Hear Ye, Hear Ye!
In December 2022, I recorded a podcast with interviewer Dr. Katherine Hutchinson-Hayes, author, speaker, podcaster, and much more, including serving as an elementary school principal and publishing devotionals for women. She also has coordinated fitness boot-camps for women and has a black belt in Taek-won-do.
I met Katherine at a book signing at San Marco Books in Jacksonville, Florida in fall of 2020, and immediately struck a bond. Meanwhile, we kept in touch through Facebook and our blogs. In 2022, I congratulated her on an article published in Guideposts, and shortly thereafter she contacted me about doing a podcast together, which you can hear below. In the interview we discuss my blog and my forthcoming book, My Checkered Life: A Marriage Memoir.
Listen to . . .
- my zigzaggy path toward finding the theme for my new memoir, My Checkered Life.
- how I find magic in blogging.
- my encouragement to writers about publishing, marketing, and making connections.
A Taste of My Checkered Life: A Marriage Memoir
Excerpt from Chapter 39: “Income Tax Deadline Looming and Grandchildren Going off to College”
In my writing studio, the flame on my cinnamon-scented candle flickers, the tongue of fire recalling a flare-up one Sunday evening.
“We have to settle this now. I don’t want to go to bed mad!” Cliff says, sitting on the edge of the blue bed spread in our guest room, where I have been snacking and stewing alone. He wants to get things straightened out after an argument, while I like to simmer before we decide to get back on the same page again.
“Stop with this nonsense,” I had yelled earlier. “You have enough figures to file that stupid IRS report for 2021.”
Cliff yelled back, mimicking my volume but in a lower register. I paused, surprised at his loud response, “See how you like that!” Then he pressed on, “I have to get it right. I can’t fudge on figures! I must substantiate every expense. I don’t want to trigger another audit. You don’t understand.” I stomped off to my writing studio, and he scooted back to his refuge in his corner red chair and ottoman to listen to his audio book, Clive Cussler’s Dark Vector.
Our tiff was tipped off by an accumulation of grievances mingled with fatigue: miscommunication with our children about meeting up to say farewell to two freshman grandsons going off to college and Cliff’s obsessive-compulsive zeal for a “perfect” income tax filing with itemized deductions. “You spend too much time on useless detail. Mike (our accountant) says too many business deductions may trigger an income tax audit.”
We’d been through an audit twice: once in the 1990s, when an IRS agent came to our house, suspicious that our home office for Cliff’s graphic arts business may be a front for drug dealing. “Drug dealing, for heaven’s sake. That’s absurd!” I struck back. The auditor peeked into our closets, looking for evidence. Amazingly, in the end, it turned out the IRS owed us money because of a newly initiated tax credit for vehicles, a deduction that Cliff wasn’t aware of.
The second time, we were summoned to the Federal Building in downtown Jacksonville just before our trip to Ukraine in 2011. The agent, suited in brown plaid with a white turtleneck that obviously choked off blood supply, glared at us. She moved with sloth-like fingers, prolonging the agony. Try to picture Flash the Sloth in the Disney movie Zootopia but without the comedy. Cliff had previously filed IRS reports himself, putting some figures in the wrong slots and claiming roof “cost,” not “depreciation,” a tag acceptable over a longer period of time. Our newly-hired accountant, Intercessor Irene, stepped in to get penalty and interest charges removed. Honestly, I don’t remember major damage to our budget over the whole ordeal.
Cliff as cartoonist is usually laid-back, prone to generating squiggly lines in caricature and impromptu innuendo as jokester. However, with the IRS, his artistic flair mutates into reams of Excel spreadsheets, his tailor-made Tax Organizer with rectilinear entries, shot with color, delineating income sources: pink for Marian the writer, orange for Cliff the artist, yellow for sub-columns, blue for totals, and green for rows of categories.
Since the beginning of our marriage, both our incomes funnel into one pot. We usually discuss larger items. Cliff needing a $300 eight-terabyte storage drive for huge visual files gets my okay. He never fusses over big drains like my cataract surgery with astigmatism correction, which cost $5000 even with supplemental insurance. “It’s worth it. You can’t put a price tag on good vision,” he assures me. I pay our bills online and write out the odd bank check for piano tuning or extra charitable giving. Cliff keeps up with the monthly Quicken accounts, adapting the data for yearly income tax reports.
This argument finally did get settled. Cliff waved his hand toward me with a quick salute, clearing the air, “Okay, things are level now.” That night, we got rest for our exhausted bodies and later leaned into a familiar, friendly rhythm the next day. I hate it when we clash, though, the conflict seeping into my soul like stain into thick fabric, woven into our checkered life.
Still, the sun, that star of fiery love, helps bleach out the blotch, so we can move forward.
See Some Notable Quotes:
“It’s brave to grab your memories by their wispy floating tendrils and wrestle them into a book or a blog.” Linda Joy Myers, memoirist and founder of National Association of Memoir Writers.
“We write to taste life twice.” Anais Nin
What do you most anticipate about reading my next memoir?
What book(s) are you enjoying right now?
Good morning, Marian! I enjoyed the excerpt. You and Cliff sound very organized, but those audits sound horrible. The IRS coming to your house?? Yikes!
I will come back and listen to the interview later.
Good morning, Merril! Both audits were terrible, especially the first, which happened a long time ago. I’m sure privacy laws have changed, and I don’t think either of us would put up such intrusion now. Thanks for kicking off the conversation here. 😀
Wonderful, Marian. I look forward to more. I especially like the quote: “We write to taste life twice.”
Arlene, I know you like quotes because I see some notable ones on your blog. I hope you enjoy the quotes in my book as well. 😀
Marian, I enjoyed your interview with Dr. Katherine Hutchinson-Hayes. It’s always lovely to hear your voice. How wonderful to listen to the discussion of your upcoming memoir and your phenomenal blog. (You and I started in the same year.) I love that quote you shared about the reader having a wound in the exact shape of your words. 😊😊😊
How tense that audit must have made you. Glad you worked things out. I’ve had my own IRS issues as a freelancer. So may God restore and continue to provide for you!
As for what I anticipate, I anticipate learning more about you and Cliff and things you’ve done to keep your marriage strong. In your interview you mentioned that you hadn’t had an easy time—something I’ve heard people with the best marriages say. 😊
Thanks for listening to the interview. Sometimes listening to a 32-minute interview seems daunting, but I listen to podcasts very often doing something else, like chopping veggies in my kitchen.
I’m sorry the IRS has given you a hard time too. Probably the IRS has become heavy-handed with the self-employed because some free-lancers (often wannabes) have abused the privilege in the past. Thanks for all this, L. Marie 😀
I’m glad you’ll return to that podcast when your book debuts.
I enjoyed this Marian and will still get to listen to your podcast. Oooh those dark moments with my spouse – not over tax matters, usually quite inconsequential things. I can get very grumpy and sulky. Nothing sweet and charming about me at all.
Happy New Year by the way. May you and family have a happy and healthy, blessed, 2023.
This relationship seems like a wonderful one, Marian. Isn’t it good to make friends with other writers and to have understanding conversations with them. You gave me an idea for my own next blog post. Not that that’s the first time. 🙂 Enjoy these months of run-up to publication and the fun that follows. Happy New Year!
You have a large web of connections–good for the soul and for the writing life. And your smile reminds me that one of your recent interviews is waiting for me to listen to. As you suggest, making party food (or simply chopping up vegetables) is a wonderful time to take in fresh thoughts. Thanks for all this, Shirley! 😀
Drug dealing! Oh, my word! That sounds like great fodder for another book, Marian. Happy New Year!
Ha Ha! No more new books for awhile. Yes, IRS auditors apparently subscribe to the maxim “Guilty until proved innocent.” Those were the actual words from the auditor. Yes, we lived through it! Thanks, Jill! 😀
Can’t wait to see the new book, Marian!!
Joan, I can’t either–ha!
We [read that, Cliff] opted to do the layout himself (with a huge number of photos and art inserted.) Not the smartest challenge we’ve even taken. Happy New Year to you and Bill! 😀
Marian — You’re ramping up and gaining traction for your next book’s launch. Woohoo! I’m excited for YOU!
I’m glad authors like you can share my excitement. Thanks for the encouragement, Laurie, most needed today! 😀
Hi and Happy New Year,
I love your excerpt. When is the book going to be released? You caught my attention in the first paragraph. And I love the quote from Anais Nin. Fantastic.
Wishing you all the best.
It’s scheduled for March 2023. I’m glad the opening lines hooked your interest, Pat! 😀
Thanks for sharing honestly from your heart about your marriage relationship with Cliff. That takes courage but it’s why readers will not put your book aside. I am reading a book by Sara Klassen called “The Russian Daughter” a novel that takes place in Communist Russia, just before and after the revolution. It is well researched and you learn so much about that terrible time period and how Mennonites had to cope with loss, both personal and as a group. A good read!
Thanks for checking in here, Elfrieda, and for the book title. I know Russian Mennonites have suffered terrible persecution over the years. And now we are seeing Ukrainian believers of all sorts enduring a similar ordeal. I appreciate your encouragement always. 😀
After reading this post, My Checkered Life, A Marriage Memoir is now at the top of my Must Read list. Please publish soon!
Oh, Linda Lee, it’s so good to hear from you. Happy New Year!
We are hoping for a spring release. I’m thinking of March 20 as the target date for launch. Thanks for asking and for the encouragement you are bringing here. 😀
Hi Marian — congratulations on moving toward publication of your second memoir! Your writing is so vivid! Best wishes for your launch.
Hey, Tracy, the last time I noticed, you and Ken were kissing on Facebook, a good posture for reading a marriage memoir. Tee Hee! 😀
Melodie Milller Davis was unable to post. Her fine comment appears below.
Melodie Miller Davis: Great interview and podcast. Best wishes as you move along towards pub date! I love the colors you added to your various income sources.
I just finished When Women Lead for a review in MEDA’s Marketplace magazine. Excellent stories and insights in Julia Boorstin.
Oh and this reminds me: Jan 4 means income tax time, ugh. Best to you and Cliff!
Like you Marian I listen to podcasts whilst doing something like cooking or walking…I don’t think I would be as brave as you are by doing a marriage memoir and wish you much luck with yours you are very brave…Great podcast 🙂
Carol, I can understand that listening to podcasts would appeal to you, feeding your mind as you keep your hands busy cooking and baking in your kitchen.
About the theme of this book. It evolved. Actually, I never set out to do a marriage memoir. When I queried readers, many thought my idea of a collection of blog posts may be boring, a re-hash of what they’ve read before. Another reader, an author/editor, suggested a story of my marriage as an alternative, so I went with that. Don’t think I haven’t had second thoughts about this choice–ha!
It does indeed, Marian…I understand how your book evolved I do think its brave though I couldn’t do it …x
So fascinating Marian! I listened to the entire show. I don’t think these “chance” encounters in life are always chance. You and Katherine were meant to start a journey. Also, I love the quote about driving in the fog, but that you can still get there! It’s inspiring. 🙂 Your book is moving forward quickly and I love all the teases you drop (I howled at the IRS agent wearing the turtleneck, so funny!) Happy New year to you.
Yes, Melanie, I do indeed believe that the better term for “chance” is “providential,” sometimes a divine encounter.
I hope you are typical of other readers who may find humor as well as other emotions as they read the book. All the best in your personal life–and your writing life–in 2023. 😀
Thank you Marian for the well wishes, both personal and in my writing for 2023. ♥ And I embrace humor everyday! My senior quote from high school was from Joni Mitchell “And leave them laughing when you go.” If you write it, I will find it. 🙂
My husband and I have had our share of income tax fights (over actually getting them done). I know just what you mean about that kind of upset creating a stain in the fabric of our life together.
I enjoyed listening to your interview with Dr. Hutchinson-Hayes. It was engaging. I loved how enthusiastic she was! I appreciated your discussion of what it’s like to write memoir. I’ve written personal essays and autobiographical creative nonfiction, but nothing lengthy. I think each of us has a natural mode of expression that we gravitate toward.
Thanks for the nod here. I’m glad you can relate to our marital melees. And I appreciate your listening to the interview. Dr. K. is enthusiastic to the max. She appears to be always like that–in person and online.
From my vantage point, Liz, you are a multi-talented and multi-genre author. I can’t imagine writing a novel. I guess I’d rather create from memory than from my imagination. I certainly agree: “Each of us has a natural mode of expression that we gravitate toward.” 😀
You’re welcome, Marian. 😀
Hi Marian. I enjoyed the excerpt from your book, and listening to your interview. I loved that you said our memoir readers often relate to our stories, or look for different outcomes through reading our stories. And yes, it always surprises me when a male reads my books too. Wonderful interview. “A wound in the shape of our words,” beautiful term. <3
Thank you for your wholehearted reply to this post, so appreciated. I came to writing personal pieces late in life. Before that, it was academic essays all the way. Now I can’t imagine not reading and writing about personal experiences, a surefire way to connect to readers.
And thanks for inspiring me with your stories, Debby. Nothing in our lives, either the good or the bad, is wasted when we wrestle our thoughts and feelings into a book or blog.
Wishing you the very, very best in the new year. 😀
How wonderful about the podcast, Marian. You’re starting off your promotion path well, even before publication. Making connections as an author is one of those lovely “cherries on top.”
I think your “struggle” to find the correct form factor for your second memoir is suiting in relation to its title and topics. By creating the final version of the book, you’ve gotten all those ducks in a row!
You are SO encouraging, Liesbet. Thank you!
Last January I doubled down on curating my aunt’s diaries intending to publish excerpts with commentary. After a while it all became too tedious, and frankly I was bored. Then I got the idea to compile some of my blog posts thematically, but readers seemed unenthusiastic about that idea. Last summer, author Sue Weidener, suggested writing a sequel to Mennonite Daughter, focusing on our marriage. That theme resonated with many, so that’s the evolution, which you already know.
I appreciate so much your expert reading, pointing out inconsistencies and other errors. This week I’m doing another proofreading and (still!) finding silly errors. And so it goes!
I hope your South American adventure becomes more and more rewarding each day, as you settle in. ((( )))
The problem with manuscripts, and you and I being perfectionists or A-type personalities, is that we can (and want to) tweak and improve it forever. At some point, we have to be content and call it quits. I think the memoir form is the most attractive one to read (and write) when it comes to personal stories.
I hear you loud and clear, Liesbet. And I must have all text and visuals funneled into the publisher by January 13 to meet my March deadline. Having a deadline is one way to put a stop to the endless editing.
Thanks for your concern and cheering me on. Golly, I couldn’t do without it! ((( )))
I’m so glad that I finally made it over here this morning, Marian. I listened to your entire interview because it was interesting. You came across as genuine, articulate, and full of wisdom—you know, the kind of person we’d like to hang out with.
Much of what you talked about in the interview connected with me. Engagement and authenticity are keys in any relationship, but particularly online. Having a sense of humor doesn’t hurt either. (We need more Hustler magazine stories.🤣)
That said, I’m about to navigate my own waters by devoting more time to my story writing and less to blogging. Part of that makes me sad because I am a people person, and, like you, I consider many of my blogging friends, true friends. Why should their be a distinction? I’m not completely disappearing, but I’ve decided after I contribute to some author friends’ book tours in January, I’m only going to put out a blog post once a month. As I’ve told others, I’m listening to my heart on this one. I’ve got two children’s novels I’ve been working on the last few years, but it’s time to make those become a reality. Translation—more time with my butt in my seat. Yet, like you said in your interview, I will continue to walk and exercise. No sedentary lifestyle for me. We can’t let our bodies or brains turn to mush.
Best of luck to you. I look forward to purchasing and reading your memoir when it comes out in the spring. I must add that I respect that you’ve given writing the respect it deserves. So keep going—I’ll be the one waving my pom poms on the sideline.🤣
You are a true-blue friend and supporter.
It’s true, we have only so many hours in the day, and we have to exercise (!) self-care too. You are making a wise move, budgeting your time with less blogging. Soon, I’ll be switching to an every-two-week schedule, and maybe once a month eventually. Blogging takes time, creating the post and then replying to comments, which in your case may seem daunting (though encouraging) at times. I’ll look for your pom-poms because that means I crossed the finish line, friend! 😀
A good book – fiction or non-fiction – is one that is totally honest. No obfuscation. The truth. And your excerpt is a great example of your upcoming memoir (and your first one used the same device). TELL THE TRUTH and be free. I can’t wait to read My Checkered Life (cover – fantastic). And fun to hear your voice on the podcast. Well done, and congratulations on the interview!
I need to hear your voice right now, Pam! Yes, I have been committed to telling the TRUTH in both of my memoirs, but every once in a while, the thought “Oh, this is embarrassing” floats through my mind. Your affirmation here and encouragement steadies me.
And NO OBFUSCATION–ever! Thanks for walking this path as an empathetic mentor and friend. Hugs! ((( )))
Hi Marian, I really enjoyed your extract. It is very relatable although Terence and I have only ever really argued over my leaving my day job. I have been finding it less and less easy to cope with all the stress and he thinks I’m doing fine. I look forward to reading your book in due course.
Robbie, I’ve said it before and it applies here: Your publishing while you were working in another job is mind-boggling. I’m glad you were able to quit a very demanding career and concentrate on what you love. Also, I’m happy you can relate to the memoir excerpt. I look forward to more missives from you. Blessings! 😀
Linda Joy Myers has it right, wrestling your memories into a something worth publishing is a challenge. Brave, indeed. As for what I’m reading right now it is Wide Sargasso Sea which I never read back in the day. Enjoying it, even if I am late to the party.
You’re never late: The porch light is always ON at plain and facy. Thanks too for the book title. Wide Sargasso Sea is new to me. Thanks, Ally! 😀
I enjoyed listening to your interview with Katherine. I agree, making friends is the best thing about blogging and the support from other writers is amazing. All the best with your next book, which I’m looking forward to reading. (taxes can be the cause of many marriage disagreements!)
You are a role model for all bloggers and authors. Thanks for reading–and listening! I appreciate your support and admire your work and your writing life, Darlene! 😀
Interesting interview. What a challenge we authors have… writing, writing for a blog, and trying to figure out this marketing thing. Good for you for staying the course. I look forward to reading “My Checkered Life.”
It’s wonderful to see your face and hear your voice in the comments. You have been down this road several times and you know what it takes to write, publish, and market. My marriage memoir has taken a weird twists and turns, but I will “stay the course” as you say. Thanks for bringing encouragement to me today. I so much appreciate it, Linda. 😀