Two Years of Books and Babies
(Or, How I Used My Innocent Newborn as an Excuse
To Quit My Job and Follow a Dream)
I'm honored to be here as a guest blogger. (Glogger?) Thank you so much, Prill, for having me! This is actually my first time blogging, although some sources hint at a possible connection between me and the MySpace blog of my character Ethan Oppenheimer (www.myspace.com/ethansuspended).
So, yes--hooray!--I'm a writer. It must be true, now that I've listed it under "occupation" on a doctor's form. Here is my later-than-average bloomer story of how it happened:
When I quit my job in 2005, my immediate priorities were selecting a stroller and wondering whether the crib would arrive on time. Anyone who wondered why I'd leave my agreeable job found their answer in the basketball-sized lump growing larger by the hour. Except that wasn't the whole answer.
Whole answer: I've been writing since before I could write. I dictated dramatic stories to my kindergarten teacher, and at thirteen I lost my first novel, in a red spiral notebook, on the school bus. But I never considered being an actual writer--as in someone who writes fiction during what others consider a workday. Because of bills, sure, but also because of the ideal of a career, or at least a job with enough syllables that people's eyes would glaze over midway through my description.
But with a baby, quitting my job was suddenly reasonable, maybe even noble. And--joyous nonprofit salary--my family's financial picture would not be drastically different if I worked full-time and paid for full-time childcare. (I'm of course grateful to my husband for retaining his job in a multisyllabic agency that offers generous health insurance, even as our country struggles with larger issues of health care and child care.)
So I quit my job. Mostly. I consult about five hours per week, which allows me a sometimes-convenient alternative to admitting I'm a novelist. And it fattens the babysitter fund so I can write and work on book-promotion efforts.
Because there's a book! A year and a half ago, I signed the contract for Ethan, Suspended (Eerdmans 2007). The book came out last spring, by which time the next book--written during Talia's first two years of nap times and some wonderful writing-playdates with friends--was almost ready to submit. And then Talia went to camp this summer, leaving me blissfully trapped in suburbia for nine hours per week, with only my laptop for company. I pounded out a first draft of book #3.
So--was the timing ideal? When I tell people I conveniently launched a writing career the same month I had a baby, I get smiles from everyone who has attempted to do either or both. But the two endeavors complement each other well, reminding me that neither is the sum total of the universe. Potty-training disappointments can be offset by narrative breakthroughs, and there's nothing like ring-around-the-rosy to put an unenthusiastic book review into perspective.
Sure, some writers publish their first book at 21, and lately I'm meeting a lot (including Barbara J. Olexer, Bryna J. Fireside, Mary Claire Mahaney, and Sallie Lowenstein) who turned their attentions more fully toward writing after their children were grown. But in writing and in parenting, there's really no time except for the present--and for now that seems like a pretty good place to be.