2014 Goals Update: Winding Down the Year

Posted by on Oct 20, 2014 in Goals | 1 comment

goalsIn the beginning of the year, I let you in on my three goals for 2014.

The first–and absolute most important–was to be a better Erin, of which I’ve done an excellent job. I wanted to be a better version of myself. I never wanted to change who I was, just continue being a person who lived her life with intention and in the present: so far, so good.

I had two secondary goals. The first was to walk 150 miles before year-end, and the second was to write 150 small things by the end of the year. Both seemed impossible at the time. While I haven’t yet completed either of my secondary goals, I’m pleased with my progress.

So far this year, I’ve walked 50.73 intentional miles. I know there were a few additional treadmill or nature walks that didn’t get logged, but it doesn’t count if you don’t write it down! Obviously, I’ve walked much more throughout my days and life activities, but at this point I’ve logged 50.73 miles. Is that perfect? Far from it, but as of October, I’ve met my goal 1/3 of the way, and I’m very pleased. I still have a little more than two months to log more steps, and I plan on going at full force until 2015.

The funny thing about my secondary goals is that when I chose them, I thought walking 150 miles would be much easier to attain than writing 150 small things. Yes, I promise I have a degree in writing, but sometimes self-doubt can really prove impossible to move through. I’m shocked, but so happy to announce that my writing count is much higher than my walking count. Thanks in large part to my job and my literary journal, my “short writing” count is up to 101 as of today! Beautiful, no? There is a very good chance that I will meet my goal and possibly even beat it before the end of the year

Just being so close to my writing goal motivates me to work harder at my walking goal. If I can come this far in my writing (which felt impossible at the time I made this goal), I can easily increase my steps.

How are you doing with your resolutions this year?

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Currently in October

Posted by on Oct 15, 2014 in Monthly Observations | 3 comments

08d10ac8eec23614ab42c128403714fbReading: Researching for work and editing for Spry Literary Journal.

Listening: Still listening to audiobooks. It’s going to make me bankrupt, but I enjoy books during my commute.

Excited: that we finished the ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners) series over at Spry. I’m also super excited to see issue #5 coming together. It should be ready before this time next month.

Watching:  Well, I’m all caught up with Walking Dead. I’m almost caught up with Blacklist, and I’m trying to get caught up with Hell On Wheels.

Wearing: my boots. I don’t think I’ll still be wearing flip flops at the end of the month.

Wishing: for more hours in the day or quicker writing habits.

Drinking: Pumpkin coffee. Yes, I’m one of those people. One of the very few things I enjoy about this time of the year is pumpkin flavoring, and I LOVE pumpkin coffee. I’m trying not to waste money on coffee, but I still treat myself to one about once a week.

Loving: my husband.

Loathing: the extra weight I’ve packed on in the past few months. It’s not a huge amount, but being a short kid, five extra pounds feels like a lot. I just want to feel more comfortable in my clothes.

Admiring: my lovely, beautiful, pregnant friends.

Check out: JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune, July, August, September

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Praiano Writers & Why Studying With Lary Bloom Is the Best Idea

Posted by on Oct 7, 2014 in Reading & Writing | 0 comments

What are you doing March 22-28, 2015?

via Praiano Writers

via Praiano Writers

If you love writing, and you have no plans for that time period, I can tell you exactly what you will be doing. You’ll be attending Praiano Writers, a cross-genre writing experience lead by the great Lary Bloom, Suzanne Levine, and Roya Hakakian.

If you’re still reading this, I’m confused. I honestly expected you to click right over and leave this page to learn more about the wonders of studying under some of the greatest mentors of all time.

How else can I convince you that this is an opportunity you don’t want to miss? Well, as a former student of Lary Bloom, I can attest that he is a phenomenal instructor. He is patient, yet pushes you. He is kind, yet direct. He is motivating, persistent, and cares so much about you as a person, writer, and student.

I can say with all honesty that Lary Bloom changed my life. Having him as a mentor was exactly what I needed when I needed it, without even knowing I needed something. He had an insight to my writing that I wasn’t even aware of at the time. In fact, I think that may be the biggest lesson he taught me: how to be aware of the undercurrents in my own writing.

