The beautiful Ashley Brown Allen, Ringleader of Big Top Family Circus (otherwise known as “the other Ashley”) caught up with me at the Blog U 2014 Conference. “Inquiring minds want to know,” she pressed. And so, in between blog school, retro proms, and rubbing elbows with some of the hottest bloggers in the biz, we sat down with a coffee in one hand and a glass of pinot noir in the other to get to know me a little better.
AA: What are you working on right now?
MM: Well, I outed myself as a writer this past winter when I started working on a YA fantasy story. In fact, I had started it about 7 years ago when my children were small. I had just finished “The Deathly Hallows,” and I was so sad that the Harry Potter series was over, that I became inspired to try to write my own work of fiction. I had two different story ideas, actually, but they both got put aside as Motherhood and my eventual medical problems demanded more of me. When I dusted off one of the ideas and got to work several months ago, I decided to take it seriously and joined the Romance Writers Association. I have been able to take some online workshops through the RWA, and improve my fiction writing skills. It’s harder than it seems! But in March, in the middle of some heavy medical issues, I was feeling frustrated that I was not making a bigger impact on the hypermobile community. With the encouragement and support of my physical therapist, I decided to start a blog and a Facebook fan page in order to share what I have learned from being a patient and a Mom of two little patients.
AA: So, how does your work differ from others of its genre?
MM: My blog and fan page aren’t just a place where I write about hypermobility. Yes, I weave that information in, but I try to make the message of every post as Universal as possible. I am a parent, and my two children are the focus of a lot of my posts because they are my “rubber ducks.” I am leading them on this healing journey. But I know that many of my readers either do not have a connective tissue disorder, or are not parents. My page has a little something for everyone. I am really goofy: I love comedy, and love to make people laugh. I love haikus, and I often write them in reaction to frustrating things that happen to me. I have found that some written work by people with medical problems can come across as whiny or preachy, and that is not my goal. I’d rather entertain people, and then when they are not looking, slip in the information.
AA: Why do you write what you write?
MM: One of the reasons I started writing a blog, is because it’s a great outlet for humor. I rely a lot on my sense of humor to survive what has been a very stressful and difficult part of my life. It has helped me cope, and I think it’s helping my children cope as well. I have been struggling with finding answers for over 30 years, and I have been exposed to more doctors, specialists, and therapy than you can imagine. First and foremost, I want to alert people to the signs and symptoms of hypermobility so that they know they have it. It is really hard to recognize and diagnose, and a lot of people are suffering without knowing why. Second, I want to inform them of what they can do to reverse the injury they have sustained and prevent future injury. But I have been on the receiving end of countless pamphlets and medical articles, and they are sooo depressing and dry. I want people to laugh and learn. I want them to walk in my shoes for a while, so they understand that I understand them. I want people who don’t have connective tissue problems to still want to read my blog because it is funny and inspiring, and in doing so, they will learn about Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and help recognize the problem in friends and family. It can be really hard to make people change their behavior. I should know: I was a nurse for ten years. People don’t always want to look at ways they can make themselves healthier. But through my fan page and blog, we are developing a long-term relationship, and maybe this will inspire them to think about things differently.
AA: Who are some other bloggers that you admire right now?
MM: Besides you? Here are three blogs that I love:
Awkwardly Alive and Pleasantly Peculiar: Emelie Samuelson is a bookseller and humor blogger. She spends most of her time indulging in nerdy things like Harry Potter, Doctor Who, and Battlestar Galactica. She has a strong addiction to coffee and Netflix, which she used to think was a problem, but then she saw an episode of Breaking Bad and felt better about her life and her choices. Her priorities are sometimes skewed. Here are two of her posts: http://awkwardlyaliveandpleasantlypeculiar.com/problem-i-dont-have-a-problem/