Guest Kasia James on The Milk of Female Kindness

Today, I’m Guest Posting over at the fabulously named “Peanut Butter on the Keyboard”. It’s a blog close to my heart in that it’s run by a group of great women who also manage to juggle writing with motherhood.

So please – pop on over to visit them.  🙂

Guest Kasia James on The Milk of Female Kindness.

 

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Mum trumps all

I don’t normally write about my private life on here, (other than my private creative endeavors of course), but this week is different. This week my child had gastroenteritis serious enough to get us admitted to hospital.

He is starting to turn the corner, I hope, but it has really brought home to me some truths about being a mother like a snowball to the face.

Firstly, there is nothing more important than your child, especially when they are sick. I love my partner dearly, and so I almost hesitate to type that, but being an adult he can look after himself, rationalise things, and he can seek help and resources outside me. My bub, especially as he can’t speak more than a few words, is entirely dependent on us to help him. We are his entire world. Sometimes all you can do is cuddle him. My professional work and my creative work, come so far down the list of priorities in comparison that they don’t even rate a number on the list.

The other thing is that gender equality and that delicate balance we weave as joint partners in bringing up this little person go completely out the window. My child is no respecter of politics, or even other people’s feelings. All week he has pushed his father away (and is grandfather is out of the question), because he needs ME. Intensely, 24 hours, and in close contact at all times. It’s been hard on my partner to be left feeling second best, especially as they have such fun when he is well.

Someone at my work recently suggested that a colleague who was going on maternity leave at the end of the month would have a lovely relaxing time when the baby comes, reading books and putting her feet up. I confess that I did have to pipe up and put him straight – about the intensity of the relationship – about how it is hard to explain what you do all day, but your days are completely full – about how my child was so demanding when he was tiny that I lost weight as I had no chance to eat.

One of our reviewers (Ella Dee) for ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’ said that as she is not a mother, reading the book was like reading science fiction, the worlds of mothers’ real and honest experiences were so different from her own. I can completely agree with that. I don’t think you can have any real idea of the intensity of the relationship until you are caught up in its whirlwind.

Hopefully this particular whirlwind will set us down somewhere a little sunnier and calmer soon.

Book Launch!

On Sunday the 23rd of March, we had a joyful celebration of the Launch of ‘The Milk of Female Kindness – an Anthology of Honest Motherhood.’

Somewhat ironically, the launch was held at Abbottsford Convent, which still seems to have the aura of nun’s ghosts floating down the corridors. Despite this, it really was a fantastic way to finish a project, if you can ever call a project like this finished. The energy of having all those supportive people in one place – estimates say that we had about a hundred attendees – really can’t be beaten. I was on a high all day. 🙂

I confess that I did umm and ahh about whether or not to have a launch, as it’s a lot of extra time, effort and cash to organise. I don’t think I would have done it if the fabulous Dr. Carla Pascoe (who has a bub even smaller than mine – and mine is only 17 months) hadn’t stepped in to give me a hand, especially as I am a book launch virgin.

Our Book launch was perhaps a little unusual. Bearing in mind that many of those attending would have small children, we thought it best not to have a boozy affair at a sleek bookshop, although that would have been fun. Instead, our venue opened out on to a green courtyard, and we were blessed to have Judy McKinty facilitating play, and the talented Richard Morden helping with Colouring-in. There was even fairy bread, although how much was consumed by adults on the quiet I cannot say.

The Milk of Female Kindness: An Anthology of Honest MotherhoodHeather Harris, one of the contributors to the book, and also a midwife with Medecins Sans Frontiers, spoke eloquently about how the cover of the book represented women form around the world spitting the dummy, and refusing to be silenced about our experiences, despite the societal pressure to fit us into neat little molds. I also wittered on about something or other – its’ all a bit of a blur…

 

Anyway, thank you to everyone who came along, and to all the wonderful people who helped out along the way!

A once in a lifetime experience.

 

Happy New Year!

A great New Year to you all! Hope it’s filled with adventures, calm, deep satisfaction, and new experiences.:)

That’s what I’m hoping for, I think. As usual, I’ll probably be going for it with all the enthusiasm of my little guy.

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It’s been a big year for me – I spent a lot of it looking after my bub, some of it compiling our new motherhood Anthology, The Milk of Female Kindness, and some of it working in what must be admitted was a somewhat half-hearted fashion, considering everything else going on.

