N is for Necessary


NSome days I spend all my time typing, crafting language, and composing efficient prose and none of that time writing. Today was a day like that. And now it’s the end of the day and I ask myself, what did I write?

Important stuff, it turns out. Bios, book descriptions, event coordination. It’s the sort of stuff you skim when you read which means that the flow of prose is just as important.

Here’s what I put together today. It’s for another book event. This one will be held at Scribd Headquarters, Thursday May 8th from 6 – 7pm, 539 Bryant street in San Francisco.

(Someone else gets the lucky task of writing the event description. I cut, pasted, and tweaked bios.)


Moderator: NANCY DAVIS KHO has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, TheRumpus.net, The Morning News, andSkirt! Magazine and is most recently anthologized in Moms Are Nuts (Vansant 2014). An avid music fan, she blogs about the years between being hip and breaking one at MidlifeMixtape.com.

Write On Mamas authors

British-born CLAIRE HENNESSY is writing a humorous memoir about reuniting with her childhood sweetheart “Bug,” after a thirty-year separation. Her work has been published in Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God -Transitions anthology (2014) and blogs at Crazy California Claire. In 2011 she was awarded the Scribd Favorite Funny Story Award. A co-founder and website editor of the Write On Mamas, Claire lives in Novato with Bug and an assortment of kids and animals.

LAUREL HILTON is the president of the Write On Mamas, as well as a founding member. Her work has appeared as part of KQED’s Perspectives series, A Band of Women’s Transitions anthology (2014), and elsewhere. Laurel resides in Mill Valley with her husband, two daughters, a very loyal Australian cattle dog, and a couple of rats.

MARY HILL is writing a memoir about learning to accept her son’s disability and then helping him do the same. Mary has read at Lit Crawl, and her essays have appeared in various disability-related newsletter and blogs, including her own, Finding Joy in Simple Things. Mary is a co-editor of Mamas Write.

MARIANNE LONSDALE writes personal essays and short stories, and is now focused on developing a novel. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Literary Mama, Fiction365, The Sun, and Pulse and is an alumna of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Marianne is a founding member of Write On Mamas. She lives in Oakland with her husband Michael and son Nicholas.

JANINE KOVAC is a founding member of the Write On Mamas and a talent-wrangler for Litquake, San Francisco’s literary festival. She is a co-editor of the anthology Mamas Write as well as a contributing author. Janine is currently reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler with her daughter and The Adventures of Spiderman with her twin boys when she isn’t working on her own books.

TERI STEVENS lives in Napa, California with her husband, son, and twin daughters. She is a founding member and marketing director of the Write On Mamas. In addition to writing young adult fiction, Teri writes about parenting and how she became the mother of three six-year-olds.

Here’s the description of our book:

In Mamas Write: 29 Tales of Truth, Wit, and Grittwenty-four moms (and one dad) share stories from their lives as writers and parents. Essays range from finding one’s calling as a writer through adopting a toddler; a tribute to a dying wife; an account of a premature birth; raising a transgender child; the joys of sharing a favorite childhood book. In a concluding interview, authors share funny and heartfelt responses to questions such as: “How does a busy parent make time for writing?” “Why do you write, and where?” “What writing books inspire you?” and “What holds you back from writing?” With a foreword by Kate Hopper, author of Ready For Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood and Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers.


P is for Profile


PEvery now and again I have to find write a bio for something. I hate it. Well, I used to hate it. But each time I had to write a bio, I turned it into a blog post and tagged it as bio. (That’s on the obscure blog of Dinky Thoughts). Then when I needed to write a bio for something new, I’d go through what I’d written already. Of course it gets easier each time you do it.

Now it’s time to write group profiles and book summaries, which is just as annoying to write and wordsmith. This is what I spent the morning crafting for our Create Space page, our Amazon author page, and our Goodreads profile.

Here’s today’s extended version:

In Mamas Write: 29 Tales of Truth, Wit, and Grit, twenty-four moms (and one dad) share stories from their lives as writers and parents.

