Writing a Life

Today’s guest post is by the lovely Darrelyn Saloom. Follow her on Twitter, or read her previous posts for NO RULES. Pictured above: Garden Cottage at Bay Breeze Guest House

Why write? Not for the money. You may hit the big time, some do. Most don’t. So why spend years and years cranking out words to expose what’s inside? And why do so many people choose to write? I’m sure there are plenty of reasons. But keep in mind that writing is more than a job. To be a writer is a way of life that can be lonely at times. But the mighty pen takes you on fascinating journeys and surrounds you with smart, witty people—readers and writers—a cabal of kindness and generosity.

This past weekend, my writing life led me to Bay Breeze Guest House on Mobile Bay, the home of Bill and Becky Jones. I arrived the night before the Gulf Coast Association of Creative Writing Teachers Conference in Fairhope, Alabama, where I was slated to read my blog post, “The Best Education for Writing Memoir.” After giving me a tour and making sure I was settled into a garden cottage, my hosts went to bed upstairs and left me to prowl their downstairs which was filled with a fine collection of books and antiques. I even strolled down a long pier to a dock where I absorbed the sounds of lapping water and gazed at the stars.  

One of the reasons I decided to participate in the conference was its setting. I’d been to Fairhope a few years ago and had vowed to return. Another reason was to tame my fear of public speaking. But mostly I wanted to spend time with Kat and Angie, the publishing editors of Rose and Thorn Journal—gal pals I’d befriended on Facebook and Twitter. Kathryn Magendie is the author of three wonderful novels, Tender Graces, Secret Graces, and Sweetie. Angie Ledbetter is revising her first women’s fiction manuscript and dabbles in poetry. But she should add stand-up comic to her repertoire because her sharp wit can curl the tightest lip.

After prowling the premises of Bay Breeze, I settled into a cozy, red upholstered chair in the main house to read and grew sleepy. When I stood up to head to my cottage, I twisted my ankle in mid-step and crashed to the floor.

My ankle swelled immediately, so I untied and removed my sneaker as I swallowed a scream. Embarrassed by my clumsiness, I did not want to waken the Jones’s. I managed to hobble outside to my guest cottage, fill a Ziploc bag with ice, and fall asleep with my foot nestled on a stack of embroidered pillows.

The next morning I awoke to pain and a foot and ankle doubled in size. Unable to drive, I panicked and tried to call Kat and Angie, but they had opted for a remote hideaway with wavering cell phone service. So I called the only person I knew who lived in the small town of Fairhope—Sonny Brewer—the author whose book of collected essays I recommended at the end of the blog post I had planned to read. Not only did he answer on the second ring, he offered to drive me to the conference.

(Pictured above: Marilyn Shapley, Poetry Editor at Rose and Thorn Journal, with Sonny Brewer, author of a book club favorite, The Poet of Tolstoy Park.)

It’s not as if he had nothing better to do. Driving to the event at the University of Alabama’s Baldwin County Campus, Sonny’s cell phone rang constantly. He is a well-known author, a busy family man with children to wrangle, and he’s in the midst of organizing Fairhope Writers’ Colony. Yet he took the time to take care of me, someone he’s only met a couple of times at book events. He even sat beside me at the conference as I read with my foot propped on a chair, then regaled the audience with his own story of how he swayed John Grisham to contribute an essay for his book, Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs They Quit.

That night the Rose and Thorn gang picked me up for dinner. Two of the journal’s poetry editors, Cynthia Toups and Marilyn Shapley, joined Kat, Angie, and her twin sister, artist Alaine Dibenedetto. We shared appetizers of fried green beans and new friendships sprouted. When Angie humorously pointed out that I’d only eaten one of the greasy appetizers and demanded I eat another, I was reminded that writers are observers and you can’t slip much past one. They will make sure you eat plenty, pick you up when you need a ride, and sit beside you when they sense you are nervous about reading in public.

Why choose to write when it doesn’t guarantee a paycheck? When it means you will spend a great deal of time alone in a room, often in agony over a word choice or worse—a blank page. The writing life is all those things. But it’s also rich in friendships with kind, generous men like Sonny Brewer. And it does guarantee you will more than likely end up in a car after dinner with a smart, witty woman like Angie Ledbetter, who sends you into fits of laughter, which blossoms out of control as you listen to her twin sister in the backseat with Betty Boop lookalike, Kathryn Magendie, as they giggle and snort, giggle and snort.   