I think I need to take advantage of some of that calm I was talking about earlier to consider whether or not I will try and publish my short story collection this year. They are a rather eclectic mix, rather like me – science fiction, speculative fiction, and some which are probably best described just as ‘odd’.MOFK COVER front final

Anyway, if you are looking for a new experience to start off with, I am currently running a Giveaway on Goodreads for The Milk of Female Kindness. It’s not a how-to guide, but a creative look at being a mother, with artwork, poetry, essays, stories and interviews. It will make you think. there are five paperback copies available to the lucky winners, and it’s free to enter, so pop over there and give it a shot! 🙂

 

Book launch!

MOFK COVER front finalI’m very excited to announce the launch of our new Anthology about honest motherhood – The Milk of Female Kindness!

It’s out now on Amazon and Createspace, with The Book Depository to follow.

Terrifically proud of the 28 women from all around the world who have shared their thoughts, creativity and time to make this book. It’s wonderfully diverse, with artwork, poetry, short fiction, essays and interviews, from women at all stages of motherhood. Many are established writers and artists: others are new to the world of publishing. Some of them have been featured in Writer’s Block already, and more are to come.

So – if you are a mother, know someone who is, or have a mother (and let’s face it, most of us have at some point ;)), then this book will touch you, challenge you, confront you, and best of all, make you rethink the role of motherhood.

If anyone is looking for a book for the holidays – this could be the one for you. 🙂

Cover reveal! Milk of Female Kindness

Finally, I can reveal to the world the face of all our hard work over the last year! Drum roll please….

Here is the cover of our anthology of honest stories about motherhood – ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’.

MOFK COVER front final

The Anthology is a collection of the work of twenty-eight women from around the world, who have been brave enough to write honestly about their experiences of motherhood. I’d like to extend my most sincere thanks to all the contributors. It has been an honour working with such an inspiring group of people! 🙂

Unlike most other books on the subject, we have a creative focus – there is artwork, poetry, short fiction, essays and interviews.

The collection is deliberately diverse, in all senses. All stages of motherhood are reflected, and really the aim is to broaden the range of stories out there, and allow women to think for themselves what it means to be a mother, rather than relying on the shallow and market focused roles that the media might like to push us into. You may disagree with some of the work: others pieces will resonate with you. Whatever happens, it will make you think more deeply about being a parent.

The book will be released in paperback first, with e-book to follow soon after. Stay tuned for developments!

Author interview: Angélique Jamail

281290_207928565923285_3810021_nOne of the women I’ve been privileged to meet over the past few months while compiling our collection of real reflections and experiences about being a mother – ‘The Milk of Female Kindness – An Anthology of Honest Motherhood’ – is Angélique Jamail.

She is a sublimely talented poet, and I’m really looking forward to reading her debut novel when it is released.  Apart from being a writer and mother, she is also a teacher, bellydancer, and wearer of fabulous hats. I was lucky enough to interview her recently. Read on, lovely people, read on…

What are you passionate about today?

My family, my writing, the environment, equal rights for all genders and orientations.  I’m passionate about these things all the time.  There’s an expression I try to live by:

“Live your life so that your children can tell their children you stood for something wonderful.”

I’m far from perfect, but I try to make whatever corner of the world I touch a better place than it was when I found it.  Sometimes I manage to be successful.

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You’re a teacher, I understand. I read a quote from Barbara Trapido once, which read (if my memory serves me even vaguely correctly) “I wrote my first novel at my kitchen table in my fortieth year. A degree in English literature left me feeling that I was singularly unqualified for the task.” Do you feel that knowing too much about literature can be paralyzing to a writer?

I sometimes like to tell my students that I want to ruin them for reading for pleasure.  They look at me quizzically till I explain that I want them to understand and enjoy literature and writing so intimately that they will never be able to read something without noticing the artistry (or sometimes lack thereof) that went into writing it.  After studying literature and writing for so many years myself, this is exactly my wonderful burden, and I wouldn’t trade it.  A small part of why I teach, I think, is to share this love of the written word with other people.

But I think I understand where Trapido was coming from in that statement – the feeling of personal inadequacy while groveling in awe at the mountains of excellent literature that has come before.  I certainly do feel that, often, but somehow it doesn’t prevent me from writing.  It spurs me on and motivates me.  Part of me wants to have written literature worthy of being included in someone’s beloved canon, somewhere.  That ambition helps me get a draft down on paper.  Showing it to my workshop group, though, that’s another story!  When I have to share it with people, that’s when the feelings of inadequacy rear up.  But I also know that there is no growth without honest and constructive critique, so off those little manuscripts go.

Does poetry come to you spontaneously, or do you need to work at it?

I love the idea of found poetry, and occasionally I will write something very spontaneously and not have to revise it too many times, but more often than not, it’s a slow process from first draft to publishable poem.  I like that, though:  I want my poems – or stories, or essays – to incubate for a while.  There might be months between first and final drafts, occasionally years.  I have multiple manuscripts going at once; it’s the only way I can get anything done.

