Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sharing My Writing Process...

I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump lately...um, what else is new? SO, when my online buddy, Connie McLeod mentioned she was participating in a little writing exercise/blog roll that documented writers’ creative processes, my first reaction was...”what PROCESS?!?” And then I decided that this would be just the kick in the booty that I needed to put it all out there on virtual “paper” and get my creative juices flowing again. At the least, it will get me out of the kitchen and away from the snacks that are calling my name.


I have had an urge to share my thoughts and ideas with others since the day I stood inside a Brooklyn phone booth at the age of 8, and not wanting anyone else to hear me, called Random House Publishing Company to ask if they would take a look at a book I had written. I haven’t a clue what happened to that book, but I remember the thrill I got when the person on the other end said, “yes,” she would be happy to read what I wrote. Knowing someone is reading my work, hopefully enjoying it, and hopefully taking something away from it keeps me going back for more. 

The short story was primarily my genre in college, where creative writing was my minor. I never considered myself to have a long enough attention span to write a War and Peace or even Son of War and Peace. My muse was the sound bite queen and...and my writing is just like me...short and “sweet.”

My mother, a lovely woman, but a narcissist nevertheless, would often ask, “Why don’t you write something about me?” I would scoff at her, but recently, I gave up the fiction and took on the real nuts and bolts of my life--I became a memoirist. (Talk about being a narcissist, who would ever want to read about the things going on in MY life?) So here I am, loving the advice of Marion Roach Smith and the work of memoirists such as Laurie Colwin and Calvin Trillin, hoping my writing can come within even one iota’s reach of theirs. And my mom, she’s my favorite subject!


Not much. I have a few articles in the hopper, and a few in my head that have yet to be brought out. I will be writing a review of a Beauty Book for 50+ women soon, and until then I will continue to create the pithy Tweets and Facebook posts that I write for Betterafter50.com, where I am the Social Media Manager.


I admire the writers I know who can read an article in the New York Times and then sit down and write a critique or response. I leave that arena of writing to them because that is just NOT me. I am not a very deep thinker or politically minded, nor am I a rabble-rouser. (Although I have been known to write some pretty heated letters to the editor of our local newspaper when I felt my kids, or someone’s kids were not being treated fairly.)

I am a former pastry chef, so I love to write about anything that has to do with food, and the memories that foods evoke. I think I write for the everyman/woman. I like to think of myself as the “Bruce Springsteen of the short memoir writers whose parents were Holocaust survivors.” People can relate to what I write about--childhood, marriage, parenting, midlife angst--I don’t hold much back, but just enough for people to insinuate their own life story into my own life story. Just enough for them to be able to see themselves in my tales, and say, “Yeah, I remember that too.” A touch of humor, a touch of sarcasm, and having the “most” unique parents about whom to write probably sets me apart from others. 


If you were paying attention, you will remember that I said I had no process. And I meant it. An idea might come to me at the most inopportune time--at the gym, in the shower, coming out of the ER after I had just spent the day there thinking I was having a heart attack. I mull over the theme and let it “sit” for a while.

What might not be the most realistic way of writing, but most often works for me, is that I write part of the article in my head--mostly the bullet points. I think about it, again, in the shower or while I am running at the gym and after I’ve thought enough, I then write it down. No outline, no ”word web,” just free writing. And then I edit, and edit, and edit, and edit. Until I think I like what I see and feel comfortable with sending it out to the masses.

If I am writing a serious piece that requires facts, numbers, statistics, and quotes, I do the research. But I was never a big fan of writing term papers, and writing of that ilk comes a little too close to what I generally stayed up all hours of the night stressing over during college.

And now I turn the gavel over to a wonderful writer and one of the kindest and genuine people I know, Cathy Chester. Cathy’s lifelong passion has always been writing, but it was put on hold until her son was a junior in high school. It was then that she finally listened to her inner voice telling her to get back to writing.  She decided to go back to school to earn a certificate in patient advocacy, and combined that with her blog, An Empowered Spirit, where she pays it forward to her beloved disability community. She also writes about living a vibrant and healthy life during midlife, animal rights, social good and the joy of living. She is a Contributor to The Huffington Post (Post50/Impact/Disability Travel), and blogs for MultipleSclerosis.net, Manilla.com and Boomeon.com. She was recently named one of the "Top Ten Social HealthMakers in Multiple Sclerosis" by ShareCare, a new platform created by Dr. Mehmet Oz. Her work has appeared on BlogHer, Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, The Friendship Blog, and other online magazines.

