Fan Friday—The Reality

For all you tiny house and downsizing enthusiasts, I’m going to talk a bit about the reality of both these things. Not necessarily going off-grid; that presents its own set of challenges. But the idea of “tiny” is much more palatable than actually doing it . . .

As I’ve discovered.

Originally, we were planning to have a 640 square foot cabin and shed-like outbuildings for different purposes: pump house, food storage, fuel, general storage, tools, etc. What we ended up with was a 900 square foot house and a 40 X 60 barn. And a pump house, which is NOT outside the back door, or large enough for my deep freeze and washer and dryer and extended pantry.

So, we adapt: we’ve built two units inside the barn, and there’s a lean-to on the back of the house which might fit the washer/dryer and a freezer. Might.

The house presents more issues—lack of wall space. You know those pictures of homes with all the open areas? They look great, right? Of course, model homes always do. You’ll rarely find a litter box or clumps of dog hair lying around. But take a look around your home—how much furniture is designed to go against the wall? A lot.

We started with two rooms, and are adding three walls, or partial walls, for a total of five rooms. Sort of. One wall is just a break between bedroom and office; one is a 6-foot wall to divide off the bathroom; and one is 5-foot wall to divide the living room and kitchen. Or maybe a bar. I haven’t quite decided.

As for furniture, we have to get creative. I have several antique pieces that I’m simply not willing to part with, including an armoire and a dresser from 1850. On the other hand, our bedroom suite is easily 20+ years old and has survived 15 moves, so it’s time to get rid of all that. And it’s easy, since we won’t have a huge L-shaped living room with three seating areas OR a guestroom.

Sorry, folks, if you come visit, you’ll have to camp!

So back to the furniture and furnishings: what to keep, what to get rid of, what to store? Thank goodness for that barn! This way, I can keep some things that I might’ve had to part with, the things you keep “just in case.” And I’m not talking about survival items.

Like the Mexican pine dining room table and the six chairs my husband built. I mean, what if the kids actually visited? We’d need space to seat everyone, even if it was outside in the yard. Or my grandmother’s electric organ? Granted, I don’t play it often, but she bought it in the 1940s and I’ve had it since 1989. And do I really need a six-foot partners’ desk, or will the antique table suffice? Or could I fit both in my office?

Should we get a new loveseat and recliner? Or use the old ones—they aren’t that old, but they aren’t what you’d call high quality either . . . The bookcases, well, they’ll fit! One way or another . . .

My current office is about 12 x 12. My new one is 8 x 14. That’s a downsize of 32 square feet! For the entire house, we’re going from 1800 to 900. Half. Yikes!

And it’s really not even all about the furniture—think of wall space, again, and the pictures you hang; or the items you display on shelves or wherever. The new place has lots of windows, which is great—in fact, my new office has two entire walls of just windows, which means I’m losing four of nine bookcases, with no wall space to spare.

What in the heck am I going to do with all this stuff??



Writer Wednesday—Writers’ Groups

How many of you belong to a writers’ group? Why or why not? There are many kinds of groups, and it’s important to find the right one, or ones. Different locales, different purposes, different formats.

First, of course, there is the location, particularly virtual or IRL (in real life). You might not be able to find one IRL that’s convenient, either by time or day or location, so a virtual one would suffice. Or you might want both; the anonymity of the Internet is sometimes a good thing when it comes to support and critique, but IRL connections are invaluable.

Speaking of, do you want a critique group? Or a group that provides information and/or opportunities? Or one that’s mostly there for support and camaraderie? Pick one, pick all.

Just don’t get so carried away with group-joining that you have no time to write or do anything else.

For myself, IRL, I belong to the Saint Louis Writers’ Guild and the Missouri Writers’ Guild; the first is a chapter of the second. Virtually, I belong to a dozen—which seems like a lot, but I rarely even look at half of those, and only a few of the rest are set to notify me with new posts.

Why? Let’s start with virtual groups: they’re a good way to announce new titles, articles, or short stories or poems. They’re a good way to get a quick answer to writing questions or to bounce off ideas. You can also make some great connections for book events, venues, blogs, and interviewers and reviewers.

In some of my groups, I’ve got friends I’ve known for many years, and besides the friendship, it’s fascinating to see how far they’ve come in their own careers.

Personally, I think half a dozen online group memberships are manageable, which is why I rarely participate in most of them—however, I can always go check things out or maybe decide to be more involved from time to time.

Now, for IRL groups, here’s where the big push comes:

You should really, really join one!

Again, why?

I can only relate my own experience, and even that only from my own state—but there’s this thing called Google, ya know? J

Once a month, the SLWG has an open mic night, a meeting with guest speakers, and an author interview event with a Q&A. That’s a lot of activity, but there’s no pressure—you can attend all or none. They also have an active presence on social media, particularly a Facebook group, and they have other opportunities throughout the year as well, like Writers in the Park, a mini-conference.

The MWG turns 100 this year, and boasts past notable members such as Mark Twain. The MWG hosts and promotes many contests and conference opportunities during the year, particularly their annual conference, held in April. A typical conference includes speakers, workshops, agents and publishers for pitch sessions, as well as networking and readings and a bookstore.

Writing is such a solitary profession that I really encourage you to join both types of groups—everyone needs to get out of the house once in a while, and if you can hang with other writers, so much the better!