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Columns

The Modern Domestic Woman: Writing yourself into being you

Elizabeth Rago
Elizabeth Rago

We all have a story to tell and while every woman might not consider herself a writer, we are all, indeed, storytellers. Since publishing my first novella in March, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with many book clubs.

Humbled and squealing internally, I stepped into area homes to discuss my story and how my writing went from capturing imaginary friends in my own brain to reaching the minds of the women in front of me.

As treats were passed and drinks were served, I spoke of the writing process and inspiration for my book. Yet the most amazing part came after the surface-level questions of the “hows” and “whys” of what I created – when the women in attendance began to dig a little deeper into their own stories.

My simple tale of friendship throughout the ages prompted a conversation that allowed each reader to consider her own story or recall the story of her mother or grandmother. All the book club group members encouraged each other, one by one, reminding their friends of various moments of strength, humor and memorable tales that happened in their lives.

My visits to book clubs and talking about the writing process have been the most fun I’ve had in a long time. What made these gatherings of women special were the stories that made each and every one of them unique. We all have a different story to tell, but the bottom line is about how healing and hopefulness come from these connections.

Here are three ways to start telling your story:

No. 1 – Try a month-long writing exercise. Even if you’re not a writing enthusiast, November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a way to diligently extract ideas from your head while imposing a sense of urgency on your brain to create during a specific period of time. The concept works any month of the year. In 2017, I moved into NaNoWriMo with absolutely no idea what I was going to put down on paper. I simply started typing that Nov. 1, writing from the mood I was in at the time: mainly a dark place, very displaced and feeling a loss of control.

From that scheduled 30-day brain workout appeared my third novella called "Ablaze," the tale of Brit, a Door County woman laden with the overwhelming loss of her husband and sons in the Peshtigo, Wisconsin, fire of 1871. The Wisconsin blaze wreaked more havoc than its southern counterpart, the Great Chicago Fire, with residents in and around Peshtigo perishing in an often described “tornado of fire” in the barely reported historic tragedy.

The last person to see Brit’s family alive was a woman named Trudie, who traveled from her own personal hell in Peshtigo to Bailey’s Harbor, to offer Brit a business proposition that would entail both women shaking off their gut-wrenching remorse to make a living.

It amazes me how spending purposeful time can create something amazing, and initiatives like NaNoWriMo can be the push you need to get your story down on paper.

No. 2 – Take a couple of hours off with a friend. Silence your phone and make sure you bring a laptop or tablet of choice. You talk and she can type. Make sure this friend is a decent listener, free of judgment and willing to take down your story. This “brain dump” of sorts will allow you to simply start the process of writing, whether a memoir or a fictional story. The hardest part is often starting.

No. 3 – Slow down and be quiet. So many ideas can be heard in the quietness of your heart, however, with all the noise and distractions in our world today, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. Instead of smothering the creative process, sit in silence, walk in it and absorb the world around you. Let the quiet wash over you and allow your thoughts to wander. This takes practice, by the way, so don’t get discouraged if you’re restless during your “quiet time.”

Smitten with domestic life but not to the point of unhealthy obsession, “The Modern Domestic Woman” author and St. Charles resident Elizabeth Rago is a freelance writer. You can visit her blog at thecircularhome.com or connect with Rago on Facebook at facebook.com/TheModernDomesticWoman. Feedback can be sent to editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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