Sunday, May 13th, 2012
“I show up every morning with my cup of coffee ready to be wowed,” says May’s Member of the Month, John Roedel (JohnBigJohn), of his morning ritual with SMITH Magazine.
Since Roedel began taking his morning joe with a dash of SMITH in January, SMITH readers have likewise been wowed by Roedel, whose contributions most notably include stories about raising his autistic son such as Six-Word Memoir: “Doc said, ‘Autistic. ‘ I replied, ‘Artistic?’” and the My Life So Far piece entitled “Why Do We Kiss?”
“On paper, I am the least-abled father you could ever imagine who is tasked with the responsibility of caring for a child living with a special need,” says Roedel. (“Asshole in mirror is too self-critical” is another Six-Word Memoir of Roedel’s.)
“Make no mistake, watching your child struggle under the weight of autism is a very hard thing to endure,” says Roedel. “Often times when I write about my son Noah ‘s obstacles or hardships, I am writing from a place of heartbreak. Some of my Six-Word Memoirs are born out of absolute raw emotion.”
Recently, Roedel very graciously took a few moments from his busy life as a stay-at-home father of three, freelance writer and frequent burner of pancakes to answer six questions from SMITH.
Name: John Roedel
Town: Cheyenne, Wyoming
SMITH member since: January 6, 2012
We love your contributions since you began submitting them earlier this year. What keeps you coming back to SMITH?
The other writers! SMITH is packed with amazing and talented writers with such an eclectic collection of perspectives and stories. Even though I come from the windy and groundhog world of Wyoming, I feel connected in a very unique way to these other contributors.
I stalked the site (in a non-creepy manner) for a while before I felt like I could try and offer anything that compared to the content I was seeing. I love reading the other authors’ varied perspectives and experiences because it reminds me how large the world can be.
And even though I have only just joined this community recently there are already quite a few memoirists that I have grown to respect and admire. I try and suck up to them whenever I can in hopes that I can learn from them.
How do you come up with your Six-Word Memoirs?
I don’t really have a system that seems to always work. I just take an inventory of what I am thinking about or of how I am feeling at the exact moment that I am going to write something. Whatever thoughts or emotions that are lingering around my conscience will line up and make their case as to why they should be published.
Some days I may write a piece about a delicious truffle I had for dinner the night before, other times I may write about how clowns scare me to the point of bladder release. The one thing I try not to do when coming up with a Six-Word Memoir is to worry about what anyone else will think about it.
Since you write about your family quite a bit, would you tell us a little about them?
I suckered my high school sweetheart Jennifer into marrying me right out of college. Jennifer and I have been married for fourteen years this month. There is no doubt I hit the “Relationship Power-Ball” with her.
Over the past fourteen years, we have created three rompin’, stompin’ boys. Noah is twelve, Riley is nine, and my youngest, Logan, is five going on 45. On their own, each is a sweet little kid who strives to do the right thing. However, when they pool their powers together, they transform into a roving gang of street thugs.
My oldest son, Noah was diagnosed with autism almost ten years ago. This diagnosis transformed the life of our family in every way possible. We are a very tight group because of all that we have been through.
Would you tell us a bit about your writing life?
I’ve been writing for myself for a good chunk of my 37 years of being alive. However, I have the self-esteem of a radish and the thought of having other people run their eyes across anything that I may have penned is something that makes me really nervous.
Even so, I started blogging years ago after my eldest son was diagnosed with autism. I was in a very emotionally bottled-up and dark place in my life. While I felt compelled to scream my feelings and worries to the universe, I did not think that anyone would actually want to spend the time reading my blog. Turns out, I was wrong. I was shocked when a great many people began to follow and comment on my inner and crazed ramblings.
Since those early years of blogging, I have been published in various parenting magazines. I also wrote a chapter in a book about fathers of autistic children. Although being published has been a rewarding experience it is not main the reason why I ever sit down to write anything. Honestly, I write because it is cheaper than having to sit down with a mental health professional.
Are there certain authors that particularly inspire you and why?
I’m drawn to authors who are brutally honest about their experiences, feelings, or own personal failings. They don’t pull punches in order to make the reader like them. They just tell it like it is. It seems like these types of authors are often the funniest as well!
Writers like David Sedaris and Danny Evans are the ones that I look up to. Recently I have moved away from what I usually read, and have finally started to embrace the beauty and wisdom of Maya Angelou.
Finally, John Roedel, what’s your Six-Word Memoir today?
I repeat mistakes to make sure.