Friday, August 31, 2007


I'm doing a fly by posting - cause I'm actually on holiday. So no photo this time :)
The kids and I have been spending the last week with my mother - who has planned a week filled with adventure, excitement, screaming (roller coasters) and two very tired bunnies - that would be me and her.
My mother and I are very similar - something that struck me sitting in the car next to her. We laugh the same - we even THINK the same. Seemingly its quite funny to watch. Mum and I get on really well - but she lives so far away that we have to pack so much into a week that by the end of it we're so frazzled!

And yep, I'm officially a student now. I get my card - I have to finish enrolling tonight onto the system at the university - and give serious thought to changing my degree already. I've been offered the chance at a masters degree, one year faster than it should have taken me. I'm sorely tempted, but I'm worried about being pigeonholed. Being pigeonholed as a writer though isn't all that bleak of a prospect - the thing about pigeonholing is it doesn't cover all the other stuff I can do, and understand. And I don't like to judge people solely on qualifications, and unrealistically, I guess, don't want to be judged solely on academic merit.
Anyway, I'd better get to bed - its my son's unofficial birthday party tomorrow and more screaming and stomach churning fun :)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"I'll be Post-Feminist in a Post-Patriarchy"

Salon has a point. "I'll be Post-Feminist in a Post-Patriarchy" makes a good bumper sticker. Salon's Broadsheet and this post from Feministe, like many Second Wave Feminists don't like the term "post-feminist" because it can mean everything from "we think feminism has achieved its goals and is old hat" to "we do not like the militant nature of Second Wave Feminism and want to be barefoot and pregnant and go shopping." Which is it? Broadsheet asks, "how do people who call themselves post-feminist define post-feminism?" And as I call myself "post-feminist," I thought I would answer--not just answer, tell my story. Because I think it is a story that will resonate with other Gen X women.

I came from a socially and fiscally conservative rural family. My mother was educated (had her MA) and my father had a HS diploma. Mom had a career, but the truth was, my brother and I were troubled, we needed her home. My father was an alcoholic, emotionally distant. Being from a rural area, I had no real experience with many things: people of other races, door to door proselytizers, feminists. They simply did not exist in any concentration in the rural area where I lived.

I went to an urban college, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA in 1988. At the time, the ration of males to females was 3 to 1 in the university and closer to 7 to 1 in the engineering school where I took my degree. In my major, there were 6 males for every female, which was the lowest ration in the college of engineering. Suffice it to say, I was surrounded by men. And yes, I experienced a small amount of discrimination because I was female in a "man's world."

There was a very vocal group of Second Wave Feminists on campus. Back then, in the last 80's the just called themselves Feminists. You can look up second wave on Wikipedia, but here's the gist as I get it. First Wave Feminists got us the vote in the 20's. Second Wave is what we most commonly associate with feminism: the militant bra-burning 70's. And I have to say, I didn't much like these feminists.

For the most part, they dressed like guys, not just in jeans and t-shirts (everyone wore those), but in plaid flannel and work boots. They had rough manners and frowned a lot. They disapproved of wearing make up, nylons and heels--UGH, shopping--going to parties, flirting... and it really seemed they disapproved of men in general and sex--particularly sex with men--in specific. They were militant and annoying, arousing ire and ridicule even among people who might have agreed with their principles. Now, perhaps this is not what Feminism is supposed to be about, but for the self-described feminists I met in college, it darn sure seemed so.

(Update: To clarify, this is NOT to imply any bias against lesbians, whether or not they may present a "butch" image. I, personally, strongly support gay rights as human rights.)

I was just not like that.

I LIKE men. Most feminists say they do, but sometimes it's really hard to think they do because of what they say afterwards. "I like men, but..." If we're in a patriarchy, then men ARE the enemy. I don't think men are the enemy. I like men. The guys in my "office" are good people, if a bit juvenile and geeky.

I like having sex with men--not every moment or on command--but for mutual attraction and enjoyment. Great sex? Big dicks? EHLL YES! It seems like a lot of Second Wave Feminists thought that the way to gain respect was to not have sex. To the feminists I went to college with, a woman couldn't have sex because she wanted to, because she was attracted to someone, or just for her own pleasure. That would be demeaning and a sign low self-esteem. And to me, this buys into the patriarchy like nothing else. If I am empowered NOT to have sex, then I am also empowered TO have sex (thus modern "hook up" culture). If I choose to have sex, it's not because I'm being forced, goaded or cajoled, it's because I want to. My body. My reasons. My choice. The feminists I knew in college did not approve any more than the right wing barefoot and pregnant types did. Strange bedfellows! Again, perhaps this is not what Feminism is supposed to be, but it sure as heck was the type of feminism practiced by the people who called themselves Feminists.

