Thursday, September 24, 2015

Women on Writing : Abby Norman

Though I'm taking a break from blogging myself these days, I'm still delighted to be able to offer this space up for women writers to talk about their craft. Next up is my friend Abby Norman, who is a writer, blogger, teacher, mother, and general force to be reckoned with. If you are a parent or educator or human being please please please consider checking out her book, Consent Based Parenting. I can't emphasize enough how important I believe its central message to be. I know you'll love Abby's words here, as well as her fierce and fearless style, as much as I do. And of course, you can check out the first eight wonderful Women on Writing interviews here

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Do you remember when you first began to identify yourself as a writer? How did that identity form for you?

I think for me writing formed out of necessity. I was in a church that wanted to utilize me and my husband to do drama kind of stuff during the service, but the stuff I could find to preform was SO SO BAD. It was awful. So I started writing my own material. This still didn't make me call myself a writer. I started a blog in 2010, I still didn't think of myself as a writer, rather as someone who was trying to write. In 2013 I picked "unashamed" as my one word resolution. It took me by storm. I started calling myself a writer, asking myself, what would I do if I wasn't ashamed I was a writer? Then I would do it! I gained community, I asked for time to write, I bought myself a laptop, I started submitting my work to other places and asking for spaces at tables I wanted to sit at. It wasn't until I called myself a writer that I started acting like one. I bought into the idea that writers have to have a regular practice, a cabin in the woods, hours by themselves, a book traditionally published. THAT IS NOT REAL! Writers write. As long as you are writing you are a writer. 


Your book, Consent Based Parenting, is based on a popular Tedx Talk that you gave. What inspired you to transfer these ideas into book form? 

TED and TEDx are SUPER serious about their time limits. There is a count down clock that scrolls down the time. Five seconds after your time is up they cut off your mic. I can talk for way longer than 12 minutes about consent and how we are talking about bodies and sexuality wrong and how we can do better. I just had a lot more to say! I wanted there to be a resource that really digs into the HOW of raising a child who understands consent, and how you can start talking about bodily consent at all ages. I went looking for that resource and found it didn't exist so I wrote it. At first I was sort of embarrassed that it was so short (you can read the whole thing in about 45 minutes) but I have heard from multiple parents that they appreciate how susinct the read is. Parents don't tend to have a ton of extra time to read, and frankly I hope they get to read something FUN, so I pack a lot into those short pages. 

What authors or works most inspire your writing? 

I feel like this answer is maybe cliche as someone in her early thirties who identifies as a christian blogger, but Sarah Bessey has been hands down the most influential writer for me. I guess I thought if I wanted to talk about faith I had to be cold and calculating like all those evangelical apologetic workshops I went to as a teenager. But that just isn't how I experience faith, or really anything. Reading her words gave me permission to write the way I feel, the way I understand. It made me feel sane, less alone. I hope to do that for my readers too. 

Between parenting, managing a blog, and a full time teaching job, how do you make time and space in your life for the practice of writing? 

The short answer is my house isn't very clean! That is actually totally true. I was really blessed to be raised by a working mom. One who sang in the choir and taught Sunday school and always had a Girl scout troop or two she was in charge of. Her house was WAY cleaner than mine. That is for sure. While the picking up every evening lessons didn't stick, the ones about making the time for the things that were important to you sure did.  I am currently running this awesome class called Room for Dreaming. My oldest sister is taking it. We read an article about making just 15 minutes for what you want to do, that if you can't find just fifteen minutes you don't really want it. My sister texted me...did mom write that? She didn't but she could have! 

My writing life isn't ideal. I write during lunch, nap time, after bed time. I write while my kids watch PBS. I carry a journal with me at ALL times and jot down any good idea I might have at the playground or in the grocery store. I write in the time it takes for the over to pre-heat. I very rarely am able to sneak off and write for a couple of hours, my husband is getting his PhD and the writing time needs to go to him right now. But there is no perfect way to be a writer. I started getting a lot of writing done when I stopped boo-hooing about the things other people got that I didn't, and started saying, okay, if I am supposed to be a writer than the time will come, I just have to open my eyes to it. Sure enough, it showed up. It totally surprised me, but it showed up. There are days and weeks where I totally resent that I don't have a writing shack and steady time to write, but I don't have it, so instead I take what I can get.


If you could give one piece of advice to budding writers what would it be? 

Just try it on. I think we make the mistake that we have to decide who and why and how we are going to be. I think we think we can't do things because other people are doing them or we aren't sure we will be able to pull it off like they will. Don't buy it yet, just try it on! You think you might like to write hilarious prose like Tina Fey? Try it on! You like how that other writer is telling the story in five parts? See how that fits! You love the beautiful prose of Sarah Bessey or the thoughtful criticisms of Rachel Held Evans? See if you like to write like that. Those people did not invent the genre they are writing in. They too likely tried some things on. Experiment, see what fits, you can stop wearing whatever doesn't fit you. That is the one piece of advice I would give, but if I could give a second it would be: constantly ask yourself, what would I do if I weren't afraid/ashamed/unsure.... then do it even though you still are those things. 

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Abby thrives on distributing complex ideas to the masses. As a teacher, Abby began her career in one of the most under served areas of the country. There she discovered her voice in the classroom as she explored concepts like race, gender, and social justice through the literature her students were reading. She is sure she learned more than she taught. Her students showed her that most people are interested in engaging and improving the world if they are just given the words to explore it. As the mother of a three and four year old, Abby has found that this concept holds true. 

While she most often speaks to her students, Abby loves to discuss equality and justice in all forms, including spoken word poetry at the coffee house, presentations at the PTSA or local church, and a manuscript on urban education. You can find her blogging on the intersection of faith and everyday life at accidentaldevotional.com and tweeting at @accidentaldevo. A blog her 2014 voice of the year, and nationally recognized speaker, the highest praise Abby has ever received is when a 16 year old boy told her she "made English not suck."

5 comments :

  1. Abby, this was such an encouraging read. I loved the parts about being unashamed and trying it on and just showing up. That's pretty much all of it. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks. This week I am learning about calling my own work good and saying it is worth something before anyone else. It is hard work this part.

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  2. If I didn't already love this post, that piece of highest praise made it pretty much the best thing. Someday, I hope to hear that I made English not suck. :)

    I love this series!

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    1. Seriously the best thing ever. I still have the Christmas card it was written in!

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