Katie tagged me last week to answer some questions about the manuscript I’m currently not-trying-very-hard to get published. I mean, I tried for a while. I sent a query letter to a dozen big agents in NYC and heard back from one, replied promptly and enthusiastically, and then…nothing. Then, this good friend I have who wrote a manuscript when I did, got published in a big way with the help of the first agent she contacted, and because I relentlessly compare myself to other people I got jealous, got over it, and gave up anyway. The good news is that one agent read an essay published in Brain Child and has kept in touch about my progress.
So, while I don’t really feel like The Next Big Thing, but rather The Next Big Nothing, Katie will ride my ass until I answer these questions:
What is the title of the book?
Parts We Didn’t Know We Had: A Mother’s Search under the Surface
Where did the idea come from for the book?
About eight years ago, I experienced an unplanned pregnancy, had twins, and suffered terribly from depression. I’m not sure which part was most difficult, but the cultural taboos against speaking about any of the experiences candidly caused me to feel so much isolation and grief. I found solace in the few essays and books I read written by women who experienced similar hardships. I wanted to join the conversation. I found that writing about obscure body parts helped me explore themes that aren’t so tangible. Merging the concrete with the philosophical.
What genre does your book fall under?
Personal essays. I wrote fiction and poetry as an undergrad, but had no real motivation to create anything worthy of public consumption until I went through those most difficult times. When I took a creative nonfiction class after I had the twins, I discovered a genre that felt perfect for the issues I wanted to explore. Emily Dickinson wrote, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant,” which is what any form of art does. But in the cases of tacking especially ambiguous themes, telling the truth in an artful way helps both the writer create and the reader absorb.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmmm…a movie based on personal essays. I just don’t see it happening. But…I guess the actor I love to dislike, Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s one classy broad, despite having the soul of one who’s suffered. And she hangs with Jay-Z. I try not to implicate everyone else in my life too often in my writing, so the rest of the cast could be play by non-union extras.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
This collection of personal stories—sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, but always honest—explores the complexities of having children.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The placenta. The first essay I ever wrote was about this fascinating, mis-understood organ. It began as a research-driven essay, but morphed into a more personal cultural criticism about pregnancy and grief.
When I realized where I was going with my writing, after that first essay, my children became the inspiration. As more parents produce personal writing out there, critics claim (among many things) that it will be difficult for their children to deal with in the future. But I view this project as a dedication to them: I hope to walk a fine line between telling my stories and leaving room for them to know their own. After coming out of the tunnel of post-partum depression, I believe the twins and I share a special relationship: in one essay I compare it to that of survivors.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Let’s see…unplanned pregnancy, having twins, and depression. Either you’re into it, or you’re not.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Represented by an agency, if I ever regain the drive to get it out there.