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Archive for November, 2005

As soon as Andi Buchanan posted on her blog that she was looking for bloggers to host her upcoming virtual book tour, I knew I wanted to participate. It wasn’t just the excitement at the chance to attract more readers; nor was it the desire to make connections with more professional mother-writers. What I wanted most of all was to get inside the heads of other mothers who had sons.

I love having a son. I always was a tomboy; quite frequently, my brain seems to work more like a boy’s than a girl’s, with the consequence that most of my best friends have been men, and I’ve never really “gotten” the female-friend dynamic – except, of course, with other women whose brains are wired like mine. That’s why I was surprised and elated to find out, at 20 weeks, that I was having a son. It wasn’t that I’d thought he was a girl from the beginning, but that I’d been so sure all my life that I would have a daughter first. Like my mother, I was a firstborn girl. I think it was because my relationship with her, and her relationship with her mother, were not the best, that I felt so apprehensive about having a firstborn daughter.

I found it interesting, then, that the mothers who wrote for IT’S A BOY had the opposite conundrum: some wanted girls, and ended up with boys. Even more interesting, however, was finding out that I had more in common with them beyond that point.

Andi herself, in “It’s a Boy!” wondered if her relationship with her son could possibly be that much different from that with her daughter. Loving boys, she considers, might be considered easier because we keep no secrets from them about what their lives will be like; women’s lives, at least in our generation, are more divided, our choices more likely to lead to either… or than both… and.

Marrit Ingman and Kate Staples both write about finding a common ground between their sons’ interests and their own. “A passing glance at a neighbor’s lawnmower,” writes Ingman in “Exile in Boyville,” “would send [her son] into car seat paroxysms,” while Staples’ son, in “Reading to My Son,” traded his interest in more “classic” infant literature for a passionate love affair with truck books. Ingman soon realized that the parent-child dynamic is as much about personality as any other relationship; she calls it “the dance of separation, the give-and-take of two loving people struggling to stand beside one another come what may.” Staples gladly accepted that it was the book, not the subject matter, transporting her son into other worlds not unlike the ones she had inhabited as a reading child.

Jennifer Lauck and Karen E. Bender write about potential futures I worry about nearly every day. Lauck’s “It Takes a Village” explores a frightening incident with her son, two older neighborhood boys, a knife, and the shifting boundary between what a parent can control and what she can trust others to take care of. Bender’s “The Bully’s Mother” describes teaching her son to use his words instead of his body to express his feelings – a particularly profound story for me, a mother whose son is not yet talking.

I am grateful that Andi chose to include stories of loss in this book. Jennifer Margulis and Susan Ito both write eloquently and poignantly about their very different losses; Jodi Picoult writes of her post-9/11 loss of ability to provide a certain innocence to her child. Picoult’s essay “Scaredy-Cat,” in fact, reminded me of an email exchange I had following my miscarriage. I had asked a friend how I could best comfort my son, who sensed something was very wrong. She responded: “His worst fear is that you will go away and not come back. You need to play games like hide-and-seek with him… reinforce that he and Mommy will always find each other.” I told her I would hate to make a promise like that and then have it not come true. She didn’t respond. Picoult did, though, with an uncomfortable truth about mothering: sometimes a lie is necessary for reassurance.

Andi Buchanan has edited a collection of essays that will resonate with mothers of boys. Many of us have asked ourselves the gender questions – Are girls “better” than boys to parent? Are boys “better” than girls? These essays go there, and further, because they explore mothers’ deepest desires, fears, and joys in parenting.

Contributors: Stephany Aulenback, Karen Bender, Kathryn Black, Robin Bradford, Gayle Brandeis, Faulkner Fox, Katie Allison Granju, Ona Gritz, Gwendolen Gross, Melanie Lynn Hauser, Marrit Ingman, Susan Ito, Suzanne Kamata, Katie Kaput, Jennifer Lauck, Caroline Leavitt, Jody Mace, Jennifer Margulis, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Catherine Newman, Sue O’Doherty, Marjorie Osterhout, Jamie Pearson, Lisa Peet, Jodi Picoult, Maura Rhodes, Rochelle Shapiro, Kate Staples, and Marion Winik.

