Friday, December 5, 2014

5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me About Creativity

Last month, I announced my intention to participate in National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo). The goal was to write an entire novel in the span of thirty days. The result of this endeavor would turn out much different than my original intention. (Sigh!) I fell far short of writing an entire novel. How short? Well, if it were a race, I tripped on an untied shoelace at the starting blocks and never got up.

If every dark cloud has a silver lining, here's mine: I learned several invaluable lessons about the creative process last month. And I learned them from an unlikely source, my children.

November may have been a writing marathon for some, but for anyone with young children, it also meant "Parent - Teacher Conferences". As I sat through each conference for each of my three very different kiddos, not only was I filled with motherly pride, also I was struck with a kind of awe at my children's ability to express themselves so naturally and so imaginatively. It's not that I have some awesome writing gene that I have passed onto my children (although that would be supercool). It comes down to the fact that my children are, well, children. They are not impeded by adulthood vices, insecurities and pressures. As I spoke with each of their talented teachers, I realized a thing or two about creativity. And I discovered how I had sabotaged my goal of writing a novel in a month long before I figuratively put my feet into the starting blocks.

Lesson #1 (from my oldest son): Enjoy the process of creating.
I'm reminded of one of my all time favorite holiday movies, A Christmas Story. Remember when the teacher scrolled the writing assignment on the chalkboard and the students moaned in response? Fortunately, my oldest son's Fifth Grade teacher is the exact opposite. She treats writing as an adventurous endeavor rather than a chore. It seems when it comes to creativity, enjoying the process makes for an inspired finished product. My son got an incredible kick out of his teacher's suggestion to use the names off paint sample cards as descriptive words in his essay. As a result, the sunset in his final draft popped with color and imagery! As for the rest of his essay, it brought back wonderful memories of our beach trip last August, a trip he clearly enjoyed at the time and once again, as he wrote about it.

Lesson #2 (from my daughter): Create/Write with wild abandon.
When my daughter writes in her Second Grade classroom, she doesn't worry about what her classmates will think of her when it's "sharing time" or whether every word is spelled correctly or if her penmanship is perfect. She writes quickly, getting down her every thought as it comes into her head. When you read one of my daughter's lively pieces, it's as if she's standing right there talking to you. All of her wit and her spunky personality shines through every word (misspelled or not). If my daughter worried about how her work would be received by her peers or how to correctly spell a word before continuing forward, all that beautiful prose would be lost. I imagine she would be stuck on the second or third sentence when time was up. Her childhood exuberance allows for an imperfectly perfect first draft. If you follow my daughter's example, second drafts are for revision and all the other nuts and bolts. First, let it fly. Fill that blank page and then, flip it over and cover the back side, too!

Lesson #3 (from my youngest son): Life is challenging. Create anyway. 
As I have written in a prior post, my youngest son faces real challenges when it comes to language. You would think that would translate into a parent-teacher conference filled with tense conversations about how to motivate my son to toward activities that involve reading and writing. So, imagine my pleasant discovery that my son had written with the same wild abandon as his his twin sister. My son has always displayed a fantastic imagination, yet, how with all his difficulties (real, documented difficulties) would he ever be able to share his thoughts and grand imaginings on paper? The answer? He simply put his pencil to the paper and wrote an epic tale of knights and swamp monsters to the best of his ability. He didn't let any of his difficulties stop his story from pouring over three pages. When he was finished, yes, there was definite evidence of his challenges with language. The amazing thing? None of those errors really mattered. He had expressed on paper a story of a hero battling uninhibited toward a tremendous victory. If you asked any of us at the conference, we would have said my son was the real hero.

Lesson #4 (from all three kids): Make time for creativity.
Okay, so my children don't add "creative time" into their schedule of events on their individual calendars. They do, however, make time, like most children their age, to play, to create and to generally let their minds wander. And, when they're at school, their teachers actually do schedule time for creative expression. However, as adults, unless your job requires it, very few of us prioritize time for play, for creativity or to generally let our minds wander. Last month, when I should have been writing entire novel, I managed to prioritize everything from worthy tasks like food shopping to time sucks like every social media site over making time to write. Worse than the fact that I don't have a new novel in the works is that I denied myself time to do something meaningful and rewarding. So, yes, schedule time for creativity or, at least, give yourself permission to play even if it's only a half an hour a day.

