Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Belated Baby

Today, I have Jill Browning, who along with Kelly James-Enger, co-authored "The Belated Baby: A Guide to Parenting After Infertility." Jill talks about parenting writing, juggling her own writing with 8-year-old triplets and the co-authoring process. The Summer Big Book Giveaway goes on. Ask Jill a question before 5 p.m. CST today and if I randomly draw your name, Jill will answer your question on Thursday and you will win a copy of their book!

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm a full-time mom of triplets who just turned eight years old two weeks ago. Laundry, baseball games, PTA meetings, YMCA visits, multiplication tables, library visits, Sunday school, haircuts, grocery shopping, etc., fill my days. I'm also a part-time writer. I've written for Chicago Parent and Parenting magazines, and I'm currently focused on corporate projects.

Let's hear a little about your book, "The Belated Baby: A Guide to Parenting After Infertility."
Kelly James-Enger (my co-author) and I convinced the publisher that all of us belated mamas groan when we hear infertility described as a "journey." It's a trip no one wants to take, and the word "journey" just sounds like a Lifetime movie!

In any event, the book lets you know that just because you've finally become a parent after infertility doesn't mean the emotions you've experienced along the way will disappear. You still might feel different from other parents, since a kid didn't come easily. For example, you might be annoyed when someone complains about being pregnant or feel guilty when you feel overwhelmed as a parent. (This is what you wished for, you think, so you have no right to complain about late-night feedings.) Ultimately, though, like any life adversity, going through infertility can make you a more grateful, grounded and wiser parent.

Was this book conceived out of personal experience?

Yes it was conceived--so to speak--from personal experience. My husband and I tried to have kids for three years. Kelly experienced infertility for six years.

Do you believe going through this experience helped you understand the emotional deficit faced by people who've struggled with infertility? Why or why not?

You definitely understand a situation better when you've gone through it yourself. For the book, we also talked with 50 other women and men. Our experiences are similar. There is a tremendous emptiness and sadness that comes with not being able to build your family through pregnancy. And not just emotional, but financial, too. Without meaning to be cruel, family and friends say things that are hurtful. "Why don't you just adopt?" "Have you tried acupuncture?" Sometimes even after the kids come, these feelings of inadequacy remain.

How did you sell the book idea? Did you have an agent and where did you find your publisher?

Kelly has authored eight books. We worked together to create a book proposal and used her agent to find a publisher. I was lucky to be able to piggyback!

You're a mother to 7-year-old triplets. Did you ever struggle in finding time to write this book and what did you do to overcome the challenge of time?

Struggle for time? Yes! (I've been interrupted about seven times while composing this response to you!)

I'm an early riser, so try to crank out as much as possible during the morning hours. If you keep your bottom in the chair, words become sentences, sentences become paragraphs and paragraphs become pages. Pages equal a BOOK!

I know that this time in my life with the kids will be brief, however, and I don't want to outsource the caring of my kids to someone else. I've decided to be with them full-time, and I fit writing in when I can. In her book "Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True," Elizabeth Berg coaches that you need to accept that you can't find major time when you have little kids around. I appreciate that advice. More time will come in time.

How did the co-authoring process work between you and Kelly? How did you decide who wrote what and who had what tasks? Who handles the marketing, etc.
Working with Kelly was like playing volleyball. I'd toss something over to her, she'd polish it, then toss it back, and vice versa. One of the most satisfying parts was when we couldn't tell who had written what in the end. We'd blended!

We're both taking pieces of the marketing plan and writing articles for various fertility organizations. Also, she launched www.belatedbaby.com. We also have some fun tees that we hope will catch on. On the front it states "(b)elated mama," for all of those who are parents after infertility to wear proudly!

This being your first book, were there any surprises in the process?
The biggest surprise is that the book exists now! When you talk about it and write the proposal, it is all in the abstract. Then POW--it's a manuscript. It is immensely satisfying to have an idea of something, and then hold it physically in your hands. (Kind of like becoming a parent!)

What's your best advice for writers wanting to get into parenting writing?
Be genuinely interested in kids and families and write about what might make a difference in their day. Read as many old and new books out there, and be passionate about the subjects you'd like to cover.

And now Jill is awaiting your questions...


Anonymous Suzanne Franco said...

Wow! Jill, this book is going to be a blessing to a lot of people. I did not battle infertility but had a friend who did.

Hopefully I was not one of the people you mentioned as unintentionally saying something hurtful. I did always feel guarded around her and I had a hard time expressing my joy (and trials) about pregnancy and about my children.

She did eventually get pregnant and I thought things would be “different.” Well, she and her daughter left my son’s 1st birthday party after snapping at me, “Let me guess, you’re pregnant again!” I was indeed pregnant with my 3rd and I just stood there in shock not knowing how to respond.

I could see that she was hurting through those years but I didn’t really know how to help her and I’m betting your book would’ve been that comfort she needed.

My question is from the consumer standpoint … would a book like this be a well-received gift from a friend or family member or would it be considered insult to injury?

BTW – I took a quick look at your site Belated Baby and it looks great! The shirts are cute and I love how you’ve used them to help others.

Jill, I wish you much success with your book and a “thank you” to you and to Kerri for a great interview.

9:07 AM CDT  

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