Today’s Sketchbook

IMG_3512Today’s sketchbook spread, including the day’s diary comic.  

This is the reality of a working stay at home parent: no matter how well you plan for possible craziness, it’s pretty much chaos no matter what. This week: Snow storms? Ice storms? Health issues? School closures? All on a deadline week?  Check check check!  I love my work and I love my son, but NOT TOGETHER.  I struggle all the time with how to manage kid care and work care, while also feeling incredibly lucky that Gus can have a primary parent to come home to and to be with when he gets sick or can’t go to school.  Either way, it’s HARD work.  Tonight I’ll be doing work as soon as he goes to bed.  Tomorrow will be another day–whatever that means.


The Book I’d Like to Read

December 30 2013Some context: I flew to Milwaukee to surprise my brother Blaise for his 50th Birthday.  It was awesome.

The book I was reading is World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down by Christian McEwan.  I cannot recommend this book enough.  As someone who thought they were beyond done with reading about creativity, I found this book so beautiful and nourishing to read.  I don’t think of it so much about creativity, but a meditation on the pace of life, using artists, writers, and poets as a lens.  It was a good reminder to focus on what matters to me most and how to be more present in life as a practice.  All this is true, AND it is clear to me that the author does not have children–which makes her assertions and some of her ideas often impractical for the frazzled parent (a.k.a me).  I actually tried getting up at 4:30 all last week inspired by her example of the writer (and father) William Styron to spend some time writing and drawing, but it turned out to be a hellish week of school delays among a work deadline.  My stress level was so high, due to the demands of work and home, that the early hours were eaten up in just trying to get work done.  Ah well–perhaps I will try it again in the spring, when weather is not such a factor, and I will lower my expectations (which is parenting 101).

The Artist in the Nursery Interview: Jennifer McMahon

Jennifer McMahon is the best-selling author of Island of Lost Girls and Promise Not to Tell.  She lives in Vermont with her partner, Drea, and their daughter, Zella.

Although your first published novel, Promise Not to Tell, appeared in 2007, you’d been writing seriously for a long time before that.  Can you talk a bit about your history as a writer and what lead up to publishing your first book?

I studied poetry in college and for a year in an MFA program.  Then one day, a prose poem took on a life of its own and became the start of my first novel.  Once that novel was finished, I sent out a batch of queries and was overjoyed when one of my top agent choices expressed an interest and soon offered to represent me.  I was so overjoyed, enthusiastic (not to mention just blissfully clueless!) that I quit my day job to devote myself to writing full time.  I was sure that the book would sell and my career would be on its way.  The book did not sell.  Months went by, then a year.  I finished my second novel and sent if off to my agent, who pronounced it “a bit dark” but diligently went to work pitching it to editors.  In the meantime, I wrote book #3, a long, rambling mess that I stuck in a drawer, too ashamed to show anyone.   By this time, nearly another year had gone by and my agent hadn’t had any success selling either book.

I sat down to write book #4, determined that this would be “The One.”  It had to be.  So I asked myself, “What sort of book would I most want to read?”  And the answer that came back, loud and clear, was a ghost story.  So I wrote my ghost story and when I was done, I was sure that this was going to be the one that did it.  I knew it was good and had the potential to be a success.  So I sent if off to my agent.  I didn’t hear from her for weeks.  When I did, it was a letter saying the book just didn’t do it for her and much as she respected my work, blah, blah, blah, it was time we parted company.  I was devastated.  I drank a lot of tequila.  I thought about quitting.  But I knew I couldn’t quit.  Writing is too much a part of who I am. Continue reading