Lesson #5 (from all three kids): Creating = Joy
Here's the best lesson that all children seem to intrinsically know, creating equals joy, plain and simple. In adulthood, it's all too easy to equate what you have created with money and fame. Sure, a creative life could lead to financial and personal gains, but it's not a given and, most of all, it's not the point.  When my children create something, the best they can hope for is to have it displayed on the refrigerator or to share it with other family members. They don't expect a paycheck and they don't look for reviews written by strangers. True, life demands a paycheck and in order to get one, you need positive reviews. But, that's a lot like writing the second draft before the first. There's a joy in creating that must be valued and protected. My kids understand it. Children universally naturally seek it out.  It's something I had forgotten and I'm so thankful to my children for reminding me!

For more about my writing endeavors
(that I actually completed), 
check out:

And then, get out there and create!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Allure and Redemptive Nature of Road Trips

Welcome David Berner, author of Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons. So, who's up for a road trip??? After reading David's guest post, I certainly am! Check it out:


The Allure and Redemptive Nature of Road Trips
By David W. Berner

It was an early Sunday morning in June. Dad shook me out of my sleep just as the sun was coming up. He didn’t know that I had been up half the night waiting for this day and he most likely didn’t notice the book hidden in the tangles of my bed covers. It was an illustrated paperback about the strange sea creatures that lived deep in the ocean. I had taken it to bed with me, reading off and on in the dark with a small flashlight. If Dad had noticed the book, he likely would have laughed. Sea creatures? Not exactly what we expected to catch in the waters of Western Pennsylvania’s Sandy Lake.

It was my first fishing trip. I was about eight years old. It would take about an hour to get there by car, an hour that would feel like all morning.

I remember the trip so vividly for a few reasons. Fishing seemed like an amazing, grown-up adventure and although I wouldn’t be catching an octopus or some other ocean monster, it was close enough. And although Dad and I had spent a lot of time together lately–he helped coach my T-ball team–it was the first time we had gone on a trip together, just the two of us. One hour in the car together; Dad and me.

We took the green, 1961 Chevy Impala. The vinyl seats stuck to the bare legs hanging from my khaki shorts. I remember the low morning sun streaming through the windshield, stinging my eyes. I can still see Dad’s cap, the white cotton golf hat he wore each day when I was young, the one with the blue and green band around its brim. And I can see his hands on the steering wheel, thick, big-man hands, the calloused digits of a man who worked with wood and repaired his own cars. I don’t remember much about the fishing, can’t even recall if we pulled anything out of the lake. But I remember the drive like it was yesterday, that special early morning road trip.

I didn’t know it then, but now I see the impact of that short journey. I believe it subtlety solidified my budding adulation of my father, a respect I would disregard when I reached my teenage years, an admiration I would misplace when I graduated from college and was struggling to make my own way, and would only come into focus again when my first son was born and I took him on his first fishing trip. It was the 60-minutes in the car with my dad that mattered that late spring day, the moments of silence, the shared smiles, the sparse but pointed talk about baseball, what we’d eat for lunch, and what is was going to be like to twist a nightcrawler onto a steel hook.

I never became much of a fisherman, neither did my son, but it doesn’t matter. The road trips to those clean, cool waters are what have outlasted any anticipation or excitement of snagging a lake trout.  

The power of a road trip, whether it’s by car, train, horseback, or raft is embedded in American life. It’s in our make-up. Look at our literature: Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, Kerouac’s On the Road. Then there are the movies: Easy Rider, Thelma and Louise, Little Miss Sunshine. The list is long and varied. But the theme is essentially the same: the journey is the thing, the travel is what fascinates us and in the end, somehow changes us, awakens our lives.

Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons (Dream of Things, 2014) started out as a single, 3000 word essay initialized entitled “Francis is on the Patio”–referring to a almost encounter with Francis Ford Coppola. It was about a 5000-mile road trip I took with my sons at a time when my life required a new direction and I was searching for a boost of the soul. But after a long-held family secret was revealed to me, the piece developed into the thread of a full-length memoir about fatherhood, a story discovered through each mile of that cross-country trip. It was the journey that fueled the reflection. It was the road trip itself that became the medicine of redemption and helped to restore the spirit.  

