Saturday, July 11, 2009

Welcome Allie Pleiter

Joy Supplies?

While waiting for my physical therapy appointment the other day (I’m enduring a nasty case of plantar fasciitis--a real joy-killer to be sure), I encountered a woman writing. I wasn’t prepared for how powerfully the sight struck me. After all, I am a writer by nature and profession--people writing should seem as normal as people breathing to me. It was the way this woman was writing that captured my notice.

She was writing in a long, flowing script with a beautifully crafted pen in a very big, very lovely leather book. This, it struck me, is how writing should be. She was luxuriating in the process. I knew--without reading over her shoulder, mind you--that her words were important. Carefully chosen. I can’t remember which writer it was that said all writers should do their work longhand and in ink because it demands careful thought that way. Watching this woman pen her words, I had to agree. I believe she struck me so because she represents something easy for me to loose--the joy of writing.

Typing can feel so much like churning out words. Now, don’t get me wrong, churning out words has its place. I know I have to overwrite my first drafts because a scary percentage of that first output has to be cut. Only I don’t know which words to cut until I’ve dumped all of them out on the page. And I love what I do. But there are days where it really can feel like work. It’s hard, this creating out of thin air. Some days making other people’s coffee at Starbucks looks really attractive.

Now, I’m the first person to admit my aching foot may have colored my mood that day, but I’m also a huge believer in external influences. While researching my nonfiction book Facing Every Mom’s Fears, I learned I have much more physical influence over my mental state than I think. Often a physical cue is the fastest way to a mental adjustment. We are creatures of sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound. If you’re one of those people who loved getting new school supplies every year, you’re like me. Simply put, environment (or in this case, props) affects us. It’s why aromatherapy works, why songs can make us cry, why we love the smell of our boyfriend’s sweater, why blankies matter. Why not learn to wield this to our advantage?

So, as I travel this week and next to the International Christian Retail Show in Denver and and the Romance Writers of America Conference in Washington DC, you won’t find me glued to my laptop. Okay, you’ll still find me glued to my Blackberry, but cut me a little slack here. I’m going to start my next book like my friend from the waiting room: longhand, with a nice pen, in a luxurious notebook. And, if I’m smiling, you’ll know why.
Many thanks, Allie

What external influence might spur you on to new creative joy? Pen? Notebook? Coffeemug? Desk or lapdesk? Chime in with your ideas.
An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and devoted chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction. The enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie spends her days writing books, doing laundry, running carpools, and finding new ways to avoid housework. She grew up in Connecticut, holds a BS in Speech from Northwestern University, spent fifteen years in the field of professional fundraising, and currently lives in suburban Chicago, Illinois. The “dare from a friend” to begin writing nine years ago has given rise to a career spanning two parenting books, six novels including the multi-nominated MY SO-CALLED LOVE LIFE, and various national speaking engagements on faith, women’s issues, and writing.

Allie can be found at:

Allie Pleiter, Author - Speaker
P.O. Box 7026 Villa Park, IL 60181

Out now: BLUEGRASS BLESSINGS (Steeple Hill Love Inspired July 09)
Later: BLUEGRASS CHRISTMAS (Steeple Hill Love Inspired October 09)


Anita Mae Draper said...

Good morning, Allie. I wanted to be first to welcome you to the front door of Prairie Chicks today. Seems like we spend a lot of time talking about you and it's nice to see you talking to/with us. :)

Are all your speaking engagements local? I'm curious how you keep your writing schedule intact while you're out speaking - especially those which come after you've figured out how many 'chunks' you'll need.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Hi Allie, you've listed off some of my favourite little joys for writing. I get a little thrill out of a new pen with a lovely nib, or starting a fresh sheet of paper. I've been finding more and more that longhand is the way to go for first drafts. I don't fret over the crafting, and just get the words on the page. I've been meaning to buy some proper bound notebooks so I don't have to shuffle through all this loose paper the same.

Suse said...

Hi Allie,

I probably start most of my stories and articles on paper. And since my uncle makes pens, I asked him to make me one from maple burl that my husband had leftover from making knife handles. It's a beautiful pen. My uncle also made me a pen out of blood wood for when I write mysteries - another beautiful pen.

