Tag Archive for narrative nonfiction

My Writing Process Blog Tour.

Long time! Oy. Day job and June, in general, were rough. Many highs and a couple lows. I owe an explanation in another blog post but for now….THIS. I was invited to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour by Scott Springer, another Sacramento writer. He kindly wrote about me and my little ebook in his Writing Process blog post. His new book, Bound by Blood, comes out in September! Thank you, Scott. (And I’m sorry I’m posting this late!) x

Bound by Blood

My Writing Process is an ongoing blog tour in which authors blog about their own processes by answering four basic questions and then pass the baton to other authors. The questions and my wordy answers follow.

What am I working on?

In truth, I’m working on procrastinating but I have been working for a few, slow years on a book I wrote about my experience in beauty college. I’d been working in a government job I heavily disliked and at the time, my mom was nearing the end of her eight-year battle with colon cancer. I knew that I didn’t want to return to the dirty, lonely cubicle I had been in for 14 months when I lost her and decided to do something drastic: I enrolled in beauty college.

My dad’s reaction: Hey! Great idea!

My mom’s reaction: What.

My girlfriends’ reactions: I will be your model!

My brother’s reaction: Whatever.

My guy friends’ reactions: Will you introduce me to your single classmates? (I was too old for them, apparently.)

My coworkers’ reactions: I’m so jealous.

Anyhow, I told my disapproving mother that I was going to write a blog about my year in beauty school. Every day, I would write. It would be just like Julie and Julia, the blog turned into a book and then into a movie. I was going to write my first book. Mom was dubious, all the way up until I lost her. I could never tell her why I did it, though. I didn’t want her to know her impending death was tearing me up inside and I needed a change.

To quote a favorite book of mine, “My mom was the love of my life.”

Ugh, tears.

So, anyhow…working on Draft #3218 at the moment of Hair AmErica. First, an ebook. Next, Oscar-winning movie with Jennifer Lawrence playing me with fantastic hair. I may write a romance into the screenplay though because the only love affair I had in beauty college was with my State board final preparations. It ended with a happy divorce.

(Tangent: I do have an outline for a picture book based on my experiences grading student exams about ten years ago and the silly answers the kiddos would write that would deserve high marks but didn’t receive them based on stupid educational standards. And an intermediate fantasy book about SLEEPING. The idea works, I’m telling you. You just have to wait, though.)

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Ehhh…I don’t know really how it’s different than others in its genre except that I haven’t read anything else like it. I write what is called creative nonfiction or narrative nonfiction. Or…memoir. I learned recently the different between “memoir” and “autobiography,” actually. (You’re about to learn something useless here.) A memoir is written work about a period of your life, not your entire life. That would be an autobiography. So, I’m currently writing a memoir about my year in beauty college. I can just see all the heterosexual males lining up to buy my first copies. Truth: my dad read the entire blog as it was happening. He loved it, and he’s also biased. When writing a book, you’re supposed to do some research first. You’re supposed to find out if others have written what you’re wanting to write about. You might find some competition or learn that it’s been tried and failed. I have only seen one other mainstream book written about beauty college, and that was Kabul Beauty SchoolI started reading it years ago, and while it was good, I didn’t finish it. It also takes place in AFGHANISTAN. My book takes place in SACRAMENTO, so I think I’m golden, that is, if I can ever get this book finished. And this is still a work of nonfiction. I am writing about myself. But it’s not a “how to” book. That’s why it’s called creative or narrative nonfiction: it reads like a novel. So I’d like to think.

Why do I write what I do?

I have no deep answer for this. I even Googled other writers’ responses to this question to get ideas.  It should be easy to write about myself; my books are memoirs. However, I write what I know, which is about things that have happened to me or things that I have done. I have difficulty answering questions about why I write these things, and the only thing I can think of is that quote I see people post often on Facebook by Toni Morrison:

“If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

She was probably referring to literary fiction, but I’ll take it. I can’t say I’ve ever wanted to read a book about beauty school, but I think people can relate to being stuck and looking to something else for happiness. This book about beauty school also deals with death, grief, cancer, volunteerism, politics, love, friendship, and grace…though that description may make the book sound way better than it actually is. That is my biggest fear at the moment, that no one else will think it’s great. It will be dedicated to my mama, so that makes it superb.

By the way, my mom always talked about how she wanted to write a book. A mystery. She lacked the confidence and time, though. This is why my pseudonym includes the original spelling of her maiden name, is now attached to my first book, a book about online dating. I feel like online dating is a bit of a mystery…as in you never know what you’re going to get. x

How does my writing process work?

