June 7, 2012 by Jen
I love paperbacks. They’re squishy, they fit in your purse, and they cost less than a night out at the movies with popcorn and drinks. Yes, I’m that cheap. I’m a writer. I make no money. Which means that I appreciate the royalties. Wink.
May 23, 2012 by Jen
You know, I’ve tried really hard to stay out of the fracas surrounding the new mommyhood. Yes, I know it should be motherhood, but, somehow, with Jessica Alba all of a sudden proclaiming herself an expert on all things toxin-free and eco-family-friendly, mothers don’t really seem to exist anymore. It’s a world of mommies (albeit mommies who have a lot of money and a lot of help and spend a lot of time searching for things that won’t passively poison their children) and we just have to get used to it.
But the thing is, I wrote a book called The Better Mother! Every single thing I’ve ever written in my entire life has to do with what mothers are expected to be and what they can’t live up to even as they try to tread water and survive. My fictional mothers can be bad and mean, they can ignore the needs of their children, but they are women we understand, that we can cry for sometimes.
Personally, I find myself tossed about in a strange storm. There are the attachment mothers, the ones who nurse until the kid just drops off the breast when he’s 17. Then there are the organic mothers who don’t buy anything unless it’s brown, mealy and can be used as a face cream as well as a salad dressing. And then there are the hard-edged mothers, the ones who insist that their children act like miniature adults and who will not tolerate any disruption to their plucked and polished senses of self.
You will note: I make fun of them all. Which means that I alternate between all of these different kinds of women. Except for the nursing one. Sorry, I really liked wearing regular bras again.
And then there are the celebrity mommies who design baby clothes and endorse compostable diapers and write pretty bad picture books. These are the women who walk in fashion shows when their babies are 6 weeks old. These are the women who go straight from labour and delivery into spinning class and have nannies and cooks (whom the public never sees) standing at attention 24 hours a day. These are the women we see in magazines looking well-rested. These are the women we should never listen to. No, really. I don’t care about much, but I’m telling everyone out there that no one should ever take parenting/lifestyle/exercise/beauty advice from Hilary Duff/Jessica Simpson/Heidi Klum. I MEAN IT.
(Incidentally, I find it sweetly hilarious that Hilary Duff writes novels. It’s not even worth it to make fun of her author persona. I feel like she’s the really enthusiastic but not very athletic child on the playground that the other kids just humour. Shhh. We’ll just tell her that her books are good and then maybe she’ll stop. Shhh.)
Seriously though, I refuse to understand the conflicts between mothers who choose to parent in different ways. We all struggle to get through a long, whiny, snotty day. We all hate changing diapers. We all dream of getting a really good massage. I like to think that there’s a reason I write so much about women who are mothers. And it’s this: no one is The Better Mother. I write about the mistakes we make, the wounds we inadvertently inflict on our children, and how family is immutable despite distance, conflict and emotional coldness. We do the best we can given our circumstances. Sometimes it’s not good enough. Sometimes it is.
So if you see a mommy wandering around out there doing something that is totally antithetical to how you view motherhood, just remember that she is just doing the best she can. As you do. As your mother did. And offer her a smile. Because her pockets are probably filled with booger-y tissues and crushed Cheerios, and a smile might just help her get through the next hour of her day.
And you can pass her a copy of The Better Mother too. Because of course you keep a box of them in your car at all times to help me out. I have to pay for those organic animal cookies somehow.
Category The Better Mother | Tags:
May 4, 2012 by Jen
Here’s the thing: I don’t blog very often. I tell myself every week that I should really be updating this site every month at the least, but somehow that never happens. I’m not making excuses because I really could be writing a post instead of watching Come Dine with Me Canada after dinner, but then I think, what kind of writer would I be if I gave up an opportunity to observe humanity? Of course, I would be actually writing instead (as writers are supposed to do), but that doesn’t make the cut for rational arguments around my heavily-under-renovations house these days.
