Memoirist of the Month, January 2014: John Roedel

“SMITH has been a wonderful outlet to share my highs and lows…I publish more Sixes when I’m not afraid. When I don’t allow self-doubt to steer my ship.”

Name: John Roedel
Place: Cheyenne, Wyoming
SMITH member since: January, 2012noah n dad

JohnBigJohn joined Six Words just after the New Year of 2012, which makes this New Year a fitting time to feature his Six-Word Memoirs: 600+ and growing. With his humor about faith (“I must be God’s favorite sitcom.”) and his witticisms (“Stuck in mental traffic. Abandoning car.”), John’s memoirs show us how being funny has served him well through the best and worst of times. Join us in congratulating John as our first Memoirist of the Month for 2014, which includes props and a T-shirt with the Six-Word Memoir of his choice from Spreadshirt. Learn more about John’s story as he answers our six questions.

How did you first hear about Six-Word Memoirs and is there someone’s writing on SMITH that’s especially moved you?
I saw an article about SMITH in Writer’s Digest a couple of years ago and thought I would check it out.  I was swept away immediately by the talent, wisdom, heart, and wit of the contributors. I spent a few weeks just reading everyone else’s memoirs before I had the guts to scribe my own.

Yes, I am a SMITH stalker. I spend a lot more time reading other Sixes than writing my own. I won’t bore you with my huge list of SMITH writers that I’m addicted to, but DynamicDbytheC has particularly moved me over the past year. Her writing has been raw, brave, heartbreaking, and ultimately inspirational. Her Sixes seep with life’s joy and pain. Her courage and love have stirred me. She is an absolute gift to this writing community.

When did you start writing, and what have been turning points in your creative life?
I started writing in fourth grade because I had a crush on a curly-haired girl named Stacy. One of my sources informed me Stacy loved stories about horses. I scrawled out an epic tale (two whole pages!) about a horse named “Dusty Brown Coat” who wanted to escape the confines of his ranch. I don’t recall the details, except that Dusty was eaten by a hungry wolf. It was a cautionary “grass is always greener” story sure to win Stacy’s heart. Turns out she hated it. Apparently, Stacy wasn’t ready for my graphic demise of Dusty Brown Coat. After that failed attempt of writing to woo the ladies, I continued writing because I really wasn’t good at anything else.

God must’ve decided it would be funny if I was born into an extremely right-brained family. My dad was a pharmacist, my mom was a strict elementary school teacher, and my older brother was a math savant who now works at Microsoft. I struggled in school for many years (to the horror of  my academically-minded family), but I connected to writing—it was the sole thing I did well. Writing gave me a voice and a thin sense of purpose. I’m not sure how I would have survived my teen years without putting pen to paper.

These days I write for my own mental health (“Writing is cheaper than a therapist.”). I write to discover who I am. I write to rid my heart of emotional toxins that accumulate. Writing is the only thing I feel truly connected to—I probably spend at least an hour a day writing and I keep almost all of that for myself. Just like that awkward teen, I’m still writing to give myself a voice and a sense of purpose.

You’ve written extensively about parenting a son with autism. Can you share a favorite Six-Word Memoir, Moment or other backstory of yours on SMITH; tell us why it’s meaningful to you and what spurs your creative bursts?
My son, Noah, was diagnosed with autism eleven years ago. It has been a transformative experience. It melted me down into a puddle of who I was and reformed me into somebody completely different. (“His Autism broke and rebuilt me.”)

I often believed I was the worst possible person to father a child living with autism. A perfectly terrible combination of egotism, cowardice, and emotional frailty. Witnessing Noah’s brave journey has changed the entire way I view life. While I will never forgive autism for the wall it has placed between my son and the rest of the world (“Sometimes he only screams for company.”), I will never forget the lessons it has taught me (“Autism declared war. I declared love.”).

SMITH has been a wonderful outlet to share my highs and lows—my writing about Noah’s autism is uncalculated and straight from my heart. Some are penned from moments of joy and hope; others are formed from heartbreak and grief. A Six that sticks with me was one of my more hopeless moments in 2012. I allowed the riptide of sorrow to pull me under and I wept at my laptop as I wrote: “Autism coils. I’m prying my best.” (Ed. note: John’s backstories are as compelling as his Six Worders, take a moment to click and read this one).

I publish more Sixes when I’m not afraid. When I don’t allow self-doubt to steer my ship. I’ve deleted more Sixes than I have actually written. When I press the “publish” button it is always a victory against my snide inner critic. SMITH is packed full of amazing writers that there are days when it’s easy to feel like I can’t keep up with the genius on the feed.

What authors inspire you or do you admire?
I’m inspired by anybody who writes from a place of honesty. My tastes are pretty wide in variety I admire the sharp wit of David Sedaris and I love the heart of Maya Angelou. I don’t want a writer to try and impress me…I want them to make me feel something. I’m also a huge fan of Steve Martin. I would like to find a way to be adopted by him.