Essays range from finding one’s calling as a writer through adopting a toddler; a tribute to a dying wife; an account of a premature birth; raising a transgender child; the joys of sharing a favorite childhood book. In a concluding interview, authors share funny and heartfelt responses to questions such as: “How does a busy parent make time for writing?” “Why do you write, and where?” “What writing books inspire you?” and “What holds you back from writing?”

With a foreword by Kate Hopper, author of Ready For Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood and Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers.

If you are a mother who dreams about writing, here’s all the inspiration you need…

 –Rachel Sarah, author of Single Mom Seeking

The Write On Mamas follow a simple but effective formula: meet regularly to write together, read the work aloud, and repeat. It has worked for them for years, and now their anthology gathers the very best of all that writing. These writers dig deep and don’t shy away from tough subjects, but their essays sparkle with humor and energy, too. From gauzy preemies in the NICU to a grown son, brooding with piercings and dreadlocks; from dreams of being writers (or mothers, or mermaids) to dreams of just one good nap—it’s all here, and it makes a great read. 

–Caroline Grant, editor-in-chief of Literary Mama and associate director of the Sustainable Arts Foundation

Here’s a book full of promise:  You, too, can raise children and stories in the same family!  These courageous writers glean wisdom from their dual creative endeavors and offer it to us with honesty, humor, and grace.

–Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, author of Hannah, Delivered

Even for the most enthusiastic among us, motherhood can be rife with insecurity and isolation. How perfect, then, that these mamas (and papa!) have come together through their writing, supporting each other through the creative process and the baring of their hearts. I wish every mom could be a part of a community like this to remind her that she is not alone.

–Nancy Rose, author of Raise the Child You’ve Got—Not the One You Want

Mamas Write examines the things that drive us to the page both as readers and writers. [...] But these essays are about much more than why mamas write. These writers are grappling with universals: love, acceptance, disappointment, grief.

–From the Foreword by Kate Hopper

M is for Math-head


MMichael is my little math-head. He counts in his spare time (sitting in his car seat, sitting in the bath, lying in his bed at night) in his four-year-old way.

“Twenny-seven! Twenny-eight! Twenny-NINE! What’s after twenny-nine, Mama?”

All the way up to “Nine-y-one! Nine-y-twoo! Nine-y-tree!”

I’m so happy one of my kids is a math-head. Chiara couldn’t care less about math when I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t crunching numbers. If there had been an Excel Etch-a-sketch. I would have had one.

Now, this doesn’t mean I was very good at math. I just really loved it. Or maybe more precisely, I was really good at math in the ordinary sense. The sense of high-school algebra and SAT geometry. But by the time I got to set theory and discrete math, I was out of my depth with regards both to skill and talent. And the deeper I got into probability theory and statistics, the more I relied on my counting on my fingers. Not a good sign for a programmer. Turns out I’m more of an addition-and-subtraction kind of girl with a soft spot for long division.

But I still like math. Sort of the way I still like baseball although I can’t play to save my life.

Chiara is not a math-head. She couldn’t care less about counting and called all currency “gold coins” until she had to make change for her book and then she became suddenly adept and counting bills. But because initially she showed such little interest, I was afraid that maybe I just didn’t make math-heads. Maybe my offspring just wasn’t wired to like numbers.

So it warmed my heart to see Michael enthusiastically counting on his fingers, declaring that our car could fit three grownups and three kids, calculating how many cookies each child could eat if there were six cookies left. It was validating.

Even when he finished counting: “Nine-y-seven, nine-y-eight, nine-y-NINE, NINE-THIRTY!”

Same love. Same limitations.

L is for “Like Me”


LDo you like me? Will you like me? Did you like me yet? Oh, because it’s oh-so-important that you like me. On Facebook, I mean.

Because I need you to like me. All of you. Even if I don’t know you or care to hang out with you. Because if you like me (and then tell your friends to like me), then I can tell other people how many people like me and then they’ll think…

Quite frankly, I don’t know what they will think. I know what they’re supposed think. They’re supposed to be super-impressed if the number’s really high.  And then my Worth points grow in the video game of life. (Conversely, if the number’s really low, the way my number is, then they will shake their heads and pity me.)

