A Memoir Writer’s First Year in Blogging Adventure by Marian Beaman

Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler with Marian Beaman/@martabeaman

 

“I don’t really know how things will turn out until I start making them. They don’t always look like I thought they would, so sometimes I’m surprised.” Lifewriting Author and Teacher Sharon Lippincott from her post “Discover by Doing”.

 

I am thrilled to feature Memoir Writer Marian Beaman in this guest post about her first year in blogging.  She has some interesting ideas about what inspires her blog posts, a term she calls “blogspiration.” Marian describes herself as ” a plain Mennonite girl who turned fancy while seeking a simpler life.” 

Marian and I met through fellow Mennonite memoirist Shirley Showalter. It is truly wonderful to meet new people through each other. Marian is working on her first memoir, Plain and Fancy Girl.

 

Welcome, Marian!

 

Facebook: www.facebook/marian.beaman/  Twitter: www.twitter.com/martabeaman  Website: http://plainandfancygirl.com

Memoir Writer and Blogger Marian Beaman

 

My First Year in Blogging Adventure

Like Alice in Wonderland, alternately perplexed and pleased, my one-year-old adventure into the blog world of writing has been full of surprises.

 

AliceWonderland

Alice in Wonderland

 

 

In the above quote, Author Sharon Lippincott was quoting her eight-year-old granddaughter Sarah who “was talking about the clothespin doll she was wrapping in  a scrap of cloth. . . but she could have been talking about writing.”

 

Writing for me is a craft too, much like stitching together pieces of a quilt. But it is also an art, beginning with thoughts that, on the best of days, flow from my mind to my fingers and finally onto the page.

 

How I Find “Blogspiration”

Two Streams:

 

Generally, inspiration for blog post topics and development of posts comes to me in two disparate ways:

 

1. Spontaneous/even serendipitous which accounts for less than 10% of my posts and

2. Thoroughly planned, hammered out mini-essays that make up the bulk of my blog post writing.

 

This past January, examples of each process type appeared side by side on my blog:

 

1. War & Peace – Rhyme and Reason     I remembered a poem I had written about the Gulf War in 1991, and  then heard Diane Rehm on NPR interview former Sec. of Defense Robert Gates, creating a tie-in with the theme of the poem.

 

Although I was not going to write a treatise on war and peace, I wanted to show both viewpoints, so the post became a brief 384-word blog post with questions posed at the end. Actually, this post turned into a lightening rod for discussion with readers expressing deeply held beliefs, pro and con. You may ask, what would one expect with the incendiary topic of WAR! What, indeed. I was surprised at how quickly this post came together.

 

Script War Peace

Script War and Peace

 

2. Mennonite and Race: A Longenecker Lens    Months ago in PA I visited my aunt’s bedroom now unoccupied because she has moved to a retirement community. On the wall, I saw the picture of a trio of women, one black and two white sitting together over a card game. At the time, I thought I would use the picture in a blog post but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly when.

 

After I decided to link ethnicity and Mennonite beliefs, I thought I might start with this framed picture, but instead I ended up discussing childhood experiences in our family in the beginning and at the end used a reference to the picture. For me, elements of a piece often flip-flop, playing musical chairs.

 

ScriptMennonRace

Mennonite/Race pre-writing process

 

Generally, after the decision of topic has been settled, blog posts begin as WORD documents, which I copy/paste into WordPress. This time I felt especially bold and began writing directliy in WordPress, but because of the restrictions of WP formatting, I felt myself fighting my own words, so I reversed the process, reverting to my usual method of typing the Word document first and then filling in the content in WordPress. I observed the “flow” return, and a 707-word post was born.

 

I was surprised at how long it took to write and revise this blog post.

 

 

How I Find Topics: Creation and Evolution:

 

Generally, I like to brainstorm for multiple future topics, so I don’t constantly have to obsess over the question “What am I going to write about now?” Then, on a legal-size sheet of paper, I chart a long-range plan with the proposed topics, just ideas in my head moments earlier.

 

brainstormLegalSize

Brainstorming blog post ideas

 

My thematic categories in blog writing are varied. Last February I started writing “Plain and Fancy Girl” with the singular intent of sharing my childhood memories as a Mennonite girl growing up in Lancaster County, (nostalgic and memoir-ish) but then my categories expanded as I continued writing to include wisdom from grandchildren, my Southern friends, and contemporary happenings in the media that relate to topics my readers have come to expect from me.

