Saturday, October 4th, 2014 • 2 Comments
The past few years have been a whirlwind for me. Since 2009, I’ve had two kids, edited 19 anthologies and written I don’t know how many words. The writing and editing career has been sustained with part-time childcare, a lot of caffeine, a supportive spouse and a drive to prove myself to myself. It’s been an amazing ride– and it’s also been exhausting. I haven’t kept all the balls in the air as well as I would’ve liked. I gave up a few things here in there– like blogging. And sleep. Heh. But it’s been good. I found my rhythm, built my routine. Altered my routine as things changed along the way. Balance. I kept adjusting to find my balance. It seems like every time I think I’ve found it, I lose it again. Like now.
In mid-August, our babysitter (only the second one we’ve had since the boys came along) left us to focus on her education. After much discussion, we decided to put our oldest son, who will be 5 in December, in a part-time Montessori preschool program. Three days a week, four hours a day. It’s been wonderful for him in so many ways. And his little brother, who just turned 3 in September, has also benefitted from the one-on-one time with me while big brother is in school. They’re both gaining their independence, developing their confidence, growing up.
Of course, the other side of this exciting new transition is that I am now home full-time. I am something I’d never thought I’d be: a stay at home/work at home mom. Although, honestly, for the past six weeks I have done almost no work. No writing to speak of, and I was caught up on my anthology editing when our babysitter left so I’m simply maintaining the admin side of that in what few free moments I have. I essentially quit my job to stay home with my boys. This is a startling realization, even if it’s only temporary.
I guess this is the part where I say it’s great and wonderful and I love it and I don’t miss writing at all. And it is great and wonderful and most of the time I love it. But I miss writing terribly. I came to it late, but I embrace this Mama gig whole heartedly, probably more so than a lot of my Facebook friends care to read about. I don’t post snarky things about wanting to get away from my kids because I genuinely like spending time with them (and their father, who still rocks my world after 24 years). It’s not as if I went from a full-time job outside the house to staying at home full-time. I went from working part-time five days a week to working part-time three days a week to staying at home. It’s been a gradual step-down process, but at most I was only away from them for 20-25 hours a week because I love being home with them and not feeling as if I have to miss out on anything. But though it might not seem like it, there is a big difference between being away from my children 20 hours a week and being home full-time. In that 20 hours a week (and a few evening and weekend hours), I was the writer I’ve been my entire life. That is the core of my identity and it runs deeper than any other aspect of who I am. I love that I’m home with them, able to spend alone time with my little one while his brother is in school. I love the days all three of us hang out together. I love our family weekends. It’s a really good, very happy life. I love this life I’ve made.
But I miss my writing. And because writing is such a big part of my identity, I am missing myself. A lot.
Fourteen hour days with two little boys is exhausting, absolutely. I never imagined myself being a stay-at-home mom and even though these years before they’re in school full-time are truly the toughest as a stay-at-home parent, I wouldn’t say it’s the hardest job in the world. But there are days… oh my, are there days… when I think about all of my education, all of my interests, all of my skills (okay, my handful of skills) and question the meaning of my life as I pour yet another cup of juice or say for the hundredth time, “You need to put on shoes if you want to go outside.” There are days when I don’t have an adult conversation until 5pm– and then it’s usually about children and interrupted by those children. It’s not so bad– really– and the fact that I feel like I have to keep saying that makes me cringe. It is a part of life, these changes, and though I struggle to maintain balance I am always aware of what a good life it is. And yet I want more.
I’ve never not had a job and/or gone to school and also been writing at least part-time. I’ve always done multiple things at once. Prior to having baby #1, I was writing full-time, editing anthologies and teaching three college classes a semester. Now, at this current moment in time, I’m a stay-at-home mother. Yeah, I’m a writer and editor, too, but those things are currently… inactive. And so I have to remind myself almost daily that I’m not lazy, I’m not a slug, I’m not wasting my life and that I am doing something important– raising little boys. That pep talk only goes so far. I wouldn’t call myself an A-type personality, but I’m a writer and a writer’s gotta write. And I’m not writing.
