To think I first met El from “Running from Hell with El” on Facebook is so crazy to me. At first I thought it was “Running from Hell with E” which made sense to me in my mind. E = Emma, you get it. Our interactions were short and simple but nice and sweet. Ever so slowly, I made my way to her blog. Quietly skulking outside the lines not leaving comments but rather observing her wisdom and passion in her words in a silent homage. As I read her blog, I slowly became even more attached to her words, to her writing, to her person. She touched topics I could never touch here but yet with her grace she made it okay. I lurked and envied her honesty and courage. Slowly over time we became friends. I started to comment, and so did she. Our virtual crossing over into the real world.
Yesterday, I read a post from her about her son which left me breathless. Her writing tears at my own seams but seams which I dare not touch in many ways. I respect, honor and admire El today as I have the wonderful opportunity to introduce her to you. I hope you will read her words and know that she is amazing and wonderful and strong, and courageous and worth every second of reading. She is “Mynewfavoriteweek’ly Inspiration” and beyond that she is just plain strong and inspiring.
It is my great pleasure to introduce you to El, from “Running from Hell with El.”
1. Shannon: Why and when did you start blogging?
El: I have been writing for decades, so the writing is nothing new. But the whole blogging thing . . . when I think about how that started, I can’t get this Hemingway quote out of my head. It’s the one from For Whom the Bell Tolls when one of the heroes talks about how one goes bankrupt: “Slowly, then all at once.” That is how blogging has been for me. About a year ago, my marathon running was in full swing and many of my friends asked me why I ran so much, and so I wrote a Note on Facebook titled “I Run.” It was short and almost poetic, and my running and regular friends liked it.
As far as why I began blogging, in some respects, I share my work for the same reason a bird sings. All artists wish to be heard, I reckon. From a professional standpoint, I hope to build an audience for the books I will later publish. Blogging is both an end in itself insofar as I like to share whatever I create and a means to an end to the extent that it will further my professional goals.
2. Shannon: Where would we find you now on your blogging journey from where you started?
El: After I wrote my first Note on Facebook, I began writing more Notes about running and about sundry other topics. Then in the summer, 2011, I tapped my foot in the blogging water by opening a blog on Blogger. A few months later, I got much more serious about the novel I am working on, and in late November, I launched my Facebook page, Running from Hell with El with the intent of using it as an eventual platform to publicize my novel, whenever I finished it. In December, I realized that Blogger was not giving me the tools I needed to set up a professional writer’s blog, so I switched to WordPress and opened up a Twitter account.
What truly humbles me is that in a few short months, I have built a following of almost 2,500 [will be much higher in one month] good people on my Facebook page and a still-to-be-determined number of followers on my WordPress Blog. I see it as both a responsibility and an honor to enter the inboxes and newsfeeds of so many good people. I have no idea where I am going on this journey but I am sure of one thing: I couldn’t have made it where I am without the help and support of other bloggers and friends who benevolently read and comment on my material.
3. Shannon: You are so full of perspective. You have dealt with very deep and challenging topics in your blog and on your Facebook page. How do you handle the emotions and the response that comes with those when you address these topics?
El: I think that everyone I meet is full of a ton of perspective, but certainly my own perspective is informed by the difficulties I experienced as a child and adult. I’m very open on my Facebook Page and on my blog about the abuse I suffered and when I write about these topics, I may be feeling a whole range of different emotions as I am writing. For example, if I write about my broken childhood, I might be feeling loss or loneliness when I think about the time
I hid in a cupboard, but if I go back later and re-examine the same memory, perhaps I will feel fear, or compassion for the hiding child. What I mean to say is that when I write about the past, I experience feelings in the moment, and these feelings change as the moment changes. I try to be open to the richness and breadth of all of my emotions as I write and I try to let go of each emotion once I am done feeling it, so that I can be open to new feelings as each moment passes.
As to how I feel when others respond to my story with their own stories, I am honored that so many people share so much about themselves. When people read about the struggles I have gone through, they share their past and present demons with me and I appreciate how much they trust me. Moreover, their pain touches me deeply. It’s as if I am the Velveteen Rabbit, made to feel real or reminded how real I am when touched by the tears of my readers. Today, though, I am struggling talking about the Velveteen Rabbit, and I don’t understand why. Of all the stories I read in my childhood, this one got to me the most. Maybe it is difficult to admit how vulnerable I am. Maybe it is a little scary to admit that the pain of my readers both hurts me and touches me deeply. When they hurt, I hurt, and yet I feel tremendous gratitude that they honor me by sharing their darkest moments with me.
4. Shannon: You are also a very competitive athlete, with others and yourself, but you are also trying to find that balance. What do you do that gives you what you need where you are now, as opposed to trying to hang on to what you used to do. An exercise in itself!
