The blogs on parenting and writing continue and WOW is this a great look at an aspect most of us don’t think about. Beth Cato has been living the high life with her series The Clockwork Dagger but as parenting and publicity don’t have the greatest complimentary features, she’s detailed for us the ways she mediates between the inevitable guest blogs, cons, AMAs and much much tweeting and that parenting thing.
My son is ten-years-old and autistic. He always knows where he can find me: glued in front of my computer, slogging through the word mines. We don’t use babysitters and we don’t have any family within eight hours. Nicholas is my responsibility most of the time. That wasn’t so much of an issue when being a writer just involved writing, but having a book deal with Harper Collins Voyager has complicated things.
On top of all the fiction writing and revising, there’s the new nonfiction element: selling the book, and even more, selling myself. I have to talk about myself like I like myself. A lot. I have a really, really awesome publicist at Harper Voyager. When we first started emailing, I told her, “I want The Clockwork Dagger to sell. If you see an opportunity, let me know.” She forwards me interviews and blog requests. Others come to me directly. A twenty-question interview might be four hours of work. Some guest blog posts, especially ones that are pitched a certain way to a major venue, might take days of effort and several drafts. (If you want an idea of how much time I’ve spent on this stuff, scroll down here: http://www.bethcato.com/the-clockwork-dagger/clockwork-dagger-around-the-internet/) But that’s all writing. That’s me at my computer, as usual.
Last September when my first book came out, I had a strangely clean house. It wasn’t because I was cleaning out of procrastination. No, I had reporters come by to interview me. Some even took pictures. I had to dress up in full steampunk attire. I have a kid who has no sense of tact or timing. He has no qualms about streaking from the bathroom to his bedroom. He has major food sensitivity issues and mostly eats sandwiches and crackers, and if he encounters a food texture he doesn’t like, he spews vomit like a fountain.
I tried to schedule these reporter visits during the school day, if I could, but it didn’t always work out that way. I kept the reporters corralled to the formal dining room for the most part. I made sure they didn’t visit when my son is eating (and meal times MUST be maintained on schedule for him or the end of the world is nigh). And I begged, pleaded, for Nicholas to remember to stay in his room and read quietly… and remain clothed.
Podcast recordings involve similar pleading. I know Nicholas is not going to completely grasp the whole idea “I’m recording this on camera and it will live on the internet in infamy.” So, what does work? Bribery, my friends. This kid loves his video games. “I’m doing an interview on my computer and I CANNOT be interrupted. You want extra game time, yes?”
“This interview will start at 8 o’clock and go until about 9. You can have video games that whole time and bonus time later, but you have to leave me alone for that hour. You only come to me if there’s an emergency. What would count as an emergency?”
“Um, um, like maybe if the house blew up?”
“Yes. That’s a good example. But is the house going to blow up?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Make sure of it.”
So far, the house hasn’t been in peril during an interview, nor has any other cataclysm occurred (i.e. a game system locking up).
I try to schedule everything around Nicholas’s therapies. too. His home therapy requires that I have enough time to clean the living room, at minimum, and his other therapies require hours of driving each week. I get a lot of reading time as I wait around during therapy and I can respond to some emails on my phone, but I can’t work on big interviews or blog posts that way.
Autocorrect: handy and yet so potentially embarrassing.
Attending conventions is another level of difficulty because of my husband’s schedule, the whims of his work place in altering that schedule, and Nicholas’s needs. If my husband can’t secure days off, it means the backup plan is seeing if my parents can do the day-long drive from central California to Phoenix to stay for a few days. They are very willing to help, if they can, but I hate to ask that of them. More often than not, the forthright answer to the invitation is, “No, that’d be awesome, but I can’t come. I have to watch my son.”
Does that make me feel sad or resentful at times? No, not usually. I know my priorities. I’m Mom first. Writer second. There will always be other opportunities to sell books, but my son needs me on a daily basis. And you know what? I need him, too.
Beth Cato is the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER steampunk fantasy series from Harper Voyager. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Her website is BethCato.com.