I don’t have a process. Clearly. I just write when I can. I save every draft by dating them so I know which version is the last one I worked on. I do have some whiteboards with outlines on them that have half-wiped clean accidentally during the four moves I’ve made in four years. My desk is a mess, as is the living room coffee table which adds to my procrastination, I know. I sometimes write for other websites for free with the promise they will send people to my blog and then book for purchase, but that has not proven to be fruitful, so no more…for now. I have been trying to submit a few query letters a week for representation for the hair book. I am about to do the same for my now award-winning ebook based on my online dating experiences in a blog called So Many Tools in the Internet Shed. Anything to leave my cubicle farm. I think the dating book makes an excellent bathroom read.  xx __________________________________________________________

I’ve invited two writers to participate in this tour thingy. (It should have been three but had a difficult time hearing back from people and I owe poor Scott a blog post!) You may want to follow them. They’re pretty interesting and diverse.

Josh Fielder writes as Hack Kerouac. (Just select the link there so you don’t have to spell “Kerouac.” You’re welcome.) I met Josh in an interesting way. He wrote an amazing post not long after the Newtown shootings that was shared endlessly throughout Facebook. I stalked him and added him and then won a dog collar from his side business for a dog I never got. He had gained many fans (and stalkers…real ones…and not me) and started blogging about his experiences as a cab driver, gaining MORE fans. That blog is about to become a book, and he’s about to embark on a national tour in his RV with his sidekick dog, Izzy. Check him out.


Edward Medina. I met Edward in a writing group on Facebook, and he’s done a LOT. Lemme just post this from his profile because I couldn’t say it any better.

Amazon bestselling author Edward Medina is a native New Yorker who was raised by his mother and grandmother to believe that life is an adventure best lived to the fullest. To that end he has lived his life on the edge of creative possibility.

Well, that doesn’t exactly say what he’s done, but I had to include a line about his mama and his grandmama. Trust me though, his canon is full of creative goodness. Okay, here’s a little more:

Amazon bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic steampunk adventure novels, short stories, and poems. Find Edward HERE.

by Edward Medina

by Edward Medina

(Almost) Everything is Gold.

I came home from a long trip up the 101. I’d been wanting to visit Oregon and Washington for awhile…to see if either were a place I’d eventually want to move my life (and cats) to since Sacramento has become so mundane to me these past few years. (It’s my hometown. It’s time to go.)

Mom had always wanted to retire somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. She’d grown up in the Sacramento area and never liked it. She passed away trying to earn a nice retirement working for the State of California, a retirement she never got to enjoy. That will not be me.

I drove Mom’s car up the 101…drove through Avenue of the Giants…towering and overpowering giants of indescribable beauty. Smart phone pics and my amateurish photography skills will never do them justice.

My first day on the road.

My first day on the road.

The 101 was so beautiful, I often found myself driving without the radio on. The 101 is its own soundtrack.

The Oregon Coast was exquisite. Oregon’s beaches are different than California’s, and I can’t quite put my finger on why but maybe it’s because they’re empty. They’re cooler, not hot. No need to worry about tripping over bathing beauties. No, you’ll find readers and meditators bundled up in long sleeves and pants, enjoying everything a beach with no heat has to offer. The scenery is too pretty to lay down on your back in a suit and miss it. The beaches smell different, too…but not in a bad way. The consistent clouds and inconsistent glimmers of sun create a special filter that cheap sunglasses and Instagram cannot duplicate. Seriously, it felt almost alien. I like sci-fi, so that’s a good thing.

The Oregon 101

The Oregon 101

I found the place my little family enjoyed a week-long vacation at in the early 1980s. It’s still there. My dad remembered the name, Cape Code Cottages, and said, “It’s between two little towns called Yachats and Waldport.” And he was exactly right. The cottages were exactly halfway between the Yachats and Waldport “Welcome!” signs. And management still provides VCRs and have updated their VHS collection to the 1990s…at no additional charge.

While they didn’t have room for me to stay on my way up the 101, they had room for me on the way back down. They gave me their best cottage: on the beach with the best view.

The Cape Cod cottages have been in Waldport Oregon for decades.

The Cape Cod cottages have been in Waldport Oregon for decades.


My cottage. Includes VCR.

My cottage. Includes VCR.

