A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Childhood Lived Thrice...on Being a Kid, A Mother, and a Writer

It's been an interesting couple months. Besides my normal, crazy life, I have labored and given birth to my third child of paper--TIGERSEYE, (in addition to the four children of flesh I already have). As with any newborn, this child of paper has commanded a lot of my attention in revisions, critique groups, and now finally, querying (see previous post if you don't know what querying is). And as with any newborn, my other children (the real ones) have felt the neglect while I have spent extra time nurturing this new manuscript.

I have struggled with this issue of balance--where does my life as a mother end and my life as a writer begin?

As I thought about this, a new idea came to me.

I will never stop being a mother and I will never stop being a writer.

There is no end to either. And here's an even bigger epiphany:

In a lot of ways, they are the same.

Does that make any sense?

Let me try to explain it...

Once I was a child. Once I was a teenager. Now I'm a mother. More recently I have become a writer. Each of those phases of my life are interwoven in who I am and what I write. I chose to write for and about children and teenagers because: a) I LOVED being a child, b) I LOVED (hard to believe sometimes) being a teenager, and c) because I LOVE being a mom.

I get to live childhood three times! Once when I lived it, now as my children, live it, and again as my characters live it. I get to feel all of the joy and sweetness of swinging on a swing, or building a tree fort, or a first kiss, or a first soccer goal, or something as simple as triumphing over a math problem, again and again and again. (It also means I get to relive some of the bad stuff too, but I'm not dwelling on that.)

As I look back over just one crazy week of my life, I see moments that I want to capture forever in my heart and on paper--a pine cone fight, a little boy lying in the grass next to his pet tortoise, a flirty/funny text, laughing and collapsing on the floor in a moment of silly exhaustion, painting flowers on toenails, singing along with the radio at the top of our voices, a backpack loaded with binoculars and fishy crackers for adventuring, and the sweet sound of a six-year-old's voice reading for the first time:

"The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold cold wet day." (We can really relate to this in Washington)--Cat in the Hat.

Isn't that what writing is all about--capturing the moments of life that go by too fast? Isn't that what being a mom is all about?

I already have the best job in the world--Mommyhood--and now I'm working towards the second best job in the world--a recorder of childhood (aka a children's book author). Stepping back, I can see how these two jobs compliment more than conflict with each other.

So yes, my children's voices will be the soundtrack that I write to. There will be days when my flesh children will suffer in favor of my paper children, and there will be days when my writing suffers because I have one more field trip, one more soccer game, one more recital, or even one more book to read with my kids. But it will be okay. If through my writing I capture some of childhood and teenagerhood's precious (and even not so precious) moments, or if I help my children or someone else's child understand how sweet and precious and hopeful life can be, then I have done my job as both a mother and a writer.

And who knows, maybe in ten or fifteen years I'll get the chance to live childhood a fourth time, this time through grandchildren.

Writing and raising children is a big job, what do you think the role/purpose/responsibility of a children's or young adult author is?


  1. This is a lovely post. I relate to it on so many levels. I find myself torn between my two "jobs" (motherhood and writing) all the time. I see many of the ways they complement and enhance each other, and sometimes I only see the way one job makes the other feel impossible! Both are demanding and often require the presence of my whole being.

    Your question about a children's writer's purpose is a great one! I once heard Linda Hartzell (artistic director of Seattle Children's Theatre) speak about her role in bringing plays to children. She said that children deserve to be told the truth, and they deserve to have hope. So, I think my beliefs about children's writing echo that. We have to be deeply honest in our work--shining a light on life's most essential truths, even when writing fantasy. And we also have to offer children hope, even when those truths are difficult.

  2. Thanks so much for your lovely insight Molly. I read a book on children's writing by Katherine Paterson and she said that the way to write for children is to become more of a child and see the world through their eyes. Being a mom is a big asset for that. Or maybe I'm just childish.

  3. Or, perhaps, especially when those truths are diffcult. Brava Liz, great post. I have no little ones of the flesh, although I put my flesh into my manuscripts...but I believe mothers are the true creative geniuses of the world.