I’m a struggling artist, if I define struggling as “someone who intentionally doesn’t do something” and artist as “a writer that never actually spends any time writing.” Continue reading “Changing me by changing what I read – My Reading List”
One of my biggest struggles as a fiction writer is that I want to explore spirituality and religion with my characters, but I absolutely do not want to write Inspirational or Christian fiction. Why? Well…
I’m a romance novel junkie. Seriously. There is nothing I love more than reading, and writing, romance. I love experiencing those emotions, the excitement and the pain and the fear and the lust and, ultimately, the love. Continue reading “A writer’s struggle: exploring spirituality in characters without boring the reader to tears”
Had I not turned off my alarm at 6:30a and then accidentally slept until 9:08a, this would have been the most perfect of Sundays. Despite my proclivity of alarm avoidance (third time this long holiday weekend), I managed to have the kind of Sunday that truly prepares me to deal with commuting and general ridiculousness on Monday. Continue reading “Some Sundays are nearly perfect”
I’m catching a flight to Seattle in less than 6 hours and I’m breaking one of my cardinal rules, which is to never, ever take a real book on a plane. Real books are too heavy and clunky and they limit you to just one thing, whereas my Kindle offers a world of books in a teeny little device. There’s only one thing that will make me break that tried-and-true rule and that’s a new book by MaryJane Butters.
If you aren’t familiar with MaryJane Butters and MaryJanesFarm, I have to ask you – what are you doing with your life?! Put down your iPhone, log off Facebook, and listen up.
When I was a kid, my house had a library. Okay, it was really just an unused dining room filled from floor to ceiling with bookshelves, but to an introspective, socially awkward girl like myself, it was a refuge. There, I learned about the world through the encyclopedias that ran along the bottom shelves. I was exposed to history through the hundreds of World War II books Dad had, as well as stacks of Life magazines from the 40s and beyond. The library was where I discovered smut and would sneak through pages of Clan of the Cave Bear when Mom and Dad weren’t home, my mind sucking up words like “throbbing” and “turgid.” And there, in the Romance section (aka Mom’s books), I was introduced to the book that I realize now has had a huge influence on my life as a lover of the written word. When I was 12 years old, I read Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss for the first time.
Alright, so… romantic fiction? Yay or nay? As a reader, they’re my favorite kind of books to lose myself in and, as an aspiring writer, romance is, by far, my go-to topic. Trying to find good romance novels to read… Well, that’s a challenge. Why? Because a big majority of romantic fiction out there just downright sucks.
I’m in love.
With a book.
I checked out Barnheart: The Incurable Longing for A Farm of One’s Own by Jenna Woginrich from the library, fully planning to leave it on my iPad until I got to the airport next Monday for my flight(s) to Seattle. That plan lasted all of…oh… seven minutes. Before long, I had my eyes glued to the screen and now I’m stealing a minute or two here and there in order to read some more.
As I said before, I’m in love.
Jenna’s memoir about establishing her farm on rented property in Vermont while living paycheck to paycheck is endearing. Her prose is entertaining and she has a way with words that sucks the reader in. (I mean, she talks about the “sun getting tired.” How cute is that???) I loved reading about her determination to get a small flock of sheep, her driving need to get a border collie, and her adoption of Finn, the most adorable baby goat to ever appear in any book.
I haven’t finished it yet. In fact, I have 33% to go. I’m trying to take it slow, even though I’m a fast reader, and savor it like a piece of decadent fudge. It’s too beautiful, too entertaining a story, and I want that life. As I sit in my townhouse, which is tucked under some trees but still close enough to a busy city street that I never escape the sounds of traffic, I realize how much I want that life. I feel the longing deep inside. It burns as strong as heartburn, but Tums will do nothing to take it away. I want my own flock of hens and four (yes, exactly four) goats, as well as two horses and a passel of misfit dogs. I want dirt under my fingernails. I want the kind of satisfying, exhausted sleep that only comes after a day of hard labor. When will I get to pluck a green pepper straight from the vine?
Jenna, though, has advice to offer about this exact question. In the introduction of the book, she says:
“When your mind wanders like this and your heart feels heavy, do not lose the faith, and do not fret about your current circumstances. Everything changes. If you need to stand in the slanting light of an old barn to lift your spirits, go for it. Perhaps someday you’ll do this every day. For some, this is surely the only cure.”
I have plans for my very own garden and livestock and even my own barn. They’re on hold until a few years down the road, after certain stock options have matured and are cashed out. But the important part is that they’re there. And as Jenna so wisely says, everything changes. Until then, I, too, have barnheart.
So back in 2003, I discovered MaryJanesFarm. I stumbled upon the magazine at a Walmart in my hometown, bought it, and was hooked. I still remember flipping through that issue, my heart in my throat over the gorgeous pictures and stories MaryJane shared in her magazine.
May 10, 2004 I joined the message boards on the website and began to talk to a lot of really great women. Eventually, I got to meet MaryJane Butters herself when she went on a book tour and stopped at Franny’s amazing cabin in the hills of Kentucky. This picture below, which I took about two years ago, shows how my obsession/collection had grown:
Back in 2009, though, I started to pull away from the crafty/organic person that I was and started writing a lot. And the problem when you write fanfiction is that you get sucked into a fandom and it takes over your whole life, which is what happened to me. I walked away from the fandom about a year ago but only recently found my way back to MaryJanesFarm. I’ve still subscribed to the magazine all this time, of course, but I wasn’t the same person anymore. And frankly, this new me, the “Vintage 2009” version of Rachel – I didn’t like her much.
So now I’m reconnecting with the crafty/organic woman who dreams of owning her own tiny farm. Now, though, I have visions of my farm being surrounded by the evergreens of the Pacific Northwest because every trip to Seattle just confirms that it feels like home out there. But yesterday, I logged back into the MaryJanesFarm message boards for the first time in forrrrever. Imagine my surprise when I clicked on my profile and discovered that I had joined exactly nine years ago, to the day!
This weekend, I’m going through all my craft supplies and fabrics and yarns and threads. It was so great to open up a tub and see it filled with beautiful prints!
And imagine my surprise when I opened up a second tub and found all the folkart dolls I used to make. How did I forget that I made these? I used to sell them at craft fairs! I still have tons of them and I need to do something with them – maybe I’ll give them away?
Anyway, I’m having fun reconnecting with the gal I once was. With some time and effort, I hope to become her again. She wore skirts a lot and made quilts and went to church regularly. (The only addition is that she now writes regularly, too. She’s working on a novel, dangit!) She wasn’t a bad person to be.