Author profile: Jessica Kennedy

I’d like you to meet another one of the fabulous women who will be contributing to our Anthology ‘The Milk of Female Kindness – An Anthology of Honest Motherhood.’

Jessica Kennedy writes a terrific blog over at mamaconfessionals,where she writes honestly, and often with terrific humour, about her life and the ups and downs of bringing up three small children, the elder two of whom are identical twins: ‘the ladies.’

She says that Mama Confessionals was created on a feeling. A feeling of disconnect. A desire to feel as a part of a whole. Jessica says:

“I knew as a new mom I needed a space where I could come and know I was not alone on my journey. I wanted to feel and hear the other foot soldiers of motherhood. I wanted a space where my words were heard and someone would understand. I had a strong desired to hear ‘I know, me too!’ I needed a space to come online and find endurance, hope and connection. I wanted to be able to join together with marvelous women who fight their own battles everyday, to share our power and wisdom.

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Three years ago, I was brutally introduced to motherhood. In January of 2010, I gave birth to identical twin girls. Chloe and Charlotte. The ladies, as I like to call them. I was not ready for them. I thought I was, but no one could have prepared me for twin infancy. It was beautiful, scary and far too revealing. This organic and honest version of myself came bubbling to the surface and she scared me. My chance at perfectionism was thrown away and my raw core was revealed, like an open wound. I was scared and felt extremely disconnected, so I began to blog. I took my long standing love for writing and began to share my words. I began to receive response from women I knew. They appreciated my thoughts, and felt the same way. Knowing that my words were being heard and others felt like me made my heart sing. I felt part of a community and my desire to feel connected was being satisfied.
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When my girls were about to turn 2, I found out I was pregnant for the second time. In July of 2012, Canton was born. His sisters have lovingly named him Canty-boy. I am now the mama of three wildly amazing children. They smell of lavender, have hilarious one liners, smile like the whole world is looking and sometimes drive their mama crazy.
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Somedays it is hard… really hard. But I always know that at some point  they will fall asleep and I can watch. I will be transfixed on the beauty of motherhood. I am able to watch their little chests rise up and down, their soft blond hair falling haphazardly all over their pillow, and their tiny fingers gripping their favorite nap time stuffy, and I know I am powerful. Their beauty is always prevalent, but in those moments of pure mama joy, I know I am beautiful and strong. I know I can do this. Our family is complete and I have since found my groove. I know that other mama’s feel similar to me. Desiring more connection, searching for a space to feel the power of ‘mama army’. I want to help create that space, filled with honest, truth and light for the powerful and ever changing mama. A space where we meet to create beautiful light and to be powerful together using our common experiences to flourish and simply be the best possible woman we were intended to be.
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I wanted to contribute to this outstanding anthology to connect us with stories. I wanted to help tell the story of honest mother hood. We hide from the dark but only with the dark are we able to see the true spectacular beauty of the light. “
Jessica is planning to put together a book of poetry, built around words from children. It’s a terrific idea, and here is one of the poems. Enjoy!
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Killing Them with Kindness.

The monster is coming.

Hide in the trees.

Waiting and waiting but not to be found.

I ask, Is he still here?

Yes.

We hide in the bush.

couched low to the ground, listening.

I ask again, Is he still here?

Yes.

We hide in his house.

A big wooded house.

It echos and creaks.

Surely we will hear the bedlam of this beast.

But only silence surrounds.

Is he still here?

No, she says.

I saved him.

He was a nice monster.

I kissed him.

Now he is gone.

copyright Jessica Kennedy, 2013

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Title reveal! Our new Anthology

A little while ago, I discussed the search for a new name for an Anthology I’m putting together. It’s always a tricky process – finding something which captures the essence of a work, and balancing the temptation of an intriguingly obscure name with one which simply tells you what the book is about!

The Anthology is a collection of work – artwork, poetry, essay, short fiction and interviews – on the subject of honest motherhood. The real experience, in all it’s complexity, addressing the conflicts it raises for women, the changes in our lives, and also the rich variety of experiences that women have as mothers. We feel that the media discusses the issue in a simplistic and dumbed-down way, and we’re trying to expand the conversation about motherhood, and give us some new ways of thinking about it.

The name?

The Milk of Female Kindness – An Anthology of Honest Motherhood

Obscure? Hopefully not too much!

It comes from part of the screenplay of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Orlando’, in which Orlando and her lover Shelmerdine are discussing the implications of their gender roles.

Orlando: If I were a man…

Shelmerdine: You?

Orlando: I might choose not to risk my life for an uncertain cause. I might think that freedom won by death is not worth having. In fact…

Shelmerdine: You might choose not to be a real man at all. Say, if I were a woman…

Orlando: You?

