Writers’ Process Blog Tour


Tag. You’re it!


Thanks to masterfile.com
Thanks to masterfile.com


Remember that? Well, that old game came back to me last week when Kathy Pooler of Memoir Writer’s Journey tagged me in her post of May 29 and essentially said, “you’re it.” She said it to two others too (Linda Hoye  and  Sarah Freeman)  so I’m in good company.


I’m tickled to participate in this online Writer’s Process Blog Tour.  To do so,  I answer three questions, then tag a few more. You know how the game works.


Can I tag Kathy back again?  That was always my strategy as a kid.  Nah, guess not.
Here goes.  Three questions:


What am I working on?

For the last seven years, that would have been a relatively easy question to answer. “I’m writing a memoir of our two years living in Kazakhstan,” I’d say, with one exception –while my first draft was out at an editor’s — when I’d have answered, “I’m writing a children’s book called Grandma Goes to Kazakhstan.”  Then I’d quickly have added, “I hope to follow it up with others like, ‘Grandma goes to Tahiti.’”


Alas.  This question is a bit more difficult to answer today.


I’m doing three things.  No four.


1.  I’m at the final edit phase for At Home on the Kazakh Steppe.


2.  I’m editing my husband’s novel Kmedjzik, one of five he wrote while we were in Kazakhstan. It’s a light little espionage story geared to the folks who’ll remember Helen Hayes and Humphrey Bogart.  That’s who should play them when the movie gets made. (I know; I know)


3.  I’m writing my weekly blog posts, commenting on other blogs I follow, and attending to the various other social media sites that bring me closer to potential readers and other writers in the same boat I’m in.  I learn much from my social media involvement and I’m glad.


4.  I’m also stewing on (in the slow-cooker-yummy, that-smells-good meaning of the word; not the agitated-mess, I’ve-lost-my-serenity meaning of it) where I go from here.

That means that as I’m planting my oregano and thyme for this year’s kitchen garden, I’m remembering a “shimmering image” (Thank you Lisa Dale Norton) — memory — of earlier plantings I’ve done, metaphorically anyhow, and thinking just how to get them down on the page.


Four projects I’m working on now.


Why do I write what I do?

I wrote At Home on the Kazakh Steppe for many reasons.  First, writing it down was a way for me to understand the experience better. It was life altering and I needed, even after I’d come home again, to better understand my reasons for going.

Writing the book also gave me a chance to fulfill the third of The Peace Corps‘ three goals: to share the culture of my site with the people of my own country.

I think my writing style follows my public speaking style, which was a long time in coming.

I learned to speak in public by speaking at 12-Step meetings and in stuttering support groups, telling my story over and over, speaking from my heart. That’s also how I like to write: telling my story, from my heart. And there are many stories in there.


How does my writing process work?

I have no idea.  That’s the short answer. I always have a 9×6 journal and pen with me.

For most of the seven years I’ve been working on At HomeKazakh Steppe, I wrote at least four hours each day, in front of my computer (first a Gateway, then a Toshiba, now a Mac).  Sometimes those four hours would extend into the evening. ONCE, they lasted into the wee hours of the morning. Writer’s block has never been a problem for me.


But today, with my manuscript off to Ant Press, my publisher (and a heartfelt nod to its owner Victoria Twead who also runs one of my favorite FB groups, We Love Memoirs), my “process” is a bit less structured.

Getting this story out into the universe is priority number one and that sometimes entails dropping whatever else I may have going on and, for example, driving down to my cover designer’s home — about an hour away — to look at some final ideas; or, revisiting a particular scene that one of my beta readers is confused by; or choosing a different photo for page 97 because the one for page 73 doesn’t fit so well.

That sort of thing.

All fun.


In the classic dichotomy between pantser and plotter, I am surely a pantser.  I  much prefer to sit down (pants on the seat) and just write: see what comes out.  But then I must plot a bit, reorganize, readjust, re-emphasize … rewrite.  That takes more thought and more time. But it is just as important as the first phase, that hemorrhaging of words onto the page.

Get them out there, write them down; I can always fix it later.


I should have that one needle pointed, to hang over my desk.


