Writers On Writing: Christine, The Uncorked Librarian

While beautiful things can happen on the internet, more often than not it seems like we’re all just re-living the worst of high school — bullying, trolls, and endless negativity. So when you end up making a connection with a genuinely nice, cool human who you wish you could meet up for fancy appetizers and lots of wine on a regular basis, you, of course, feature that person on your blog.

Big waving hand emoji to Christine of The Uncorked Librarian.

Not only has she featured my thoughts in her inspirational books for writers post AND wrote up this review of my book New Wave — she introduced me to Kathy of Tasty Itinerary and led the charge in promoting the hell out of us with gorgeous flat lays and a super fun giveaway. (Yay women supporting women!)

And that’s a lot of awesomeness even without getting into her own killer travel, boozy, and literary content she shares on her blog, which, by the way, totally kicks ass. (And so does she! You’ll figure this out for yourself by the end of this post. I promise.)

While “cutting the cord” is something that most people are doing for cable, I have also been reading a lot lately about people who kind of “cut the 9-to-5.” Can you talk a little bit about what made you go from a full-time librarian (which you even got a master’s degree to do!) to pivoting into becoming The Uncorked Librarian?

Did you ever just wake up one day, look in the mirror, and think: What the f’ am I doing with my life? Who is this pointy nosed brunette looking back at me, and where is her place in the world? I wanted it to be everywhere.

I decided to stop living a life that didn’t feel like it was for me. Yes, I loved being a public teen librarian and converting the Patterson-obsessed elderly to YA fiction lovers. But once again, surrounded by words and writing, I knew that I needed to find a place of my own amongst them. I gave my two-weeks notice and never looked back.

For now, that writing world is the familiar: blogging. I wish I knew back when I lived in Indonesia that you could actually make money from blogging. I would have beat many of these absolutely amazing younger millennial girl bosses to the scene. Now I find myself learning from them — and gratefully. Travel writing, book blogging, and helping others blog for business are my passions spewed on the screen and pinned all over chicky Pinterest. The internet and modern technology have helped bring dreams once conceived into reality.

 

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So how have things changed for you since you switched gears? Is it a different pressure in creating and social networking now that it helps drive your income?

Although I hope to one day publish a book, blogging and running The Uncorked Librarian LLC are my priorities for the next few years. I truly believe that when you quit your 9-to-5 job, you go all in with everything you have.

With that risk comes reward, late nights, and at times, empty pockets. Even though I write with passion and interest, I have to keep my audience in mind and heart. My posts and content on all of my social media channels have to speak to my readers. Nothing is just for me. I believe in keeping my voice — the core of who I am — but to say that I don’t gear content toward specific consumers would be a lie. I will always be a boozy book and travel blogger — that will never change. I drop an f’ bomb here and there, am long-winded, and am probably rated PG only for Pinot Grigio. The rest is creative process mixed with blogging etiquette and rules.

Blog writing is defined as trying to find the balance of personal and passionate writing for a niche audience. Successful bloggers are those who know their readers and create community and buy in to, well, you. Once your audience is hooked, you work together to create posts and meaning. I am still working on the call to action component.

On occasion, SEO (Yoast hates writers, I swear), the perfect images, shorter sentences, and seasonal content that I am bored with but know will sell completely obliterate my creative process. Momma needs to maintain that wine fund and her kitties need dinner. When that happens, writing becomes more like sucking up a paper for graduate school. You just do it knowing that demanded content allows you more creative freedom in the long run.

Talking about your creative freedom and creativity, what’s the setting that helps drive it?

When the writing process starts, I need silence. Right now, my pork chop of a cat is snoring. The inconsistency of breathing is driving me insane. Can someone get her some nose spray, please?! I need focus, coffee, and blissful quiet. I will take this serenity anywhere I can find it. Anywhere.

When I need to write, it’s usually late at night when I should be sleeping in bed or while I am in the shower. Brilliance comes and then it washes away before I can jot it down on paper. Funny how that works.

