Check It Out: Inspiring Women Writers

I don’t usually promote authors or books on my blog, but there’s a first time for everything and I want to do my part to support the writing community. Plus, these women and their work are inspiring!

First there is the newly released Daddy: Reflections Of Father-Daughter Relationships, edited by one of my favorite bloggers, author K.E. Garland. I discovered Kathy’s blog, Kwoted, when I came across her first book, The Unhappy Wife during a Google search. (I’ll leave it to your imagination why I was doing a search that led me to the title.) Unlike her first book, which tells true stories of unhappy wives written by Kathy, Daddy is written by guest authors who have had challenging relationships with their fathers and, in their own way, have come to terms with it. The stories are powerful, painful, beautiful, and heartbreaking. Kudos to Kathy for giving women a venue through which to voice their deepest truths about their father-daughter relationship.

Then there’s Joanne DeMaio, who happens to be a distant relative, my father’s first cousin’s wife. I haven’t seen her in years, and only then at the occasional wedding and funeral, but I’m excited for her success. When a publishing deal she had hoped for fell through, she decided to self-publish her first novel and it went on to become an Amazon bestseller. The best part is that her publishing success happened when she hit her 50s, so there is hope for us in middle age! She is now the author of a series of novels that tell the stories of friends who live in a small, cozy town by the sea. Fun fact: Her daughter is her marketing agent.

I hope you’ll visit both women’s websites to learn more about them and their work.

Risk and Vulnerability

vulnerability-quoteWhat is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done? Jump out of an airplane? Travel abroad alone? Leave a job or relationship that wasn’t working? Start a business? Pursue a dream? Something else?

For me, it was to put my uncensored writing out there for others to see – and to criticize. I thought I would be safe when I signed up for a creative nonfiction writing course, with a small group of adults who had a passion for the craft. Our instructor set clear ground rules, one of which was to critique the writing, not the writer. This rule gave me the courage to share my work without censuring myself, for the first time ever.

So imagine my shock when, during a group critique of one of my essays, a classmate said, “I can’t imagine writing that about my [insert very close relation].” A pair of middle-aged women (I was in my early 30s at the time) nodded their heads in agreement as they whispered to each other and sent me disapproving glances. I looked to my instructor to correct them, remind them of the ground rules, but she didn’t. I felt betrayed by my classmates and by her. Worse, I felt like a naughty little girl who had done something very wrong.

After that class, I went back to writing in the closet for years and stuck mostly with fiction. Fiction felt safe because the characters weren’t real people and the stories came from my imagination. For a while, I also wrote feel-good news stories for a local newspaper. Then I started blogging, where I walk a fine line between speaking my uncensored truth and carefully choosing my language so as not to offend others or incite their  wrath. All low-risk writing.

Recently, I was reminded of how vulnerable we are when we put ourselves out there in any way, whether it’s speaking our truth, sharing our art, making decisions others don’t understand or approve of, or bucking society norms and/or traditions to follow our dreams or live more authentically. We open ourselves up to all kinds of judgement and criticism from others, some constructive and well-meaning, some downright mean. Sometimes it is the silence of indifference that hurts the most.

Risk-taking requires courage in the face of fear; it also  requires the willingness to be vulnerable. There is always a chance that we might be harmed, whether emotionally, financially, physically or in some other way.  But if we want to step out of our comfort zones and grow, if we want to pursue goals and dreams, if we want success that goes beyond the ordinary kind, or if we simply want to share our art in the most authentic way possible, we must take risks. That almost always leaves us vulnerable.

Have you ever felt truly vulnerable? I went through a brief period where someone had hurt me deeply, and as a result I felt incredibly vulnerable. It was as if every armor and shield of self-protection I had ever worn was ripped away, leaving me raw and exposed. Instead of fighting the feeling, I gave into it and an odd thing happened; I started to like it.  The softness of it felt light, and it carried a beauty and authenticity I hadn’t experienced before.  I was enveloped in a sense of peace and contentedness. Then after a couple of days, the outer shell started to harden again and the feeling went away, though I never forgot it.

Next time you’re wrestling with whether or not to take a risk, I encourage you to move beyond courage and embrace vulnerability.

soft-is-strong