Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blog Tour: A Themed Life

Tamryn Spruill, girl genius, writer, educator and all-around creative talent, invited me to tag along on a Blog Tour a couple of weeks ago. When she asked if I was "in," it took me about one second to reply yes.

So here it goes: My Creative Process: All You'll Ever Want to Know."
Lady Claire, a gentle soul. (included because I love this image.)

1) What are you working on?

Mostly, I've been working on my blog, Jersey Sauce and reading fiction (A Winter's Tale) and nonfiction (The Emotional Life of the Brain.)  The blog was born nearly two years ago, a spin-off of my idea to write Jersey food essays that,with the help of the writing goddesses, would perhaps morph into a memoir. That hasn't happened, or rather, it hasn't happened "yet." In the meantime, I wrote a different memoir entitled Enter Spirit, tales from a spiritual journey. A few chapters of that memoir have been published in various literary journals.

I continue to spiff up the chapters of this memoir when I have the opportunity because I work at a college full-time. So to answer "what am I working on," my first impulse is to say not very much if my work is to be assessed in linear fashion; but I believe a writer is constantly working: when she is engaged with other writers, talks about ideas, dreams, or simply reads, reads, reads.

This past winter, I became a bit depressed due to various stressful life events. I saw an energy healer and a naturopath during this time. Both women talked with me for a while, and one of the gems mined from each brief discussion was that I should work on the blog, in other words, answer the creative call.

The title of this post, "A Themed Life," is now part of the Blog Tour. Themes are what drive much of my work, thus I segue into the next question.

2) How does your work differ from others’ in the same genre?

Every individual and each writer on the planet has the potential to convey her uniqueness, which is an essential ingredient to good writing. Unique writing arises from authenticity. I have given much thought over the past several years to my reasons for wanting to write memoir.

One doesn't just blather on about this or that, about the fact she climbed a mountain or met a celebrity - big deal, right? Lots of people have done these things.

Memoir is more about the how and why. I have a mother; we all have mothers. Mothers come in different forms. She can be the bane of a child's existence; or an angel. The interest arises when I write about my personal response to my mother, what I think of her now, how she shaped me, and about the hundred little nuances that make her "her."  For instance, mom isn't a great mom only because of her beautiful smile or because she made a wicked pot roast, though these are wonderful traits.It's about the interaction between my mother and me. It's about the time she and I took the train to the city the month before I graduated high school. I needed clothes for my first job, and although she had five other children at home, this day was special between us. But it doesn't end there. What prompted my mom to take me into the city, an activity so out of character for her? She was busy with my brothers and sisters, and I knew this was an effort for her. Was she worried about me now that I'd be out in the world? Did she think I deserved this special treat? Did someone suggest this shopping trip to her? In my genre, the writer tries to answer these types of questions.

Memoir is written in various forms: There are the tell-all memoir, the reflective memoir, the collection of memoir pieces or vignettes, or essays. As a writer keenly aware of these various styles, I make a choice each time I write, as to which form best serves my story. And what makes my writing different from those of other writers in my genre, is obvious. I'm writing about me, and there's no one else like me. My themes and how I write about them, cannot be told by anyone else. They can be similar, perhaps; but not the same.

3) Why do you write what you do?

Because I can't not. Themes consistently arise in my writing: nature, faith, religion, family, relationships, aging, and death. These themes have been part of me since my childhood. I remember being six years old and wondering what makes a person good or bad. How do we get to heaven? I was in the first grade when our teacher, a Catholic sister, told us that if you are not Catholic it is impossible to gain entry into heaven. Now, THAT was a blasphemy and I knew it, My hand shot up, sister gave me the floor. Though my sensibilities were not yet fully developed, I was certain she was wrong. I told sister that this couldn't possibly be true because my dad was a good man, and although he was not Catholic, I knew he would go to heaven. Sister Arlene offered no come-back. For all I knew, she believed just as I did. So I learned at a young age that it's okay to have your own opinions and thoughts, and the very important opinions must be shared for we never know how another might be significantly affected when we speak out.

 Peace to All

 4) How does your writing process work?

I daydream. I get ideas on my long drive to and from work each day. The dreams and ideas that surface are usually repeated. They loop around in my head and beg for attention. For me, it's about commitment first to the concept, then a more difficult challenge, the commitment to sit at the laptop or write in a notebook. That has always been the hard part for me. The real work. I'm a lazy writer, I'll admit it. If you want ideas? I'm right there, I could hang a shingle or sign on my front lawn that says "Ideas by Eileen for Free," but we all have ideas, which are, to be kind to myself, part of the writing process. The rest of my process occurs just as this post has happened. I sit down, it doesn't matter where or when. And then I begin to type (or scribble.) And I honor a commitment, whether to a Blog Tour, or to myself.

You might want to check out writer, Angi Baker's hip blog here. I hereby tag and invite my good friend, artist, musician, and writer, Theresa Funk, to the party, as well.

All best,