Yes, the book is my personal story. But I believe it resonates with so many others, not only because of the inevitable and shared connections between fathers and sons, parents and children, but also because we all love the American road trip. We fondly recall the ones of our past and we eagerly anticipate the ones in our future. Road trips are forever alluring for what they help us discover, a bit of ourselves.

Thank you David Berner for an entertaining guest post! Also, thank you to WOW -Women on Writing for providing this stop on David's tour. For more information and more blog stops, please check out:

Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons is a heartwarming and heartbreaking story told with humor and grace, revealing the generational struggles and triumphs of being a dad, and the beautiful but imperfect ties that connect all of us.

Recipient of a Book of the Year Award from the Chicago Writers Association, Any Road Will Take You There is honest, unflinching, and tender. 
In the tradition of the Great American Memoir, a middle-age father takes the reader on a five-thousand-mile road trip -- the one he always wished he'd taken as a young man. Recently divorced and uncertain of the future, he rereads the iconic road story -- Jack Kerouac's On the Road -- and along with his two sons and his best friend, heads for the highway to rekindle his spirit. 

However, a family secret turns the cross-country journey into an unexpected examination of his role as a father, and compels him to look to the past and the fathers who came before him to find contentment and clarity, and celebrate the struggles and triumphs of being a dad.

Paperback: 300 Pages
Genre: Memoir
Dream of Things (September 23, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0988439096
ISBN-13: 978-0988439092

Twitter hashtag: # AnyRoadBook

Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons  is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon 
About the AuthorDavid W. Berner-the award winning author of ACCIDENTAL LESSONS and ANY ROAD WILL TAKE YOU THERE-was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he began his work as a broadcast journalist and writer. He moved to Chicago to work as a radio reporter and news anchor for CBS Radio and later pursue a career as a writer and educator. His book ACCIDENTAL LESSONS is about his year teaching in one of the Chicago area's most troubled school districts. The book won the Golden Dragonfly Grand Prize for Literature and has been called a "beautiful, elegantly written book" by award-winning author Thomas E. Kennedy, and "a terrific memoir" by Rick Kogan (Chicago Tribune and WGN Radio). ANY ROAD WILL TAKE YOU THERE is the author's story of a 5000-mile road trip with his sons and the revelations of fatherhood. The memoir has been called "heartwarming and heartbreaking" and "a five-star wonderful read."
David can be found online at:
Twitter:  @davidwberner
Twitter:  @anyroadbook

Monday, November 17, 2014

How to Decide What to Write About and What to Omit ...

Welcome Linda Appleman Shapiro, author of She's Not Herself, A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness. In her guest post, Linda shares with us a writing tip that makes all the difference when it comes to storytelling whether it's in fiction or in a memoir.


How to decide what to write about and what to omit in order to create a flow vs. an overflow of information

by Linda Appleman Shapiro

Whatever the genre, authors have to make choices at every turn about what to keep and what to omit; what word to choose and what word to change; what detracts from the basic story line and what adds color and fleshes it out. Depending on how attached we are to words and actions, we can spend hours on choosing just the right word to convey just the right thought or mood.
Fiction or memoir, each has characters and a story line. Just as novels have narrative arcs, so, too, do memoirs. In fictional stories the arc usually refers to a chronological construction of a plot, leading to an ultimate resolution. It’s not very different with memoirs. Both are stories, but one is created from whole cloth and the other examines, explores and shares memories from a particular life experience, with the driving force being the need to revisit it, re-member it and write about it.  
To start, I think authors are more apt to write much more than is kept in the finished book. Not unlike a conversation where you wished you hadn’t gone on and on about telling a friend about something that happened and you know that you could have shared the experience with far fewer words and conveyed what you wanted the person to know without being boring or going off on tangents that your friend didn’t in the first place need to know about and in the end only weakened the impact of what you wished to convey . . .  so it is with writing (as you can see from the paragraph you’ve just read).

I can spill my guts and create dramatic scenes, but the bottom line is whether I am serving the reader’s experience. In telling my truth about any given moment or relationship, one needs not tell everything to engage the reader.

What to tell, what to streamline in the telling and how to create an easy flow for the reader is much like an artist who’s painting a pastoral scene of the cool but sunny days of autumn. Drawing outlines of every leaf, coloring each one perfectly, might be less effective than delicately dabbing reds, oranges and golds for a sense of the scene, which is completed in the viewers mind. Leaving some things to the reader’s imagination and focusing on what’s most important to the artistic vision is, to my way of thinking, far more effective.