I liked great clothes and I enjoyed shopping for them, though I did not have much money to do so. Why not be proud of getting a $125 cashmere cardigan for $15 because it had a hole? What a steal! What's wrong with finding pumps that make my legs look long and slender? What's so wrong with shopping? I have never figured that out, though I guess that if you don't think you should care about your clothing or your appearance, shopping can seem so frivolous. It is frivolous. So what.

The feminists I knew seemed to hate the trappings of womanhood: dresses, make up, jewelry, heels. I don't hold with the idea that you had to BE a guy to get respect like a guy. I had a nice figure. I liked to show it off. I liked to dress up, wear make up, put on my heels and go dancing. I liked standing up straight and being admired because I was pretty as well as smart. I LIKED--and LIKE--being sexy. And I thought to myself, "Why can't I be competent, smart, assertive, self-confident AND sexy?"

And I didn't see why I couldn't be all of the above.

This is, BTW, the origin of my nickname. In Freshman year of college, I chose the nickname Dejah from Heinlein's The Number of the Beast. Heinlein's Dejah Thoris (unlike Burrough's Dejah Thoris) was the supreme post-feminist heroine. She was graceful, beautiful, brilliant and KICKED ASS. She could carry off a ball gown and heels, waltz divinely, clean a fish, shoot a blaster, slaughter aliens, and fix the space ship. She didn't NEED a man to take care of her. But she was also sexy, and able to attract and satisfy the kind of man who deserved her: a man of principle, courage, and intelligence. I thought, THIS is what feminism is missing. Women can be sexy and competent, we don't and shouldn't have to choose.

It was a solid fifteen years before I discovered that there was a word for how I felt. How I felt that Second Wave Feminism didn't represent the whole of what a woman is, only a part of it, how it wanted to restrict me to a narrow view of womanhood, not set me free to make my own choices and define myself.

That word is "post-feminist."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Longed for Silence

For 11 years, 6 months and 13 days, I have waited. For the silence, for the endless days to myself...for the time to go off into my head without constant interruptions involving lost Barbie shoes and whose turn it was to swing first.

Living on some days and often for some day, those endless weeks where even a minute of silence was an impossible task.

Long days of sweaty, small faces, giggles, tears and homemade blue green pancake batter turning into what would make good playdoh in my best pan. Blue splattered pathways on the brand new kitchen floor, that would never come up.

"I gave the cat a bath," the little one says, holding out her scratch filled arms. The cat glares at us from under the sofa, still soap covered and smelling an awful lot like peaches. Meowing in her remember what I did to the bunny, squirrel and 50 birds you have found on your front porch, back of the throat don't even think about messing with me evil kitty voice.

The children conspire with the Universe, encouraging me...perhaps, into believing for a moment or two I might feel some sort of grateful relief that the summer days dwindle steadily past. Like the sleepless shifting nights... so pregnant...wishing for 10 minutes of rest, not knowing that rest..for the next 18 years at least... will be a vague and fondly remembered blip, back by the dusty things.

"Aren't you excited?" I ask them while out shopping for school supplies and school clothes and any other time it happens to cross my mind, which is often. They hem and haw at me and I wonder if they are as unexcited about the whole prospect as I am and briefly consider homeschooling. But soon enough the backpacks and lunch boxes, shimmering in their brand new plastic glory, covered with Hello Kitty and Spiderman, muster up their enthusiasm and we are counting down the days every half hour.

Not writing, not writing, not writing...not doing much of anything but taking in their frenzied last moments of unplanned lazy days.

Then, before it seems it should, the day comes. The almost as tall as me, now 6th grade boy, heading off first, on the bus with a casual "Bye Mom" over his shoulder as he goes. The girl child on her bus next, entirely too cool for me to drive to school. And then the babies, who really aren't, nudging me out of the car and into the building, tugging me eagerly forward by both arms. "Hurry Mama," a far cry from the tears I'd expected from my littlest, the wee princess.

I'm grateful for the hugs and kisses bestowed before they run off blending into the throngs of eager children, suddenly so apart from me... And then terribly alone.

Long hours to fill..of myself...for myself, a blank page to be scribbled on. I sit with it at first. I wallow in it. Rolling around in these moments I've longed for and now would willingly give back. A week or more of it, ignoring the phone ringing and notebooks and pencils in favor of random tears, until three o'clock when the house is loud and colorful with them.

Home with stories of friends and triumphs and life altering tragedies of the Elementary school sort until I feel sick of myself.

The next day I discover the stereo, a solid steady rhythm to break up the sound of my own breath, loud in my ear. And slowly awaken. Writing around it, through it and then finally beyond it. Vowing not to be be...with me, here in this place I've longed for.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dejah: Extra! Extra! Mothers WORK!

This deserves a Fark headline, it really does. "Not News: Working at Home is Durned Tough. Distractions legion. News: It's just woman's work, big deal. Fark: Written by a man."

