Beth Cato – Publicity & Parenting

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.

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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?”

“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.

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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.

 

 

 

Malia Kawaguchi – You’re Not My Real Daughter!

Oh man, y’all. We have a treat this week in the Parenting & Writing blog series. If you’ve ever felt like your writing was even more demanding than your own children, this is the one.

Lia Kawaguchi is a Speculative Fiction writer with a blog (https://mundanemisfit.wordpress.com), a great kid, a patient husband, an excel spreadsheet of currently-out-for-submission pieces, and one pro sale in Daily Science Fiction last year. She splits her time between writing, volunteering at her kid’s choice elementary school, and planning the family’s two-month sabbatical in Australia this fall. This split is not equal. G’day.

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You’re not my real daughter! You can’t tell me what to do!

So, my kid hates my book.

This is neither a shock, nor the end of the world. It’s a comedic book about a troll girl, and she’s all into heavy emotional realistic novels right now. (She’s ten, going on John Green.) And it’s not like she actually said that she hates it. She definitely tried to let me down easy. “It’s really good, mom! I know people in my class that would totally love it.”

Yeah, right, poison spawn. I know that condescending tone. I taught it to you.

I suppose it’s to be expected, though. It’s just sibling rivalry. She knows my writing is my other child.

The written word has taken my attention away from her since day 1. One of the first pictures we have as a family is of me reading a book over her nursing head. She’s quite often been stationed on one of my knees while the computer had the other. And the “Mama, I need you/…I’ll be right there as soon as I finish this chapter” conversation has taken place in this house more times than I can count.

She’s always been tolerant of my literary tendencies. Not that there aren’t perks to the distracted mom. My attendance at cons and classes has allowed her to develop a lovely and deep relationship with her father. Bedtime stories were never boring, as I have the ability (okay… need) to veer off the track if she seemed to be getting disinterested in what was actually on the page (okay… if I was). My “one more sentence” mantra has allowed her to become proficient at microwaving her own dinner, reading to herself, and small appliance repair. She is quite the accomplished kiddo, and I’ve got a whole trunk full of reasons why.

She has learned to share me with her sibling.

But as someone who mostly tends to write darker stuff than I intend, (oh, no, darling, mommy can’t read to you from her book. Why? Um, well… it’s for grown ups. Yes. Just like alcohol) it was truly an amazing thing to have a full-blown middle grade idea pop into my head while she was exactly the right age to appreciate it.

And does she? No, she does not.

Silly human child. Why can’t you be more like Short Story Tentatively Titled “Death Stalks The Editor Who Won’t Buy Me”? It thinks I’m an awesome writer. It says so right at the top of page 3.

Okay, so, the flesh child has benefits. Smells better, definitely. Fewer paper cuts when I cuddle her, by far. And seems to be getting smarter and funnier by the day, which is the exact opposite of my work.

And she’s turning into a pretty fine writer herself. At conference, we got a chance to peek at some of her in school writing, and I was delighted at how inventive she is, and not only in herspelling. She’d written one piece well enough that I jokingly said that she should edit my in-progress story, only to have her say that she’d love to.

Hm.

She did not, in fact, love to. But she did read it, and despite letting me know that it wasn’t her kind of book, she had some high-quality, helpful suggestions.

She’s such a good big sister.

A couple of weeks ago, for teacher appreciation week, one of the parents at her school put together a poster for the teachers of each child in the class holding a chalkboard on which they’d written what they want to be when they grow up. After years of my kiddo wanting to be a marine biologist, I was pretty certain what I’d see when I looked.

What was there instead?

Editor.

Vile betrayer. I’m off to go buy your baby sister a flash drive. Go microwave yourself an Easy Mac.