This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story by Jackie Shannon Hollis | A Review

In society today, we celebrate the label “mother” more than any other label given to women. To decide against being a mother seems foreign and strange to many of our culture.
 
This Particular Happiness, memoir, Jackie Shannon Hollis, childlessness, bookBut Jackie Shannon Hollis chose between her husband’s love and childlessness. She writes about her choice in This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story. Hollis opens the door on her own feelings and emotions at play in making this decision.
 
When Hollis and her husband attend a family gathering, she is the only woman in the group without a child. Making such a decision doesn’t mean we don’t look back and wonder if it was the right choice. Hollis had moments and days when she wondered this very thing. Past relationships played a role in both Hollis’s feelings and those of the man she married.
 
Over time, Hollis talked with her husband about the possibilities of having children. She felt as if she were missing something, but not with certainty what it was. Yet, their discussions never altered their decisions.
 
Hollis offers her readers an opportunity to experience pressures and tensions from others. A couple’s choices, such as childlessness, bring out family and friends with opinions. This is a suitable book for individuals considering childlessness. It provides an overview of certain issues that may come up in conversation with others.
 
Hollis is authentic in revealing this tender and emotional time in her life. Bringing this book into the public arena took courage on the part of both Hollis and her husband, Bill.
 
This memoir is well written and structured. The story unfolds with each chapter and in a timely fashion. Hollis’s voice is strong and bold. She paints a detailed description of her feelings.

My thanks to Jackie Shannon Hollis and Forest Avenue Press for providing an Advance Reader’s Copy to me in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are solely mine.

This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story will be available on October 1, 2019. Preorder your copy here.

 

 

Why I Chose Squarespace Over WordPress

Decisions are never easy, and decision making is not one of my favorite things. Likely most of us would rather avoid making choices or decisions.

After thoughtful consideration, a review of finances and costs, and use of time, I spent about three weeks hands-on determining whether to stay with WordPress or move to Squarespace.

In the end, Squarespace won out for a variety of reasons. The following is based on my experience using WordPress, both free and self-hosted versions. I believe each of these platforms is structured to the unique needs of the individual or business owner making the choice between the two.

COST

WordPress.com is free. Its self-hosted version, WordPress.org, is not. You have hosting fees, domain protections and registration, not all themes are free, and not all plugins are free. When you add all that up, Squarespace came out ahead.

It won’t cost me much more to work with Squarespace than it did with WordPress. Plus I don’t have to hire a web master or a host to keep me up and running. Squarespace takes care of that within my annual fee.

When you build a site with Squarespace, Squarespace is your web host. We provide a place on the Internet to display your content, in addition to tools for creating and managing that content. Every Squarespace site is stored on our servers, similar to how physical stores rent space in a shopping mall.


— Squarespace.com

SUPPORT

My biggest complaint with WordPress related most often to support. There were online forums where you could post your problem, and then hope for days someone would respond.

If you’re not into coding or don’t have funds to hire someone to maintain your site, Squarespace is your best option. Whenever I have needed support, the response time is usually within the work day, if not sooner. Not only are they responsive, the staff is knowledgeable, courteous, and extremely helpful.

SECURITY

Security probably should have been placed in the top spot. You may remember my post relating to my experience with hackers a few months ago. Someone else’s fun hacking into my site created not only stress for me but a financial outlay I’d rather not have had to make.

With Squarespace, security is uppermost in the minds of its owners and technical staff. With your site, you have, at no charge to you, two SSL-related layers of protection. Squarespace also provides you free backup of your site content. However, this doesn’t mean we as owners of our sites shouldn’t take extra precautions to keep those files backed up as well.

TIME

Unless you’re willing and able to pay a web designer, WordPress can cost you hours each month checking for updates to plugins and themes, watching for and resolving alerts for hacking and/or viruses, and sometimes just downtime. Downtime is generally based on the host you are using.

Since moving to Squarespace, I find that I have regained some of the hours spent with WordPress allowing me to write more and to have time to do other things I enjoy. And it’s costing me nothing financially.

EASE OF USE IN BLOGGING

Preparing and editing a blog post is as simple as drag-and-drop. Having used the Elementor plugin in WordPress, I can say I find this much easier to use to create my posts and pages. If I have an idea or question about something I’d like to incorporate that isn’t readily available or clear to me, a quick email or chat with support will help me get it done. (Support is available 24/7). 