Over the past month and a half, I’ve tried here and there to write. Even with the long days of mediating ownership debates over Hot Wheels cars and Legos, making PB&J sandwiches and reinforcing good hygiene (“Wash your hands! Wash your hands! I don’t care if you washed your hands this morning, wash your hands again!”), I can put together a few hours to write. I can. I just don’t, at least not as often as I should And I figured out why: I don’t know what to work on. I don’t know what to write. I am paralyzed by my need to write ALL THE WORDS and my reality that I have very little time to write at all, so I must make it count.
It’s terrifying in a way I can’t explain.
I didn’t suddenly become stricken by the writing paralysis bug six weeks ago when I became a stay-at-home parent. It has been a recurring affliction for the past several years, one I combatted by editing more anthologies and starting many projects (mostly novels) that never got finished. I also took off on some side roads, writing outside my comfort zone in hopes of sparking a renewed passion for the craft. And it worked, for awhile. But I got overwhelmed by my own self-imposed deadlines and retreated to what was comfortable. And though, yes, being a parent to young kids is tough, exhausting work, I know I could be doing more. And while I may not be lazy and I don’t feel like I’m wasting my life, I know I can– and should– be doing more.
I don’t know what I should be writing now. I don’t know what I should be working on. I have all these files– so many files!– and I open them and read what I’ve written and some of it is really good, but I just don’t know what to focus on. And so the hour or three that I have to write is spent reading files of half-finished manuscripts (and, let’s be honest, “half-finished” is being generous in many instances) and then reading articles and websites to see if I can glean any ideas of what I should be working on. And the time goes by, what little time I have, and no words are written. Or not many. The ideas, they’re there… so many ideas. But what do I write now?
Erotica, erotic romance… I’ve been doing it for over a decade. The market is flooded with Fifty Shades of Grey ripoffs and those of us who were writing kinky erotica and erotic romance before the big mainstream explosion, have tried to find our place in this new post-Fifty Shades world. It’s a cold, Grey world right now, I tell you. Or maybe it’s just me, feeling the need to challenge myself to do something new. Even the non-erotica projects I have started have an erotic edge to them. So maybe it’s not a matter of picking a new genre, but in pushing myself beyond the genre I’ve become very comfortable (too comfortable?) writing. I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go along.
I started this post by saying I was at a crossroads, then I went back and deleted that first line because it’s not quite true. The choice is not between parenting and writing. I will continue to be Mama and wipe snotty noses and find the missing shoes and brush the tangled hair. And I will continue to be the writer, even if I am on a temporary hiatus. It’s not a crossroads I’m at, it’s just that the path I’ve chosen has taken a slight upward turn the last few years. I imagine it’ll continue to feel like I’m climbing for awhile, so I might as well settle in and get used to it. Adapt. Find my balance.
I had the image of a streetlight in my mind, me sitting at a red light, waiting for the light to turn green. But that suggests someone else, something else, is in charge of saying when I get to go forward. And I know this is all me, all in my control (at least the part where I figure out what to write in the little time I do have to write). No, if anything, this is simply a stop sign on my path. The personal and professional circumstances of my life have converged to force me to a temporary, but necessary, stop. I have to evaluate my surroundings, oncoming traffic, the terrain ahead. And then I can proceed– when I’m ready. It’s my call, my decision. My success or my failure, it’s on me.
I’ve been stopped for a little while now, trying to figure it all out. Trying to formulate a plan without really knowing what’s coming up ahead. But maybe it’s time to just go. Just move forward. Maybe I already have, by letting go of the idea that I have to do so many things in order to validate my existence as a writer, a mother, a person. Honestly, I don’t know. I believe in signs, even stop signs. And I believe there are good things ahead, just around the bend.
Friday, May 10th, 2013 • No Comments
Last week, I was in Kansas City attending the RT Booklovers Convention. Whew! It’s taken almost another week just to get around to writing about it. My brain was full with ideas and inspiration and knowledge gleaned from this massive event. This was my first RT convention and I thought I knew what to expect from the post-con updates from previous years, but there are some things you just can’t know until you experience them. I was only there from Wednesday night until the crack of dawn Sunday, but the three full days I experienced were an amazing amalgam of informative fun. From the writerly camaraderie to the chance to meet booksellers, librarians and readers from all over (as well as go all fangirl over some of my favorite authors), it was a terrific– if exhausting– experience.