The NY Times delves into the home life of a work-at-home-father, incidentally a writer. The poooor guy isn't getting anything done, and when his wife comes home from her late-night, high-powered, corporate job asking if he accomplished anything, not only can't he remember, but he can't remember WHY he didn't get anything done. So he begins to make a list of all the things he does instead of working. And it's a mighty long and time consuming list.

And THIS is somehow BIG NEWS?

I mean, work-at-home-mothers handle this stuff in their sleep and still get their work done, don't we? We're not sitting around all day eating bon-bons. Why is this news?

Oh, yeah, right, because it's a MAN doing it. If it was a woman writing this, it would sound whiny--and rightly so. We all know that handling the stupid sh*t is just part of the mother's job. We do what needs to be done, and still do everything else that is expected of us. And we wonder why we cannot keep our houses clean.

(Okay, so DH went away on a business trip 5 minutes after the well ran dry and it took me TWO DAYS fixing the pump to restore water to the house. Yes, I am grumpy! I will officially be grumpy until he is pinned Chief and this hellish indoctrination is over and he can take over his half of the sky.)

More than a Mom

As a writing mom, one of the issues I struggle with is telling myself that it is OK to be more than a mom, and that I don't have to be a SuperMom. I wrote about this a while ago, but I thought it would be appropriate to share here.

Sometime after the birth of my fourth child in four years, I came to a realization. I am not a mommy. Sure, I had all of the right requirements. I had the scars and stretch marks to prove my journey through pregnancy and labor. I had the four blossoming personalities hanging from or sitting on my various body parts. I had at least four people who would define me as a mommy.

The problem is that I don’t/won’t define me as a mommy. Who am I? I’m a woman and yes, in my case, I am a mother, but my definition of me does not begin nor does it end with motherhood. Beyond everything, I am me and my dreams and wants and needs are every bit as important as those chirping hatchlings demanding my attention, my energy, my time and my love.

My life didn’t end the day some persistent sperm buried itself in an egg deep inside me. It didn’t begin that day either. It didn’t end or begin nine months later when I gave birth to a baby. My life did change. It got louder and more hectic. It became more rewarding and bewildering. It did add a new dimension and a new definition to who I am, but it did not eclipse me. I didn’t stop to exist. I am a mommy, but I am so much more, and at times, so much less.

I am me. I can be like the childish toddler throwing a tantrum one minute and the cool professional the next. I can be a woman in love with a man and a mother in love with her children. I can be selfish and greedy and caring and loving. I can kiss boo boos and still feel sexy. I can be me. Sometime between my first pregnancy, the subsequent miscarriages and births, I had forgotten who I wanted to be and who I needed to be.

Months after giving birth I was bored and depressed. More importantly, I was guilty for feeling that way. A mother is supposed to give up everything for her children, isn’t she? Am I less of a mother for wanting more? I battled with the questions. I battled with the definition of who I was and who I wanted to be. Finally, I discovered I didn’t like me and I didn’t like my life. I didn’t like me, the mommy. I wasn’t happy and as a result my family wasn’t happy.

I needed to be defined as more than just a mother. I needed to remember my goals and dreams. I needed to remember I was also a journalist who loved to pursue a story and a writer who loved to weave a good tale and a teacher who loves to share the excitement of learning. I needed to remember why I loved my husband before we had children. I needed to remember why and how he could make my heart race with a look.

I do not live my life for my children. I am not the super mother of my dreams. I have flaws and shortcomings. I have plans for improvement. I even have dreams that don’t involve motherhood. I won’t give them up or put them on hold for the next 20 years.

“They are only young once,” my mother admonishes me. Gently she tries to remind me of my responsibilities of motherhood, imparting on me the wisdom of her years. Yes, I agree, but I too, am only young once. I treasure the moments I spend with my children. I also treasure the moments I spend without them. Why should my life be on hold just because I’m a mother?

Does that mean I stopped cooking dinner, doing the laundry and changing diapers? No. I still do all those things. But there are days I don’t. It’s my choice not my sentence. Motherhood isn’t a prison. It shouldn’t limit me or my ambitions.

The life of a mommy is not enough for me. It never could be, but it is a beautiful addition to me. The life of a woman, now that, is for me.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Lessons Learned - Lesson 1

One of the great reasons we have this blog is so that writing mothers can share their experiences and what they’ve learned. As I learn things that help me build my writing career, I want to chronicle them here on Mama Needs a Book Contract. My hope is that I can be helpful.

I hope that somewhere out there on “the Internets,” as Heather says, some aspiring writing mother will click her way here, and find kinship, information, inspiration, and most importantly encouragement that yes, Virginia, you can be a writer.

I hope for this because two years ago I was that mom.

I was an unpublished, hopeful wannabe writer. Had been, in fact, for at least 30 years.

My mommy always said I could be a writer. ;-) My dad said I could be a writer. Dear, sweet Mrs. Calloway, my high school English teacher, said I could be a writer. My high school magazine teacher told me I was a writer. My distant relatives always asked me if I was a writer yet.