THE MOVE

Moving from WordPress to Squarespace was next to seamless. A simple export process on the WordPress end to an import process at the Squarespace end, and everything except a bit of cleanup was done.

A word on the comment set up. I have not incorporated Disqus comments here for one reason and one reason only. When using Disqus on Squarespace, for some reason still unclear, I was unable to capture all the comments left for me on previous posts. Many of these were treasured comments for a variety of reasons. I realize that the necessity to login here and/or create another “account” may be bothersome for you. However, please note that you can leave a comment as a guest without creating an “account.” If this becomes an insurmountable problem for many of you, I will reconsider my decision to not incorporate Disqus and determine a way to save those comments from the past, if I can.


I hope something here has been helpful to you, or at least explanatory in nature as it relates to my move. Please bring any inconveniences or errors you encounter to my attention. It is true two sets of eyes are better than one.

7 Things I’ve Learned About Myself from Social Media

Last spring I, along with others, took a Lenten break from social media. When I returned, I wanted to know more about my presence on social media, including my blog. That’s when I turned to Frances Caballo and engaged her to check my social media sites as well as my website.
The results of Frances’s assessment provided good information, both positive and some not so positive. Eager to see what I could do with her suggestions, I moved ahead full tilt. And as reported in this post, I noticed some rising numbers and growth changes.

Frances even provided a schematic or schedule for posting to the social media sites I use. I have worked hard at prescheduling using Buffer and Hoot Suite. Of course, before you start scheduling, there is the step called curation, which also takes time. After curating and prescheduling, I felt an overwhelming strike against my writing time. Not only against my writing time but against my ability to keep up with certain blogs where I believe my community contacts are strong.

As a result, I’ve learned some things about myself. Most of them I already knew; some of them I didn’t realize until now.

Flickr via Sagle
Flickr via Sagle

1. I don’t like numbers, and I dislike counting them even less. I never liked math in any form growing up. I still don’t care for math which leads me to my newest discovery about self: it’s all about numbers. Not only do I not like numbers, I like analyzing and counting them even less.

I have heard all the arguments about numbers of followers, social analytics, and platform building. But I’m not sure I agree totally with their arguments. It seems those who enjoy social media and do well at it, and therefore accumulate the necessary numbers for a proper platform, are number lovers and counters. They enjoy the thrill of the chase. Everyone seems in the big race to see who can get the most followers, friends, likes, shares, and on and on and on. None of this holds any great interest for me.

I want to spend my days writing, not counting and analyzing numbers.

2. I’m an introvert who does not like crowds any better online than at a social gathering. Yes, I am an introvert. I’m happily married to an introvert. The good news is I can make myself “perform” at a social gathering doing the mix and mingle dance, but I don’t like it. My husband says I’m better at this than he is. On social media, the party or gathering includes people who follow you who have no profile info posted, the ones who want to sell you Twitter followers, SEO and marketing experts, software application outlets, and the beat goes on. I equate these to the dinner hour marketing phone calls we receive. I prefer to spend any time I have beyond writing communicating with those writers and readers I’ve come to know blog-to-blog outside the confines and requirements of social media. Lately, I feel I have lost touch with these fellow writers. And yes, spending time with them means I’m safely hidden away in my writing corner at home with my laptop and my kitty.

Dragonfly Coffee House
Dragonfly Coffee House

3. Lest you worry about me socially, I do have a few writing friends I gather with personally here in Portland and workshops I enjoy attending. Through the time social media extracts from my days, I had less time to spend with these people. I quickly learned I preferred being with these few than with the masses on social media. Sometimes it’s over lunch, over coffee, or browsing one of our great bookstores in Portland. We talk writing, share our work, and even give time over to fostering friendship between us. It’s the way I like to do business and friendship.

4. Some of the time I spend on social media detracts from my continuing education in the art of writing, and I consider ongoing education prime to my efforts. With the writing community available to me here and just down I-5 South, I have so many opportunities. It is often difficult to choose which one to take advantage of first. There are multiple Meetup Groups for writers in Portland, as well as Willamette Writers and Oregon Writers Colony, with Indigo Editing and PDX Writers offering workshops and classes, and people like Gigi Rosenberg, author and artist coach, who have found Portland to be the place they want to craft and teach (more about Gigi in #5 below). With all these entities offering so much, how can I spend time on social media and not increase my knowledge of my craft? Personally, I can’t, and I won’t.