I find I need to write ideas down before I can figure out where I want to go with the story or article. I don't seem to be able to do the same thing by opening up a word document.

I also like using pen and paper because it's more portable than a laptop, so I can continue with whatever I'm working on wherever I am.

Janet said...

Coming in out of the rain to welcome you to The Prairies, Allie!

I love to write by hand - in fact the first draft of Lady Bells was written by hand on yellow legal pad paper. At retreat, I went back to writing by hand - more yellow paper - and found the words came easier. And I wasn't worried about the errors (no nasty green or red lines under my words to draw my attention to spelling or grammar issues).

And don't get me started on school supplies! I love the fall when the stores showcase all the new binders, pens, doodads - love it :)

OK, back out into the rain to finish up this garage sale today.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Well, I'm not sure what happened to Allie although I know she was going to drive her daughter to pastry camp one of these days - like I would forget something like that.

Suse, I remember you showing us a wooden pen at a Sask Rom Writers meeting once. Was it the blood wood one? It's really a gorgeous pen.

Although I don't write longhand much because of my arthritis, I do love my own pens. My favourites are the Parker click pens, the free pen I get from my accountant each year (writes very well) and the free ones I received from my author friends Cheryl Wyatt and Stacey Kayne. They're all click pens which write smooth and are easy to hold. I wish my handwriting was more cursive.

As I read Allie's post, I thought of my mother's script. She writes slow, cursive letters which are a work of art. I remember her telling us stories of her in school back in the '40s. She was a leftie which was frowned upon back then - at least in a rural Northern Ontario school. She always wore long braids and the boy behind her was instructed to pull one or the other if she wrote with her left hand. She said there were days she'd go home bawling because of the pain. I don't know if that's why she writes such beautifully formed letters but I've always loved watching her write them - with her left hand - and I've loved receiving her letters. I don't think I've ever thrown away one of her envelopes or letters, either.

Thanks, Allie for letting me see the joy in Mom's script.

Ban said...

school supplies ... ahhhh ... and now I get to go through that whole process again as my eldest is going to 1st grade this fall :D
i DO love writing, i DO love beautifully bound journals but ... i'm a perfectionist and if i make a mistake or my letters start to look awkward (what-have-you) i HATE to cross out - instead i'd rather tear the whole page out and start over again. as you can guess, this makes it VERY hard for me to write stories out long hand. the closest i get is scribbling outline notes on loose lined paper and stuffing them into my binders. i can't even keep a nice sketch book 'cause i do the same with my drawings ... :(
ps: Suse - think i might like one of those blood wood pens - you could probably drum your uncle up some business here ;)

Helena said...

You had me at school supplies, too! You can extend that to the entire world of stationery stores -- love them. I can spend hours choosing the right pens and paper, also books for my journals.

However, I have not gone back to writing first drafts in longhand, except when it was assigned in a course. When I think about it, the reason it was recommended made sense because the first draft should be a pouring out of all the ideas, without the temptation or distraction of attempting to do revisions which are so easy to do with word processing. I try not to go over sentences, words, order of paragraphs, etc. in my first drafts, but concentrate on forging ahead getting the word dump out on the page -- which would not be a pretty scene in longhand.

I do love the act of handwriting when I make notes at workshops, writing in a daily journal, even making lists, so I certainly understand the thrill you experienced, and want to thank you for reminding me of the joys of writing by hand.

Also, although letterwriting has become a lost art, a letter to a friend or family member must be in longhand. Where will all the emails go? Certainly not into pretty boxes or trunks to keep for posterity!

I'm glad you could visit the world of the Prairie Chicks today, Allie.

Allie Pleiter said...

Hi! I'm here finally! Sorry it took me so long to stop by. How satisfying to learn I have so many cohorts in the "love the stationery supplies" camp. Yes, I have been going "old school" in my writing this week, and enjoying it, but I don't think I could do an entire book this way. Anita, as for the writing while speaking, the extrovert in me gets jazzed by speaking so I don't find it difficult, especially since I'm a "little chunk" person. But I've been paying special attention to the supplies of fellow writers this week, and let me tell you, the love of pen and paper extends deep and wide. Sure, laptops are cool, but we all have our favorite tools. I'll try to pop in again later today if I can and answer more comments!