December 10, 2013
by Kate
45 Comments

on being brave

I’ve been thinking a lot about silencing lately, about the ways that we, all of us, but especially women, are afraid to say what we need to say, to write what we need to write.

Earlier this fall, as the release of Ready for Air loomed, I began to feel more and more anxious. I had emailed with a couple of early readers who, in their messages, wrote variations of wow, you really put yourself out there in a way that made me think they didn’t fully approve (or that they thought other readers might not approve). And I thought, shit, maybe I shouldn’t have written everything I did. Maybe I should have been more circumspect.

Around this time, I was driving in the car one day, and on the radio I heard the ‪Sara Bareilles‪ song “Brave.” (I can see a few of you rolling your eyes as you read this—You listen to that station?—but stay with me.)

Bareilles sings:

Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do

When they settle ‘neath your skin

Kept on the inside and no sunlight

Sometimes a shadow wins

But I wonder what would happen if you

 

Say what you wanna say

And let the words fall out

Honestly I wanna see you be brave

 

With what you want to say

And let the words fall out

Honestly I wanna see you be brave

 

My eyes actually filled with tears as I listened. (I know, I know.) But it was the validation and the reminder I needed. I am brave, I thought, and now I can’t back down. I have to own my words—believe in them even more strongly now than when I had written them, when I revised them, when I wrote them again. And the truth, I know, is that if I had been more circumspect, the book wouldn’t be real. It wouldn’t be me. And it wouldn’t be brave.

Also around this same time, I read a wonderful blog post by my friend Marilyn Bousquin about shame and how that affects women writers. Marilyn writes:

As girls we learn not to stand out, not to be brave, not to be bold, not to break the rules. We learn that it is shameful to “brag,” so without realizing it, we downplay our accomplishments. We carry this internalized conditioning into every area of our adult lives, including our writing lives, where it operates beyond our conscious awareness and makes it very difficult for us to promote ourselves, never mind promote ourselves shamelessly.

Shameless self-promotion. It’s an interesting concept given that female conditioning is, in the words of literary critic J. Brooks Bouson, “a prolonged immersion in shame.” As adolescents, we learn to be ashamed of our female bodies in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. As Bouson puts it, “Shame about the body is a cultural inheritance for women.” Shame about our bodies erodes our sense of self and muffles our voice. Over time, shame determines how we see ourselves and what risks we will take in the world. We become shameful, not shameless.

I am the mother of daughters. The thought that their voices might be muffled—that that process may have already begun—fills me with rage. But I’m reminded also that I play a role here, as their mother, as someone they admire. It’s up to me to nurture their voices, to encourage them not to be afraid, to encourage them instead to speak up, be proud of themselves—their bodies, their minds.

The next time I was in the car with the girls and the Sara Bareilles song came on, I turned up the volume and said, “This is important, girls. Listen to these words. We have to stand up and speak our minds.” I began singing along and by the end of the song so were Stella and Zoë. (You should hear them now.)

I know so many women writers who have said, Oh I couldn’t say that or I could never write that or I could maybe write that, later, after….

But it’s time now. Say it. Write it. Be brave.

December 2, 2013
by Kate
10 Comments

monday morning & two interviews

The weekend was lovely and bursting with family. Stella rocked the 5K (she finished 15th in the female 14-and-under category), and though it was freezing (poor Zoe was weeping), we all had fun. (Or at least we all had fun after coffees and hot chocolates were consumed and we were out of the cold.) The two Thanksgiving dinners were a little rough on my “I just finished a cleanse” digestive system, but I persevered, and even ate a little pie after the second dinner. We had more family time on Friday, and then on Saturday, Donny and the girls and I drove up to Park Rapids, where I signed books and acted as a guest bookseller at Beagle Books as part of Small Business Saturday and the Indies First Campaign. We had a quiet night at my mom’s cabin, just the four of us, and then headed back home yesterday so we could cook and get the house in order for my mom’s birthday dinner last night (hello, 70!).

It was all wonderful, but I have to say that after a long, busy weekend, I long for Monday morning.