The view from my cottage.
The view from my cottage.

Another view from my cottage.

Another view from my cottage.

The 2,000-year-old stump.

The 2,000-year-old stump.

Walk on my beach.

Walk on my beach.

After my walk.

After my walk.

During my walk.

During my walk.

Tide pools.

Tide pools.

Spent a day in Portland. Bought many books and ate some funny doughnuts. Left the next day for Seattle.

LOVED Seattle.

Ferris wheel.

Ferris wheel.

Seattle. On the way to Bainbridge Island.

Seattle. On the way to Bainbridge Island.

I loved Seattle. To live, it might be perfect.

I met the male version of myself there, as well. I learned I enjoyed hanging out with someone…much like myself, for once. I have looked long and hard for that in Sacramento and have yet to find it. He told me he had never met anyone like me before. I hadn’t met anyone like him. He asked me write about him, so here is his 15-second-reference. And that is all everyone is going to get on that subject. ;)

I stopped at Cannon Beach, as well. Here is Haystack Rock, or as Generation X-ers know as the key to One-Eyed Willy.

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach.

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach.

Stopped at some other Goonies hot spots, too.

The Walshes.

The Walshes.


The jail.

The jail.


The Baby Ruths.

The Baby Ruths.


And The David.

And The David.

The last two nights were spent back at the cottages in Waldport. On my way up the 101, the second I stepped onto the beach, I cried. Hard. I had remembered it exactly as it was 30 years earlier. I called my dad, and we cried on the phone. Mom loved that beach, and it was one of the happiest memories I had with my family. My dad said I had an impressive memory.



When I came back to the cottages at the end of my trip, I wasn’t sad. I was happy. I got to read a mystery book I picked up at the famous Powell’s bookstore in Portland on my mom’s favorite beach near that ugly stump.



And then it was time to go.

Entrance to the beach.

Entrance to the beach.

Bye, Big Stump.

Bye, Big Stump.

My trip was almost everything it could have been. A friend said I *won* at vacation.

I arrived home last Sunday. I had Monday off to pick up these jerks at the kennel. Their caretaker sent me this while I was away.



A good friend came over and we swam in the pool. And the reality of my returning to the insidious working environment I am currently experiencing was overwhelming. It was the one thing that took away from enjoying my trip completely, sadly. I’d pulled over at a rest stop my second day on the 101 to compose an email to the deputy director (again) about management. I couldn’t fully enjoy the 101 until I had my grievances in writing. I am still waiting for a response.

During this last day of vacation, I received a message: my little dating book that I published for kicks won an award. A GOLD AWARD…from the Nonfiction Authors Association.

I hadn’t been expecting it. Maybe a bronze…but I got GOLD. And I officially became an award-winning author.



It reminded me I have *other* things going on. And it validated these projects I’ve been working on, not making money, trying to get out of a situation not meant for me. And…this isn’t even the *big* project.

The dating book was never supposed to win anything. I have this other book I’ve been working on for a few years that I believe in and keeps me going. Trying to achieve that golden life I’ve worked a little hard for. I also promised my mom I would publish that *big* book, no matter what. This award helps tremendously, though. People I don’t know have read the book and enjoyed it. I not only needed this nudge to keep working on the other one, but a nudge to include in my query letters to compel some strangers my books might be worth representing and publishing.

I learned a few days later I get to read from my AWARD-WINNING book out loud in July. I got picked to be a featured reader. This little dating book based on a dating blog I wrote while working for the State of California because they had no work for me to do. Who’d have thunk it.

I guess I owe some credit to California taxpayers and the manager who didn’t have enough work for her analysts.

This award also made me incredibly annoying at work last week. Anytime the insidious managers would say something stupid or start some drama, I would remind them I am an award-winning author and that I write about everything. EVERYTHING.

Being a blogger might prove more useful than calling my union.

I miss my ethereal Oregon beaches, Seattle, and Mom.

Yes, I was.

Yes, I was.


Nerves and Things.

I just read aloud from my book for the first time. Didn’t pass out.

I attend a monthly writing marathon session at a place called Thinkhouse Collective. It’s referred to by the owners as like “a gym membership for office space.” Last month, the owner told me during a break from writing that since I write creative nonfiction, I should check out the quarterly open mic for nonfiction writers called True Story. Every third month of the year, four featured speakers read their work for 10 to 12 minutes, and then there are five-minute opportunities for anyone else to read. Anything. ANYTHING. Anything that is true and happened to them.