So, too, in creating a story or sharing your memories, not everything will be important to the reader. You don’t want to hammer home your truth, your vision … you want to create a theme with characters that have a full range of emotional responses and reactions but not necessarily ones where we need to know about every breath they take, every person they meet, every pleasure or disappointment they experience. We need to know just enough to feel that the author has brought people/characters into our lives in a story we never heard before but one that has an implicit universality that touches us and perhaps teaches us but never bores us. 

So, to answer the question I’d say that the litmus test is to know – once you’ve written your first drafts and have written too much – what you can then omit so as not to lose your audience but to embrace them more fully, with less ego and more humanity.

Thank you, Linda Appleman Shapiro, for a wonderful and informative post! Also, much thanks to WOW -Women On Writing for providing this stop on Linda's blog tour. Please check out their website for more information and more blog tour stops!

She's Not Herself: A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness is a journey to make sense of the effects of multi-generational traumas. Linda Appleman Shapiro is ultimately able to forgive (without forgetting) those who left her to fend for herself--and to provide readers with the wisdom of a seasoned psychotherapist who has examined human vulnerability in its many disguises and has moved through it all with dignity and hope. The result is a memoir of love, loss, loyalty, and healing.
On the surface, her childhood seemed normal--even idyllic. Linda Appleman Shapiro grew up in the iconic immigrant community of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, with her parents and a gifted older brother. But she spent her days at home alone with a mother who suffered major bouts of depression. At such times, young Linda Appleman Shapiro was told, "Your mother...she's not herself today." Those words did little to help Linda understand what she was witnessing. Instead, she experienced the anxiety and hyper-vigilance that often take root when secrecy and shame surround a family member who is ill. 
Paperback: 249Pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Dream of Things (September 2, 2014)

Twitter hashtag: #SNHerselfShapiro
She's Not Herself A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon and is available through, Dream of and several other on-line book sites listed on Goodreads.
About the Author
Behavioral psychotherapist/Addictions Counselor/ Oral Historian/ Mental Health Advocate and author, Linda Appleman Shapiro earned her B.A. in literature from Bennington College, a Master's degree in Human Development/Counseling from the Bank Street College of Education, and a Master Certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming from the New York Institute of N.L.P. She has further certifications in Ericksonian Hypnosis and Substance Abuse/Addictions Counseling.
Linda Appleman Shapiro is a contributing author in the casebook, “Leaves Before the Wind: Leading Applications of N.L.P.”
In private practice for more than thirty years, Shapiro also served as a senior staff member at an out-patient facility for addicts and their families. As an oral historian, she has documented the lives of many of New York's elderly.
Her first memoir, Four Rooms, Upstairs, was self-published in 2007 and named Finalist in the Indie Next Generation Book Awards in 2008Her blog of three years, “A Psychotherapist's Journey,”  named Shapiro Top Blogger in the field of mental health by WELLsphere.
Married to actor and audiobook narrator George Guidall, Linda Appleman Shapiro and her husband live in Westchester County, New York. They have two adult daughters and two grandchildren.

Linda Appleman Shapiro’s Website:
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Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Humor: Five Funnies for Friday!

Book nerds unite and get your funny on! Here's five funnies for Friday .. say that five times fast and Enjoy!

Oh! The horror of it all! SMBC (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal) daily strip © Zach Weiner via his site & shop, ...  Respect people, respect copyright.  The law requires that you credit the artist. List/Link directly to artist's website.  HOW TO FIND the ORIGINAL WEB SITE of an image:  PINTEREST on COPYRIGHT:  The Golden Rule:

The Passive Aggressive Raven...

Family Circus: "Books are better than TV.  If you fall asleep while reading, you don't miss the ending."

Literary selfies.

And, finally ...

This is so funny becuz Shel Silverstein wrote a poem book called "Where the Sidewalk Ends"!!! Haha made me lol

Hope I made you laugh (or least smile)!

For an extra funny, see my last post on my Facebook page,

And, for bonus points, check out


Friday, November 7, 2014

Welcome Jerry Waxler with a Guest Post on a "Memoir Revolution"

Welcome Jerry Waxler, author of Memoir Revolution! So, what is a memoir revolution and why did Jerry Waxler name his book after it? Read on to find out!

