Meet Tele Aadsen, December’s Featured Writer!
In your writing life, Tele,Â what do you find most frustrating/rewarding?
I spent most of the past decade dreaming about writing a memoir–and standing squarely in my own way. I was afraid of the stories clamoring within, and put tremendous energy into stifling them. I viewed my writing self not as an authentic part of my identity, but a fearful enemy. When I finally acknowledged how important this project was to me and started seriously pursing it, I had to work through some deeply internalized resistance.
That was less than a year ago, and Iâ€™m still struggling. Some friends glow when they talk about writing. They tell me they canâ€™t wait to get up in the morning to get back to it. Not me. Honestly, sometimes it seems like I spend more time agonizing over the process of writing, than reveling in the rewards. Staring at a blank page, feeling hopeless about my ability to tell the story, doubting that Iâ€™ll ever write something worthwhile again. For a person who prefers to choose hope over despair, these are tough insecurities to carry.
So why do it? Why bother if itâ€™s not fun?
I write out of the conviction that stories matter. That written narratives can pull people together in a way that fumbled, forgotten conversations cannot. This belief is purely self-serving. Painfully shy as a kid, Iâ€™m terrible at small talk, struggle to verbalize my thoughts, and often still feel like that childhood misfit hovering at the edge of the playground. Writing is a saving grace, a means to communicate more thoughtfully than my introverted self can manage in person.
As challenging as writing can be, the potential to forge connections between people makes it all worthwhile. When someone responds to one of my blog posts, â€œYou were describing me; Iâ€™ve felt exactly that,â€ thatâ€™s rewarding. When someone whoâ€™d seem to have nothing in common with my story responds that way, thatâ€™s exciting. Those responses validate my belief that we can craft community through words. And when the misery pays off and the magic comes together, when a particular sentence glows on the screen, one that even this hyper-critical author can recognize as the kind of gem sheâ€™s doing this forâ€¦ Thatâ€™s chocolate torte and a summer sunset and a phone call from an old friend, all in one glorious moment.
But damn, I write a lot of lurching crap to get to that moment.
What project(s) are you undertaking now? Where are you in the process?
Iâ€™m finally tackling that decade-old dream. Trolling for Truth is a memoir of what it is to be a liberal vegetarian feminist in Alaskaâ€™s fishing industry, as well as a very personal examination of family, community, and home. Iâ€™m in the final stage of polishing my proposal—a terrifying, exhilarating process that I wouldnâ€™t have the courage to pursue without RWBâ€™s support. Laura Kalpakianâ€™s Memory into Memoir course has been another huge motivator, providing skill development and the opportunity to workshop developing material. Meanwhile, Iâ€™m trying to keep up with my blog, Hooked, while building a new website that will provide a stronger authorâ€™s platform. Just as youâ€™re all doing, Iâ€™m learning to juggle–balancing writing, social media, platform, reading, learning, time for my partner, family, and friends–with varying degrees of success.
What is the role of readers for your work? Do you share your work in draft? What do you most value in your readers?
Until recently, readers were a gaping absence in my writing life. I didnâ€™t want to share with folks who critiqued in terms of â€œItâ€™s good/bad,â€ and felt afraid to share with anyone unless I thought a piece was Just Right. But nothing ever felt Just Right, especially as work that hadnâ€™t stood up to someone elseâ€™s scrutiny. So I sequestered my writing efforts, kept them private in a way that encouraged a shaming separatism, rather than inviting the connection that had been my reason for writing in the first place.
Thanks to RWB, I have trusted friends to share drafts with now. Kind and insightful, they tell me whatâ€™s working in a piece, while identifying whatâ€™s missing. They note where Iâ€™ve been lazy, point me towards possibilities I hadnâ€™t seen, and boost my enthusiasm for troublesome pieces. My work becomes stronger. I develop accountability to myself and my readers. At first, sharing Totally Not Right drafts felt like a terrible vulnerability, but the risk led to empowering, rewarding experiences. Iâ€™ve been humbled and grateful for my fellow writersâ€™ generosity â€“ their willingness to share knowledge, expertise, and support. Connecting with RWB writers and developing a local writing community has truly been life-changing.
Who are the writers you have admired in the past and why?
Most of my reading happens during the fishing season, and Iâ€™m always looking for new recommendations. A few long-standing favoritesâ€¦ Lynn Schooler (The Blue Bear, Walking Home) is a multitalented artist who captures the natural world as effectively with his words as his photos. Ariel Goreâ€™s Atlas of the Human Heart is my all-time favorite memoir, for her vulnerability and authenticity. Iâ€™m a sucker for mystery novels; John Straleyâ€™s Cecil Younger series fills that craving with language so beautiful that I frequently read passages aloud to my shipmates.
Recently, my greatest inspirations have been fellow RWB writers. Some special gemsâ€¦ Cami Ostman humanized writing for me. True marathoner that she is, Cami demonstrated that successful writers werenâ€™t untouchable literary stars who knew a secret formula, but people who showed up, did the work, and didnâ€™t allow themselves to quit when it got hard. And speaking of doing the work, Iâ€™m astounded by Kari Neumeyerâ€™s discipline, her ability to produce a constant flow of quality new material. I gather courage from Pam Helberg, a memoirist who confronts personal history on the page without flinching. Rody Rowe brings a powerful tenderness to his work, as well as his insightful feedback. And last month Bob Lee read the most stunning evocation of the coast Iâ€™ve ever heard, one of those pieces I was envious of as a writer (Wow, wish Iâ€™d said it like that!) while feeling blessed to have heard his words. In addition to these folks, I leave each class and every Happy Hour awestruck by the talent within our community.
What have you discovered in your life as a writer?
Most important practical discovery: I have much better writing days when I ask my partner to disable the wireless access on my computer. (I donâ€™t know how to fix it, and I donâ€™t want to know.)
Community truly makes all the difference for me. Believing in my story is important, but to maintain the faith and work ethic required to bring it to life, I need regular infusions of writer energy–classes, RWB Happy Hours, coffee dates with writer friends, all of those good things.
The stories Iâ€™m most afraid of are the ones I most need to write. For myself, and because thatâ€™s the trust I want to place in my readers. In memoir—as with all writing–itâ€™s so easy to hobble ourselves with fear. Fear of hurting loved ones, embarrassing them, revealing what flawed beings we actually are. But these riskiest stories are the ones that invite the greatest connection. Jennifer Wilke, Novemberâ€™s featured writer, said, â€œI need to be braver.â€ Me, too.
Once again, a huge thanks to Tele for her thoughtful answers and encouragement to the rest of us in the community. We’re cheering for her as she works on her memoir and puts her proposal together! Keep us posted, Tele.