 Do you find writing longer fiction a marathon compared to the contained beauty of poetry?

I really find beauty in every form.  For me, the best part is the process.  I recently completed my first novel, which took me several years because I was having babies and teaching full-time while I was doing it, and also because I hadn’t ever written a novel before and was learning the process as I went along.  I remember there were whole semesters where I wrote only one or two chapters.

I love short forms because it’s the closest I get, as a writer, to something like instant gratification in my work.  I can potentially write a poem and revise it and have it critiqued and revise again and do a final edit in the space of a few weeks.  Writing fiction requires a different head-space, I think:  I have to imagine stories differently from how I imagine poems, even narrative ones.  And the novel was so different even from other fiction forms.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had so many different threads on a single project in my head at once.  The day after I finished the first draft, I remember, I felt very lonely because for the last year of my writing it, the characters and their interactions had been in the background of everything I did, as my subconscious tried to finish the book while I went about the other obligations of my life, waiting every day or every week to have time to sit down and write.


Poetry has been described as ‘crystallised moments’. Would you agree?

That’s a good question.  In one sense, yes, a poem (unless it’s a long form poem) can be a sharply, vividly defined moment in thought.  But I wouldn’t have immediately thought to characterize it with this phrase, I think.  I was once involved with someone who refused ever to revise any poem, insisting that the definition of poetry was a snapshot of the poet’s experience in a particular moment, and that to revise a poem was destroying that snapshot.  To each his own, I suppose, but for me, the process of making that poem – the length of my editing process – is quite different.

 


Tell me about ‘Fashion Fridays’!ladies-hats-3

A dear friend of mine, Margo, and I absolutely love wearing hats.  We had this grand plan a few years ago to bring hats back into style and started wearing them out places, but then she moved halfway across the country, and we couldn’t really do that very often anymore.  I thought that posting pictures of fabulous hats would reach a wider audience than just wearing them out and about, and I wanted some sort of weekly thing I could do on my blog that had to do with fashion – which would be my hobby if I had any free time!  So then Fashion Fridays was born.  It quickly evolved into a forum for me or other people to share fun accessories – I enjoyed having guest bloggers come in and participate! – but also to discuss real issues about body image and beauty and even wellness.  The frequency has dropped down now because I have so many other pots on the writing stove, as it were, but I’m still posting Fashion Fridays occasionally and am definitely open to queries from other writers.

I understand you’ve also dabbled in bellydancing. Do you see any parallels between dancing and writing? From the outside, one seems to be very public and extrovert, and the other very private (at least in conception) and introvert.

I have terrible stage fright and have to force myself to get out in front of people in order not to be terrified of what others will think of me.  This may be one reason why I teach, in fact, as teaching has helped me conquer that fear at least somewhat.  Bellydance was a natural choice for me:  I’m Lebanese-American and grew up around the dance, and I started doing it as a young adult because it was really fun and healthy exercise.  I also discovered that it’s a wonderful way to improve one’s self-concept, both in terms of body image and in terms of self-confidence.  As one of my teachers once explained, if you can control your body, you can control your personal space, and if you can control your personal space, you can control your life.  Ultimately I had to quit performing and teaching dance because I didn’t have enough time to devote to it.  I found I was spending all my creative energy on choreography rather than writing, and while dance is wonderful and exciting, it wasn’t really feeding me intellectually the way writing does.  When forced to choose between the two, writing won out, but I do miss dancing.  I miss it very much.

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How on earth do you find time to write, work and raise children? Has having children influenced your writing?

Well, I’m incredibly fortunate in having a very supportive partner.  My husband actively helps to make sure I have the time and space to write when I need it – including sending me off on Saturday mornings for writing dates with my close friend Sarah Warburton, who’s also a novelist, while he handles the kids and the house and whatever elaborate breakfast requests our little ones have dreamed up — and he’s also probably my biggest, most encouraging fan, as well as a sharp beta reader.  I’m positive I couldn’t do all of these things with any sense of competency without his being a full participant in every aspect of our home and family life.  I know some writers don’t get that, no matter how much they deserve it, and I know how lucky I am.

I think the biggest influence being a working-outside-the-home mother has had on me lately is to (nearly) eliminate writer’s block.  When you have five projects going on and next to no time to work on any of them, you tend to get really focused when that writing time does come along!  I also learned, once my first child was born, to let some things go.  For example, when my children were babies, I let go of the idea that I would get teaching work done at home and consequently also let go of the idea that I wouldn’t work through lunch at school.  Trade-offs, you know?