Shelmerdine: I might choose not to sacrifice my life caring for my children, nor my children’s children, nor to drown anonymously in the milk of female kindness, but instead, say, to go abroad. Would I then be…

Orlando: A real woman?

Love to hear your thoughts! 🙂

 

Finally – Facebook

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Well, it’s taken me a heck of a long time, but I’ve finally created a Facebook page for myself, as an author.

Always fun trying to decipher the complexities of technology, but I think I’ve got the hang of it. I’ll be sharing stuff from some of my favorite writers over there, so please drop by and hopefully there will be a wealth of intriguing material. No doubt, knowing me, it will be a bit eclectic, but then, so is life in general I find. Lots of different hats, lots of different interests.

If you have any suggestions – love to hear them! And of course, feel free to ‘Like’!

A different WIP

For the last few months, I’ve been a busy bod. Not only have I been looking after my tiny son, designing gardens and trying to keep myself sane and fed, but I’ve also had two writing works in progress.

One of them is my short story collection, which I have mentioned fleetingly on this blog, and which is well underway. Like my novel, ‘The Artemis Effect’, it is loosely defined as science fiction, but with more stories leaning perhaps more towards the quirky than traditional scifi. No doubt I’ll blog about it more as it develops and grows.

The other is a project which doesn’t really fit into the loose themes I’ve established in this blog, which is why I haven’t chatted about it before. However, it is really stretching me as a writer and so that journey could be worth discussing.

The new work is an anthology, bringing together many talented writers and artists. In a complete departure from my other work, all the pieces will be discussing motherhood, in its glorious complexity and with frightening honesty. The journey started when I became a mum, and found that it’s a relationship that is dealt with very shallowly in popular media. Now that I have a baby, apparently I am only now interested in nappies, shopping and my post baby body. Other women I have discussed this with tell me that the conversation doesn’t really improve as our children grow.

The more I started to look into it, the angrier I became. The density of information which descends, most of it unsubstantiated, seems calculated to bewilder and pressure mothers. That the best role model we can aspire to is apparently a ‘yummy mummy’ I find patronising and frankly rather offensive. The genuinely complex feelings we have around raising children are sometimes blanketed by a sentimentality which stifles a real discussion.

So – we’re trying to put together an alternative viewpoint. I’m gathering work from women with a whole range of different experiences, from all stages of the motherhood. There will the essays, artwork, poetry and interviews.

I’m learning lots of new skills, and it looks like it will be a hell of a ride, rather like motherhood itself, but both will no doubt be eventful journeys!

Selling the Man (or Woman)

I read an interesting article in ‘The Age’ recently about the strange cult of celebrity which has risen up around writers. You can have a squizz at it here.

You could argue that there is a strange cult of celebrity around practically anyone (with a large enough voice and publicity machine) for no very good reasons, but in this case I’m fascinated by two ideas: firstly that people are genuinely interested in writers as people; and secondly that part of this interest seems to focus around the writing process itself.

I don’t know about you, but what interests me about my favourite authors are the things they write, rather than the people behind the stories. I’m happy to hear a tidbit of two if there is something genuinely fascinating about them, but if they are normal, middle class people, with a normal family and a nine to five job, well, that’s fine, but I’m much more interested in the strange and exotic fruits of their imagination. Frankly, even if they live in a commune, work as a bear trapper and moonlight as bellydancers, I’m still only going to be impressed by their writing if it strikes a chord with me. That said, I suppose one of the reasons many writers blog is presumably to feed the thirst for more information. 🙂

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The second issue, that of trying to find out what “is the mysterious alchemy that transforms a hazy idea into 300 pages of gripping prose,” seems to be grasping at straws a little. It’s a kind of magic, and the best part about it is that it is a magic that’s unique to every individual. I understand that Thomas Wolfe wrote his work standing up, leaning his paper on the top of the fridge, but funnily enough, that’s not going to work for everyone. The wonderful thing about writing is that it is something wrestled from your own subconscious, and we need to find ways to make that wrestling as productive as we can.

I’d love to hear what you think about this. Are you curious about the people behind story? Does knowing more about them make you more likely to read their work? And have you found inspiration in hearing how others go about it?

The next big thing

Although I have been sadly remiss in letting this go, I was flattered, chuffed, humbled and generally pretty cheery to be tagged as one of the authors in ‘The Next Big Thing‘ by the very talented Marc Schuster, for my debut novel, ‘The Artemis Effect‘.

It’s a lovely way for us to share some of the books we have really enjoyed. Having spent some of this afternoon in the garden enjoying our gorgeous autumn weather, I can’t help but think of it in terms of the jungle, which my garden is increasingly resembling. Sometimes the big plants shade out the small, which may be especially lovely things, and this is perhaps a way of letting in a bit of light, and bringing them to other’s attention.

