Word Citizen: Uncommon Thoughts on Writing, Motherhood & Life in Jerusalem
September 2015. Buy it here.
For a few years, I’d been puttering along, happy in my generation and broadcast of individual works of poetry and of prose. I’d been a rhetoric professor, a journalist, a frequent flyer poet, and a storyteller.
Recently, though, the niggling feeling that I ought to write less, but write better, had begun sucking on my toes. So, I shifted my focus from short works to long ones. Whereas I refuse to entirely cease and desist from jotting down, refining, and submitting select wee ideas, especially those cute ones that blow bubbles when I stroke them, I am making strides in applying myself to “grand discourse.” I am also getting better at catching dust bunnies, and am dropping tons of weight. If you are interested, I have a bridge that’s available for sale, too.
Interestingly, I didn’t invest in “big projects” to satisfy my academic, my speculative fiction, or my general interest readers. Rather, I pursued such matters to please my toughest audience, my “Familial Five.” Prior, during what amounted to a significant span, I had able to claim lassitude. Then the kids grew up and the husband grayed, and the bunch of them, collectively, pointed out I was no longer chained to diapers or to carpool duty, but had become, instead, fairly subservient to my keyboard. That is, in their esteem, I had only myself to blame for writing about flaccid wildebeests or about the one hundred most popular recipes for swimming pool-sourced fungi.
What’s more, those adorable sons and daughters and that beloved spouse had taken to rolling their eyes at me, if that, whenever I announced that another of my poems, essays, or stories has been accepted for publication. I was no longer their darling and my successes were no longer their glory.
In fact, those folks had ranted loudly, with alleged impunity, about any of my texts that proffered a goofy tone or that contained embarrassing referents. If they could have, my family would have poofed away all such shared accounts of explicit descriptions of perimenopausal changes in women’s bodies and of my hibernaculum of imaginary hedgehogs. Toward that end, not only did they stop celebrating my work, but they also began scrutinizing and attempting to sanitize the goods I forwarded to masthead personalities and to publishers.
In response, I created Word Citizen, a book that thumbs itself at my family’s sensibilities. This assemblage embraces my growing awareness of the word business and my never ending conflict between identifying myself as a parent who writes, and as a writer who parents. I never asked those much-loved others which version of me that like best; some facets of life are given.
Preface: Beyond Puttering