And I always want to blog about something relevant to my life as an author. I could blog about being a mother, which many of my friends do, but do I really want to immortalize in words the details of my poop-y, tantrum-y, booger-y parental life? Absolutely not. I’ve been tempted to wade into the current war between the back-to-the-earth mamas and the women who find this all-consuming philosophy of motherhood antithetical to feminism. But I’d rather not. My motto: be the woman you need to be. Full stop.
(Although, in fairness, I have no idea where I land in this debate. I’ve been known to give my kid potato chips. And chia muffins. And on my watch he ate the fluff from a cotton swab. So, really, I suppose I’m philosophy-less when it comes child-rearing. Which seems bereft and wrong.)
But my writerly existence has been pretty boring lately. I write. I talk about writing sometimes. I read when my eyes aren’t wasted from staring at my laptop. That’s all. I’m quite sure no one wants me to blog about that.
Yesterday, though, I was having one of those moments where I was writing a scene and needed a break from the intensity of my fictional conflict. So I went online (as we do) to look up a fact I needed for my manuscript about 1980s television. I stumbled across the saddest bit of news I’d read in a long time. Neil Hope, the actor who played Wheels on Degrassi Junior High, had died. And, worse, he had died five years earlier and it was only this past February that anyone in his family learned about it.
I grew up with Degrassi. I have watched every single episode of Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High. I own three seasons on DVD. I even watch the current series once in a while when I feel like rolling around in adolescent angst, which happens more often than most adults are willing to admit.
I loved Wheels. He was the straight man who hid core anxieties about identity and self-worth with a veneer of normalcy. We couldn’t all be the flamboyant Joey Jeremiah, or be as comfortable in our post-punk skin as Spike; but we could all hide what was really hurting us by pretending to be just like everyone else.
I learned the foundations of character building from Degrassi, and I discovered what characters would always compel me the most from Neil Hope’s nuanced and thoughtful portrayal of Wheels over the years of our shared childhood and adolescence. I’ve lost real friends and relatives, all of them well-loved and missed. But losing Wheels is like losing a friend I might have had, or versions of all the friends I did have, or all the people I was and could have been. I know virtually nothing about Neil’s personal life, but I like to think that it would matter to him that his work as a young actor affected me and many others deeply. Not just affected, actually. Changed.
This morning, the world also heard that Adam Yauch, MCA of the Beastie Boys also died. “You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party” came out when I was in grade six, “Sabotage” when I was in my last year of high school. I could say that the Beastie Boys were central to my understanding of poetry, or something writerly like that, but the truth is that I just loved them and that’s all. I watched them perform in 1998 with A Tribe Called Quest, one of the best and most out-of-control shows I’ve ever seen. It made me mad. It made me dance. It made me scream. It was great.
MCA, I wanted to marry you and be you all at the same time. Wheels, you had me as soon as you picked up that bass and sang “Everybody Wants Something” with The Zit Remedy. Be well, boys. I’m thinking of you.
February 11, 2012 by Jen
Oh, it’s that time of year again–Canada Reads! Now, we all know that I love me some Canada Reads. Not only did it change my life as one of the panelists in 2009, but it changed the life of all the authors we discussed, including my runner-up, Brian Francis’ Fruit. But that doesn’t mean I can’t listen to the broadcasts with a critical ear.
This year, Canada Reads has come under a lot of criticism, stemming mainly from the comments of one of the panelists. Plenty of people have made comments upon her comments and then commented again. I don’t think I need to.
The CBC is a funny entity. And when I say funny, I mean that Canadians are funny about their feelings toward it. The people who listen and care about what CBC broadcasts are hardcore fans. They have very intimate and personal relationships with their favourite programs, which is great, and they feel that they have a tangible stake in what their national radio and television should or shouldn’t do. Which means that when something happens that is the tiniest bit controversial, emotions are twice as intense as they would be if the exact same thing aired on a commercial radio or television station. What if someone said the same things that Anne-France Goldwater did on FOX News? Or your local Top 40 radio show? Maybe a few people might have noticed, but a national outcry? Not likely.