As presumably I can’t tag Marc Schuster’s ‘The Grievers’ back, much as I enjoyed it, I’d like to tag the following from my recent reading:

Fires of Justice‘Fires of Justice’ by Sabrina Garie. This is an erotic romance, but with a fun and highly cohesive fantasy element. It is, in short, a romp and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who needs to escape, in te words of Tom Lehrer, ‘their drab, wretched lives.’

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‘Rich Pickings for Ravens‘ by Tom Conrad. A truly unusual and funny who-dunnit, starting with the lead character’s death, and his subsequent quest to find out who killed him, and why.

 

‘Ththe-jpeg-of-graves-3_desolation-ware Prince of Graves’ by W.E. Linde. In the tradition of Tolkien, this fantasy novella is the first part of what will be a truly epic trilogy of books. Amazing battle scenes by an author who obviously loves the genre.

 

 

I look forward to seeing their recommendations, and also your opinions of these books if you’ve also been lucky enough to give them a go! 🙂

Shedding skin

My novel, ‘The Artemis Effect’, is now out there in the big bad world, and ever so slowly, reviews have been trickling in. Some have been good, a few great, and one or two stinkers. I’m really grateful to all those people who have taken their time to read it, and to those who didn’t enjoy the experience, I’m sorry.

Thankfully, there have been far more drop into the good basket than the bad. I suppose that that’s about par for the course: when you look up reviews of any of the books you love (or hate), there will be other people with different opinions. Obviously people are entitled to have their own thoughts about a work. Sometimes it just isn’t their cup of tea (or whatever other warm beverage) : sometimes it seems as if they haven’t really understood it.

However, I have found that my attitude to these reviews has changed. When the book was newly born and still damp and fragile, I confess that I was gutted if I got a less than glowing review. Call me overly sensitive perhaps, but when you spend that long writing something, polishing and honing until you think it is as good as you can make it, then when someone comes along with their boots on and gives it a good kicking, it hurts.

Thayers_or_variable_king_snake_shedding_its_skin

Now, however, I won’t say that I’m overjoyed with a dubious review, but for some reason it is less painful. I think it’s because my focus has moved on to other projects, which are absorbing all my intellectual energy. I’m working on my own short story collection, and also on compiling a themed anthology. The anthology will hopefully be very diverse, with short stories, essays, poetry, interviews and artwork from women around the world. Both these projects feel intense and demanding of my time, glowing bright, where my novel feels more like cooling embers. It is fading more into the past, finished rather than growing.

The best way I can to describe it is rather like a snake shedding its skin. I can feel that the skin used to fit tightly, that I filled it to the best of my ability at that time, but now I am growing into another. Hopefully it will be more intricately patterned and intriguing than the last.

All aboard the Omnibus!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about my next big project, which will be a collection of short stories. I’m probably at least half way through, with planning done for another 25%. I’ve been mistakenly calling it my Anthology, but apparently that term refers more accurately to a collection of works by different authors. What I’m working on is more properly an Omnibus, but that sounds rather cumbersome and lumbering to me.

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Could this be a Steampunk Omnibus?

A few things I’ve discovered so far:

  • It should be about the same word count as a novel (70K+)
  • Arguably, it should follow a ‘tent’ structure, leading and finishing with the strongest stories, and with another strong story in the middle like a tent pole.
  • The whole should be greater than the sum of its parts: stories should be organised to complement and bounce off one another.
  • Variety is a good thing, but there does need to also be some kind of unifying theme.

All well and good so far. The theme issues does bother me a little, in that my stories are sometimes scifi, sometimes bordering on fantasy, and sometimes just plain quirky (as you may know if you’ve read any of the free published works out there – see my Publications page for links). At the same time, I don’t particularly want to force the production of stories in a particular area to make them fit some contrived theme, so I think I’ll just keep writing the stories which I’d like to tell, and then perhaps discard those which are the sore thumbs of the collection.

I’d love to discuss with anyone out there their thoughts on short story collections.

Do you find it necessary to have a theme? Do you agree with the ‘tent structure’ theory? When reading short story collections, do you dip in, or read them from start to finish (the album vs. the single I suppose, in music terms).

Book giveaway – get in now!

Just a quick reminder that the Giveaway of my novel ‘The Artemis Effect’ is ending tomorrow, so if you’d like to win one of five paperback copies, please pop on over to Goodreads to enter!

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Artemis Effect by Kasia James

The Artemis Effect

by Kasia James

Giveaway ends January 29, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

I’ve been delighted with the number of people entering the Giveaway so far. Fingers crossed a few people will actually read and review it! 🙂