Here are links to other writers in this blog tour. Read what they had to say about their process.

Helene Bludman

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Monday, April 28, 2014

6 Things I Learned From a Day in the ER

I have a friend whose husband says she suffers from IDS…Instant Death Syndrome. In other words, she’s a hypochondriac. I have been known to be affected with the same syndrome–as a child, a headache often meant a brain tumor and a stomach ache meant acute appendicitis. It’s a wonder that until last week, I’d only been to the ER once…and that was for a legitimate reason.

 When severe chest pain awakened me from a deep sleep, I didn’t think much of it. I am one of the “30 million people” who suffer from acid reflux, and being awakened by heartburn is pretty common. It usually occurs very early in the morning, but this time the clock said 1:30–way earlier than I can remember it ever happening before. As I lay in bed, I realized that my shoulder was bothering me, and it was then that I remembered a video I had watched earlier that day about Heart Attacks.

  Would it be crazy of me to head over to the Emergency Room at the nearby hospital and just have them check it out? 

“No!” said my husband, who, believe me, has been witness to many of my bouts with IDS. So, we hopped in the car and entered the Twilight Zone. I checked into the ER and at 2 am and then actually spent the day there, getting pricked and prodded, and monitored. Luckily for me, it was deemed that my heart was not the culprit. (It was more likely that the Kale/Brussels Sprouts Salad from the previous night’s dinner aggravated a possible ulcer.) The experience wasn’t too horrible, but don’t get me wrong, I would have much preferred being at a day spa (and the fact that I got a little running in via my stress test didn’t mean that I could count that as one of my gym days). There were a few things that I did learn from my day away from home: Unfortunately in some ways, and thankfully in others, the ER in real life, is nothing like the ER on TV.

  6 Things I Learned From a Day in the ER:

1. McDreamy was McNowhere No offense to all the wonderful men who toil away in the Emergency Rooms around the country, but not one of those guys I encountered came even close to resembling Doctor McDreamy. I would have settled for a Dr. Doug Ross (George Clooney) lookalike, but alas, I struck out in that area as well.

 2. Nurses are great at multitasking It made me smile to know that even while drawing blood, installing an IV, and taking my blood pressure, nurses can multitask and still deviate from the situation long enough to notice what color nail polish I was wearing. At least four of them complimented me on it. (BTW, it was Smokin’ Hot by Essie.)

 3. Men do not suffer in silence As I sat there trying to block my pain and nausea with deep breathing and meditation, my efforts were very nearly thwarted by the moaning man curled up in a ball on the chair across from me, and another guy who was behind a curtain screaming way above a stage whisper.

4. I am allergic to Latex It has always been my experience to answer, “No,” when any nurse asks whether I am allergic to the tape they use to adhere various “things” to my body. And so it was on that day–however, now that I have square and circular-shaped welts all over my chest and abdomen from the EKG electrodes, I think from now on I will answer, “Yes” to that question.

 5. Nurses are truly angels of mercy While waiting for one test or another during my day at “Med Spa…NOT,” I was able to listen in on various conversations between nurses and patients. What I often heard brought me to the realization that some of the things nurses have to do to get their patients ready before a doctor will even look at them are downright disgusting! When one nurse passed me entirely covered in what looked like a HAZMAT suit, carrying a basin and sponge, I almost shouted, “Give those guys and gals a raise!”

 6. Hospital food is not that bad If the only thing you’ve put in your mouth all day has been gelatinous, white and chalky, and citrusy/salty, the food that you eventually are given in the ER is pretty yummy. (Provided it is wheat toast and butter.)

Here’s the video I watched that made me both profoundly paranoid and knowledgeable about women and heart attacks. I suggest you watch it too, because it could save your life. And while we’re at it, take note of the Heart Attack Symptoms–They’re a little different than the ones men have, and again…it just might save your life!

Heart Attack Signs in Women
 Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest.
It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

  If you have any of these signs, don’t wait more than five minutes before calling for help. Call 
9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.

This article originally appeared on www.Betterafter50.com

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