Having children really focused my writing, too, because it wasn’t any longer some neat thing I could say I did for fun while teaching paid the bills.  Suddenly I began thinking about quality of life and what kind of stable future I wanted for my family and what kind of role model I wanted to be for my kids, and then writing was not just my passion but also a focused career path.  It just so happens I also love teaching and have a position at a really excellent school.  The trade-off there is that I’m fortunate in the place where I work my “day job,” but I don’t get to write full-time.

The truth is, there’s never enough time to do everything you want to do all at once.  When I left dancing, one of my teachers told me not to worry, that dance would always be there waiting for me when I was able to come back, and that I could in fact have everything – but not all at once.  Finding the work-life balance is one of the major spiritual conundrums of our day.  I won’t pretend that I have anything under control on a consistent basis.  But I keep trying, and I keep taking things one chunk at a time.

There are days when all of this can be stressful, certainly, but right now, we’re making it work.  Right now, that’s okay.

You can read more from Angélique at her blog at Sappho’s Torque, or connect with her on Facebook.

Author profile: Gemma Wright

As regular visitors to this corner of the blogosphere will know, I’m featuring some of the wonderful women who have been kind enough to contribute their thoughts, stories and work to ‘The Milk of Female Kindness – An Anthology of Honest Motherhood.‘ Many of you may already know Gemma, who is a regular blogger, and one of the strongest and most delightful people you will ever meet.

Gemma Wright can be found at Wine and Roses from Outer Space, and writes about living with disability and getting on with it. She is married and lives in Essex, but also shares her house with a new tarantula, called Nightshade. She says:

Drinkies“I bought Nightshade to celebrate overcoming lifelong arachnophobia, and not actually as a cure (although many Tarantula owners are extremely arachnophobic when it comes to “true” spiders – fun fact of the day)!  Nightshade is a Chilean Rose of the red variety, and glows like an ember when the sunlight strikes her. ”

Gemma has epilepsy, and also a profoundly autistic teenage son; she was forced to send her son into foster care due to both of their conditions when he was four years old, but she and her husband see him on a regular basis.
The epilepsy (as yet uncontrolled in spite of various medications being tried) has forced Gemma out of her career as a carer to the elderly, but she still wanted to find a way to help people. She decided to use her natural talent for writing to become a blogger and advocate for both epilepsy and autism. She has been filmed by Epilepsy Action (UK) and is one of their official Media Volunteers. Their website (https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/) has lots of support available for people with epilepsy and their friends and families, and news on all the latest research.

I highly recommend a visit to Gemma’s blog, for insightful writing, and the occasional Who-vian adventure.

Writer profile: Judith Field

‘The Milk of Female Kindness – an Anthology of Honest Motherhood’ is a collection of poetry, artwork, short stories, essays and interviews by women from all around the world. In putting together the Anthology, it’s been a real privilege getting to know some of these fabulous women, and today I’d like to introduce you to Judith Field, one of our contributing authors.

Judith Field was born in Liverpool and lives in London. She is the daughter of writers, and learned how to agonise over fiction submissions at her mother’s (and father’s) knee. After not writing anything more creative than a shopping list for about 30 years, she made a new year resolution in 2009 to start writing and get published within the year. Pretty soon she realised how unrealistic that was but, in fact, it worked: she got a slot to write a weekly column in a local paper shortly before Christmas of 2009 and that ran for a several years. She still writes occasional feature articles for the paper.

She has two daughters, a son, a granddaughter and a grandson (who inspired her first published story when he broke her laptop keyboard. Unlike in the story, a magical creature didn’t come out of the laptop and fix her life). Her fiction, mainly speculative, has appeared in a variety of publications, mainly in the USA. She speaks five languages and can say, “Please publish this story” in all of them. Some examples can be found here:

http://www.loreleisignal.com/Reboot.html

http://loreleisignal.com/Music.html

http://www.sorceroussignals.com/ShoeFits.html

http://www.untiedshoelacesofthemind.com/Issue7/theman.php

http://www.iridumsound.co.uk/magazines/issue.php?issue_id=16 (page 53)

http://www.fictionontheweb.co.uk/2013/04/sport-of-kings-by-judith-field.html

http://www.fictionontheweb.co.uk/2012/11/diva-by-judith-field.html

http://www.fictionontheweb.co.uk/2013/02/for-old-times-sake-by-judith-field.html

http://www.fabulaargentea.com/and-then-there-were-three/

http://lunastationquarterly.com/issue-014/prototype

She is also a pharmacist, freelance journalist, editor, medical writer, and indexer. She blogs at http://www.millil.blogspot.com.

riotwombles

Personally, I think you have to visit her blog, just to find out more about the phrase:

“My experience of sex shops is also lacking. I have only been in a sex shop once, in 1976, and I was dressed as a Womble.” 🙂