Filed under: Life
Thursday, May 7th, 2015 • No Comments on Hello, 48
Writing whenever I can…
Before writing my birthday post this year, I went back and reread last year’s post. The cliche of saying time has flown isn’t entirely true. I feel like I’ve savored this last year in ways I haven’t in previous years. It wasn’t entirely voluntary– forces beyond my control made it so I had to slow down and take it day by day. Three big events– losing my regular babysitter last August, some big changes with my publisher over the fall and winter and falling deathly ill last month– reinforced that I can plan and organize my life just so, but it won’t always work out the way I hope. And sometimes, that turns out to be a very good thing.
I have been a full-time stay-at-home mom for nine months now. I want to say it’s been easy, but it hasn’t. What it has been is challenging, exhausting, frustrating and–yes– rewarding. I know I am privileged to be able to stay home with my kids and for the most part, I really do enjoy it. But for someone like me, an introvert who thrives on a certain amount of alone time (not to mention needs it in order to do creative work), it’s been so hard to give up the part-time babysitting schedule I had up until last August. I panicked, I admit it, when I realized my alone time– my writing time– would essentially disappear.
It took me months to find a rhythm that works and, to be honest, I’m still not there. It’s ever-changing, the amount of time I have to write. It’s never enough. Sometimes I can write with the kids playing in the house with me, but most often I do administrative stuff when I’m at home with them– answering emails, editing stories and essays, promoting my work, querying editors, researching markets– and reserve the “real” writing for the times when I can get out of the house alone. Which most often means evenings (when I’m already tired) or weekends (which means missing out on family time). I wrote very little between August and December last year. I didn’t know how. I was plagued by guilt, self-doubt, resentment, frustration. My creativity withered under that weight.
2015 has brought a little more balance. Nothing has changed about my schedule– I’m still home full-time, I still have one kid going to preschool three mornings a week, I still have very few hours to write each week– but I have changed my focus and adjusted my attitude. If I’m only going to have twenty hours a month to write, I want to make it count. And so I’ve been focusing on writing nonfiction, writing what I know– parenting, marriage, relationships, kids, life. It’s been rewarding. I’ve sold to several markets, I’ve picked up a regular writing gig, I’m making the most of what little writing time I do have. I’m a stay-at-home writer mom, just doing the best I can during this stage of my life.
The change in writing focus hasn’t entirely been about a lack of childcare. The reversion of three of my completed and approved anthologies— books I worked hard on, spent many, many hours on– has made me more aware of how I spend my time and on what projects I want to invest my precious work hours. I was angry and somewhat bitter after the initial fallout, but I’ve made my peace with it. It may be “just business,” but that doesn’t mean I haven’t taken it personally. I did and I do, but in some ways I’m thankful it happened– otherwise, I might not be writing and publishing in other markets. And so, this past year has been a big swing in a different direction for me professionally, and while it wasn’t by choice, I’m very happy with where I’m headed.
What’s a typical day like for me? School mornings find me at Starbucks with my youngest, squeezing in an hour or two of work if I can (and sometimes even writing a few hundred words) and then running errands while my oldest is at preschool. Non-school days are more languid, with long mornings spent staying in our pajamas, snuggling in bed, reading or plotting (in my head) while they play quietly. Every afternoon is spent doling out juice and snacks, putting Curious George or Caillou on the TV, mediating fights over cars or LEGOs, hanging out on the deck (weather permitting) while they play superheroes or Transformers or monster, pushing them on the swing, doing crafts at the kitchen table, squeezing in an hour of editing or email writing or social media updating. Some days we go to lunch at Wendy’s (their request) or go to the park or the garden center or Starbucks for frappuccinos. Some days we have play dates with friends. Some days, Jay is off or gets home early and I’m able to get a couple of hours in the afternoon to write (like today, my birthday). This is my life currently. And it’s good.