Speaking of a desk, here’s a picture of where I work.



"A clean desk is a sign of an empty mind."
“A clean desk is a sign of an empty mind.”



Now, the really fun part.  I get to tag the next round of players, the next batch of unsuspecting bloggers.


I tried the members of an online forum I’m on (We took an online workshop together nearly 18 months ago with Kristin Lamb, who was kind enough to leave the site up for our continued use and knick-named it Hotel California: we’ve all checked in, but none of us can check out).  But I was too late. The active bloggers in that group had all posted their Writer’s Process Blog Tour contributions.  Here are a few of the links, if you are so inclined:

Diana Beebe       Lindsey Carmichael         Jenny Hansen          Janet Sadek

But, as I said, these are in the past. It’s time to look to the future.
Here are my three, selected through a painstakingly cumbersome process to assure integrity and transparency (i.e., I met them through social media and I want to know them better. Plus, the clincher: they all said yes).


I do hope you’ll check out their blogs. And stay tuned. They’ll be paying it forward before long.


Tottie Limejuice blogs from France

Susan Joyce blogs from Uraguay

Kelly Boyer Sagert blogs from Ohio


Tag; you’re it!



Next week I’ve scheduled a new Deleted Scene posting. And the following Wednesday, our guest will be Linda Austin.


See you then.


11 Responses

  1. Diana Beebe
    | Reply

    It was fun to see your desk! My desk is exactly the same. No empty minds here! 🙂

    I’m happy to be part of your Writing Process tagging, too. It’s been great getting to know you through our WANA Hotel California.

    Best wishes on your book (and your husband’s)!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Diana, Glad my friendly shoulder tap brought you back. Also glad to hear we’re of like minds in the clean-desk dept. Though I regularly take a stab at it, still I never seem to make much headway. “IF you build it they will come” seems to work also for empty spaces on the desk — “if you clear it, they will come.” Good to know I’m not alone. But then, thanks to WANA, we knew that already. 🙂

  2. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I think I sense a light-heartedness in your post today probably because your memoir is so far into the home stretch – yippeee for you!

    Thank you for posting a photo of your work space with the perfect caption. I am always fascinated by writers’ unique process and their writing studios.

    • Janet GIvens
      | Reply

      Hi Marian. Greetings from the NY Thruway, where they have free WI-FI. Have a little decaf Americana from Starbucks at my elbow and some sort of regular beat music in the background — just the kind of hum I used to write to, back when I wrote at the corner coffee shop. Ah, those were the days.

      Thanks for commenting today, for you got me over to your own blog and I absolutely love the poem on strawberries. I have that same problem, and one with asparagus, and early peas. The list could go on. But then asparagus doesn’t drip down your arm, does it?

      I had a lovely visit with Kathy Pooler last night, and a tour of her garden this morning. She’s a good month ahead of me weather wise. But then, she’s ahead of me in so many ways. i just hang out in her wake. 😉

      • Kathleen Pooler
        | Reply

        It was a wonderful visit, Janet. I loved meeting you and having you stay over! BTW, I’d say we’re in the same boat, paddling to the finish line and you are a month ahead of me!

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          Oh no, Kathy, You light my way. And I do believe you light the way for many others too through your beautiful writing and your generosity in sharing what you’re learning.

  3. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Well, I believe I’ve been caught with my metaphorical pants down. My blog has posted: it must be Wednesday!

    I’m actually on the road all day today (see last nights FB post for possible explanation), but will stop as I can join the party.

  4. KM Huber
    | Reply

    Thanks for including your publisher’s link. I was curious. As for writing process, I have always been a pantser but these last couple years, I do much more organizing as I write. Have no idea why. And yes, there is lightness in the tone of this post but your writing style is always inviting.

    • janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Karen, and welcome. All this lightness I’m identified with, … I know I had a lot of fun with this one. Just like a game of tag, really. Only wish the lightness could get transferred to my waistline.

  5. Linda Hoye
    | Reply

    I enjoyed this glimpse I to your writing process, Janet, and the added bonus of peeking at your writing space. Best wishes on your pending book release!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Linda, Thanks. It’s been fun sharing this part of the journey with you.

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