Author Archive for

05
Feb
09

The Bones of Blogging

Image by cliff1066 (via flickr)

Image by cliff1066 (via flickr)

When I agreed to start a blog with Alli and Maria I knew that I was up for a challenge. I like to consider myself a writer. I can form grammatically correct sentences and succinctly convey my thoughts. I often develop characters and storylines for my own amusement. And I dish out witty prose over e-mail that occasionally makes people laugh. But, writers write, and outside of legal opinions and other professional documents, I don’t do much writing. I don’t know where to start.

For over three weeks I have delayed posting a new entry. I spent that time “researching.” This research was uncharted. In fact, I only call it research now because I justified each distraction with the thought that it would help me decide what and how to write. My research took me to literature, grammar reference books, and Facebook.

First, I read several letters and early short stories by Jane Austen. Although I’ve previously read all of Austen’s novels, I hadn’t encountered the works from her teenage years. Even in her youth, Austen could turn a plot into the unexpected and expose the ironies and humanity of her characters, rewarding the good and giving the selfish their just dues. But in her early fiction, Austen only presents the bare bones of the stories. She doesn’t complicate the characters with emotions. She tells rather than shows and concentrates her observations of people into a few pages, or lines, of text. Reading these stories made me think that Austen would have loved Twitter, especially while she was young.

In between Austen stories, I breezed through Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Grammar Girl breaks down common mishaps of the English language into a logical format, with conversational explanations. She’s funny too. Grammar Girl showed me that I know grammar and made me feel cool, not geeky, in coming to that realization. I started following Grammar Girl on Twitter, and I put Grammar Girl on my bookshelf space formerly occupied by Strunk & White. I will probably give the Grammar Girl gift to multiple people over the next year as a means of encouraging them to write (and blog).

Finally, I bowed to the latest Facebook trend: 25 Things. My friend and former roommate got me started on this, but the concept spread quickly through my friend list. I jumped on the bandwagon and brainstormed a list of 25 experiences and ideas that have shaped me. Interestingly, I had seen a different version of the 25 Things concept earlier in the week on a blog that came through on my Twitter feed. That version required the author to write seven things that he or she had given up or stopped doing. Either version seems like a good writing exercise, like something from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. With this comparison, I came full circle to my observation upon reading early Austen: begin with the bones.

Several years ago, I took a storytelling course at the community college in my southwest Washington logging town. The instructor taught us how to tell stories by deconstructing the tales to the bones of the narrative. The bones give the basic structure. By remembering the bones, a storyteller can work through the plot of the story while giving each telling its own mark of spontaneous details.

The bones and blogging go hand-in-hand. When blogging, I may need to write the bones first, as Austen did. Blogging the bones may suffice. In other cases, I may need to deconstruct the bigger idea, as Grammar Girl does. For now, I have decided on my bones of blogging:

1. Set a blog posting deadline for each Wednesday
2. Keep a notebook or electronic document at hand to capture ideas throughout the week (Twitter may work for this too)
3. Read blogs to identify different styles and feel more comfortable projecting my own voice
4. Write, write, write

04
Jan
09

An Introduction: Suzanne Leff

Welcome to Sunday Brunch! I’m one of your hosts, and I look forward to sharing some stories with you on this blog. To give you a little background, here’s a snapshot of who I am and how I came to Sunday Brunch.

My name is Suzanne Leff. I am a thirty-something (Gen X?) mother of two children and wife of a community college professor. I work as a real estate attorney representing homeowners associations in Colorado and am a trained mediator. I volunteer with my daughter’s public elementary school and live in a cohousing community. In my recreational time, I cross-country ski, walk my part-time standard poodle to the dog park while listening to This American Life podcasts and Santogold, read graphic novels by Joe Sacco, Marjane Satrapi and others, and watch classic movies with my family. My future posts will add dimension to each of these aspects of my life, while also documenting my search for professional opportunities that allow me to focus on policy, legislative drafting, and more direct involvement with services that benefit underserved populations.

Sunday Brunch serves as a next step for Alli, Maria, and myself. For over two years, the three of us have met regularly, and on an as-needed basis, to set and discuss our career goals, challenge one another to follow through on commitments to ourselves, and celebrate success. We have come to know each other’s strengths, fears, and personal factors that drive decision-making. Originally, we recognized the benefit of providing a structured and supportive environment for defining our professional development goals. But I have come to look forward to my meetings with Alli and Maria because of a deeper friendship that they offer. I trust their feedback and know that, with their help, I will learn more about myself and, consequently, will find more fulfillment in my personal and professional endeavors.

We meet on Sunday mornings and rotate hosting responsibilities. Our sessions routinely cover personal relationships, family, health, exercise, entertainment, travel, and, of course, compliments for the always delicious food that the host serves. Through this blog, I hope that more people will join us for Sunday Brunch (any day of the week) and all the topics that we dish up.