majority. Everyone is happy.

I mean, really, doesn’t this make sense? Can’t we all just get along?

Unfortunately, the non-profit I currently work for uses the Chicago Manual of Style guide (UGH!), which strictly forbids omitting said (and sad) serial comma. This means that if I want to get paid, I must relinquish my inherent – and practically religious – belief on this issue and acquiesce.

After all, I have two children to put through college. I can be a team player. And I’ll just save my recreational, controversial and reckless anti-oxford comma activities for my blog and someday my book.

Unless I find an editor who is pro-Oxford comma, then we may have a problem.

P.S. – I hope this doesn’t change things between us. I still love you regardless of your punctuation preferences. No matter how misguided they may be. 😉

My 300th Blog Post

This morning, I woke up to check my blog stats and realized that I am hitting a blog milestone today. This is my 300th post. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to take you behind the scenes of my writing life.

Who First Inspired Me?

In the fourth grade, my teacher assigned the class a writing project – tell a story about an inanimate object and give it human qualities, characteristics, and behaviors. This writing style is called personification or anthropomorphism. I composed an end-of-life story of a pair of sneakers sitting on top of a trash can, reflecting on the past and awaiting their fate. In my teacher’s opinion, the best line of the story was “I saw my life flash before my shoelaces.”

I got an A, and a writer was born.

Who Nearly Killed My Writing Dreams?

For the longest time, I let my 12th-grade journalism teacher live inside my head and feed a severe case of imposter syndrome. For years, I thought she was right when she told me I didn’t have what it takes to be a writer. Not too long ago, I wrote her a letter that evicted her from my mind. Obviously, I still think about her, but instead of letting her words sink in, I laugh at them because I proved her wrong.

What is My Book About?

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know I’ve been working on a book about Parkinson’s Disease (PD). I know way too much about this disease. While PD is not a death sentence, it is a progressive neurological disorder. My maternal grandmother was diagnosed in the 1980s and passed away from complications. Thirty years later, my father was diagnosed. He is doing well now and will continue to live life to the fullest and fight until there is a cure.

With close relatives on both sides of my family affected by PD, I am uniquely positioned to raise awareness and share my story. I also wonder if I have a predisposition to PD later in life. I’m planning on consulting a genetic counselor to find out more. But, to be honest, I’m not sure I want to know too much about my future. What would I do with that information? Would I live differently? Exercise more? Participate in research studies?

Do I really want to know? My curiosity says yes, but the hypochondriac in me says, “HELL NO!”  Regardless, through their stories and mine, I hope I can make a difference.

What Does My Writing Community Look Like?

I am fortunate to have found several ways to be a good literary citizen. Years ago, I walked into the Philadelphia Writers Workshop, which convened once a week near my home. I met my writing coach and workshop facilitator, Rachel, who has been a huge part of my writing life ever since. I was also introduced to other local writers with big dreams like my own. A lot of us have stayed in touch over the years supporting each other and celebrating our work.

Before COVID-19 hit, I attended writing workshops and conferences, book fairs, and author signings whenever I had the chance. Last summer, I masked up and attended HippoCamp for nonfiction writers like me, which gave me another huge boost – and more literary citizens to commiserate – I mean bond – with.

This year, I want to submit more articles for publication. First, I need to develop a daily writing habit – this is where the Ultimate Blog Challenge community and you – my readers – come in. I already feel the love from my fellow writers, family, and friends. And with every comment and like that you are generous enough to offer me, I get that extra dose of confidence. So, thank you. It means a lot to me.

What Writing Advice Can I Give You?

Never give up on your writing dreams – whether it is to write a fantastic blog that goes virtual and feeds into your business or creative passions, or you want to be a published author, you belong in the writing community just as I do. You do. You belong. Don’t give up.

In the words of Toni Morrison, “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

XO,

Elisa

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