My life, my loves
This past year has brought about an increased awareness of the brevity of life and the preciousness of time. Not to be cliched, but damn, have I wasted a lot of time in the wrong places. It’s human nature, I suppose, to amble aimlessly for years or decades, thinking there will always be time enough to do what we want. There isn’t, we know that, but it’s easier to pretend we’ll live forever than to take this living thing too seriously. I’m grateful for this life I have, I think I have always had an awareness of how truly lucky I am, but the near-death thing… well, I will write about it someday soon. I have joked that if my almost dying was supposed to be a sign, I have no idea what I’m meant to learn. But maybe the lesson is not in what I should change about my life, but in simply appreciating that I am still alive.
I’m excited about being 48. It’s such a nice even number, angles and curves together. The coming year will bring big changes– both boys will be in school in the fall and I will have three– THREE– days a week to write! I can barely stand the anticipation, though I’m not going to rush through summer and I know I’ll be sad and lost for a few weeks in the fall, missing my boys. Jay is retiring from the Navy this summer and he’ll also be in school this fall, as a middle school teacher. And in October we will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. The rest of the year is full of exciting, happy changes. And, always, there is the writing. I have more projects I want to work on than I have time for now, and the school year will bring many hours of contented writing for me.
There isn’t a lot of angst in life at this point. I’m settled, I’m happy, I’m grateful. And I’m ready for 48.
Thursday, April 30th, 2015 • No Comments on April: the month in review
Oh, this month! April almost killed me. Literally. I fell sick at the end of March and in 72 hours I went from thinking I had a cold or maybe the flu to being in the ER, followed by the ICU. The diagnosis was pneumonia and I was apparently in septic shock when I arrived at the hospital, which is pretty serious stuff from what I learned after a few days there. It all seems a bit surreal now, being told after the fact that they weren’t sure I was going to make it, but I’m here to tell the tale. Or write about it, when I find the words.
Fashionable in a hospital gown
And so, I spent the first several days of April in the hospital and the past few weeks recuperating. Jay’s birthday and Easter were both celebrated over a week late because I was sick and hospitalized. I didn’t see any movies and, sadly, I didn’t even read any books. I envy those people who can read a stack of books when they’re sick. I had a book with me in the hospital and I couldn’t focus on anything for more than a few minutes. That continued to be the case even after I got home– I just couldn’t read. So I rested– a lot– and I thought– a lot– and I plotted– a lot. I desperately wanted to write, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as tired as I was this month, not even when I was very pregnant. So I have a lot of ideas in my head and jotted in notes on my iPhone and hopefully I will translate these ideas and notes into some good, publishable stuff in the coming months.
I may have not done much writing this month– a whopping seven hours (and that’s been in the past three days)– but I’ve had a few sales and a few publications. I sold two more essays to The Mid this month, for a total of three so far!, and my first two pieces have been published. The Mid is a terrific new website with a ton of content already, so if you find yourself in the “messy middle” of life, do check them out! There are essays and articles about everything from parenting to relationships to pop culture and I’ve found several new writers to follow. Here are the links to my current posts:
Why Don’t Adults Have Best Friends? (Originally “Seeking a Best Friend Like Me”)
10 Times You’ve Used Your Kids as an Excuse
I’m also very excited about an essay I sold to Narratively. It was the fastest acceptance I’ve ever received for an essay (six hours!) or, really, any piece of writing where I didn’t already have a working relationship with the editor. “Where Babies Come From” will be published in just a couple of weeks and I’m very proud of this piece– it’s incredibly personal and poignant and not like anything else I’ve ever written.
Finally, I’m officially joining the ranks of “mommy bloggers” in May! I’ll be blogging several times a month at mom.me about parenting, kids, family life and whatever else they’ll let me write about. I’m thrilled to be given this opportunity to share my experiences and my first piece–7 New Mom Tips from a Military Spouse— goes live tomorrow. Considering that I knew absolutely nothing about babies or motherhood until I was 42 years old, it’s mind boggling that I’m now writing about it!