Later, my husband told me I could be a writer. My friends told me I could be a writer. My college English teacher told me I should be a writer.

But I shed some tears on my 37th birthday because I was almost 40, and I wasn’t a writer. It wasn’t as if I regretted the path my life had taken. I loved all of it: the years I spent in a Christian leadership program, the years following when I spent most of my time helping and ministering to people, the first years of marriage when we focused on stability and our new life together, and the first years of motherhood, when I focused on enjoying one of my dreams come true.

But now that I had all that in place, I wanted to be a writer. So on my 37th birthday, I prayed to God. There was some whining involved.

Two months later, my husband and I went to a Bible conference where I ran into an old friend. She pulled me aside as if to tell me something important.

She described a series of events that led to her getting a job working at home as a proofreader for a major educational publishing company. She remembered (after all these years!) that I wanted to be a writer. And she looked for me at this conference so she could tell me one thing: “Carolyn, God can open doors for you.”

It was like God was talking to me. Heck, He was talking to me. Answering me.

Before I turned 38, I was a writer.

Lesson learned: Yes, Carolyn, you can be a writer.

Monday Morning Goals & Listmaking

I am being featured this week on the Direct Sales Radio Show. One of the topics I discussed was listmaking. I'm a listmaker.

Some people are predisposed to make lists (like me) but others need to learn. (Like, ahem, my husband...)

Listmaking does two things:

  1. Makes a committment to yourself

  2. Saves your brain memory and energy

I recently heard an analogy that said it perfectly, I'll attempt to recreate it here. Imagine your brain is an airport and you are the air traffic controller. You have planes circling and waiting for their time to land, you have planes getting ready to take off, planes sitting and waiting for passengers.

These planes are your tasks. Some are small, like remembering that there are shirts that can't stay in the dryer until the end of the cycle or they will wrinkle. Some are large, like a major project deadline looming. But while we devote a different amount of energy to each plane, as they require, each one takes up the same amount of space in our brain/airport.

By creating a list, we assign each plane its own space. A plane with no space for itself is taking up too much space wandering around the airport while we think about it, talk about it, discuss it and wonder when we're going to do something about it.

Here's my list for today:

  1. Finish laundry.

  2. Sort out the 'too small' clothes pile and get it ready for consignment store.

  3. Sort out the Goodwill pile.

  4. Finish column for WHR.

  5. Go buy fall/winter jackets for kids.

Here's my list for this week:

  1. Begin article for ABM.

  2. Blog daily.

  3. Work on Marketing Course material.

  4. Send out eNews to Calgary Writers.

  5. Finish Scribbler eNewsletter (issue #1!)

It doesn't look like a lot... but that's because I add duties as they come to me. I have a physical list sitting next to me on my desk. Whenever something comes to me, I put it on the list. Then, rather than spend time thinking about the things I don't want to forget, I just remember to check the list several times a day.

The great thing is, I get a little jolt of satisfaction every time I check something off my list. If I didn't have the list, I might be fooled into thinking I didn't accomplish a darn thing. So not true.

At the beginning of each day, I go to the previous day's list and transfer my 'incompletes' to my new list. Because they are right at the top, they often get the most attention.

Go on, be a listie!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Should books have content warnings?

The Internet is buzzing with the latest study showing that Americans aren’t reading books. Are we really that surprised? With the amount of written information thrown at us daily at via junk mail, E-mail, text messages, billboards and the Internet, who has the time to read books?

As writers, instead of asking why people aren’t reading our books, we should be asking ourselves this question: How we can encourage more people to read? As my writing instructor recently pointed out, our goal as writers shouldn’t be to simply put books on the shelves. We need to move those books into the hands of our readers. How do we do that? What is holding back our prospective readers?

I’ll go first. I got out of the habit of reading books in college. (So much for higher education!) Everything that I read was either assigned by my professors or touted as the latest and greatest self-help tome. I no longer read for pleasure; everything in my twenties was about self-improvement. If I wasn’t improving my mind, I was working on my soul. But I lost something along the way … the ability to escape into a novel, the ability to dream.

I’m not sure when I shook off my intense sense of drama and realized that it was okay to relax. Sometime in my thirties I set aside my self-help books and decided to read for fun. But it was hard. I discovered that the last time I actually read for fun, I had my school-assigned Scholastic book order form to help me out. I had no idea where to start. I didn’t even know in which section of the library to begin. And I suspect that I’m not the only one.

I propose that there should be a rating system for books, similar to the ones currently in use for movies, television, and music. This would save time for the harried prospective reader. If your new murder mystery was rated PG for violence, you wouldn’t have to worry about blood splatters and excessive gore keeping you up at night. You’d have the chance to brace yourself for a stream of expletives (and hide the book from your youngest child) when you bought the latest novel, R-rated for language, by that hilarious but highly irreverent humor columnist.

