Five things my father's life teaches me about writing

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 18 December 2015 | 6 Comments

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     I am my father's daughter, a fact that both enriches and terrifies me. This will, however, make me a better writer. Here's how.
First, though, a bit about my dad. He wasn't a writer, he was an electrician by trade, both of us in the business of connecting: his medium was electricity, mine was words. We also didn't realize then, but it is apparent now, that we shared something else: battles with ourselves,  defining our lives from the time we both could remember. For him, it was being born a gentle, loving soul into a sandpaper world, a determined spirit in a body plagued by childhood illness and chronic pain, a  life lived, as a result, in the protection of intellect while the spirit starved. On rare days his spirit won, and in those moments anyone in his presence, ever so brief, was made to feel part of something special, warm, aware, trusting in the great potential and unseen of the universe, until intellect would slam shut the door and begin the lockdown anew. His battle ended, I pray, with his passing on Dec. 13, 2015. 
Reflecting on his life and death, however, has kicked my battle into high gear. I possess that same intellect, that same ability to talk myself out of things or even shut myself down rather than risk anything: stage fright as a child so severe that I quit the music I loved altogether at 16, and that by 30 was creeping into my writing as well. Shyness, self-doubt, fear of one's own voice are all butterfly kisses of death to any form of success as a writer.  
Life is choice.
So, should I ignore my spirit's desire to connect through writing and save myself a lifetime of combat? Or, do I take a breath and dive into the memories, risking pain and drowning to find treasures of knowledge my time with my father has created?
I choose memories. There are thousands upon thousands, so for this first attempt I didn't dive too deeply, and found these five. They came from our epic father-daughter battles, and from the quiet of just sitting together, saying nothing, knowing everything. Some things he taught me about what to do. Some are things I wished could have taught him.
Here they are, five things my father's life teaches me about writing.  

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What do a writer, bagpiper and Muppets have in common?

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 7 April 2014 | 4 Comments

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Life lessons crop up, emerge, or even squeal in the most unlikely places, an everyday gift to each of us. The fine print that our logic often ignores is being open to the lesson, even when the cold sting of rejection and churn of duty urges us to close up, sign off, and pretend it didn't happen. I nearly did that this past weekend but there is no ignoring bagpipes, especially when the piper is peeved. It went something like this. I spent the day at a trade show with a couple dozen other authors and several dozen avid readers, and it was terrific. For this solitary vocation, it was a necessity: getting out of the house, meeting other authors face-to-face, perfecting the pitch as visitors browsed for hints and swag. But in the glare of the house lights, fuelled by coffee and chocolate and recycled air, doubts emerged with each passing hour. Clearly I was the worst writer there, the least interesting, the lowest in sales, called 'author' not because of talent or promise but because I paid the fee and showed up. Now the warm goodbyes of strangers-turned-colleagues, some fresh air and a nap sent the doubts on a bit of a hike, but it took the Muppets to send them packing. More about that in a minute.

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From the gardening trowel of babes

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 10 June 2013 | 7 Comments

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I spent a lovely evening with my son at a gardening class a few nights ago. It would have been cheaper to take him out drinking. We'd at least have payback from the empties, unlike what I'll get when these plants follow the proud tradition of those who have been potted before them, which is up and die.

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Lessons from a Dingbat

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 3 June 2013 | 5 Comments

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Another piece of childhood was buried this weekend with the passing of Jean Stapleton. God love her, she made it to 90 after a career in a profession known to take more than it gives. Jean's characters on stage and screen were rich, vivid and plentiful, but to me and millions of fans, she is best remembered for the life she breathed into Edith Bunker. 

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No time to talk, my brain is getting a massage

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 27 November 2012 | 1 Comments

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That is what I told myself the other day when a crowbar couldn’t wedge another event into my calendar. Massage was the most soothing word I could think of to keep my brain from dissolving into quivering globs of gelatin.

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What I Missed in 24 Hours

Posted by Jennifer Hatt on 23 April 2012 | 1 Comments

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... And how I made peace in my battle of solitude vs. parenthood

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