Sunday, January 20, 2019

Mrs. Smucker Considers the Possibilities

"Did it really take up that much time?" someone asked me about writing for the Register-Guard every month.
"No...." I said. "I mean, maybe four or five hours, and then the time I spent emailing it out after it appeared in print, answering responses, and putting it on social media."
"Maybe it took more brain space than time," they said.
"Yes!" That was it exactly.

I have two bullet journals going for 2019. My friend and honorary niece Dolly Smucker gave me one. I use it for all the general goings-on of my life--schedule, sewing, cleaning, travel, books to read.

I've always made lists, but I think the index is the significant key in keeping my brain on track.

The other journal was a Christmas gift from Steven, and I use it only for my writing goals. Suddenly a tsunami of ideas is rushing into that free space where my column used to be. Fiction! Tuesday Teas in the Sparrow Nest! Writing workshops! A better website!

My list of goals and projects is up to 28.

Here are a few things I'm pondering or pursuing. I'm open to your ideas and suggestions on any of these, or others I haven't considered.

1. Fiction. I joined a Christian fiction writing group in Springfield. There are five of us. Two of the five already have 3-book deals from publishers, so they are good at what they do. But they are ok with me being a floundering beginner. One other member of the group is also transitioning from newspaper writing to fiction.

Obviously I'm not a beginner with writing in general, and it's so interesting to discover which skills work with both fiction and non. Someone told me it's like you learn to cook American food and then you switch to Japanese. You know how to grill hamburgers, bake bread, mash potatoes, and make a good white sauce. Then you switch to Japanese cooking and it's all different foods, yet it's still about feeding hungry people, chopping vegetables, using a stove, and getting three different dishes to the table at the same time.

I've written about five chapters of a novel, but I'm telling myself it's a throwaway novel, just to free up my creativity. So I won't have a book ready for a publisher for a long time.

2. Mentoring. This past week I spoke to or heard from four different people who have great ideas for a book or story but don't know where or how to begin. I don't have time to coach them all. I'm wondering: what do they really need, and how can I make it happen without doing it all myself?

3. Non-fiction on parenting. Now that our kids have reached adulthood and still like to talk to us, I'm tempted to write a book on parenting adults, since parenting books are always written by people whose kids were relatively easy and trouble-free.

Someone in my life said, "No no--you need to write about parenting younger kids and talk about everything that went wrong."

I have an increasing "burden," as my mom used to say, for young moms. Mothering little children is always a challenging job, but it seems to me that every generation has a harder task. We had pressure from our peers, to some degree, and also from career-oriented mothering magazines that made you feel silly and useless for staying at home. So I deliberately quit reading those magazines.

But the current generation has thousands of beautiful hyper-achieving moms at their fingertips. They also have an online community that will rip them to shreds for choosing to vaccinate, or not, or for letting the kids have lollipops.

Most of my reading and speaking demographic is older women, which is wonderful, but I've been wondering how to tap into that younger generation. I don't see them as a market, necessarily. It's more that I'd like to be a voice to them that I needed at their stage.

At the annual library fundraiser sale in December a young mom came to my table. She said her grandma introduced her to my books, and she follows me on Instagram. I was so happy. Then when I spoke at the seniors' group at First Baptist in Eugene on January 10th, two young moms showed up!

So I will see where God leads me with this "passion," as they like to say in counseling circles. It means pretty much the same as Mom's "burden."

4-28: Other ideas include having people in for tea in my Sparrow Nest, getting a real website, and redoing one of my e-books. And I want to pick up where I left off on my Pennsylvania German videos. 

So many possibilities.

Again, I'll listen to all your suggestions.


  1. Memoir is the genre that I keep returning to as a book possibility for myself. I see in this genre permission to tell stories and then offer reflections prompted by the stories. Essentially this is what you have always done in your columns, but in a memoir you could focus on various themes in different parts of the book--raising difficult children and relating to adult children, for example, or being a pastor's wife and being a writer, etc. I really don't think you have to be old to write in this genre, but it probably helps! A memoir format would save you from having to write a whole book on any single topic. Also, you might consider writing several volumes of memoirs, with each one featuring a different segment of your life. If you save one volume to be published posthumously, you'll guarantee being able to escape the consequences of any shocking thing you might wish to say.

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    1. Trying many typos...
      I have felt the calling to mentor young mothers, too. The thing I have found in our church is that sadly they do not want help or advice and neither do my daughters in law. My advice is outdated to them. I did mentor a young woman for many years but she asked me to do so and even though her children are soon to be grown and the oldest is married she still comes to me for advice. I have found that it is something that just happens like close friendships. My most passionate feeling is that help is so needed with marriages. These young couples are often so angry with each other and if I can see it in the pews at church how is it at home? I so want to tell them to not waste the years being angry with each other because they will regret it later.

  3. Write for young moms...or should I say mom's with young children? �� Beings that's the stage I'm in right now that's what I'd love to hear.
    You've also adopted. And whoever succeeds in doing that well has advice to give. I'm listening! I'm only fostering a four year old but the challenges have far surpassed anything I thought possible. And so have my humbling moments of failure.
    I'm a missionary mom of six from East Africa who wishes your blog would be ten times more active ��

  4. Yes, yes, yes to a book on parenting adult children. I'm entering that part of life, and need all the advice and help I can get. You might be on to a best selling idea with this one, because it's one area of the publishing world that has not been filled yet.

    Can't wait to read it!