Of course, what they should be thinking, is “Wow! You certainly know how to navigate the changing face of social media! You must be really adept at manipulating Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm!”

Or—“OMG. You must be one of those people who sends self-promotional emails with lots of exclamation points bcc-ing everyone in your inbox, e-flogging them into submission until they click the stupid thumb’s up button on the url you’ve inserted into your signature. That never works. I’m not surprised that you have such few likes.”

But you know what? I don’t care what you think about my number of Facebook likes. I don’t care if you think I’m a loser such few people have bothered to click on those links. Or if you think I’m a shameless bragster for trying to get the number higher.

I couldn’t care less what you think of me for trying to get as many people to like my Facebook page.

But I do want you to like me.

So if you wouldn’t mind clicking on this link and “liking me?” OMG, that would like, make me like, totally happy.

And if you need me to, I’ll totally like you back.

K is for Kitty Litter


KI am on a quest for the perfect kitty litter. Clumps, but doesn’t smell. Is organic but doesn’t track all over.

It’s harder than you would think.

We’ve tried several brands since acquiring our kitties last September. Such as “WORLD’S BEST KITTY LITTER” for kittens. How can you go wrong with that? But it turns out that the world’s best still wasn’t that impressive. It was chemical-free and it had a pretty look to it (like aquarium gravel), it also had a tendency to crumble and get dusty. And “WORLD’S BEST KITTY LITTER” multi-cat version wasn’t much better. We tried a kind that was completely compostable but it didn’t clump. Not-clumping is code for “super-gross and mushy” and it looked like goat pellets.

Fresh Step was good at odor control, had excellent clumping power but is basically just a chem-fest (that’s clever-speak for “full of chemicals.”) And our current litter clumps well, but it’s still stinky.

I think I’ve jumped the shark in this A-Z challenge, but if you’re out there and you know of a good, natural litter that smells like daisies, I’m all ears.

J is for “Janine Learns”


JI thought we were finished with the anthology when the first deadline passed last July and we had 15 solid essays. But the book was way too short. And since many of the essays dealt with heavy subjects such as breast cancer, death, infant hospital stays, disabilities, our slim volume was also pretty dark. We needed more essays—lighter ones. Part of me thought, “It’s our first book. It’s ok if it isn’t perfect.” But I also felt like that since we knew what we needed to fix, we had a responsibility to fix it. As much as I wanted to be done, I kept working. We reached out to members of the group who hadn’t contributed yet and asked them for the sort of essays that would round out our anthology. Three of us (Joanne Hartman, Mary Hill and myself) volunteered to read the manuscript and work with the authors on another round of revisions.

In December we had our final 29 essays and a foreword (thanks to author and writing teacher Kate Hopper). Again, I hoped that we were done and ready to go to print.

The book was more balanced now, but it still felt like something was missing, as if we only had the first two acts of a three-act play. I wanted to pretend that it was ok as-is, but I knew we had to fill in the missing act. Since the broad topic of our anthology addressed how writing affects our parenting and vice versa, the editorial team wrote an addendum with writing advice from our moms. I sent questionnaires out to our members asking, “How do you make time for writing?” and “What holds you back?”

Even though I was loath to make more work for myself, it was so gratifying to address the problems as we found them. In late January we sent our book to a copy editor (Cary Tennis). Then we began the task of drafting a press release, contacting media outlets (thank goodness WoM member Teri Stevens is a marketing director!), scheduling dates in our book tour, filing for copyright, promoting the anthology on Facebook.

I think this book will mean something different to each contributor. For me it’s what happens when you keep working and don’t stop until you’ve done your best.

We’re just days away from having our book on Amazon but if you can’t wait, you can buy it here off of Create Space:


I is for Imagination


ITonight the boys asked for a bedtime story. I hate telling bedtime stories. I like my stories to unfold gradually over months of agonizing over my laptop and then several more months agonizing over my revisions.

But I acquiesced.  Here was that story:

“There once was a cat named…Zelda.”

“Was it a girl?”

“Yes. And she was in love with a skunk. Named…Ricardo.”

“Was it a boy?”


“Those are funny names.”

“Yes. Yes, they are.”