Ready to sign books at the Giant Book Fair!
I’m sure there are many, many con reports already posted, as well as the official convention news from the RT Booklovers website, but I thought I’d share a few of my favorite moments of the whirlwind:
♥ Moderating my very first writing panel. Sweet and Sexy: Writing for Erotica Anthologies was a big hit with the audience because of the amazing panel. Rachel Kramer Bussel, Christine d’Abo, Kate Pearce and Michelle M. Pillow shared their experiences, offered advice and told amusing anecdotes.
♥ Spending time with Rachel Kramer Bussel. It was only the third time we’ve been in the same place at the same time and it was lovely to actually be able to take a break from the running from one event to the next and actually talk to her. About writing, editing, life, babies, travel– it was really one of the highlights of RT.
♥ Meeting the incredibly talented, funny, inspiring Tiffany Reisz. She came to my panel on writing for erotica anthologies and I scored one of six spiral bound ARCs of her July release Harlequin MIRA, The Mistress!
♥ Getting to talk with librarians from all over the country. I have a soft spot for libraries (I worked in one for almost five years) and librarians and it was really special to hear them say they ordered my Cleis Press anthologies for their libraries. I also ran into a friend from my local public library!
♥ The Avon Books party. Oh my. So many books, so many authors, so much chocolate! There were multiple chocolate fountains and a array of tidbits to dip, from the familiar strawberries and brownie bites to potato chips and bacon! There was also an abundance of wine and men– several of the famed RT models were mingling with the crowd, doling out little boxes of chocolate truffles. It was quite an event! I know all of the parties at RT are pretty impressive and I enjoyed all the ones I attended, but Avon Books was a particular favorite.
♥ Meeting John Scalzi and telling him that while I don’t read science fiction (Jay does), I am a huge fan of his blog (Whatever) and the humanity he brings to his writing. He laughed, but read his blog post on his experience at the convention and I think you’ll know what I mean. He’s one of the good guys.
♥ Spotting Jude Deveraux across the Giant Book Fair (where I was also signing) on Saturday and following her to get a picture taken with her. She was one of the first romance authors I ever read. Amazing lady.
♥ Running into Lauren Dane when in the elevator after I locked myself out of my room on the last night of the convention. (I seem to do that quite often– go to get ice and forget I don’t have my key card.) I’d met her a couple of other times over the course of the week (and mentioned that I’d love to have her write a foreword for one of my Cleis Press anthologies) and she’s just so nice. I must have seemed very tired and harried, because she whipped out a copy of her new novel Lush and gave it to me. So nice!
♥ Justin, the cute, somewhat overwhelmed guy in a black T-shirt and glasses who asked me about my erotic romance anthology Best Erotic Romance 2013– including what my criteria was for selecting stories. (I said a story needed to be erotica, romantic, contemporary and realistic– real people having real sex.) From what he said, he’d heard about the Giant Book Fair and decided to come by. I don’t know what he was expecting, but clearly it was more than what he imagined. But he did buy a copy of BER 2013 and as he wandered away I kind of wished I had taken his picture with the book. He inspired a story!
Oh, and I did I mention the snow? Yes, thought it was close to 80 when I arrived Wednesday, Thursday brought a steady snowfall– the first in over 100 years, I was told.
There was so much more packed into those few days that this post would be triple the length if I wrote about all of the events, panels and people. There were intimate chats in the hotel bar, informative panels on writing and promoting, writers from all backgrounds from NYT bestselling authors to first-time novelists. And then there was the swag! Totebags filled with books and every manner of promotional item you can imagine, from lip balm to pocket mirrors. My suitcase was about 25 lbs. heavier on the return trip and I’m giving away at least half of the books I brought back– mostly to the crew at Starbucks, where I spend my writing days.
My haul at the RT Booklovers Convention– about 25 lbs of books and swag!