Links:

Read IT’S A BOY’s introduction.
Read a Q&A about the book.
Read Andi’s blog – and link to all the other bloggers who have helped her tour, including some of the contributing authors!

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I’m very pleased to present my first author interview! Meet Melanie Lynne Hauser, author of the recently released CONFESSIONS OF SUPER MOM (what, you thought I made that title up?). Melanie was gracious enough to answer my questions about her experience starting a writing career in the midst of her mothering career:

Q: How old were your sons when you first started writing? If you had it to do over again, do you think you would’ve started your career when they were younger?

A: My boys were about 8 & 10, I think. Once they were in school full time – I was fortunate enough to be a SAHM [stay-at-home mom] – I was a crazy volunteer parent, for a couple of years. I’d jumped into the PTA thing feet first, becoming PTA President only my 2nd year of involvement. And that was quite enough! It was insane, really – honest to goodness, the end of my year as president I was hospitalized, suffering a severe allergic reaction to something; we never figured out what it was. And it’s never happened again! I can only blame it on the stress of that horrible year. So then I had a lot of time on my hands! Writing had always been in the back of my mind – a lot of ideas had, actually – but I confess. I was a total chicken. I NEVER had the courage to try anything as self-involving, requiring so much discipline as writing while my children were underfoot. Maybe I’m less disciplined than others; maybe I can’t multi-task as well.

But I don’t regret it. Now that my book is published, our lives have changed so much. I’m home far less than I used to be, and when I am home, I have real deadlines now, not just self-imposed ones. And I’m not sure we could have handled this – my husband travels a lot for work – if my children weren’t old enough to pretty much take care of themselves, at least for short amounts of time. For example, I was just away from home for 11 days. That was hard! But it would have been unthinkable had it happened even two years ago.

Q: Initially, what were your sons’ reactions? Your husband’s?

A: Well, here’s a story. Once, in the midst of my years of rejection – which were fewer than a lot of writers’, although it didn’t seem so at the time! – I went to my younger son’s school open house. And I discovered a poem he had written:

MY MOM’S NAME IS MELANIE.
SHE WRITES LOTS OF BOOKS BUT SHE CAN’T SELL ANY.

Ouch – that stung! So for a while, my sons – and my husband – were mainly my support group. My younger son even gave me his lucky rabbit’s foot (which he took back immediately upon CONFESSIONS OF SUPER MOM selling). But now they’re proud. In a quiet boys’ way. But they tell their friends, their teachers, that their mom’s a published novelist. And I’m happy that they see me in this other role – someone other than the mom who cooks and cleans and keeps the family running smoothly. I never wanted them to think that’s the only role women have, even if it was the one I initially chose.

I also want them to know, as they’re growing into young men, that life offers many opportunities. What you choose to be when your twenty isn’t necessarily what you’ll end up being when you’re forty. You have options, and you’re never too old to change your mind and test your wings.

Q: You were, as you say on your website, in training to become Super Mom. How did you make time for writing, much less all the research that went with it?

A: I told myself early on that if I didn’t take my writing seriously, how could I expect anyone else to? So I definitely dropped out of a lot of things I had been involved with – mostly school activities. Writing is an isolated activity, and for me I do have to really have my head involved with whatever story I’m working on, 24/7, which means I’m not a very social creature when I’m in the throes of a novel. Sometimes I regret this – I definitely have missed some opportunities for closer friendships. But that’s just the way this life is, or at least, it’s the way my life is. And as far as research – well, I’m a firm believer in not letting the truth get in the way of a good story. The beauty of fiction is you get to make everything up. So I do very little research.

