Category Archives: Writing

Storytellers

I’m a storyteller at heart. I take annoying things like having a bad day or lacking faith, and turn them into stories. I like telling you about my son’s compassion and my daughter’s affection, but in a way that you can feel his warmth and her tenderness.

I like to take forgettable things and make them a bit more memorable.

But I also really like making stuff up completely. (I’m talking about writing fiction, not pathologically lying.)

November is National Novel Writing Month, and I’ve attempted this crazy idea for the last two years. And I’ve already hashed out this year’s attempt, and I’m itching to get started.

But I have this problem. There’s a difference between letting people read my blog and letting people read my fiction. The latter is way scarier. I don’t even let my husband read my junk. I kick him out of the room if I’m writing because I JUST KNOW he’s reading over my shoulder from across the room on the couch with the TV on.

Well, that’s enough of that.

I’ll be busy next month working on my fiction, and simultaneously working on this hesitancy (or maybe outright phobia) of sharing my fiction. So fair warning, all (or most, or some, or one maybe) of my posts next month will be pieces of my NaNoWriMo (that’s what we veterans call it) project, lovingly titled A Song for the Redeemed. Guys, I am SO GOOD at titling things.

AREN’T YOU EXCITED? I am. Or maybe that’s fear I’m feeling. To-may-to, to-mah-to.

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Why I Write

I asked this question on the Twitter a little while back, and the response was overwhelming. Even folks who don’t necessarily consider themselves writers replied with the same idea that boiled down to, “Because I have to.” I get it. I totally do.

I love to write. I love it. A lot. If I don’t take the time to write, I get grumpy. I yell at my kids. I tell my husband to do his own dang laundry. I don’t bring my reusable grocery bags in to Kroger. I know, I KNOW. I’m basically the mom version of Bane when I don’t write.

I write because I have to, because God not only gave me the gift but the need to write. So I do.

I write about my kids because they inspire me and consume me and twenty-four hours with them isn’t nearly enough to satisfy me until they are another twenty-four hours older. So I am desperate to capture the awe, to communicate it to them in ways more timeless than infinite kisses and picnic lunches.

I write about my faith, because sometimes I invite God in and He overtakes me. Sometimes I let Him fill me and His fullness cannot be contained. Sometimes I listen when He reminds me how He not just loves me perfectly, but likes me personally.

I write about the bizarre things I think about, because I love to laugh, even at myself. I am convinced everyone thinks the same way I do, they’re just better at hiding their inner weirdo.

But lately I’ve been asking myself why I write in the context of sharing what I write. And I’m not sure I really know the answer yet. I don’t know why not writing makes me cranky, why I feel satisfied after writing something good, why — just recently — I actually want you to read what I’m writing.

But I do know I want my words to resonate. I want to draw you in. I want you to leave with the same feeling of satisfaction, a sense of something — Someone — out there, the feeling that something grand is at work. I want to make you laugh, because laughter makes things a little friendlier.

If I cannot — or do not — make things better through writing, then why write? If I cannot make God more present for those who doubt, why write? If I cannot insist that God is the prize, and everything else is just excess, just His generosity, if I cannot bring Heaven a little nearer, if I cannot woo you to the Jesus I know, then why write?

It is a question I am still asking.

And in the meantime, I’ll write about it.

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The Mighty Weight

I’m sorry. But I’m not going to leave you alone about this.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I have a newsletter now. I also have an e-Book. Sort of. It’s more or less a compilation. A pamphlet? Words I typed on electronic paper. ALL OF THE ABOVE. And I called it The Mighty Weight. That’s just extra information you might be interested in. You’re welcome.

Anyway, I want you to read it and love it, because soon I’m going to write something else on electronic paper and then try to charge you for it. But this one? FREE. Don’t you love things that are free? I love things that are free, unless it’s the THREE Yellow Books that showed up on my doorstep. I actually hate those.

I want to tell you more about The Mighty Weight, but I hired some of my friends to tell you about it instead. Full disclosure, they’re all being compensated with empty promises of doughnuts.

