VS: I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. I know being a parent and writer can be hard and I find myself asking if I giving my three children enough attention throughout the day. I am sure you have been in my shoes from time to time. So to start here is the first question…how many children do you have and what are their ages?
Jamie: My husband and I have a 16-year-old sophomore daughter and a 17-year-old junior son.
VS: As a mom with teens in the house, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?
Jamie: Having teenagers can be a little easier, time-wise, than having little ones. That said...we still have lacrosse, basketball, football, church, school events, and family time together. So, while I do have more time that I can call my own, it’s still a juggling act, and sometimes I fail miserably. I am working on writing every day—a goal I haven’t achieved yet, but I am working on it. Realizing that creativity can come in spurts and doesn’t require half-day blocks is helping in the balancing act.
VS: I think you’re still pretty busy even if you do have teens. Maybe even busier than I am. I at least still get naptime breaks, however, I still don’t write every day. How long have you been writing?
Jamie: I started, officially, about 3 years ago, taking classes and taking a few chances. But it really started years ago when I would read books and stories to my students and then to my own children. I did keep journals and locked diaries (that was the big thing, then) when I was younger, worked on the school yearbook in high school, and tried my hand at some poetry and creative writing in college. Looking back, that Creative Writing class was one of my favorites!
VS: What inspired you to write?
Jamie: I’ve always loved reading—especially books or stories that leave me with that warm-all-over feeling. I love to learn new things, and books are one avenue to that learning. When I finished my teaching career, I realized that being a mom meant I would always be a teacher! Writing is another avenue to teaching, so it seems like a natural fit.
VS: Now you are also a member of the SFC Team. Can you share with us a little about what you do?
Jamie: I am the Assistant Poetry Editor at SFC. That means I get to read all of the poems that writers submit to SFC with the hopes of being selected, sent on to the Poetry Editor, then to the Editor-in-Chief, then published. It’s a lot of fun, but I also take my role seriously. As a writer myself, I completely understand how difficult it is to take a chance and send something off to a publication, then wait for a reply. Writers put so much of themselves into their work, and what editors (and assistant editors!) say back to them can be very important to their development. Also, I want SFC Magazine to keep getting more and more successful. The fact that I can be a small part of that is a fantastic feeling!
VS: And we’re glad to have you on board, too. So Jamie, what is a typical writing day like for you when you do get the time?
Jamie: I get up, do all the morning stuff (eat, shower, get kids off to school), then settle at my kitchen table. I am most productive if I have had a good night’s sleep and have a plan. I usually break my day up into 2-hour increments and change tasks after each of those 2-hours. If it’s not too miserable outside, I’ll take my dog for a walk in between. That helps keep me fresh and get the creative juices flowing again. (It also makes the dog happy.) I have found that a change of scenery really helps me; sometimes that takes me to a coffee shop, the deck, or even my dining room. I don’t know why that helps, but it does! Also, absolutely NO television. Then, before I know it, my kids are coming home from school…
VS: I break my day up into short sessions. I find I’m more creative and better at what I’m doing. Glad you’ve found a system that works for you. Is your family supportive of your writing?
Jamie: My family is truly supportive. They are always encouraging and are even willing to eat cereal for supper if I didn’t get around to making something! Their confidence in me has kept me going. Actually, feeling a little accountable to them is a good thing. I am a person who is learning the self-discipline required to be a writer. Having my kids and husband ask me what I am working on keeps me working and trying to accomplish on days when that might not happen.
VS: Okay, I need your family. I would love not having to cook dinner. I really hate stopping just to cook. LOL. Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?
Jamie: Is it okay to say “Everyday”? Until I actually put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, I suffer from writer’s block. Just pushing through it is sometimes the cure. Also, I confess, I like to take classes. I love the inspiration I feel when I learn new things, and the energy from others (even online) keeps me charged.
VS: Thanks for really opening up on that last question. Many writers I think like to believe they never get writer’s block even though I think we all get it from time to time. What was the first thing you ever had published?
Jamie: It was a poem in college in a campus literary magazine. It was pretty exciting!
VS: There is nothing like that first publication. One reason why I make sure SFC is very open to helping new writers. Jamie, can you share with us what type of books do you mostly write?
Jamie: I have not written a book—yet. That is on my list. I am taking a class starting next week about writing middle-grade novels. I am so excited to start!
VS: You still have plenty of time. I know authors who didn’t sit and write their first book until they were grandmas. Can you share with us why you love writing and working with children’s lit?
