Hellooo, Anyone There?

Well, it’s been a minute. Okay, almost a year since I last posted here. If anyone still notices, or should. I stopped writing in this blog almost by accident. My words began to need, like the bread dough I allow to sit over night on my kitchen counter, time for the yeast of imagination, of remembering, of reworking to do its job, to make them rise.

I haven’t been idle. Words have still been my constant companions, sometimes spoken to no one in particular, since, as any of you who used to read this blog know, I’ve been living without my husband Dan’s physical presence since May of 2021. Mostly, they are contained in my journal, in essays about marriage and widowhood, in a book-length memoir about losing my mother at two and finding her story (and my own) at seventy-two.

“What is it that you want to do with your life for the next few years? Who do you want to become?” the probate attorney had asked me. “Whatever it is, whoever it is, go for it,” she had urged. “Take classes, travel, learn how to scuba dive.” As the weeks of widowhood stretched into months, I remembered her advice, took some chances, risked rejections, found some answers (but did not learn to scuba dive).

I wrote a piece in response to a prompt on regret and sent it unsolicited to the National Book Award finalist and brilliant teacher Beth Kephart after taking one of her online workshops. Miracle of miracles, and on my birthday no less, she invited me into a nine-month master memoir class with eight other distinguished authors, many already published in their own right! Just this week, the fruits of that class have become a slim volume under the Juncture Workshop imprint, available on Amazon.

Next, I applied for and went to a weekend workshop with Dani Shapiro, whose books Inheritance and Devotion spoke to my soul. There, in addition to gaining a perspective on my need to change up my memoir’s voice and structure, I met five other writers, women who have since become trusted writing group partners, cheerleaders, inspirations.

Then, this past October, I attended a writing retreat in Italy with Allison Williams and Dinty Moore of Brevity fame, two of the most gracious and fun-loving folks, not to mention excellent editors and mentors. Another community of writers entered my life, fast friendships having been formed under the Tuscan sun and in our “writing in company” mornings, afternoons spent exploring neighboring hill towns and evenings spent eating way too much pasta and drinking way too much Vermentino. Beginning next month, I will be working with eight other memoirists in an intensive with Allison where I hope to complete a full draft of my memoir.

What I have discovered in all of this is that as part of finding a new identity after Dan’s death, I needed to be in company with like-minded writers not just in a virtual world, but in a real one, to develop intimacy that transcended my keyboard. I needed to keep from becoming a cat lady who never left her apartment after the death of her husband and the isolation of the pandemic. (Alright, that’s a bit of an exaggeration since I walk my dog three or four times a day and have a community of dog friends and their humans who also keep me grounded to reality, but I think you get my drift). Taking chances, putting myself out there, meeting new people has taught me that while the act of writing is by nature a solitary endeavor, being a writer doesn’t have to be.

Meanwhile, I’ve been lurking, keeping up in a sporadic way, wondering whether I have the bandwidth to continue writing blog posts of my own. I am still not sure. But I do miss the camaraderie that I was beginning to develop here, and the freedom that blogging gave me to rant write about whatever I wanted, in whatever form, no worries, no narrative arc necessary. So I am dipping in a toe, gauging whether the water is warm, deciding whether I should put on my floaties and get back into the swim of blogging, or whether I should remain at the waterline, content to be an observer. At the moment, it feels good, right, promising, but just as in my grief journey, I know that in a flash all could change. Let me know in the comments what you think. And Happy New Year!

21 thoughts on “Hellooo, Anyone There?”

  1. Somewhat envious of the connections you’ve made (although very happy for you). I feel quite stagnant, and tried out a writer’s group recently and found the experience pretty unpleasant. While we are talking about arcs, I feel the wordpress community’s arc is plummeting. You are one of maybe 20 writers who have disappeared from my blogging circle in the past year. For selfish reasons, I hope you come back–yours were among the best essays I read here, but I honestly am not sure it’s worth your time. It sounds like you’ve got all the engagement you need IRL.

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    1. It’s a tricky thing to find the places that feel like “home.” I’ve abandoned Twitter (even though I had a nice writing community there and followed many journalists religiously). I rarely post on Instagram now, just out of laziness I think — or being overcommitted. And I have avoided Facebook since Trump went down the escalator. I’m really rethinking how I engage with social media in all of its forms — and let’s face it, blogging has been surpassed for the most part by podcasts, newsletters, substack who knows what else.

