Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dear Vida: Why I'm not helping up the submissions percentage this week

The much-discussed 'count' by Vida: Women in the Literary Arts shows a saddening lack of women writers represented in literary publications, daily publications, book reviews, etc. Here's one sliver of a reason why:

9:30 a.m. The children have breakfasted and nursed, been toileted and diapered, medicined and vitamined, swept off and wiped. The baby is down for her reliable morning nap (the afternoon one is hit-and-miss, and requires long periods of holding and rocking). The 3-year-old is playing happily with his train tracks on the floor after I spent 20 minutes helping him set up an elaborate layout with plenty of bridges, tunnels, curves, and switches.

I've had two cups of coffee and even the breakfast dishes are washed. The new album from Bright Eyes is playing. So while Alex sleeps and John plays, I sneak out a story that I've been writing and rewriting for 5 years, and am hoping to send to a journal this week. (Even though I still feel shaky in fiction, creative nonfiction being my strength, and this journal has off-handedly rejected several of my nonfiction essays. But they mentioned on Facebook that they're looking for stories, so I keep working. When I can.)

I sit down on the rocking chair slightly out of sight, rest the clipboard on my knee, and uncap a pen.

John looks toward the kitchen. "Mummy, I want a hug." Gripping Percy the green engine, he trots over and climbs onto my lap.

Five minutes later, and again ten minutes later, I ask if he's ready to play with his tracks again. "No," he says, running Percy up and down my arm, "I just hugging now."

And in no time flat it's time to get the baby up and make lunch.

Of course I'm going to put the story down and give him a hug. There's a tug, an "I wish I could just have half an hour and then get lots of hugs," but there isn't really a choice. Does this make me not-a-writer? Are you a writer only if you push away the hug and stick to the story? No. It just makes me a writer who doesn't get things done very quickly. A writer who is always tired, and always trying. I'm betting a lot of women writers who are also caregivers find themselves in a similar position.

(I did attempt to keep working by offering to read John the story I was working on. While he was patient enough, and I always do a fair bit of editing while reading aloud, it is a bit hard to engage in serious rewriting when you've got your "This is George. He was a good little monkey and always very curious" voice going on.)