The Me That I Am

I'm having a pretty shitty Writerly Ego day. Actually, it's kind of been a shitty Writerly Ego month, to be perfectly honest. And when I've shared this little emotional nugget with the BFF and The Husband, I've received a raised eyebrow and a "YOU HAVE A FUCKING AGENT" in response to my pity party. I get where it's coming from. I am in a position a lot of writers would kill for. I have a wonderful agent who thinks me and my writing are worth something and deserve a place on the shelves at Barnes & Noble next to writers I admire like Jenny Lawson Jill SmoklerRobin O'BryantAnna Lefler and Heather Armstrong. It seems, however, that the platform I am currently standing on may not big enough to get there. Or maybe it just feels like that because I'm a writer and us artistic types are moody and overly emotional and maybe I just need a vodka-flavored cookie. Because really? I'm pretty proud of my little platform. I bust my ass for free because writing is who I am and what I do and the writing part is actually more important than getting paid part...for my sanity, at least. The bills sitting on my desk waiting to be paid, however, would rather I stop trying to stay Not Crazy and just get a fucking job that probably wouldn't leave me the time to write for the awesome sites I contribute to.

I love sharing the funny on An Army of Ermas and Funny Not Slutty. Getting a spot on best-selling author Lissa Rankin's Owning Pink site is something I will forever be proud of. I've been published on Hippocampus Magazine and almost fell over when StoryBleed accepted the same piece for publication on their site. And then what I've got going on over here on this little ol' blog o' mine. I'm working on getting my name out there and my writing on more outlets, but these things take time. And Platforms don't build themselves overnight.

I'm by no means in the same stratosphere as the likes of Dooce or The Bloggess or Scary Mommy and that's okay with me. I'm not trying to be them. Just me. And hopefully the Me that I Am will one day be enough.

Maybe this sounds like a Poor Me post, but I don't mean it to. Instead, I wanted to let other aspiring writers out there know that the days of doubting yourself don't end the moment you sign that contract with your dream agent. And, I'm sure my published writer friends will tell me that they sure as hell don't end when a book deal is offered or the day their books were released or even the day they got their first glowing review. Because once someone Other Than You believes in your work, it's not just your ego riding on how many readers connect with that essay you got placed in that literary magazine that you love or how many hits per month your blog is getting or how much better you feel just for having taken the jumbled words out of your head and making some sense of them in a new piece you just started.

Every level of success reached is both a validation of our talents and a new reason to Freak the Fuck out, but it's a lesson in the writing life that I seem to keep having to be reminded of. Three months ago I was still waiting for the Moment All of My Dreams Would Come True and then the world turned upside down when they did because I signed with my agent. That singular moment took two years to make a reality. And you would be right of you guessed that the Freaking Out commenced after the shiny newness of my situation sunk in. It's not just me and my ego on the table anymore. It's me and my ego and my agent's time and effort and enthusiasm and Belief in What I Am and Have Yet to Become.

But if I think back, I probably went through the same little Self-Doubt Fest when I was accepted onto my college newspaper's staff and when I saw my first byline and when I was assigned to cover my first murder case at the city newspaper that hired me right out of college. And then again when I left the newspapers to freelance and when I started this blog and when I woke up this morning and my little girl told me that I'm the best mother in the world.

So maybe shitty Writerly Ego days are just part of the process and part of what makes us who -- and what -- we are. It's our literary equivalent of the trap women set for men when we ask if This Dress Makes Us Look Fat because we really only need to be reminded that in their eyes we are beautiful no matter what how that dress fits us. My platform is what it is. My ass? Probably looks horrible in that dress. But it's okay.

Because tomorrow I'm still going to write something. And someone is going to read it.

Buzzing on Ketchup

I've already posted an excerpt and a review of Robin O'Bryant's Ketchup is a Vegetable: And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves. Now it's time for the official author interview. Grab yourself a glass of wine and kick up your feet and relate, y'all.

Extra credit if you stay till the end.

And yes, I will totally know if you actually read the post or just skipped to the end.

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Aspiring Mama: Let's cut to the chase. What do you mean, ketchup isn't a vegetable?

Robin O'Bryant: It IS. It totally is. Isn't it?? It has to be at my house because it's the only thing my seven-year-old has eaten besides Cheerios and chicken nuggets since she started taking solids. Occasionally I make her eat something green-- which she then slathers in ketchup and gags down. Sometimes you just gotta get by and figure out what works for you. That's what Ketchup is a Vegetable is about: figuring out this whole motherhood thing as you go, doing what works regardless if it's what somebody else would do and learning to laugh at yourself.

AM: And this girl doesn't mess around, ladies and gentlemen. Did you see that segue way into her book and why you must have it?

So, miss smooth operator, I can laugh at myself. Am I doing it right if other people are laughing, too?

RO: Definitely. I think people in general are drawn to others who they can relate to, and who can relate to perfection? If you can laugh at yourself and let others laugh with you then everyone feels less alone.

