It's strange to think that Michele (Chely) Roach hasn't even been a FaithWriters member for one year. It seems as if she's been around much longer. Chely quickly moved up in the Writing Challenge, her very first entry winning 1st place in the Beginner level. She jumped onto the forums and made herself right at home – on the boards and in our hearts. She's become a great friend to many. Join interviewer, Lynda Schab, as she talks with Chely about her writing and what it's like to be the mother of twins.
LYNDA SCHAB: Tell us a little about yourself.
CHELY ROACH: On paper, I am quite boring. I was born and raised in St. Louis, though I have lived all over the metro area. My husband, Jerry, and I have finally settled in to our own home with our twin two-year old girls and several fur-faces. For the past fifteen years, Jerry and I have together owned and operated a cleaning service; until five weeks before the girls were born we worked as a team every day. For the first year after their birth, I stayed at home with the girls, playing the part of a very sleep deprived dairy cow. It was wonderful. Ah, but life happened, and my husband's arthritis began to spread ruthlessly, so I took over the cleaning schedule while he received the daily blessing of chasing toddlers and biohazard diapers.
Before the babies, I spent my Saturdays volunteering as a peer counselor at Thrive (http://thrivestlouis.org) - one of St. Louis' Christian based Pregnancy Resource Centers. Despite the overwhelming awareness of the spiritual warfare that takes place daily there, I have never felt more utilized by God (with the exception of nursing twins; I achieved my God ordained potential as a woman with that one). Beyond the handful of tiny lives that He used me to spare, I loved having the opportunity to gently evangelize to several women every week. I am really looking forward to the time when I can fully immerse myself into that ministry again.
Besides my family, I absolutely love my coffee, chocolate and Jacuzzi tub. I can face the brutal winter months ahead knowing I have those three things.
LYNDA: I have to say, I'm a little bit jealous. According to your profile, you're married to a saint. What's that like?
CHELY: It's so funny that you mentioned that quote…it was only a few weeks ago that Jerry saw that line and pleaded, "You have to take that off."
I refused. Not only is he my guy, he was Christ's ambassador to me before I truly knew Christ. Jerry came into our relationship born again, but I was at best a nominal Christian, even when we wed eleven years ago. His "sainthood" is his daily testimony and forgiveness. I wholeheartedly believe transparency and sincere forgiveness is the secret to a healthy marriage.
LYNDA: While we're on the subject of family, let's talk about your twins. In what ways is it more challenging and more rewarding than you imagined it would be?
CHELY: I call it blissful torture. Almost everything is more challenging than I could've fathomed, and heaven knows the sleepless nights I spent while I was pregnant, speculating about how hard it was going to be. The pregnancy itself was relatively smooth, though I spent two weeks in the hospital for preterm labor. (Side story: I missed one of my baby showers while in the hospital, and saint Jerry went in my place. The first gifts he opened were nursing shields and cream…at that point, almost every man I know would've bolted. Instead, he held it up for pictures, and then proceeded to use all the tissue paper to build himself a bosom and pregnant belly under his shirt. I don't think I was even missed; it was the shower of the century.)
LYNDA: ROFL! I would love to see those pictures! Okay…back to the question. What's it like being the mother of twins?
CHELY: I would like to take this opportunity to dispel a myth…twins are NOT two for the price of one, I promise you. It's more like two for the price (and stretch marks) of four. I wish I were kidding.
Once they were home from the hospital, it was excruciatingly difficult. I have never attempted to function with that little sleep. The first four months are a blur and I rarely left the house. I got a maximum of four hours sleep per day, in one hour increments. The first time they slept through their 2 am feeding, I wept through the 5 am feeding in sheer gratitude to God. Five consecutive hours of sleep felt like twenty.
An everyday challenge is that going anywhere requires two days of planning and list making, and we are still usually late. This has been a big blow to my type A personality, but at the same time it has stretched me. I have adapted into a more organized mentality, but yet I allow myself to be a bit more laid back. It has been a gift to acknowledge that neither I— nor my family—are perfect, and that sometimes, something's got to give. Usually, that something is my unrealistic expectations.
Now that they are toddlers, we have typical toddler issues…squared. Biting, teething, fighting, whining (in stereo), and the Olympic event of getting them dressed, are all things that are trying my patience lately. And of course, when you have more than one child, trying to give them each the attention they need can be difficult. Hooray for Mommy guilt.
With all that being said, the blessings of twins are immense. For as much work as they are, it's awesome that they have someone—at their exact level—to play with. Not only are Jerry and I benefactors of this, but they are so blessed to have each other. In the morning I adore listening to them giggle and squeal in their cribs (which are zip tied together). It melts my heart to watch them hold hands and pray, feed each other, and give hugs and kisses. I pray that they will nurture their bond as they grow, and not resent the constant attachment to another person. I also pray for full scholarships.
LYNDA: Let's talk about your writing. Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
CHELY: No, but I sure wish I could. If I wasn't so tired, I'd go rooting through the boxes in the basement to try and find some crayon creations. I had a wild imagination as a child, and loved to scribble out stories that read more like Mad Libs than See Spot Run. I do recall that in fourth grade a small group of us assembled a creative writing club, and collectively we dreamt up and wrote horror stories. Later, in high school, I was an editor for the poetry section of the literary magazine, which makes me blush to this very moment. I had notebooks full of dreadfully depressing, sappy poems, and I suppose that was my resume. It's quite obvious now that I knew absolute squat about real poetry. If I find that box I'll be very tempted to chuck it into the chimenea.
LYNDA: I can so relate! But, really, what fun would it be if everything we ever wrote was a masterpiece?
