Monday, May 19, 2014

SXSW May Collaboration: The Delicate Balance That Is Being A Mother & An Author





 In lieu of Mother’s Day, Shannon Barczak and I decided to write this months article on what it is like being an author and a mom.  Thanks to a viral video that circulated last month, we can all concur that being a mom is the toughest job in the world.  Shannon and I added to this work load by writing, editing, formating, publsihing, and marketing our own YA trilogies.  Why, is a quesiton I get alot, or even more often, how?  How is it possible that when I was already juggling so many other things  like, potty training, cooking, cleaning, raising two children under the age of five, did I also throw in more to the mix?

Well the basic answer is, I needed to.  I wrote the first book of my trilogy, Harlow Whittaker & The Soothsayers, when my oldest son was living his first year of life.  Newborns sleep a lot, and coming into the new role of mother, being home all day, when I was used to the insane schedule of a grad student, where I was home less than I was at school/work was a rough transition.  Being able to sort through all those feelings of letting go of my old life and embracing the magically one that is being a parent, was something I did through writing.  Dreaming up an imaginary world that pulled imagery from the beautiful moments I was experiencing with my son was therapeutic.  In a lot of ways my first book is a scrapbook of my son's first year of life.  

After I wrote the book it sat there, and it wasn't until after my second sons first birthday that I even felt like I could publish the first book.  Writing had always been there, as a way for me to escape, and it was free therapy, so I had already written the second book, the summer after I gave birth to my youngest.  So after having two books sitting there it was like, what are you waiting for, put these out in the world.  If nothing else at least they could serve as an escape for other new moms out there who are stuck on the couch breastfeeding and are sick of re-watching all the shows on their DVR.  

There is not really a method to my madness, my boys are 4 and 1.5 so no school for them.  I write when I have an hour, or more likely 20 minutes here and there.  The great thing about writing is that I can easily take my laptop out on the patio while the boys are playing, or sit it on the kitchen island while their eating a snack and just go.  I did a radio interview recently and the interviewer was  commending my discipline, how forcing oneself to sit and crank out the pages took so much discipline.  And up until that moment I had never seen it that way.  I write because there are these characters in my mind begging to get out, so when they start knocking I start writing.  If there's a screaming baby or two, then I jot down notes on whatever piece of paper is handy, sometimes in crayon because that's all that is around and when things have quieted down, (Popsicles work wonders-for me and the kids. Sidenote: I'm on a homemade coconut milk popsicle kick right now) I make sense of my notes and form coherent ideas that can be comprehended by my readers.  The truth is, somedays I'm wearing the same dirty pajamas from three days ago that are covered in more mystery stains than I would care to admit because we've run out of clean clothes and clean dishes for that matter. My hair has cereal bits in it, cereal that we ran out of a week ago and I've gotten a total of four hours of sleep over the course of two days.  Obviously there is no writing on those days and that's okay, I don't force myself to sit and write because my first job, the only job that matters are my children.  Anything and everything else can wait.

I guess the short answer is, I have always wanted to be a published author, just like I have always wanted to be a mom and thanks to support of my husband, in each aspect lol, I get to do both.  Is it difficult at times? Of course, but that means it is worth it right?
 









Shannon:

In honor of this being the month that we give thanks and admiration to our mothers and the woman that inspire us, Valerie and I decided to do an article that discusses the lovely balancing act of being a mother and a writer. I think that this will be interesting considering both she and I have children that are different ages. Valerie's children are much younger and I am in awe of the fact that she would even start such an ambitious project of writing a trilogy!
Let me start out by saying that there is nothing in this world more important to me than my children. There is no chapter that has to be written or Tweet to respond too that will ever take precedence over the needs of my three kids. Do I think that this can be a challenge sometimes? Yes, of course it can be. Writers are artists and when we have the urge to write it is generally something we should act on immediately. What people don't understand is that writing a book is not a nine to five job. You don't just sit down and it flows from your mind onto paper or the computer screen. I wish that were the case but sadly it is not. Finding the time to write a book or even one chapter can be a struggle sometimes when you're a mother and I am horribly lucky to have three amazing children that truly do appreciate what I am trying to accomplish.
My twin boys are fifteen and they are at the age where they don't need their Mom as much anymore but I will say that they have been my biggest cheerleaders. Every day they ask me how my books are doing and how my writing is going. I also love the fact that when I am working they make a conscience effort to help keep their little sister entertained. I can't imagine even trying to write a book when they were younger, to be honest, I barely remember the first year of their life. Having twins was the greatest and most rewarding challenge I have ever been given. Some days I was just happy to survive those first few years of their lives!
My daughter is seven years old and a total mama's girl. I have had to make an extra effort to try and give her the attention she needs at this age. It hasn't been easy but I have come up with a completely crazy schedule that may not work for everyone but it works for me and that's all that counts. My day starts off at 6:00 am with getting the kids up and ready for school. After driving them, I come home, do a few chores and go to bed for a few hours. I then pick them up, do the homework thing and we have our together time before dinner. After the whole dinner, bedtime chaos is over that is when I usually write and I'm up to about 1:00-2:00 am.
Yes, I know, my sleep pattern is a little insane but I refuse to forfeit any of my time with my kids. I don't work that much on the weekends and if I'm editing I try to be in bed by midnight. I have always been a night owl so honestly this really makes my household flow pretty seamlessly. I'm lucky that my children are old enough to be understanding of what I need to do and I think with everything in life, you have to find what works best for you and your family.
I'm also fortune enough that I have the ability to be a stay at home mom/writer. My husband and I made the decision a long time ago and we have never once regretted our choice. I think I picked the perfect time in their lives and in mine to finally pursue my dreams. I simply wasn't ready years ago and I don't think it was meant to be until now. I feel like everything has fallen into place and I am having the most personally fulfilling time of my life right now.
Every woman knows that it is not easy being a mother and having to wear so many different hats. I also think there is an extra hormone that we absorb when we are pregnant and that is the guilt hormone. We always worry about our children and their happiness before our own but as your kids get older you start to realize that a happy mom makes for happy children. Your kids do not care if there are dishes in the sink or laundry that needs to be folded. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed and tired just think how great it is that as writers we have the ability to vent our feelings and frustrations out on some poor unsuspecting character in one of our books!



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