  5. I would love to read a book on parenting young adults. I struggle with trying not to baby my girls who are 24, 22 and 18 but I want to guide them in the right path. I agree with Lana in that some of the young mothers in the church think our advice is outdated. Since when is the Bible outdated? Sigh.
    Anyway, wherever the Lord leads, I'm sure it will be wonderful.

  6. I have a question on parenting.

    Between your oldest and your youngest child. Have you changed your parenting?

  7. I'm a young mother of two, and I have so very much appreciated your realistic voice and refreshing perspective on motherhood. You've already encouraged me so much. Thank You.

  8. I'm a young mother and I would certainly read a parenting book if you wrote it. I have one that is more "difficult" and I would love some encouragement from someone who has persevered and now has healthy relationships with their adult children. My older one is four, so we have a few years to go.

    To the older women who are lamenting that their advice is unwanted: If someone tries to offer me parenting advice without being asked, and/or I haven't shared any of my struggles with them in an effort to learn more, I feel like they think I'm not doing it right. It's not that the unsolicited advice is criticism, but it can feel that way.

    I do ask older women for advice, but I think it has to be someone with whom I have some rapport otherwise. I also appreciate the encouragement that other women have given me, even if I wouldn't ask them for "troubleshooting" advice. Affirmation goes a long way.

    1. Thank you for your feedback on the older woman advice topic. That is so helpful. I raised 5 children and the oldest one was so hard to deal with every day. Really it took until he was around 30 for everything to settle and for us to feel like he had finally grown up and could understand what it is like to be a parent.

    2. Amen about the advice! When you're already struggling to deal properly with a situation and then you get unasked for advice... responding properly to the advice can be an additional struggle. I do really value advice, but emotions aren't always super level for this mama.

      I also wholeheartedly agree about affirmation. It goes so so so far to raise my spirits when somebody "praises" what they see happening and/or recognizes the struggle and gives encouragement to keep going.

  9. Would ❤️❤️❤️ to hear your heart for parenting adult children ��

  10. It's always fun when people ask for suggestions! ��

    I would pay for anything that included a much-expanded and perfected version of your exposition on what it's like to be an idealistic teenager looking to radically submit to God's callings, with a crush on Mr. Spiritual, and disappointment with one's parents and home church, and so on. And if you could do it in a spot-on but also sympathetic way, and also follow her into adulthood, all the better. And if it was all part of a love story...well! I've never bought a Christian romance novel, but I'd sure love to want to! ��

    More practically, your writing has helped me the most with adjusting my attitude towards life's more difficult times. Not many people write in a way that rings true, and is also hopeful! Any advice book that took that tack would be lovely.

  11. Oh yes! I need both be mentored as I move from writing articles here & there to turning my tucked away things into a book & 2. Insights on living with adult kids! It's simply not something many people write about, & while I'm enjoying this stage I love hearing from others in my shoes!

  12. I would love to hear what you have to say about parenting young children! Right now the struggle of potty training is very real in my life. I don't understand how a child can go 2wks without any accidents, then suddenly never need to go potty until the deed is already accomplished. 🤷‍♀️

    I also enjoy hearing how you relate to your older children. I hope it helps me understand my mom and some of what she might be feeling as well as improve our relating to each other.

    In all reality, I enjoy reading pretty much anything that you post. 😄

  13. You did Pennsylvania German videos? Now, this I must see.

  14. A completely different suggestion - which I feel slightly embarrassed to make as there are only so many things it is possible to do, and thousands of good, useful things it's possible to choose from - I'd love to hear more from you (or perhaps someone else of a similar tradition) on your church communities and how they work, what you aim to do, how you support each other, what the problems are and what goes wrong, how the ministers and non-ministers relate, and so on, in a way that is similar to your family writing.

    I say this as a member of a different denomination aware we are suffering from an extreme breakdown of community, to the extent that it is dog-eat-dog in many congregations, our clergy and laity are often unsupportive of each other through inability to communicate, we've forgotten how to dialogue or compromise or create mutual investment in each other, we have no mechanism for supporting anyone in either Christian living or practical ways, and almost no way of teaching the faith or showing people how to live it in a hostile world. The concrete example that always sticks in my memory is the complete lack of any attempt to give our generation any sort of guidance about Christian dating, and what was and wasn't appropriate, even though we are living in a society where the usual expectation is that you enter into sexual relationships within a few weeks of becoming an item, and that you cohabit and have children without ever intending to get married, unless you happen to feel like it, both of which are obviously incompatible with Christianity. But unless you're offered an alternative model of conduct, you either have to be randomly weird and arbitrary in what you do, which is mentally very wearing, or conform to the non-Christian social norms. Similarly, most of our congregations would be incapable of systematically supporting a new mother with things like meals - she might get a little help from her particular friends, but she wouldn't get any from the community as a whole - with the result that membership depends entirely on social success - hardly a way of valuing people for their own sake.

    I know your communities aren't perfect, but you do seem to do better, or at least to know that you should be attempting to do these things, and, just as your writing about your family is of help to people who have no model for family life, I think writing about your church communities might be of a lot of help to those of us who are struggling to rebuild Christian communities in churches where we've experienced a breakdown of community.

    Anyway, I hope you find the right things to do, and I look forward to reading your further writing whatever it is about :-D

  15. Definitely a book on parenting adult children. Co-authored by your adult children, with both sides giving their viewpoint. Coming up with helpful tips and workable solutions to the unigue obstacles/situations single adult children present...Perticularly when they lve under the same roof. I would definitely buy a book like that. ☺