Tuesday, March 31, 2009

So True...

Not only is Gone With the Wind a staple American classic novel, but Margaret Mitchell wins the award for my favorite quote of all time:

"In a moment of weakness I have written a book..." 11-19-1935

Me too, Ms. Mitchell, me too.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Am I the only writer still toting around a spiral notebook and my favorite fine point pen?

Okay, let's face it: there is a very stereotypical view of what a writer looks like floating around out there in Hollywood. On one hand it is nice to see the writing world authenticated as a real profession, but why does it have to be romanticized and appear so glamorous everywhere I look. On Sex In The City, Carrie eats Chinese with chopsticks while rattling off her thoughts cross legged before her keyboard, completely unhampered by a sexy phone call or the honking taxi's outside her window. Hell, she might even stop mid-article to put on a super-glam outfit and meet the girls for brunch. I mean, wow, that looks great! It makes me want to be a writer! And then in Something's Gotta Give, Diane Keaton dresses angelically in pure white and writes her plays in a crisp, clean room in the Hamptons, taking long walks on the beach and heated rolls in the hay. Now that looks great too...I want to be a writer like that.

But in truth, I have yet to meet a writer that lives or works quite like that. The ones I have met are holed up in dark rooms wearing yesterday's faded sweatpants and a fun-bun hair-do surrounded by stale pretzels and several half empty coffee mugs. And have I mentioned that they write amid the piles of clutter that never fails to gather as their work begins to pick up steam. Sleep? Never. Long walks? A thing of the past. The only thing that exists is the work.

I, for one, write when I can - in the parking lot at school, on a bench at the playground, on the beach (my most productive!) - I steal every spare moment. It seems that my characters stubbornly move along at their own pace and rarely wait for a convenient moment for me...the mere documentarian of their lives.

So I watch these writers on TV and in the movies and wonder why everyone hasn't tried to become a writer. Or have they? Is that why it is almost impossible to get published?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Ok, so I love words. I do. I'm a word-a-holic. I love the way a good word feels when it slips off your tongue. I love getting the word of the day e-mailed directly to me from dictionary.com. But I especially love finding words that say just what you mean...words that can stand alone and yet say everything. I have found that using the right word can literally save a sentence otherwise doomed to boredom. It is one of the greatest pleasures I know to stumble upon that perfect word.

So I want to share with you my very favorite word on the planet: ferhoodled. Yes, ferhoodled. Go ahead, don't be embarrassed - say it. Say it out loud. Now say it with a little pizazz. Admit it...it's a great word! I happened upon it while reading a work by Beverly Lewis and instantly fell in love. The official definition (as per dictionary.com, of course!) is to confuse or mix up as in: Don't ferhoodle things in that drawer! But the way I read it in context the first time was in describing a woman as so completely ferhoodled that she couldn't do anything quite right. Now that is absolutely fabulous!!! Ferhoodled. Don't we all get that way now and again, not just confused or mixed up but just completely ferhoodled?

Since my brilliant discovery, my family has adopted 'ferhoodled' into our household vocabulary. This word has changed our outlook on minor infractions and added some fun to the little conundrums (another great word, by the way!) that pop up here and there. Yesterday, for example, I found the ice-cream in the refrigerator all liquidy and seeping onto the shelf. I did my usual rant through the house looking for the culprit with fire in my eyes and melted mint chocolate chip still fresh on my fingers. I found my son in his room with a green tell-tale ring around his mouth and said "Aha!" He just looked at me and my sticky hands with big eyes as the realization of what he had done set in and said: "I was having dessert with my homework and the long division completely ferhoodled me!" Oh. I get that. I've been there more than once, like when I found my car keys in my sock drawer...

We all get confused and stressed out now and then...wouldn't it be nice to just throw your hands up in the air and say: Aaahhh, I'm so ferhoodled!

Friday, March 20, 2009

So What Am I? A Writer?