Why did you call it Memoir Revolution?

By Jerry Waxler

When I entered college in 1965, life was going to be simple. I intended to become a doctor and looked forward to a normal future. Within a few weeks of my arrival in Madison, Wisconsin, I saw my first anti-war picket signs. No one knew at that time that this was an early warning that cultural upheaval was brewing on the horizon. By the time I left college, I had been knocked thoroughly off course. It took me years to recover. Ever since then, I have been fascinated by social trends and am always on the lookout for others that might affect us collectively, and shift our thinking in new directions. In the early 2000s, I noticed a subtle trend that I believe has far-reaching ramifications, perhaps as big as the wave in the 60s that almost drowned me.

I observed that many people showing up in writing groups were attempting to explore the stories of their lives. In order to do so, they needed to share their secrets. At the same time, on television and through social media, we were collectively shifting our definition of what ought to remain private versus what would be shared with the world. By exposing more of our private thoughts in public, our stories about ourselves were becoming more intimate and authentic.

At first, I was a curious bystander, watching this trend from a distance. I had always been shy, hated talking about myself, and had no intention of revealing anything more about myself than I absolutely had to.

However, as a therapist and self-help fan, I have always admired methods that could help people grow. And during therapy, I had come to believe that finding one’s own story is a valuable tool for self-development. Perhaps by searching for my own story, I could overcome my shyness and participate in the social free-for-all of the Internet.

To investigate the possibility of joining the wave, I took memoir classes, read books about how to write memoirs, and loaded my bookshelves with stories about other people. By learning to shape my memories, and construct them into the organized container of a story, I was turning unintelligible fragments of my own life into a coherent whole.

During this period of research, I noticed a strange thing. Year after year, the trend kept growing. Increasing numbers of people showed up at classes, more people were blogging about it, and an incredible number of people were attempting to turn life into stories. And even more exciting for me, was the realization that the phenomenon was building on itself. Popular memoirs were giving increasing numbers of us permission to find our own stories. If each successful memoir by an ordinary person gave thousands of other people permission to find their own stories, the trend would go viral.

I first became aware of the contagion of memoirs one Sunday morning when I was giving a talk at a study group in a church. I was explaining that the Memoir Revolution had given people permission to open up. “For example,” I said, “many of us have experiences in childhood that are covered over by secrecy. We have been silenced by shame, or the rules of the family, or fear of looking bad.” A middle-aged woman in the back row raised her hand and said, “You mean it’s alright for me to share what happened to me in my childhood?” I said “yes,” and she began to cry. I could feel her emotional relief, even though she had not said a single word about what she had been hiding.

In another group, this one a writing workshop, a woman said, “You mean if I share something about myself that I’ve never told another person, it will give me permission to open up?” I said “yes,” and she said, “My husband killed himself and I’ve never been able to talk about it.” Every single person in that room turned toward her, eyes filled with compassion.

Such events have always been part of our lives, but without language to communicate them, we remained silent. Now, in memoirs, we are shaping the ups and downs of life into the socially acceptable container of stories.

Stories have been used since the dawn of civilization to help people make sense of their trials and tribulations, but through those millennia, most of our emphasis has been on fiction. In fiction, larger-than-life heroes and villains undergo exaggerated circumstances to reach convenient ends. The Memoir Revolution has allowed us to repurpose this story-form in a way that lets us make sense of the every day life of ordinary people.

When unpleasant things happen in life, we attempt to be brave, and look at the half-full glass. Another tool that is just as important as positive thinking is our ability to band together, to reach to each other for support and compassion. By opening up our secrets, and turning them into interesting stories, we have exponentially increased our opportunities to understand ourselves and support each other.

The Memoir Revolution doesn’t rely on tie-dye clothes, bell bottoms, marijuana. And it doesn’t rely on being young, or rebelling against the status quo. But in its potential to tear down the walls between people, and to provide us with a new way of understanding ourselves and each other, this period has the potential to be every bit as invigorating and stimulating as the earlier one.

To join this revolution, you don’t have to drop out, smoke dope, or march in protests. You just have to start writing anecdotes, and in the company of millions of other aspiring writers, attempt to shape those experiences into a compelling story.

