Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Moms As Writers and Building Your Reference Library

Wordplay and Witticisms: "Hell, there are no rules here, we're trying to accomplish something." ~ Thomas Edison

My current writing soundtrack: just the rain pitter-pattering against the driveway

I want to take a moment and veer from our talks on what to do while waiting to return to your rough draft and talk inspiration. I found a new blog this morning, The Writers' Group. The minute it popped up on my screen, I felt warmth, support and community. I know it sounds weird but somehow the energy of these four women zipped along the electronic connections, deposited on my screen and then radiated to me. As I was scrolling through there was a link to a Boston Globe article about moms who were writers. Now, I have a tendency to sit at my computer screen and think bad, not bad thoughts that might be incorporated into my latest romance novel, but the kind of thoughts that proceed to cut me off at the knees. Thoughts that fill my head with doubt and despair.

"I'm just a stay-at-home mom, who do I think I am trying to be a writer?" the voice whines.

I rally my supporter voice and argue back, "You are a stay-at-home mom who acts as chauffeur, accountant, nurse, cheerleader, chef, nutritional consultant, entertainment director, laundress, personal shopper, tutor and personal organizer (all in the span of 24 hours I might add) -- "

The negative voice interrupts, "But you don't know anything about being a writer."

On and on it goes...

But then I read the Boston Globe article. Check out these snippets:

"They bring the heat," Stace Budzko, an instructor at Grub Street and at Emerson College, said of the young mothers in his classes. "When it comes to conflict, they've seen it all. Nothing scares them."

Motherhood can be a powerful formative experience for writers. "All mothers go through this period when they're terrified about what might happen to their child," said Lara JK Wilson, 41, a short-story writer who wrote before and after motherhood, and experienced the difference. "Feeling that can bring you to a place that's sharp as a knife. You feel edginess to your emotional state, and you know what ends you will go to, to protect that child. I can imagine the childhoods of all my adult characters, and it's because I have a multitude of emotional states in my family life."

MacKinnon says writing helps her feel complete and settles her as a mother. Recently she took her children with her for meetings with her New York publishers, so they could see the offices at Random House. "I've shown them that if you work really hard, and if you have a dream, you achieve that dream," she said.

As I sat reading this article validation and inspiration jumped off the screen, moving me to tears. For those of you aspiring writers who are also moms, revisit these words often. Embrace your need to be both, writer and mother (and chauffeur, accountant...) and know that you have a unique gift to give through your writing. A gift that no one else can give in exactly the same way! The same goes for all of you writers, regardless of what other roles you don, no one else can string thoughts, ideas and words together the way you do...

OK, *sniff, nose blowing*, I've had my emotional moment for the day, now on to some business!

We are talking about what you can do while taking a break from your WIP after reaching "the end" (as it currently stands - it will change. I promise!). This is a good time to work on building your library of reference and technique books. Peruse the shelves or online database at your local library. Wander the aisles of your local book store. Make a list or make some purchases of books you can refer to when you are writing (or taking a break, as we are now).

I write historical and contemporary romance. Here are some of the reference books on my shelf, ones I couldn't live without:

The Timetables Of History by Bernard Grun
The Timetables Of American History by Laurence Urdang
Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things by Charles Panati
The Complete Idiot's Guide To Writing A Novel by Tom Monteleone
No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty
On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels
Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon
The Synonym Finder by J.J. Rodale
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
***this is great for historical writers because it has the dates words came into use

So, start your list or begin your collection.

What books are on your reference shelf? What books do you have that are tattered and torn because you refer to them so often?


Nina Pierce said...

I'm happy to have found you! The beginning of the writing journey is the hardest step. Congrats to you for making it to the plateau of a finished manuscript. I hate the waiting period. Good luck with the submissions.

Tiffany James said...


Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you often!

The beginning is hard, but I enjoy getting completely absorbed into my WIP. In fact, I'm feeling just about ready to start manuscript #2!

Enjoyed the Thursday 13 at "Around the Writer's Block".