I read my essay Save it for the Car at the Listen to Your Mother Show last weekend. Thank you, Hip Mama for giving it such a prompt and loving home.
Ah Listen to Your Mother Plumas County goes up on May 20. I think I have something to say about all this.
So those that were going along trying to have a career and suddenly became mothers and then began a somewhat different trajectory than anticipated might relate to me when I say that in 2002 when I became pregnant with my first kid, I switched paths…I chose to teach instead of write feeling like the income would be steadier. My husband and I chose the mountains over the cities thinking that a smaller town might be less nerve wracking–that and raising our kids by my mother. I felt strongly (still do) that kids need extended family close by.
What I’d been planning to do before meeting the awesome husband/father of my children was to be a novelist and live in a studio apartment in the city and have crazy wild adventures to write about. The end. So stupid, I know. You don’t have to tell me.
But my writing was dormant and my mothering was full and my thoughts kept to myself for the most part. I’d slowly started writing again when the kids were toddlers. A colleague at a website I worked for told me about LTYM and said I was funny and should totally send them something (thank you, Lela Davidson). She’d been in LTYM down in Arkansas. Okay I thought–what have I got to lose? Besides Lela thinks I’m funny.
Living in a small fairly conservative town makes you not quite sure who your audience is when you’re a person like me. I was writing a story about my kids having lesbian grandmothers. Well shit. I mean if that won’t fly in a San Francisco LTYM where will it?
The week of auditions was a messed up one for me and my buddy Emily. We were both strapped for cash and hitting the city like reckless teenagers. We crashed at her sister’s in the Mission (thanks Elizabeth Creely) and ate sparingly and spent our only cash on booze and gas money. The kids stayed with their father and my mom.
It felt like a weekend I needed to have.
I was unsure whether my reading went well or not or how many people were in the running. There were these two very sweet really quite adorable women hosting the audition–but they were mostly good about keeping a pokerface and I left thinking that was cool ! Good experience. Now back to mothering and my low lying existence. (Thank you, Kim Thompson Steel and Kristin).
And then they emailed and I was in and soon enough heading back west on the I-80 to meet the cast. That first round of readings we were all balling our eyes out at the sad ones and then came my story and everyone was laughing and I was so happy because I so wanted to make people laugh and I wasn’t having to explain what was funny and everyone got it and I felt so relieved. I felt like I’d known this room full of women (and one man) for a very long time and we’d just met.
And then a year later my SF 2012 LTYM video went viral. Whoa. Thanks Upworthy.
Since that first LTYM show five years ago, I’ve quit teaching all the time and am now writing for a meager living (and sometimes teaching on the side). My kids are teens and tweens now and don’t like to be written about because MOM JUST STOP ALREADY.
LTYM gave me the confidence that was dormant in me. Courage. And I’ve brought the show up to the mountains for four years now. Including this year. It has been an important part of me gaining confidence for the next steps in my life. In my mothering. In my writing. I hope that has also been conveyed to the women ( and one man thus far) who have done the show in Plumas County. They’ve all had important perspectives to lend to the mothering discussion. Humor and sorrow. A chance to be real.
I’m happy to be back for the final year of LTYM and be part of our grand finale. Next year co-director Tina Terrazas and I have plans to do a different storytelling event in its place. We also have our third play together to produce and direct in February 2018.
And um, Thanks Ann Imig! Thank you for coming up with this crazy idea and spawning all these dormant writers to spread their wings.
But all the bustle and writing/publishing/stage work I’ve done since the SF 2012 LTYM show really does start there. The moment those two directors decided my story needed to be heard. Below is my debut…
When I first heard of the concept of this journal I was all in immediately. It’s something my work has always had to struggle with. Where do you fit as a literary writer when you’re kind of punk ass at the same time? Can you be academic when you’re throwing out references to children’s literature? Can benign neglect be a motif?
I do a good deal of writing about children in one way or another–maybe because I identify with being misunderstood and grossly misinterpreted and of all creatures on the planet, I think they own this more than anyone else. We are shaped by what we are born into –setting, family, etc. I happen to be born working class and I see no reason to shed that skin.
Rabble Lit acknowledges that and that American stories do not always have to be men contemplating their navels on the subway of an Eastern city with a paid off student loan or none at all. Thank you for providing space, Rabble Lit and its wonderful set of editors.
This short story of mine is up there now on their launch day–May 1st. Happy May Day! I’m humming the Internationale.