Some news, with the lede not buried

I'm writing a book.

A few weeks ago I announced on my Facebook page that I had written a book proposal for an Ask Moxie book and was looking for an agent. A bunch of people helped me by sending me recommendations, and I got a lot of feedback from those agents. It all seemed to consist of the message that my book looked interesting and unique and they wanted to read it, but wouldn't be able to sell it.

I was perplexed, until one very kind agent explained to me that she loved the book but no publisher would be able to buy it, because it didn't make financial sense for them to buy a book that wasn't controversial. Without all the press generated by making parents anxious or stirring up controversy in some other way, they just couldn't take a chance on publishing something that wasn't going to have guaranteed sales. So she thought it would be tough to find a publisher.

Then she told me she thought the book would sell on its own, and that I should self-publish, and she gave me some names of sites to start researching self-publishing. (And that's why I'm not revealing the name of that kind agent–I'm pretty sure she's not supposed to tell anyone to self-publish.)

When I read her email laying all that out, my first feeling was relief. So I pushed into that feeling and realized that I had been seriously uncomfortable with the traditional publisher process. For one thing, I don't think I'm an easy soundbite. "You are the best parent for your child" is a soundbite, but it's not the kind of soundbite that gets people all riled up, so it's not all that easily packaged. Plus, I'm not an easy media package myself–I'm not a credentialed expert in childrearing, and I still haven't figured out how to give Skype interviews very well, and I wear tank tops instead of sweater sets, and I have a really loud dorky laugh that can't seem to stay out of interviews.

And the concept for the book is really just the concept of this website: We have to learn how to make decisions as parents, and we can get good at learning how to make decisions and at making the decisions themselves, the more we do it. With that as the organizing concept, the rest of the book is talking about stuff that's likely to happen in the first few years, and a bunch of ways you could approach that stuff. Interspersed with that is discussions of the kind of things we've talked about here over the years, but that I haven't seen anywhere else–how becoming a parent can make you really angry, how friendships change, how to make parent friends, etc. I want the book to be a reality check for parents so they know that this IS serious and hard and that they can do it, and it's really really difficult to actually fail even if you feel defeated at any given moment.

But I don't think that concept, plus me, is a nice little media package. So I was afraid that the book would be committeed into something I didn't recognize and didn't want to write, and that I'd be given a makeover and forced to cut my hair and stop laughing and pretend I know about kids (when all I really know about is people) and that I have the answers and need to impart them to the world.

And then there was the whole "deceptive" angle. Remember back when I wasn't allowed to talk about how I was getting a divorce and I hid it from all of you for SEVENTEEN MONTHS and I didn't know if you would forgive me for not telling you and I was also in a lot of pain because I needed to talk about it with you and I couldn't? Well, aspects of the publishing process seemed a little too close to that:

1. I sign a contract and tell you "I'm writing a book!"
2. I write the book on my own without consulting you except for maybe a few updates on the writing process.
3. The book appears magically and I ask you to buy it.

I know that process isn't inherently deceptive, but it felt like it to me. The entire reason Ask Moxie has worked even one little bit for 6 1/2 years is that you let me write something, and I do, and then you tell me what you think of it, and add to it or contradict me. And you have relationships with each other, and know more about many things than I do. And then scared or bored or inadequate-feeling parents at 3 am read what we've all written and realize that it's eventually going to be ok. So the idea that I was going to write this book all by myself and then present it to you (and the 3 am readers) as a masterpiece seemed ludicrous and insulting. One of my core values in raising kids is informed consent, and this didn't seem like informed consent with you all, if that makes any sense.

I didn't want to do that. I wanted to write a book the same way I write Ask Moxie. With you. I write what it feels like everyone needs me to talk about, and then I ask you what you want to say about it, and that goes in the book, too, and we all get to keep wearing what we want to wear and laughing when we want to and asking questions that don't fit into a media kit.

So. I'm going to self-publish my book. I'm setting up an ambitious schedule, and want to publish it just before American Thanksgiving in November (both paperback and ebook), just in time for my seven year anniversary of writing Ask Moxie. I've been told it takes six months to write a book, which makes this schedule preposterous, but since I know what I want to write I know I can do it. But I'm asking for your help in these ways:

1. If you're the kind of person who prays or vibes or thinks good thoughts, please pray or vibe or think good thoughts for me in this project.