Thus, I say this: Anything can become grist for the writing mill though I tend to stick to these main ones: Mennonite lore/history, family stories from my childhood, current events, even recipes.

 

Triggers for Topics: Photos from dozens of family scrapbooks, stories shared with my mother, sisters, other relatives, childhood memories drifting through my mind, often unbidden, something I heard on NPR, an event attended.

 

 

 

Beyond the Blog

Last fall after having purchased Nina Amir’s How to Blog a Book, I took her suggestion of grouping blog posts into similar themes by color on sticky notes. Somehow I thought that exercise would be the magic wand that would inform the “narrative arc” for a full-fledged book. Oh, well! The large wooden board with the multi-colored stickies is still in my study area, looking back at me with the mystery and enigma of a Sphynx. But someday. . . .

 

StickiesBookDisplay

Storyboarding book ideas

 

As one wise eight-year-old girl has said, “I don’t really know how things will turn out until I start making them. They don’t always look like I thought they would, so sometimes I’m surprised.”

 

I love the surprise of writing, I absolutely love it!

 ***

Thank you Marian for sharing the ways you tap into your creativity to generate blog posts and write your memoir. I love the term “blogspiration.” I have found that just about anything can trigger ideas. All we have to do is look around and say “I feel a blog post coming on!”  I like how you have a clear idea of your message (brand), yet are able to adapt the material to current or historical events. These posts may very well be seeds for your memoir.

Congratulations on your first year of blogging!

 

Author’s Bio:

 

Marian Longenecker Beaman’s life has been characterized by re-invention: Pennsylvania Mennonite girl becomes traveling artist’s wife in Florida, then English professor with credits in the Journal of the Forum on Public Policy published by Oxford University Press. Along with my work as a community activist leading a neighborhood to take on Wal-Mart expansion, I am a writer and blogger in this second phase of my career. Fitness training and Pilates classes at the gym have become a metaphor for my mind-flexing experience as a writer, mining stories from my past along with reflections on current events.

Contact Information:

 

Facebook: www.facebook/marian.beaman/

 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/martabeaman

 

Website: http://plainandfancygirl.com

 

 

How about you? How do you find “blogspiration”? 

 

We’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below~

 

Next Week:

Monday, 3/24/14:  “Narrative Medicine and the Fine Art of Listening: A Memoir Moment.”

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Marlena Maduro Baraf says

    Loved this post, Kathy. “I don’t know how things will turn out until I start making them,” takes me back to writing this morning. This is the joy of it all, surprising oneself. It’s about joy. (And work.) Looking forward to reading more about the plain and fancy girl.

  2. says

    This has been most interesting as I often wonder how others get blog post ideas.

    For me sometimes an idea will come after reading a blog post and the comment I was going to give turns out to be too long, enough for a post. So that is one way I get ideas.

    • says

      Hi Clar, welcome back! I hope your memoir writer’s journey is going well. I agree with you about finding blog ideas from other blog posts and from the comments. So happy you enjoyed Marian’s post. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  3. says

    The creative process is a beautiful and amazing thing. It was found to hear how another artist/writer creates. I like the post-it-note idea, but I can imagine I might run into the same obstacles! May try it anyway. Loved the post! Thanks Kathy & Marian!

    • says

      So nice to see you here, Dorothy! I love how Marian has allowed her own creative process to unfold before our eyes in this post. We all have our own way through the process but it is very helpful to hear how others find their way, as Marian has done so well here. So happy you stopped by and that you enjoyed Marian’s post.

    • says

      I’m trying to move past the post-it notes to a memoir draft but got stuck. My solution: Today I wrote another “scene” about my transition from Mennonite life to the larger world. I see a break-through in my sights! I enjoy your blog too Dorothy.

  4. says

    I, too, think it’s extremely interesting to read about how another writer’s mind works, coupled with their process.

    When I get an idea, I write it in composition book (yes, a black and white one like we used in school), and then I start plotting and scheming on how I can SHOW that idea in a photograph. Once I’ve taken the supporting photograph, it becomes a post.

    • says

      I’m surprised at how many of my posts begin with a visual. I’ve always thought of myself as a “verbal” person, but that’s not how my process is working at the moment. Maybe living with an artist husband has something to do with it. Or maybe I’m able to integrate both sides of my brain a little better. Who knows!

    • says

      Welcome, Laurie! Nice to “meet’ you. What a great description of your creative process. I love your quest to” SHOW an idea in a post.” Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your own creative process.

