Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Mother's Writing Is Never Done

Toni L.P. Kelner

I have two daughters, and I’ve often thought that writing is one of the best possible jobs for a parent. I work at home, the hours are flexible, and now that my girls are older, I can even work once they come back from school.
But lately, I’ve come to realize an even bigger benefit. Writing is the perfect job for bugging the heck out of my kids.

Let’s look at some of the parental pluses to the writer lifestyle, organized into a bulleted list:

There’s an endless supply of puns and bad jokes. I mean, I get to say things like “bulleted list” and then add, “Har! Bullets! Isn’t that perfect for a mystery writer!” Remarks like this are almost guaranteed to get an eyeball roll, and in some cases, even a groan. I get extra points when I make this kind of remark in front of my kids’ friends.

I get to groan about how hard my job is. So when my eighth-grader complains about having to write a five-page paper over the course of a semester, I can drop a manuscript in her lap and tell her what my deadline is. Ditto for when one of her teachers insists on extra drafts or corrections--I go through many more drafts than most students, and copy editors are far more annoying than teachers. So she gets no sympathy from me, even though she really hates to accept that somebody else has a rougher time than she does.

Staying at home looks wonderful from the outside. No matter how hard I actually work, all my daughters see is me hanging around in my nightgown as I chase them out the door into the wet, cold, or even snowy weather. It’s even better when I grin while I wave good-bye, or mention that I’m going to crawl back into bed for another hour as soon as they’re gone.

My kids freak a little over the violence in my books, and even more over the sex scenes. Admittedly, my books are hardly the most violent ones on the shelf, and I don’t let the girls read that kind of book anyway, even if it is one of mine. But they do hear me discussing creative methods of murder, how long rigor mortis lasts, and great places to hide a body. I get some strange looks during those conversations, let me tell you. As for the sex, my Laura Fleming books were pretty light on that, too, but the protagonist in my new series is a single woman with an active sex life. Again, I won’t let my kids read the book, but you should have seen them wince when I told them why I won’t let them read Ton. No kid wants to admit her mother even knows about sex, let alone writes about it!

Going to the bookstore makes them crazy. Not that they don’t love going to bookstores, mind you. We’re all book lovers around here. The part that drives them insane is my pointing to books and saying, “I know Donna Andrews. I did a panel with J. A. Konrath. I don’t know Mary Higgins Clark, but I did a panel with her daughter Carol.” I can even get a rise out of them by pointing and saying, “I’ve never met John Grisham.” The corollary is pointing a Harlan Coben book and saying, “I know you don’t remember, but he hugged you when you were just a baby.”

Admittedly, there are some downsides, like when my older daughter started to read Down Home Murder, and then didn’t finish it. Did she hate it? Did she lose it? What’s the problem? And it can be embarrassing when the other didn’t get an A on her English paper, especially since I’d read it over for her.

But overall, a writing parent is a happy parent. After all, these are only the everyday joys. Just wait until career day....

Toni L.P. Kelner is the author of the "Where are They Now" mysteries and the Laura Fleming series. Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, the second anthology she's co-edited with Charlaine Harris, recently debuted on the New York Times best seller list.


Sheila Connolly said...

Lucky you. Wait until your daughters are a bit older, and look down their noses, saying "you write THAT kind of book. I don't read those. They're not real literature." I hope they outgrow it. I'm still waiting for my twenty-three-year-old daughter to actually read one of mine. But she is good at helping to work out plot details (with a dash of withering scorn).

Rosemary Harris said...

Well, you must be doing something right. Your kids are so adorable ane well-behaved (that probably sounds obnoxious, but you know what I mean.)They were great helpers at your fab party at Crimebake, too!

Toni L.P. Kelner said...

Since Maggie reads manga and fantasy, I think I'm safe for a while yet.

Thank you. I'll tell them you said so. Of course, now I'll have to raise their allowance...