Having people care this much is a good thing, a stupendously wonderful thing. I have no problem with criticism birthed out of genuine concern. In fact, I read a lot of it and understood why listeners were upset. But one particular analysis of this year’s Canada Reads debates really irked me. And that one came from The Globe and Mail.
First of all, the online headline: “the CBC is bottom-feeding on culture.” Hmm, I thought when I read that. Funny how that sounds when the CBC is practically the only media outlet in this country that hasn’t cut back on arts and culture coverage (not that I’m pointing any no-longer-inkstained-fingers). But I was determined to move on.
Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer writes:
Last year, Canada Reads instigated an online public recommendation system. Writers who were savvy with self-promotion flogged their work, pleading, in some cases, for votes. Scrolling along the Canada Reads Web page was what I came to refer to as “the Twitter feed of desperation.” I felt sick about it. It was wrong that writers should have to beg.
I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble about what writers actually do when they promote their work, but a lot of is glorified begging. When you’re an emerging writer who is reading with someone super-famous, you’re begging for people to notice you. When you put out an invitation on Facebook to your book launch, you’re begging for people to come. When you’re competing for entertainment dollars with Netflix and XBox, you’re begging for the smallest possibility that someone will put down his or her controller and actually pick up a copy of your book. When we write grant applications, we’re begging then too.
We beg all the time. We’re used to it. It’s really not a big deal.
Kathryn also writes that
…[begging for votes] also created an atmosphere of unpleasant competition in a very small community. Writing is about conversation, and that conversation lags and dies when the topic becomes as mundane as ‘which book is best?’
That sense of competition among writers in Canada is nothing new and wasn’t created by Canada Reads or even the Giller Prize. Writers are neurotic. We obsess over punctuation. We spend a lot of time alone reading other people’s books. It’s kind of a given that we feel unhealthy competitive urges.
I don’t resent Zadie Smith’s success. No, not at all. Ahem.
But this is really the best part:
Readers need to be trained to read properly. I know that sounds snotty. I don’t mean it to. I simply mean that there is a meaning to the way a book is put together, and that meaning is important to why the book was put together the way it was.
Reading and the entire medium of print is the greatest democratic achievement of humankind, full stop. Books are meant to bring knowledge to everybody who can read, not everybody who is trained to read. Why are we making reading into something only qualified people should be allowed to do and then discuss? And if a reader who is reading simply for pleasure notices how a book is constructed or put together then that book isn’t very well-written, is it? Like most writers, I write for my readers. I put in all that work not so people notice the effort, but so my effort is hidden and the story and characters and structure are seamless.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t think deeply about what we read. Of course we should, if we want. But every person has different motivations for reading. Some people want to learn. Some people want to escape. And, sometimes, the very same person who wants to learn today might want to escape tomorrow. I, and all of the writers I’m proud to call my friends, respect that.
The beauty of Canada Reads is precisely that non-writers are discussing books. That almost never happens in real life outside of very well-organized book clubs (most, in my experience, end up rather boozy, which I totally endorse as well). Having an author on the panel is ideal, but it sometimes isn’t possible, and, really, do we need to listen to five writers talk about writing for five days in a row? Thanks, but I’ll listen to Jian interview Billy Bob Thornton again instead.
To suggest that Canada Reads is a bottom-feeding cultural beast is ridiculous. This isn’t Keeping up with the Kardashians or The Jersey Shore. This is the CB-freaking-C: mostly earnest, usually informative, often soothing, but never engaged in sham marriages or drunken pants-wetting. Once in a while, someone gets on the air and says something that jolts us out of our soft jazz doze. Well, so what? We get a temporary flash of titillation that provides us with some talking (and writing) material, and then we return to regular programming, with which we can sip our tea and pet the cat.
