writingLast year I was contacted by Betsy Barbour, a former co-worker whom I had not seen in over a decade. It turned out she was working with a good friend of my husband’s, and had been hearing about this woman who was fighting cancer discovered when her baby was born. However, it wasn’t until she caught a glimpse of my photograph in a blog post while looking over her colleague’s shoulder that she realized the woman she’d been hearing about all these months was someone she knew. Me.

Betsy immediately reached out to offer words of encouragement. She shared with me her own experiences of a health crisis she’d undergone, and let me know she could relate to what I was going through. She did this even though we didn’t know each other that well when we’d worked for the same firm years before, and I was very touched by her gesture. She continued to reach out from time to time, just to let me know she was thinking of me. I was moved by, and grateful for, her quiet support.

A couple months ago, Betsy reached out to me again to talk about The Writing Process Blog Tour. She had recently taken the plunge into blogging, something she’d wanted to do for some time. I admired her for not just talking about doing something, but for actually doing it. Betsy blogs about her experiences as a runner; and although she’s just getting started, it’s clear the woman knows how to network and knows how to write. I predict she’ll be well-entrenched in the blogging community before she hits her one year anniversary as a blogger, and will be the sort to actually attend blogging conventions and workshops and be an active participant in that whole world. I’ve never been much of a joiner, but have always admired those who can jump enthusiastically into new social and professional situations with both feet, eager for the experience. That’s Betsy, and I’d encourage you to check her blog, My Decade of Running.

When Betsy asked me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour, I immediately agreed even though I knew nothing about it. A quick Google search later, I realized this blogging tour had been going on for many months and there’d been hundreds of participants. I’m not sure how or where it started, or when it will end, if it ever does. But it’s a great way to spread the word about interesting blogs and bloggers and get to know a little bit about those of us in this community. The way it works is for each of us to answer four questions about ourselves, and then to recommend three other bloggers, who will then answer the same questions and make their own recommendations, and so on. So here goes.

(1) What are you working on? A quick scan of this site will tell you that I’ve been slacking on the blogging front, so I’m actually grateful that this commitment and it’s deadline forced me back into the blogging seat. Sometimes when I’m dealing with tougher stuff, I have a tendency to initially isolate and hole up in my own little bubble with my daughter and husband and closest inner circle, and I confess I’ve been doing a bit of that this year. As I write this I’m preparing to head to New York to meet with a doctor and clinical trial supervisor at NYU about one of the studies being done there. Having recently learned my cancer has become resistant to traditional chemotherapy, we’ve been searching for a clinical trial that is a good fit for my particular cancer and medical profile, and believe we’ve found a very promising option. Because the trial is not local, I’ll be spending some time in airports and hotels and hospitals away from home. Although I’d rather not be away from family, I realize this will give me a great opportunity to resume my writing in earnest. In some ways, it’s part of what got me through my initial diagnosis and treatment, and the therapeutic aspects, as well as the connections it brings, can only be beneficial. I’d been working on a book about my cancer journey when I learned my cancer was back. When I realized the book ending I’d loosely crafted was no longer accurate, I put aside the draft. Of course, we’re all still writing our stories and none of us knows the ending. It’s the journey that’s the important part. This is all a (very) long-winded way of saying I’m working on my book again, and you’ll likely be seeing more posts from me here and in Huffington Post. It’s time.

(2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? When I first started blogging, I wasn’t much of a blog-reader and really had no idea what was out there. Basically, after my diagnosis, my tech entrepreneur husband got tired of watching me write these long e-mail health updates to friends and family and suggested I start a blog rather than continue to try and manage an increasingly unwieldy list of informal “subscribers”. So I did. I am now familiar with many other mommy and cancer and wellness bloggers. The subject matter about which I write may not be unique, but I believe I do have my own unique voice and writing style. I’m a frequent swearer, and the word “fuck” is still in heavy rotation in my every day vocabulary (although I’ve learned to use curse words with greater care and discretion, particularly now that my toddler is talking like a magpie). I’m not afraid to talk about uncomfortable subjects like body image and sex or to make myself vulnerable by sharing details others might find to be too personal. For me, there is healing in sharing, and when I first started dealing with not just cancer but side effects of treatment and body changes and the like, there wasn’t a lot of relatable reading material out there. I thought that if others weren’t going to talk about it, I would, and hopefully a discussion would start and spread. And I think it has. I now see articles and blog posts about the more sensitive topics with much greater frequency than two and a half years ago, and many more photos of brave individuals showing their scars and body changes. The barn door is clearly open and I think it will just continue.