So this morning after the girls raced down the block so they didn’t miss the bus, and after Donny headed out the door, I opened all the curtains, carried the orchids to the sink to water them, two by two, and started my pot of decaf brewing. And I could feel myself let go of the tension, of the stress of knowing how many undone things are on my to-do list. Then I sat down in my tiny office, turned on my desk lamp, and opened my laptop, feeling so much more relaxed just being in that quiet space that’s all my own. There is lots of work, as always: author interviews, essays I need to edit, prep for a talk/reading I’m giving tomorrow night (and for which I’m quite nervous). But I know the work will get done. It always does. And once I have practiced my talk and the sections of the book I’m planning to read tomorrow, I’m sure my anxiety will dissolve (or at least that’s the hope). Then I’ll head to the gym for a swim before I have to pick up the girls at the bus stop. And the rhythm of the week will settle in.

Oh, and I also wanted to share links to these two interviews. Last Wednesday I was a guest on Wisconsin Public Radio. (My first public radio interview!) Judith Siers-Poisson was fabulous, and there were some really amazing callers. Click here to listen to that.

The other great news is that Ready for Air is Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine‘s book club pick for December. There is a nice little review in the print version of the magazine, and you can read my interview with them here.

Thank you, as always, for stopping by. And I’d love to know: How do you settle back into your rhythm after a long weekend? What helps you get back to the mental space you need to feel content and get your work done?

 

November 28, 2013
by Kate
8 Comments

thankful

I try to incorporate gratitude into every day, year round. At the dinner table before we eat, we all go around and say what we’re thankful for. (Which can get silly sometimes, but is mostly sweet.) Others days I try to stop in the middle of my rush to do whatever I’m rushing to do, and remember to be grateful, to appreciate the life we’re living, give thanks for our family, our friends.

But I love Thanksgiving, a day of thanks all day. And the food, of course (which I hope will taste especially good after the last ten days of my gluten-free vegan cleanse). Bring on the turkey! And mashed potatoes! And pie! (Don’t worry, I’ll take it slow. We have two meals today, so I have to pace myself or it will get ugly.)

This morning, we’re starting the day with a 5K. Stella and I ran one together last year in support of marriage equality in Minnesota. And today we’re running around Lake Calhoun in support of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. It’s freezing here, so it probably won’t be too fun for Donny and Zoë, who will be cheering us on. But I know that as Stella and I circle the lake, I will be especially thankful for the strong, healthy former preemie running beside me, and for her sister, who is going to try to run her first race next year.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I hope you day is filled with love and fabulous food!

November 20, 2013
by Kate
4 Comments

prematurity awareness month

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. According to the March of Dimes, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely in the United States every year. Worldwide, that number is 15 million. It’s the leading cause of infant death in the U.S. and each year costs society $26.2 billion.

Those statistics are scary for sure. But it’s hard to make those numbers mean anything unless they are attached to real people, to real parents staring down at their real babies, some of whom weigh less than a can of coke.

I was in the NICU yesterday doing parent rounds, which I try to do every month. I peek into room after room, and if there is a parent present, I squirt antibacterial liquid into my hands, and knock gently on the window. I introduce myself as a former NICU parent, ask about their babies, then listen to their stories—stories of babies born way too early, of complications, sometimes of death. Some babies have been there for months and months and their families have been faced with possible, sometimes probably death. Some look exhausted, others resigned, others hopeful, still others relieved. Each story is different, of course, but they all share commonalities that connect them one another, to me.

Each time I visit the NICU I’m brought back ten years, to the fear, the uncertainty, the anger, the hope—all those emotions swirling together under the surface of new motherhood. I remember that first day I visited Stella in the NICU and how I realized that I’d gotten it all wrong—she wasn’t beautiful at all; she was yellow. I remember touching her miniature ankle, tickling her without meaning to, because who thinks of having a baby too ticklish to touch? I remember watching her on the television in my hospital room a block away, weeping, not being able to make the connection between that tiny thrashing creature on the screen and the baby that had been inside me doing her flips and twirls just days before.

Yesterday, after I told one mother that Stella is a healthy ten-year-old, she smiled widely and said, “Oh, I hope I’ll be back here in ten years doing what you’re doing.”

I hope so to. Because I can imagine this woman stopping by room after NICU room, sharing her story and listening to the stories of the parents who are exactly where she once was. But my hope is also that those NICU rooms will stand mostly empty in a decade, that we will have made monumental strides in research, in prenatal health, in health care access. I hope so.

Until then, I’ll keep rounding, keep listening, and keep really seeing each of those parents who stand watch over tiny lives.

To learn more about March of Dimes’ Prematurity Campaign, click here.

I’m happy to announce that copies of Ready for Air will be shipped out next week to all 60! of the hospital NICUs and special care nurseries that were submitted as part of the Ready for Air NICU giveaway thanks to the generosity of the University of Minnesota Press and the Sustainable Arts Foundation! Thank you all for submitting your suggestions!