I travel with a notebook or at least my cellphone notepad open, and I’m learning to carry paper and pen at all times. I am most inspired when I am traveling. The sights, sounds, and sips are memorizing and get my senses going. Did you ever watch Under the Tuscan Sun? Frances hears those church bells dinging and sets pen to postcard. That’s me.

I love that movie! Funny enough, sometimes I’ll randomly think of the phrase “it even smells purple” and laugh to myself a little bit. I think that seeing that movie at a young age and learning about other writers helped me become one myself. Is it the same for you?

From the moment I could read, I never wanted to stop. I fell in love with sweet childhood staples like Eastman’s Are You My Mother? and Little Golden Books like The Poky Little Puppy and The Three Billy Goats Gruff. By the time I reached first grade—the world of Pippi Longstocking—and could pick up a pencil, I began dreaming up my own stories. By age six, I emulated Bill Peet, Marc Brown, Mercer Mayer, and Stan and Jan Berenstain.

Inspired, my grandmother and I would sit together and write and write and write. On a classic yellow notepad borrowed from my dad’s work, I crafted my first illustrated “chapter book” about Moe the Mouse and his wife Alyssa. Did I mention Alyssa was my best friend at the time? I’m pretty sure that I had my anthropomorphic rodents living the American dream with a house, kids, and profitable jobs. I loved dreaming and world building for Moe.

My grandma kept my writing passion alive through her lyrical notes and sarcastically humorous rhyming cards. I mimicked her style and practiced writing poems on the typewriter at my mom’s office after school. Many of these treasured works are kept safely in a memory box in my closet.

Writing and words live on far past their creators, and it is their meaning, nostalgia, longevity, power, and lessons that motivate and impassion this uncorked lady. A long time ago, I ended my high school speech in honor of Moe and my grandma, promising a life of fulfillment with no regrets. However, even though I shouted to the world in that very moment of adulthood that I would become a writer, I didn’t. I just didn’t.

After college, I worked in urban schools, community centers, and the public library. I never once picked up a pen for the public or even myself. I once chronicled my year as a U.S. Fulbright teacher in Indonesia on a blog called Chris di [in] Indonesia, where my readers and fellow colleagues prodded me to write a book. I never did. Call it fear? The desperate need for health insurance? Societal pressures? Stability? Time? I’m not even sure.

I know you will someday! I will definitely pre-order the moment you’re ready to have it up for pre-order. Even now, seeing your content and the way you incorporate humor into your writing now with TUL, it’s all lovely. What would you suggest to someone who is afraid to try something like you’ve created?

For those who need the nudge — I still think I need a push sometimes — I don’t think there is anything that I can say to make someone step out of the box or take that initial step. Nothing worked for me. Wanting to write, blog, or pursue a creative passion that isn’t the typical 9-to-5 is an adventure that just hit me: A build-up of not being fulfilled, aging, tiring of fear and self-doubt, watching friends die, and realizing that this is MY life. This is MY gift. This is MY time. Do what makes you happy, and go for it.

I love that. Last question for you: What’s your favorite story you’ve told through writing.

As a blogger, I don’t have a favorite story but instead, a collection of stories. Every time I travel, I build this repertoire of memories:

  • It’s writing snippets for social media about comparing my wine in Positano to my garish red manicure as John Stamos casually sneaks by in the alleyway.
  • It’s tripping in the Mayan ruins of Tikal in Guatemala and finding myself with the worst of luck for years.
  • It’s meeting Wayan from Eat, Pray, Love. She insists that I will have three children late in life (gosh help me).
  • It’s almost having a donkey chuck me off a cliff on our honeymoon in Santorini or watching a Christian bus hang off our mom-and-pop ferry in Nicaragua as men fling themselves on top to hold it steady.
  • It’s the story of my life that I am writing for myself as we speak.

My favorite story is the one yet to be written and the collection of every experience that has made me who I am and where I hope to go.

Christine is a world traveler, book lover, freelance writer, and creator of The Uncorked Librarian. Learn more about her here and keep up with the latest by following her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.