  5. says

    Thanks for sharing your tips a year in. I am a month into writing a blog and hope to celebrate my one year blogaversary Feb 2015 and I love the term you’ve coined. I hope life never stops offering up blogspiration for me and all bloggers out there.

    • says

      Welcome, Kerry! Congratulations on launching your own blog at http://Kkherheadache.wordpress.com. For me, launching my blog in 12/09 was a giant leap of faith that has yielded far more blessings than I ever dreamed. I wish the same for you. I’m so happy you enjoyed Marian’s post. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Here’s to a fantastic year of blogging for you.:-)

    • says

      Congratulations on getting starting. I can tell you are highly motivated, projecting your blogaversary a year from now. Keep us posted on your progress, Kerry. (Just couldn’t resist the pun!)

  6. says

    Marian and Kathy, what a sweet surprise to find my granddaughter’s wisdom featured so prominently. She told me I could post the picture of her dolls, but not use her name on the Internet. She’s wise beyond her years in so many ways.

    Marian, your process is amazing. I so admire your organization, and especially appreciate the mix with spontaneity. I’ve been blogging for eight years now, and have occasionally planned things out as you do, but considering I seldom plan dinner more than an hour ahead, you can imagine how well planned blog lists work for me. But you have inspired me to think ahead again right now for a list of preplanned pieces I can post while away for several weeks later in the year.

    Thanks again to both for this helpful post.

    • says

      Hi Sharon, it appears “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” with your granddaughter’s words of wisdom. And i agree, Marian has mapped out an ambitious and creative plan for “blogspiration.” Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I’m happy you enjoyed Marian’s post. I love how we learn so much from one another!

    • says

      Your literary accomplishments attest to the fact that your “plan” is working, Sharon. I love that you say in your tips “Star-shaped writers should avoid oval-shaped writing plans.” And I’m so glad I found the perfect introduction for this post on one of yours. Bless that dear Sarah!

  7. says

    Fascinating look into your creative process, Marian. I find it interesting how some posts seem to write themselves, while others are ones I truly labor over. I wish I’d taken the time to weigh which avenue was most beneficial to my readers!

    I’m amazed that you type posts into a Word document, then transfer them to WordPress. I’d never have time for that (then again, as a former journalist, I always feel the pressure of time deadlines!)

    • says

      Hi Debbie, so glad you enjoyed hearing about Marian’s creative process. I started writing my posts in Word the transferring to WordPress after I lost a post to a computer glitch. Thanks, as always, for stopping by and weighing in!

  8. says

    One of the great rewards of having started the blogging journey in 2009 is that I have accumulated both friends and methods.

    I’m so glad that the two of you have found each other, Kathy and Marian, and that you have so much in common. Both of you are generous, creative, and focused.

    I’m a little more like Sharon when it comes to planning for posts, but there is method to my madness also. You challenge me to think what it is and perhaps post about it also. I find creation an endlessly fascinating topic.

    Thanks to both of you for stirring my own thinking. You always do.

    • says

      Hi Shirley, Thanks for your generous comments. Meeting people like you and Marian has indeed been one of the most valuable benefits of the blogging world! I appreciate how Marian has revealed her own creative process in such a detailed and interesting way. She has stirred up a lot of thinking. I’m happy her post has resonates with you. Always nice to hear your perspective.I appreciate you stopping by.

  9. carolynstoner@comcast.net says

    I am privileged to call Marion a dear friend, and fodder for some of her “Southern” BLOGS. She is the ‘real deal.’ A rare friend who brings out the best in another; encouraging, appreciative with great intellect, a true erudite with a great sense of humor. Great combination. Thanks for hi-lighting her.

  10. says

    I’m one of those who has no organization when it comes to my blogs. I often write down ideas and then completely forget about them. My ideas come more spontaneously and I never really know where they’re going to go when I start. Thanks for the ideas here and thanks both Kathy and Marion for a great post.