Memoir Revolution is Jerry Waxler’s beautifully written story as he integrates it with his deep and abiding knowledge and passion for story. In the 1960s, Jerry Waxler, along with millions of his peers, attempted to find truth by rebelling against everything. After a lifetime of learning about himself and the world, he now finds himself in the middle of another social revolution. In the twenty-first century, increasing numbers of us are searching for truth by finding our stories. In Memoir Revolution, Waxler shows how memoirs link us to the ancient, pervasive system of thought called The Story. By translating our lives into this form, we reveal the meaning and purpose that eludes us when we view ourselves through the lens of memory. And when we share these stories, we create mutual understanding, as well. By exploring the cultural roots of this literary trend, based on an extensive list of memoirs and other book, Waxler makes the Memoir Revolution seem like an inevitable answer to questions about our psychological, social and spiritual well-being. 

Paperback: 190Pages
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Neuralcoach Press; 1 edition (April 9, 2013)

ISBN-10: 0977189538
Twitter hashtag: #MRevolutionWaxler
Memoir Revolution is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon.
About the Author: Jerry Waxler teaches memoir writing at Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, PA, online, and around the country. His Memory Writers Network blog offers hundreds of essays, reviews, and interviews about reading and writing memoirs. He is on the board of the Philadelphia Writer's Conference and National Association of Memoir Writers and holds a BA in Physics and an MS in Counseling Psychology.


Blog hostess, Audry Fryer, is the author of two novels and a short story available for Kindle and Nook. To learn more, check out her wildly interesting website at:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Crazy Thing I'm Doing in November

Some of you may have heard of this crazy, insane thing called by an equally crazy, insane acronym:
That would be National Novel Writing Month in which for the month of November, a writer completes an entire novel.  Yep, an entire, full length novel written in 30 days (as opposed to an average of nine months). It's the fast food of writing, a marathon of the brain.

So, I'm thinking of actually, really trying ... no wait, not trying ... doing it. There I said it. I have written it here on my blog, so now I am committed to this goal. Yikes, but what if i give up after day 3? Then, what? What if I can't find the time because I refuse to neglect my children, my husband, the housework and everything else? What if what I write is terrible and I decide to delete the whole thing after the month is over? Maybe there's a more productive way I should spend my time ...

First the dream: I write the first draft of the novel I've been pushing around for over six months.
Bigger dream: I set it aside until after the holidays, read it again in January, revise it, ask a few friends and family to read it, revise it again and send it off to agents.
Biggest dream: There's a go-getter of an agent out there who loves it, finds a credible publisher who also loves it, and this time next year, I'm writing a completely different blog post about success entitled, "She Lived Happily Ever After. The End."

Now the fear: I waste my time coming up with excuses to keep busy rather than write. Then, I start to write, but hit a major writer's block. Suddenly, the whole month is over and now it's the busy holiday season and I've lost my window. I live with regret that I never wrote that third novel that finally could have opened doors to a rewarding writing career. Yikes!

Finally, reality: Bring it on, NaNoWriMo! There will be multiple typos. I may lose sleep. I may fall short of a full length novel in a mere 30 days because Thanksgiving happened. But, I will climb that mountain of doubt and cross the finish line with my head held high. My head will not be propped on a pillow as I am imagining right now, but held high with my arms outstretched in victory... I hope. No, wait, I know. Sigh!

For more information on this month of marathon-like writing,
check out:

And for the fun of it, 
Check out my website!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Welcome Nina Guilbeau with a Guest Post, "The Real Birth Order Theory"

I'm happy to host Nina Guilbeau, author of God Doesn't Love Us All the Same. 


Today, Nina shares with us her ideas about birth order theory. As the oldest sibling of three, I can identify with some of this theory. Although, it certainly doesn't tell the entire picture of who I am or my younger brothers. So, where are you in the birth order of your family? Do you identify with this theory or not?

The Real Birth Order Theory

by Nina Guilbeau

Alfred Adler’s birth order theory is absolutely fascinating. So fascinating that while this theory wasn’t the biggest focus for Adler in his work, it is the one part of his work for which he is generally recognized.  Unfortunately, this widespread popular theory is also a very misunderstood.

Usually, when the birth order theory is discussed the spotlight is on the type of personalities created because of the order of birth (although there are many exceptions).  It’s easy to focus on this part of the theory when first, second, middle, only and last born children in different families often have the same characteristics. However, what are usually left out of the birth number to personality trait ratio are the importance of the child’s environmental influences and their innate interpretation of their birth order. Adler’s belief is that a child’s personality due to his or her birth order depends largely on the child’s internal processing (acceptance/rebellion of expectations) and the external family social environment (household), not simply the sequence of their birth.

