I'm so excited to announce the collaboration my sister and I have been working on for a while now, a beautifully synergistic pairing of our passions and training. Our first workshop is May 10 in Toronto.
I have a guest post up on the Literary Mama blog today. I'm happy to report that I wrote it several weeks ago, and that yesterday my daughters and I met our man at the airport with a bouquet of flowers and much relief. But solo parenting or not, it's still a place I must return to regularly: the need to write, for my sake and theirs.
Writing for My Daughters
My children need me to write. It is imperative, for the well-being and security of my children, that I write.
This was my thought as I left the house and stalked down the street in tears, having uttered the words, "I don't want this life." Having left my children alone, left them behind.
Last week, I began the second leg of a four-month solo parenting stint. I’m between books, first novel completed and languishing in a weigh station on the path to publication, second novel embryonic, barely living, in my head and in my notebook. I’m waiting. Stalled. In limbo. For my partner to return, for my own life and writing and career to begin advancing with direction and momentum.
Mothering—especially full-time, solo mothering—is a handy excuse for the low-grade depression and inertia I’ve been in. For the new book that is not progressing, for my inability to haul myself from bed before dawn as I did through months of finishing the previous book, for the sense of purposelessness that drags me down some days amid the domestic minutiae and the unrelenting need-meeting.
It is so hard to begin a new novel. There's so little to latch on to, to run with, to shove yourself off from. It's so ethereal -- look sideways at it, and poof, there's nothing there at all.
Read the rest here.
Last night, walking down Bay Street toward the launch of The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood, I looked up to see the sign above Ben McNally Books and flashed to a memory of the last time I walked down Bay Street and passed this bookstore. Maia had been with us for all of one week, and I was maneuvering her stroller through the flood of well-dressed professional people, noting how glaringly I stood out from them. Late to meet up with Richard. Overwhelmed and near-defeated at the logistics involved, now that I had a child in my care, in the gargantuan task of merely going downtown. And I looked up and there was the bookstore, and I went Oh. I have been wanting to go to that bookstore.
Not that I couldn't have gone in, but at that point in my sudden and ill-fitting mothering role, the orchestration of door-opening, stroller-hefting, diaper-bag-and-child-wrangling, was almost more than I could manage. Also, I was late. Also, I wanted to really go to the bookstore, I wanted to wander and browse and soak in and enjoy, quietly, peacefully. And in the preceding week, I had learned that such pleasures were no longer mine.
"With hindsight I understand," writes Rachel Harry in last week's National Post review of The M Word, "that the gift of motherhood, shared by every woman who wholly accepts the lifelong commitment of loving a child, also comes with a loss — a loss most mothers don’t communicate, because its definition tends to lack language and vocabulary, in what becomes this new and uncharted maternal world."
Oh, that day on Bay Street, I was feeling the loss.
And last night on Bay Street, I entered Ben McNally Books, and I was greeted by stacks of books that contain an essay that I wrote, and I stood in front of an audience and read from that essay. The essay is, in part, about Maia, about my experience of becoming a mother in the sudden and unconventional and overwhelming way that I did, about how I felt in those early novice-stroller-wrangling days. About the loss. The choice. The love. I read out loud from this excellent book, in the company of other women writers articulating their own thoughtful and nuanced experiences, and I signed books and had my book signed, and there was so much warmth and attention, a standing-room crowd.
And I thought, This is a pretty good way to finally enter Ben McNally Books.
(Another thoughtful review, from Angie Abdou, here.
“I need to be writing,” I wrote to my best friend Anena a couple weeks ago, “because that's the only thing that will jump-start me out of this low-grade depression and inertia.”
I felt, that week, stuck in a slump, like I am doing nothing with my life. Like wife and motherhood has turned out to hold all the traps and terrors I feared it would. Though I can hold this thought in my mind—motherhood wrecked my life (yes, please tell me others have thought this thought?)—at the same time as I can watch my adorable daughters, their animated faces, their thoughts fascinatingly expressed, with so much love it's practically obsessive.
But low-level depression and inertia. That’s what I wrote, that day. Husband away, full-time solo parenting, a never-ending winter, but most of all: I haven’t been writing.
I have a new project. A book I have begun—barely—to write, that I have waited four years to begin writing, since I first had the idea while in the middle of writing the book that I’ve recently finished. I even have a small grant giving me the go-ahead, the validation, the extra padding in the bank, to help me begin writing it. There’s an outline in my computer. There are a dozen pages long-hand in my notebook.
The space between books? The completion of a work that is so solid and established, characters you know as though they are yourself, the leap to the new, the un-nailed-down, the nebulous floating maybe possibility? Scary.
I downloaded an interview with Dani Shapiro on the Good Life Project later that day. Dani Shapiro said, "The time between books is a time when a kind of low-level inertia and depression sets in. It's almost as if the world has less colour in it when I'm not writing."
And I cried, hearing that, because my condition had been named, using the very words I'd used to describe my symptoms.
A diagnosis with a cure.
I’ve been writing since then. Writing the new book. Writing for my life.
Also, spring, finally, has arrived.
I will be there! It's going to be excellent. More events listed here.
I immersed myself in The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood over the course of a couple days, simultaneously gobbling and savouring, and here is what I have to say: I am so excited to be part of something so damn excellent. This book is excellent.
In fact, excited isn’t the word—the book is so excellent that I’ve been unable to pinpoint an accurate adjective for how I feel about my inclusion in it. Thrilled, delighted, proud, honoured—these don't do justice, though they're all true. Lucky. Full. Something. I am something to be part of a project that is so excellent. The essays, individually and collectively, capture the complexity, and that is what is stunning and gratifying. At last, the complexity of motherhood has been captured. It feels like an achievement, a feat, a milestone. Like landing on the moon, or summiting Everest. The complexity of motherhood has been captured! Let's plant a flag! Let's throw a party!
The party is April 15 at 6pm at Ben McNally Books in Toronto. If you are a woman, or a man, or interested in mothering, or in not-mothering, and in hearing this topic engaged with all its nuance, please do come. I will be reading, alongside some stellar writers in whose company I am thrilled, delighted, proud, honoured, lucky to be.
This company of writers (in the book, that is--not all will be at the launch) comprises Heather Birrell, Julie Booker, Diana Fitzgerald Bryden, Kerry Clare, Myrl Coulter, Christa Couture, Nancy Jo Cullen, Marita Dachsel, Nicole Dixon, Ariel Gordon, Amy Lavender Harris, Fiona Tinwei Lam, Deanna McFadden, Maria Meindl, Saleema Nawaz, Susan Olding, Alison Pick, Kerry Ryan, Carrie Snyder, Patricia Storms, Sarah Yi-mei Tsiang, Priscila Uppal, Julia Zarankin, and Michele Landsberg.
I was frustrated from the beginning of my experience of motherhood (which began long before I was actually a mother) by the one-noted-ness around discussions of it. It was to essay anthologies that I turned, desperate for some nuanced and in-depth exploration of what exactly being a mother means, and also what choosing not to be a mother means, because I was on the fence and could see myself on either road. It was an essay anthology, in fact, that was instrumental in my ultimate decision to take that forbidding fork in the road--an essay by Susan Olding, who also has an essay in The M Word, just a few pages from mine. I love the full circle of this.
And the truly great thing is that this book isn't only capturing the complexity of motherhood as it relates to giving birth and raising children. It's the complexity of being a female person, ie. a person who must, even if she isn't a mother, make a decision about this topic, think deeply about it, deal with the situations and repercussions that arise from it. It's a book for us all.