WHY I WRITE*

the-montpellier-writers-group

 

As the author of two memoirs, I have gotten accustomed to people being curious about how I manage to deal with the embarrassment/shame/guilt of recording such personal information about my life, for all to see.  Why do I want to write all that stuff down?

For starters, I have to clarify that by the time I am writing about a particular experience, the story is no longer about the current me; it is about the me of another time, a past me, a younger me, a me who had not yet learned the lesson that I am trying to describe in the piece I am creating.

In other words, I write to get some retroactive introspection.  I have never been a journal keeper, a detail I mention because many writers, and especially memoirists, recount lifetimes of journaling. The journals become the basis for their books. Unfortunately, I have never been that disciplined or organized.  I do, however, have that type of mind onto which things get emblazoned.  The point being that when I am finally ready to make sense of a particular story, I actually need to write it down, to work out how it all connects.

The reason I write about such personal stuff is because I cannot stand small talk.  It’s probably why I became a therapist, too.  I like to get straight to the heart of the matter – mine or the other persons.  When I write about how mad or sad I was at a certain time, or how I behaved badly, or did something weird, I actually feel a tremendous sense of relief.  Releasing the story for all the world to read is my way of saying “I don’t have secrets, I am not ashamed.”  By admitting what a twerp/flake/wreck I was, and how I learned from my own bizarre behavior, I feel liberated to move on and hopefully avoid making the same mistakes twice.

The greatest compliment I have received regarding my writing is how starkly honest it is, although that feedback is often followed with the question, “aren’t you afraid of being judged?” The truth is yes, I am afraid of being judged, but there is no way to please everyone. I am going to be judged negatively by someone no matter what I write.  I have had some readers say that I am the most selfish, pathetic person ever.  Of course that hurts.  But I would hate it more if readers said, “what a bore,” or “this story did not make me think at all.”

There is an enormous gap between what the traditional publishing establishment (or at least the segment of agents and publishing houses that I have interacted with) considers commercially viable and what I consider to be the part of my life worth writing about.   Both of my books got rejection after rejection from the traditional establishment because they said I spent too much time talking about “difficult” things like my “complicated” marriage, or identity loss, or being culturally different from my children.  The mainstream doesn’t want “difficult,” I was told.  They want to be entertained.

I don’t buy it.  When I think of some of the “complicated and difficult” situations I have been in, I know that while in the thick of it I would have killed for someone to give me a book that mirrored what I was going through.  If I can use my stories to teach others, then I feel that whatever mistakes I have made served a larger social purpose.  And that feels really good.  It makes whatever negative judgements I have to contend with worth it.

*Written originally for the fabulous Tendayi Chirawu’s blog, reprinted here because I have been too busy lately to create new material for the blog!

KristinWHY I WRITE*

MALIN means SMART!

MALIN MILLER FOR BLOG
When Malin Miller moved to Madrid in 2004 because of her husband’s job, she took advantage of the break from her own professional life in the Swedish Foreign Affairs Office to study that which she had been dreaming of for years: Interior Design. And thus the first step was taken towards the dream she lives today: DesignMalin.

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KristinMALIN means SMART!

The Badass Militant Library Activist Speaks!

BADASSLORI

Today I am featuring Lori Rivas, a dear friend from Mount Holyoke College days, who will be hosting us in her Santa Clarita home as we make our way down the California coast.  As a Christian, home schooling mother of four, and radical defender of the Public Library, Lori has spent the last 20 years “focusing on the ethical expression of parental love, and then applying those lessons to broader society.  The drive to actively love my kids, first through attachment parenting, then through homeschooling, and now through advocating for public libraries, is all rooted in my Christian faith to love others.”  Read More

KristinThe Badass Militant Library Activist Speaks!

Got Coffee, Mama?

CoffeeMamaforBlog

I met  Neslihan Grasser, the owner of Valmandin Coffee, on a cold winter day as I walked the gorgeous streets of Carouge, looking for some lifeblood (caffeine).  Now, I love many things about Geneva, but I have to say, it is a real hit or miss when it comes to getting a fantastic cup of coffee in this town (usually more miss than hit).  So imagine the huge pleasure I felt when the cozy, inviting storefront of Valmandin Coffee turned out to be far more than smoke and mirrors.  Inside I found the most wonderful aroma of fresh roasted beans, a warm welcome from the groovy young owner, and most importantly: an excellent cappuccino.   Please welcome Neslihan Grasser!Read More

KristinGot Coffee, Mama?

Nothing can be changed until it is faced

Karen

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” — James Baldwin

One of my objectives in taking my children across the United States this summer is to introduce them to fellow Americans who represent the aspect of our nation that I am most proud of: progressivism, activism, innovation, and the fearless forging of new paths forward.  I want to help my kids understand this spirit as part of their cultural heritage, and because I am planning to write a book about our journey, I also want to fill the pages with representations of these ideals, these struggles, and these dreams.  As such, I would like to share with you an interview with our lovely San Francisco, California hostess, an amazing woman  and social change agent that I met at Mount Holyoke College when we were both 18 years old: Karen Fleshman.  Karen is a writer, public speaker, and trainer whose mission is to build and support a learning community of people committed to love, accountability, and action on race in America. Karen has worked in communities of color in Austin, New York, and San Francisco and observed the same trends in all three cities: limitless career opportunities for people like her who flock to these cities to pursue them, while many people of color who were born and raised there or immigrate from other countries are trapped in intergenerational poverty and have no access to these opportunities. This 50 years after the civil rights movement for jobs and freedom! Read More

KristinNothing can be changed until it is faced

The Journey Back Always Reveals Something New

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Killing a Turkey on the 4th of July led to an outpouring of messages from new and old friends about which places in the USA should comprise the itinerary for This Land Is Your Land (the name I have given to the fabulous voyage we are planning across the USA!).  I was super touched by your interest and enthusiasm, and present to you this map (designed by my amazing 16 year old tech advisor, Carmen), featuring the itinerary we have more or less settled on.

 

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KristinThe Journey Back Always Reveals Something New

Killing a Turkey on the 4th of July

Carmen and Zozos

One of my absolute favorite “Mom stories” comes from a hot 4th of July, when my daughter, Carmen, now 16, was 8 years old.  We were still living in Paris at the time, and I had just gotten out of the shower and was getting dressed, chatting to the kids through the bedroom door.  It was the start of summer holidays, and we were tossing plans for the day back and forth.

Go to the pool?  Go to an air conditioned movie? Go on a picnic?

Whatever we opted for would need to accommodate a busy 2 year old, as Carmen’s little brother, my son Lorenzo, was into everything.

“Oh, by the way,” I dropped in casually, it only having just occurred to me, as well. “Today is the 4th of July.”

No response.

“Carmen? Did you hear me? Today is the 4th of July.”  By now I was planted in front of her, combing the snarls out of my damp hair.

“Oh,“ she answered, sounding mildly bored.  “Is that the day we’re supposed to kill a turkey or something?”Read More

KristinKilling a Turkey on the 4th of July

The Editing of Life: How Writing Has Made me a Better Therapist

Counseliing in France

Whenever I give talks about my first book, Trailing: A Memoir, at least one member of the audience will ask me how my professional background as a psychotherapist has influenced my writing.  I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t at all, because of course my interest in mental health and personal development influences that way I hear and tell stories, as well as what I most enjoy reading.  But if I had to do a balance sheet of how my life as a therapist has influenced my writing, I would have to change the equation to discuss how writing has affected my life as a therapist.  Read More

KristinThe Editing of Life: How Writing Has Made me a Better Therapist

THE DISOBEDIENT WIFE by Annika Milisic-Stanley

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Annika Milisic-Stanley was born in 1975 to Swedish and Anglo-German parents, grew up in Britain and has strong family connections with Dorset.  After graduating in Social Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, she worked with humanitarian projects in Nepal, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, India, Burundi and Egypt as well as living in Tajikistan for several years.  Annika now lives with her husband and three children in Rome, Italy.  In addition to writing and painting, she works as a campaigner and teacher to raise awareness on the plight of refugees in Southern Europe.  She is now writing her second novel, a story about a Rwandese refugee girl. It explores multi-ethnic identity against a context of conflict.  THE DISOBEDIENT WIFE is her first novel, and will be released by Cinnamon Press on November 1st.
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KristinTHE DISOBEDIENT WIFE by Annika Milisic-Stanley