• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”
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#My Writing Process Blog Hop: Autism and Writing do Mix!

 

kindle-and-writing-padThis is my first blog hop! You may be thinking now, what is a blog hop, and why in the world should I continue reading…after all I visit this blog to read about your adventures with autism.

A blog hop is simply a group of bloggers who get together and write about the same topics each week inviting others to do the same. The idea is that you can “hop” from blog to blog and read about the same subject matter. So—if what I say here interests you, you can find a link to the next hop at the bottom and follow the next blogger’s adventures—in this case—in writing.

What does this blog hop have to do with autism?

The author who invited me to participate in this hop has been touched by autism, and the two authors that will follow me both write about and live their lives on the autism spectrum!

I try to keep my finger on the pulse of my book so to speak, by monitoring (as best I can) the web meaning I search out what bloggers, and reviewers are saying. In one such search, I came across a blog by author, Cari Noga. Cari had Twirling Naked in the Streets, on her list of reads for Autism Awareness month; I was honored.

Cari is the author of SPARROW MIGRATIONS, which incidentally came out a year ago (April 2013) during Autism Awareness month, just like Twirling did. Her novel is about 12-year-old Robby Palmer, “who becomes obsessed with birds after witnessing the Miracle on the Hudson plane crash.” Robby is autistic. (There is our autism connection.) Being from NYC the miracle on the Hudson was of great interest to me personally. I immediately grabbed a copy of Cari’s book!

So—this is how I “met” Cari Noga who invited me to participate in this blog hop. I hope that you hop over to her blog, poke around for a while, and grab a copy of her book. I am sure you won’t be disappointed!

On to our blog hop topic: My Writing Process

(This is the part that I answer the blog hop’s questions about my writing.)

What am I working on?

As always I am working hard to get Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed, the memoir of my experiences growing up with undiagnosed autism in the hands of as many people as possible. Last month during Autism Awareness month, I released, with the help of my wonderful narrator and producer, Alicia Diaz, the audio version of Twirling. Working on an audiobook was a new experience for me, but with Alicia experience in voice and audio, it was a wonderful one.

I have also been revamping my website to include an author’s page, along with a few other “goodies.” (If you are reading this, you are already here, so poke around a while.) I’m incorporating the 85 autism articles I have written for Answers.com in an attempt to put as much autism information (and my writing) at my reader’s fingertips as I can.

On the writing front, I began working on my second memoir/how-to/autism book. I am not sure what category this book fits. I Love You, Now Get off of My Pillow! is about life, marriage, and relationships on the autism spectrum—in particular—what my husband and I have learned throughout almost 17 years of marriage. The unique part of this book is also the part that is taking me so long to get through the project. I am working with my husband to give everyone both sides of the story, which means—his view.

We are taking stories out of our life to show how autism has affected us in different situations. After I either tell a story, or introduce an issue, he will be writing a chapter on the topic as well—telling how he sees the situation (or saw it at the time). Life with our three ASD children (and a new infant) is hectic making this project take longer than I had anticipated especially working together as a collaboration—but hopefully we will see it through to fruition.

On my own, I am toying with the idea of getting off my lazy behind and revising/rewriting a novel that I wrote in 2011 before Twirling. However, I may take one of the many other story ideas crossing my brain and run with it. I have a horribly difficult time in the editing/rewriting department. It seems like my concrete thinking also translates into my written words making it difficult to change what I write—not a good writing trait I assure you.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

My work differs from others in the genre in a couple of ways. First, many autism memoirs are written by family members, professionals, or care-givers. I have autism, and I write about my experiences from inside of the autism spectrum. There are many things that I cannot explain about my feelings, emotions, and the way I experience the world when I am speaking—but when I write, the words flow. I can make connections and attempt to explain them to others. Writing has freed me!

Secondly, when I was first diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, I searched for every account from an adult woman’s perspective I could find—I found very few. That is when I knew it was my turn to write my own experiences. I began writing them down for  validation, linking my experiences with symptoms and behaviors that are frequently seen in those with autism spectrum disorders. Perhaps I was still convincing myself that my diagnosis was real.

Why do I write what I do?

