I should have gone for a pedicure

posted in: Uncategorized, Writing | 17

Today I have the honor of sharing a story from a writer friend of mine.  My sweet friend Julie is trying her damnedest to make her dream of writing a book into a reality.  Recently she shared with me a frustrating experience she had at a writer’s workshop.  I’m so proud of her for turning what could have been a crushing blow to her dream into material for her book.  She could have walked away defeated but she turned lemons into lemonade.  When I read it I knew I had to share it here.  If you are a writer, published author, wanna-be author, lover of stories, whatever; I’m sure that Julie’s story will resonate.  Please give her some love.

writing

Allow me to introduce myself.  I am a mother, a wife, a part-time librarian.  I am a runner, a lover of wine and really good cheese, which is where the running comes in!  I teach pre-school Sunday school, clip coupons, and do about a hundred other things that would make the teenager I once was positively gag.   I am a reader and a writer.  I mean, I want to be.  Think about it, a job that you can do in your jammies while eating a turkey dog?  Um, yes please!

I’m currently working on three separate writing projects, mainly because I have the attention span of a gnat and like to switch it up.  I love a good romance novel and am working on my very own, set in my lovely home state of Oklahoma.  The inspiration came to me in a dream.  I don’t want to make parallels, but Stephanie Meyer got her start in dreamland too so it’s practically meant to be, right?  I also write down the stories that I make up for my children at bedtime.  They love them and maybe one day someone else will too.  But, the main project that I am working on right now is what I like to call my “Mommy memoirs.”  Write about what you know, right?  Each chapter is titled with something completely ridiculous that I have actually said to my darling offspring (or someone else), such as “Mickey Mouse Eats His Sweet Potatoes”  “Mommy Needs a Time Out”  and “Stop Pretending That Your Graham Cracker is a Gun.”  The following is the latest chapter:

 

I Should Have Gone for a Pedicure

 

In an effort more legitimize my writing “craft” and frankly, to get a few hours away from my family on a Saturday afternoon, I signed up for a very exciting sounding writer’s workshop.  The workshop was to be led by a well-known and prolific writer who just happens to be from my hometown.   As an extra bonus, I live in a lovely town that supports the arts, meaning that this program was brought to yours truly free of charge.  Free!!!  You can’t beat that with a stick, right?

I arrived nearly late, which in my world is also known as nearly on time, because I’m just a “half full” kinda gal.  I may or may not have accidentally gotten into a texting convo with my girls, giddy about the prospect of being out of the house for a few hours to do “me” stuff.  Whatevs, I had my butt in the smallish uncomfortable chair before any actual work-shopping took place.

The author, let’s call him Mr. B to avoid any potential lawsuits, began by introducing himself, and his books, many of which were strategically for sale at a nearby table.  He dropped the name of his prestigious publishing house and consoled us that not everyone, obviously, would be gifted enough to be under this grand umbrella of approval.  He then ticked off his numerous awards, bestseller status, and soon-to-be miniseries syndication.

Hmmm…not exactly the start that I would have expected but the man is entitled to introduce himself and even be proud of his achievements, right?

Then, as an icebreaker of sorts, he started asking for a show of hands for writers of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, etc.  As I raised my hand for the non-fiction question, he looked directly at me.

“What are you writing?” He asked.

The career student in me preened at being called on by the “teacher” so quickly.  Obviously, he could see that I was special and serious about this writing business.  Here we go, I thought!

“Well, it’s called Get Out of the Dishwasher and is about…”

“The dishwasher?”  He asked with incredulity and a faint hint of derision. “What does that mean?”

I forged on.  “It’s a series of stories about my experiences as a mom, mostly humorous but…”

“Why don’t you just write a blog?” He interrupted…again.

“Well, um…” I faltered.  “I actually have before but…”

“Right.“ He turned from me and addressed the room at large over my quickly shrinking voice.  “Is anyone writing non-fiction about something other than washing dishes?”

And that was that, my project was dismissed.

Someone went on to explain his project about the little-known time Edgar Allen Poe spent as a soldier, another about her belief in a philosophy called mysticism, and so on.

I sat in my smallish uncomfortable chair feeling like I was in sixth grade and had just been pantsed in front of the entire class.  I felt my heart race and the hot burn of tears at the back of my eyeballs.

Do not cry!  I admonished myself.  It would be the final blow, my humiliation complete.  I considered just getting up and leaving, which would have been quite obvious in a room of about 20 people.

Instead, I sat there.  I seethed.  I hated myself.  I hated him.  You’re an idiot, I thought.  No, he’s an idiot!  Is this really what I’m writing about?  Washing dishes?  Why don’t I just write a blog?  Obviously, moms don’t read whole books.  We’re all too busy washing the damn dishes.  We haven’t a thought in our pretty little heads about real issues, about the real world.