I realize that a book rating system could lead to an over-zealous societal backlash of book-banning or that certain books (and patrons) could be ostracized by placing them in a special “adult” section. But, handled properly, a book rating system might be worth it.

What do you think?

(Thanks for giving me a guest slot, Heather!)

Welcome to our first Guest!

Our first guest is Julie Kelsey:

Julie Bloss Kelsey is a freelance writer, wife and mother of two. She's successfully published creative nonfiction and magazine articles, with hopes of finding homes for her unpublished poetry and children's stories.

Julie had a great idea for a blog topic that I thought was very relevant. Take it away Julie!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hie Thee to the Internets

Do you have a web presence? I don't mean a Facebook page, but an honest-to-goodness Writer Web Site that has your clips or samples or marketing material on it?
I hear many writers say that they can't afford it, or they want to wait until they are a Real Writer before they put up a site. I say bull pucky. Having a site is important and just creating the site and putting it out there on the web is a big step and when I did it I remember feeling deep down that I was saying "yes" to myself. Yes, I am a writer. Yes, this is official. Yes, I can do it. Yes, I'd sure as heck better do it now!
My site has been up for about five years. Admittedly I have never done anything specific to promote it other than include it on every email I send out. I know that there are books out there that can help you, but honestly it's all a little over my head!
But this week a magazine publisher found my site and offered me some work. That one article he offered me paid for *all the web hosting I'd ever paid for in the last five years*. Worth it? Yup.
If you are putting up a web site, don't be afraid to put your own touch on it. If you are not a formal-type person, don't make your web presence formal. Do make it professional and well-written, but have your own style.
Don't bog your site down with too many pages, but make sure your pages are clearly labeled so visitors know where to go. Here are the pages I have on my site:
I do have a lot of irons in the fire, but some of those pages are just gallery pages. Meaning they are just there to explain ME a little more. Pages like Copywriting and Editing have information on how to hire me. Poetry and About just have text or photos that are about me or things I like... poems I've written and just want to share.
Now, having said all that... my web site still requires a little work. That's where these guys come into play. Among their "Top 20 Confessed Web Design Sins" I found that I had committed a couple of unforgiveable sins. I'll not list them for you because, ahem... I'm off to go fix them now!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Preschool Orientation

Tonight was parent orientation for at my child's preschool. The director went over some of the policies of the preschool. The preschool teacher reviewed the handbook, and some of her expectations in the classroom.

The preschool teacher is the same teacher my son had last year (my son went to preschool for three year olds). She is an excellent teacher. She takes academics seriously, yet making it entertaining and fun for her students--the preschoolers.

On Friday, my son and his fellow classmates will have their orientation in the morning, for about 45 minutes. Then they officially begin school August 27.

After leaving the parent orientation, I went to our local WalMart store to buy school supplies. Stuff was almost gone! I was amazed. This shows you that I am not that experienced in school supply shopping for my child yet *smile*. Lucky for me, I sometimes stash supplies on sale in my home because you never know when you may need them.

My son can't wait till it is Friday, so he can play with his classmates at his orientation. I am not sure whose enthusiasm is more contagious, his or mine.
I am an educator at heart and mind. I love anything to do with learning. I teach adults, I teach children. And in return, they teach me.

Campus life

I’m going to see the place where I’m going to spend the next three years studying on Friday, and I’m already really nervous.  I’ve got almost all of my paperwork all sorted out, but I’ve got…

Its not exactly stage fright, cause I won’t be performing, but it is a low grade nerves sort of feeling.  Sorta the way you feel when waiting for your agent to get through with your manuscript I guess, in many ways. 

I’ve got just over a month to get everything all lined up and in a row, and set up as much automation as I can for the bits that CAN be automated, which means I’m going to be posting as many blog posts as I can manage on my own blogs in advance, and writing months worth of articles – just so I’ve got as much time to focus on my degree for the first month or two.  I know I’ll probably not need to – but my daughter is starting school (instead of nursery, which she did last year) too, so I’m hoping to ease us all into our new routine with as little disruption – or at least a bit of leeway as possible.

I dunno – I feel like a teenager again, and its not all bad, but at the same time, I’m worried that I’m going to mess up – or worse, its just not going to be what I need to do.

I’m determined to do it though, so hopefully, I’ll get my books list, and my class schedule, or at least, a way to access them, and I can start planning and working out how to do the whole ‘school run – lectures – pick the kids up – after school activities for them – study – work – socialize – sleep’.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Waiting on a check, again

Hi, I'm Linda and I write nonfiction. I was going to do a proper introduction, but I decided instead of introducing me, I'd introduce you a bit to the life of a freelancer. I started freelancing in 1999, but I gave it up in 2003 for a regular paycheck. You see, I have a family, and they like to eat, and they keep growing and that ends up with them eating more. And, frankly, it is fine to live paycheck to paycheck when payday is every Friday. It's quite another matter when payday is whenever the check shows up in the mail.

