Picking Their Brains: Laura, the Merry Mennonite

SO. This is my 100th blog post here on the ‘new’ blog! (Which is also now 7 months old. I think.) Woohoo!

This is also my second post in the Picking Their Brains feature. And I have plans for more, bwahahaha!

Okay, but seriously moving on…

Today, I’ve got a special guest! Laura (The Merry Mennonite) has been a dear friend for a very long time. We even exchanged longhand letters at one point. We met from a shared love of nerdy things, and have stayed in contact through the years.

So, let’s get started! (Please note that Laura answered the questions for this interview last fall, but due to some blog complications/hiatuses on both our ends, the interview has not been posted until today.)

Hi Laura, thanks for being here today! Will you start off by telling us a little about yourself?

Hi Rebekah! I am a wife, stay at home mom and writer. I live in beautiful Western New York with my awesome husband Tyler and our hilarious 16 month old daughter, Maggie. I’m an immigrant (I grew up in Canada—Ooo, exotic, I know) which kind of runs in my family because my dad is from Brazil and my grandparents were from Russia. I enjoy taking walks, playing piano, cooking and spending time with my lovely family and friends.

Can you believe we’ve known each other for ten years now? It’s kinda crazy, but we do seem to have a lot of similar interests. We both enjoy pursuing a sustainable lifestyle, for one. What’s something new you’ve tried on that journey you’ve loved? What about something that simply didn’t work for you and your family?

I absolutely love eating as locally as possible. When I became pregnant with Maggie, I started to question a lot of the lifestyle choices I was making—what I ate, what I cleaned with, etc. The first change I made was to sign up for a CSA group. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and basically means that you buy a share in what a farm produces for the year. We’ve since started buying eggs as well from someone with a (sub)urban farm similar to your own.

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As far as something that hasn’t worked for my family, I also bought a stash of cloth diapers before Maggie was born. They’re a very highly recommended brand but the fit has never seemed right for Maggie—they always seem like they’re uncomfortable and impede her mobility. I do use them occasionally but they aren’t my favorite thing. Maybe with future kids I’ll give cloth diapering another go.

You, your husband, and your daughter live communally with your parents and sister. Why did you decide to do that? What was the hardest part of that decision, and what have you loved most about it?

We decided to buy a house together for a lot of practical reasons. My dad is a long-distance trucker and on the road a LOT. Tyler sometimes travels for work as well, so this way neither my mom nor I have to be home alone when the men are gone. We were also able to get a MUCH nicer house than either of us could have afforded alone! I don’t know as there was a really a hard part of the decision, as we just sort of all reached the conclusion that it would be a good fit for us and the transition was actually quite pain-free, but we did move three weeks before Maggie’s due date. That was an adventure! Other than that, we all really enjoy each other’s company and I LOVE having a live-in free babysitter. 😉

We met through a love of The Lord of the Rings, and quite possibly all (most?) things Tolkien. Besides his writings, though, who is an author or a book you find yourself returning to time and time again?

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CS Lewis. I love his fiction and his non-fiction. I even have a couple huge volumes of his collected letters. He has so many pointed and accurate observations on the Christian faith, and of course his fiction work is just lovely.

CS Lewis is an old favorite of mine, too!

All right, on to writing! You’re a busy woman – being a full-time mother and caretaker of a home is no laughing matter. How do you make time to write?

The first thing I had to acknowledge and come to terms with after having Maggie is that out of necessity, I now go through writing “seasons”. There are times when I’m absolutely unable to write for months at a time and that’s okay, because my family comes first. After Maggie was born I took about 5-6 months off of writing completely and recently I’ve taken a few months off due to some family things and the fact that Tyler and I were involved in a community theater production of Les Miserables which took up a great deal of time.

Whenever possible, though, I do make a point of writing at least a little everyday. I have routine I follow that distributes my bigger household chores over the course of the week so no one day is completely bogged down, and I’m able to consistently get in half an hour or an hour at the keyboard. Naptime is key 😉 And when you have very limited time to write, writer’s block is not an option! It forces you to just do the work and silence your internal editor.

You’ve had a few short stories published with Curiosity Quills, on their website. Are you working on any other short stories right now? What about novels?

I don’t have any shorts actively underway right now, though I do have a list of jotted down ideas I’m working through, in hopes of possibly assembling a collection of short work. Right now I’m just trying to finish a novel I have on the go. It started out as a short story which got out of control! As soon as I finish my current work in progress (I’m at about the halfway point) I have another novel which stalled at around 40k that I’d like to go back to and complete.

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What do you love most about writing, both in general, and about writing fantasy?

I love the escapist aspect of it. At any time I’m able to jump into the drama and intrigue of another place without paying for a plane ticket! I particularly like writing fantasy because I’m able to build the landscape of my stories from the ground up. Not having to do research is a wonderful thing! Fantasy is what I read most of as well, so I have a clearer grasp of what works and doesn’t work in the genre, what ideas have become old and tired, etc, which enables me to write better stories.

Building from the ground up is one of the things I love about writing fantasy as well!

Thank you so much for being here today, Laura!

If you have any questions for Laura, please leave a comment! You can also find out more about her at her blog.

Photo courtesy of Ars Electronica.
Photo courtesy of Ars Electronica.

Interested in being featured on Picking Their Brains? I’m looking for guest posts on topics on everything from writing to publishing to urban farming and crafting. Just send me a message if you’ve got a topic in mind!

5 thoughts on “Picking Their Brains: Laura, the Merry Mennonite

  1. Excellent interview!

    The best part was that Laura sometimes writes by seasons. I know that scenario all too well. People are busy and writing is only one aspect of our lives.

    PS I’m not too sure I’d ever share a house with my parents though. I lived with my in-laws for 9 months and that was 9 months too long. LOL.

  2. Nice interview! The living together to keep her mother from being alone is a great idea. It seems more families are looking at situations like this to look after each other.

    1. Indeed. Sometimes it’s nice to see that a need for money to stretch further is bringing back some of the ways things used to be done. We’re relearning the practicalities our ancestors knew.

  3. Thanks for the interview, Rebekah! And thanks for the comments, Maria and MAJK.

    Living communally works super well for my family, but my hubby and I took a really objective look at whether or not we’d be able to do it before we dove in. Some people just mesh and others don’t–it’s definitely not the right fit for everyone, but it makes sense for us. It’s nice to have chores spread out a little more evenly and for my kiddo to live with her grandparents. There are a lot of pros that can outweigh any cons!

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