* * *

As a parent, I know that I can never fully put into words the love and joy that I share with my son. With The Mighty Weight, Jessica has dipped her pen into the fountain of those inexpressible feelings and beautifully leaked them all over the paper. You know what? She’s better at analogies than me. Just read it, OK?
Ricky Anderson, Chick-Fil-A enthusiast and the reincarnation of Dave Barry

I recommend reading Jessica Buttram’s book The Mighty Weight twice. The first time read it as a collection of lovingly crafted essays about her children, Bug and Bean. The second time read it as a collection of insane ramblings about a literal bug and a literal bean. This is the book that keeps on giving!
Chad Gibbs, author & frequent inscriber of God & Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC

After reading A Mighty Weight, I want Jessica Buttram to be my mom. Except she’s quite a bit younger than I am so that would probably be awkward. Instead, let me say how beautifully she evokes the spectrum of emotions fostered by motherhood; how precisely she’s put to words what I’ve always felt about my own children but haven’t been able to write myself. Jess, “I love this. Like, a lot.”
Julie Gardner, editor extraordinaire and New York Times soon-to-be bestselling author (trust me on that)

I’ve had the good fortune of interacting with many talented writers and among them all, Jessica is easily one of the most talented. I just don’t think she knows the scope of her skill yet.
Knox McCoy, author of Jesus and The Bachelor/ette and co-creator of TVAsylum.com and his kids

The Mighty Weight is so beautifully written it made me wish I were a mother. Then, when I was near the end (I read it in a single sitting), my 7-year-old twins got into a fight with lawn darts and reminded me I am a mother. I ignored them and finished the book. Read The Mighty Weight. Jessica finds poetry amidst the layered moments of parenthood.
Leanne Shirtliffe, irony-enthusiast and Third Most Humorous Female Award recipient

Never before has there been such a powerful book from someone whose very name, Jessica Buttram, can be rearranged to spell A MAJESTIC BURST. Or JUST BEAT RACISM. Or BASIC UTTERS JAM.
Clay Morgan, the anti-blogger and reigning Cryptograms champion

JB and I go way back, back to 1965 when my parents met at prom and I played the guitar. This book was steal awesome then, when I stole it from the future to bet on sports games. Great Scott and Great Book.
Tyler Tarver, author of Letters to Famous People and Ryan Gosling’s scruffy chin double

Jessica’s honest writing will break your heart (but don’t worry — it will reform to twice its original size).
Stinky Face Auntie M, my little sister and a girl I almost ran away with once

* * *

See? My friends are so great and hilarious and…a little bit…random. NO MATTER. They liked it and I like them and we all have exquisite taste because everyone likes doughnuts.

All you have to do to get a FREE copy of The Mighty Weight is sign up for my newsletter. I even made it easy by including the link in the words “sign up for my newsletter.” See, I did it again!

Once you subscribe, you’ll receive a final Confirmation email – within this email is a link to open The Mighty Weight. Just click it and pretend I’m pouring you a nice mug/cup/flask of coffee/tea/bourbon.

PS, I love you.

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Eat a Doughnut, Say No to Spam

When my sister and I were kids, we had an unhealthy obsession with NSYNC. (Who didn’t, AMIRIGHT?)

I was more or less her enabler, while she was the true fan. I enjoyed looking at pretty boys who could sing and dance, but it was she who had the posters and the calendars and the Disney Channel Presents NSYNC: Live in Concert VHS.

They're Tearin' Up My Heart

You guys, this isn’t even a post about NSYNC.

Our obsession with NSYNC led us to create a fan newsletter through AOL. We made it awesome. It was chock full of pictures and tidbits. We had a pretty good following. We were one of the best NSYNC fan newsletter email chains in all of America Online. JEALOUS?

My experience as co-editor building a newsletter with my sister prepared me for what I am about to unveil to you.

The Meet The Buttrams Newsletter!

Okay, right, I get it. Why should you sign up for my newsletter? No one in my family is a curly-haired tenor with muscles in a white tank top crooning that God MUST have spent a little more time on you. But I do talk about doughnuts pretty regularly, so there’s that.

In all seriousness, I am launching this newsletter for a few reasons:

  • All the cool kids are doing it.
  • I have some BIG PLANS for the future, and I want to be able to let you in on it.
  • It’ll keep you informed of my sporadic posts without spamming your inbox.
  • It lures out the lurkers (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE).
  • It allows me to give you the gift of The Mighty Weight.