El: I turned 40 this past year, and as every athlete can tell you, you die a death of sorts at this age. This body of mine cannot do what it used to do, and it has taken me a few years to learn to stop pushing as if I were an 18-year old and realize that I can still run marathons and remain in fighting trim but I cannot compete, per se, with my younger, pain-free self. I have lost quite a bit of speed and even more cartilage but I intend to keep on running through the autumn of my life and right on through the winter. I love running and hiking and enjoying the great outdoors, and I have come to accept the limitations set by time and aging with a grace and gratitude now that I’ve mourned for the passing of my athletic prime.
5. Shannon: You are also a writer! What are you writing and how do you stay on track with everything you are doing, blogging, social media, mom, wife, and life in general.
El: I just wrote a blog entry in which I tried to summarize my novel and I’m here to tell you it isn’t easy to step back and pinpoint a book in one sentence. And to be frank, I have been a little nervous about revealing the plot because it is, like so much of what I write, a bit raw. I’m afraid that prospective readers will hear that and howl, “Gah! Too dark!” And the thing is, this is not a dark story. Ultimately, I am weaving a tale of hope, redemption, friendship and love. How is that you ask? From chapter 9 to the end of what I am tentatively naming Ripple, I show how competent and loving care can resurrect a shattered young woman and her broken mother.
In one sentence, here it is. After the rape of a 15-year old girl named Phoebe, her mother Helen protects her in a way she never thought she could, and after she seeks help, we see the ripple effect of women helping women. That sounds simple doesn’t it? But it took me thousands of words to cull it down to a sentence that could fit in a Twitter Running from Hell update. And I owe my writing partner for helping me write this sentence.
Where does this concept come from? Go ahead and laugh. It comes from a Grateful Dead song. The song is (yeah you guessed it) called Ripple. Pretend you’re listening to background music as you hear these lyrics: Reach out your hand if your cup be empty. In my novel, several characters, in their professional capacity as lawyers, therapists, the operators of a safe home for abused women, and even a horse trainer, reach out and help Phoebe and her mother. In flashbacks, the reader will see how the mother’s attorney, Cassandra, went through her own periods of darkness. In a very real sense, I am writing about the ripple effect of women helping women.
When I conceived this novel a year ago, I knew that my main characters, like me, would emerge from darkness and tragedy into a bright future. This is why I named the girl Phoebe. Her name means “Child of Light.” From the very darkest places, if we reach out with our hand with an empty cup and someone reaches back and refills it with love, we will find our way to the light. Always searching, always reaching . . . for the light.
As far as finding a balance, gosh, that isn’t easy. I view my writing as my career. It is every bit as valuable to my family as my husband’s career, even if we won’t see the output from it until I get this novel published. I have always run at high RPMs, so to speak, and as one of my friends asked me this morning, “El! When do you sleep?” The answer is: not enough!
6. Shannon: Who or what do you find inspiring?
El: As a child, I looked up to athletes, such as Cal Ripken and Joan Benoit Samuelson. Even now, I never get tired of watching Joan win the 1984 Gold Medal at the Olympics in Los Angeles. As an adult, I continue to love Cal and Joan. Additionally, I admire and take great inspiration from such heroes such as Winston Churchill, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and my pantheon of favorite writers: F.S. Fitzgerald, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Faulkner, George Eliot, Ayn Rand, C.S. Lewis, Wallace Stevens, John Donne and William Shakespeare. And I draw great inspiration from a net of dear friends.
7. Shannon: If you had one whole day to yourself, where your minis were perfectly well taken care of, what would you do?
El: I would drink a cup of coffee, write several pages in my novel, take a long run, eat a healthy meal and enjoy time with my husband of 15 years. And I’d eat a bowl of ice cream.
8. Shannon: What is one thing about you people might be surprised to know/learn about you (Funny or serious)?
El: My first job out of high school was selling Hondas.
9. Shannon: Did you make any New Year Resolutions and have you followed through so far?
El: I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions. If it isn’t worth doing on Dec 31st, it isn’t worth doing Jan 1st.
10. Shannon: What pearl(s) of wisdom can you leave us with that you suggest to make each day ‘anewfavoriteday?’
El: It is going to be okay now. I’ve seen the worst of what life can deal and I know that no matter how much it hurts, there is only one real response. Lick your wounds, check to see what’s bleeding and then get the hell back up and keep on fighting. And in the end, it’s going to be okay.
I hope that El’s words give you the same awe that I feel each time I see her write. You can not only find her on her blog, but as she says on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Running-from-Hell-with-El/224004687665135?ref=ts
She is well worth the chase and I hope her stories, her words and her mastery of herself will inspire a small part of you to make today ‘anewfavoriteday!’ A big thanks to El for sharing yourself with us today. Such a pleasure.