Can you tell that I am currently waiting on three checks to arrive?

It's the end of the month at the end of a summer where I have spent a lot of time waiting for checks to arrive. Yesterday, my husband urged me to apply for a 40-hour job that offers good benefits, but it actually pays less than I made the last time I worked full-time. I make more money doing what I am doing now, but he really misses regular paychecks with benefits. I didn't take the suggestion very well.

And in case you are wondering, I'm writing and deleting a lot here too.

My husband is supportive, but this has been a long summer, and for a huge part of it (four weeks) I was away at a writing workshop. Within the next week I will be signing about four contracts that will bring in regular income through the end of the year. If I apply for the job he mentioned and were actually hired, I wouldn't be able to complete the four contracts and another one that I've already signed with a different company. I'm not sure what he thinks, but I think he suspects I could just fit the 40-hour job in with everything else I'm doing. I don't know. We haven't actually talked about it since, as I said, I reacted badly to the suggestion.

And I'm not opposed to working full-time, but I'd like it to be a job I want because I like the job, not just something for the benefits. Or better yet, I'd like a book deal. That'd work, right?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dejah: Late night plumbing

Have you ever noticed that as the mommy (and as the one without the "regular job") you get to be the official slack-picker-upper? My dear husband (aka DH) just made Chief in the Navy. This is the big promotion for enlisted people and there's a 6 week indoctrination . To give you an idea how stressful this is, DH had been smoke free for 5 years. He started smoking again on DAY FIVE. So, of COURSE he makes Chief while we are trying to get our former residence (the "city house") on the market. And of COURSE, who gets to pick up all the slack with the renovations? And of COURSE, what goes wrong on the night when he and the rest of the Chief Selectees decide to pull an all-nighter to catch up?

That's right. Something I can't fix.

Because the fix involves large quantities of dripping water, I MUST get it fixed before I leave the city tonight. I was so exhausted around 7 PM that I was nearly in tears when I thought I had no teflon tape. It's now nearly 10 PM. I am waiting for this copper glue to cure (it says 7 minutes) the last time I tried waiting ONLY 7 minutes, the bond broke as soon as I twisted on the valve. Now the kids are bugging me because they want to leave and they don't understand why we can't leave and moreover why I am sitting on my butt in front of the computer instead of fixing the darned plumbing!

And as resentment towards the all powerful Navy rolls through my mind, I also wonder why it is that I'm expected to drop everything and pick up the slack, when everything goes to heck in a handbasket when I need to spend all MY time on work. No one picks up all MY duties when writing bellows. So exactly why am I doing this?

Oh yes, because it has to be done.

Remember when I said that I never whine? I lied. I'm tired of being the mommy. I'm tired of having the "flexible" job.

I want my plumber!

Flinging Yourself

If the artist does not fling himself, without reflecting, into his work, as Curtis flung himself into the yawning gulf, as the soldier flings himself into the enemy's trenches, and if, once in this crater, he does not work like a miner on whom the walls of his gallery have fallen in; if he contemplates difficulties instead of overcoming them one by one...he is simply looking on at the suicide of his own talent. - Honore de Balzac

This is one of my favorite quotes. Why? Because there is no one Right Way to Fling.

Just like there's no one Right Way to Parent or Right Way to Write. And yet, if you are like me, you spend countless hours fretting about how things are going, if you are doing everything just right. If you need to change things. If you should keep pressing on...

Put your pen to paper or your fingers to the keyboard and then write. Don't spend too much time looking back or fiddling with things, just get things written. Then you can go back and edit, refine, cut or revise.

But you can't edit a blank page. No matter how much you try. Get the bones and the fat and the flesh out there on the page and then go back and whip it into shape.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Speaking of contracts...

You know when you’ve been spending far too much time reading the Hobbit to the kids when you wander around referring to everything as ‘booksies’ and ‘my preeeecious’. So once I got through reading the bit where Gollum is riddling Bilbo, in his mind at least, to death, I came and wrote this. Got a bit sidetracked cause its a couple of minutes past Eleven.

Tomorrow, I am going to ‘meet’ with an Internet Marketer who wants to discuss co-writing a blogging book with him. I’ve never negotiated a contract in my LIFE, so I’m going to be asking advice in the next couple of minutes, and of course, anything I learn, I’ll share ;)

Alongside that, I’ve got a tonne of forms and contacts to make, because of going back to University. So that’s more contracts. I’ve got around a week to sort all of this out, and then my mother is down for a week of roller coasters, swimming and hanging out with her grandkids.


Anyone else picked up, or are negotiating any cool contracts?

Dejah: I made it, finally!