Intrigued?

I have compiled some of my favorite posts from back in the day when the only one who read my blog was my mom. I’ve made them better. I’ve streamlined them. I’ve made sure all the subjects and verbs agree. I gave it a poetic title The Mighty Weight. I sometimes even refer to is as “my e-Book” to boost its self-esteem.

And I want you to HAVE IT ALL. That’s right, you guys. I’m offering you free blog posts FOR EVEN FREER*.

All you have to do is CLICK HERE to sign up for my newsletter. I promise not to spam you or sell your information, unless of course the offer is a million dollars and a lifetime supply of doughnuts.

Instead of getting a ding in your inbox every time I write something new, I’ll send out a weekly newsletter with a myriad of my most recent posts for your picking and choosing.

But don’t worry, it’ll more likely be a once-a-month thing.

And if we were being COMPLETELY honest, there’s a good chance I’ll forget all about the newsletter by August.

SO TO RECAP:

  • Sign up for my newsletter.
  • Be the first to know WHAT BIG PLANS I have in the works.
  • Get a FREE copy of my compilation/sometimes-called-e-Book The Mighty Weight.
  • Eat a doughnut. Say no to Spam.

Yes? Yes. Yes! Here we go!

(NSYNC has got the flow!)

(Okay, I’m done.)

*Minus the cost of your email address, shipping, and handling. So actually, by the end of this, you’ll owe me $2.17**. That’s cool, right?
**I’m not serious. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

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Dear Jeff Goins, Stop Reading My Diary

For the record, I don’t keep a diary (anymore); I believe these days they call it a “blog.” And actually, I wish Jeff Goins was reading my diary (blog).

But that is neither here nor there. Which doesn’t make sense, does it? How can something be neither here NOR there? By the very definitions of here AND there, something would have to be one or the other.

My next post will be: Lessons in Colloquialisms. (No. It won’t.)

Moving on.

I received Jeff Goins’ weekly (bi-weekly? Monthly? I don’t know, I don’t pay that much attention.) newsletter the other day and for an otherwise nonviolent piece of email, it bashed me squarely between the eyes. (Why so mean, email?)

Just in case you aren’t subscribed to his newsletter (what kind of person ARE you?!), here’s what the heaviest hitting parts said:

So when do you ship and when do you wait? When is it okay to go over budget and extend your deadline? That’s up to you and your gut.
Learn to trust your artist instincts (and the counsel of others). But at the end of the day, it’ll still feel risky. And it is.
The thing to not do is stall. No one is going to pick you. Whether you wait or not is your call. You’re the one who has to live with the consequences.
My suggestions?
Be brave. Fail fast. And make it count.

See, here’s the thing. I am naturally good at very few things.

And the vast things I am not naturally good at…I quit.

I don’t enjoy these things, I don’t give them time to become enjoyable, I don’t give myself time to improve, because what if I never do? I don’t like feeling mediocre, in anything. It’s why I quit tennis and piano; it’s why I have an unused easel in our den, across the room from a sewing machine that has grown dusty.

So even though I love to write, and it is one of the very few things I am naturally more than mediocre at, I hoard my words like a miser. I scrutinize each one, I demand them to perform and to perform flawlessly. And because they are not yet (ever?) flawless, they remain stashed inside my pocket, tucked against my cheek.

But things are threatening to overhaul that way of thinking.

Be brave. Fail fast. And make it count.

You see, I have words, words strung together to form stories. Some stories are finished, some are still being strung. There are one or two that are waiting to be shipped but I have given myself permission to hide them until they are flawless (don’t tell Jeff Goins).

But there are many, many more that are guaranteed to be an exercise in failing. That is, if I can loosen my grip on them long enough to toss them in the air and duck for cover.

And I’m going to need your help.

At least with the failing part.

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Made in the Philippines

My ethnicity has always been one of the most predominate things about me. But ironically, it wasn’t until we moved from the heart of newly reunified post-WWII Germany back to America that I realized this.

My dad was then stationed in southern Alabama, and all of a sudden I started to notice that I didn’t look or sound like any of the other kids in my class.

For the first time ever, I was instructed, by the government or the census bureau or my fifth grade teacher, to encompass my race – an ancestral mingling of Filipino, Spanish, European, Indian, English – into one small checkbox: White, Black, or Other.

