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Saturday, January 25, 2014

From one farmwife to another: get writing, already.

Occasionally I get emails from other farmwives around the world. Many of these farmwives were not ‘to the manner born’ but rather married into the farm scene, like I did. Sometimes the messages are hand written on notepaper, folded into envelopes, stamped and mailed to me, a reminder of a time when things were a little slower, and simpler. One of those letters was sent from a seniors’ home. The letter writer said my column reminded her of her early days as a new farmwife: learning to deal with the birth and death of farm animals; that feeling of being exhausted but satisfied after a hard days’ work in the garden or the stable; knowing that your efforts meant something.
Recently another farmwife contacted me after stumbling upon my blog. Killarney Sheffield is enjoying life as a writing farmwife too. Here is an excerpt from her note:

“The life of a farmer’s wife can be pretty tough, always satisfying and rewarding, but I needed more. I always had my showing and horse training career, but found it difficult to work around my role on the farm and five pregnancies, toddlers, diapers and naptimes. I always had an interest in writing and one day I pulled out a pad of paper and penned my first historical romance. Then I penned a second and a third. What did I do with them? Nothing. Yup, nothing. I mean I was just a lil’ ol’ farmers wife with no formal writing training. Who was going to want my books? I fell into a little occasional freelance journalism for a local newspaper. That was fun, but it was often hard to run out and cover a local news story between the kids and the farm. As luck would have it my editor mentioned in passing that he loved my writing and I should consider writing and publishing a novel sometime. Well, that was the kick in the pants I needed to get some courage and submit my novel to a couple small Canadian presses. Imagine my surprise to find they loved it and wanted to publish me! A couple years and seven books later saw me make the leap to a large American press and acquire several awards. Marketing and public appearances are still tough, but now I have this little corner of the world to call my own.

Killarney’s letter came at the perfect time, because I have been trying to find the motivation to get back to work on my own book. It certainly is hard to find the time to write when you live on a farm, host International students and your day job has you up between 4 and 5am. But I think my biggest problem is that I want to know what the book will look like before I begin. I have ten years of columns now, so no shortage of material. But as three of those years were columns about culture shock in Asia, before I became a farmwife, there is a real divide there and I’m not sure how to make it flow into a book.
So there you go. For the people who keep asking, “how’s the book coming along?” It’s not that I’m a perfectionist. I’m far from it. I’m just trying to find the book among all those stories in my brain. I’ve got most of them on a usb stick and I keep shuffling them around like a deck of cards or a bouquet of flowers – trying to arrange them into something interesting, and moving.
I believe we all have stories within is. But for some of us, those stories are constantly trying to get out. We don’t feel settled until we get them out and down on paper – or the computer screen. I find this weekly column very therapeutic. It keeps me sane. And one day, hopefully soon, I will take this 100,000 word raw manuscript that I’ve compiled and find the book hiding inside.

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