I was once writing about what it was like to have autoimmune issues. The overall theme of the essay was: are you allowed to be sick if other’s didn’t give you permission to be sick? Often if others can’t see physical symptoms of an illness, it is dismissed by the people around you. Lary was shocked to find out my parents hadn’t found their way into my essay. “Why would my parents be in an essay about my autoimmune issues?” I asked him. “Erin,” he practically shouted (but didn’t, as Lary is not prone to yell at his students), “Your father is a psychologist and your mother is a nurse. There has to be something there when you relate it to an illness others cannot see!” While the story never became about my parents, including information about the people close to me and other influences in my life took the essay to a much deeper, different place it started.

All I can say is that I am sincerely grateful for the time I studied under Lary Bloom. Now, I haven’t studied under Suzanne or Roya, though I have heard wonderful things about them both. That and I know Lary, a great judge of character, makes company with people he admires.

I hope you’ll take my suggestion seriously and consider attending Praiano Writers in March 2015.

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My Life at 30 + 1 Month

Posted by on Oct 5, 2014 in My Life at 30 | 3 comments

Erin OllilaI’ve officially been 30-years-old for one full month now.

September was a wonderful month. Life is less about getting ready for back-to-school time, and has now settled into a nice comfortable routine. Wolverine has adjusted real well to his new school. He even got an award for the month of September – the Best Foot Forward award. We are super proud of him, but in all honesty, I’m proud of him all the time.

Speaking of Wolverine and awards, he won a baseball award at the baseball banquet as well. He was chosen as the MVP of his minor league team this past year. Because his coach didn’t make it to the banquet, the league president spoke a little on why he thinks Wolverine deserves the award and recognition. It was such a nice impromptu speech, and he spoke so highly about Wolverine, calling him a “golden glove” and then another coach called him “the future of the park.” How incredible is that to hear?  Like I said before, I’m proud of him all of the time, but it is so wonderful to hear other people talk so highly of your child.

So yeah, basically, I’m very proud of Wolverine, and still – of course – so grateful that he is in my life.

I’m still so happy to be a wife. Marriage suits me well. There isn’t a day that goes by, even the days when Mr. O drives me crazy, that I’m not beyond grateful to be married to that man. He is so great in so many ways. His birthday was last month as well, and Wolverine and I tried to spoil him for his birthday weekend. I’d say we succeeded.

Now that I’ve mentioned the obvious, I wonder how to sum up the first full month of being 30. Normal and full of change at the same time. Normal in that this past month was quite routine: work, school, home stuff, fall ball, and dates with my husband. It was also full of change: working from home a couple of days a week (awesome), changing bank accounts, the fall weather finally settling in. I guess I could say things feel different in some moments, but overall, everything is the same in a very nice, calm way.

Yesterday  I organized my closets and drawers, throwing some items away and donating others. It is so wild to see how much you accumulate over time that you never use or wear. My goal for the month is to continue cleaning, organizing, tossing, donating, and being mindful about what I own. One example – I turned all of the hangers backward in my closet. My goal a month or so ago was to wear more of the clothing I own, but honestly, I wasn’t doing good keeping that in mind when I got dressed in the morning. Usually I’m rushed when I’m changing and I grab the first item of clothing I see. By turning my hangers backwards, I’ll be able to see what clothes have gone unworn, because after I’ve worn and washed something, if I decide to keep the item, it gets hung back up in the closet normally. If at the end of the year, there are still backward hangers, I’m going to donate the unworn clothing, unless it is something that I do in fact need and will wear, but not something I wear regularly, like a blazer. If I need to get dressed up for work, I’ll wear one, but I can’t imagine I do more than a few times a year. Heck, maybe I should wear a blazer more often!

I have a lot to organize in our storage. We were so fortunate to receive so many wonderful gifts at our wedding shower, and I have so much from my old apartment just stuck upstairs. It desperately needs to be organized.

The first month in my thirties was wonderful. I’m looking forward to the continued organization month two brings. I hope October is full of treats for my little family.



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Currently in September

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Monthly Observations | 6 comments

ceb687ebc711fc850509de359daa4b3aReading: Spry Literary Journal submissions and only Spry Literary Journal submissions. Our reading period closes after 9/30, which means we are getting an influx of submissions. So much great writing is coming through the submissions manager, and I couldn’t be happier.