I was suddenly and often asked by teachers, classmates, and complete strangers if I was Spanish or Hawaiian or Chinese or Native American.

For the first time I truly realized that my hair was thick and black, my eyes the shape of almonds, my skin permanently tan and an envy in the winter.

Oh, but I adapted quickly.

Barely a year later, I had a perfect southern twang. I learned to smile and hedge when people asked me where I was from, pretending to misunderstand and answer, “Germany,” as if there was any truth at all in that answer.

I tried to make the Philippines sound like just a small portion of my bloodline, pointing out that my grandfather was British and quite white. I dreaded the beginning of each school year when teachers would ask us to raise our hands if we were, “White, Black, or Other.”

Eventually they (whoever “they” were) added boxes. White, Black, Hispanic, Other. And then: White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Other. By the time I was in high school, they asked us to “Check All That Apply.” That was even worse. How does a girl born in the Philippines but on American soil with ancestors from literally around the world answer that question? Can I actually Check All That Applied?

Yes, I was one hundred percent Asian. But that included a dash of British, a marriage of Indian, a war fought with Spanish blood, generations of native islanders born and bred and interwoven with the Whites, the Blacks, the Others.

Thankfully, my parents never once apologized for our Otherness in a very White or Black Alabama. They spoke Tagalog amongst themselves, even if we had friends over, even as they gaped at my parents’ native tongue. Every month or so we would get together with other Filipino families for a huge cookout, the food the food of my childhood, dishes I wouldn’t have to explain to other people, pronouncing its name slowly, Americanly.

As I grew older, my ethnicity became a point of pride. I began to relish in being considered “exotic.” People commented on my looks, the only real beauty of it in being different. A boy once told me he thought the Philippines was made up of the most beautiful people in the world. Another boy told me Filipino food was some of the best tasting food he had ever had. All of a sudden, I saw myself as part of an exclusive club, the Ethnic club. I wasn’t made in America; I was made in the Philippines.

And it wasn’t long before that pride in being different became a genuine pride in my heritage.

A culture I wasn’t so far removed from, generations of American living separating me from that small cluster of islands in the Pacific Ocean. No, I was born on one of those islands, just one part of my family’s very first generation of American-born children.

A culture of black-haired, tan-toned, warm-hearted people who insist, “you eat, eat!” as we gather around tables piled high with adobo and crispy pata, lumpia and torta, halo halo and leche flan for dessert, rice steamed in banana leaves. A culture as distinct and unique as it is all-encompassing and overflowing with generosity. A culture that runs through my blood and skin and memory, mingled now in the bloodline of my own children, with their fondness for chicken nuggets and pulvoron.

A culture that links me to my parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins.

A colorful, timeless culture rich in history, so very rich in flavor. A culture centered around family, tradition, hospitality and good food. A culture that seeps from my pores and gathers you in.

Welcome to the Philippines.

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The T in T-Town Doesn’t Stand for Tornado

Growing up in Alabama, the line was clear: Auburn or Alabama?

I was an Auburn girl, stepping foot on Alabama’s campus a whopping one time for a Foreign Language Convention when I was in junior high. I didn’t pay attention to where I was going on campus, just excited that this kid was strolling around on enemy territory and that the Dark Side had cute college boys.

So I don’t know if the few places I once trod upon have been reduced to rubble.

Image from KXAN.com

 But many, many of my friends spent years attending school there, a few are still in the area, and I can only imagine what it would be like to see the home of your alma mater flattened by an titan of a storm.

Image from srh.noaa.gov

Please, if you have a minute, send up a prayer for the tens of thousands of people affected by the destruction, and for the many more whose hearts are hurting for one of the cities that is the pulse of my home state.

If you want to do more, you can text REDCROSS to 90999 to automatically donate $10 to Disaster Relief, or you can call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or visit their website: www.redcross.org.

It ain’t as pretty as Kate in a white dress, but it’s still happening, even though the Royal Couple has already said, “I Do.”

People are suffering all around the world, but this time it hits close to home. Literally, and figuratively.

Alabama Friends : Please post any comments/thoughts about Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama below, since I don’t have any of my own.

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