Iowa Writer’s Workshop

Okay, so because I haven’t joined nearly enough blog sites (MSN-Spaces, dot.mac, LiveJournal, Blogger, Blogher, NaBloMo) or have blogs enough, I went to WordPress the other day and started a whole new account and am rebuilding this site essentially at WordPress. A really neat function allowed me to transfer all the stuff at Blogger (which are the same posts as here) to WordPress. I called the site Anniegirl1138 which was my “handle” at the YWBB. In my first post there I explained the story behind the name too. While most people at the widow board tend to create monikers based on their loss, my name was all about me. What an selfish little thang I am, eh? But I saw being there as being about me anyway. Not Will. I was there to see if I was normal (found out that normal is a bit more relative than I had believed it to be) and to rant (as I had no outlet for it in my real time) and I wanted to find people who were coping, internalizing and moving on – which is what I was more than ready to do. Rob was teasing me a bit this morning about naming my site for myself as he is grappling with what to call his on site. I named this site Second Edition because it was the second blog after my Widowed:The Blog at MSN-Spaces, literal name and boring, but I like the idea of my blog being christened with my online persona.

WordPress is a bit more complicated and I am still playing with the free features before I upgrade (which I think I will have to do to get the cool stuff) but I think it will eventually be my permanent – and only – online home. I want to continue this blog there and also have a page for my writing and a page of resources for widowed people – just cause I want to help and I haven’t much of an outlet for that right now.

Cell phone novels are a big Japanese thing right now. I went to look at a couple of blog articles on them and wondered if I could do something like that myself. It made me wonder too if I could, or should, put some of my own fiction online. I used to write fanfic in the long ago. It was fun to get feedback and have an audience that was so immediate. It reminded me of when I was a sophomore in high school and I was writing a soap opera satire that all my friends (and even kids who weren’t my friends) were asking to read it. I couldn’t write fast enough. I love writing for people. How did I lose that? Why did I forget that? Oh, yeah – I was told I wasn’t quite good enough when I tried to go back and get into the Writer’s Workshop at Iowa. Now if that happened I would chalk it up to a problem with the source but then I was twenty-seven and very insecure.

Rob and I have talked more about the Texas move and my working and my writing. I am being silly to worry about what feminist society thinks about my role. Shouldn’t my role be whatever I choose for it to be? I choose to be a writer who does the stay at home stuff. Men are practically applauded for that but women are selling themselves short and up shit creek at the same time. As Rob has pointed out on many an occasion, who decided that career and all its material accouterments were the be and end all? If everyone let fear of failure or loss of status or society’s aversion to living a scaled -down material life get in the way of the pursuit of one’s true talents, interests and dreams what a real shit-hole this life would be.

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My four year old loves to write. She will sit with a notebook and pen quietly scratching away in a language that is half letters/half symbols, and I wonder if she is mimicking me through example or DNA. When I was her age my stories were more of the performance art variety, told to invisible audiences via dolls or dance. Although I loved books, it hadn’t occurred to me that my stories could be written down for others to read.


I know I have written about this before, but my first written story was about pirates. Sister Rita, a tiny prune-faced thing who was barely taller than the shortest fourth grader and painted her meticulously filed nails bright colors that I am sure the Pope would have disapproved of, took the red pen that all teachers must have been issued with their licenses back then and buried my artistic endeavor under editing marks she never taught us the meaning of. If I had not been born a writer that might have been the end of my authoring days but for the fact that Sister aside, people liked to read what I wrote.


I began to write obsessively in the fifth grade.  Writing filled up the days while I was waiting for the other kids to “get it” so we could move on and was a way for me to look productive while I hid from the subjects that bored or perplexed me.


By high school, when the education process had progressed from the merely tedious to a test of my endurance, the idea that I could build a life and even make a living from writing was starting to take hold and was probably one of the bigger reasons I ended up in college. I thought, incorrectly as it turned out, that I could learn how to be a writer there.


University is a piss poor place to learn about writing much less become an author. Long story short, I became an English teacher instead. An English teacher who knew less than zero about grammar and couldn’t spell.


It was teaching grammar to thirteen year olds (who had no idea I was a mere chapter ahead of them every day) that taught me to love the language as much as I loved to see myself think on paper. But I still wasn’t a writer.


Ironically, it was graduate school that made me  focus on my writing  again. By treating it as a craft, I had many opportunities to test my abilities in an impartial setting . That and watching someone I loved beyond logic die right in front of me for months and years finally tipped the scales. I guess that is why the Palahnuik quote jumped off the page at me. I became a teacher only partly because I loved it. The other reason had to do with losing my confidence in myself and my gift and succumbing to the idea that one’s life work is about security not passion.


I began to blog about six months or so after my husband, Will, died. It was much the same as the writing that I had done as a teenager. Just thinking on “paper” but now I was very conscious of the process and the  idea of writing as a life began to flicker.


It was Rob who fanned the flames again and continues to do so. I think he will understand the quote, and the photo as well.


I envy those who can do what they love from the beginning.