It took me DAYS, but I finally made it! Somehow my invitation went astray, but thank goodness I save everything somewhere--not that I can always find it. Anyway, here is the introduction I wrote yesterday:

I'm the loud one. I'm not your average mom/writer. I don't write about parenting if I can help it. I'm no better a parent than anyone else and the only thing I am qualified to do is whine--and I don't whine. I write on high tech topics: Macs, Linux and Open Source, motorcycles. I write (non-selling) novels and (best-selling) technical books. I've always been more comfortable with guys than girls... but these girls are some of the best you could ever hope to know.

I'm a military spouse and a (hobby) farm wife, restoring a 180 year old farm house and raising three girls, six cats, 31 chickens (some meat, some eggs, some for show), and two turkeys (Tom Thanksgiving and Christina Christmas). Soon, we'll have goats. I'm post-feminist, sex-positive, left-of-center, tough as nails with a heart of marshmallow fluff. Our dear leader Heather and I argue politics every now and again, but I will attempt not to be political (except with women's issues when there is really no other choice).

I am writer, hear me pontificate!

The Importance of Books

Recently on The Writing Mother list there was a discussion about a YA (Young Adult) novel that was being made into a TV series. Some considered it poor quality entertainment because it seemed to glorify girls being nasty to one another.

The show focuses on the lifes of privileged teenagers in "an elite private school" in New York... hardly representative of the average young adult.

But neither were the characters in the Sweet Valley High books I devoured as a child. Twins in southern California whose parents were happily married. The twins had their own car, boyfriends and designer clothes. They got to go to malls.

And here I was, a pre-teen with divorced parents that fought like the Hatfields and McCoys, living in Northern Alberta where the mosquitoes had landing gear.

What the books gave me were a glimpse into an alternate reality. Because goodness knows I wanted an escape. But it was a harsh reality to escape into. It was the good and the bad... the cool clothes and the backstabbing friends.

Because that's what books do. They ask you to suspend your knowledge of the world you are in, and believe in another one. To trust that the author will take you for a ride... and a safe one because you can go back to your real life without the scars of backstabbing friends and evil plotters.

And it's what television shows are supposed to do as well. Granted, they pale in comparison to books, but they are supposed to serve the same purpose: entertainment.

What books (and tv) do not do is provide role models.

That's what we do. We: mothers, fathers, parents. We are the role models for our children.

Do they hear us talking negatively about our friends? Do they see us roll through stop lights? Do they hear us exclaim "sweet! she gave me back an extra dollar!" when we get our change at the store? Do they hear us swear?

Sure, there may be some limit testing, clothing choices or word choices that they may glean from their entertainment choices... but their character, their beliefs, their moral code... that comes from us. We must be the positive role models for our children.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

In Which Heather Explains

So what's going on here anyway?

Hi, my name is Heather Cook and I'm one of The Writing Mothers here at Mama Needs A Book Contract (MNABC).

What's going on is we figger that several heads are better than one. We figger that we can have a group blog that's pretty darn cool and gives Writing Mothers - like us - tips, insight and advice so that we can all be successful at this writing and mothering.

You can expect to see a few things here:

  • regular posts from the regulars
  • occasional guest posts from (you got it...) guests
  • interviews with authors, agents and editors
  • blog tours with our favorite authors

Plus some other things we haven't thought of yet... and we're open to suggestions! What would you like to see?

Now, I'm not a huge Oprah groupie, but someone sent me this link to her book club, it's called Writers on Writing. There's also a link to balancing writing and motherhood. Here's one of my favorite quotes:

"I've always loved those stories where the woman says, 'Oh, my baby would come with me to my office and sleep in a basket and I would write and all that.' My daughter never did any of that. She was always awake, and lively, and talking, and wanted to be involved in your life. ... What I learned to do was write late at night, and I did that for a long time. But I think it's very difficult when your children are young, because you have to at a certain point say, 'This is a living human being...she's never going to be six-months old again.'"— Pearl Cleage, What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day

I'm very glad you stopped by! Bookmark us and come again!

Spending Time With Your Child

by Faten Abdallah

I am always looking for ways to spend time with my child, a four year old preschooler. Often, I try to make it "Edutainment". I want my preschooler to always be learning, yet having fun. So, I came up with a couple of activities that you or a special adult can do with your child.

Activity One: Have your child draw a picture. Once he or she is finished drawing,tell your child to describe the picture that he or she produced. Record exactly what your child says. Children are the one of the most creative beings on this planet. They also say the cutest things.

Activity Two: Get some construction sheets together, so that you and your child can make pictures. Once the pictures are finished, have your child come up with the story. Write the story as told by your child. This will be something to keep, and give it to your child once he or she becomes an adult.

There are many different writing activities that can be done with you and your child. Not only are you spending time with your child, you are encouraging writing skills, which is a weak area for many students.

Don't be afraid to come up with your own ideas!

The writing - parenting symphony.

