I had the pleasure, this past February, of hearing Jacquelyn Mitchard speak at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. I was glad that she was so inspiring because otherwise you could get darn intimidated: nine novels (at last count) and seven children (at last count). These numbers don’t include her books for young readers or her non-fiction.
After Mitchard’s talk a woman asked, “What advice do you have for those of us who have young children and find it so taxing?” Mitchard’s response, “I think you’re trying to be too good a parent.”
First, I know the “too good” parents she’s talking about: They’re the ones who try to make me feel guilty that I’m not chaperoning, baking, setting up, taking down, selling raffle tickets and generally following orders. Too often they succeed.
I think the dangers of being “too good” is a message that many moms-who-write need to hear, and I asked Jacquelyn privately to expand on it. “…Those of us who write and love our children feel as though writing is something we ‘do for ourselves’ when that is not true. … It’s really not fair to tell our kids that we don’t love our work. How else do we teach them to be free to fight for their own dreams …? I think we mothers are especially prone to this kind of guilt; we almost embrace it. … I cannot count the number of times that writers have said to me, ‘I have two small children’ as if this explains more than why their lives are so busy. I don’t think we should choose our work over our families. But even Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a devout wife and mother, told her daughter Reeve that she must always keep ‘something’ for herself.”
Jacquelyn Mitchard’s bibliography would fill my hard drive, so recommend that you visit www.jackiemitchard.com. Of particular interest is the imminent release of the paperback edition of No Time to Wave Goodbye, the sequel to her first, famous bestseller, The Deep End of the Ocean.
I already knew a lot about Mitchard’s books, but I did not know about the writer’s colony she founded: One Writer’s Place, a retreat on Cape Cod. You can learn more about that at www.onewritersplace.com.