So what influenced your decision to pursue writing? And when did you begin to take it more seriously?
CHELY: My family, both biological and by marriage, have encouraged me for years to write more, as had my childhood friend, Chrissy. About fourteen months ago, I saw an ad for writer submissions to a secular site, and submitted several pieces. As of yet, the website still has not launched, and I doubt it will. However, that was the catalyst that launched me out into the cyber/writing world, so I have no regrets.
LYNDA: Who are some of your favorite authors?
CHELY: I have a very short list of authors that command me to rush out and pick up their latest book. Once upon a time, it was Stephen King, but my palate has changed over the years. I have read almost everything by John Grisham, as I now try to hone my writing skills, and I try to glean the lessons within his writing style. One of the best attributes of his books is that usually he throws you right into the middle of the action, and then fills in back story as the chapters proceed. Personally, if I set a book down at the end of chapter one, I will probably never pick it up again. I am amazed at Grisham's ability to write a mainstream, bestselling novel, without overt sensuality or poor language.
A couple of the random books that I have devoured recently and loved are Sheri Reynolds' Rapture of Canaan and The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards.
LYNDA: How did you find FaithWriters?
CHELY: I discovered FaithWriters over at FaithVine, where several FWs dwell occasionally. (FaithWriters member) Rhonda Clark posted an event notice about the FaithWriters 2008 conference. I followed the link and discovered the Writing Challenge on the homepage. I mulled over the judging criteria, and read several winning stories, starting with Mid's Shavings. I was blown away by the talent, and then got the warm fuzzies from the comradery on the boards. As if that wasn't enough to hook me, my first submission won 1st in beginners, and the coveted "bridesmaid" placing of 11th overall. I was sucked into the vortex of FaithWriters.
LYNDA: Ah, yes. I've been a Challenge bridesmaid many times, myself. (Love that term, by the way!) Have you had any work published? If so, where? And what are your writing goals for the future?
CHELY: Besides the yet-to-be-published FaithWriter's anthologies, I have only been published sporadically on the internet, but all have been leads or exposure through FaithWriters.
My testimony, Hard Heart, Hard Pew (http://www.faithwriters.com/article-details.php?id=86928) was printed in the Living Faith section of the Cypress Press. I also had a piece I wrote for my dad (about his dad), The Traveling Stone, published in JournEzine's June issue. I've had a few stories and blog posts picked up and featured by other bloggers which I think is a mighty nice compliment from some of my peers.
Without a doubt, I need to focus more on self-promoting, but honestly, I lack the energy and drive right now. I am guilty of several counts of blog truancy, though I have more ideas than ten people would write. Recently though, our business has lost a crucial client due to the dismal economy; instead of filling that day, I am going to use it to focus on freelance work. I'm also hoping that I can use my time to solicit an agent or publisher for my children's book that I have completed.
In the long run, I'd love to actually purge some of these novel plots out of my brain and into my hard drive, but I can't even potty train my toddlers at this point. Baby steps.
LYNDA: I didn't realize you have a completed children's book. Congratulations! Tell us more about it.
CHELY: My children's book, Robin's Empty Wings, actually materialized in Jan's fable/allegory class. It is about a robin whose nest is blown out of her tree during a storm, resulting in her eggs breaking. The critters that she encounters say hurtful things, even though they are trying to comfort her—in their own way. Robin discovers what true friendship looks like.
This story was born from the aggravation of people's responses after my miscarriage. Someone with whom I am very close, said, "Well, maybe God knew you couldn't handle twins."
And then He gave me another set, which totally proved her wrong, lol.
I heard things like:
At least now you know you can get pregnant.
You can have children later.
And on and on.
I stopped answering the phone after two days. In a lack of knowing what to say, people said too much. The best ministering I received was heartfelt hugs, meals that I barely tasted, and NO nuggets of wisdom. I hope that is the message that is conveyed with this story.
LYNDA: It sounds like a wonderful book! Prayers that you find a publisher.
Switching topics, what do you like to do for fun?
CHELY: Is napping considered fun? I love to nap. That's timeless.
I use to think that an ideal night was dinner out, trolling Vintage Vinyl at the Loop (a notorious used CD store in STL), and a big fat latte for dessert.
Having kids has annihilated any resemblance to "cool" that I ever achieved.
These days my definition of fun is a wagon ride to the park, wax paper covered slides, rinsing sand out of little mouths, and taking a frillion pictures of the girls' dirty faces. (You might actually gag if you saw how many pictures we have taken in two short years.) If you can top that off with a long nap and fresh brewed coffee when I get up, I might be giddy. Seriously, I'm serious.
LYNDA: Finally, if your girls express an interest in writing, what will be your advice to them?
CHELY: I would tell them to read, and then read some more. I think that most people who write well have spent most of their lives reading anything they can get their hands on.
After that, my advice would be to practice their writing through as many venues as possible. In my younger years I kept (and hid) a journal, which in adulthood has turned into several (neglected) blogs. I think that I have grown extensively as a writer since joining FaithWriters, by drawing out the creativity that ultra-short fiction requires. Everyone has a niche, and I would love the chance to help them find theirs.
And if that fails, I'll send them over to Jan's Master Class (http://www.faithwriters.com/Boards/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=67&sid=635c2d8083083cff0aed35bda9aee311)
LYNDA: Great advice! (And a great plug for Jan! LoL). Chely, it's been so fun chatting with you. You're a riot and I would love to meet you in person one day (maybe at the FaithWriters conference next year?) Thanks for taking time out of your busy mother-of-twins schedule to answer my questions. God bless you as you continue on your journey to publication.
To read Chely's work, visit her FaithWriters profile here: http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=33345
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