"Have you thought about writing your family history, but found yourself stuck from the start? Writing a family narrative can be a daunting task, but Karen Jones Gowen found a way to bring her mother's story to life." (Homespun Magazine)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How Do People Do Stuff?

I've had these questions lately. Like, how does anyone find this blog when I do nothing to promote it and don't follow anyone with this link? Yet 53 people have found me here. Latest is the awesome Elana Johnson *waves to Elana* and so this brings me to other questions.

Like, how do 62 year-old unemployed men with broken knees find suitable jobs? Men like my husband who were in the mortgage business for 25 years and saw their livelihoods disappear with the economic, mortgage-related crash three years ago. He had his own business and we thought he was set for retirement and could work into old age doing what he loved-- helping people with less than perfect credit get home loans. Not any more.

And, how does one woman have a dream about vampires, write a book and become a millionaire? Yet other writers labor for years over much better books and never find a publisher let alone become independently wealthy. How do you hit the jackpot like that? There's no way anyone can plan to make such a thing happen. It's like winning the lottery.

Do you ever wonder how some people have amazingly happy and successful marriages and others struggle to find one single, satisfying relationship? I'm one of those lucky ones and I for the life of me can't tell you the secret to this one. Same with kids. I have 10 awesome, talented and wonderful children, who are growing to adulthood and making me and their dad proud. How did we do this? Don't know, can't tell you.

How do some people stay thin their whole lives,and others struggle to lose even five pounds? Are the thin people more disciplined, or just have better genetic makeup? What's the secret to being thin and healthy? And don't say diet and exercise, because I know skinny minnies who eat candy and watch TV every night. While others are dieting and exercising constantly but can't lose ten pounds.

So is it just me,  or does anyone else wonder how people do stuff? If so, what kinds of things do you wonder about?

Monday, August 23, 2010

What is Your Passion? And Can you Make a Living at it?

I had a conversation today with my son who's preparing to go back to college after two years in South Africa. Originally, his plan was to earn money through music-- as a teacher, playing in orchestras, and giving private lessons. His major is music education and his instrument is the viola. But now that he's back in the States, and the talk is about the economy, he's wondering if he should go into science rather than the arts, for more financial stability.

He enjoys science, gets good grades and could do something in that field, yet music is his passion, and he wants to make a living at it. He says, "I can't imagine anything more wonderful than getting paid for playing music."

Meanwhile, I'm reading a blog today and find this quote by Dan Wells, award-winning author of I am Not a Serial Killer:

"Anyone can make a living as an artist. If you put as much time and energy as a doctor does in building a career, you can be just as successful. Unfortunately there are not programs designed to guide an author step by step into the industry as there are in other fields but if you consider yourself a writer and work everyday toward making it a career, you can't lose."

What do you think? In spite of economic issues, do you think it's possible to support a family by pursuing one's passion? Or should artsy people like writers, musicians and actors stick with the sensible majors where high-paying jobs are waiting?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Writing from Life

I finished my second novel, House of Diamonds, and it's being reviewed by the editor for the second time. I believe I may have another set or two of revisions and then we can call it good. I hope so. I feel really good about this one. Here's the handle (And thank you to some fantastic blogging friends for helping me pull it together):  "Two sisters, one facing opportunity the other tragedy. Can their bond endure?"

It's written about things experienced by my sister and I (Cindy and Marcie in the books) at a particular time in our lives. I wouldn't call it an autobiographical novel, because I make so much stuff up. But the background comes from true experiences. I wrote it because I wanted to tell this story:

When the lives of two sisters take a much different course than expected

When one sister is on the verge of realizing her lifelong dream and the other faces a terrible tragedy

To give a voice to a beloved baby who had none

To show the incredible power that comes to families when they pull together to overcome challenges. At these times, a house of pain can become a house of diamonds.

House of Diamonds is up on Goodreads if you want to add it to your to-read shelf. (hint hint).

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Fat Sister

My older sister was fat. It was one of the common topics of conversation around the house, especially as she entered her teen years.

“Are you sure you want seconds on spaghetti, Julie?”

“But I love spaghetti, Mom. It’s my favorite food. Spaghetti isn’t very fattening, is it?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“How about if I eat seconds on spaghetti instead of finishing my salad?”

I grew up hearing about calories, sit-ups, and the latest diet. All my sister’s friends were skinny and pretty and popular. Julie had soft white-blond hair, round blue eyes and a friendly smile. Everyone liked her. But she wasn’t thin. And at 13, 16 and 18 having a trim figure seemed like the answer to all her problems and the most important goal one could hope to reach.

When she didn’t make the swim team, it was because she was too fat. When she didn’t go to Junior Prom, it was because boys don’t date fat girls. When she didn’t get the part-time job she wanted, it was because of the excess weight.

She would try to diet, cutting out seconds and passing by the candy stand at school. After several weeks of such discipline, a two or three pound loss would be her reward. Oh, joy! She was getting there at last. She felt thin and self-disciplined. And then she’d go back to eating mashed potatoes and Snickers until the discouraging cycle would begin again.

In those days I had no weight problem, so I couldn’t really understand my sister’s obsession with her figure. (Although if I had really thought about it, I might have seen a parallel in my own tendency to stand forever in front of a two-way mirror agonizing over my big nose.) I’m afraid she didn’t find me a very sympathetic audience as she stood each morning before the full-length mirror.

“Karen, does this skirt and blouse make me look fat?”

“Well, maybe a little.”

“How about with the blouse out? Is that better?”

“I’m not sure.”

“But look at it from the back. Fat?”

“Uh, no. I think it’s better with the blouse in. Definitely.”

“Are you sure? How about if I wear a sweater?”

“Julie! I’m gonna be late for school. Yes, it looks fine.”

“No, it doesn’t. You’re just saying that so you can go. You don’t even care about me.”

“Yes, I do! Wear the blouse tucked in and the sweater.”

“How about the blouse out and the sweater out? Doesn’t that cover more?”

“No. It looks sloppy. Now I’ve got to get to school. Bye.”

“Mo-ther!” The tears start. “Why am I so FAT?"

Eventually Julie learned why she was fat. It had to do with eating too much and exercising too little. Somewhere along the line, when she was in college, she got it all together and lost her excess weight.

Now she’s ten pounds lighter than me, jogs two miles a day and, although she still loves food, she rarely overeats. My sister who was a teenager with a matronly, frumpy shape is now the mother of two and has the figure of a nineteen-year-old.

And no one deserves it more than my fat sister.

(Note from author: This essay was written 25 years ago, when I only weighed 10 lbs. more than her. Now it's more like 50. Not something I'm real proud of, but just thought I should let you all know LOL.)