The Killing Fields

 

This is the "before" garden. You don't want to see the "after."

This is the “before” garden. You don’t want to see the “after.”

It’s that time of year, where I’m dying for the kids to go back to school. And the feeling is mutual. In the past week, my 5 year-old has asked me HOW MANY DAYS UNTIL KINDERGARTEN STARTS? about 12th-teen times. All three kids miss their friends. They’ve been out for almost 7 weeks. We’re all sick of the pool.

Also, I’ve killed off virtually my entire vegetable garden. My streak of not being able to keep anything alive (except for my children) continues.

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Work has been really busy, but really good. I’m working on a few cool articles. In my heart I’ll always be a novelist, but I’ve gotten a surprising amount of pleasure from nonfiction writing that is more journalistic in nature. So much so, I’m seriously considering doing a semester of nonfiction at Queens beginning in January.

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The novel outline for Finding Om is done. This time, though, I think it’s going to work. In my first outline, I took on way too many story lines for one novel. It was like three novels. This time, I believe I’ve gotten it right.

I’m taking a break with the novel until the end of July. I need a little distance from the research and the stories I’ve been unearthing about Partition. Though only a small part of my novel is set during Partition, I’ve needed to do quite a bit of research just to write the six or so chapters I have.

I debated posting a link to this video, which affected me so much I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I watched it. Not because it’s very difficult to hear this old man’s recollection about the atrocity he witnessed, but because I worry he, his family, or his religion will be judged.

So please don’t judge him. Don’t judge his family or religion– Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs– everyone committed these types of killings. A million people died during Partition in almost incomprehensibly violent ways. We need to know what happened. We need not forget. We shouldn’t judge his story, but protect it from ever being forgotten.

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I’m turning off comments on this blog from here on out. It’s generated way too many spam comments, and I can’t find a way to stop them. Feel free to reach me through FB or email, if you need to.

Writing, for One

planting seasonThis past week, Eldest was at sleep-away camp for the first time, Youngest was with my parents, and Middle stayed home, and attended day camp. In other words, I had one week (probably the only one this summer) where I had daytime hours, sans children, to write.

I finished my next article for ArtsATL, and then started completely rewriting my outline for my next novel, Finding Om.

Which leads me to recount a flurry of opinion pieces that came out over the past few weeks. First there was this essay, where the author claimed that for some writers, the key to being a successful writer depends on having only one child. A flurry of disagreement abounded by big name writers such as Zadie Smith and Jane Smiley. Smiley remarked that the key to writing successfully with children was to have adequate childcare, not having less children.

Initially, I agreed with both Smith and Smiley– I didn’t feel that I could blame my own lack of writing productivity on my children, but on lack of childcare.

Then, two things happened. First, Emily posted this thoughtful essay to Facebook, and then I had a five-day period with only one child. A five day period, where I got a ton of writing done.

Here’s the thing: Adequate childcare is the key to any parent’s success in a career. But the more children you have, the more difficult it is to find adequate, affordable childcare.

If you work and have three children, chances are you have to do at least two different summer camps to accommodate their age differences. Which means you might have two different drop off and pick up locations, at different times. If you have three kids, you have narrowed the range of babysitters who can sit for them. (There are a few young teens we know who would be fine watching my kids if I had only two, but three is pushing it.) Also, it’s a lot to ask grandparents to watch all three kids. One or two is fine, but three is a lot for anyone.

At the beginning of the summer, I hired a woman to help me for three hours a week. Not three hours a day, three hours a week. She showed up exactly four times. I haven’t heard from her since. In a panic last night, I dropped another $375 on a camp. For just one of my children.

Thus, I’ve rethought this whole issue. Because finding adequate, affordable childcare often depends on the number of children you have to find it for. It’s challenging enough to do this for one child. But add one or more to the mix, and it’s very, very difficult.

For the next two weeks, all three of my kids will be home. There will be no camps to speak of. Wish me productivity… and sanity.

Just another writer’s weekend…

Seminar

I had another one of those amazing weekends with writers that nourishes the soul. First, I attended a reading with Anis Shivani and Ajay Vishwanathan as part of the Lost in the Letters reading series, followed by great conversation at Manuel’s Tavern. Saturday, I went to see the play Seminar at the Actor’s Express. It was about a group of writers who meet regularly to workshop their writing. It was hysterical, and really nailed the psychological states that writers go through when sharing their work with others.

Then yesterday, I had a board meeting for the Atlanta Writers Club, where we spent a long time talking about our centennial celebration next April. (Wow. The AWC has been around for 100 years!)

Have I mentioned how much I love this writing town?