December 8, 2011 by Jen
I’ve been meaning to post on the plagiarism suit launched against Ling Zhang and her novel, Gold Mountain Blues, for some time now. I participated in an event with her at this year’s Vancouver International Writers’ Festival and, as anyone who knows me understands, I have very deep and emotional relationships with many of the books she has been accused of copying, in particular, The Jade Peony and Disappearing Moon Cafe.
Let me start by saying that being accused of plagiarism is catastrophic for a writer. It is perhaps the one thing that all of us fear. Remember when you were seven and were terrified of descending into the basement because you were convinced that a huge tentacled monster lived and snorted behind the hot water tank? Well, that’s how every writer I know feels about plagiarism. When I was writing The End of East, I kept a copy of Disappearing Moon Cafe on my desk and would check it every few weeks just in case I might have lifted an idea or a phrase or an event. It can be easy to read something, absorb it and then write it out thinking it came from your own head. And this is the fear.
I know, without any doubt, that none of the authors who have filed this lawsuit do it lightly.
Because we know how crushing it would be to be accused of such a career-destroying act. And I also know that Ling is a truly nice woman, one who approaches her readers with a genuine and sweet enthusiasm that I personally haven’t been able to muster up in years. So really, there are no winners in a lawsuit like this, which is the saddest part of this whole story.
There is one tiny thing that hasn’t been discussed in the mainstream media though. Ling claims she has never read the other books in question. But at our event in October, she said she had spent many years researching Chinese Canadian history. It may have been as long as 10 years, which would be a thorough study indeed.
But here’s the thing: how can you conduct any research into Chinese Canadian history without having read The Jade Peony or The Bone Collector’s Son? Every person you would have spoken to–from librarians to academics to the elderly man who used to own the tailor shop in Chinatown–would have mentioned those books to you, probably even said, “You need to read these.” How do I know that? I spent a few years researching my own novels, especially The End of East, and it is impossible to know, really know, the depth and breadth of Chinese Canadian stories without reading the work of Wayson or SKY or Paul. Like, literally impossible.
So maybe Ling’s research wasn’t quite as extensive as we might have thought. Or maybe she really did (and I hate to say it) take ideas from the books she denies ever having read. I don’t know. But I feel great sadness for everyone involved. No one wakes up thinking, “Gee, I hope a lawsuit enters my life today.” Well, probably lawyers do (big ups, legal community, and no insult intended!).
Here’s to telling original stories without fear and with great joy. But you should be cautious around that tentacly monster in the basement. He shudders out of hibernation at the most unexpected times.
Category News | Tags:
October 27, 2011 by Jen
This past year has given me a whole new perspective on publishing and the book business, mostly because I was in an adrenalin-laced fog when The End of East came out four years ago. Back then, I alternated between not really believing I had a book out and being giddy with outsized glee that a novel of mine was actually being read by actual people.
This time, things aren’t quite so bipolar, and I’ve been able to sit back and assess things with a more neutral perspective. It helps that for the better part of the last three years, I was reporting on the book business for the recently passed Westcoast Words column. While the column made me pay closer attention to publishing than I normally would have cared to, it also gave me time to read, think and understand how things really work in the big world of words, and to see how reading preoccupations come and go while others (like Margaret Atwood, crime fiction and word-of-mouth) will always endure. And since The Better Mother came out in May, I can finally apply all that wisdom (ha!) to my own work.
Fifteen years ago, Asian Canadian fiction was hot. Authors like Wayson Choy and SKY Lee and Kerri Sakamoto were selling and selling lots. I worked at the biggest bookstore in Vancouver then, and I remember ringing in copy after copy of The Jade Peony and The Electrical Field, which was truly fascinating to me. I was a 20-year-old bookseller who spent weekends at Kinko’s, copying and stapling editions of a pretty terrible poetry chapbook that kindly friends paid $3 for. These authors were winning prizes and readers couldn’t seem to get enough of their particular brand of literary Asian-ness. The moment for writers like me, I felt, was perfect.