5. A short time ago Gigi Rosenberg wrote an eye-opening and inspiring blog post, Be Your Own CEO. This post made an impact on my feelings about how I spend my days. In the post, Gigi talks about one of the assignments she gives when coaching artists. The assignment comes in two parts as you’ll see when reading her post. I decided to work through the assignment, knowing already what the answer would be.  Mine is the same as Gigi’s. And this is what she had to say:

For me, the one thing is to finish this revision of my memoir. Everything else in my life needs to support that one mission. Because I am the CEO of Me, Inc., and what I say, goes. …

Everything else is going to revolve around that one thing I want. Because I want it and I’m the boss of what I want.

Now, I know what you’re saying: That’s pretty selfish. Not really. We all want something, and most often we want it badly. So badly we are willing to do almost anything to get it. Why shouldn’t a writer, musician, artist, aspiring doctor or lawyer, other professionals, star athletes not do the same?

6. None of the above have mentioned my life outside of writing.  In order to cram everything into a 24-hour period with 5-6 hours of sleep each night, I have ignored my husband, necessary work on our small businesses, cleaning our home, cooking at my best level for two meals each day, making proper time for personal devotionals and prayers, forsaken my music participation with my husband, and for the most part have given up my love of needlework (quilting and knitting). Cutting out these things meant I had enough time for social media, the blog, and some of the book. Nothing about that seems quite fair, at least to me. There should be an hour or two each day to enjoy another creative outlet. And I’m going to do just that. Let’s not forget we should all be committed to our health and physical well-being, and I’ll admit I’ve been neglectful of mine of late.

7. The decision is made, and no one can change it. I am going to spend the bulk of my waking hours writing–my memoir, short creative nonfiction, blog posts. Also, I will take back my domestic duties (which I enjoy) and clean my home, do the laundry, and cook decent meals and in good weather help Farmer Meyer with the outdoor work. I intend to make sure nothing is left undone about the two small businesses Bob and I run. Church and daily prayer and devotion will take a greater priority. This is what I want to do, and I choose to do it.

Via QuotesCover
Via QuotesCover

I know there will be naysayers about the time needed for social media. Others will debate whether or not a person has to count numbers or not. Some will argue that I’ll never sell a single book without platform based in a grand social media presence. Even more will disagree with the time I spent on social media providing enough time to pick back up the chores at home and the things I do for others. And there may be some who will find something to say I haven’t even thought about yet.

They are entitled to their opinions. That’s why we choose to do all we can to keep this country free. However, as we used to say when we were kids, “Nobody is the boss of me!”

No, I’m the boss in this office, and I get to choose what priorities I set. I’m also allowed to choose which tasks I don’t need or want to do, especially if I find them hindering my best efforts in my chosen creative outlet, writing.

I hope you’ll find a moment to join in discussion and conversation below.

Tips for Rewriting Your Manuscript, Part 1

Via Flickr | Nic McPhee
Via Flickr | Nic McPhee

I often have friends and family asking me a burning question:

Is your book finished yet?

I smile and say, “No, not yet. There’s a lot of work that goes into writing a book, you know.”

In a recent post, I talked about rewriting the first draft of my memoir. I never imagined this rewrite could bring enjoyment to my writing life, but also the simple act of learning new things delights me.

Today I’m sharing a few tips I’ve learned about rewriting. If you already know them, please share them with a first-time writer (like me) or a younger writer (not so much like me) who may find them helpful.

Tip 1: Taken from the Hemingway Archives

Can you even imagine The Old Man and the Sea being rewritten by Hemingway? Likely, as many other manuscripts have, Hemingway’s book saw many revisions and drafts. This assumption may be underscored since Hemingway is attributed with this reference to first drafts:

“The first draft of anything is shit.”(via Goodreads)

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway

Even if given the opportunity to shuffle through Hemingway’s work, both unfinished and finished, a full record of every revision he made from one project to the next was kept so would there be time enough to look through it all? But how or why would someone like Hemingway rewrite so often?

Contemplating the quote above, it isn’t too surprising for most great writers, including Hemingway, to experience little, if any, grief in killing their darlings or sacrificing their first-born to the fires of revisions and rewrites in order to support the truth of the story.