Listening: to books on CDs while I drive to work. Currently I’m listening to Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. I only own two audiobooks (which I’ve already listened to during graduate school), so I need to purchase more. I really like listening to them during my commute. Does anyone have any suggestions on where I can purchase cheap audiobooks? I don’t want to break the bank, but I would like some new ones.

Excited: that so many people I know are getting pregnant. I love babies.

Watching: Blacklist. We are on the 3rd episode of Season 1, but I’m really enjoying it so far.

Wearing: Still holding on strong to my flip flops. I’ll probably keep them until the end of October if possible, but I just love flip flop season.

Wishing: For a few extra hours of sleep or down time every day.

Drinking: Sangria. Coffee. Water. Cranberry and grape juice.

Loving: that I finally finished and mailed out my wedding thank you cards.

Loathing: All the noises from the construction at work lately. I try to be patient, because obviously they are working too, but it can get loud.

Admiring: Wolverine. He just won MVP of his Minor League baseball team, and they said a little speech about why he won. I’m so very proud.

Check out: JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune, July, August

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The Writing Process Blog Tour

Posted by on Sep 13, 2014 in Reading & Writing | 1 comment

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 5.47.34 PMI love brunch. Everything about the combination of breakfast and lunch just feels so right to me. But besides the meal, there is another brunch I love – the It’s Just Brunch Blog. The awesome creators of this writing website are three of my graduate school peers I really admire. All three were recently tagged by Sonya Huber, a nonfiction extraordinaire, to complete the Writing Process blog tour. Zac then tagged me to be the next stop, and if Zac tells you to do something, you just do it.


What are you working on?
I’m working on writing essays. Not a collection of essays, but just one essay at a time (though I’m working on many of them).
For so long after I graduated, I stressed about publishing a collection or a memoir. I knew my thesis wasn’t ready to send to an agent or editor, but I was honestly just tired of working on it, so I stopped. Do you know what happened at that point? I didn’t write anything – at all.
It’s very easy to be a writer who doesn’t write. Have you ever tried it? You do a lot of thinking about writing. You do a lot of looking at blank pages. You do a lot of thinking about things you could write (if you were to write which you obviously aren’t doing). It’s even easier to not write when you’re the editor of a literary journal. You’re involved in writing. You’re curating a journal! You’re editing the work of other writers! This must mean it’s okay to not be writing, right? Wrong. It means you dry up (and by “you” of course I mean me). You won’t know where or how or when to start again. You’ll feel hopeless – like a failure. Until you try again, and you must always try again. It’s hard to wake the muse up, but once she has risen you’ll develop a rhythm again. This is all to say: I’m going easy on myself. Instead of all the pressure, I’m just focusing on enjoying the process of writing, and man, I like it this way so much more.


How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not sure it completely differs from the rest of the genre, but something I do well is writing an honest, self-deprecating narrator.


Why do you write what you do?

I’m not sure. I write stories that I feel are important to me. I think it is important to understand your perspective when writing. When I started graduate school, my perspective was much different than it is now. I was single then. I worked two jobs seven days a week, easily working almost 70 hours a week, spending little time with my friends and family. I was trying to absorb as much as I could of my schoolwork. Now, I’m a stepmom, a wife, an editor. My views have changed over time. Can I write now about how I felt when I was 24? Of course I can. But I think there is something important about writing in the present. Writing about what is real to you in the moment has some power. I’m trying to harness what is real to me now – in the moment – and see if it is publishable. If it isn’t, I keep it in a folder for a while, and maybe it will be worthy in the future…maybe not.


How does your writing process work?
I wish I could say I have a consistent process right now. My writing consists of jotting down notes or memories when they come to me. Once an idea emerges, I spend some time crafting the story. What am I trying to do in this story? Who is my audience? Why is this story important? Is it important? As much as I wish it were different, I live by the “shitty first draft.”
Man, I have written some bad stuff, but I just can’t stop. This usually means I overwrite. I write so much junk, and I’m stuck cutting a lot of what I’ve written. I hate that. Tossing words seems so wrong. much of what I’ve written isn’t working, which I understand. A lot of writing essays is just playing with the words. Once you find the combination that works is when the story is complete.