Of course, I didn’t publish a book until 2007 and the literary and social landscapes had changed dramatically. Lisa See had published her wildly successful Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. The English-speaking world embraced the ultimate in martial arts melodrama–Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And Asian people were everywhere. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Cassie Steele on Degrassi. Ken Lum, the iconic Vancouver artist. It wasn’t just Tommy Chong anymore. We had finally made it to the mainstream. Maybe, we hoped, we were no longer the other.
But in the years since The End of East came out and now that The Better Mother is living its own life, I’ve come to see that being a part of the mainstream isn’t always everything we’d dreamed of. I had always thought of myself as a literary writer, which is perhaps a bit of aspiration mixed with delusion, but I was an English major and I was conditioned that literary writing, the kind that should sometimes come with a glossary, was what every writer should be aiming for. It was what I was trying to do when I wrote those mostly awful poems. And those two novels that I never speak of. Shush. It’s not good luck to speak of the dead like this.
As Canada got more and more used to the idea of Asian people contributing creatively to popular culture, the otherness of our books began to dissipate. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t relish playing the role of other. Few people do. But sometimes in our carefully liberal Canadian society, otherness gets confused with specialness, and specialness is what being literary is all about. If Amy Chua is selling a version of the Asian North American story to every news outlet in the English-speaking world, while Patrick Chan skates on CBC Sports, the Asian immigrant experience is no longer new or interesting. It’s just something we think we know and something we don’t feel the need to explore further.
Whether my books are literary enough for critics is a matter of opinion.
But what I feel is happening right now is that the world thinks they’ve read the Chinese Canadian story already and that it’s not special. And therefore not literary. And possibly not interesting enough to read anymore.
Listen, there are over 1 million Chinese people living in Canada. To me that means that there are over 1 million life stories that could be told, each different in subtle and also widely diverging ways. How many variations on stories from [insert name of community here] have we read? Ask yourself if there are too many stories by Mordecai Richler about the Jewish experience in Montreal. Or if Margaret Laurence should have stopped writing about that place in Manitoba after The Stone Angel came out. You could have read more, right? Right.
The next time you walk into a bookstore or browse through titles online, don’t eliminate a book by a Chinese or Japanese or Indo Canadian writer just because you already know about Wayson or Joy Kogawa or Rohinton Mistry. Keep digging. Look further and you might find that we–and our books–are as different as Antigonish and Ucluelet, Bonhomme and the Sasquatch. And in return, I promise I won’t be mad the next time you see me on the street and mistake me for Madeleine Thien. She’s pretty cute, so it’s kind of a compliment anyway.
Category The writing life | Tags:
October 2, 2011 by Jen
Being a writer is something I’ve been dreaming about since I was 10 years old. Even then, I was in love with the craft of writing, those hours we spend sweating over descriptions and characters and punctuation. These were and are the happy moments for me.
But there’s another component to the dream, one that no writer I’ve ever met is immune to. As a child, I imagined myself wearing chic black dresses, swanning about cocktail parties as readers and other writers and editors jostled to congratulate me on my last literary prize. I’d make a witty joke (perhaps something that worked in the myth of Icarus with Snooki from The Jersey Shore) and the room would erupt in appreciative, knowing laughter. This isn’t the most important part of the dream. It’s not motivating. It’s certainly not vital to my identity. And yet, it persists, even now.
I’m a working writer. I hustle for my money, getting bits of cash from teaching or freelancing or public speaking or radio work. I’m not a prizewinner.
I’m not famous enough to just write and do nothing else. I rely on my fragile network of other writers, educators and event organizers to help me find work that can support my writing. Those glamorous cocktail parties? Maybe I’ve been to a couple, but we were celebrating someone else and I probably went home early to take a bath.