How exciting! I went straight to their website. And this is when I saw the pic of one of the featured speakers from the previous event. This man has a distinctive look and sent me a nasty message on OKCupid a few years earlier. One that jarred me and caused me to send his picture to a friend who works for The Sacramento Bee still (where I used to work) to see if he recognized him; his dating profile indicated he was an investigative reporter. My friend didn’t recognize him, but that’s okay NOW because I know who he is. The dummy had used the SAME PICTURE.

He still works there. At The Bee.

Earlier last week, it hit me that the open mic was that Thursday. I had no idea if I would read or not. I had no idea what to READ even.

I put out feelers to my friends via text and Facebook, friends who had actually read my book. I asked them what I should read. I got a few generic suggestions, such as: one of the first chapters in your book. Or one about one of your dates.

Ooooookay. Thaaaaaaanks.

I’m also realizing folks seem to like the first half of my book better than the second.

I was looking at chapters that focused on specific dates but couldn’t get anything to under five minutes. I’d timed myself reading aloud, trying to sound like David Sedaris or Amy Schumer. Not only was I worried that my work was NOT that funny, but how would I SOUND? I am 37. I sound like a teenager.

I found a chapter. It was about my very first experiences with the dating websites and the profiles. General, but I thought it was funny, AND if I read it at just the right speed, I could get it to 5 minutes, 15 seconds.

I took a draft of the chapter to work on Thursday, the day of the reading. I eliminated a paragraph and a few sentences and some adjectives. I got it to just UNDER five minutes. BOOM!

And I still didn’t know if I was going to read it. I mean, these open mics…there are people with advanced degrees in writing and who teach how to write. I’m a state worker who went to beauty college and wrote a book about online dating. My next book is about beauty school.

But you don’t need advanced degrees to write. You need advanced degrees if you want to collect some debt, however.

I got permission to leave work an hour early so I could make the event at a reasonable time to get onto the open mic list, but I ended up leaving at 1:30. I was fed up at work. Fired off an email to the Deputy Director about my unit’s sad state of affairs and said SEE YA. I’M GOING TO READ ALOUD FROM MY BOOK.

Got home. Took a nap. Hadn’t done laundry in about three weeks (I own a lot of underwears) so took a hot minute to figure out what I was going to wear. Something I didn’t have to adjust in front of a lot of people. I’d remembered the event’s organizers said that they had about 100 people at the last event in January.

I was aiming to look a little more professional than how I look when I go to the karaoke bar. You know, looking like I have at least a little credibility as I read a chapter about my bitter experience with online dating. Not like I’m about to sing Journey.

I fed the cats and headed to the venue. My bottled water spilled a bit onto my papers as I took some sharp corners and I immediately regretted not putting them in a folder to look more professional. But then I was headed to coffee shop to read, so I figured the wet/weathered paper look would make me look more authentic. Or just really clumsy.

The venue looked kind of empty. They’d just put out the empty open mic list and a man I know at the acquaintance level from other networking meetings put his name down first. I was second. I was going to really read.

I found a seat at the end of a row of tables. Somewhere easy to get up and read or get up and pee or get up and LEAVE suddenly should I realize it was a very stupid idea.

I was glad I wasn’t the first open mic reader, too. I figured this was a very serious event, and I was going to read a chapter that is basically me bitching about online dating. I could still possibly drop out if I felt I was out of place.

A friend came. And I became friendly with the person on the other side of me. She’s a hynotherapist. She asked if I was reading, and I said I was. I told her my topic, and she laughed. She said a lot of people could probably relate, and then I calmed down a bit.

And then she said, “I think there is a theme tonight. I think people are reading about their reactions to 9/11.”


But she wasn’t sure.

I sat for a moment. Ehhhh…I didn’t want to wait until it was my turn to read to say, SORRY. I missed the memo that said everyone was reading about their memory of 9/11 tonight. I was going to read about online dating.

I found the open mic list lady and asked. She said she hadn’t heard that but she was going to read an essay about 80s music, so I was probably fine.

If anything, at least there was someone else who missed the 9/11 memo.

The first featured speaker was the event organizer. Her new ebook was debuting the next day, and it was about how to treat your own depression. She read the opening chapter. I think.

