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“Take your writing seriously — don’t let anyone make you feel it is a hobby or that you are being indulgent. You don’t need permission — remember that”
~Jamie Brenner, author of The Forever Summer and The Husband Hour (Little, Brown and Company)
PP: Describe your life in the context of writing, parenting and other employment (if applicable).
JB: I am a full-time novelist publishing a book every year with Little, Brown. I am the mother of two teenage daughters, ages 13 and 16. We live in New York City.
PP: How do you integrate creative writing into your parenting/work responsibilities?
JB: I write every day, usually from around 9am to 3pm. I try to compartmentalize — I get my writing done first, then deal with appointments and errands for the kids. We live in New York City, so they are able to get around by themselves (I don’t have to drive them anywhere.) But any doctor appointments, parent teacher conferences, shopping excursions, etc I try to do only after the writing day is finished. Can’t always accomplish that! On weekends, I try to be more available but depending on what stage of the book I’m at I sometimes have to keep to the 9 – 3PM schedule. But if I’ve been really busy I do try to take Sunday afternoons off to walk around downtown or see a movie with one or both of my daughters if they want. (I recently saw Ladybird with my oldest.) I find it’s most important to be available at night, to talk to them about their day and troubleshoot anything that might be going on. Also, to make sure they’re doing their homework. The tricky time of year is the spring and summer when I’m on book tour and away some of the time.
PP: What’s awesome about being a parent who writes?
JB: I love that I can set an example for my daughters that it’s possible to do what you love and make a living. They see that I work hard, that I have taken risks. I know that they are proud of me. My oldest is also a writer and has won awards for her poetry and short-fiction. I don’t know if that is nature or nurture, but it makes me very happy! My husband (second husband, not the father of my children) is very supportive. He will jump in to get day-to-day things done or take the girls to an appointment if I am on deadline or travelling. He completely respects what I do and it’s a priority for him. I don’t know if I have work-life balance. I have definitely heard from my daughters, “You work all the time!” But again, I think I am setting an example of working hard to achieve a dream.
PP: What’s challenging about it?
JB: I struggle with being present.
PP: What advice would you offer other parents who write?
JB: Take your writing seriously — don’t let anyone make you feel it is a hobby or that you are being indulgent. You don’t need permission — remember that.
PP: What else would you like to add on this subject?
JB: The challenge of being a writing parents has changed as my children have grown. Teenagers notice that you’re distracted — they can take it personally. In terms of technical time, it was more difficult when they were very young. I remember having babies at home and struggling to get writing in during naps. I will take teenagers over babies any day!
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Jamie Brenner is author of the national bestseller The Forever Summer (Little, Brown), a novel People magazine calls, “A captivating tale of family secrets and strong women.” Her new novel, The Husband Hour, publishes April 24 (Little, Brown). Jamie grew up in suburban Philadelphia and today lives in New York City with her husband and two teenage daughters.
Current novel, The Forever Summer http://www.jamiebrenner.com/foreversummer/
Upcoming novel (April) The Husband Hour http://www.jamiebrenner.com/the-husband-hour/
The Pen Parentis Research Project is a series of interviews with parent authors in order to learn how they mange time, publish, earn a living, nurture creative community, and care for their kids. Managed by Mary Harpin, the project will culminate in a book with stories, data, and helpful information that other parent writers can apply to their own lives.