When I write, like everyone else, I am in total control of what’s occuring on the page. No one else forces me to develop a sex scene or make the sky grey instead of blue. That’s all me. But when a book comes out, writers lose control completely. We have no say in what kind or how much media coverage we get. We can’t control the snarky reviews that show up on someone’s aunt’s best friend’s blog. We have no idea where we’ll be invited to read, or if we’ll get invited at all. And we most certainly have no control over the literary prize nominations, which is the one thing that our well-meaning friends and relatives always ask us about.
Listen, for the past four years, I’ve tried very hard never to address these things to anyone other than my husband and closest friends. I never wanted people to know that I notice those reviews or shortlists. But I do. I notice. And it’s hard to shake it off and just go on with your day. Because inevitably you start to think about what you could have done better, even though you bled yourself dry trying to write the best book you could. At the time, there was nothing more you could do unless you were willing to go blind and sleepless perfecting a book that no one would ever think is perfect anyway.
I’m not fishing for sympathy. Most days I love my career and am glad I’m completely unqualified to do anything else. Many great, surprising things happened because I published my three novels, things like CBC Radio and meeting my awesome, talented and empathetic writer friends. But let’s not pretend that surprising, disappointing things don’t happen too. My books are like my children. They might not be pretty or smart enough for others, but I love them ferociously, maybe partly because I know they’re flawed.
Maybe I’m just in a funk. I promise the next time you see me on a stage or hear me on the air, I’ll be my cheeky, cheerful self again. But let me wallow in self-pity for a little while longer. There’s a bottle of wine and a cocktail party for one waiting for me tonight.
Category The writing life | Tags:
August 8, 2011 by Jen
I’m sure you’ve all heard by now: the Scotiabank Giller Prize people are asking for readers to nominate eligible titles for inclusion on this year’s longlist. There are scads of opinions out there about whether this is a good or bad thing and I’m not going to burden anyone with my thoughts for or against. However, I do love anything that gets people reading and talking about books. Love your books, people. LOVE THEM.
While it may seem strange that a very visible and cachet-laden literary prize is going user-friendly, it doesn’t really surprise me very much.
In the past few years, the Giller has been broadcast on national television, and shortlisted authors have walked an actual red carpet with varying degrees of discomfort and introduced at the gala by real live movie actors. These are all ways of bringing literature to the masses, so why should the development of the longlist be any different?
And as all my author friends know, this is a challenging time for books. E-books are changing the publishing industry very quickly, and we’ve all been forced to play catch-up. So none of us should be flabbergasted that publishers and literary prize organizations are doing everything they can to bring interaction to the reading experience. Open discussion is what everyone is aiming for in this social media world although, as yet, no one has developed a book that actually talks back to the reader (I should put on my inventor’s hat and get on that right now). But we have mobile apps that illustrate and animate the content of books, and we have authors who answer every last question from readers within minutes of receiving it. Yes! we’re all shouting. Books are fun and interesting too! Throw a virtual sheep at an author and she’ll poke you back! Huzzah!
Okay, I’m making fun. I have always been one hundred percent behind the accessibility of literature. We should care about our readers. We should have open and honest discussions. We should allow the public a peek into how prize juries work. Listen, I spent a week debating what book should win Canada Reads 2009 in full view of the Canadian people. I practice what I preach.
But at some point, it all becomes too much. On a personal level, I like to be able to unplug from my author persona and just be. You know, do things like sit in the shade and stare at the clouds. Or walk into a bookstore without checking on the stock of my books. Or just read something for fun. If I check my Facebook account every fifteen minutes, none of that unplugging stuff ever happens. Because even if there’s no action online, I’ll be obsessing about why there’s no action online.
Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that the Giller Prize is awesomely awesome. And that having the public vote this year is great because I have an eligible title out! If you want to nominate The Better Mother, please do. And then I’ll for sure make you my Facebook friend. That is, whenever I get around to creating a profile. Never mind. I’ll take you out for a drink instead.
