Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Members-Only Perks of Working Motherhood

There has been much ado lately about the Woman Card and its discounts on wages and its bonus minutes waiting in line to pee. But the mother of all identifications that make you stronger if they don't kill you is ... well ... the Mother Card!

This week, I renewed my Capital City Writers Association membership, AND I got invited to a Members-Only luxury spa and tea party day at my daughter's preschool!

One of the perks of this event for my writing career is that it gave me an extra challenge in meeting my goals for the week. The price of attendance was giving up the one two-hour block of time each week when I can be alone in my house to focus on writing.

Plus now, I get to enjoy this manicure given to me by a five-year-old as I type. Yes, the teacher supplied nail polish remover and wipes for those of us who had to go back to work, but NO, I did not use them. And if you judge my manicure infused with the adorableness of a preschooler's love for Mommy, I will cut you, bitch.

And that's the kind of attitude that helps us women to achieve success in this life!


Oh yes, many of us will crash and burn out. Motherhood is like a boy's training in Sparta. Sure, only a minority of the little warrior class tots actually made it to adulthood, but the ones that did were so badass! Staying in the game of a career while parenting-without-a-wife [mothering at all; also single-fathering] is like that. With less murder.

Just witness the instructive video below, from a lecture by Michael Hauge, a sought-after guru of Hollywood script writing, whom I may be able to meet next year thanks to my CCWA membership. (Yes, really! Wahoo!) In this video, he shares some of his rock-solid guidance on crafting a story hero, but the example he uses of a good film hero is not just a fictional character -- he uses real-life hero and working mom Erin Brockovich.

He discusses how in the first scene of the film, Erin has a hard time getting a job at first because she's missed out on education and has developed that emotional armor of F-U-I-DO-WHAT-I-WANT in her manner and attire that affects so many single moms with rough lives.

But instead of fizzling out of the game like so many others in her situation, some unique combination of personal grit and merciful fate allowed the real Erin Brockovich to draw enough strength from all the weights she'd borne that she not only "caught up" to her peers, she hulked out and became a living human legend, true hero, TV star, law consultant, and president of her own firm. Whew!

Sometimes, we can focus the heat generated by the friction in our lives to light that heroic spark ... not just in our writing but in our actual lives, which I can't imagine wouldn't enrich our stories with a certain depth not easily accessible to an author who isn't a mother.

If I can pull this off even on a much smaller scale -- say, by nurturing my family for the rest of my life while also earning a comfortable income and writing stories that inspire other people -- I will die proud of myself and grateful to have been a woman who really did "have it all."

It's a strange thing to be a happy member of a "club" that entitles you to greater challenges than your peers have. But I do believe that nothing worth having comes easy.

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Purple Meteor Showers in Heaven

This musical meteor shower is making me ugly cry so hard I have to start with someone else's words.

For us girls (and boys and transsexual extraterrestrials and etc.) raised beneath the disapproving glare of the Virgin Mary in the last millennium, seeking to know ourselves in the Biblical sense to the secret soundtracks of naughty older men entering our fantasies through the wires of our Walkmans, this has been a devastating six months.

My ofrenda on this year's Day of the Dead is going to be covered in panties.

Pray for Rammstein, Caifanes, and all the hot grandpops still rocking our world.

Scott Weiland! David Bowie! Prince!

Rain down, rain down
Come on rain down on me
From a great height
From a great height... height...
Rain down, rain down
Come on rain down on me
From a great height
From a great height... height...
Rain down, rain down
Come on rain down on me

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I'm Not a Sequel; You're a Prequel!

That's what my new manuscript, The Grove of Thorismud, is telling Briars and Black Hellebore.

It's also what I feel like my five-year-old daughter is telling me all the time, but I don't mind.

As a creative person, I've learned to trust that the most interesting content springs from my unconscious mind, or sometimes my uterus, and when that content stands up to take charge, it is generally in my best interest to discipline my conscious mind to switch into support mode, nurturing and feeding the creativity that needs to flow.

Altar cloth by Nux Gallica: crayon, paper, ribbon, tulle, glue. Depicting a selkie fetus inside of her mother's womb.

As a mom, I fully get behind what Khalil Gibran wrote "On Children." And if you like to talk about your books as your "babies," it's useful to read that poem and think about it metaphorically. If you want to launch your work far, you must create a steady, well-practiced foundation and be ready to let that arrow fly.

I never think of characters or stories I've written as "disobeying," just as I don't often frame my five-year-old daughter's resistance to my plans as insubordination. I call that leadership!

So when The Grove of Thorismud did battle with my impulse to write a new book in a different genre, and I let it sit in the pilot's chair, and it churned out a 4.5-page chapter summary and an opening sentence, I rewarded it with my full attention.

Since then, I've written a solid eight pages of the first chapter, with a clear protagonist, antagonist, and conflict presented on page 1. The voice and style are strong, flowing easier than my first book did (of course, because I have all that muscle memory from my brain to my fingertips now).

And meanwhile, I'm letting five-year-old Nux Gallica play drill sergeant with me when it comes to our creative play together. I'm in charge of the boring stuff like mealtimes, bedtime, and when to go shopping. When Nux wants to decide the fun stuff like what shape noodles to buy or what the card game's rules are going to be or how I'm supposed to participate in arts and crafts time, I fully support her tiny dictatorship.

Yesterday, after subjecting me to an introvert/germ-phobe's nightmare of a child's birthday party at a bounce house venue that smells of dirty socks, crammed in among several other simultaneous birthday parties, in which all the children are dressed as Minions and fed pounds of cake and ice cream, I came home and needed to just. Sit. Down. For a few minutes.

So Nux handed me a stack of index cards and a pen and told me to draw her some pictures to color.

Now, Nux has a fire-hazard-sized heap of coloring and activity books that spans two rooms of our house, but I had no energy to argue.

I also had no mental bandwidth to think of what to draw. "Something, Mama," is a totally lame prompt, by the way. So I told my frontal cortex to go take a nap and called up my scary little homunculus-id-Freudian-demon or whatever horror gets strapped down in the dungeons of my subconscious when I have to be in public with crowds of God-fearin' parents for hours on end. I regurgitated the spirit, and I passed along the assignment to draw "something," and so it did.

It's a good thing Nux is not easily frightened.

She's not disturbed. Just now she told me she is building out of Legos: a canopy bed for a baby megalodon.

Sometimes, being a mom is like tripping on LSD in between those sweet two-hour blocks of Catholic preschool time, when I get to double down and NOVEL! NOVEL SO HARD!

I hope this somehow imbues my writing with some kind of special sauce.

Now it's playtime for Mama in the Grove of Thorismud!

Most Cracked Nuts of the Week