November 19, 2013
by Kate
2 Comments

on craft, writing and motherhood

I have a blog post cooking in my head in honor of November as Prematurity Awareness Month, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. (Sunday was actually World Prematurity Day, but I was en route from Chicago after a weekend of successful workshops and some lovely time with my step-brother and his family, so I wasn’t able to post on the actual day. It’s coming, I promise.)

But today I’m excited to be over at Lisa Romeo’s wonderful blog, Lisa Romeo Writes. I’ve known Lisa for several years through writing and blogging. She’s a fabulous writer and teacher and a great connector of writers. I love her Friday Fridge Clean-Out posts in which she links to lots of content of interest to writers.

So pop over to Lisa’s blog. I’ll be there all week answering questions. And you’ll be entered to win a copy of Ready for Air if you leave a comment. You should know about Lisa if you don’t already. So go.

November 13, 2013
by Kate
6 Comments

readings & workshops

I’ve gotten caught up in a flurry of activity over the last week and a half. I signed with an agent for the autism and running memoir on which I’ve been collaborating the last few months. I’m very excited, but my week was swept up in talking about and tweaking the proposal, and I had very little time for anything else. Which is why I’ve been quiet here the last week. But I’m sure that’s okay with you since you probably heard from me more than you needed to during my blog book tour. Thank you, again, for following along and supporting all the wonderful bloggers who participated.

I have a couple of events coming up. In fact, I have one tonight. I’ll be reading with Lorna Landvik and poet Carol Allis at Common Good Books in St. Paul. If you’re local and can slip away from home, please join us tonight at 7 p.m. We’ll each be reading and then there will be time for Q & A and a discussion of motherhood & writing. Lorna and Carol are both so talented and warm and funny. So stop by if you can.

Then on Saturday, I’ll be in Chicago for two workshops. One is with a group of mothers — my peeps. And the other is at my favorite non-Loft center for writing, StoryStudio Chicago. I love teaching at StoryStudio, and I’m excited to be doing a three-hour workshop Saturday morning on writing the nonfiction book proposal. You can check out more about that here.

I’ll get back to author interviews and more regular posting here soon! Thank you, as always, for reading!

November 6, 2013
by Kate
4 Comments

last day: within the words

Today is the last stop of my blog book tour, friends, and first I just want to thank all of you for tuning in and for checking out all the great blogs on the tour. And a huge thank you to all the wonderful bloggers for taking the time to read and write about Ready for Air! I’m so grateful.

I’m honored to have the tour wrap up at Nancy Schatz Alton’s wonderful blog, Within the Words.  I met Nancy when I was in Seattle on my in-person tour for Use Your Words in August of 2012. Donny and the girls and I had been on the road for three and a half weeks, and we were a little weary. But we couldn’t head home quite yet because my friend, the fabulous Bonnie J. Rough, had offered to host a salon for me in her new house.

I’d been talking and reading and meeting people for weeks, and I wasn’t sure I was my best self at that point. But as soon as I stepped into Bonnie’s house, I was filled with energy. How could I not be? I was surrounded by smart, interesting women–writers and mothers. As I filled my plate with delicious appetizers and poured myself a glass of wine, I met Nancy, and we started jabbering away. She was a writer, as well, a Minnesotan, a Macalester grad. After that night we connected on Facebook, and we’ve been keeping track of each other and our respective writing projects ever since. Nancy is the co-author of two holistic healthcare guides, and she also has been working on a motherhood memoir about watching her youngest daughter suffer from learning disabilities, an important story that I know will find representation soon. I love this post about rejection and dreaming and wanting it all.

About Ready for Air, Nancy writes:

Reading Ready for Air  is another avenue to healing. No, I didn’t experience preeclampsia, premature birth, the NICU, or being homebound with a premature baby. None of this matters when reading Kate’s book. Her words transcend her experience and her experience becomes universal through her skilled hands. I cried as I finished reading the book, feeling both her transformation and my own transformation during different circumstances in my own life. This is what great memoir writing does: it helps us on our own paths in life, connecting us and making the road more bearable and more beautiful.

Thank you so much for words, Nancy, for reading and sharing my book with your friends. And I can’t wait to one day celebrate the publication of your book here at Motherhood & Words!

Please check out Nancy’s blog here, my friends. And thank you always for reading!

