This week I got the wonderful opportunity to chat with Janie Saylor. She is a kind and inspiring woman that I met in the Write away, Mommy Facebook group. She has become a ‘mom’ to the group with her helpful advice and stories. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as we have.
1. Let’s start with the most fun part. What’s your family like?
Oh my goodness, my family is crazy! But first of all I want to shout out to all of you ‘write brained’ minds out there who can relate. I am the youngest of three siblings but the only one of us who has children. My son, Jacob, is 20 and my daughter, Catrina, is 24. When we have family gatherings, the focus is always on the food. We’re actually a group of foodies!
My sister and my daughter are the biggest foodies of the family, I think. They like to make food not only delicious but it also must have a beautiful presentation. My daughter went to culinary school for a while (but she changed her major to criminal justice after a few semesters). When we’re all together, we most often have the food network or the cooking channel on TV going in the background.
I like to think my daughter got her love for preparing food from me. When she was very little, still an attachment on my hip, I used to make up fun little jingles while we made dinner. One of them, I recall, was swinging her around and we’d do the “paprika dance.” When she was in first or second grade, I made her my sou chef. She’d help me make dinners and once a week she’d be responsible for making dinner and I’d become her sou chef. We had some interesting dinners at times, but all in all she did a great job.
My kids and I had many little jingles we sang to each other. There was one called the “Underpants Dance,” where they’d run around in their underpants and and we’d sing “Dance, dance, dance in your underpants.” There was also one that went along with a children’s tv program that was on at the time when they were young called “Out of the Box.” We’d sing, “Out of the box, Jacob’s stinky socks,” or it would be directed to his sister Catrina or even me or their dad. No matter who it was sang about, that person would feign being upset about it and then we’d all laugh. And there were so many many others! We used to drive my husband (now my ex) crazy with how goofy we were. And actually we still are a little off kilter, lol.
My son is my loving, huggy child, he’s the one that lets me hug, smooch and fuss over him while my daughter will scrunch up her face, turn her head away and wave her hands at me to try to get me to back off. But of course I don’t, haha. Jake has some problems, he’s a recovering addict and he suffers quite bad from depression. I consider myself very fortunate that he confides in me and tells me when his depression is flaring up and even if he’s drinking again. He’s a very hard worker and a sweet young man.
My kids used to have clock radios on their nightstands when they were little. When Jacob was 4 or 5 he used to shout my name, “Mom! Mom!” from his room. I’d come running in to see what was wrong and he’d say, “This is a good song Mommy, sing to me.” One night when he called me in wanting me to sing, I told him I didn’t know the song, and he responded, “I don’t care Mommy. Sing!” He also told me once I should try out for American Idol, lol. And no. I am really just a karaoke singer who wishes she sang like a professional!
Before my kids could talk, I taught them some sign language that I’d made up so we could know what we were saying. The most often used one was one that meant, “I love you,” although it wasn’t the known ASL sign for it. Everything had to be unique with us… Actually that’s still the case I think to this day. We’re all some pretty unique characters! But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I live with my mother who just turned 80. Dad passed away in 2008. Mom and I get along like an old married couple, teasing each other and laughing most of the time. I consider myself extremely fortunate that I have a relationship like this with my mom. I don’t know many people who can say they could live with their parent long term.
My son lives about 70 miles from me and my daughter lives about 200 miles across the state in a town on Lake Michigan. I miss them terribly. A couple days after my daughter was here for the holidays, I called her and told her how much I miss her, she responded with, “You just saw me two days ago!” I had to explain to her that it doesn’t matter when I last saw her or for how long the visit was, I would still be missing her so much!
2. What project are you currently working on?
I’m a positive psychology coach and an author, both of fiction and non fiction. I have a FB coaching program that I developed as my capstone project just before getting my bachelors degree last June where I work with people to become an even better version of themselves.
Another project I always have going is my FB page, Become University. Every meme, every video, every post has a positive spin to it, be it inspiring, thought provoking, sweet, funny or just plain silly. Become University is a place with an over abundance of happy thoughts.
I’m also writing a romantic comedy/mystery book series which is based in my state of Michigan. I recently started a FB group (Michigan Romantic Comedy Books) for people to follow along in my writing process, learn about the characters and read the storyline updates. People also have the opportunity to create their own character who could very possibly be written into the storyline or have their business written in as well. The book series will also give people the opportunity to learn about my beautiful state.
