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By Jessica Wiantfirstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK - If life is, indeed, a journey, then Woodstock resident Lisa Mikitarian might say the stops along the way are sometimes a little more connected than we realize.
For one thing, Mikitarian's first book, due out at the end of August, plays heavily on that theme. Titled "Her Safari: Snapshots Along the Way," each short story in the collection features a different female, ranging in ages from 5 to 86, on a journey, Mikitarian said
In the title story, the main character is literally on a safari, according to Mikitarian, but so are all the rest of the women featured in her book, even if theirs are more figurative.
One, for example, goes no farther than a few steps in a checkout line, she said. But all the women are at a juncture in their lives, though some are more important than others.
"The journey, the safari, varies," she said.
This is actually one reason why short stories are Mikitarian's favorite platform for writing in general.
"I really like the short story as an art form in and of itself," she said. "It focuses on pivotal points in life without a lot of fluff."
For the 33 stories in her book, the typical length is between 1,000 and 3,000 words, she said.
For years a member of the Army and National Guard, Mikitarian later resigned to focus more on parenthood.
She began writing again, after liking to write journals as a child, when she started up a homeschooling newsletter.
As a hobby or side effort, Mikitarian had been writing at different points doing freelance sports stories for The Northern Virginia Daily and devotionals for Christian websites.
When the small Christian women's publishing company DemmeHouse, for which she's done some articles, accepted her proposal for publishing a collection of short stories, Mikitarian said, she was shocked.
But she was also put to work.
The publisher wanted her to have a blog, she explained.
She knew right away she didn't want to do a typical diary-like blog where she writes about what is going on with her own life.
"I am my least favorite subject," she said. "Seriously."
So, she came up with the idea of having
others write in with questions. She found an image of a phone she liked and started calling it "Connecting Now," with the tagline "offbeat advice for everyday coNUNdrums."
The blog has taken off, but didn't have much to do with the book, until, Mikitarian said, she realized it did.
She said the characters in her book navigate through their conflicts with creativity, discernment and a "touch of mischief."
Eventually she realized that is exactly the kind of advice she found herself giving on the blog.
She's even gained a co-author along the way.
Mikitarian's daughter, Madeline, 24, of Winchester, filled in for her mother on the blog once while she was away at a writer's conference.
Readers liked her so much she became a regular, and before they knew it, the mother-daughter duo had earned a nickname -- the "MikChiks."
Together, they answer questions about everything from shaving to relationships. Some are completely ridiculous, and others are really sad, they explained.
They don't really claim to have all the answers, the younger Mikitarian said. Readers often give their own input on the questions, and sometimes just the act of asking the question gives the writer the answer they are looking for.
The pair try to publish an entry on the blog three times a week, each contributing here and there, often finishing each other's thoughts.
Mother and daughter seem pretty inseparable in general, but especially with their writing.
"We're just really in sync as writers," the elder Mikitarian said.
It does add up. Mikitarian home-schooled her daughter and two other children.
"I would correct her papers with the red pen of death," Mikitarian joked.
They share a list of favorite books and authors including "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens, "To Kill A Mockingbird," by Harper Lee, and works by J.D. Salinger, John Updike and Margaret Atwood.
The two are even working on a novel together.
"We're always into something," the younger Mikitarian said.
"She's going to argue with me but she is actually a better writer than I am," her mother said.
In a promotional video for the book, Mikitarian explains the plot, interspersed with scenes of other women, set to a background score of dramatic piano and birds chirping.
The subject matter of "Her Safari" -- women of different ages, each on a different journey -- may sound heavy, especially coming from a Christian publisher, but spending any time with Mikitarian and her daughter, or on their blog, it becomes clear there's plenty to laugh about in their work as well.
The stories in Mikitarian's book range from "tragic to, I hope, the very humorous," she said.
One character, for example, "flirts shamelessly" with her doctor while under the influence of percocet, she explained.
Whether funny or reflective, for Mikitarian it comes down to a love of hearing different experiences.
"I really love listening to people's stories," she said. "It's cliche, but everybody has a story."
Mikitarian said the book will be available at various local retailers including Guiding Light Christian Books, where there will be a signing. There will be a reception at Lord Fairfax Community College on Sept. 15.
The book is set to come out at the end of the month, but preorders and more information are available through Mikitarian's Connecting Now blog site, at www.lisamikitarian.com.