Except, there’s this:  I know moms who are doctors, who are community volunteers, who are teachers and business women and chefs and school administrators and police officers and managers and soldiers and politicians.  Who are kicking ass and taking names and also being freakin’ fantastic moms.  And they care and they vote and they pray and they read and they matter.  They matter and deserve to be heard in all formats: blogs, books, newspapers, radio, whatever they want to put their pretty little heart and soul into.

So I sat in my smallish uncomfortable chair.  I listened to a mystery/thriller author discuss the mechanics of poetry, something most of us learned in Freshman Composition II.  I listened to him read from his own, recently published and of course for sale, book of poetry.  I even politely nodded and smiled occasionally, lest he know that he had hurt me.   I texted my friends, all just moms of course (except when they are saving lives and teaching children and rocking the business world), and said “I’ve GOT to get out of here!”

They were shocked.  I had been anticipating this awesome event for weeks.  I was so excited for the opportunity of learn from this guy.  What the hell had happened, they wondered.

Finally, finally, he released us for a break.  I immediately dug out my keys to my mommy mobile, which smells constantly like processed cheesy crackers, and put on my clearance rack designer sunglasses.  You see, in the age of inflation, we moms have to be pretty organized with our money to afford all of that dish soap, and don’t even get me started on laundry detergent, that shit is liquid gold these days.  With my head up, I walked out the door.  I managed to not give him the finger on my way out.

You see, what Mr. B didn’t realize or care about, is that in addition to being a mom, I’m also a lady.

As a parting thought, my book about washing dishes is as of this moment at nearly 47,000 words.  I estimate the completed product will be between 60,000-75,000 words.  That’s a lot of damn dishes!  I think I need a manicure.  And a pedicure too.

This chapter is dedicated to the Mr. B’s of the world.  Thank you for your wisdom, but you can keep it.

17 Responses

  1. Hi Julie! You’ve got a really great gift for telling stories … and washing dishes as well, I assume. I have made my name by writing a momma blog and four momma memoirs, one of which just won 2014 Best Nonfiction Book award at OWFI. I would love to mentor you through this publishing process. It’s rough to navigate alone, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons. I also want you to email me and share more about Mr. B with me. If it’s who I think it is, you can take what he says with a grain of salt, and in our own personal emails, I’ll tell you why.

    Also, please consider coming to OWFI next spring (first weekend in May). It’s a fabulous conference where you will find support a’plenty and information that is applicable and no one who’s worth their weight will ever dismiss you or your writing dreams.

    Screw Mr. B. You’ve got a future best seller to write.
    Heather Davis recently posted…#OWFI14My Profile

    • Stephanie Clinton

      Oh my gosh, Heather you are the best. Thank you for encouraging Julie. I know you will love her as much as I do. I’ve already decided that we are both going to go to OWFI next year. (happy dance)

  2. I’m standing here in my kitchen doing the slow clap of solidarity for your friend! What a horrible, horrible person to belittle her passion for writing like that. As a writer and editor myself, there is a right and wrong way to do it, and he certainly picked the wrong way. Unfortunately this is something I’ve also faced, but you’ve already found the antidote to this egregious behavior–go forth and multiply your words and say a prayer for those who just don’t get it.
    Mari recently posted…Inspiration and TruthMy Profile

    • Stephanie Clinton

      Slow clap indeed! I love all this encouragement for someone who is trying to do what she loves. *high five*

  3. *Joins Mari’s slow clap of solidarity* I have a pretty good idea who Mr. B is and let me tell you there is no love lost here. I attended a week long class (paid good money for it too, a lot of good money) of Mr. B’s and throughout the whole thing we basically told me my historical fiction novel wasn’t gritty enough to sell. I worked hard during the entire class, trying to get my manuscript Mr. B approved, which never really happened. Six months later, I walked up to Mr. B at another writer’s conference to say hi. After all I had spent an entire week with the guy, seen him every day for 8+ hours (it was an intense workshop), had conversations with him, poured my heart and soul on the page for him, etc. He had no clue who I was. I was so mad. At that moment I realized I had only been a dollar sign to him. I went home and changed my manuscript back to it’s original form and last May it hit #1 on the Amazon Best Sellers list after I independently published. The same Mr. B told me that if I write one inspirational novel (Quail Crossings can be considered inspirational) that I would have to continue in that genre and not write anything else. My 2nd novel, a paranormal contemporary romance, hit #5 on the Amazon Best Sellers list a few months ago. Long story, short… Mr. B is an arrogant jerk and you are not alone. So write that book, get that mani/pedi and wash Mr. B’s remarks down the drain with the bits of dinner left uneaten, because they are not worth a 2nd thought, although they make a great chapter. :)

