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Here is the second of a three-part guest blog by Scott Eliott, who lives and teaches in Walla Walla, Washington. Scott is the father of two boys and two books, Coiled in the Heart and Temple Grove: A Novel. Click here for his bio.
Tell us more about your recent book tour with the kids, Scott – you left off with a decision to keep author-time and daddy-time separate, but to allow the boys to see one reading. Do go on….
Before I left for each reading, I asked the boys to wish me luck, kissed their heads, fielded a few questions about where I was going and why I had to go, asked them to be good for mama. I don’t think they really understood what was going on. On the way to each venue I’d shift identities and summon the energy necessary to transform from worn out daddy to audience-commanding author. The energy always came, its supply aided in some ways rather than hindered by days spent running amok with the boys—throwing rocks at driftwood at Discovery Park, hiking in Whacom Falls Park, fishing at a few small lakes, hitting playgrounds in Stanely Park, going up the tram to Grouse Mountain to see a clever logging show and stand a few feet from grizzly bears, continuing our pursuit of food we can’t get in Walla Walla at Pike Place and Granville island Markets, participating in what we came to call the “Bellingham sandwich explosion.”
I should say that doing this alone, short of a substantial childcare budget beyond our means, would not have been possible without a generous second adult. My wife Jenna played this role expertly. Overall, the demands on her didn’t constitute as much extra childcare as it would have if I’d said “see you in a few weeks!” and left, but it did mean extra work for her, for which I’m grateful, especially on two nights when she needed to get the boys settled into new places without my help. Jenna attended two of the five events on nights when we did pay for baby sitters.
I thought the whole thing worked very well, overall. So well, in fact, that I came to think that if I had time and the resources, I could go on traveling indefinitely like this, moving from town to town, seeking adventures, finding new readers for the book. I enjoyed the strange experience, the lively jolt, of switching from daddy to writer, sloughing off the concern for dependents to move more easily, made newly conscious of my lightness (like taking off a heavy backpack) into a fluid adult world, in one its best places, rich with possibility and in which I was able even to move outside of myself a little bit to play the role of author and to stretch a little further still to play the roles of the characters in my novel. I felt immensely fortunate for the opportunity to enter this world of greater freedom with its potential for meaningful connections enabled by the book, and equally fortunate to come back to my better-defined role in the family– to sleeping boys, a wife who must have sensed once I’d crawled into bed as quietly as I could that I was still charged up from the reading and who’d whisper, “How’d it go?” Except for the fact that it came too early, the boys could always be counted on to provide crazy morning energy that swirled into my memories of the reading of the night before like cream into coffee, or maybe coffee into cream. Or maybe like a dinosaur into a figurine emporium.
There were moments on the trip that only boys in this zone could provide: lots of discussion of sasquatches, bears, and wolves and acting like these creatures as we passed through the Cascades both ways. We raced along a boardwalk in Bellingham giving each other high fives; fed pigeons we named in Pike Place Market; played hide and seek in the Olympic Sculpture Garden; lay together in a hammock, wind off the Puget Sound in our hair. Gus, the five year old, got really excited about big trout and steelhead we came upon in hatchery enclosures in Whatcom Falls Park and asked repeatedly when we were going to get out the fishing rods and catch them. One night at a Syrian restaurant in Seattle, after hearing that a belly dancing show was expected later on, Harper, the two year old, raised his shirt and gave everyone his own early belly dance.
The boys were supposed to attend the reading in Bellingham, in part, because we couldn’t secure a babysitter there. It also seemed like a good night for them to come out because a lot of my relatives from around the Peninsula and from nearby Lynden would be there that night. I thought perhaps Jenna could bring them by toward the end of the reading. I wanted the boys to see this part of what I do, to show them that I write and read stories for other people, not just for them. I wanted to to give them a hazy memory to reflect on later in their lives, maybe something they’d wonder if they dreamed…
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