Category Archives: stARTing a book

I stARTed with words.

I stARTed with words.
I stARTed with words.

I call myself a stARTist to honor all the ways I spend my creative energy – and to recognize that art and writing and entrepreneurship and traveling and knitting and parenting . . . and all the rest of the magical things we begin . . . use the same muscle.

My stARTistic passions started young . . . with words. Building the ability to look at a blank page and not run the other way is a strength that helped me find my way in business, the art studio and life.

So when fellow writer and Missouri J-school grad Mary Novaria ( invited me to a blog hop to answer some questions about writing, I said “yes.” Because that’s a stARTist’s favorite word.


What am I working on?

For the next few months, most of my creative energies are going to promoting the book I wrote and illustrated, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening, It’s more fun than I expected. I’m channeling my inner college coed to engage young women my daughters’ ages in conversations about advice in the book and how to spread the word.

I’m using the opportunity to learn all the social media strategy I’ve avoided for the past several years. Instead of bemoaning it, I’ve decided to treat it like a self-staged writers workshop. If you think about it, writing a Tweet is like writing haiku.

People have told me I should be starting the next book, and I intend to. Right away. As soon as I get 72 more Pinterest followers.

Press proofs for Do Your Laundry or You'll Die Alone

Press proofs for Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone

How does my writing differ from others of its genre?

I worked hard to keep the book from being a limp-wristed list of etiquette tips. I take some risks – with subject matter, imagery, and examples. I try to drive home points with tone of voice, like sarcasm and snark. I’m not terribly funny, but I try to use humor in a playful way, like we are allowed to by our most intimate loved ones.

I hope my writing is light enough to be accessible to those who aren’t in the mood to “sit and read,” and that some of the layered metaphors will take intelligent readers to deeper places.

I look for visual ways to reinforce the cadence of the words – punctuation, font selection, even mixing fonts for impact. And, of course, there are pictures.

Why do I write what I do?

Mostly, I write to hold onto things, and then to let them go.

By examining beloved topics through writing, I get to be with them fully. I get to enjoy them privately and without judgement. This is why my best work begins as journaling.

My book, for example, was a year of journaling about my daughter leaving home. I observed her days and her ways without getting into her business. I talked to myself about what frightened and amused me. Once the conversation took on a comfortable cadence, I found more to say than I knew was there. Once I arrived to it, I held on for dear life to the exercise of parenting my daughter in a voice that felt finally balanced – a voice that was more fun and honest than our actual relationship was at the time. Writing in this voice was so satisfying that by the time my daughter was to leave home, I had polished the words to something sharable.

How does my writing process work?DSC_1209

I write in two ways:

In the first, I get struck by something in the course of the day that requires capture on the notepad/journal that lives in my purse that day. I usually have my radar up for the project I am working on, so these observations are not random. When working on the book Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone for example, I found myself noticing how young women treated their mothers. I watched their relationships with their phones and their clothes. I noticed pop culture and research that I would have otherwise ignored.

Then, when I sit down to journal, (almost every day) I pull out lots of notepads – from yesterday, last week, and five years ago – and browse. I let one idea lead me into a point or a hypothesis, and I play with it for a while. Eventually, on no certain timetable, it emerges as an article, a mini essay or a “blit,” which is what I call tidbits that grow up to be book entries, Tweets, or prose for artworks.

The second way I write is good, old-fashioned journalism. I go at a topic with an open mind, a deadline and a list of people to interview.

The first type of writing feels like play. The second type, after so many years, feels like work. So these days, you’ll find me playing more in the first playground.


A blog hop is like passing the microphone around the room at a song write, with aspects of a chain letter.

I’m passing the mike to two women who will no doubt make you forget the last song you heard. They are both women whose work I admire, but whom I have never actually met. Join me and hop on over to their blogs on May 12.

MRO 213Maria Rodgers O’Rourke is a mom, wife, author, and speaker who cries at movies. Her favorite things include music, scarves, baseball, autumn, thrift stores, and her family’s laughter. She’s still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up, but she’s pretty sure it will include watching her daughters do the same. Her podcast and current book are called Every Day Inspired and you can find her work at Chicken Soup for the Soul and on the Huffington Post blog. In her retreats, workshops and writing, she blends wisdom, humor and down-to-earth spirituality. Maria has over 20 years of experience in communications and nonprofit management, and holds a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Studies. Maria and her husband have been married for over 20 years and have two children. Visit her blog:



profile pic 6Shelby Bouck ​writes about cooking, dancing and other things she’s mediocre at on The How Not to Suck Blog. Her website is dedicated to promoting adequacy in everyday activities, so people can spend more energy on their passions and less energy on trying to be great at everything. The blog’s motto? “Competence, not excellence.”

