Thursday, June 9, 2011

Writing About Mother

It's a challenging endeavor to write about one's mother. There's a lifetime of emotional history, joys, frustrations, baggage, gratitude, resentment, push and pull. Or not. In my case, I chose to write about my other mother as well, the one with whom I did not have a lifetime of emotional history, the mother who who placed me for adoption when I was three days old.

All during my quest to find that other mother, I wrote. I wrote for survival. I was a journaler, not a writer. I had never written anything for publication, never thought about trying. But while searching for my original mother and for many years afterward, I was almost compulsive about writing out what happened each day, so it was outside of me, so I could continue on to the next day. During that time, my journal was my constant companion, my confidante, my storage locker.

It was about six years after I found my birth mother that a writing teacher acquaintance began nudging me about the story. After months of prodding from Nancy Beckett, I finally attended one of her memoir writing classes at the Lakeside Writing Studio in Chicago. And then, like after making the decision to search for my original family, there was no turning back. That was in 1998. Now, thirteen years later, after a move to San Diego and invaluable participation in many writing groups under the wise tutelage of Judy Reeves, Roger Aplon, and Tom Larson, that story has matured into a book. Now, I'm a writer.

I'm also a publisher. This project took so long to complete that during its gestation, self-publishing evolved from being a last resort to being cool. I can't say it wasn't a difficult decision to give up looking for an agent at all those Southern California and San Diego State Writer's Conferences, but again, once the decision was made, I was full speed out of the gate. I created Deep Root Press, and I'm enjoying the ride.

So back to my original point. All during the writing of Becoming Patrick, I harbored an underlying pool of anxiety about what my two mothers would think, and perhaps even say out loud. Would they disagree, distance, disown? It does happen. Well, I'm happy to report that both mothers have read the book, and both love it. They are even telling all their friends about it. So a decade-old undercurrent has disappeared. Life is good.