When you’re not writing,  how do you spend your time and what do you enjoy doing?
For years in rodeo-loving Cheyenne, I managed our family’s drug store that opened in 1889. It closed a few years ago and I’ve since spent my time being an unshaven stay-at-home dad, writing, performing improv comedy, and trying to figure out who the heck I am. I enjoy teaching improv. Cooking. Singing. Trying to be a good father and husband. Looking for miracles. (“Joy and hope are kissing cousins.”)

Finally, what are your Six Words for today?
Almost 40. Almost time for plaid.


24 Comments » for Memoirist of the Month, January 2014: John Roedel
  1. Kharis says:

    Congratulations on feature- was great to read more about you. Beautiful photo of Noah and yourself. Wishing you every happiness and success for your family and writing.

  2. DynamicDbytheC says:

    “my writing about Noah’s autism is uncalculated and straight from my heart.” My writing about James was uncalculated and straight from my heart as well. You inspire me and it is an honor to have you enjoy my memoirs. My memoirs saved my emotional life. I never deleted any of them because I had no choice but to release the toxins as you brilliantly stated. I would have loved to see each and EVERY memoir you have written.

  3. BanjoDan says:

    John, many thanks for sharing your memoirs with us and congrats on the improv comedy!

  4. LetTheWolfin says:

    John/JBJ, what a pleasure to read more about one of my favourite and most inspiring memoirists here. Thank you for your courage and honesty. Your words often strike a chord with me (musical pun intended!) and the way you’ve written about battling depression (a familiar tale) and just the business of getting through life sometimes is packed with humour and humanity in equal measure. Keep writing, we are all listening keenly. Btw, your son is the image of you (and it’s not just the glasses). This is an adorable photo! Bet you are a much better dad than you give yourself credit for.

  5. catsmeow says:

    Yours is the pith and wit I can’t keep up with here. You’ve been among my favorites since you hit the gate running. Keep em coming!

  6. Mindfest says:

    Love the photo, (your son is so like you) and love your honesty.
    Congratulations John, and now I’m inspired to go read some of your sixes.

  7. notjustagirl says:

    A hearty and well deserved congratulations to a guy who never disappoints, but is often pointed and usually poignant, sometimes in the same six :D Thank you for sharing your enormous gift, six words at a time.

  8. Coleen says:

    Congratulations! Your words are some of my most favorite.
    Nice to meet you!

  9. DynamicDbytheC says:

    You will look snappy in plaid. Nice to know you. You always make me smile.

  10. John Roedel says:

    Thanks guys!!! This was extremely humbling.

  11. RachelinWyo says:

    You prove that laughter can be the best medicine. Congrats on this well deserved recognition. It is a great honor to be your friend.

  12. Lindsey Ruby says:

    One of the best writers here!

  13. Dean says:

    JBJ, Every time I read something of yours, I feel like you’re just a good friend whom I haven’t had the honor of meeting in person. This well-deserved feature is no exception. Thank you for being so forthright in your writing; you provide a good example for us all.

    May this year be one of blessings and joy for you and your family.

  14. Believe says:

    Love your words.

  15. Mark Horan says:

    Congratulations John!

  16. sharry aarneon says:

    I never knew that that certain spot you picked in our cafe would be where some of the most inspiring and splendidly written words would be born:) What a great honor for you.Congratulations, John!

  17. Don Hajicek says:

    Kudos, John! It’s nice to know you after all these years. :)

  18. AT says:

    Love everything about your story, especially your proposed adoptive father.

  19. JAD says:

    Congrats! John, When you write, your words fit like a jigsaw puzzle.,

  20. Loon says:

    Your wit is palpable. Now I see why.

  21. JL333 says:

    JBJ…This is a wonderful insight to get to know you just a little better. I’ve always enjoyed your memoirs, but I especially enjoy when you write memoirs about your autistic son. Thanks for giving is a glimpse into your world. Cheers!

  22. Solstice22 says:

    What a great way to start out the year!, reading your nice interview here! My favorite thing about you, besides your amazingly poignant, and often funny, writing is that you live in Wyoming! As a little girl, I was often sick in bed, and a US puzzle map was my entertainment. That state always intrigued me for some reason!

    Happy New Year to you and your beautiful family.

  23. L2l3 says:

    All the text in the world can’t beat that photo;-D Congrats on making it to the ultimate feature. Love your writing, especially the backstories.

  24. canadafreeze says:

    Congratulations, JBJ. Your memoirs sometimes break my heart, often make me smile, and occasionally I giggle out loud, but they always touch me with your tenderness and thoughtful words. May 2014 bring you much joy.

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