Kids Ain't All Bad (No, Really!)

Ian Frazier is hilarious – way back in September he wrote a piece for The New Yorker called “Easy Cocktails from the Cursing Mommy,” which is one of the absolute funniest things I have ever read.

I can relate – when Baby Gaga was born, Husband and I started a regular cocktail hour in our home that has led to Husband’s buying our booze at Costco. In bulk.

Husband (returning from Costco): You know you have a problem when you’re standing in Costco wondering why the gin doesn’t come in something bigger than a 750 ml.”

This is all a back-assed way of saying that I love to read and talk about mothering – and not good-mothering so much as low-bar, try-not-to-kill-the-baby-mothering, and really not that so much as what mothering does to working / career / ambition / dreams / every wasted cent of that over-priced degree (or series of degrees) that we mother-types once thought would make some sort of difference in our lives.

This obsession of mine led me to obsessively read Helen Simpson stories (a collection of hers that was published around then was called "I Don't Know How She Does It") after the birth of Small Child. It led me to rail endlessly at a Writer Friend who, in the wake of his first daughter’s birth, was still somehow managing to FINISH A NOVEL. (Men. Enough said.) It led to me to killing a wonderful sixty minutes at the Farmer’s Market a few months ago, talking to a Writer Friend-of-a-Friend who is bemoaning her own wasted dreams, which have been interrupted by her own kids. It led me to give up on one novel and axe a bunch of short stories, too.

Someone has to change the diapers / buy the diapers / schedule the doctor’s appts / drive to the doctor’s appts / set the bedtime routines / make the meals / buy the groceries / organize the birthday parties / drive the children everywhere / install the carseats over and over again / join the fucking PTA … etc.

And that someone always ends up being Mom. Mom is not allowed to go lock herself away from the kids for weeks at a time, or insist on complete quiet all day, or skip dinner-time to work or drink herself slowly to death (especially if she’s nursing – that’s a crime in some states). Mom can’t be the artist-at-the-expense-of-the-children. That just makes Mom a bitch.

Some women cope by putting the work on hold until the kids are old enough to go to school all day, freeing up hours for writing. (Mine are WAY too young for me to even imagine that real possibility.) Some cope by putting the work on hold forever, and trying not to think too much about it by burying themselves in other people’s art and movies and music.

Some kill themselves.

Me, I thought about just giving up a few times this year. I sold a story, but that magazine appears to be going defunct. I finished what I consider the absolute best story I have ever written, but no one wants it. So I thought about starting over on the career track. Maybe get a PhD, or do some interior design. Ten years ago, my grandmother told me to stop writing and go do something "you'd be good at." Maybe my grandmother had been right all along ...

Grandmother (78): Why not get into real estate? Or be a psychologist? You’d be good at that.

Me (24): Psychology? They’re not even real doctors! At least suggest I be a shrink!

And this exchange was years and years before the Small Child and Baby Gaga came along and tossed their toys and dirty laundry all over my dreams.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to consuming myself in the care of my 2-under-3.

Last year, in a last-ditch effort to cling to my Writerly Identity, I co-wrote a TV pilot while pregnant with Baby Gaga.

Meanwhile, in the run-up to Small Child’s pre-school enrollment, I made a Dear Mom Friend at the school.

Dear Mom Friend is married to Big Shot Manager.

Husband strong-armed Big Shot Manager into reading my pilot, while they were both standing in a ball-pit at Small Child’s birthday party. (I would NEVER have asked Big Shot Manager to read my script – I like Dear Mom Friend too much.)

Big Shot Manager liked it! He got us meetings! Co-writer and I went to production companies and studio lots and had strangers tell us we were smart and talented! (Woo-hoo!) I stopped thinking about stopping writing!

So, score one for Children, Husband, and Family. Who knew all the cleaning and washing and feeding would get me, somehow, a few steps closer to a career?


Things I Have Done This Week Instead of Writing (In No Particular Order)

1. Turned pre-school drop-off into an hour-long gossip-fest, instead of the 10-minute errand en route to work that it's supposed to be.

2. Gotten a manicure.

3. Taken Smaller Child to Music Class TWICE.

4. Attended a PTA meeting.

5. Taken my Mac to the Mac store to have things fixed and replaced, thus ensuring I will not be tempted to work for at least 3 and maybe 5 whole business days.

