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Archive for May, 2007

Julia Buckley has a great post up at Inkspot about writing mysteries and raising sons. Read it and laugh. Or weep. Or both, since that’s what I do on many days when I contemplate the next 18 years!

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I’m sure all three of you have been wondering what’s up with the book reviews-for-entries lately. Well, you’d be right that it’s a way for me to keep blogging here at A Vocational Duality, in the absence of pithier how-I-do-it posts. But it’s also about the fact that book reviews are getting short shrift lately in print publications. My thinking is, we mothers are busy people. We don’t have the time anymore to browse bookstores looking for that perfect book or series, so we need recommendations. At the same time, many of us are seeing our own books published, and need the support. With newspapers cutting back review space, blogs will become ever more important for these reasons.

So, I’m helping to buzz books that moms will like. Oh, and in the interests of full disclosure, the $20 gift certificates to Amazon.com don’t hurt!

In other news, Poynter.org’s Chip Scanlan discusses the “brief, daily session,” which can be seen as a huge boon to busy writing mothers. “Learn to accept the planned outputs of brief, daily sessions as all the writing you need or want to do for the day,” he quotes. “Being able to enjoy evenings, weekends and vacations without supposing you should be writing is an essential pleasure.” For himself, Scanlan writes, “For writers, granularity can serve as an approach to successfully breaking up writing projects, from deadline stories to more ambitious projects such as essays, articles and books, into multiple and manageable tasks, literary grains of sand, if you will. Otherwise, you may end up buried by the mountain of sand you think you have to climb.”

That’s helpful. I’ve found myself writing in 300-word spurts – whether blog entries for Family.com, a piece of flash fiction, or a paragraph or two in a short story or novel. The brief, daily sessions help me retain a sense of success in my fiction career while I’m caring for my boys. That I continue to work toward my goal even though I don’t have a six-hour block of time to write in each day.

Speaking of flash fiction, you can find new stories at Powder Burn Flash and Flash Pan Alley. Happy reading!

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I’m a paranoid mother. I wrote about my paranoia recently on my Family.com blog. And there was that story I wrote for the Blog Short Story Project this year. Which was why the latest MotherTalk Blog Bonanza is so interesting: we’re buzzing “The Dangerous Book for Boys.”

True, our kids are more protected now than ever before. But I tend to think that’s in response to the more we know, and the more we have. Fifty years ago, sneakers were enough to play. Now we know the kind of shoes, their fit, and how they wear all affect a person’s athletic prowess – no matter how young or old. Why else do pediatricians recommend a baby’s first set of walking shoes come from Stride Rite, or orthotics for a teenager’s shinsplints?

Maybe we do go a bit overboard. For instance, just this morning, Hamlet fell down on his way in to preschool. Tripped over a bit of sidewalk and sprawled in the doorway. “I want to go home!” he screamed. Now, another mother may have let him do just that. But I knew he wasn’t hurt – simply embarrassed. And I knew he’d get over it as soon as someone distracted him. Sure enough, the preschool teacher pulled out the Play-Dough – and off he went.

Meanwhile, Boris was still in the car, which I remembered I’d left unlocked. Because 1) it takes but seconds to walk from car to preschool. And 2) I hadn’t anticipated I’d need to take more time with Hamlet. And 3) it was pouring rain out. And 4) all the other parents leave their babies in their cars. And 5) the preschool is on a private road. In the trees. In a very rural area.

Never mind all that; my paranoia kicked in. All I wanted was to get out the door and make sure no one had grabbed him. Irrational as hell? Yes, absolutely. But things happen. No matter that they are “isolated”; they still happen. Unbalanced women desperately want children. Pedophiles lurk everywhere, even in my secluded little corner of the woods. These things have been true for generations, giving rise to better security systems on maternity wards and state sex offender registries.

What has not been true for generations, however, is the fact that families and friends are more spread out than ever before, denying people of critical support systems. A “maiden aunt” had plenty of nieces and nephews to care for, and everyone knew – and told their kids to avoid – the “strange man” down the street. These days, the Internet has replaced those support systems – not just for family members, but for pedophiles too. It’s so much easier to decide to assault a child when 1) no one knows who you really are*; 2) the chat room you’re on effectively depersonalizes that child and 3) you’ve got other pedophiles telling you that you’re normal and okay!

While it’s a sad fact that those bygone family support systems often covered up and glossed over in-family sexual and domestic violence, we do know so much more about those problems now that it is simply prudent to be vigilant. As for the rest of it? Well, I probably won’t put knee pads on my boys every time they play outside. But I sure won’t leave them alone, not until they are old enough to understand “stranger danger.” A little paranoia, in my opinion, is worth it.

*This is why I am not in favor of laws that keep sex offenders out of towns altogether. Away from daycare centers and schools, certainly. But I’d much rather know who and where they are, than have them driven underground.

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