Then from the dining room, “What day is it?”

Then from the bedroom, “The fourth. April 4th.”

“Today is July 4th?”

“No, but it’s funny you say that because Zelda and Ricardo got married on July the 4th.”

“What were their last names?”

“Zelda’s last name was ‘Purple.’ No, ‘Magenta.’ Her last name was ‘Magenta.’ And Ricardo’s last name was ‘San Francisco.’”

Thinking about the procreation challenges between a skunk and a cat, I decided to bring in an example of an alternate family model. Zelda and Ricardo adopted a litter of crocodiles. And every 4th of July the Magenta-San Francisco family celebrated their parents anniversary by playing in a jumpy house.

(Now you know why my stories require lots of revisions.)

H is for Hidden Treasures


HLast Thursday the boys and I went to Napa to pick up the postcards for our book launches. You’ve seen them—the gorgeous cover with the witty subtitle. The postcards are fab (you might see them at a bookstore near you! If you are near Diesel in Oakland, Book Passage in Corte Madera or Bookmine in Napa.)

“You know,” my friend Teri said. (Teri is our PR magician. She also has twins. And she wrote this killer essay for the anthology that is featured in the North Bay Bohemian this week.) “Down the block and across the street is a firefighters museum.”

This is the part where I talk about how great this firefighters museum is—the old fire trucks they had, all from the Napa fleet. How there are two trucks that kids can climb on. That they have the old fashioned bell on a rope.

Then this should be the paragraph where I talk about the nice curator who let us use the bathroom (or maybe that paragraph should be cut) and gave the boys coloring sheets of fire trucks.

The final paragraph might wax nostalgic about the smell of the museum, the yellowed papers that were type-written. The old-fashioned fire extinguishers. The way the notices reminded you of a time when fires ate entire towns, when water was not so easily transported.

Or maybe I end with the boys in the car on the drive home, Wagner carefully holding his coloring sheet with his thumb and forefinger, and with his other hand, tracing the outline of the fire chief’s car before the rumble of the engine coaxes him to sleep.

G is for Gut Feelings


GWhen my micro-preemie twins were in the NICU, I spent that time by cracking jokes.

“Why should I be worried about the blood transfusions?” I recall telling our primary nurse. “It’s not like I’m the one giving them. That would be something to worry about!”

In the two years that followed—which included two flu seasons’ worth of Synagis shots, monthly visits with infant development specialists and quarterly visits to the pediatric dentist—I kept up my mask. It wasn’t that bad, I told myself. Especially now that everything was fine.

When we were in the NICU, I was so afraid that if I let a wisp of fear, anxiety, worry or helplessness float to the surface, that I would crack and then I wouldn’t have the strength to take care of my little babies. And then when we were out of the NICU, I figured that since my boys had escaped infant death and disability, that I had escaped, too. I didn’t need to go back and feel all those scary emotions. Even in my writing, I muted my feelings.

I was scared that if I admitted to myself what the boys really looked like in those early days it might mean that I didn’t love them unconditionally. And I worried that if I admitted to myself that they might die, it also meant that I wasn’t optimistic.

F is for Foreword


FThey say that for every promotional tweet you send, you have to send nine boring ones that aren’t about self-promotion.

I think I’m going to see what happens if you reverse that ratio.

OH! The anthology! The child I wanted to leave at the fire station but ended up letting it live rent-free in the garage. Today’s tidbit is about the Foreword, since foreword starts with “F.”

I thought it would be a great idea to write about the foreword for today’s letter until I realized that there isn’t much to write. I mean, I can tell you who wrote it (Kate Hopper.) And I can tell you that she edited our pieces and helped us find the deeper stories within our essays. And that she’s the perfect person for this job because her other job (besides being a wonderful writer) is helping women (mothers) tell their stories. Who better to write the foreword to our stories?

But once I started writing I realized that there’s not much you can say about a foreword. It basically just tells you nice stuff about the book and the people who wrote it and then tells you that you should read it and find out for yourself. Kate’s foreword is no exception. So what should I say?

That Kate said some nice stuff about us and wants you read our book?

Ohhhhhhhhh… this is going to be a long month.