Being a mother, especially if you stay at home or work from home, can be very isolating. (*Sidebar* I am not saying that being a working mom is easier. Being a parent is hard anyway you slice it!) But nobody wants to be friends with the mom who is always put together and has "perfect" kids-- she makes the rest of us feel bad about wearing yoga pants and baseball hats everyday.

AM: Please tell me you base your clothing choices on what has the least amount of food stains visible. Cuz then? We are totally relating.

RO: Lawd, yes. After I had my third daughter in four years (did I stutter?) I was so proud of myself for getting Dressed to run errands one day. I had a four-year-old, a two-year-old and a newborn and actually not having a breast exposed was a pretty big deal. I mean at that stage in the game getting dressed was yoga pants with snot stains crusted on the knees and a t-shirt off the floor. But I got Dressed-- which means I got all fancy and put on pants with a zipper, a real bra, makeup-- the whole nine. I went shopping after I dropped my oldest two at preschool. I felt so sassy, I tossed my hair and sashayed all over town.

That night when I was getting in the shower, I pulled my shirt over my head and felt something crusty... dried baby puke all the way from the shoulder to the waist of my shirt. That's when I gave up. Now that my kids are a little older (7,5 & 3), I've started getting fancy again, you know-- bras with underwire and pants with zippers.

AM: Swanky. Now, I've never met you in person but I imagine you talk just like you write and really? I totally think we are the same person. Only my hair is much more confusing. So I imagine that reading Ketchup is a vegetable is a lot like drinking too much boxed wine with your favorite girlfriend after the your kids (and hers) kids have passed out from their Kool-Aid induced sugar highs while watching SpongeBob Square Pants. Please tell me I am correct and that this is how you will describe your book to anyone who ever asks for a description from this point on.

RO: Oh abso-freakin-loutely. I grew up in Alabama and have always lived in the South so I may have a little more twang than you'd expect! But yeah, these are my thoughts about being a mom, just like I'd share them with my bestie. It was hysterically funny to me to see how many synonyms I could come up with to call my lady bits. And if you're going to write about being a mom then you are going to be writing about your lady bits-- a lot.

AM: You know you have to share now, right? I want the top five lady but synonyms. Go!

RO: Britney. Coo-coo. Zipples. Lady Bits. Big Berthas. There are STORIES there. (Also my best friend is the sweetest person in the world and her only concern when reading my manuscript was that one day Britney Spears would read my book and have her feelings hurt that I called my bidnass *BONUS synonym* Britney.)

AM: I am so using that. The Britney reference, I mean. Well, maybe not. "pushed a baby out my Britney" sounds like an MTV reality show that's supposed to run right after 16 and Pregnant. I prefer the terms *hooha* and *cabbage*.

But back to the book: what was your inspiration? And why do you think it will resonate with other moms out there?

RO: I've always been very introspective and terrified by the temporary nature of life. I've spent a lot of time in my life worrying about things that never happened, then a childhood friend of mine was killed in a boating accident. It was like someone was shaking me and SCREAMING, "STOP BEING AN IDIOT! Enjoy life while you can!" Then I had kids, and I made a conscious decision to stop worrying and enjoy my life... even if to do that I'm sharing some of my most embarrassing moments for the world to laugh at.

I wrote this book for other moms because like I said, we can feel so alone and we don't have to. But I think anybody with a sense of humor will enjoy it. I have a self-syndicated humor column and I get so cracked up when I get emails from people outside of my demographic-- some guy in his 20s told me once that he and his childless girlfriend read my column out loud every week and laugh until they cry. Prolly good birth control, too.

AM: I'm sorry about your friend. But I'm glad you are inviting the world to laugh at you. Dare I ask what didn't make it into the book?

RO: I don't mind being the butt of my own jokes but I never want to share other people's stories without their permission. There are things I have written about that I will never share because I don't want to hurt or embarrass my family or friends.

There are a few stories I wrote about my girls when they were two and four that seemed fine at the time. But after reading those stories when they were several years older, I realized they might be embarrassed so I cut them. I don't want my kids to think that everything they do or say is going to be shared with the general public. I wrote this book for adult women so there are things there my kids don't need to know about yet. But they know which of their own stories are in the book and have veto power over my weekly columns. Respecting their space is my biggest concern when deciding what stays and what goes.
AM: Impressive. Because what stayed was motherhood gold.
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Now for the fun stuff. Who wants a chance at a signed copy of Ketchup? I know I do. *Glares at Robin* Anyhoo...For your chance to win, here are the rules:
1) Leave me a comment telling me what your favorite motherhood lie is. Like? Mine is that the leftovers I eat off my kid's plate are totally calories-free. (1 entry)
2) Facebook, Google Plus, and/or Tweet "Ketchup is a Vegetable & @Robinobryant is hilarious Enter to win a copy here!" and leave a comment indicating you did so. (1 entry for each)
This means you have four chances to win a copy of Ketchup, providing you remember to leave a comment for each little thang you do. Entries will be accepted through midnight (EST) on December 9.
Do one. Do them all. Whatever you do, just promise me that you'll help spread the word if you like Ketchup. And thank you for being as excited for my friend and her book as I am.