I learned this lesson the hard way writing my first draft. I believed so deeply in my story and the words flowed so fast and furiously that nothing could keep this from being the first manuscript to pass muster with the first draft. Was I ever wrong! My story was boring and the truth did not shine through in my first draft. It was, in a word, shitty!

Lesson Learned: Do not be concerned about writing the perfect first draft. Allow the mind to tell the fingers what to type to just get  your thoughts on paper. Refining the telling of your story comes later — with rewriting.

Tip 2: “Never Look Back”

Before beginning the process of rewriting, I did a little research on the dreaded rewrite. A great deal can be found in blog archives on the topic. A plethora of advice rendered by editors, teachers, authors, and publishers. How to know who is right looms as the big question on the horizon.

Not too long ago I read a post by Michelle Gagnon, an author with several successful crime fiction novels as well as a YA dystopian thriller. Michelle also writes with James Scott Bell, award-winning suspense author and bestselling writing coach, on Bell’s blog, Kill Zone. No, I am not taking you on a wild goose chase; these people are good at what they do and in offering solid writing advice.

Reading Michelle’s post pointed out one thing I had done wrong during the first drafting of my manuscript: I looked back. Quoting Michelle is the best way to share her thoughts on this tip:

In my opinion what separates published authors from people who have been working on a book for years without completing it is this: never look back. I don’t start editing–at all–until the entire book is written. A lot of people get fifty pages in, then go back and start editing chapter one. The danger in this is that while you might end up with a perfect first fifty pages, by the time you finish those there’s a good chance you’ve lost the thread of the story.

It’s also discouraging to suddenly realize you’ve spent three months on fifty pages, and another three hundred and fifty remain to be written (of course, that’s discouraging whether you’ve stopped or not–I call it the “interminable middle”). I never even re-read what I’ve written until I’ve finished the first draft. (I also spend most of that draft thinking that what I’m writing is the worst junk ever committed to page. But I forge ahead, because I know the next draft will be better.) And then when I do go back, the bones of the story are in place.

Lesson Learned: Never look back!

Tip 3: Write, Wait, Edit

Via Pixabay
Via Pixabay

During my time writing this blog, I have met many writers, many of whom have published their memoirs. I consider many of them mentors in guiding me down the path of writing my truth and protecting family members and myself while considering publishing options.

One of my memoir writing mentors is Madeline Sharples who blogs at Choices. A little less than a year ago Madeline posted a blog on the topic of “My Memoir Revision Process,” and as soon as I read it, I clipped it into my Evernote files under “revision process.”

It was in Madeline’s post I learned to WAIT before editing. I am inherently an impatient person wanting things to be completed quickly and done now. Waiting is hard for me. But I knew if Madeline could wait, then I should try. Here’s what Madeline says about waiting:

Leave your work alone for as long a time as you can before sitting down to edit it. While I spent over two years querying agents and small presses, my manuscript laid dormant. So when I finally got my book contract, I read it front to back, chapter by chapter, with my revision plan in hand. I marked up a hard copy with a red pen. Also I made no electronic changes to any part of my manuscript until I completed this first round of edits. And surprise, surprise, I found lots of things to edit, including typos, awkward sentences, repetition, and inconsistencies. Unbelievable! After all the times I had gone over it! During this first edit pass, I also looked for places to insert the new material necessary to my story and where I needed to update material that was clearly out of date.

I did not wait two years while querying agents and small presses, primarily because my mind has not reached a decision about the publishing process or even if I publish. Whether I publish or not, I want to complete this process just as I would if publishing.

Also, I initially chose not to print out the manuscript and instead to edit on-screen. Don’t do that! So much can be missed as the edited manuscript on-screen quickly becomes confusing, especially if you are inclined to using a marking tool. Working with a paper draft, red pen and a highlighter in hand, seems to flow much more smoothly for me. Thanks to Madeline for posting her revision process.

Lesson Learned: Follow the instructions provided by those you call mentor and friend–and wait.

Today I’ve covered three tips in a rather lengthy post. And I have more to share with you in Part 2 next week.

What about rewriting or revising the first draft would you like to share with other writers? Part of our reason for being online is to support and encourage one another. Your thoughts are welcome in the comment section below.