“Social media can be really mean. The Six-Word Memoirs community is exactly the opposite—kind, interested and encouraging.”
Name: Janna King
Place: Los Angeles, California
SMITH Member Since: July 2013
Janna King’s entries in our SixContests are crowd favorites. Her Six Words for relieving stress? “Bourbon with a splash of funk.” With nearly 300 memoirs since joining us in 2013 as BigMammaPetunia, her tales of modern day life are forthright (“Life’s chaos has stolen my sleep.”) and often entertaining (“Right text. Wrong recipient. Big trouble.”). Through it all, her love of family (“Lucky my kids made me Mom.”) and words reign supreme (“My writing addiction spawned mental hangover.”) Congratulations to Janna King as our Memoirist of the Month for September 2017. Discover what makes her a go-getter as she answers our Six Questions:
How did you first hear about Six-Word Memoirs?
I was looking for literary communities online and I read an article about Larry Smith. I found @sixwords on Twitter and saw the Sixes and the topics. I love word puzzles, so painting a picture in only six words was enticing to me. But mostly, when I went to the site, I was comforted by the members’ welcoming attitude. Social media can be really mean. The Six-Word Memoirs community is exactly the opposite—kind, interested and encouraging.
I check the site at least twice a week, more depending how much I’m procrastinating with work. I’m always happy when I look. Sixes invite people to connect and we need more of that connection in the world, so I favorite many and write comments because want other Sixers to know I appreciate their thoughts and feelings. As for my own Sixes, they run the gamut. I need to express myself and doing it in a pithy way is an excellent creative exercise. Sometimes I write about big stuff. I’m a new empty nester, so I have much to say about that. I also recently lost my dad, so I wrote a couple Sixes about the heartbreak, and the Six community has been supportive and lovely. Occasionally I throw one off just for fun and some of those have been surprising Editor’s Picks. Any time I receive kudos on the site, I’m thrilled to no end. My Six name, BigMammaPetunia, comes from being a very protective mama bear (much to my kids’ chagrin), and my husband calls me “Petunia” when I say things that are less-than-ladylike, which is often.
When did you start writing and what have been turning points in your creative life?
I started writing at ten when my mom gave me my first journal. I took it to a grassy roundabout in my neighborhood and poured my feelings out on paper. From that day on, I knew that I wanted to be two “things” when I grew up: a mom and a writer. With luck, love and hard work, I attained both dreams. Freelance writing for a living is a gift and a challenge. I’ve been able to do all the daily mom responsibilities, often writing while sitting in the carpool line at school or during their karate classes (“Working mom requirement: Proficiency in juggling.”). The con of freelancing is the constant hustle because it’s gig to gig. I’m always worried that work won’t come after I finish a project. I don’t give myself any time to rest on my laurels (when I have laurels).
I write in many different areas because I need to put food on the table. I tell anyone who wants to be a writer: you can’t always be choosy, and taking a gig in an area you think isn’t for you actually can be very rewarding. Big turning points: getting anything produced or published. Really big turning points: producing passion projects myself. After 20 years of writing, I became the cliché and decided “I want to direct” so I made two short films and put up two plays. Writing is very solitary, so collaborating with other creatives has been amazing. Being part of a team that’s aiming for the same goal is life affirming. My writing career, like any career, has its ups and downs (“Submitting work is like cliff jumping”). Most of all, I am always grateful to work.
Which authors do you enjoy or admire, including writers on Six-Word Memoirs?
I am a fan of biographical and biographically-inspired works: Joan Didion, Augusten Burroughs, Anthony Bourdain… Dear Mr. You by Mary Louis Parker made me laugh and cry (in public on a plane). I enjoy juicy reads like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I also love Shel Silverstein.
I am such a huge fan of the entire Six Words community. Everyone who participates is creatively talented and generous of spirit. I’m moved and entertained by J3nny, jl333, CanadaGoose, canadafreeze, Oh_Skinny, NumbrOneAunt, ADHDean, Ellis_Reyes, Jugggler, Loon, and BanjoDan. NeilSlevin is a beautiful writer and inspired me to consistently “six.”
Can you share a favorite Six-Word Memoir, or other story of yours on SMITH and tell us why it’s meaningful to you?
“I stopped waiting and started doing.” Backstory: At 52, I’ve had the best work year of my life (I just knocked wood 100 times). I have always done my best—putting my nose to the grindstone and gettin’ it done. I’m accommodating and prompt. I’ve persevered, never giving up when I felt like I didn’t have it in me anymore. What has changed that helped me hit a certain stride (knocking wood again)? I stopped waiting. I stopped waiting for other people to help me, say “yes,” give me permission, tell me I’m good, and give me the f#%king keys to my own city. I don’t need the f#%king keys. I am the city. The funny thing is, I need to read this Six over constantly as a self-pep talk.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time and what do you enjoy doing?
I’m born and raised in the City of Angels. For the past two decades, I’ve cobbled together a career as a freelance writer—from TV movies and one-hour dramas to children’s animated television and plays, two kids’ books, and I’m now writing my first novel. I’m also the co-founder of a site for women over 40 called The Broad Life (www.thebroad.life). We cover everything from fashion to relationships to career change, parenting and midlife humor—if you can’t laugh at life by this time, you’re missing the point. I’m always writing! I love hanging out with my family. My kids are now away at college, so my poor husband has had to deal with a weepy wife. He’s an enthusiastic gear-head, so we take drives, long and short. I like to get my butt off my desk chair and work out (I taught aerobics in the days of spandex and legwarmers). Then, I eat cookies, because they are one of the four basic writer food groups: cookies, coffee, cheese, bourbon. And I take a lot of photos of my two rescue dogs.
Finally, Janna King, what are your Six Words for today?
“I write because I can’t not.” How’s that for articulate? Seriously, there have been times when I’ve wanted to give up because writing for a living is tough. But I just can’t help myself.