The next featured speaker. She was blonde with blue eyes. She wrote about her own beauty and how she uses it and appreciates it. I will say I thought I was missing the point that she is celebrating herself, empowering herself, until she started picking apart women who don’t dress up and overweight men she flirted with to make their day. She said it was her truth. I was uncomfortable. I looked around the room at the very women she was denigrating. The only laughter I heard was from her group of friends and a little from the group organizers. I mean, they had, after all, selected her essay to be read at the event. (Folks submit their work a few months in advance to be considered to be featured at the next event. It must have sounded better on paper.) After her speech, a person next to me said, “Not all tools are men.”

I laughed. The title of my book is So Many Tools in the Internet Shed. I hadn’t missed anything.

I know we should be supportive of what other people share. I thought she was mean, and she didn’t have to share what she did and how she did. I’d wanted to hug all the “frumpy” women in the audience.

But then my book about online dating can be mean. But it’s about guys who were mean first. 

The third featured speaker was a woman who owned a local yoga studio. She epitomized every generalization attached to a yoga studio owner: cheerful, tiny, flexible-looking, and whimsical.

She read about her miscarriage. And about how she found God and how even a miscarriage can be considered holy.

The man I know from the professional speakers meetings I attend read next as the first person listed for open mic readers. He read about his glaucoma diagnosis. It was poignant.

And I was getting nervous that here were these very serious and touching stories (except that lady) and I was going to read about ONLINE DATING.

The reader before hadn’t taken all five minutes, so it was suddenly my turn. I got up. Only then did I realize HOW full the venue had gotten. I was looking at about 100 people.

The few times I’d looked behind me earlier, it didn’t seem as full. I decided to keep looking down as I read.

I adjusted the microphone, fighting the urge to not break out in karaoke song. I was introduced with my REAL name, but I said I was going to read a chapter from my ebook about online dating, and that it was bitter, and that I write under a fake name because I write about real people.

I got some laughs.

We needed them.

I began my reading. I was trying to keep a steady pace, to make it under that five-minute mark. However, I was getting a lot of laughs!

I did my best to pause to let the laughter die down but I had a five-minute deadline so I kept moving.

I tried to look up a few times. The papers in my hands were shaking. I’d been glad I numbered the pages right before I went up in case I dropped them because they all looked the same.

I finally heard the four-minute warning and I said, “This is exactly five minutes so I’m going DO THIS!”

I was hoping this would let the timekeeper know that if by chance, that five-minute alarm went off, she’d know I was ALMOST DONE because the last two lines of my chapter were the funniest. I couldn’t leave those out.

I kept going. I know I was reading fast.

And then I finished.

I forgot to say, “Thank you.”

I walked off really fast but got a lot of applause and had gotten a lot of laughter. I was funny!

And I relaxed through the rest of the speakers.

The next woman read about recognizing an attacker in the newspaper. She kept reading past the five minutes, and I saw the organizers look at each other like………..well…..what should we do? And then she finished.

And then the next woman got up and was actually kind of funny as she read about a hike she took. She also went past the five-minute alarm…….got the same look from the organizers…and finished.

I could tell people were fidgeting both times the folks went past the five minutes. There was a list of people who wanted to read their stories. And every minute counted. The venue was only booked until 8pm, so there was some tension.

And one open mic reader didn’t make it in. There had been a list of five people, and only four of us read. The last featured speaker needed their moment.

She was a columnist for the Sacramento News and Review. I’d read her stuff before, and it was good. She had a book release not long before about love and relationships, and she read her introduction about her boyfriend and their break-up.

Between you and me, mine was the funniest of the night. And I knew this because I had people compliment me right after. I handed out some cards. People wanted to buy my book!

My friend and I left. I felt good. I got a milkshake from McDonald’s on the way home, to celebrate.

I hadn’t passed out. It wasn’t terrible.

I had a note the next day from an attendee that I was “fabulous.” Someone else “reviewed” the meeting and suggested giving open mic readers more time when there is laughter because “that poor woman reading about Match.com was hard to understand because she couldn’t pause to let the laughter die down.”

Someone familiar said he really enjoyed my reading, that “wit” was a serious understatement.

I should have gotten TWO milkshakes.

I can’t wait for the next one. x


P.S. The 9/11 thing? I saw on the website that if peeps didn’t know what to write about, they could write about a memory, such as their memory of 9/11. That is where the hynotherapist got that misinformation.

P.P.S. That featured reader who’d sent me the nasty message? He’d been on the “going” list. I didn’t see him, but I’d forgotten to look. I like to think he recognized me and took off.

You never know who’s writing a book about their dating experiences, dude.