Monday, August 17, 2009

Yeah, Their Mom Is a Writer

One of the best parts about being a mom and a writer is watching how it affects my kids--because it really, really does.

This isn't about how sometimes the young 'uns have to forage in the pantry for food because I'm at the computer or how at least once a year I'm gone for a couple of days at a conference, although both happen.

I'm not sure how it came about, whether from watching my critique group when we meet here, from sheer osmosis, genetics, or what, but each of them has learned about writing, and all four of them are great writers for their age.

It's not uncommon to hear my son roll his eyes at a television show and say, "This is so predictable. Let me tell you how it'll end." He does, and he's right. He's figured out how the writers (especially of kid shows) think. He can spot a setup a mile away.

Recently my next two oldest (both girls) had their faces buried in notebooks as they scribbled away on their own stories. They came up for air just long enough to say things like, "This story is getting so exciting! I can't wait to see what happens next!" or, "It's so real to me, Mom!" or, "This is why I want to be a writer when I grow up . . . I want to enjoy what I do."

That last comment is particularly meaningful to me, because three of my four children are daughters. Some day, they'll be wives and mothers, and they'll have to juggle dreams with motherhood. Yet they assume they can be writers because Mom is. I love that.

It's not uncommon to hear any of my kids analyzing novels they read. Recent commentary:
  • The writer picked the wrong point of view.
  • This scene was totally telling instead of showing.
  • Using present tense in this book really pulled me out.
  • This book is exciting and not predictable.
  • The writer makes me feel like I'm right there.
  • It's so funny, and the writer totally knows how girls my age think.

Then there's my littlest one. She's way ahead of her grade in reading and loves to talk about characters and story. She illustrates stories and sounds things out surprisingly well phonetically. The other day she used sidewalk chalk to write out an entire Primary song on the driveway. When I called her in to get ready for bed, she was really upset, because the last two lines weren't done yet. I had to let her finish.

They all discuss books they like and why certain ones are better than others. They can pinpoint not just what they like and dislike, but why a book worked or didn't.

It's awesome.

Recently a particularly fun bit happened regarding my good friend and critique group member Jeff Savage (current pen name J. Scott Savage), who is known for being ragingly anti-prologue.

Some of his reasoning is that a lot of readers don't actually read a prologue but skip to the first chapter.

Or if they read the prologue, they might do so later after they buy the book, but in the store, when deciding whether to buy it, they flip to chapter one and read that first.

He argues: why waste your time writing a prologue that might not be read anyway?

So here's what he does: he writes what are basically prologues, only he doesn't call them that. They're called "Chapter One." (Or in his next book, he includes several prologue-type chapters called, "interludes.") That way he tricks people reading the whole thing. Sneaky.

Not too long ago, my #3 began J. Scott Savage's Farworld: Water Keep.

(Quick side note: the second book in the series, Farworld: Land Keep will be out next month. Watch for it. It's even better than the first. But I digress.)

With a furrowed brow, she looked up from chapter one and said, "Mom, I don't get it. Chapter one is totally a prologue. Why isn't it just called that?"

I about fell over and laughed my head off. When the tears of laughter stopped, I explained it to her.

So much for J. Scott pulling one on all his readers. This kid had him figured out.


Melanie Jacobson said...

I was watching Yo Gabba Gabba with my toddler not too long ago and my nine-year-old wandered to ask, "What't the theme of today's show?" It made me giggle. Theme? THEME?

Kristina P. said...

Your kids are going to make millions of dollars.

Helena said...

LOL! That is awesome. Very cool.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

You know, I can't help thinking you must be doing an awesome job of juggling motherhood and writing if the one spills so beautifully over into the other.

And the prologue bit totally cracked me up! I adore prologues myself but I know I'm in the minority so I plan to steal Jeff's sneaky idea when/if the time comes.

Don said...

Seeing the kids write is very satisfying. I don't know if I can lay any claim to it or not, by my daughter has also become quite the avid little writer as well.

As for prologues, I've never liked them much.

Sarah M Eden said...

That's classic. The best "my mom's an author" moment from my kids (so far) came last year. My youngest's Kindergarten teacher asked her for her student spotlight what her parents did all day while she was at school (that was how she covered stay-at-home parents and working parents). My daughter's response - "My mom just talks to the people in her head."
Yeah. Took a little explaining to reassure that poor teacher.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

that is awesome! what a great impact you are having on your kids!

And I totally disagree with the prologue thing. A preface, yeah. People skip it. But not the prologue. I think, anyway.

Stephanie Black said...

I love that your daughter nailed Jeff's prologue. Ha ha!

Annette Lyon said...

Sarah, that is the most classic bit yet! I can just imagine what that teacher must have thought. Hahahaha!

Laura said...

Dang,I'm going to have to have your kids read my book just so I'll know if it passes their test. I always have thought that the most valuable reviews are the ones from the audience the book is written for.

* said...

As a writer, you are also a teacher to your little ones, in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

Your kids are great. I love that they don't only know how to read, but also how to analyze what they have read. That's fantastic, and I think would be helpful no matter what they choose to pursue in life.

And I always read prologues.

Randi said...

What awesome kids!

Do you rent yourself out? My kids could probably benefit from hanging around you for a couple of afternoons!

Come to think of it, so could I.

amelia said...

Oh how I love this. I hope my daughter is the same one day. It would be a different writing form though, like "This story lede is horrible," or "Why include that quote in this article?"

Sherrie said...

Wow! That is really awesome! Your kids sound terrific and you are a wonderful mother/author.

Mikki said...

It's wonderful how you're kids are picking up all this wonderful education from your career. THey sound delightful!!!
I've always read the prologue, I just figure it's part of the story. I was in fact surprised a few weeks ago when someone told me they never read the prologue. I figure you haven't read the whole story without it.

Julie Wright said...

lol Jeff isn't as sneaky as he thinks! Your kids are awesome

An Ordinary Mom said...

Maybe your brilliance can wash over me and my kids, too :) !!


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