December’s Featured RWB Writer of the Month: Tele Aadsen

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Meet Tele Aadsen, December’s Featured Writer!

Tele, thank you for taking the time to help us get to know you and for answering a few of our probing questions. Here we go!

In your writing life, Tele, 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 I’m still struggling. Some friends glow when they talk about writing. They tell me they can’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 I’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 it’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, I’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, “You were describing me; I’ve felt exactly that,” that’s rewarding. When someone who’d seem to have nothing in common with my story responds that way, that’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 she’s doing this for… That’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?

I’m finally tackling that decade-old dream. Trolling for Truth is a memoir of what it is to be a liberal vegetarian feminist in Alaska’s fishing industry, as well as a very personal examination of family, community, and home. I’m in the final stage of polishing my proposal—a terrifying, exhilarating process that I wouldn’t have the courage to pursue without RWB’s support. Laura Kalpakian’s Memory into Memoir course has been another huge motivator, providing skill development and the opportunity to workshop developing material. Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep up with my blog, Hooked, while building a new website that will provide a stronger author’s platform. Just as you’re all doing, I’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 didn’t want to share with folks who critiqued in terms of “It’s good/bad,” 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 hadn’t stood up to someone else’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 what’s working in a piece, while identifying what’s missing. They note where I’ve been lazy, point me towards possibilities I hadn’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. I’ve been humbled and grateful for my fellow writers’ generosity – 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 I’m always looking for new recommendations. A few long-standing favorites… 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 Gore’s Atlas of the Human Heart is my all-time favorite memoir, for her vulnerability and authenticity. I’m a sucker for mystery novels; John Straley’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 gems… Cami Ostman humanized writing for me. True marathoner that she is, Cami demonstrated that successful writers weren’t untouchable literary stars who knew a secret formula, but people who showed up, did the work, and didn’t allow themselves to quit when it got hard. And speaking of doing the work, I’m astounded by Kari Neumeyer’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 I’ve ever heard, one of those pieces I was envious of as a writer (Wow, wish I’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 don’t know how to fix it, and I don’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 I’m most afraid of are the ones I most need to write. For myself, and because that’s the trust I want to place in my readers. In memoir—as with all writing–it’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, November’s featured writer, said, “I need to be braver.” 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.

7 Responses to “December’s Featured RWB Writer of the Month: Tele Aadsen”

  1. Tele

    Many thanks, friends (and Dad!). Appreciated the opportunity to reflect, and am eager to meet our first writer of 2012!

    Reply
  2. Village Farmer

    Like so many in our culture you had assumed that your flaws were more visible and unforgivable than those in others, and you are now learning that many others have also been burdened by the same crippling anxieties. I’m delighted that you have risked the vulnerabilities and shared the insights. Harvest the learning, share the wisdom, please! The elders are listening also.

    Reply
  3. Ben Peters

    Way to go tele. Keep on writing for us armchair trollers that need lots of books to get us through the summer

    Reply
  4. Laura Kalpakian

    Tele, what a thought provoking, candid response. Gave us all much to think on. We all need to be braver. And be grateful to the people who help us do just that.
    Thank you , Tele!
    L

    Reply
  5. Kari

    Beautifully said, Tele. Thank you for opening up to us here and in your work. You’re so gifted, I hope you realize it!

    Reply
  6. nancy

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I love your blog. Good luck to you.

    Reply
  7. Pam

    Yay, Tele! You are such a gift to our writer community.

    Reply

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