It was a chaotic, memorable experience and I’m very much looking forward to RT Booklovers Convention 2014– in New Orleans!
Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 • No Comments
January is slipping by with a chill in the air to inspire both writing and baking (see above). After a relatively mild month, temperatures are dipping down into the teens here in southeastern Virginia, making me long for spring. Ah, but there's so much to do before then! And so many delicious treats on my plate to enjoy! Here's just a bit of what's going on in my world…
Best Erotic Romance 2013 is on the shelves– and now available for Kindle! I have been downloading more books lately– it's such instant gratficiation, especially on a cold night. I will always love bookstores, but nothing beats being curled up in bed at 11 PM on a Sunday night, downloading a shiny new book! Right now I'm reading Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer and I just finished World War Z by Max Brooks.
Speaking of various formats for books… Doubleday Book Club (and their affiliates) picked up the bookclub rights for Duty and Desire: Military Erotic Romance, which means their subscribers can get the book in hardcover! And Lustfully Ever After: Fairy Tale Erotic Romance is my most recent anthology to be added to the Audible.com collection of audiobooks. Whee! I'm rarely in the car for longer than it takes to hear two songs on the radio, but I know a lot of commuters who swear by audiobooks.
Speaking of radio… I'll be doing a radio interview– probably next week– on KPCC 89.3 FM, an NPR affiliate out of Southern California. I'll post details when I have them!
My upcoming in-person February events include moderating a book discussion on the Fifty Shades of Grey Phenonmenon at the Chesapeake Public Library on February 11 and a lunchtime booksignging at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond on Valentine's Day. And looking ahead to March, I'll be in Washington, DC for CatalystCon! I'm participating in two events coordinated by Rachel Kramer Bussel: a panel on How to Become a Successful Erotica Writer and her very special In the Flesh reading. I can't wait!
Rachel has a new anthology hitting the shelves in March– and, for a change, I have a story in someone else's collection! (The problem with editing my own anthologies is that I rarely seem to have time to write for other calls for submissions.) Serving Him: Sexy Stories of Submission includes my very-first-ever coffee shop story, “The Coffee Break” and it's steamy hot! (The pun was just begging to be used, sorry.) You can read an excerpt of my story, as well as the other stories in the collection, on Rachel's Blog: BDSM and coffee in “The Coffee Break” by Kristina Wright.
Also in March, I'll be teaching a class at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, VA. Behind Closed Doors: Writing the Love Scene will be a two session workshop focused on writing believable, authentic sex scenes, regardless of genre. I'm very excited to use my fourteen years of erotica writing experience in an academic setting.
In personal news, i seem to be on my second (or is it third?) cycle of a cold so far this month. I'm sure some of it is allergies due to this wacky weather we're having– the Virginia weather rollercoast, which has fluctated from highs in the 70s to lows in the teens! But the babies are healthy, I'm plodding along with coffee and cold medicine, and still very excited about this new year, sniffles or no!
I've been in full-on nesting mode since the holidays started, wanting to bake and read and just hang out at home with my boys. It's been lovely to breathe… since I had the boys, I've felt like a slacker if I wasn't working every minute between when they went to bed and I stumbled exhausted into bed myself. I don't know why I've internalized the idea that parenting isn't “work” and I'm fully entitled to a break after a long day of kid duty, but it's been a startling discovery that I can actually have some downtime and also keep up with my deadlines. We'll see how that works out for me as I move into a very busy spring and summer. But for now, I'm enjoying these winter nights.
Oh, oh, oh! And for the first time in over three years, I'm not only giving contact lenses a spin, I'm also going to get new glasses! I'm looking at Warby Parker because they not only have a great price ($95!), they have gorgeous styles and you can try them out before you buy them! It's going to be lovely to replace my last wobbly pair of glasses (my spare pair succumbed to the strength of a sixteen-month-old last week) with a shiny new pair with the proper prescription!
That's all from me– for now. I hope to be blogging more frequently, especially since my website is about to get a minor overhaul by Moxie Design Studios that will hopefully make it more convenient for me to post. In the meantime– what has your January been like? Are you enjoying this new year as much as I am? I hope so!