July 8, 2011 by Jen
A friend of mine just recently sent me this article from The Guardian by Frank Cottrell Boyce, writer and father of seven. Yes, that’s right. Seven.
When I became pregnant, a few people told me I would have no time for writing and that children were creative Kryptonite. I believed them. After all, I come from a family of five girls and I’m pretty sure my parents were so exhausted that whatever creative pursuits they may have dreamed about once were pushed to the side, buried under baskets of laundry and discarded Barbie dolls. My father wanted to be a visual artist once upon a time. My mother just wanted to be rich. Neither of those things happened.
I don’t think that I’m some kind of Supermom for finishing Shelter and The Better Mother while my son was a newborn. Rather, I was under a lot of pressure, internal and external, to get those books done. Everything during that time other than caring for the baby and writing fell away. My house was dirty. I was dirty. My dog was dirty. My husband and I ate a lot of frozen soup that kindly friends brewed and dropped off at our front door. And it was hard. Harder than I can even express.
I don’t feel very functional as a mother even now. I will never be the woman who bakes cookies from alternative grains, or knits little sweaters out of organic wool. I’m the woman who lets my son play with ballpoint pens so I can finish writing an email. I’m the woman who says to my one-year-old, “Read the book yourself,” so I can watch So You Think You Can Dance on my PVR. All right, I’m not like that all the time, but I don’t vacuum out the car or bake pies. I can barely brush my own hair. And this makes me feel alternately guilty and relieved. Which leads to more guilt.
But, I believe strongly in emotion. I’m not the most florid writer. I tend to hold back, which has been my literary Waterloo for as long as I can remember. If anything, I need to feel more in order to write comparable feelings for my characters. And nothing has made me emote more than this baby and those books.
True, the pockets of time that I have available for writing now are small and staggered. And it’s also true that I don’t have the same focus that I used to have. You know, those hours writers can spend worrying over the same two sentences. Should they be combined? What if I split them into four fragments? Could they be turned into dialogue?
But I view this as a positive. No one needs to obsess over sentences and micro-manage like that. You’ll go blind. Right after you go insane, of course.
And I’m way faster now as a writer than I ever was. I can revise three chapters in an hour! And it turns out that they’re no worse than the work I did before! Huzzah!
My world is simultaneously smaller and bigger. Smaller because I try to see things from my son’s perspective. Bigger because everything I am and feel is bigger. I love bigger. I cry bigger. I believe in bigger things, like Santa Claus and the power of a picture book to change an entire day. I am forced out of myself every single minute.
I can’t think of anything else better for writing.
Category The Better Mother | Tags:
June 9, 2011 by Jen
So the book came out. Some reviews did too (you can read them on the Media page). I went to Toronto. And now I’m back.
It’s a funny thing when
a follow-up novel is released into the world. I remember rushing to a local bookstore the day The End of East was on sale and hiding behind a display waiting to see if anyone would pick it up. No one did, of course, and I was deeply disappointed (not that you could tell behind my huge dark glasses, donned so that no particularly eagle-eyed bookseller would recognize me). This time, I woke up, fed my son and forgot all about it until my editor sent me an upbeat email proclaiming, “Today is the day!”
Which isn’t to say I’m not excited. The Better Mother was a challenging book to write and I am very happy to have it out there where it’ll have a separate and distinct life, as it was meant to. It represents everything that is joyful and difficult about the writing process. Deadlines were missed. I wept. Whole mornings passed because I was so engrossed a scene.
When I was in Toronto, the full impact of this book’s release finally hit me. I saw it in bookstores for the first time. I talked to people who had actually read it and weren’t related to me. I had time to hang out with other writers (big ups, Haley Tanner!). It was a busy time (my publicist kept me moving, bless her heart), but it was totally necessary. Otherwise I might never have understood that I actually had a book published.
Now, I’m waiting for the rest of the reviews (it seems all the big ones are left), but I feel calm. The Better Mother is out there, doing its work. And I can let it go.
Category The Better Mother | Tags: