Leisure & Travel
Nominated by: Kristine Sperling
Anna in her own words...
My blog is like a second home to me. It’s a place to sort out my thoughts in writing, to connect with others, and to heal. Since day one, I’ve been able to be myself there, so that if you meet me in the grocery store, I’m the same Anna you know from the blog. I never imagined it would be so popular. At first my sister and my husband were the only ones reading it. (By the way, if you and your husband aren’t great communicators in person, I’ve found having a blog can help him know how I feel about things). I see my blog as a great community, in good times and bad.
2. Many people start blogs and then end up not being able to keep up with them. What is your secret sauce for maintaining a current and content rich blog?
I never got too fancy with a lot of advertising or seeing it as a business. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG with that, and I think women should not sell themselves short, but I knew myself well enough to be certain that putting pressure on myself to turn my blog into a business would be a major buzz-kill for me and it wouldn’t last long if I did that. I love the freedom of blogging about what I want, when I want.
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3. A recent blog post shared, “I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that I am about to have a baby at 46.” Congrats Anna! How are you feeling? After losing your twelve-year old son Jack, did you and your husband always know you would try to get pregnant again?
We sure didn’t! This is one heck of a surprise baby. We regretted not having a third child, because when Jack died in a freak accident, it left our daughter Margaret so alone. But we were thinking of how nice it would be to have a 9 or 10 year old, not a baby. NOTHING prepared us for the two lines on that pregnancy test last summer, when we figured our baby-making days were long past. Jack would be 17 now, Margaret is almost 15, and any day now we will have a new baby boy! Our family looks NOTHING like we anticipated, but we are hanging on for the ride.
4. Anna what made you decide to go from blogging to writing your first book, “Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love”? What was the biggest difference between blogging your daily adventures to writing a memoir?
I was absolutely crushed and depleted after losing my son, so writing a book was not on my radar. Folks in the publishing world read my blog and reached out to me, which led to a book contract. I lacked confidence because I’d never formally studied writing, but so many doors were flung wide open to me that I decided to just walk through them one by one and do my best. By the time I was finished, it truly felt like I was MEANT to write Rare Bird. I kept my voice the same and just tried to be brutally honest in writing the book.
"Our family looks NOTHING like we anticipated, but we are hanging on for the ride."
5. What did you learn about yourself while recalling your story of loss and hope? What do you hope someone reading Rare Bird takes away?
I learned that we grow and change. I am not in the same place in my grief journey that I was when I started writing Rare Bird, or when I finished it. Life is a progression of many days, and although I wrote the book to give people an honest look at raw, early grief, that doesn’t mean anyone has to stay in that place forever. I hope people come away realizing that life is precious, community is vital, and that there’s more going on than what we see with our naked eyes. Also, we don’t need to try to keep such a tight grasp of control on our lives, our parenting, and our futures, when control can be such an illusion. That’s a lot for one book, but those seem to be important take-aways!
6. When your tragic story of losing your son in a neighborhood flood, landed you on the New York Times Best-seller list, what was going through your mind? Do you think you will write another book?
I couldn’t believe it! On the one hand, it was so cool and such an honor, on the other, I really just wanted my son back. A few writing ideas I’ve been playing around lately are a novel (eek!), a book of essays about being old as dirt and having a baby, and an exploration of the idea of radical trust: trusting the course of our life even when we can’t control it.
7. You share, “I wish I had nothing to say on the matter of loss, but I do. Because one day I encouraged my two kids to go out and play in the rain, and only one came home…” What nuggets of wisdom would you share with someone grieving?
It gets better. Not every day will feel this terrible, lonely, and painful. I know that sounds ludicrous to someone in early grief, even distasteful, but I hope I have enough credibility having lost my mother as a teen and my sweet son four years ago, that bereaved people can get hope from it. We are all looking for hope. Please trust me. It gets better!
8. Last year you teamed up with World Vision Bloggers, where you headed to Armenia to experience cold-weather poverty. As a mom, what did you take away from your experience? Will you be teaming up with them again? How can someone get involved?
That trip was awesome! I saw such stark needs, but also so much promise. I learned how World Vision is very respectful and specific in their help in each region they serve. These are real families who need real help. The best way to get involved in World Vision is by sponsoring a child from around the globe. I found that sponsoring a child the same age as my kids fostered wonderful relationships and helped them understand not everyone is a privileged as they are.
"I hope people come away realizing that life is precious, community is vital, and that there’s more going on than what we see with our naked eyes."
9. Love, love, love how An Inch of Gray includes your “adventures in dumpster diving.” As a self-proclaimed thrifter, what was your most recent find? Who got you introduced to thrifting?
My mom wouldn't let me go to yard sales to bring home other people’s “junk,” so by the time I was an adult, I was a full on thrifter and curb-side shopper. The more broken down and in need of love and a coat of paint, the better! When my daughter was in preschool, she led her new teacher on a tour of our house, showing her everything I’d picked up on the side of the road. After Jack died, I lost my taste for re-purposing furniture for a while, but if you look around my house, 80% of it has come from thrift stores or the side of the road. I still don’t go to yard sales, but that’s because I don’t like getting up that early.
10. Successful blog? Check. New York Times Best-seller book? Check. New addition to your family? Soon to be, check. I’m curious Anna, what’s next?
I really love speaking to groups whether it’s at churches, seminars, conventions, or colleges, so I hope the baby will be flexible enough to tag along to speaking engagements with me. I speak about grief, faith, writing, resilience, vulnerability, and trust! I also hope the baby will be a decent sleeper so I can dive into some new writing projects.
11. I Admire U, who do you admire?
So many people! Today I’d like to give a shout out to Kristen Shaw of Fire Wheel Communications based in Austin, TX. She is an amazing writer, woman, and friend. http://firewheelcommunications.com