For instance, personality traits of responsible, authoritarian (bossy) and over achiever generally describe firstborns in theory and are often proven to be the reality. Why? Because the environmental factors that Adler refers to are the same across households. When an only child is dethroned as the baby, they are subsequently crowned oldest sibling who has duties. Parents celebrate the importance of their firstborn’s new role as big brother or sister by praising how well they help take care of the new baby. This tactic is usually meant to combat feelings of jealousy or displacements from the arrival of the new baby, yet the responsibility of the role never goes away. In fact, it usually increases over time and even follows them into adulthood. Oldest siblings become surrogate parents, as well as babysitters, cooks, protectors, role models and teachers.  It’s easy to understand how the predictable behavior of parents with firstborns produces predictable personality traits in children in different households.

So the question for those with sibling experience is this: Are parents parenting to the birth order, molding general personalities, as much or more than they parent the individual child? In other word, would the youngest siblings, who are often accused of being spoiled and “getting off easy,” be the responsible, overachiever if they were treated as firstborns?

When writing God Doesn’t Love Us All the Same, I thought about the personality type of my main characters. Vera, the old homeless woman, was an only child, but circumstances made her one Adler’s birth order exceptions. Janine, the other main character, was one of three children exhibiting characteristics from one of these classic birth order categories:

Only child – This child is always the center of attention and since they are never "dethroned," they can be self-centered. They miss out on the social skills learned by sibling interaction, so they may find it difficult to share or compromise. A great positive trait is that they can be very mature intellectually.
First Born – They are often given responsibility for younger siblings and may take on the role of a surrogate parent. Firstborns may become overachievers in order to set the example for younger siblings and meet the expectations of parents. They are also known to be authoritarian (or bossy). A great positive trait is that they can be very responsible and possess leadership qualities.
Second Born – Independent and competitive, especially with the oldest sibling. Sibling rivalry may be initiated by second born children as they struggle to identify their role in the family. They can be seen as rebels at times. A great positive trait is that they can be very expressive and creative.
Middle Child – Independent, but unlike second born children, they can be more congenial. They do not have the spotlight, but often do not seek it (what’s the use?). The middle child syndrome can develop, especially in larger families. A great positive trait is that they can adapt and acquire very good social skills.

Last Born – Frequently spoiled by the entire family. Never “dethroned” and may be accustomed to always getting their way. They may be seen as irresponsible and a rule breaker. A great positive trait is that they can be very charming and adventurous.

God Doesn’t Love Us All the Same is the touching story about Janine Harris who never really thought about homeless people. She barely even notices them as she passes them by on her way to work in downtown Washington D.C. All Janine can focus on is the shambles of her own young life, afraid that she will never be able to get past the painful mistakes she has made. However, all of that changes on a snowy evening in December when Janine unexpectedly finds herself alone with Vera, an old, homeless woman who seems to need her help. Now Janie wants to know what could have possibly happened to Vera to leave her so broken and alone.

As Vera shares her life story with Janine, the two women form an unusual bond and begin a journey that changes both of their lives forever. Reluctantly, they each confront their own past and, in the process, discover the true meaning of sacrifice, family and love. Although to truly move forward in their lives, they must fast the most difficult challenge of all – forgiving themselves. 

Paperback: 254Pages
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Juania Books LLC (May 5, 2014)


Twitter hashtag: #GDLoveGuilbeau

God Doesn’t Love Us All the Same is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon.

About the Author: Nina Guilbeau is the Siblings Editor for BellaOnline The Voice of Women and writes weekly family articles for online magazines. Her e-book, Birth Order and Parenting, is a popular pick with students studying the Alfred Adler birth order theory.
She is a member of the Florida Writer's Association and the author of women's fiction novels Too Many Sisters and Too Many Secrets. A winner of the Royal Palm Literary Award for her God Doesn't Love Us All the Same manuscript, Nina's work has been published in the short story anthologies From Our Family to Yours and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters. An excerpt from upcoming novel Being Non-Famous was published in the Orlando Sentinel as a Father's Day tribute.


Blog hostess, Audry Fryer is the author of women's fiction novels:

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