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Archive for April, 2006

"Excuses," indeed

Joe Konrath recently posted a list of author excuses for why they don’t self-promote. Second on the list? “I have a family/kids/a husband/pets/plants that need my attention.”

Okay, the husband, pets, and plants really are an excuse. Kids… not so much. Not if you parent little ones, anyway.

Those who read Joe’s blog regularly know that his is a rather “my way or the highway” approach, as one of his commenters noted. So, I emailed Joe asking him to clarify for those of us who do have small children. If my novel hypothetically sold this year or next, I asked, would it be fair to expect my children (assuming I have more than one by the time I have to think about promotion) to put up with Mama hitting bookstores, traveling, spending large quantities of time on radio shows, etc.? Or should I wait until they’re both school-age, more independent, and better able to understand that Mama leaves sometimes for a few nights, but still loves them very much?

Joe’s response? I’m still waiting. I don’t know if he even has kids, but I suspect it doesn’t matter much if he does; after all, he’s got a wife to care for them while he writes and promotes. Same with Stephen King, whose wife, Tabitha, wrote several novels while taking care of their three littles. Granted, she probably doesn’t need to wonder where her career would be if she hadn’t been a mother; she’s married to Stephen King. And if she does wonder? I bet ultimately, she doesn’t care. Because she mothered children… while married to Stephen King.

So what about those of us whose spouses hold down the jobs that keep us fed, clothed, and housed while we pursue our dreams, which makes us primarily responsible for our littles along with our novels? There are groups like Momwriters and The Writing Mother, where professional and amateur writers gather to talk about mothering and writing. And there’s the blogging community. Some mother-writers are even lucky to find each other in the same geographic locations.

In the meantime, Ann Douglas posted a wonderful double shot about mommy guilt. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to: guilt that we may not be doing enough to promote ourselves and our writing. Guilt that we may not be doing enough to promote our children’s emotional health. Guilt that father-readers, to the best of my knowledge, don’t feel as acutely as we do. Both choices impact society in one way or another, and the fact is, none of us has any way of knowing how. Sell more books, and you may touch more lives for the better. Spend more time with your child, and it may be your child who touches more lives… or maybe not.

It’s a gamble. All of it is a gamble. That’s why I don’t think it’s fair to make mother-writers choose between books and babies. As I told Joe, I want to do everything I can to promote myself and my books, but not at the expense of my children’s emotional health. To that end, I would like to think there are some forms of self-promotion (blog book tours, local bookstores/readers club talks) that are more conducive to child-rearing than others (multi-city book tours, conferences). I’ve met several other struggling mother-writers through blogs and Internet groups; when the time comes, I just bet we’ll be able to come up with new and bold ways to promote our books and still be home in time to put our littles to bed.

Mom-writers? Weigh in. Do we have to choose, or can we create options for ourselves? Dad-writers, too. Do you feel guilty about writing or promoting more than you spend time with your kids, or do you feel confident knowing your wives or partners have it all under control?

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Copy and paste

I’m totally cheating. On a writing forum I belong to, I answered a post asking what we all were up to and then realized I could cheat: I could copy and paste, and it would be relevant because I mentioned the boy! Hey, my words, my copyright. So it begins:

My head is spinning at the moment. Besides the bill-paying freelance stuff, I have:

  • The novel. Always the novel. Always the tweaking even as I send queries and partials. I’m told this is a common affliction among even seasoned novelists.
  • Short stories that keep politely asking to be written, but like a toddler asking to go outside on a rainy day, must be distracted with video. (Not Thomas the Tank Engine, either. The husband was kind enough to buy the first season of Rescue Me for my birthday – you know, one of “your” presents that he wants and yet is unwilling to wait for – and it’s one of those shows that, like The Shield, is great for angst and human complexity and all the stuff I can study while… not… writing.)
  • The aforementioned novel’s sequel.
  • Personal issues kicking my butt and cutting into my writing time. Also like a toddler, completely unavoidable. In fact, very much like a toddler demanding his favorite food (Goldfish) even though he has been eating it nonstop during every meal for three days straight.
  • This blog. And yet here I am.
  • Updating my website, which Sandra was kind enough to redesign. Her design kicks butt. I am hoping to find time soon to show the world how much it kicks butt. (At least I paid you on time, Sandra. Right?)

My thanks for all my readers’ continued patience!

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Oy, the length of time it’s been since I posted! Just a quick one today, since I’m deep in the throes of deadlines that I’m hoping will end by May 1 and then give me a month to do whatever I want….

Those who work at home with toddlers might benefit from getting an indoor/outdoor play structure like this one. Despite the fact that it looks like a multicolored decon tent, this has so far occupied my son’s time to such an extent that I can almost – almost – sit quietly and work for a whole half hour.

It’s better than making a “house” out of the couch cushions for him, because those fall over. No matter what permutations he twists this thing into, it’s rugged. It doesn’t collapse, which means he won’t inadvertently suffocate himself. And yet it can fold into a compact, baggable toy.

It’s “open” enough for him to think up his own games. His favorite right now is tossing a ball into the hole in the middle and then climbing in after it (not using the tunnel). I am sure it won’t be long before he discovers that he can drive his trucks through it, too.

Obviously this is going to have to be a rainy day/heavy work day treat for him, but it might just be the best investment I’ve ever made. And hey, if I can figure out how to rig a shower inside it? I might indeed be able to use it as a decon tent. Spaghetti, anyone?

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