      But there is something in the WordPress experience that still feels true for me, call it the neighborliness, or the ability to venture outside of one’s writing niche without reproach, or something. I stepped away only because I needed to figure out my voice for these other projects and I was beginning to feel schizophrenic, not to mention stretched too thin. I didn’t want to post blather, and the heart stuff was going elsewhere.

      It turns out that the people I’ve met– who have taken me under their wing or become writing buddies– are for the most part looking for connection, too, not just to market stuff, or brag, or be showered with praise. So that’s made it easier to reach out of my comfort zone. And the folks who did feel as if they were patronizing me or just interested in taking my money — well I won’t mention them here. It’s all a process of finding one’s place, one’s people, and that takes casting a net further than one’s backyard goldfish pond. So bottom line, this blogging ecosphere IS worth my time; I just have to figure out how to manage my time to be a better community member.

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  2. I hope your memoir will credit the probate attorney for helping you strike out in the right/write direction! But perhaps your talent simply would have set you on that path. I’m delighted to hear you’ve had these successes and enlightening experiences and made mutually enriching acquaintances. And as my reaction in seeing this post was “Great! She’s back,” I also hope you’ll wade in to a blogging return.

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  3. Trish, so glad to see this post. There’s life in the old girl yet!. Seriously, everything you’ve been going through since Dan’s death is part of a perfectly natural cycle that results in new growth. I’ll be interested to read future posts. Best wishes.

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    1. Boy have I felt like an old girl at times! Scraping the rust off the gears of engagement in the real world, learning how to communicate on platforms that I had never heard of until this last year–Discord, Slack– the names themselves are intimidating! But yes, new growth. Thank you for the encouragement to keep posting.

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  4. Glad to see you post again. I’ve missed your voice. Amazing connections you have made with other writers. Hope you find the time and energy to post with we the lowly bloggers who have been put out to pasture by tik tok…

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    1. I keep reading about how authors are selling their books or becoming “influencers” by posting on tik tok but frankly, I can’t imagine … I prefer communicating in my sweats at a keyboard, at a distance — no halo light or whatever. Even Zoom feels too much sometimes. So this medium works for an introvert like me. And thanks for the kind words.

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  5. I’m so happy to see this today! I’m still lurking in the shadows of brave writers and am always looking for new inspiration. I don’t know the kind of grief you have experienced. I only know that for me, when it comes, it comes in waves. It’s like a deep inhale of the pain, and a long exhale filling the void with joy. I can feel your joy. I can’t wait to read your story. I’m all in as a reader of both book and blog. Thanks for peeking back in ❤️

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  6. Seeing your post today brought me much excitement as well! I’ve kept this blog in my WP reader as well as bookmarked on my web browser “just in case” you came back. Your writing offers us something beyond the usual: Your journey and how you tell it has teeth and offers connection in a world that needs this. Thank you for continuing to share with us – we will be here, always ready to keep following, but on your time 🙂

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  7. Trish! I’m so glad to see you here. I have missed you. I don’t care what “they” say, I think blogging is a beautiful opportunity for writers to continue to ply our craft (tho I have not kept up lately, either), for all the reasons you say. That hasn’t changed.

    I’ve never been on Twitter or TikTok (and won’t be); I try Instagram, but I find it overwhelming and confusing, from both a contributor and a viewer standpoint. Best advice I’ve heard as I support (market) my memoir is to choose one social media and do it well. That’s Facebook for me. No, I don’t love it, but for me it’s been the best way to promote “Mother Lode.” That and the author website with a newsletter subscriber magnet on it.

    I am so glad to hear you’ve been away writing a book. I can’t wait to hold it in my hands. And I’m envious of your workshops! Oh my goodness. I’m reading Dani’s new novel right now. The retreats I attended that brought me friendships across the country were the absolute best thing I’ve ever done and best money spent. Those people are the reason I have a book in the world. But no Dani Shapiro or Italy! Good on you! And hooray for your attorney; what a jewel she was.

    Selfishly, I hope you will be back on the page here. And you never know where a post or a contact made will go. It’s one of the mysteries we just have to trust.

    Hugs. Gretchen

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  8. Congratulations and Bravo! I admit I checked your site a few times to see if anything had been updated and I am so pleased to find out it has been such a good year for you. I am looking forward to reading you whether in your full memoir or in whatever pops up in WordPress.

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  9. I am delighted to see you back! Ever since I discovered your blog one year ago, I have been a fan, and your work has been very instrumental and inspiring to mine, both on this platform and in what I want to achieve as an aspiring writer. I am genuinely interested in what is next for you and would love to hear more about it! Best wishes!

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