By D Kai Wilson

Is there anything finer? Parenting - writing – one just seems to naturally segue into the other. Its like music in many ways - we direct one into the other without pause ;)

I write full time – I’m a freelancer during the day, producing a couple of e-books and a lot of articles for three different companies – myself and my team spend most of the month researching and learning about all sorts of fun stuff – and at night, I still work on that ‘best seller’. Soon it’ll be University during the day, kids in the evening and weekends, freelancing between homework assignments and ‘best sellers’ when I’ve got thirty seconds to breathe.

Luckily, one of the two degrees I’m sitting is creative writing – which means I’ll get to write stories, and poems, and scripts as part of my course work – but for the next three years, things are going to be mad. And I’m delighted to be able to blog about it ;)

All joking aside, I’m one of the techie bloggers on the project, so if anyone wants I can share some of the technical stuff ‘mama’ can do, before and after the book contract – blogging, promoting via forums, and other fun stuff. Just ask :)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Cherish the Moments

Cherish all your happy moments: they make a fine cushion for old age.
-- Christopher Morley

A lot of writing moms ask "how do you write anything with kids at home?"

I tell them that I can only tell them how *I* write, not how they can do it. I'm a night owl. I get a lot of writing done at the end of the day, when the only noise is the sound of the baby moniter.

During the day I take a lot of time out to play with my kids. I do my chores, I putter about, I clean, I do laundry... and I try to take a lot of time to cherish my kids.

Already my six year old would rather go and play outside than spend a minute inside. He's got so many friends in our new neighborhood that his social calendar is booked solid I think. My daughter is just learning to walk, so she is a handful.

It can be hard being a writing mother, always trying to eek out moments of quiet time at the computer.

Several years ago, my son was probably a year old at the time, my best friend had a son who died very suddenly of an undiagnosed heart condition. He was eight months old. That little boy changed me as a parent. I knew from that moment that I could not take a single moment for granted. And I try not to. I try to look on the positive side, even when my kids are making me pull my hair out and I want to crawl under the covers, I try to stop and think "there are mothers who wish for my problems".

And the added bonus is that I feel less guilt during the day. The fewer the number of times I need to say "just a second, mommy's working on something" the better I feel.

This is the life of a writing mother...

I came up with this - may I say, brilliant - idea this morning while I rattled around the empty house, getting more laundry done than should be legal, and amazingly writing sentences that turned into whole paragraphs, paragraphs that became the rough outline of an article that isn't due until next week. I had a telephone interview, and I didn't even have to deal with the guilt of parking my dd in front of the T.V.

Today was the 2nd day of my full-time freelance writing "career." (Can you call it a career when it's only been two days?) My dd started 1st grade yesterday, and since she's in a great school, and we know the bus driver, met the teacher, bought the very fashionable school clothes, I was Not. A. Nervous. Wreck. (And I feel very guilty about that. Not.)

Anyway during a break from all this, in a blissful state of inspiration, I decided I need a blog. But blogging alone is kind of - well, lonely - so I posted the idea on The Writing Mother that we should get together to do a group blog!

Now, I should tell you that I'm a wealth of ideas. But the WM group is full of doers, not just thinkers. By 3-ish, we were already discussing ideas. By 4-ish, Heather had this site up.

But in the midst of all that, at 3:36 p.m., I got a call from the new owner of a GREAT local parenting publication, asking me to consider working for them as a writer and in sales. By 4 p.m., I was off the phone and calling my husband. At 4:26, I found Heather's email, asking me to do a test post (this is it), and a few other emails I needed to answer right away. At 4:32 exactly, my dd's bus came and I was



to meet her! (Ah, there's the guilt - I wondered where it had gone, lol.)

Some other kid's babysitter walked her across the street. When she came in the house, I was still riding a wave of excitement about my own great news, and it took all the motherliness in me to remember to ask dd about her day!

And thus ended the day of productivity and solitude. It was one (happy) thing after another from that point on. Helping dd find some glue so she could finish her craft, reading the papers sent home from the school, ordering the pizza, greeting dh and dss who were home from work, watering the poor hot tomatoes... I'm sure you know how it goes. Busy, busy, busy!

After supper I tried to sneak away to write this blog post, but dd caught me. "Mom, aren't you going to watch the movie?"

"Sure, honey. I just have to do this one thing," I said, hoisting my laptop into my lap.

"You could bring your computer downstairs and be with us, Mom." (Aww. She loves me! Isn't it great to be wanted?)

So that's where I am right now. Typing in a darkened room while the movie Cars is blasting in full surround sound, teaching us a valuable lesson about working together as a team, and about appreciating those who help you get to where you want to be.

Hmm. Seems appropriate.

Hey, Writing Mothers - I appreciate you!


How's that for a test post? With this movie blasting, I can't hear myself think, so I'll have to read it later to see if it makes any sense!

Test Post

Carolyn Erickson from The Writing Mother group came up with a great idea: A group Blog! So let's see if we can get this puppy off the ground! (How's that for mixing some metaphors!)