(Pictured above: View from the chair where Darrelyn tripped in the main house)

In the tradition of generosity and kindness I received in Fairhope, and for working so closely, sitting next to me in spirit up in the Ozarks as he edits every one of my blog posts, including the one I read at the conference, I’d like to introduce and thank my first-reader, editor, teacher, and dear friend, the talented poet and playwright—Dave Malone—as he launches his new website. Please visit him here.

Also, be sure to read the spring issue of Rose and Thorn Journal out today.

If you’re ever lucky enough to visit Fairhope, Alabama, I highly recommend Bay Breeze Guest House on historic Mobile Bay. Be sure to tell Bill and Becky Jones hello for me. (Pictured below: Pier that leads to a dock at Bay Breeze Guest House Mobile Bay)

You might also like:

  • No Related Posts

34 thoughts on “Writing a Life

  1. Sally G

    Wow..a blend of "Girls gone wild" in Alabama and life in Mayberry, USA!! You’ve made the writers life of isolation so appealing. Where else can you intertwine with such interesting people that make you laugh and enhance your world in just a few days? Even with a broken ankle? You always bring us right into the mix and let us become part of your travels, crafty girl. Happy Easter and glad you’re on the mend.

  2. D.G. Hudson

    Sometimes we have to endure the bad (a turned or broken ankle) so that different adventures have a chance to occur. It’s that simple ‘Twist of Fate’ (no pun intended, & thanks Bob Dylan)that brings us in contact with an event or people we might not have had the opportunity to engage with otherwise.

    Another great post, Darrelyn. (And also a good illustration of how we can turn daily happenings into stories or blog posts)

  3. Betty Houle

    I write because the words won’t give me a moment’s peace until I get them on paper or into the computer. They tear around in my head until I can’t think straight, and if I don’t record them in some way, they will drive me to distraction. Even if it’s only the first line of a poem, I can’t ignore it because it calls my name until I answer.

    The Poet’s Curse
    by Betty Houle

    Little bits of paper
    lying here and there
    with a word, a phrase or two,
    a poem if I dare.

    Ideas come at will;
    I lose myself in thought;
    I think and write and doodle
    and don’t do what I ought.

    They haunt me day and night;
    they commandeer my mind.
    I write instead of working
    and quickly fall behind.

  4. Darrelyn Saloom

    Sam, Mads, and Eva, No doubt, to be a writer is a calling. I’ve read a lot of blog posts lately about the lack of monetary gain for writers, so I was inspired to show the other side–the richness of sharing stories, following characters wherever they may lead you, and carving out a life among people you enjoy.

    Thank you for stopping by.

  5. Eva Marie Prokop

    What a wonderful post! So sorry about your ankle, it’s good you were around such fabulous people. I’ve never been to Alabama, but my ex husband is from there…not that that means anything!
    You ask "Why write?" I’ve always loved to write. Ever since I was a child and learned how to print, I’ve been enamoured with the idea of putting my thoughts down on paper. It’s more like something I have to do than something that I would think of as a job. Lately I’ve found that writing is the perfect way to try to make some kind of sense of the suicide of my youngest brother. It is helping me greatly, my blog posts recently though have been mostly about entertainers that I admire, which is a way I distract myself from thinking about my brother ALL the time. Not that I don’t think about him and this whole situation constantly, but my blog has become a respite now, a place I can go to think about something else for a while. At the moment, that’s why I write. To remember, to forget…it’s everythng to me. Thanks for a lovely post and for taking the time to hear comments from your readers!
    Eve Prokop

  6. Mads Peder Nordbo

    I write because I am unable not to write. Last year (January) I woke up one night with a fully grown story in my mind. It had been in there for a while without me giving it enough attention, but suddenly it exploded like a volcano and the words started to flow trough my fingers. Now, 16 months later, I am waiting for the book to be published here in Denmark. It’s called ‘WotanaZ labyrinth’, and will off course just be in Danish from the start, but I very much hope to see it in English within a couple of years. It’s a bit like/between ‘Juliet’ and ‘The Thirteenth Tale’.

    Yesterday I started writing on my second novel. Just like January last year I woke up in the night and felt the need to write.

    In short. I write because the story’s appears in my mind … and I love it. I love writing. I love how my own characters sometimes gain there own life almost leaving me and doing stuff which even surprises me a bit. To write fiction is the most fantastic way to travel!