 

November 4, 2013
by Kate
15 Comments

gillian marchenko & a book giveaway

I met Gillian Marchenko a few years ago through her blog, when I was swept up in the story of her and her husband’s journey to adopt their sweet Evangeline, who has Down Syndrome, from Ukraine. (Polly, their third biological child, also has Down Syndrome.) I would pop over and check in on the progress, and I cheered for them as they packed up and made the trip across the Atlantic. Gillian writes honestly about life, faith, depression, and parenting children with Down Syndrome. I had the pleasure of working with her on her memoir, Sun Shine Down, when it was in the manuscript phase. It’s a moving memoir about Polly’s birth and coming to terms with having a child with special needs.

I’m happy to announce that as part of the blog tour, Gillian has offered to give away a copy of Sun Shine Down to one of my readers. In Sun Shine Down Gillian bravely chronicles her first years as a parent to children with special needs, taking us on a journey from darkness to light, from desperation to hope. I read this book in one beautiful afternoon. You will too! Please leave a comment below if you’re interested in winning a copy of Gillian’s lovely memoir.

And I’m grateful to Gillian for posting about Ready for Air today. She writes:

This memoir is skillfully and beautifully written, but almost more important, it is honest. Dense in time frame, Kate draws you in from the first page and keeps you there… Sick and pregnant, wheeled in to surgery, meeting the baby and not believing it is the same one who paddled around inside her. While reading I was keenly aware of a privilege… I was participating in something intimate; a husband, wife, and baby’s journey towards becoming a family.

Thank you Gillian, for your honest and powerful writing and for participating in my blog book tour! Please check out Gillian’s blog! And if you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Sun Shine Down, please leave a comment below by Sunday, November 10th.

November 2, 2013
by Kate
18 Comments

NICU giveaway update

Hi friends,

Originally, the University of Minnesota Press agreed to donate 15 copies of Ready for Air to neonatal intensive care units in the U.S. and Canada as part of blog book tour. I was going to randomly pick 15 hospitals from the entries on this post. But the generous Sustainable Arts Foundation has offered to make sure that every hospital NICU on the list gets a copy of Ready for Air! Whoop!

A huge thank you both to the Sustainable Arts Foundation and also to the University of Minnesota Press, which has offered to sell the books to the foundation at cost. Please spread the word, and ask people to list the hospital in the comments on this post. In order to be eligible, you must list an address and contact information if it should be addressed to someone specific. When my blog tour is over, every hospital on the list will receive a signed copy of the book.

Thank you all for spreading the word and helping get Ready for Air in the hands of parents who might need it.

November 1, 2013
by Kate
8 Comments

good day, regular people

Alexandra is another one of those amazing writers who came to me through the Interwebs. We were in contact a few years ago about her possibly taking my online class, but somehow it didn’t work out. I would pop over to her blog when I could, but it was only this summer when I left my day job and I had a bit more time to scroll around that I began reading her work in earnest. She writes Good Day, Regular People, and she’s hilarious and heartfelt and just, well, lovely. And she’s a fantastic writer. Her dear mother passed away this summer, and the way she writes about their love and the rawness of her grief just blows me away. So please read some of those posts. And this post, which I LOVE.

Alexandra lives in Eastern Wisconsin, and this morning while I was getting ready for my run, I thought, Well, that’s not far. We could have coffee for heaven’s sake. I’m actually going to be on a Madison public radio show on November 27th, and I thought, What if I drive to the studio? And then Alexandra and I could meet for lunch afterward? Okay, I was getting a little carried away, but that’s how fun it would be to sit across from the real Alexandra and talk and laugh and talk and laugh. And maybe even cry a little.

Alexandra also suffered from preeclampsia and delivered her first baby early. That pregnancy was followed by two more early pregnancies and NICU stays. So I knew I had to invite Alexandra to be a part of the blog tour. Because I knew she would see herself in the pages of my memoir. I knew she’d get it. And she did.

Alexandra writes:

We are braver and stronger than we know, but how comforting to have a mother lighting the path ahead for us, on a trail she’s blazed before, turning around and offering us her lamp, whispering with encouragement and assurance, “Here, find yourself in my words, let me walk with you through these long days and nights, you have me and I know, I know, just how very hard these steps are.” This is why Kate wrote Ready for Air, because she remembers the path when it was dark and long, and those that shone a light ahead for her.

Please check out Good Day, Regular People, my friends. You’ll want to visit often, I promise. And thank you, Alexandra, for being part of the book tour! I’m grateful!