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by Hedgebrook Guest

When Katie first approached me to write a piece I didn’t know what to say.

I recently moved to Los Angeles from my hometown of Seattle. Besides going on tour with fellow poet and friend Mary Lambert for two months, I haven’t lived anywhere but Seattle. But last year, after a really rough summer, I moved. Packed my car and drove to LA.

So here’s the thing.

I am in the middle of my 25th year here on Earth and I am unsure about a lot of things in my life. Like am I doing it right? And what am I actually doing? What I am going to eat? Where I am going to get next month’s rent? But in spite of all that doubt, whenever someone asks me, “What do you do?” I say, without hesitation, “I’m a writer.”

That phrase has never stumbled, stuttered, or even flinched whenever it had a chance to leap out of the gate of my mouth. It has always been there, waiting, ready to go. The younger Rose might have said she was a poet, a goofball, a full-time smart ass or an aspiring actress, but that was all just a complicated way of saying a that the younger Rose was a writer. My mother jokes that I was writing way before I knew how to spell. Honestly; that hasn’t changed much. My spelling is still painfully bad because of a fare form of dyslexia but really. There are days when I think that the main difference between now and then is that I’m taller.

I was a writer when I was failing AP Language Arts in high school. I was a writer when I was an underpaid personal assistant, an overconfident diner waitress, an overworked sales associate, and an unemployed stoner’s girlfriend. Whenever people asked me what I did for a living, I’ve said, “I write.” To be more precise, I write to live.

You could say that I was stretching the truth or spinning a lie all those years, doing my best Olivia Pope impression. Or worse, that I’ve taken the question too “literally.” Fine. But the truth is, I’ve always been good at telling stories. Whether it was a tall tale I once told my dad that my imaginary friend Swan ate all the expensive mint chocolate chocolates (to this day I haven’t forgiven Swan for doing that and leaving me to take the blame), or the time I told that cop a wild labyrinthine tale about being dumped as my excuse for not seeing that STOP sign. Instead of giving me a ticket but he gave me his son’s phone number.

So what makes anyone a writer? Yes, technically it’s someone who uses innate and acquired skills and techniques to communicate ideas using the written word. Cool. Yes, this is the point in this essay where I should to get all writers-workshop meta about everything but I never went to college so I wouldn’t know meta from feta. So, for real what is a writer? First of all, being published has nothing to do with it. Being published means you’ve cast a wider net for a bigger audience. Maybe the New Yorker editors haven’t published your facebook status in the magazine. Fine. But the New Yorker has also published a fair amount of horse crap; doesn’t make them framers. When someone asks you that annoying question, “Have I read any of your work?” instead of getting mad, just smile and say “Not unless you’ve stolen my journal. But if you’d like to, let me send you something.” Bam! You have a reader.

I hate bananas. A lot. Something I hate more than bananas are people who try to “define” the differences between “a writer and people who write.” Get the fuck outta here! (Sorry Katie! I don’t know if the Hedgebrook blog allows cussing) But come on! That right there is so meta it’s existential. So existential it’s democratic. It’s jumbo shrimp. It makes no sense to me.

I am pretty sure Oscar Wilde would still be Oscar Wilde even if the only people reading his work were his friends. Yes, there are some people out there only doing it for the fame. That’s cool. Do you. I am saying this the best way I can which is by writing it out. I am also saying this because I had the honor and privilege of going to Hedgebrook and bonding with these amazingly talented women who all were either embarrassed or hesitated to say they were writers. While I was just some girl named Rose from Seattle. Here telling you I am a writer. Part poet, part writer but still only a half-wit. You don’t need an Oscar to be an actor. Don’t need a Grammy to be a singer. And don’t need a restaurant to be a chef.

So. Tell me, what is it that you do? Me, I walk the type rope.


About the Author:

Rose McAleese HeadshotRose McAleese is a Seattle native who currently for unknown reasons is living in Los Angeles. She is the author of the book of poetry “Strong. Female. Character.” and more recently has become the newest contributor writers for online blog FRANK151. Rose describes herself as being part poet, part comedian but still only a half-wit.







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Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

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About Hedgebrook Guest


  • Suzanne Kelman
    12:04 PM - 26 March, 2015

    Great post Rose, I loved learning more about your journey. I am also dyslexia so totally understand that struggle. I use software to read back to me everything I write because I can’t see the mistakes. It can be quite entertaining sometimes 😛 Keep moving forward girl you are a delight to everyone who meets you and a wonderful writer….I’m still giggling at “I didn’t know meta from feta” ….nor do I 🙂

    • Rose McAleese
      12:10 PM - 26 March, 2015

      Suzanne! You should be very well aware that I am a huge, Huge, HUGE fan of yours. Thank you for your kind words and support. xo

  • Jackie Shannon Hollis
    7:23 PM - 26 March, 2015

    What a wonderful post. I love your voice. And just today someone asked me what I do. I’m pleased to say, “I am a writer.”

  • Saira Khan
    8:46 AM - 7 April, 2015

    Oh Rose, the vagaries of youth and ambition. May you find manifestation of your talents!

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