Friday, December 30, 2005

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Andi Buchanan

I'm having a rather lazy day. I'm still in my pajamas, violating my own "get dressed and get to work!" rule. I blame, in part, the Infamous Noisy Neighbor, who's up to her old tricks, only worse. Or maybe I just notice it more because I've got Book Brain and therefore am going to bed later and not sleeping as deeply. At any rate, the radio from next door has been waking me up all week at five in the morning, in spite of my earplugs. The station she uses is mostly talk, so I tend to wake up with the panicked feeling that there's someone in my house, but with the occasional song. And it's loud enough that through the wall and with earplugs I can identify individual songs (at 5:52 it was "You and Me" by Lifehouse). As a result of the unwanted clock radio, my sleep is disturbed, I tend to fall asleep again, then oversleep after having weird dreams, and I'm groggy until after noon. Ugh.

Before I get to today's Girlfriends Cyber Circuit interview, I bring you a snippet from an author's glamorous life:
I recently had to order a bunch of my own books because I keep needing them for promo purposes and for the various subrights agents (fortunately, there's a bookstore that lets authors order their own books at a huge discount). According to UPS, the books were to be delivered today. But yesterday afternoon I was heading out to take a pre-writing walk, and I opened my front door to find myself face-to-face with the UPS guy, who had a box propped on his shoulder (very manly!) and his other hand raised to ring the doorbell. I tend to startle easily, and opening my front door to step outside and almost running into someone I wasn't expecting to see hit all my startle buttons. I screamed and jumped. I think the UPS guy was also a little startled to have someone open the front door a split second before he rang the doorbell because he jumped a little, too. Eventually, I settled down enough to sign for the box. It was, indeed, my books, fifty copies of Enchanted, Inc. From what I can tell, they're all still first edition. I haven't seen any signs of the reprint hitting the streets yet. Now I'm almost dreading the return visit of UPS next week when I get my latest B&N order delivered. The poor guy is probably going to ring the doorbell and run so he doesn't have to face the scary lady again.

Andrea J. Buchanan, my latest Girlfriends Cyber Circuit guest, is a Philadelphia writer (and former concert pianist) who focuses on motherhood. She's the author of Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It and editor of the recently released It's a Boy and the very, very soon to be released Literary Mama.

How did you get the idea to write/edit books about motherhood?
Becoming a mother and finding plenty of instructive/didactic stuff on the practical aspects of parenting but precious little on the incredible social, cultural, and personal changes that take place when a person becomes a mother was powerful inspiration. I didn't want to read more articles on "10 Ways to Lose the Baby Weight," I wanted to read things about the profound identity shift that takes place in early motherhood, I wanted to read things about the dark side of mothering, about the ways in which sleep deprivation and hormonal changes and the incredible fact of caring for a helpless little person change you as a woman and as a human being. I wrote my first book, Mother Shock, about the culture shock of new motherhood, because I didn't find what I wanted out there already, so I wrote the book I wanted to read.

What is it about being a mother that you find most inspiring for your writing?
Most of my writing work is focused on a crucial transition in a woman's life—becoming a mother. My aim is to explore with honesty, insight, and compassion a subject that is all too often treated with condescension or sanctimony, with "expert" advice or sentimentality. The goal is two-fold: to reflect the experience of actual mothers, and to help writing about motherhood be taken seriously. The basic story arc of motherhood is one of transformation. In fact, it might surprise those who insist on the narrowness of motherhood as a non-universal, exclusively "feminine" experience to recognize in that arc the classic hero's journey of literature: separation (the physical alteration of the pregnant body marking a gestating woman as different from other women), initiation (giving birth, the identity-shift of motherhood), and return (rejoining society as a mother, with all the cultural expectations that status carries). In my work, I explore, celebrate, and investigate that journey, and I encourage other women to do the same.

Tell us a little about your life as a mother/writer. How do these roles fit together (or compete!)?
Some days those roles fit, some days they compete. I think even if I wasn't a writer, I would still face the chronic state of being that has defined motherhood for me, which is that I am perpetually in two places at once: divided between my children and myself. Being a writer brings that duality to the forefront, especially since my writing is about motherhood and what I'm learning on this journey. Mothering and the creative impulse are both immediate and demanding, but when it comes right down to it, my children's needs are necessarily more important and more pressing than the need of whatever spark of inspiration demands itself be translated into words. I've had to learn a different kind of discipline, since mothering takes precedence at this time in my life, and learn how to sustain the kind of creative impulse that before I'd be able to address in the moment, capturing the immediacy and momentum and getting it all down on paper. Now I have to work in small moments, and not always when I want to, so I have to find ways to hold onto those bursts of creative energy and use them when I can, not only when they present themselves to me.

It's difficult sometimes, and I do wonder how much gets lost in the waiting for a spare moment to actually work. But at the same time, motherhood really made me a writer, in a sense, really transformed me from a person who wrote to a published writer -- it wasn't until *after* I'd given birth without an epidural that I realized the pain of a rejection letter probably wasn't going to be so horrible -- so it's been an incredible license to become what I've always intended to be, while at the same time a restrictive factor in how much I'm able to accomplish. It's been good in that way, forcing me to be more creative about how and when I work -- and really forcing me to get over myself and get things done. I wrote my first book in about 9 weeks, in three hours a day, five days a week -- because that was the only time I had. If I hadn't had a child, if I'd had all day to work on it, I never would have gotten it done. I would have talked myself out of it. I would have had the luxury of all that time. I think now about all the time I wasted trying to write before I had kids, the luxury of being able to be "stuck," to become mired in self-doubt, to procrastinate -- I'm much more productive now, simply out of necessity. (I still get stuck, procrastinate, and doubt myself, but it's all speeded up now -- I give myself a time limit, and then it's on to whatever I have to get done before my time runs out!)

Do you have any particular writing habits or rituals?
I work around my kids' schedule, so right now I have three kid-free hours a day, when my youngest is in preschool (my older child is in first grade, so she goes all day). That's when I get it all done. (And also now, in the dead of night -- it's 12:45 a.m. as I work on these questions!)

What are you working on now?
I am writing a novel called "The Hidden Music" -- a chapter was excerpted this summer in the online literary magazine VerbSap ( ). I'm also working on a few short stories, and thinking about what my next nonfiction will be. I'm managing editor of , so that's another project I'm working on, along with Mother Talk, a series of literary salons featuring mother-writers talking with women about books and motherhood. And of course I'm working to promote "It's a Boy," "Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined," and the upcoming "It's a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters."

For more info on Andi, visit her website at or her blog at

And now to wake myself up and get back to work. I'm midway through chapter nine, and I even know what's going to happen next! Tomorrow: My year in review.

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