Blogs by Writers: This Woman’s Work

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I love reading blogs by writers. Blogs are a place where they are often free to be less “writer-ly” and are able to speak about various things that are going on in their lives, as well as about their writing.

Dawn Friedman’s blog This Woman’s Work is a perfect example of such a writer’s blog. Over the four or so years I’ve been reading her blog (full disclosure; I’ve also been to Dawn’s house and she took me out for the world’s best salty caramel ice cream, so I might be a bit prejudiced), I’ve watched her home school her son, change careers, adopt a daughter, draft a book proposal, trash that book proposal and create another, start two businesses, and pimp her sister’s crafts.

What I love about Dawn’s blog is that she lets you into each and every single one of these events with the same level of openness and genuineness. I feel like I’ve learned just as much from her about open adoption as I have about pitching articles to publishers. Her blog isn’t just about writing; it’s about living a writing life. She talks about the balance of motherhood and career, the societal pressures of raising a mixed race child, and about meeting with a new corporate client–sometimes all in the same entry.

Getting an opportunity to take such a full peek into a writer’s life is rare. Because blogs also feature comments, you are also able to engage with Dawn (and her readers) about all of these subjects, therefore including you in the story.

For me, I’ve found Dawn’s blog not just entertaining but also inspiring. It was with her encouragement that I made the leap into full-time freelance writing. Without her example, I would have never sent a single pitch to a magazine or website (so what if those pitches have fallen on deaf–or maybe blind–editor’s ears? The point is that I SENT THEM). I’ve also found it fascinating to watch her make the change from magazine writer and editor–where she felt she didn’t get to write about what she wanted to–to corporate writer (where she still may not be writing what she wants, but she finds the work easier and better paying). I eagerly perused her business cards for ideas when it came time to create my own.

But it’s not just the business end of writing that makes Dawn’s blog so riveting. Dawn’s stories of her family–particularly her incredible successful open adoption of her daughter Madison–are so open and heart wrenching that you can’t help but feel invested in her family. I’ve never witnessed any woman work so hard at the art of mothering, and her entries as she struggles with her role as mother are gripping. Again, she is inspiring–she’s forced me to look at elements of motherhood I might have never considered without her input.

So, anyway, enough gushing–go read it. You’ll find her blog is easily searchable so you can just read about what interests you, but I feel fairly certain you will end up reading more than you expected.

I meant to write about Dawn’s blog a couple weeks ago, but I was away in San Francisco attending a massive convention of women bloggers–please forgive me! I promise to write about another writer’s blog soon.

How Blogs Can Help New Writers

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A couple weeks ago I wrote about Jennifer Weiner’s blog. Today I want to go in a totally different direction and talk about a blog called “Anything for Material: This Writer’s Life” by Julie Ackerman, who is currently writing her first novel. She hasn’t been blogging for all that long–just since February of this year–but reading her blog has been fascinating for me as a writer. Especially as a writer who is intimidated by the novel form.

Julie left a high paying job as an attorney to stay home and write a novel. This fact completely blows me away, even though a year ago I quit a great job to stay home and be a freelance writer myself. I write articles and get paid for it. She’s writing a NOVEL and is willing to put herself out there and get it published. I realize that hundreds of writers do the same thing every day, but that doesn’t–for me–discount her bravery and courage in any way.

Julie uses her blog, it seems to me, almost as support for herself as a writer. She addresses the challenges she faces in writing her novel on her blog, and you can actually watch her work through a hurdle as she blogs. Julie writes a great deal about her process. She was inspired by Julie Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way,” and often utilizes some spiritual tools to help discipline herself. She speaks frequently of her “internal editor” and how hard she has to work to ignore that voice and plunge forward anyway. One of my favorite posts of hers is titled, “Creator Vs. Editor: The Smackdown” and she starts it like this:

Today my novelist friend said writing a book was like raising a child, because just when you learn how to handle a 10 month old, you have to learn how to handle an 11 month old, and just when you figure out one aspect of novel writing, a new challenge appears.

This has certainly been true for me. In writing my first draft, I edited what I had written the day before, then wrote at least 1,000 new words. But since finishing the draft, I’ve struggled to create reasonable daily goals for editing, and without them find it hard to feel satisfied, know when to quit for the day or to measure my progress. Also vexing is learning how to both create new work and edit existing work, tasks that use different parts of your brain and require different kinds of focus and energy.

The post goes on to talk about the different time of day her creator prefers, and how much she hates and resists the editing process. As all writers know, the editing can be the most critical step (my husband used to say to new writers when they read at the open readings we hosted, “Tell me about you editing process.” To which they universally replied, “Editing process?”). Watching Julie learn to trust herself as both a writer and an editor is the key strength of her blog.

I often say to my writing friends that you are shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t blog. For me, blogging has not only been a rewarding way to learn about myself and my writing, but it’s actually the place I found my voice. And it sure doesn’t hurt that more people read my blog in an hour now than read my entire collection of published poems–ever.

Julie’s blog is the perfect case in point of how writers can use blogs to improve their writing, and support themselves through the process. I find her blog deeply inspiring as I just now begin to contemplate putting together my own book. If you check it out, I’m sure you’ll be inspired too!

Blogging About Blogging: Author Blogs

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Hello! I’m Cecily Kellogg, a member of the Philadelphia Stories editorial board (poetry and non-fiction). I’m going to be writing here about blogs by writers, and how writers use their blogs. I’ve been blogging now since 2004, and I have to say, I have never been more connected to my writer’s “voice.” The nature of blogging–basically, keeping a public journal–has given me a real sense of who I am as a writer and what I want to do as a writer.

I won’t lie–all those people that read it every day? Yeah, they help too.

I also read blogs–I subscribe to about 150 blogs currently (I use something called Bloglines to keep track of them all). The blogs I read vary wildly–some are political, some are deeply personal, and some are by other people like me. People that are trying to make their living putting words on a page.

What I love about reading blogs by other writers is the sense of community I get from them. Hearing how other writers handle rejection, cope with writer’s block, or start the process of publishing a book gives me courage and teaches me.

Most of the blogs I read by writers are not famous writers. They are just other folks who either work as freelance commercial writers (as do I), or are aspiring novelists. But I do read several blogs by more well-known authors, and one of my favorites is by Philadelphia’s own Jennifer Weiner.

Jennifer Weiner is well known for her novels “Good In Bed,” “In Her Shoes,” and “Little Earthquakes.” She’s also published a mystery novel and a collection of short stories (which I just finished–it was excellent, but I wanted each story to be its own novel) called “The Guy Not Taken.” In her blog she often discusses publishing foibles and challenges, her upcoming events (or her past events and how they went), and all-too-rare mentions of her children.

But where her blog really shines is when she unleashes her considerable wit and irony on the publishing industry at large.

Because she’s a female novelist whose books often have pink covers (these are her words), she is cast into the category called “chick lit.” She both bemoans this fact but also embraces it, because so many women authors are labeled with this rather dismissive term. She often mentions books she’s reading, and authors she loves. She discusses the hypocrisy of book reviewers, and gently admonishes other writers for their egos (particularly those authors that both court attention and revile it). Reading her blog can often feel like a ring-side seat into the deep, dark world of book publishing and all that goes on there. When I keep up with her blog, I feel much more connected to the world of publishing–even though I don’t yet have a book to publish.

If you are interested in reading more, check out Jennifer’s blog here. You won’t be sorry.