    Best regards

    Mads Peder Nordbo … weird Danish name;)

    … It’s my first visit at this blog … I’ll be back:)

  7. Sam@I Tell Stories

    I really enjoyed this story. Particularly that Sonny took time out of his busy life to help – individuals like this can be few and far between at times.

    I enjoyed the camaraderie among writers. Something I’ve been looking for 🙂

    *I write because it brings me joy and pain and everything in between. Writing is life to me.

  8. Darrelyn Saloom

    Good morning, Carolyn and George. Glad you enjoy the stories. I love sharing them with you.

    About the rules, George, well, there are rules as you learned in school. I just never liked to follow them. It’s why Mrs. Savoy dragged me by the ear to the office on more than one occasion. She did not want me to write with contractions. But that made no sense to me. Everyone talks in contractions, I’d argue. And I’d lose.

    So, I, like most, spent my early years learning the rules of grammar and punctuation. And now I take great pleasure in breakin’ those rules. I imagine it’s like playing the piano. You practice the boring stuff until you can let loose and be creative.

    Hope you’ll drop by again. It’s great to see you at No Rules.

  9. George J. Forest, Jr.

    Saturday, April 16, 2011 10:54 pm CST

    I just got this post from Carolyn. I love hearing from her on any topic because she seems to be in perpetual motion. I enjoy the sense of movement in her posts.
    I have never been to Fairhope, though have driven close to it on my way to Orange Beach hundreds of times. It has a wonderful reputation for a high quality of life environment. Reading the above has firmed my decision to go there on my next trip to the area.
    I, like you Carolyn, enjoy reading anything Darrelyn writes. Darrelyn, I have you to thank, not just for your writing but for introducing me to quality writting on the internet. What a wonderful time to be alive. For me personally, the advent of Google, Facebook and Youtube changed my life in many ways. Some changes were for the good and some bad. The good far outweigh the bad. At the risk of sounding silly, I feel genuine love growing among my community of internet friends.
    It is true that I seem to get myself into the occasional bit of trouble, especially on FB, but I keep coming back. I will keep coming back. The joy it brings me was not available before FB was invented. For example, the first adult I connected with was Russel Tauzin. He befriended me and FB went from being a useless toy with my kids friends writing silly thing, to me and Russel finding each other after 30 years and now we write silly things. From there we go on to have coffee; a meal; a trip; etc.
    What a blessing this all is to my life.
    Well, plese keep writing ladies and I will keep reading. Darrelyn, sorry to hear about your foot. Get better soon. Goodnight to all and are there really no rules?

  10. Carolyn Patin

    I enjoyed your journey to Fairhope. Fairhope seems to be a great little town to visit.

    Thanks for sharing the long to be remembered mishhap, as well as the great get-togethers with old and new friends.

    I look forward to your next piece here at There are No Rules.

  11. Jenny


    It is clear you were born to write. Your words are a blessing.

    It is a joy to be in the presence of other writers, sharing stories with kindred spirits.

    I’m looking forward to visiting Dave Malone’s new website.

    I hope your ankle is on the mend.

  12. Darrelyn Saloom

    Susan, I want to read about your trip to Fairhope, but the link doesn’t work. I imagine it’s on your blog, so I’ll scroll down to find it. Did you stay at Bay Breeze? If not, I highly recommend it. Just watch out for the red chair that belongs to a ghost.

  13. Susan Cushman

    Fairhope is a magical place. I loved staying at a B&B right on the bay a couple of years ago for the Southern Writers Reading… when I first met Sonny Brewer and a bunch of other gifted writers living in that magical community. Your post was so much fun. Of course it’s so strange that you and I both hurt our ankles (mine broke) within two weeks of each other while on the Alabama gulf coast! I can’t wait to get back to Fairhope…. next February, when I’ll be guest speaker at the Fairhope Pensters Writing Group’s monthly gathering. Read about the great time I had (the day before I broke my ankle) visiting with one of their writing groups that meets weekly: http://wwwpenandpalette-susancushman.blogspot.com/2011/03/fairhope-writers.html.

  14. Jill George

    Thanks, Darrelyn. As always, I love your writing skills. You bring me right into what you are writing about. I feel like I’m there, inside of you. Does that make sense? lol It’s meant to be a compliment. Sorry about your foot & God Bless the folks that stepped up. That never ceases to amaze me how many actually want to help when asked. It’s the asking that I have a problem with. What a sweet place to visit.