2. Watch for my updates and requests for opinions or info and put in your comments. You, whatever you have dealt with, whether it worked or not, have experience that can help other people. I'm going to ask for comments on specific topics (like the 3-week growth spurt, or teething, or whatever) and on what's helpful and not. The question I'm keeping in mind while writing is "What would have been most helpful to me to read when I needed it?":

3. I'm not doing Kickstarter or anything like that because I'm writing the book no matter what. But would it make sense to do some kind of presale package, with some kind of swag or bonus or something for preorders? Think about it, and I'll ask again later.

4. If you're buying stuff from Amazon already, click through here first so I get some coffee money out of it to fuel the process.

5. Get excited! In a "someone else has to type until her fingers bleed" kind of way.

On Friday I'll post my Table of Contents and ask for comments.


50 Shades of Commodification

Everyone's talking about how the book 50 Shades of Grey and the movie Magic Mike are "mom porn." I disagree.

I think they're commodification of moms.

When I first heard about 50 Shades of Grey I was kind of baffled about why it was such a big deal, because so many of the women I know either read sex-filled books or watch porn. It might not be BDSM-themed, like 50SoG is, but whether it's the kind of book that euphemizes body parts or the kind that describes every detail in detail, we've been reading them for years. And whether it's just a racy movie or something more hardcore, we've been watching, too.

So the idea that by reading 50SoG we're doing something racy or titillating or being "naughty" and that that's a break from our usual boring, buttoned-up little lives is silly. Insulting. Patronizing. And all the fuss over 50SoG and Magic Mike, and, I'd argue, those works themselves, is commodification of us and our lives.

Remember when moms used to put a piece of cheese and some crackers and a piece of turkey and some apple slices in their kids' lunch? Then marketers packaged it up and called it Lunchables. That's all 50SoG is–the Lunchables of erotica.

Thank you but I can put together my own lunch.

The one good thing I can say about 50SoG is that maybe it's allowing some women to think about and talk about sex who were afraid of reading or thinking or watching or talking about it before. I've heard of women worrying that they were being "bad Christians" just by reading (or thinking about reading!) the book. (Have you read the actual Bible? There are way more than 50 shades of every color in that book–sex, violence, deceit, betrayal, eternal damnation, etc.) But they're still reading it.

So maybe it's giving them a starting point to start verbalizing thoughts about sex and sexuality in a way that isn't too personal. (And isn't that the appeal of all erotica and porn? That you can have sexual thoughts that aren't a betrayal of your real relationship because they're happening to a different protagonist?)

I just wish the book wasn't so wink-wink "Oh I'm reading something naughty." And that it was better-written. And fact-checked.

And didn't feel like a carefully-calibrated attempt to package up our desires and expectations and sell them to the world.




Q&A: Baby being spooked into crying while asleep

A friend with an almost-4-month-old asks:

"Have you heard of babies spooking easily, especially when they're asleep? The baby breaks out into crying in middle of (light) sleep, like she had a bad dream."

This seems early for night terrors, and there's no indication that she can't get back to sleep.

I'm wondering if it's teething, actually. Both of my kids seemed to have these random jolts of pain that would jerk them into crying briefly but then pass so they settled again, whther asleep or awake.

If the baby has any of the following symptoms of teething that will help you know for sure:

  • drooling
  • biting on hands
  • little "smoker's cough" in the morning (from the drool going down the back of the throat)
  • shards of drool in diaper (aka "drool stool")
  • very acidic poop
  • rash around the anus
  • rash around the mouth
  • excess peevishness (although with a baby, who can tell what's excess?)
  • flash fevers
  • sweatiness
  • refusing to eat
  • eating more
  • difficulty staying asleep


What did I forget?

If you do suspect it's teething you should give pain relief. (I adored the tylenol suppositories, because you can't beat a suppository as a dosing mechanism for an infant.)

You can layer that with one of the homeopathic teething remedies people have been using with no side effects for years. (Do you know how they work? I never cared, as long as they made my children more comfortable.) Do not bother with the homeopathic teething gel as it's useless. Instead, go for the Hyland's teething tablets or the Humphries #3 tablets (recommended by both my old pediatrcian and several old-school nannies on the playground).

If none of this matches up with what you're observing in your child, then I think it's just something that's going to pass in a few weeks anyway. Who knows why babies cry?

Has anyone else observed this in their child? Was it teething? Was it something else entirely? What did you do about it?

Happy Independence Day

I want so much this freedom,
this life not pain-free
but unparalysed;
this movement, chosen
not without struggle
but loosed from self-wounding,
corrupt obedience to an evil law.
This work, uninflected, whole, exuberant,
I have wanted this so much.

~ Janet Morley
from *All Desires Known* (p. 113)