Big Families by Ellie Ann Soderstrom

No holds barred. No rules. It’s Friday, so we don’t have to stay on topic. We can talk about whatever we want today. We can even just make it up as we go along, which is what fiction writers do anyhow. Today we have a guest blog by Ellie Ann Soderstrom, one of my favorite writers.

Why Every Writer Should Come From A Big Family



  1. Distractions

When you have eleven people in one house doing eleven different things at the same time—you have to learn how to tune out distractions. If you wandered off after every distraction there was around you, you’d never get anything done.

There was a constant stream of games starting, non-stop conversations going on, and a steady battery of chores to do. Plus, all of my siblings learned an instrument, which means that piano, violin, or bagpipe practice was basically always going on in the background.

As a writer, you need to be able to tune out distractions if you want to get your work done. That’s why I suggest that if you want to be a writer you should come from a big family.

2. Fast thinking Fast Talking

When the whole family sat down at the dinner table you had to act quick if you wanted to a.) get seconds of mashed potatoes b.) say something during a break in conversation. Since there were seven talkative, opinionated, crazy girls in the house, there was rarely a break in the conversation. But you learned how to formulate ideas and words in your head as you “listened” to the others around you and once they took a breath, you’d say your piece. If you didn’t have your words ready, no one waited for you to formulate them.

This has really helped me as a writer. I almost always have something to say about something, even if I don’t know very much about that something. If there’s a break in the conversation, I can talk. So as I’m writing, it’s taught me to write through empty pages, it’s taught me to be able to articulate what’s going on in my brain, and it taught me how to do it quickly. So once again, I urge you writer, to try to be born into a big family.

  1. Chores

Oh my word. The Chores. I must capitalize Chores because they’re their own giant entity in my childhood memories. When my siblings were still infants, we did 4 loads of laundry every day. If you were on dishes duty, you cleaned at least 44 eating utensils after every meal, not counting cooking utensils. We lived on a farm and had during the course of my childhood 2 horses, 2 heifers, dozen chickens, 6 peacocks, 2 dogs, packs of farm cats, snake, lizard, cockatiel, beta fish, and a naked mole rat which all had to be fed and watered. We had a huge yard that needed mowed. And we had a ginormous vegetable garden that we tilled, fertilized, planted, weeded, mulched, harvested, and then canned/froze the vegetables every year. There was always a Chore to be done whether you wanted to or not.

Just like writing, there are things to be done whether you want to or not. Don’t like writing the synopsis? Too bad. You have to write it. Hate waking up early but that’s the only time you have to write? Suck it up. Wake up early because that’s the only way you’ll finish your book. Putting off writing those query letters? Just do it. It won’t get any easier the longer you wait. Chores helped prepare me to do things daily that I don’t like doing. Over and over and over again. So I suggest that every writer should come from a family that gives lots of Chores.

  1. Personalities.

I woke up and spent every day with ten other living, growing personalities. Everyone reacts to bad test scores differently. They treat their pets differently. They enjoy different weather, different days of the week, different styles, different food, even sat in chairs differently. Though we’d been raised in the same environment and had many of the same mannerisms, we were each so different. I got to compare personalities. I saw individuals.

When you start to see people as being quite different from each other, yet part of the same whole, you start to see character. Once you start to see character, you’ll be able to write character (with a lot of practice). That’s why I suggest to all of you writerlings try to come from a big family.



About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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24 Responses to Big Families by Ellie Ann Soderstrom

  1. Bahahaha. Peacocks and cat packs. Having seen the farm, I’m laughing at the mental pictures over and again. Nice comparison, sis.

    As usual, I’m in a library, so people are staring.


  2. educlaytion says:

    So cool Ellie. Great guest to have for sure David. Some perspective are too unique for any old person to have. Ellie brings the good every time.


  3. Jenna says:

    I am the youngest of eight children – so obviously I didn’t start writing until I was in my forties. Ha ha.


  4. J H says:

    I am publishing an unauthorized biography about Ellie. It’s called “Little Hut in the Rain Forest”. I was going to ask permission and interview Elli but I realized that her answers might not support my colorful “facts” and fascinating story line. I am trusting that you will all read it and that you will take special pleasure in finally knowing where in Thailand Jimmy Hoffa is buried.


    • Be careful, JH. Farm girls usually know how to handle guns. Oh, well, as sweet and Ellie is, she probably wouldn’t shoot you over an unauthorized biography.


    • EllieAnn says:

      haha! unauthorized, colorful facts and fascinating storyline about my life?! I’m IN. And I’ll hire a litigation lawyer and make public announcements about how horrified I am by the lies, but just know that it’s all for show…so you can sell more copies. lol.


  5. DM says:

    Great blog. I only had a twin brother who was never around. It left me lots of alone time for creativity, writing and reading. I can’t imagine how to survive in a big family.


    • My daughter was an only child until she was nine. Then her mother and stepfather had another child and soon after his two daughters came to live with them. I think she was a bit overwhelmed by that change. Thanks for your comment, Max.


  6. Piper Bayard says:

    I was not fortunate enough to come from a big family. I wanted to give my kids one, but as the parent, it’s a whole different deal. Two are all I can handle.

    You should write about Little Ellie in the Big Family. You could be on the prairie, in the big woods, . . . Oh, wait. Why is that sounding familiar? . . . Still, they do say write what you know, and this one’s a slam dunk for you.

    Thanks for hosting one of my favorites, David.


  7. Thanks for hosting Ellie, David. I adore her and had no idea she came from such a big family! I only have one sibling and he’s 12 years older than I am so it was like I was an only child growing up. My cousins played the roles of younger brothers and sisters, and we still have wonderful relationships today.


  8. Piper Bayard says:

    Count me in on that, as well. Any time, anywhere, Ellie is awesome.


  9. Barb Estinson says:

    Very neat blog. David, I’m trying to figure out where that picture was taken. Wish I could enlarge it more. Can you give me a clue?


  10. Interesting thoughts and catchy writing. Enjoyed this blog.


  11. I totally agree with you, Amber. I love everything she writes, too.


  12. EllieAnn says:

    Thanks so much for having me here, David!


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