 Now I tag: Allie Marini Batts

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My Life at 30

Posted by on Sep 5, 2014 in Birthdays, Uncategorized | 3 comments

Photo on 9-5-14 at 1.41 PMToday I woke up in a new decade of my life.

I barely recognize the Erin of one year ago. I have a new name, a new job, a husband, and a stepson.

And I am so grateful.

I started this year with the intention to be better Erin. I’m really proud of how I’ve grown in 2014, and how I’ve experienced life. Even though I’ve barely written much this year, I’ve been thinking about how to be more intentional here, and have decided to post “who I am” once a month.

On 30: Day One
Wolverine is back to school and playing fall ball, so our little family is getting used to the change in routine. Earlier bedtimes, new school, completing homework… I love this season of starting fresh.

Work is still great. I’m learning more and writing more. Some days are easy, some days are a struggle, but I’m developing a routine and that feels good. I feel so fortune to work with coworkers that I enjoy spending my time with. They surprised me with an ice cream cake and balloons on my birthday. It just feels nice to be part of a team.

I love my husband. We’re just shy of three months of marriage. He’s the best.

The weather is already getting cooler. I love the weather, but I’m already dreading the winter.

I’m so excited about pumpkin coffee and my cold brew coffee maker.

Spry is awesome as always. That journal rocks my world. We are reading submissions until the end of the month and then we will curate our fifth issue.

What I’m looking forward to in the first full month of my thirties: Wolverine’s baseball banquet. Finalizing Spry’s next issue. Fall ball. Mr. O’s birthday. Trying to bargain-shop for Christmas presents early. Buying baby shower gifts for my best friend. Getting more efficient at work. Pumpkin coffee. Keeping my fingers crossed that the traffic eases up at work.

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Currently in August

Posted by on Aug 15, 2014 in Monthly Observations | 2 comments

Reading: 6ba44ef01d9750cfb0177c86580b1b40Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

Listening: to my old iPod and the super cool music I had on there.

Excited: for my upcoming 30th birthday

Watching: Tosh.0 season 2 on Amazon.

Wearing: I forgot that last month I was giving my clothes one last chance. I’m going to start that again now!

Wishing: I hope the weather stays like this for a very long time. The sun is warm, but the breeze is cool. I have no interest in winter, but I do love this weather.

Drinking: Trying to get even more water in my system every day.

Loving: my husband, Mr. O. He is such a stud.

Loathing: Disagreements. I try to live a very conflict-free life, so it is tough to have some things be unsettled.

Admiring: My coworkers. I feel so fortunate to work with such incredible people. Check us out here.

Check out: JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune, July

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Losing My Last Name

Posted by on Jul 20, 2014 in The Hooray Collective, Weddings & Special Events | 6 comments

This post “Losing My Last Name” originally appeared on May 22, 2014 at The Hooray Collective. Go over there to see the incredible work they are doing.


In 23 days I am getting married.

The next time you hear from me, I will go by a different name. While my first and middle name will remain the same, my last name will have changed. I’ll have a new driver’s license (with brown hair, not blonde like my current license) and a new last name. Once I become Mrs. O, I’ll now fall in the middle of the alphabet, and I’ll have to listen for a new name to be called when I pick up prescriptions.

And I consider this a very beautiful thing.

I’m looking forward to sharing a last name with the man I love. I look forward to sharing my step-son’s last name with him as well.

But yet…

I’ll miss my last name.

I’ll miss the connection it gives me to my parents and my brothers and my nieces and nephews. I’ll miss the connection it gives me to my grandmother and grandfather who are no longer with us. I recognize myself as Miss C. Soon, I won’t be her any longer.

I’ve always wanted to change my last name when I got married so that I’d share a name with my husband. So this was an easy decision for me. I just didn’t expect to feel so nostalgic about my current last name. I toyed with keeping it as a middle name, but what would I do with my current middle name? In the end, I chose to just switch last names, and say goodbye to my maiden name.

I can’t be the only person who has experienced this nostalgia before. How did you all feel when you changed your name?

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