  15. Dave Malone

    Darrelyn, you’ve highlighted the essential yet again: writing is not a hobby or a job. It is a life that is so rich. That includes so many gorgeous people and gorgeous places. Your pics are fabulous! And thank you for the lovely introduction. I have you and Jane to blame for a full email inbox. And I’m grateful. 🙂

  16. Darrelyn Saloom

    Thanks, Cynthia, and everyone for your comments. I’m glad I was able to read, too. Funny, I still managed to not have to stand up to speak and read. Seems I’ll do almost anything to avoid the podium. And, yes, read Sonny’s book of collected essays. You won’t believe what Larry Brown did to teach himself to write. It’s wonderful to glimpse the determination of the late, great novelist.

    Deborah, I drove home with a sprained right foot. Five hours from Fairhope to my driveway. I did not stop once due to the pain. I just wanted to get home. When I arrived, my foot looked like a giant balloon flip-flop, if there is such a thing. Now it’s the color of Mobile Bay.

  17. cynthia newberry martin

    I love the way this post rambles here and there and actually seems quite mobile, despite the fact that you were not. I remember the post you wrote on Sonny Brewer, and his book intrigues me still. I may have to move it up on my list. I LOVE the photo at the bottom, of the dock. My grandparents lived in Mobile when I was growing up. So glad you were still able to read at the conference…

  18. Ro Rainwater

    Thank you for sharing your life with me, sweet Darrelyn. Writers and painters share that same aloneness, made twice over when one is both a poet and a painter, as I am. It’s still a big choice for me between poetizing and painting, and so far painting has a slight lead. But Oh! I love the poems in me! So, many times, I paint them. A friend – another writer – has told me that my paintings are the manifestations of the unspeakable language of angels. I would only change "language" to "poetry". A really good writer, like you, makes words the colors of paint and the story the finished art, so again, to me paintings and writings are inextricable from each other.

  19. Amber J. Gardner

    I read this post and I just yearn to be there! Being stuck in one place for too long definitely does not suit me. It sounds wonderful to travel and met new and old friends, especially those so amazingly kind. Writers are so amazing.

    Thanks for sharing.

    I hope your foot gets (is) much better! 🙂

  20. Deborah cutler

    I want to know how you got home D thanks for sharing your wonderful weekend with us. I always enjoy reading your posts, thanks so much. Deborah cutler

  21. Jillian

    One day..one day, I will be there to answer your phone call and sit by your side as you read to an audience.

    I was enveloped, once again, by the "jitterism boopisms", the snorts and giggles and the surrounding atmosphere of writers.

    Not only can it be difficult and lonely as a writer, but now, with the transition to social media, it is not easy to stay on course. I never asked to be recognized as a "blogger", a word that sounds as if one if regurgitating their latest meal, whenever expelled.

    Oh, to visit writer conferences instead of social media conferences and delve into the world of observances and imagination!

  22. Angie

    Another great blog post on the writing life! Like you, the BIG Fs (Fame & Fortune) have never been my goal. I’m going for the HUGE F — Friendships!

    <3’ed meeting you IRL, Darrelyn. Alaine, Kat & I are still in Fairhope, if you can believe that. What a welcoming place to writers, poets, artists and creatives.

    We appreciate the mention of Rose & Thorn Journal too.

  23. Paolo Mateo

    Thanks for sharing your little adventure and for reiterating the reasons we write. If all one could get from their scratching is good friends, good food and a sense that they made a difference in the lives of others, I’d say that was a pretty good compensation package…with extra bennies, to boot. 🙂

  24. kathryn magendie

    Boop Oop A Doop! OOP! . . . this is wonderful, as always, as usual, as per Miz Darrelyn! . . . it was so wonderful meeting you, even if some of the time, much of the time, I was exhausted from near-9 hour drive, just getting over the worst (and my first) abscess ever in the land of bad Stuff to have, and full of distractions from my Reclusive Life in the Cove at Killian Knob in my Great Smoky Mountains.

    It was wonderful meeting you – and sorry bout your ankle -DANG! Angie received your messages, like, five days later *LAUGHING*

    You are wonderful! Angie says, Ditto what Kat says, except for about half of her ramblings and she’ll come by when her bat’try is filled with lectricity — haw! I’m paraphrasing her simple comment that I’ve overloaded with jitterism Boopisms.

  25. Marisa Birns

    What a gorgeous setting! You are so lucky to have spent time there, despite the ouchie.

    So glad to know that Kat and Angie are as much fun in real life as they are on social networks!

    Ah, yes. Why write? Because of everything you’ve said. In a wonderful writer-ly way 😀