3. As a mother of grown children, do you find it easier to write now? Why or why not?
I was lucky, even though he’s now my EX husband, one thing he was good about while we were married was watching his children while I participated in a writing group. This was back in the 1990s and early 2000s, well before social media and the ability to connect online. Heck, there was no such thing as being online for the majority of households! We’d get together at our different houses or meet at the local coffee shop and do writing lessons that we’d each take turns making up and teaching to the rest of the group. A couple of the members of the writing group went forward to attain MFAs in art and writing and then took over the teaching aspect. Our official name was the Poetry Tribe.
Once we were divorced, our custody arrangement had our kids being with me a week then with him a week. This also gave me plenty of time to write and learn. It was during this time that we in the group all began what we call, a “call and response.” This is when we’d pair up and one of us would write poetry or prose then email it to the other person. Then we would use this writing as a muse to write a response and it would go back and forth, sometimes for months at a time. We all got some great work out of each other while using this process.
Individually, we’d create small books of poetry called chapbooks that we’d sell within our writing community. One year, as a group, we created an anthology that we sold to other writers in our community. We used the profits to help us pay for a weekend retreat in Northern Michigan. Those writing days were fabulous and I have many terrific memories of us going to writing gatherings and poetry readings all around metro Detroit.
These days I struggle with carving out a time for writing due to some health challenges I have going on, but writing and being creative in various ways is how I maintain my sanity. Actually I think this has always has been the case. I’ve been writing since I was a very little girl. In the 3rd grade my teacher sent a story I’d written and illustrated in to a Young Authors Contest. This was back in 1972. My story was called, “The Painted Zebra” about a zebra who got tired of being black and white so she painted herself rainbow colors which she loved until she realized her friends didn’t recognize her and ignored her because they didn’t know who she was. She became very sad and cried herself to sleep one night. During the night it rained and the paint was washed off and her friends recognized her the next morning and told her how much they’d missed her.
Through the years, my poetry, prose, articles, and stories I’ve written have pretty much all had to do with the human element of emotions. In 2001, my local Council on Aging approached me (knowing I was a writer in the community) to teach the senior citizens how to write about their life. This lead to the next ten years of teaching in a variety of senior communities and also to my book titled, The Road You’ve Traveled, How to Journal Your Life. I’d developed my own way which allowed people to get their memories out in an organized fashion and there were also about ten different ways to spark your memories so you always have something to write about.
4. What do you wish someone would ask you, but no one does? Write it out here and answer it.
I’d like people to ask me about what I do as a positive psychology coach. I’d like for people to know that they don’t have to live their life feeling like they’re not enough, they don’t have to have so-so relationships with their kids, spouses, or parents and they really can live their life with a ton less stress. Working with a trained and professional life coach will give people the opportunity to really have the life they feel like they deserve. I look at what I do to be like a hummingbird flitting from flower to flower, pollinating each of them one at a time so the flower is able to become even more brilliantly beautiful.
I’ve studied very hard since 2004 crafting what I do as a coach, taking hundreds of hours of classes, coaching in front of an audience which also boasted a qualifying coach who was there to decide if I was good enough or not. Every year since 2004, I’ve taken it upon myself to ‘re-qualify myself as I pour over past information as well as new info in the coaching and psychology field. In June of 2016 I received my Bachelors in Science in Psychology, my focus being in the new emerging field of positive psychology.
5. What advice can you give to mothers who aspire to be writers?
My advice is the same for anyone aspiring to be a writer. First of all, quit telling people you’re an “aspiring writer.” If you write, you’re a writer. End of discussion. Remember this fact. These days, there are many different avenues in which people can self publish and get their writing out there. When I published my book, The Road You’ve Traveled, that wasn’t the case. There were very few places which you could go to to self publish your work, and it was quite expensive. My book was published through a company called Author House back in 2006. I’d signed a contract with them in 2003 when there was only a handful of publishing companies working in the area of self publishing.
As far as being a Mom who writes, try to eke out time when ever you can. When your kids are very young, take advantage of a portion of their nap time (it’s also important to nap while they’re napping!). Also staying up late after everyone is in bed and the house is quiet or if you’re a morning person, get up early and write. Once your kids start school, that opens up a whole new, much larger time slot to write. Unless you work outside the home during the day…Then you go back to the late at night or early morning writing times.
One of the things I learned a long time ago though is that in order to actually become a published author or journalist, it’s imperative to actually finish what you start. If you’re like me, I have crates of journals and notebooks all containing writing starts, poetry and even some complete works which I was too afraid to follow through with at the time in my life when I wrote them. This is my year to start stepping out and loading them up onto Kindle. Writers Market is a great book which lists thousands of places to market your work to. It also contains tons of great information about writing query letters, finding an agent and so much more.
Thank you Janie! You’re amazing.
If you have any questions, be sure to ask in the comments below.
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