6. Sewn 2 Halloween costumes -- which counts as 3, since I'm re-doing the 1st one. And there's 2 more to go.

7. Celebrated Smaller Child's 1st birthday by actually BAKING cupcakes and hosting a brunch.

Still have, coming up:

8. Hair coloring -- and straightening!

9. Smaller Child's pediatrician visit

Ah. I may never work again. This all on the heels of me scrapping 2 stories I thought were close to fixable and just turned out to be truly and utterly fucked. So you can see why domestic goddess is a little preferable to writer girl right now ...


The Ups, The Downs

It’s been an interesting month, work-wise.

I sold a story called “Dirty Darlene” to Carve Magazine. That was a good thing – and totally unexpected. I wrote “Darlene” four or five years ago, and have been sending it out ever since. Sixty-seven magazines saw it – ten or twelve wrote kind, personal, rejection notes, and I had come to think that that was the best response “Darlene” was going to elicit (though Husband kept telling me it was the cover story at his imaginary, eponymous magazine).

So selling it was good.

Also good: The TV pilot I co-wrote is now represented by a dear friend and very connected manager in town, so it’s making the rounds to agents and production companies now.

Co-Writer Friend and I are getting ready to begin another project, too.

And, I’ve got two other short stories in submission, one called “James Dean, My Love, My Copyboy,” that I like a lot, and another, “Nothing Will Prepare You,” that I think may be the absolute best thing I’ve ever written. I am hoping some editor out there agrees.

All these successes are progress towards my big list of goals for the year – one of the biggest goals of which was, “Finish all the stories that are mid-third-and-fourth-draft that are sitting around the hard-drive.” “Nothing Will Prepare You” was one of those – it began life in 2002 as my thesis novel, coming in around 60,000 words. I winnowed that down to 17,000 words in 2006, then picked it up again this summer, and cut it to 12,000 words, then 8,000 … and now it comes in around 5270. And like I said, I love love love it. I am thrilled with how I worked through it, and how it turned out.

Anyway, I thought that somewhere in the process of fixing “Nothing Will Prepare You,” – I swear, even the TITLE makes me happy -- I had somehow drummed up the mojo to fix all the rest of the flawed work that’s been hanging around … so I turned to another story that has stuff I love in it, but is somehow lacking … and I wrote and wrote on it. Then I cut and cut. I wrote some more. I moved some crap around.

And it still sucks.

Which kills me. It’s got great characters, great relationships, some really lovely prose, if I do say so myself, and a killer last paragraph. But somewhere around the last third of the story, something goes wonky, and I don’t know how to fix it, and it’s driving me mad. Still, I don’t want to walk away from it … which is maybe the problem? Because strangely enough, that’s this story’s central theme …



David Foster Wallace, RIP

I was not a fan of David Foster Wallace's work while he was living, and attempting to read an exerpt from the unfinished manuscript he left behind proves that I'm still not a fan now that he's gone. (Cue Husband screaming "That John McCain piece is amazing! You have no idea what you're talking about! David Foster Wallace was a genius!")

That said, I found the profile of DFW by D.T. Max in the March 9 issue of The New Yorker fascinating. Max did a fine job showing how DFW's process was affected by his lifelong depression, and DFW's own awareness of both. DFW used to write his friends about these things -- friends like Jonathan Franzen and Don Delillo. I quote:

In the wake of "Infinite Jest," he felt anxiety about his writing. Earlier, Wallace had asked DeLillo whether it was normal. DeLillo reassured him, invoking Henry James' words: "Doubt is our passion." He added, "Some writers may have to do 2, 3 books, say in midcareer, before they remember that writing can be fun."
I love that. I totally believe it, too. Writing is a dayjob that often sucks. But sometimes, if you push through it (like, for instance, struggling through draft 2 of a novel that you are passionately doubtful about) you get a chance to go back to a short story, which you realize, as you're reworking it, you love love love. (More on that story, soon ... I think it may be the best thing I have ever written.)

DFW was not my cup of tea, but I do have a soft spot for DeLillo ...


New site!

And I built it all by my lonesome! It only took one day to build, another to break, and another to rebuild. I am very proud of myself, and while I have already noticed a few items I need to clean up, I am not going to, because that's how I broke the original site in the first place ...

ANYWAY, now I have a new site.

I also have:

1) 1 pilot that is being re-developed with the help of a very smart director who has taken an interest.
2) 1 novel that is 3.5 chapters short of a complete second draft.
3) 1 sample chapter for client that is, I hope, just one more draft short of finished.

This is all none-too-shabby considering I am now the mother of 2, one of whom still eats ALL NIGHT LONG.