  4. A few more things, (this is what happens when I unload groceries (cause like dishes they don’t do themselves, unless perhaps you’re Mr. B) I think of other things I should’ve said) you could not ask for a better mentor than Heather Davis. She is the funniest writer I know and so gifted when it comes to writing. She’s also one of the hardest working people I know in the profession. And please do consider coming to OWFI (www.owfi.org) next year. Writers need to be around writers who support other writers. It is a tough job and you don’t have to wade through it alone. OWFI is a great support system and (since you mentioned clipping coupons) they offer scholarships to the conference every year. Last but certainly not least, writer karma exists. Let’s just say after Mr. B brushed me off like an annoying gnat, he had an unfortunate run-in with the police while driving under the influence.
    Jennifer McMurrain recently posted…Congratulations Jennifer McMurrain!My Profile

    • Stephanie Clinton

      Jennifer, thank you so much for your encouragement for Julie. Seeing these kind words warms my heart and makes me to a happy dance.

  5. Wow, I’m nearly (nearly) speechless! Thank you for all of the love! I got so distracted reading it all that I burned the pizza sauce I was making for dinner tonight. More dishes to wash ;>).
    Heather, what kind words! I will most definitely be contacting you! And the writer’s conference sounds amazing; congratulations on your win!
    Jennifer, I in fact do know about that “run in” as it made the news! He neglected to mention it though in his list of notable “awards.” I wonder why…
    Thank you Stephanie, you are in inspiration!

    • Stephanie Clinton

      This makes me so happy. (not the pizza sauce part, but I’ve been there)

  6. K. Marie

    I’m almost positive I know who Mr. B is too…but for the sake of anonymity, I’ll move on with my comment. Can I just say he is no John Grisham?!?!?!

    It slays me when people presume to know what everyone in the whole wide world would want to read or what should be published. My bookcase is filled with books I bought on a whim–not necessarily because I could relate, but because something drew me in.

    I’m not a mother; I try not to wash dishes unless I have to, but I would buy your book. I’m drawn in by Mickey Mouse and the sweet potatoes!

    Be Encouraged and keep writing!

    • Thank you K Marie! Unfortunately, my children were less impressed that Mickey Mouse likes sweet potatoes; it’s an ongoing battle ;).

  7. Karen Kreft

    Julie, you are an inspiration to many. You have class to show it. Academics, bah. He will eat his words one day. You are a wonderful wife, mother, relative and friend to many. You will go far in life. Love you

  8. Ugh. I went to an evening writing seminar last week (I live in Austin) and the author also had copies of her books up for sale. The seminar was not free and had a required “manual” to buy for $25, cash only. I was okay with that – I understand supplying materials isn’t free and I have mad respect for folks following their dreams.

    The “manual” was poorly organized, barely referred to, and had numerous simple errors. Listen, if you’re a professional writer and you want me to buy your stuff, make sure it’s edited properly.

    The author said near the beginning of the “class” (there was no participation encouraged – she said she had too much material to cover in too short a timeframe to take questions) that there is no longer any such thing as prejudice. She also said talent trumps prejudice every time. Period.

    I almost fell out of my chair. Clearly, this wasn’t a personal attack on me or my work, but I was similarly infuriated.

    This is a great piece of writing, though you should talk about dishwashing some more. 😉
    Margi recently posted…Oklahoma City Memorial MarathonMy Profile

  9. Nice to meet another fellow writer, Julie. Thanks for the intro, Stephanie. I’m looking forward to seeing you both at OWFI next year. Love that conference. And not just because I won a second place prize for my snarky article entitled “How to Get His Ex to Hate You” (the same article I submitted last year and received a very unpleasant critique for because – and she really said this – the judge didn’t enjoy that sardonic type of humor, but if someone did, I did a decent job with it.) CLEARLY this year’s judge for that section was MUCH more discerning. And I’m not just touting the conference because I won two (yes, two!) of the cool centerpieces that were raffled off. (Thanks for lending me the $5 to buy the tickets, Mari – I’m sorry your own $5 didn’t get you even one. But I hope it helps to know your ($5) check is in the mail.)

    Julie, I’m delighted you’re connected with Stephanie and will be hooking up (in the purest of ways) with Heather – they both rock!
    Shel Harrington recently posted…Children of Divorce – 5 Things Parents Should Never SayMy Profile

  10. Megan Sherrer

    WooHoo!!! Way to speak of womanhood for all of us!!!!!

  11. I will never understand people being willing to dash someone’s dreams. Not cool, not cool at all. I look forward to reading more. :)
    Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green recently posted…Comment on Failing at Being a Housewife by RebeccaMy Profile

  12. I am loving all the great support Julie is getting here! Mr. B. is a total pig and isn’t worthy of second thought. What a jackass! I’m a believer in karma and trust me, he’ll get his due back in spades. Keep on writing, girl!
    Thanks for sharing Julie’s story, Stephanie!
    Julie {Lilacs & Longhorns} recently posted…You Can Find Me Digging in the DirtMy Profile

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