After the joyful discovery that she could make her time on the Internet into a job, Shelby began to manage the social media presences of businesses in Tallahassee and elsewhere. On the rare occasions when she’s offline, Shelby studies creative writing and communications at Florida State University, sells discount cards at Books A Million, reads voraciously, and writes short fiction. Her first work, “Sari”, was published in Teen Ink in 2012.

Facebook Linkedin Pinterest Twitter

A reason to stART: The children are watching.

A reason to stART: The children are watching.

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 10.50.02 PM
This week my oldest daughter, Taylor Kay, turns 21.

It was to her that I wrote the letter that then became the book Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give If She Thought You Were Listening.

The reason the book exists is not because Taylor is a slob or that she was immature and not ready to leave for college. There’s a bit more to it. The story begins in the foreward of the book:

A year before she graduated high school, when it hit me that my first- born daughter would soon be leaving home for college, I became overwhelmed by a frantic urgency. She wasn’t ready.

She had worked hard to earn grades and SAT scores that put her in the running for the most selective colleges. She knew French fluently. She knew how to handle a basketball and wield a microphone. And she knew how to parallel park. (Finally.) But NOT knowing what she DID NOT know was keeping me up at night.

In one of my Hollywood-lit nightmares, I saw her standing in the middle of a busy street, cars speeding toward her, her high-heel caught in a grate, trying desperately to save the shoe. Did I forget that lesson? “Leave the shoe, honey! Save yourself!”

Even though she still had a few months left at home, I knew it was too late to fill the gaps in my parenting. So did I let her go with my blessing, trusting that she would get her lessons as she needed them?

Not on your life.

I bit my tongue and quietly collected the advice that I thought she should have. When she left for college, I put it all in a good-bye letter and threatened to publish it on her Facebook page.

Dear Taylor,

Though you may think I’ve driven you half-crazy with reminders and lessons this past year, I’ve kept a lot of things to myself. Hush. I have.

Here are a few things that college will not teach you. Some are things I’ve told you a hundred times. Some are things that have never come up. Mostly, they are things that would make you roll your eyes if I said them in person.

So indulge me. I know you don’t need another lecture, honey. But I need to give you one. (There. Right there. I saw that eye roll!)

Love Always, Mom

Attached to that letter were 150 mini essays and tidbits of advice, written with enough snark and entertainment value that I was sure Taylor would read them all.

When she called to thank me for the letter, she said, “Mom, you’re always telling people to let their books out of them. This letter should be a book. You should add your art to it, and you should publish it before Tess graduates from high school.” (She’s always been bossy. #leadershipskills)

Tess graduates this May. So I set my sights on getting the book done in time to give to all her graduating classmates, and in time to hand to Taylor by her 21st birthday. The agents and publishers I tried to win over did not like my timetable, nor the expensive production requirements of my art-filled book. So I formed a publishing company and splashed out of my comfort zone into this fun-filled playground of social media.

Parents do a lot of things just because the children are watching. And parents of adult children know that all kinds of strange twists happen as children come of age. As we seem to lose influence over them, they gain more influence over us.

So it’s hard to say which direction the influence is going with this little advice book. Once Taylor said the words, I knew I would have to make that big letter into a little book. But was it because I have raised someone who knows better than anyone exactly how I am put together and how to influence me? Or is it that I, with my little girl half a continent away, knew that being a good role model was the only parenting influence I had left.

Happy birthday, Taylor Kay. You’re a stARTist and woman of influence.

By Becky Blades

A version of this article was originally published on the web site

Do Your Laundry

Facebook Linkedin Pinterest Twitter

Okay, so finishing is fun, too.

Okay, so finishing is fun, too.


The back cover of Do Your Laundry or You'll Die Alone

The back cover of Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone

Yesterday I  signed off on final proofs for my first published book: Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone, Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening will be printed locally with environmentally friendly materials by Mediahead (formerly Colormark).

It’s all done, down to the bar code and the $13.99 (such a bargain!) price tag. That’s an adorable ISBN number, if I say so myself!

Now it’s time to stART the shameless self promotion. My apologies, friends. It’s part of the process.

Facebook Linkedin Pinterest Twitter

stARTing the Laundry

stARTing the Laundry

Do Your LaundryIt stARTed as a good-bye letter to my oldest daughter. Two years later, it’s on its way to becoming my first illustrated book, scheduled for release in March, 2014.

Do Your Laundry Or You Will Die Alone; Advice Your Mom Would Give If She Thought You Were Listening is a gift book for young women coming of age. It’s my last act of helicopter parenting and a fun journey on the road of self publishing.

After working briefly with two different agents, I learned that I would have very little control with a traditional publisher. If there’s one thing I like, it’s control. Lucky that my little coming-of-age book hits right on time with self-publishing’s coming of age.

I’ll be blogging about the experience and would love to hear from others who have self published.

Becky Blades

Facebook Linkedin Pinterest Twitter