Jamie: I love the creativity involved in writing. Even in non-fiction or copy writing, creativity is huge. I am truly happiest when I have created something—even if it doesn’t get published. Children’s literature is exciting, fun, thought provoking, and challenging. When a kid reads something and learns something from it, is inspired by it, or is entertained by it, well, that’s just the best thing I can think of! That writer has made a difference—maybe on a huge level or maybe just to that one person—but they made a difference. That is the dream that encourages me the most.
VS: What do you enjoy most about writing?
Jamie: The creativity of writing brings me the most pleasure. I also love a challenge. And believe me, it is challenging. J
VS: Okay, now you can’t use this last answer for this next question. What is the most difficult part of writing?
Jamie: Focusing and finishing. I tend to be interested in too many things!
VS: Aren’t we all. What is the best writing advice you ever received?
Jamie: My son likes to quote Nike to me: Just do it. (Nike is right, and so is he.)
VS: My old motto from when I was in high school and on the track team. I think I still have those old Nikes around here somewhere. Now Jamie, do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other job(s)?
Jamie: It is sometimes difficult. If my other projects make me feel too tired, then my personal writing gets pushed to the side…The key for me is to remember that my personal writing gives me energy, and if I would just do it, I would not feel so tired.
VS: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
Jamie: I have a few non-fiction articles that are at various stages of development. I also have this middle-grade novel floating around in my head. And there’s this blog idea…
VS: I hope you’re thinking of submitting a few of them to SFC now that we pay and really need nonfiction. Hint…hint. J Can you tell us a little about your writing space?
Jamie: It varies. Right now, I am at my kitchen table. Later, when the sun moves, it will be in the dining room. Soon, I hope to have a lighter, brighter den. (That one requires painting, and I have to be in the mood for painting.) I always have a pad of paper and a pen beside me, even if I am using the computer. I’m kind of old-school, that way.
VS: What would we be surprised to learn about you?
Jamie: I have not traveled west of Minneapolis! Someday, I hope to travel widely, but that hasn’t happened yet. My husband and kids, on the other hand, do get around. My daughter is going to Namibia, Africa, this summer. Her brother went there two years ago. I think I live vicariously through them.
VS: If you do get out West…I would love to meet up and I think you would like it out this way. I might be a little bias on that though being from California and now living in Utah. Okay, Jamie…with all the changes in publishing, how do you see the future of publishing, both traditional and electronic?
Jamie: I love the feel of a book in my hands, and I know I am not alone. One of the best places in the world is my favorite bookstore. I also love gadgets, however, and think I want a Nook…In other words, I like both worlds and hope they can play nicely together. Change is inevitable, but it does not mean it’s got to be one way or the other. I hope we keep the best of both!
VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?
Jamie: Stop thinking about it and do it. Learn continuously. Squeeze out every second you can now—even if it’s only 15 minutes a day. It really will add up! That said...you only get one chance with your own children. Don’t miss a moment with them. The time balance is constantly changing, so hang in there. You will never regret it.
Also, connect with other writers. Once you start “confessing” your dream, you will start to hear about other writers or opportunities in your area. Don’t be shy about emailing them. I have found writers to be tremendously generous with their time and advice. (Stalking isn’t cool, but a well-written letter is almost always welcome!)
VS: What well-known writers do you admire most?
Jamie: Mary Pope Osborne. My kids LOVED the Magic Tree House books. She found a wonderful niche and dove in.
Kate DiCamillo. Her characters are flesh-and-blood, and her stories are fabulous and genuine.
J.K.Rowling. Her books have inspired a whole new generation—and their parents!
VS: Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
Jamie: Another “on my to-do list.” There are some great opportunities out there—the choices can be pretty over-whelming. If I can work on that, “focus” thing and pick out one or two that would make it more possible for me.
VS: Don’t worry, SFC will help you see this goals on your list through. Before we go Jamie, is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?
Jamie: I feel very privileged to have this opportunity on The Writing Mama and at Stories for Children Magazine. It’s been fun to share some of my thoughts about writing and some of my goals. I’m looking forward to learning more and writing more—and seeing where all of this takes me. It truly is an adventure!
VS: Jamie, thank you for taking the time to share with my readers about being a writing mama/dad and SFC Team member.
You can learn more about Jamie at her websites:
Something new in the works! Hope to be launching soon.
Also, don’t forget to come back each week to read more about one of the SFC Team Members and SFC’s World of Ink Tour Guests.
There is always something new here from writing tips to interviews and once I get the re-launch issue of Stories for Children Magazine (April 2011) out…I’ll be posting my ramblings here again, too.
Jamie DeMumbrum's Websites: