It's Wise Women Wednesday, each week I interview a woman that I believe is inspiring, living abundantly and following her passions. These are all women who live a life of abundance and bring creativity into the world.
Q. Who are you? What is your background?
A. I am the youngest and best-looking out of seven children. My name is Leah Lederman and this is my story.
I am a freelance editor and published author. I snagged a Master’s in English Lit back in 2009, and have been using it to teach college English or provide editing services ever since.
There are two small boys who follow me around making general observations and commentary about the world around me, and requesting food. They refer to me as “mom” and when I put food out they come running to the trough along with a dog and three cats, plus a devastatingly handsome man whom I married many moons ago.
Q. What is your work?
A. My work, like that of many, is never-ending, and sometimes I’m smarter about it than other times. I deal in words, whether I’m painting with them, stringing them together, or erasing them or rearranging them.
Q. What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?
A. I’m putting together something I call Café Macabre, an anthology of short horror stories written by lovely women I’ve been fortunate enough to know. I’ve worked with or spoken to all of these ladies and was inspired to put all of their voices together into one book, like some sort of grisly cafeteria, complete with weird smells and spooky echoes.
Q. What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did?
A. About two years ago I told my cousin Katy I’d write her book for her. She is a Strep A survivor but a quadruple amputee as a result. Despite all of that she has managed to move forward, create, and instruct. I have been worried, and still am, that I haven’t done her proper justice, but I’ve done the best I could, and I’m honored she agreed to collaborate with me. The memoir, Beautifully Broken: The Katy Hayes Story is being shopped out to agents as we speak, and for the first time, I’m downright terrified.
Q. What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it? If not why not what's stopping you?
A. I want to be writing more and submitting more stories to journals, or shopping work out to publishers. Nothing is stopping me, that’s for damn sure, but what’s slowing me down at the moment is this little freelance editing gig. I enjoy reading the works of writers and have worked on everything from comics to dissertations, but I’m vaguely considering hanging it up so that I can focus on my own work.
Editing started as a happy accident, and I really loved the way it allowed me to continue teaching (to people who were hungry and excited to revise their work) when I had to leave the classroom due in part to little varmints who call me “mom.” They are also sweet little hindrances to my creative endeavors, but I don’t begrudge them too much, since they provide me with plenty of ammunition for some future bitter, sarcastic mom memoir, something like In Memory of My Beautiful Body or I Can’t Touch Up My Roots Because My Son Needed Bail Money.
Q. What would you tell your high school or college self?
A. Don’t cut your own hair. It looks stupid in the back.
Q. What's one piece of advice or motto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers?
A. “It won’t always be this way.” That’s pretty much my standard when I’m watching my toddler shriek in fury and wave his poop-laden diaper above his head like a lasso. It sounds dreary, but when I’m feeling frustrated or confined by my circumstances, it’s a healthy reminder that my limitations are temporary. I’ll have my chance soon enough, so I need to keep up my aim and my drive.
I’m going to list two because this one is from my dad not me, but I think of it often enough it’s worth sharing: “Everybody takes their turn being the jerk.” This a lovely reminder for those times you’re being tailgated or cut off in traffic, or annoyed by someone’s stupid comment on that Facebook thread. You, too, will cut someone off in traffic or veer just a little too close to the car in front of you. You, too, have the capacity to leave a stupid comment on a Facebook thread.
Q. What keeps you creating when you don't feel like it?
A. Honestly, sometimes nothing does. Sometimes I go to bed, or read another chapter, or watch another show, or do a load of dishes. I’m very persuasive when it comes to why I deserve to not sit in front of the computer and hate myself for an hour.
What usually does it, though, is telling myself, “Think of how much better you’ll be able to enjoy your sleep, or your book, or that show, or those dishes (mmmm dishes) if you just sit down for a little while and work.” This sentiment also comes in the “Tomorrow, you’ll be thankful you did.”
In the worst-case scenario, the thought of some smug Facebook post about word count or “things I got done today” makes victory sweet.
Bottom line is, I know better than anyone that all I need to do is write one sentence. If I can justsit down and write one sentence, I won’t be able to stop there and then I’ll gain the momentum I need to continue working the next night (see previous self-admonitions, rinse and repeat) and through the next night until it’s complete.
Q. Anything else you'd like to share?
A. I'm very good at beating myself up, and guilting myself for not getting more things done in less time. Part of this helps keep me productive, another part is destructive. Besides any of that, it ignores the fundamental rule that some things simply take time. I started a story and wasn't able to put an ending on it. Nothing fit without seeming too contrived, so I shelved it. Three years later, after my grandmother passed, I came up with the perfect ending for the story.
Sometimes you've got to force an ending because there's a deadline, but other times you need to respect the organic nature of production. I get a little "fate-y" or "destiny-ny" about the written word, meaning that I could not have conjured any of the sentences in that work if I hadn't gone through what I'd gone through up until that point. I respect what our experience brings to what we create, and while sometimes our experience is a major life event, sometimes it's as simple as watching a rerun of a show, or procrasti-cleaning. The things we have experienced clear up until the moment we've sat down to create, those things affect and contribute to what we produce.
Q. What's your favorite yoga pose?
A. Hands down, it’s the one my friend coined accidentally (and perhaps regrettably) while teaching a yoga class. She mixed up “Happy Baby” and “Dead Bug” to create “Dead Baby” and I think of it often.
Q. How do you live a life of abundance?
A. I write the sentence when I need to, even if it’s the only sentence I write that day.
I put the pen down when I need to so that I can breathe deep and take a look at my children. I memorize their faces so I can think back on the previous moment when there’s a pane of glass between us and we’re talking through a telephone.
I forgive a great number of obscenities and offenses provided that they create a belly laugh.
I do not deny myself Colby-Jack cheese.