I realize that as a writer, part of the job is marketing yourself and putting yourself (and your work) out there for critique and recognition. But I also find this part of the process not simply foreign to me but largely uncomfortable. After all isn't that why I write? I like putting my thoughts on paper and letting them go on before me...kind of like an introduction to the person behind the scenes.

When I began my first book, I simply set out to finish something I had begun years before -mostly for personal satisfaction but also to get back to the person I had been before diapers and soccer practice consumed my life. But sometime during those two years, I began to feel the passion for my work returning until it began to consume me instead...my characters began to go off in directions of their own without waiting for my lead. I began to worry about the choices they were making by day and dreaming about their futures by night. I began to feel and act like a writer. Nonetheless, I waited and plodded away secretly until my friends began to notice I was MIA from usual play groups and afternoon conversations. Only my children knew to find me in the office upstairs if they were hungry or tired.

But finally my novel was finished. My book that I had written with almost no one knowing about it was done and I wanted to shout my news from the rooftops and hold it out to everyone I met. But when I stood there at the top of the world and looked out it was just a tiny squeak that slipped from my lips...i wrote a book...I whispered into the wind that swallowed it whole.

It seemed I hadn't prepared for the finishing of my novel - I hadn't prepared for what I would do when I finally crossed that last t and dotted that last i. I had been so lost in the process. So absorbed by my endeavor. So I waited. I waited for a voice to call out from the heavens proclaiming me a WRITER and perhaps even dreamed for a little 3 by 2 business card to waft down on a breeze giving me an instant title and credibility in the world of authordom. Needless to say, it didn't pan out quite that way. Instead I sat down to dinner that night much the same person I had been for the past two years, thinking about my book and the characters that had become my friends and feeling an unexpected loss. What would happen to them now that I had moved on?

Then, a few weeks later, the strangest thing happened. My husband was on the telephone with a business colleague and I heard him say: "My wife? She's a writer. She just finished her first novel." I was incredulous and - if I'm being honest - a tad embarrassed too. How could I have the gall to call myself a writer? Dostoyevsky, James Joyce, Maya Angelo...those are writers. I haven't been published! If I met someone at a cocktail party and they introduced themselves as a writer, I would ask what they had done and upon finding them unpublished just chalk it up to inflated ego. (Perhaps I am a tougher critic than most, but I doubt it!)

In the days that followed, I spent endless hours mulling the possibility over in my mind and testing the sound of it on my tongue...Hi, I'm Johanna, I'm a writer. Sounds kind of nice actually. In fact in all other aspects of my life I adopted my job description titles rather easily and with gusto...At 24 I got married and within minutes called myself a WIFE having done little or nothing to earn the title. And at 26 I had my first child and as soon as the nurse handed me the little swaddled bundle, I called myself MOTHER - never mind that I had no professional training or certification in that realm - I simply was. I birthed a baby and became a mother. So here I am, having birthed a novel - a novel of 125,000 words which I figure is at least equivalent to birthing a 10 pound baby minus the epidural... Therefore, I am a writer.

So I introduce myself here as a writer, in written words with which I am so comfortable. But don't mind me if we meet on the street and I introduce myself just as Johanna, wife and mother. Afterall, I am a work in progress.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It all started with a school girl's journal and moved rapidly into the colorful notebooks of high school English until slowly my stories took over my life...now armed with a lap top computer and a panoply of ideas spun carefully in my mind's eye, I have finally finished my first novel!

Since then my weary fingers have worked the keyboard, searching endlessly for the camaraderie of other writer-hopefuls in this vast outlet of the internet where ANYTHING can be found but often never is. With so much to say and so much to share about the highly personal and rarely published process of writing, I have begun this blog to share my random stream of consciousness that has pervaded my thoughts on every step of my journey to becoming a real, bonafide writer.

My hope is that others will share their experiences and revelations in a similar fashion and maybe even enjoy a few excerpts of my work.