Solo Mom Goldie Goldbloom Shares Her Writing Strategies
Image credit: The Paperbark Shoe, Picador; first edition
Miraculously, Goldie Goldbloom parents eight children and writes award-winning books
Goldie Goldbloom is a novelist, short-story writer, journalist, blogger, traveling lecturer, professor, and a Solo Mom of eight kids. Born and raised in Western Australia, she now lives in Chicago, where she teaches creative writing at Northwestern University. Among her many honors, she is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) Novel Award, and the Jerusalem Post International Fiction Prize. Please visit her website to learn more about this amazing Solo Mom.
Q: How did you come to solo motherhood?
A: I was married for over 20 years. After trying to make things work, I decided to get divorced. I was close to 50 when that happened, and it made a big difference in my life. Being a solo mum means that even when you are sick or extremely tired, there’s no one else to pick up your child from her dance practice or wash the clothes or do the dishes. You have to suck it up. In my case, the most difficult change was having to step up to be the disciplinarian, whereas before I had been the comfort parent. On the other hand, as a solo mum, I get to choose which things I want to educate my children about, how I’d like to discipline them, and so on. That has been a blessing.
Q: I read that you scribbled a lot of your novel The Paperbark Shoe in the car while waiting to pick up your kids from school. What does your writing process look like these days?
A: I still scribble on scraps of paper whenever I get a chance, but my usual method now is binge writing. If I have a day off, for whatever reason, I’ll write for 20 hours. I wrote 300 pages in three weeks in France last summer because every day I woke up, and there was nothing on the calendar besides writing. That was fun but definitely unusual.
If I can’t write in the morning, then I usually don’t write all day. But if I wake up at 6:00 a.m. and discover that the house is clean and my youngest son is already dressed and ready for school, there’s a good chance that I’ll get in a few good writing hours. If I wake up and the youngest is retching in the bathroom, the cat has overturned the soup, the basement has flooded, the chickens are missing, my oldest daughter desperately needs my assistance with something, and I have several doctors’ appointments for several different kids and I’ve already missed the first one, that would be the kind of day that whizzes by in a blur, the kind of day when I do not get any writing done.
Q: Eight kids! Many women struggle to parent one or two. I’d love to know any tricks or techniques you’ve developed as a result of having such a big family.
A: People always ask me how I manage, and my standard answer is, “Who says I do?” And that’s really the truth. At some point in my life, I realized that I could either be a sort-of OK mother and a good housekeeper or a good mother and a pretty bad housekeeper. And I wanted to be a good mother.
Q: How much, if at all, do you rely on extended family or community support?
I’m from Australia, and my whole family still lives there, so I don’t have family in the United States. I am part of a spiritual community, but I’m pretty shy, so I rarely ask for or get assistance from that community. My greatest source of comfort, friendship, and assistance comes from my group of chosen friends, people who come to my home almost every Friday night to eat and talk and sing and cry and laugh. An ex of mine took me to the hospital when I recently had pneumonia and arranged for child care. I am very blessed to have this group.
Q: Gin Toad, the protagonist of The Paperbark Shoe, has some moments of real ambivalence about motherhood. Do you ever experience moments like those? If so, how do you process them emotionally and intellectually?
A: I’ve never been ambivalent about motherhood. The day my first child was born, I felt that I was born as a mother, too. I felt that there was nothing I could ever do that would be more creative, more compassionate, more important than raising my children well.
Q: Do your kids read your work? If so, what do they think of mom’s vivid imagination?
A: For the most part, my children are bored of or simply disinterested in my work. Some of my older children have read The Paperbark Shoe and my collection of short stories, You Lose These, but they are pretty harsh critics. I was once being interviewed by a newspaper, and the journalist asked one of my children if they wanted to be a writer like me when they grew up. And my child frowned and growled, “I never want to be a writer. It’s such hard work, and you don’t get paid.”
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I just finished a novel about Gwen John’s affair with Auguste Rodin in 1904 Paris. And the day I finished that, I started a new novel about a man kept imprisoned underneath an eye hospital.
Q: Do you have any advice for Solo Moms who are trying to balance parenting, writing, and financial sustainability?
A: Get a day job that has a good benefits package and no take-home work. Don’t alienate any of your wealthy elderly relatives, your agent, or your landlord. Your children come first. If you mess up with them, the pain you feel will make everything else seem like small potatoes.
Because creativity is contagious!
Domenica Ruta, ESME’s Showcase Writing Curator, is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir With or Without You. She’s a Solo Mom who lives in New York City with her son and her dog. You can follow her on Twitter at@DomenicaMary.
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