Q: Many women are content being (or trying to be!) Super Mom. Why did you decide to find a career now rather than wait until your children left home?

A: I knew that whenever I started writing, I would have a lot of years before I actually had a “career.” If I were ever so lucky to get to that point! And I’m not there yet – maybe I’ll feel that I do have a career once I have several published books under my belt. But until then, I feel that it could all end in a heartbeat. Anyway, I knew I wouldn’t open up a Word Document on my computer one day, and the next discover myself on the brink of publishing success. That’s why I started when I did – knowing that it would take years to get to the point where I am, even – let alone more successful. And that’s exactly what happened.

Q: What was your biggest challenge in embarking on a writing career? What were your husband’s and kids’ biggest challenges in same?

A: The biggest challenge for me, and also my family, was perservering in the face of rejection. It’s a fact of publishing. You WILL be rejected. Many times. Even after you reach certain milestones that you think, initially, mean you’ve arrived – getting an agent, selling a book. There are so many opportunities to curl up in a fetal position, battered by all the vagaries that determine just about everything concerning publication. Finding a way to keep going – keep writing that next book, no matter what’s happening to the book you’ve just finished – is the biggest challenge. I honestly can say that I don’t think I would be where I am without the unflailing support and enthusiasm of my husband – and my agent, too.

Q: Now that you are successfully published, how has family life changed for you?

A: The house is far less organized than it used to be! And I’ve learned to let go of some of the little things that I used to obsess about. The boys are old enough to get their homework done without me nagging them all the time, and if they don’t, they’re old enough to accept the consequences. (Not that that has happened; they’re very responsible!) But the house is less “mine,” and more everyone’s, and I think that’s probably a healthier thing, in the long run.

Q: Any tips you’d like to share with those of us who mother and write with equal zeal?

A: Well, learn to let go of some things. Whether it’s volunteering, or clean toilets, or starched shirts. You can’t do it all. And make sure you involve your family, and by that I mean – take your work seriously. Expect THEM to take it seriously. Set limits – learn to say no. That last is actually the most important – learning to say no, whether it’s to the neighbor who wants you to watch her kid at the last minute, or the PTA room mother who needs one more volunteer for the holiday party, or to your son who insists no one in the world can launder his sheets as well as you!

Again – if you don’t take your writing seriously, how can you expect anyone else to?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Former member of the PTA, Melanie Lynne Hauser is a prototypical uper Mom. CONFESSIONS OF SUPER MOM is her first novel, and she is a contributor, along ith Jodi Picoult, Jacqueline Mitchard, Jennifer Lauck and Marion Winik, to the anthology It’s a Boy (November 2005, Seal Press). She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two teenage sons. Visit her website at http://www.melanielynnehauser.com/

ABOUT THE BOOK: For every harried mother who dreams of cleaning with the power of 10,000 Swiffers, putting her children into Super Time Outs with just a flick of her Merciless Gaze, and employing a little Super Eavesdropping when the occasion warrants, CONFESSIONS OF SUPER MOM is a must-read. Filled with romance, intrigue, humor and a colorful cast of characters, this delightful new novel introduces a superhero for the Swiffer generation.

Birdie Lee is an average hard-working single mother of two teenagers, PTA lackey, and mild- mannered grocery clerk at the local Marvel Fine Foods and Beverages. One morning, while getting ready for work, Birdie is sidetracked by a stubborn Stain of Unusual Origin on her bathroom floor. Unable to let the stain get the best of her, she tries to annihilate it with every household product she can find – to no avail. Angry, hot, light-headed (and forgetting to turn on the exhaust fan), she makes one final desperate attempt to eradicate this vile, dastardly stain: she loads her Swiffer Wet Jet with every household cleanser she owns, aims, and fires….