    • says

      Hi Joan, I think we all have our own system–plotters or pantsers. I used to wait until the last minute to write a post but now it works much better for me to plan ahead. I also try to leave room for spontaneity, too. Sometimes those are the best ones. I’m so glad you enjoyed Marian’s post. Thanks , as always , for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  11. says

    How fun to find you here, Marian. Thanks, Kathy, for the nice surprise. My congratulations on completing your first year in the blogosphere. Champagne and pop corn (or something; I’ll leave the menu to Laurie B) all around. Like Shirley, I’m always fascinated by how creativity springs forth, where does it come from, what “starts” it? For me I think a quiet pool is an apt metaphor. At the same time, I LOVE the color coded sticky notes! How I wish I could function like that. I love color coding. The only thing I can add to your great post is that my first year was filled with lots of mistakes, lots of “let’s try this and see.” In the spirit of Sharon’s anonymous granddaughter, truly. And, building a following, a community is a slow process. I have been ever so grateful for your steady and consistent presence (I missed you last week). My best wishes for this your second year. May your learning curve flatten, your numbers swell, and your SEOs be ever plentiful. Janet

    • says

      My pleasure, Janet. What a lovely tribute to Marian. I appreciate the sense of camaraderie and support we all share in this community. Thanks,as always, for stopping by and sharing your insights and sense of humor. :-)

    • says

      Janet, I am so impressed by your benediction at the end: “May your learning curve flatten, your numbers swell, and your SEOs be ever plentiful.” I think I’ll have to type that in a large, fancy font size and frame it by the computer on my desk. Thank you, thank you!

  12. Linda Hoye says

    Thank you, Kathy, for featuring Marian here today!

    Marian, congratulations on reaching the one year blogging milestone! I’m inspired by your organizational abilities and how you deliberately plan future posts. I’ve enjoyed following each of your threads and hope you’ll continue writing for a long time to come!

    • says

      Hi Linda, It’s so nice to see you here from your lovely new home in Canada! Thanks for stopping by. I agree, Marian has inspired us all with her organizational skills!

    • says

      Linda, as I recall, when I started my blog a year ago, you were one of the first published writers to notice. How I appreciate that. I’m so happy I am still on your radar–thanks!

    • says

      Welcome, Luanne! Nice to see you here. Nina Amir’s book, How to Blog a Book as mentioned by Marian is an excellent resource. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  13. says

    I’m finally working my way back into a little blog reading, and who knew I’d find two of my favorite writing friends here together!

    Marian, it is good to read of your first year in the blogosphere and how you treat the development of your posts. I often wonder how others pull together a blog post, but no one every says too much about the process. Thank you for sharing part of your plan. Congratulations on your first year as a blogger!

    Kathy, thank you for bringing Marian to your blog as a guest and offering us the opportunity to get to know her better as a blogger.

    • says

      Hi Sherrey, It’s so nice to see you back here. Welcome! I agree, Marian has shared so many valuable tips from her first–very ambitious–year of blogging. I’m amazed at the variety of ways she has found to generate topics. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • says

      Oh, dear Sherrey, how good to find you making your way back after a long siege of challenges.

      I appreciate your good wishes on this milestone for me and for your part in mentoring me along the way. As I recall, you were one of the first writers of memoir to affirm my work, even suggesting some of my blog posts could be used for a book one day. Now you are showing all of us how to gracefully put writing aside for a time to care for your husband. What a role model you are. Thank you!

  14. Gloria Araujo says

    Marian thank you for connecting with me at Moms. Your blog is such a great inspiration to me. We have so much to share with each other. God is so good in how he has his prefect plan. This is a great new journey that were about
    To embark all through our wonderful parents that we have had the blessing to share.
    Your sister in The Lord
    Gloria and family

    • says

      Gloria, I am both surprised and thrilled to see you have discovered me here. (Readers: Gloria knows my mother through their connection to New Life for Girls at least 40 years ago! This week she traveled with her grand-children from Chicago to Elizabethtown, PA to visit Mom.)

      Yes, I have a wonderful Mother and so happy she is still with us at nearly 96 years of age. Thanks so much for commenting. I hope you can send me some photos via your smart phone. And I hope you made some good chicken corn soup under her watchful eye-ha! The recipes for all of her famous soups are on my blog. Again, thanks for commenting, Gloria. I agree, God has a perfect plan for us and most importantly, accompanies on our journey.

  15. Gloria araujo says

    Well I finally learned how to send the pictures through my smart phone hope you enjoy them as we enjoyed our time with Mom. There were so many moments I wish I would have remembered to take. We had a great time with her mark and aunt ruthie. Just not enough time.
    Gloria

  16. says

    Hi Marian. Thanks for sending me the link to this post you wrote before we met. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your process and now I understand what you meant about our organizational similarities in the writing process. I love our system. It gives us a complete visual on how our creative ideas grow. I loved your sentence on the system enabling you to ‘flip flop’ your ideas around like musical chairs because that’s is exactly what it is like for me. I am so glad we connected. :)

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply