blog post, Memoir, out of the trailer park

Sometimes You Can Take the Girl Out of the Trailer Park…

Part I

Moving Around (A Lot)

Where to begin?

Most people would tell me to start at the beginning, but even that is complicated. Let’s start with an introduction.

My name is Mimi Francis. I use a pseudonym, not necessarily to protect my identity, but because my first and last name are not easy to spell and as a writer, I want people to be able to find me without a lot of work. I am fifty years old, I have three children all over the age of twenty, five grand kitties and two grandpuppies, three Shih Tzus, and a husband (order does not indicate preference-wink, wink).

My life has been complicated. I’ll use that word a lot, for good reason. Complicated is the best way to describe many aspects of my life – my relationship with my mother, my childhood, my relationships with my siblings, and the status of other parental figures in my life.

I am originally from Montana. I’m not from any town in particular, as I lived all over the state in the eighteen years I was there, but if I’m hard-pressed, I will say I am from Great Falls.

Let’s start there, shall we?

I don’t have a hometown, I don’t have a childhood home. I barely know where I come from.

I attended eleven different schools from kindergarten through eighth grade. I lived all over the state – Butte, Missoula, Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls. Back and forth across the state my wayward mother dragged me. 

My schooling suffered, in particular my math skills. In one city, I learned multiplication tables through three. We moved across the state and suddenly, I was supposed to know multiplication tables through twelve. I never learned about prime numbers. Long division was hard because I never worked on easy division or learned all of my multiplication tables. I struggled to keep my grades up in math. To this day, I struggle with math. Thank god for calculators.

But I digress. Some of you might be wondering why we moved so much. The reasons certainly aren’t glamorous or cool, or even logical.

It was my mother. She couldn’t seem to stay in one place for too long. Sometimes, we moved because of a man. Sometimes, it was on a whim. Maybe she was looking for the next big thing or the next man to take care of her, or her next big break. Who knows?

I was a kid. All I knew was that every time I made friends, we moved. I was always the new kid, the weird girl, different from everyone else, always behind, painfully shy, lonely, and perpetually sad. Nothing in my life was stable, not my home and certainly not my parents.

Books were the only constant in my life, the only way I could escape and forget how much my life sucked for a little while. Books meant everything to me. Everything.

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Writer vs. Author. Which one am I?

Being a writer versus being an author.

I didn’t realize there was a difference until I began my second career as a professional writer. Sorry, professional author.

I have been a writer for a long time. I wrote fanfiction; I wrote books and stories I never published. Writing was a hobby. I never thought much beyond that, even though I posted my fanfiction on various sites. Once it was posted, I was done. If people read it, great. If they didn’t, well, that kind of sucked. But I was really only writing to entertain myself and get the stories that played on a constant loop out of my head. I posted them because it was fun.

I was a writer.

All of that changed when I took on the mantle of soon-to-be-published writer. I became an author.

According to the publishing world, if your work has been published you are an author. With book number one coming out soon, I guess that makes me an author.

There is a difference, especially in the mindset one develops. It didn’t occur to me that now my writing is a second job, not until my husband casually mentioned that I had two jobs one day. I stared at him for a second, not quite getting it, then it clicked.

I am an author. I have a second job. As a writer. The dream came true.

This has changed the way I approach writing in a number of ways. First and foremost, when writing was a hobby, if I chose not to write, it wasn’t a big deal. I could go days or weeks without writing and it was okay. Now, if I skip a day of writing, I feel a tiny twinge of guilt.

That has forced me to put myself on a schedule. I have a daily writing goal of 500 words. Most days I hit it, some days I don’t. My weekly goal is 3500 (500 x 7 – look I did math). I try to hit that as well, so if some days I don’t write 500 words, I make it up on other days. I’ve been pretty good at making my weekly goal.

I’ve also become a lot more critical of my writing. I put it through multiple edits before I send it to my betas and even more edits before I send it to my publisher’s editor. Once upon a time, I used to read it a couple times and then post it. Not anymore.

I’m also more conscientious of my time. I try to work on all aspects of being an author – marketing, editing, brainstorming, research, reading, and writing. Again, I set daily and weekly goals for myself and I track it in this amazing tool called The Author’s Accountability Planner (available for purchase here). If you want a book to keep you on track and accountable, this is the one. I highly recommend it.

I’ve gone through a lot of personal and professional changes in the last six months. Changes that are making me a better person and hopefully, a better writer.

A better author.

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Hello, World! I’m Mimi. And I’m a Writer

According to some people, I’m old. Far too old to be venturing into any kind of alternative career path, or trying to make a name for myself. I’ve even been told I’m too old to write the things I write. Maybe that discouraged me, put me on a path of self-imposed mediocrity. I bought into the idea that I was too old to do something new.

Fate stepped in and made me choose another path. I was ready to try something new.

Or, like Master Yoda says, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

So, I decided to “do”. I wrote earlier how I submitted my writing to a publisher. I figured “why not?” The worst they can do is say no. It’s not like I haven’t been through rejection before. Even if nothing comes of it, at least I can say I did it.

I emailed off the first ten-thousand words of one of my finished books, held my breath, and waited.

When the email came back, I stared at it on my phone for a full five minutes before opening it. I couldn’t stand the thought of being rejected, even though I had prepared myself for the rejection. That didn’t mean I wanted to see it, in black and white, staring back at me. No one wants a rejection, even if you know it’s going to happen.

I opened the email.

They didn’t say no. They said yes.

The last month has been a whirlwind. I’m going slightly crazy with all the thoughts in my head, the possibilities, the opportunities. For the first time, people in my world, my “every-day-go-to-work-nine-to-five-act-normal world” know that I’m a writer. Once upon a time, only a few people knew I wrote. Not anyone I worked with. It had taken years to tell my family members I was a writer. There are still a few who don’t know. But all of that is changing. I can finally say it.

I’m a writer.