Brigid asked for a recap of the event I was part of last Wednesday night, Edgy Moms in Suburbia, so here's my wrap up of the evening – with a LOT of links to books I want to buy, so be ye warned. They're not romances, though, so at least that's something.
I drafted my essay (or entry or article or whatever it was I was trying to write) about four or five different times, trying to figure out what the hell was edgy about me (I am not edgy. I am very rounded in all my parts), and ended up making a few key realizations, which was the focus of what I read/said. (I write up notes and then end up talking to the audience and forget to look at what I wrote. Sheesh).
1. “Edgy” is something that is defined externally. If you're doing something, it's normal. People observing you would be more likely to define something you do as “edgy.” I don't think I'm edgy at all either way.
1.5 If you look up “edgy” on Urban Dictionary, “to keep edgy” is, according to one contributor, Scottish slang for keeping an eye out for the police or a teacher while your friend does something illegal or against the rules. I'm not that edgy either. I don't even know how to help people knock over virtual liquor stores on Facebook.
2. There are a lot of things to be anxious about as a parent, because in addition to that same external body that defines things as edgy or not edgy, there's also the anxiety present for every decision a mother makes that could lead her to question at every choice, “Am I doing the right thing?” I decided not to worry about any of it because all that anxiety was making me miserable.
3. Ultimately, what struck me the hardest (ow) while I was writing and rewriting (I had yet another idea of what I should talk about at 5:58pm that night, and the event started at 7pm) is that when you're a mom, there's a lot of assuming that you know what to do – or that you should know what to do – and when you don't know the right answer immediately, there's something wrong with you as a parent. Asking for help or advice can be really difficult because too often you meet up with people who condemn you for not knowing or who have a personally vested interest in convincing you over to their opinion, regardless of whether that opinion or action is right for you. Motherhood is a lot of the unknown complicated by a lot of people presuming you already know everything.
I personally don't know diddly sometimes about parenting (and part of what made writing something for this evening so difficult is that I rarely write about my children) and figure if I stop worrying and presume I'm doing my best and focus on making sure we're all happy and healthy, I'm doing alright. So that's what I wrote about – and then I stopped worry about what I wrote and decided to wing it a bit, and it worked out ok.
The best part about the evening was meeting the other writers.
Debbie Galant read from her novel Rattled, ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | WB ) specifically a scene from the novel about a boy so desperate to get his mother's attention that he resorts to the mother of all tantrums – and given the backstory you're mostly on his side as he does it.
Deborah Goldstein runs the blog Peaches & Coconuts, and read an entry about her son's battle with epic stomach flu. I am still pondering her explanation of the phrase “Peaches & Coconuts” which came from her family's move to London several years back:
The company moving us over there insisted we take a 2-day Cultural Awareness Class to prepare us for life abroad. It was two days out of the office which was just fine by us. One of the few lessons that stuck with us was the perception that Americans are like peaches and the British are like coconuts.
Americans, like peaches, are easy to penetrate (HEY! I resemble that remark), but that stone in the middle represents their true selves and is reserved for only those closest to them.
The British, on the other hand, have a hard exterior and are not easy to penetrate…. Once past the cold, reserved exterior of the coconut shell, you know Brits as well as they know themselves….
Female, male, butch, femme, gay, straight, trans, queer (et al) – I reckon we’re all a bunch of fruits and nuts no matter where we live or how we live or which bits are attached.
Julia Roberts is not that Julia Roberts, but another Julia Roberts. She wrote a book called Motherhood to Otherhood ( A | BN | K | S | WB ), which was about nurturing yourself and your goals (specifically chosen ones) the same way you would nurture and care for yourself during the 9 months of pregnancy. Her self-help book, which she read from, is a concept I've been thinking about, because I certainly was more kind and forgiving of myself when I was pregnant, and treated myself much better than when I'm not pregnant. So if I treat my goals and ambitions as something deserving of that same care and attention, I would probably notice a difference in how and what I seek to achieve.
Kim Purcell, who is the author of a YA novel about a young girl who becomes a victim of human trafficking, read a nonfiction piece about her own move from Brooklyn to the suburbs in Irvington, NY. It was both hilarious and totally freaking chilling. I hope she can find a place to publish it online. Her novel, Trafficked ( A | BN | K | S | WB ), came out in February, and is the story of a young woman tricked into believing she's accepting a nanny job in California, only to discover she's become a slave hidden in her “host family's” house.
Lizzie Foley's YA novel, Remarkable ( A | BN | K | S | WB ) was just released a month ago, but she read from her work in progress, which is not, I believe, a YA novel. Her writing style is very wry and fantastical, sort of like Roald Dahl. When Deborah Goldstein and I were chatting afterward, she agreed with me, but Foley says she's not as cold and cruel as he is, though I think she was flattered by the comparison. Her debut sounds really neat, though I rarely read middle grade fiction:
In the mountain town of Remarkable, everyone is extraordinarily talented, extraordinarily gifted, or just plain extraordinary. Everyone, that is, except Jane Doe, the most average ten-year-old who ever lived. But everything changes when the mischievous, downright criminal Grimlet twins enroll in Jane's school and a strange pirate captain appears in town.
Thus begins a series of adventures that put some of Remarkable's most infamous inhabitants and their long-held secrets in danger. It's up to Jane, in her own modest style, to come to the rescue and prove that she is capable of some rather exceptional things.
Emily Sylvan Kim organized the evening, but she didn't read. Funny enough, she is the agent for Ruthie Knox and Tracy Wolff, so she and I had a lot of romance to talk about. There are a lot of publishing professionals who live in Essex County, NJ, and I think if they all took the day off at once, publishing would probably come to a halt, especially if those who live in Brooklyn did the same.
The local blog Baristanet wrote up the evening's activities as well, and there was a really good crowd of people. Watchung Books is a great place for events because the children's section in the back is huge and spacious and just plain pretty and welcoming, and because there is often wine and cheese.
Emily Sylvan Kim said during her introduction that she'd attended an event like this one awhile back, and was so inspired from hearing from other mothers that she wanted to recreate the experience here. I'm really glad that she did – it was indeed inspiring, and I've since bumped into two of the women I met that night, as the suburbs of New Jersey are basically a bunch of small towns (like the kind we read about in romance) except they're squished all right up next to each other with no breaks in between.
Does your town host readings for women, or of romance? I know Lady Jane's Salon has spread out to satellite evenings of merriment in different towns, but are there women's writing and reading groups in your town? Have you been to one?