I have autism, and I am raising three boys with autism. What I notice most frequently is that even the “experts” often do not understand us. Parents, teachers, and psychologists know the “facts,” meaning what the textbooks say. However, they often do not really understand what goes on inside the mind of a child (or adult) with autism. Although I do not find this odd, because we cannot really know what goes on inside the mind of anyone—with or without autism. What I do find odd is that many think they understand our behaviors. But often our behaviors are still misunderstood and a little glimpse into our minds, feelings, and thought processes can go a long way to helping others understand.

Additionally, and most importantly, I write to feel less alone. Before I knew I had autism, I felt completely alone—like no one in the world was like me. Now, I know I am among many others, and writing is my connection to them.

How does your writing process work?

When I saw this question on the list of topics I needed to address in this blog hop, I panicked. Then I read Cari’s process, and I panicked even more thinking I DON’T HAVE A PROCESS! I barely wrestle the kids off of me and desperately head toward my computer! When the panic cleared (when it lessened I should say), I started to think about my process and realized I have many of them. Many of which include locking myself in the bathroom, running the bath, and trying to think while ignoring the little fingers that are trying to reach me from underneath the door frame! The best I can do is tell you the process I used to write Twirling.

I already purposed to write my memoir, but as you may know (if you read it, or spent any time on my blog) I have difficulty with completion. One of my first attempts at writing was fiction. I entered a flash fiction contest at WoW, Women on Writing, which made it through a few rounds of judging, came back with several nice critiques, but ultimately did not win.

What I did not foresee was reading The Muffin (WoW’s blog) one day and coming in contact with one of their writers, Cathy C. Hall. I began to follow Cathy’s blog. I followed for a while, but it was this post that grabbed my attention. Could Your Blog Turn You Into a Published Author? In this post Cathy introduces, Nina Amir, author of How to Blog a Book.

Blogging a book! Publishing what I write as I write in small chunks sounded like the perfect way to keep me motivated to finish my project—and it was! In fact not only did blogging Twirling little by little keep me motivated, I gained readers, and many comments, insights, and critiques!

I blogged Twirling very quickly. I began in November during NanoWrimo, but instead of writing a novel, I began blogging my memoir. No—I did not finish it in November, but I was finished by February, and had the book edited and published by April! I took on writing like I do everything else in my own aspieness style—obsessively! This time, however, I saw it through to completion! Twirling was blogged in a series of just over 100 short blog posts. Am I bragging? Absolutely—a completed project is something that, for me, is very difficult to accomplish.

I am still struggling with writing fiction, mostly with character development. I was writing autistic characters without knowing it (before my diagnosis.) They remained mostly misunderstood and lacked character arcs meaning they tended to never change, and rarely learn from their mistakes. With new insights I am going to brave the fiction world again, maybe knowing that my characters are autistic can help me “fix” many of my stories.

There you have it, a bit more about me, my next project, and writing process.

Interested in more about writing on the autism spectrum?

Here is a guest post on Deborah Ross’ (sci-fi author) blog where I discuss how Autism is my worst writing enemy, and my best writing friend: Writing From Our Strengths: Autism’s Insights Into Fictional Characters

UP NEXT: on Monday, 12, 2014 (Don’t worry, I’ll remind you.)

For more insights into writing on the autism spectrum, hop over to the following blogs next Monday to check out their writing process. Someone told me recently that autistic children cannot write well because they struggle too much with the written word. Let’s challenge that assumption!

Michael Scott Monje, Jr., and Cynthia Kim are both authors who, like me, have autism spectrum disorders—or should I say autism spectrum gifts!

Michael Scott Monje Jr. is a writer and writing teacher from West Michigan. He holds an MFA from Western Michigan University, where he also teaches first-year writing. Michael’s novels include Mirror Project and Nothing is Right. Before becoming a college writing teacher, Michael worked part-time for the Kalamazoo Public School district for several years. Michael blogs at Shaping Clay, where he posts essays, poetry, and the web serial “Defiant.”

Cynthia Kim is the proud owner of many labels including woman, wife, mother, writer, editor, entrepreneur and most recently, autistic. Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in her early forties, she began blogging about life on the spectrum at Musings of an Aspie. She is the author of two books, “Nerdy, Shy and Socially Inappropriate: A User Guide to an Asperger Life” and “I Think I Might Be Autistic: A Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis and Self-Discovery for Adults.” When she isn’t writing, she can often be found running or hiking backwoods trails somewhere on the east coast of the US.

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.