Novelist and Founder of SheWrites.com shares how life fuels writing
Jennifer, the Solo Mom protagonist of the novel Wishful Thinking, is trying to do it all—baking cookies for her sons, working long hours to impress her boss, and dating. With the help of a magical phone app she is able to pull all these off simultaneously—but at what cost? Kamy Wicoff, the author of this hilarious, imaginative new novel, also seems to be doing it all. She talked with ESME’s Domenica Ruta about how she manages to write, solo parent, run an independent publishing house called She Writes Press, and lead the world’s largest social network for women writers, SheWrites.com, without the aid of magical phone apps.
How has establishing She Writes changed your life as a writer?
Writing, as we all know, can be a very lonely endeavor. As a writer, the women who share their expertise on She Writes have made all the difference in my staying informed, savvy, and creatively inspired as everyone in the group generously shares what she knows. Plus it is a great place to go when I have writer’s block and I need some writerly love.
What has your writing life been like while raising two kids?
I actually think that first year of parenting, if you can find child care or team up with other freelancing moms to take turns watching the babies, can be very productive. Breastfeeding is time-consuming and disruptive and sleep deprivation is definitely an issue. But if you can learn to work for an hour here, an hour there—something I didn’t think I could do until I was forced to (I was certain I could only get anything done if I had big chunks of time)—in some ways it’s easier than when you are dealing with toddlers. I didn’t write anything to speak of during the toddler years of my boys’ lives. I really picked up again when they were finally in school all day!
Walk us through a day in your life as a writer and a mom.
When my kids are with their dad, I try to really use the time well, and write many more hours than I would normally. I always have work to do with shewrites.com and our publishing company, She Writes Press, so either way I work long days and sometimes into the evenings. When the boys are with me, I work while they are at school, though I try to make time to exercise or for a post-drop-off coffee with a friend. Again, those things feel like they are “extras,” and sometimes I feel guilty, but I find that if I feel healthy and fed emotionally, as well, I do better work in two hours than I would have done in three.
Your novel Wishful Thinking has a lot of parallels to your life. How do you choose what to invent and what to borrow in writing fiction so close to home?
I tried to avoid any significant things being true, especially because I wanted it to be very clear to my kids that this was a work of fiction, not a memoir. The dad in the book, my main character Jennifer’s out-to-lunch ex, is very deliberately not like my real ex-husband, who is very involved and a great dad. But I did draw deeply on what I would call “emotional truths.” There are also fun details that came straight from life, like the fact that the physicist who invented the app wears one red and one black shoe. My mentor Diane did that.
Resentment and disappointment are inescapable in the writing field and in dealing with divorce and coparenting. How do you cope with these in your professional and personal life?
I listen to Tara Brach. Her podcasts are my lifeline when I need to reset, recalibrate, and remember what matters. I have suffered a lot from resentment and disappointment both in my divorce and as a writer struggling to be heard, and Tara’s message of self-forgiveness, acceptance, and treasuring the present are very healing and centering for me. I also play with my kids a lot!
What advice do you have for Solo Moms who want to write?
Know that you can accomplish something even if you can only carve out a little bit of time each day. It is slower going, but it isn’t impossible, and when you begin to gain momentum with a project you’ll find you find the time. Also try to find other writers you can talk to. This may be by joining a site like She Writes (which has a “Mother Writer” group), or by taking an adult education class at your local university, but having one or two people who understand the work you are trying to do and support your efforts can make all the difference. Be patient, and be accepting of the fact that as a parent you will have ebbs and flows tied to the stage of life your children are in. You are preparing yourself to write by living.
Photo Credit: Elena Seibert
Domenica Ruta is the author of the New York Times bestseller With or Without You, a memoir about growing up with a heroin-addicted solo mom. Her forthcoming book, The Last Day, a novel, was written in a postpartum fugue state as a new solo mom to her son. She lives in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter at @domenicamary.
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