And passes out, overcome by the fumes. After regaining consciousness (and reminding herself to scrub the bottom of the toilet since from her perspective — flat on her back — it was looking a little dingy), Birdie realizes something’s amiss. Her ears begin to buzz and her senses are aquiver. Eventually, aided by Martin, her geeky thirteen-year-old son and trusty sidekick, Birdie understands that she now possesses extraordinary powers — superpowers, to be exact. Birdie soon learns, however, that, to quote Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility, and she finds herself struggling to balance a new onslaught of challenges, both at home and in her community. While trying to keep her distant 15-year-old daughter’s heart from being broken (something not even a superhero can do), and dealing with her smug ex-husband and his over-achieving new wife, she must manage her job, PTA responsibilities and a budding romance– all the while trying to rescue her beloved town of Astro Park from an evil force that threatens its children.

So forget those chores— pick up CONFESSIONS OF SUPER MOM and relish in a much-deserved escape. This charming novel will keep readers glued to the page as they cheer for Super Mom to root out injustice and surrender herself to love. Readers everywhere will find themselves in its pages and rejoice in finding a book that celebrates their overlooked everyday acts of heroism.

PRAISE FOR CONFESSIONS OF SUPER MOM:

“Like its title character, this debut novel has a secret identity…it’s unexpectedly poignant and packs an emotional punch despite the cheery veneer… at the heart of this story is a narrative about a lonely, wronged woman who just wants to do right by her children and stand up to an uncontrollable world. Hauser slips in soliloquies on motherhood and womanhood that, though brief, are moving, showing us Birdie Lee’s heart and in that, the wishes and dreams of super moms everywhere. “- Publishers Weekly

“This silly but fun twist on the superhero tale comes packaged with a socially responsible message about consumerism, but it doesn’t get in the way of the high jinks.” – Booklist

“Looking for something TOTALLY different than all the restof the books on the shelves? This is the perfect escape using romance, laugh out loud moments, and super powers that every woman would secretly admit to wanting!” – Madison McGraw, ChicksDigBooks.com

Who needs the speeding bullets, locomotives, and tall buildings – with wit, humor and some sage motherly advice, Melanie Lynne Hauser finally gives readers a true hero for our time – Super Mom.” – Jennifer O’Connell, author of Dress Rehearsal and Bachelorette #1

“Confessions of Super Mom is a delightful read. Smart, zany, and touching, it is the perfect remedy for overwhelmed mothers everywhere.” – Karen Quinn, Author of The Ivy Chronicles

“Forget the laundry, forget the dishes. Escape into the world of Super Mom for a few hours…you’ll be glad you did. Melanie Lynne Hauser’s quirky characters sparkle brightly as a newly Swiffered floor, and her writing shines like freshly polished glass.” – Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries and Every Boy’s Got One

“Never has there been a more appealingly down-to-earth heroine or a superhero with more enviable powers. Moms everywhere will wish they could be like the Super Mom of Melanie Lynne Hauser’s charming, funny, and heartfelt novel. . . .and will ultimately realize they already are.” – Pamela Redmond Satran, author of Babes in Captivity

CHOSEN AS A LITERARY GUILD NOVEMBER SELECTION

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Getting back to normal

My deepest gratitude goes to all who responded in the last few weeks, both via private email and comments. It was so helpful to know your thoughts and prayers and empathy were with me.

I’ve spent the last few weeks readjusting my beliefs and expectations. I took a lot for granted, and also found opportunities to fill in some missing spots in my life: a craving for good friends, a wish that I was better at son-bonding. Somehow, the work-life balance has become easier since I miscarried. I’m not yet sure why.

I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I’m not very good at grieving. I’ve found over the years that I have to move forward, put losses into the context of my life instead of dwelling on them and on myself. I’ve spent these last few weeks doing just that: taking on more work, doing more with my son, and, in a signal that I am indeed returning to “normal,” worrying about all the things I haven’t been able to get to. Updating this blog, for one thing (that includes the promised author interviews), my website, and various other business-related issues. Not to mention the housework.

More coming soon (I hope). I just wanted to update. Many more thanks to you all!

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