Since April was a wash for having time to write, I still have two novel proposals to finish writing and editing in May. Plus a couple of short stories to write for upcoming anthologies, as well as my freelance assignments and a few other ideas I’d like to work on. I’m not sure where or how I’ll find time for all of that– the reality is probably somewhere between accomplishing everything I want to do and accepting what I’ll actually be able to carve out time do. Probably only one novel proposal will get sent off. Some of the essay ideas will get pushed to June or July. But after a month of illness, exhaustion and recovery, I am ready to get back to myself!
May is my birthday month and I’ll be 48 one week from today! Someone asked what I was going to do for my birthday, as I have a reputation for celebrating “birthday week” and making my birthday last as long as possible. This year will be a quiet birthday, though I still intend to celebrate all week long. But after this month, I’m just grateful to be healthy, to be alive, and to have such a wonderful, happy life.
Happy Spring and Happy May from Clementine and me!
Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 • No Comments on March: The month in review
Well loved monkey.
Despite the fact that we had snow flurries last weekend, it really is spring! March was far more productive for me than February was and I’m bouncing into April with big plans and high hopes.
The monkey belongs to my youngest son. He and I made our debut in the Washington Post last week. This poor guy inspired an essay about love, Maurice Sendak and cute aggression.
I understand wanting to devour what you love. I understand the ache of need and the sense of belonging that is making my cute little boys sink sharp baby teeth into their monkeys.
(You can read the rest at: My kids are eating their lovies)
This month also brought the release of my anthology Three of Hearts: Erotic Romance for Women. This collection of erotic romance threesomes was one of my favorite anthologies to edit. This steamy, romantic collection has stories from Tiffany Reisz, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Angela Capterton and a dozen more talented authors, plus a foreword from one of my longtime inspirations, Alison Tyler. No matter how many more anthologies I may edit, this one is going to stay with me for the variety of sexy threesomes, the depth of emotion and the sheer sensuality these authors packed into their stories.
Also this month, I cracked a new market and sold an essay to a relatively new website called The Mid. I’ve been quite impressed with the essays they’re running– especially since I’m the demographic they’re targeting!– and I’m looking forward to joining the lineup.
I think that’s it for sales and new releases this month. The horror story I wrote in January was rejected, as was an essay I wrote for the New York Times. In both cases, I knew it was a long shot– the horror anthology received something like a thousand submissions (!!) and the NYT is, well, the NYT. But still, good to stretch myself and try.
This month I read Precious Thing by Colette McBeth– a book that twisted me ’round and ’round and I’m still thinking about it. Right now I’m reading Chelsea Cain’s Heartsick— another twisty little book that I’m happy is the first in a series of mysteries.
I saw a few movies this month, too. Kingsman wasn’t what I expected, but it was fun to see Colin Firth as a badass spy. Run All Night was exactly what it looks like, but I adore Liam Neeson no matter how mediocre the movie. And it was fun to revisit the geriatric gang in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
I had 26.5 writing hours this month, compared to only 17.5 last month. Those are hours I get outside the house, alone, focused. I try to squeeze in hours here and there at home with the family, with various degrees of success. It’s not much, but I’m still managing to be somewhat productive. It’ll get better in the fall when the boys are both in school and I have 3 days a week (the little one will only go to school MWF), every week, during the school year. Something to look forward to, along with more adjustments to make. Until then, I’m being as productive as I can be given the time I have.
April will be a tough month for writing. Jay is in a transition program to become a teacher (and he’s already been offered a job for the 2015-2016 school year!), which has him in class, either online or in-person, several days a week on top of his work schedule. So I’m pretty much on parent duty non-stop through April and May. But hopefully I’ll squeeze some work hours in. Right now, I have copyedits to work on for my July anthology Best Erotic Romance of the Year (formerly Best Erotic Romance 2015). I’ll also spend this month finishing and polishing two novel proposals to send to a literary agent who has requested them. And, hopefully, writing a few new essays and sending them out into the world.
Have a lovely April!