This month’s spotlight comes from author/artist/humorist, Christina Crall-Reed. Christina lived for thirty years on a Wisconsin dairy farm. The farmer is gone, but her large, lively family, and the fact that she has twice been struck by lightning, gives her plenty to write about. No, she doesn’t wanna catch a buzz. No, she’s not having a current affair, and yes, life is shocking.
In addition to published articles, poems, magazine covers, and works of art to her credit, Christina is a Certified Laughter Leader through the World Laughter Tour. She also served as Community Liaison for the county child abuse prevention team; was a traveling children’s photographer; taught mural painting; and was Design Director at a new-age magazine.
After retiring to write full time, Christina retired from retirement, so she would have a life to write about. She caught that buzz, is enjoying the current affairs, and yes, it’s still shocking.
I’m always surprised that writing comes naturally to me but being an author is such hard work.
Written in ’06, I took the first draft (a disjointed “memoir” written in third person) of THE INCONTINENTAL DIVIDE to a writer’s workshop. I promptly scrapped that manuscript. When I took the advice of faculty and students, and rewrote MY stories in MY voice – my writing jumped to the next level.
Months later I took the new and improved draft of THE INCONTINENTAL DIVIDE to an extended version of that same workshop. I submitted pages for critique with a disclaimer that read, “I think I’m onto something good here, but I feel like the story wandered into an Amish crack house. Everything is interesting, but nothing is quite right.”
“When she suggested The Amish Crack House would make a good title for a story, a series was conceived, and a supportive, creative, professional working relationship was born.”
The workshop’s Resident Editor, Lorin Oberweger, returned the pages to me with encouraging notes in the margins. Her insight and edits were spot-on. When she suggested The Amish Crack House would make a good title for a story, a series was conceived, and a supportive, creative, professional working relationship was born.
Lorin and her business partner, Brenda Windberg, pointed me in the direction of publication and have been walking that path with me ever since. Their editing service and story development skills are brilliant.
I wouldn’t sit naked on a wicker stool and I surely wouldn’t submit work for publication without first investing in professional editing/evaluation. (Free Expressions)
Elephants and my book-babies have a looooong gestation period.
“I would advise my younger self, and anyone else writing memoir or humor, to write raw. No apologies.”
Book one in THE AMISH CRACK HOUSE Series, THE INCONTINENTAL DIVIDE, is my own coming-of-middle-age story. During the decade plus that it took to hone and polish that manuscript, and since everything I write has something to do with the healing power of laughter, life gave me plenty of material for books two and three.
I’m currently at work on both, PET MY PRETTY LIZARD (starting over after the age of fifty) and MAYBE SPINACH DOESN’T LIKE YOU EITHER (how to navigate losing your mate, your home, your job and your mind – not necessarily in that order.) My challenge is to write something both touching and touched in the head.
If I’m stuck on a particular essay or chapter, or just feel like plugging into another creative outlet, I paint. I’m currently working on some subliminal art where messages and poems and surprises are hidden in my paintings. The two forms of expression are symbiotic. Writing is painting with words.
I would advise my younger self, and anyone else writing memoir or humor, to write raw. No apologies. Don’t think about what sells or what’s politically correct. Write the first draft as the universe gives it to you – drooling, limbs missing, peach fuzz, butterflies – whatever – write without censorship. Edit later. Write something EVERY DAY!
If you have the opportunity to work with Lorin at Free Expressions, do that too.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading, THANK AND GROW RICH by Pam Grout, THE NEWLYWEDS by Nell Freudenberger, and I’m continuously reading shorts and essays from wherever, whenever I find something interesting.
If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be?
I enter the world of EVERY novel I read. If I’m not hooked with the first line and pulled in by the end of the first page, I usually stop reading and move on to something else. There are too many good reads out there to waste time slogging alongside a slow-moving vehicle.
What is your writing process?
Bathroom. Coffee. Write. My good mornings start with those three things, in that order. If I mix them up or omit one, my day is wonky.
Since I write memoir and humor, I don’t mind wonky, but I hate NOT writing.
Having been (twice) struck by lightning, I have difficulty integrating background noise or music when I write, and I dislike being tethered to electronics. (Shocking. I know.) So, I write longhand, in silence, and then transcribe my notes at night.
Bathroom. Coffee. Write. Write. Bathroom. G’nite. That’s my process.
You can find Christina on one of her Facebook pages, Christina Crall-Reed or Crallspace. She’s also on Twitter, and her website (forever under construction), The Crall Space. Her book, THE INCONTINENTAL DIVIDE, is available on Amazon.
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