(3) Why do I write what I do? I write about my experiences with cancer and treatment side effects and motherhood and body image issues and sex and being a late bloomer because doing so helps me, helps others, facilitates connections, and creates a sense of community. It lets me, and others, know we’re not alone. Plus fears, secrets, diagnoses, problems … they all seem more manageable and less daunting once they’ve been shared with at least one other person. I’m just doing it on a slightly larger scale.

(4) How does my writing process work? My process is a bit haphazard, although a pattern has clearly emerged. I keep a journal with me at all times, and also rely heavily on the “Notes” feature of my iPhone. When I think of a topic for a column or blog post, I write it down, and now have a long list of future columns and blog topics. I’m a chronic procrastinator, so having deadlines is helpful to me. When I wrote a column for Cafe Mom, I had to submit a new one every week on the same day, so I stayed on a pretty regular schedule. With Huffington Post, I can submit a column once a week or once a year, it doesn’t matter to them. This lack of structure combined with a very busy life makes for somewhat infrequent posts. I basically write when I feel so compelled, and I do so about whatever topic is speaking to me the loudest at the moment. Sometimes I have a title but little content other than a rough outline in my head. Other times I know exactly what I want to say and then come up with a title after the fact. It’s all very organic and sporadic, but once I get started, it goes very quickly. It generally takes me about an hour to write a thousand words. I write straight through with only a very simple, bullet-point outline, and then I step away. I come back to it later (an hour, day or week later), and take a couple of editing passes. Wordiness is a challenge for me at times, and having a word count limit usually has me cutting quite a bit after the fact to make it all fit. I generally utilize every single character allotted.

But enough about me. Let’s get to the fun part, which is talking about bloggers I admire and enjoy.

1. The first is Jen Campisano of Scottsdale, Arizona, who was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer when her now three year old son was just five months old. In her blog, Booby and The Beast, Jen writes honestly and beautifully about cancer and motherhood and much more. She’s a wonderful writer, and I relate to so much of what she writes that sometimes it feels as though she has pulled thoughts right out of my own head. She helps give so many of us a voice, and am so very grateful she chooses to gift us with her writing. Every time Jen posts a new blog, I know it’s going to be a good one and I actually sit down and slow down to read every word … kind of like back in the day when your favorite magazine (remember those?) arrived in the mailbox.

2. Next is the fierce and fearless Ann Marie Giannino-Otis of Syracuse, New York, founder of Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer. Ann Marie not only blogs about her experiences with breast cancer, treatment and reconstruction, but has created an online community of thousands. She is passionately dedicated to connecting and helping other survivors, as well as to bringing difficult topics out into the open. She created a photo journal of her mastectomy experience and bravely shared the photos with the world to show what it’s really like to have one’s breasts removed and then reconstructed (or not). She was targeted by Facebook for posting “pornographic” photos, which, in the end, only served to raise more awareness about breast cancer and surgery. She wore high heels to her mastectomy and is brave and sassy with a heart of gold. She’s doing a ton of good out there, and we need more like her. She’s a dynamo.

3. And then we have Kidd Redd of good ol’ Nashville, Tennessee. I grew up listening to Kidd on 103.3 WKDF radio in Nashville where he was both DJ and program director. After spending 27 years in radio, Kidd went on to form one of Nashville’s first digital agencies, which he ultimately help build into a multi-million dollar company. Kidd is now a partner in FLO {thinkery}, and in many ways is the voice behind FLO. (And I know the company was founded by my husband, but I am not speaking from a place of bias when I say that the folks at FLO are the most concentrated collection of badasses you will find anywhere. Ask anyone.) Kidd is wicked smart and irreverently funny, with a quick, dry, observational style of writing I greatly admire. I could, and should, take some lessons from him in brevity. His blog, stylerant, is a delicious treat and I highly recommend you indulge.

Check out these fine writers and support the Writing Process Blog Tour. And stay tuned here for more to come. xo

4 Thoughts on “The Writing Process Blog Tour

  1. Joanna you write better than most people talk. Your wide open life is a inspiration. Love who you are….

  2. Joanna you are a gifted writer! But what stands out the most is your unstoppable spirit! You are an inspiration to women everywhere! If writing makes you happy then write! The chose is yours!

  3. Alice Miles on February 20, 2017 at 12:00 am said:

    do you also discuss about the prostate cancer? if true, I want to friends with you to share information about the dangers of cancer ~ (Alice Miles – activists cancer in canada)

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