Monday, July 13, 2015

Mommy Mondays: Bonding Over Books

When I found out my first baby was going to be a boy, I was scared. What was I going to do with a BOY? I had boxes of porcelain dolls and Breyer horses packed away since high school for my future daughter. My poor American Girl Doll, Molly, had been waiting patiently for her chance to don her yellow rain slicker once more (it has since melted). I didn't know the first thing about Thomas the Train, and I was rather blissful in my ignorance.

Then, for my baby shower, my sister made me a little card:
"Remember: Shakespeare, Kipling, Tolkien, Twain; all boys."

I still have that card. It was the perfect reminder that my true love - books, both reading and writing them - could just as easily be shared with a son as a daughter. Since then, reading to Jack has become one of my favorite parts of being a parent. We read something almost every night without fail. I am counting down the days until he's old enough for Harry Potter.

Of course, at the time I had no idea that Jack would take to writing the way he has. After he penned his first masterpiece, "Marshmallow Joins," last year, he has gone on to write and illustrate seven more books. He's even got his own folder on my desktop. A few of weeks ago I took Jack with me to Starbucks to work, and after we discussed narrative arcs and inciting incidents, he came up with a story called "Meteors" about a little boy who saves the world from a meteor that falls into an underwater volcano. It's actually pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Our hero, Zyrus, with his mommy and pet labradoodle.

Late last year I started buying Jack "chapter books." We've read several from the Roald Dahl collection I picked up at Costco (James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Matilda) as well as The Wizard of Oz and Stuart Little. His observations are surprisingly astute ("This book has no plot," he declared midway through Stuart Little, and he's spot on with that one). To give E.B. White a chance to redeem himself, we picked up Charlotte's Web.

When I started writing, it was always in the back of my head that I wanted an accomplishment of my own, something my children could be proud of someday. I wanted Jack to be able to point to a book shelf and say, "My mom did that." But I never imagined my love of books would be the thing I shared with my sons.

There are many days when I worry I've spent too much time buried in my laptop instead of paying attention to my kids, when I'm preoccupied with an idea instead of focusing on a game of catch, when I let the baby stay in his crib a few extra minutes (or, you know, thirty) so I can finish a scene. Most days I feel guilty that I'd rather be writing than entertaining Will, that I'm simply not as passionate about mothering as I am about creating new worlds. I love my boys more than anything, but being a mom doesn't fulfill me in every possible way, and it shouldn't have to. I'm happy to have something outside of them, and I hope one day they'll appreciate it too.

Yesterday, we came to the point in Charlotte's Web where Fern describes the fair as the best thing she's ever done in her whole life. So I asked Jack, what was his favorite thing he's ever done? His answer caught me completely off guard.

"Going to Starbucks and writing down books with you," he said.
"Really?" I asked through my tears. "Not going to Disney World or something?"
"No. Because writing books is my favorite thing in the whole world."

There are many days where I feel like I've failed as a mother, but yesterday was not one of them.

(Note: I wrote this post on Saturday. Yesterday I TOTALLY failed as a mother. But that's another story for another time...)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Writing Wednesdays: An Update

It's been a while since I've blogged about writing, so I thought I'd give a brief update as to what I've been up to. You may have noticed I'm not blogging nearly as much as I used to. This is a combination of having been home all day almost every day with both kids since we moved, an effort to spend any free time I do have either writing or revising, and the fact that I may be suffering from Blogging Burnout.

Believe it or not, this is my 495th post on Scribble Babble. I'm seriously considering retiring it at 500, although I may continue to update it should any hilarious Jack stories arise (and I'm hoping Will's going to start providing material soon, too). Back when I started writing young adult fiction in 2010 or so, we were all told we needed blogs. And we all dutifully started them. But I've noticed fewer and fewer of my writing friends maintaining regular blogging schedules lately, in part because many of them have gone on to sign with agents and even publish books. It's hard to justify blogging when you've got deadlines for an actual paid gig. I think blogging became so ubiquitous that it no longer made you stand out from the crowd. You simply *were* the crowd.

In terms of writing, I just received the list of editors my agent is going to submit WINTERSOUL to and I couldn't be more excited. I would be extremely fortunate to call any of them my editor. I hope you guys will send out some good vibes for me. I'm so ready to start the next phase of this journey!

In the meantime, I'm working on a new manuscript I started back when I lived in Russia. I've got the green light from my agent to keep working on it based on the first few chapters, and that's what I'm devoting my time to now that Jack is in camp a few hours a day. When school starts in early August I'll really be able to get to work, and I can't wait to be back in full-on drafting mode. Drafting is my favorite part of writing, when I get to create a new world and populate it with people entirely from my imagination.

So that's my update. I've also got a "real" website now. There's not much to it but feel free to check it out:

I hope I'll have something more exciting to share in the coming months, and for those of you still reading my blog after all these years, thank you!