I love when authors reach out to me. It’s such a cool community to be part of and I’m thrilled when I get to see a really great writer publish something that is unique, fun and definitely worth reading. So when Meredith Peters Hale told me about her new book, Mommy A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the Joys, Wonders and Absurdities of Motherhood, I asked if I could interview her so you can get a kick out of her as much as I do. And she even shared what made her self-publish, which was a bold decision seeing that she was formally an editor at a publishing house.
Plus, I love interviews – it makes me feel like a younger but not-as-hot Barbara Walters.
1. If you had to pick three words to describe the book, what would they be?
Well, I may be biased, but the first word that comes to my mind is “relatable.” Mommy A to Z focuses on the small moments we moms face each day, from battling leaky sippy cups to surviving awkward playdates to admitting to your second grader that you have no idea where Mount Everest is (it’s in the Himalayas, in case you’re wondering—and if, like me, you’re still wondering, that’s South Asia). Mommy A to Z is an honest, no-holds-barred look at day-to-day life as a mom.
The second word that I’d use to describe Mommy A to Z is “funny.” As I say in the intro, “sometimes laughter is the only barrier between motherhood and madness.” I think to survive motherhood, you have to find the humor in it all. Whether you’re pretending your kid’s imaginary friend isn’t creepy, or smiling through your third princess party of the weekend, sometimes you just have to laugh.
The final word I’d use to describe the book is “loving.” When I wrote the book, it was important to me not to come across as mean-spirited or complaining. I love being a mom, no matter how hectic or overwhelming it can be. And so I included entries like “J is for Joy,” to remind myself how truly blessed I am to be a mother.
2. What was the hardest thing about writing the book?
I think all moms who write struggle with time management. It’s difficult to explain to your five-year-old that you can’t play Barbies because you’re writing about the joys of conception (or what you remember of it). Or to tell your husband that you can’t watch House of Cards because you’re struggling to explain the complexities of sippy cups. I often found balancing work, family, and writing to be a challenging task. Frequently I managed by writing into the wee hours, after everyone else had gone to bed. It was exhausting—but absolutely worth it in the end.
3. Tell us about the publishing process. Did you have an agent or go the self-publishing route? What advice would you give to other writers from your experience?
I chose to self-publish my book as an eBook, even though (in my life before kids) I was an acquisitions editor at a publishing house and still believe in the printed book. Personally, I was excited about the prospect of controlling every aspect of the process—from the cover design to the content to the distribution. One thing I learned as an editor is how much compromise an author has to make—whether it’s accepting a cover you’re not wild about or changing the book’s title to suit the marketing department. That said, I have to warn authors considering the self-publishing route that this control is a double-edged sword. Self-publishing means navigating the labyrinth that is the iTunes store. On your own. With a toddler sitting on your laptop. It means finding and hiring the right professionals to work with you. This can be hard for a new author, and requires perseverance.
For authors considering working with an agent, I have one word for you: platform. Book publishers want to know that an author (especially a nonfiction author) already has an audience in place. Before contacting an agent, try to build up your blog, or newsletter, or whatever you use to reach readers. This will help agents interest editors in your proposal, and help editors pitch your book to the sales, marketing, and other departments at acquisitions meetings.
4. What’s the best thing about being a parent?
This isn’t a terribly original answer, but I have to say love. What surprises me most, as an only child, is the joy I take from seeing my son and daughter interact with each other. The way they love each other—even when they’re arguing over a piece of lint on the floor—inspires me every day. I never understood the whole sibling thing before my son was born, but now I totally get it.
5. What’s the worst thing about being a parent?
The laundry. The relentless, unremitting piles of laundry that mock me on a daily basis from my kids’ laundry baskets. Before I even take the clean clothes out of the dryer, the piles have resurrected like something out of The Walking Dead, determined to crush my spirit with wet towels and soiled bathing suits. Oh, and the flu isn’t much fun either.
6. What’s your favorite letter of the alphabet and why?
I really enjoyed writing “M is for Movies”. We’re a family of movie geeks, and my husband and I couldn’t wait to start taking my daughter to the theater. Until, that is, we discovered that whoever writes for Disney has a serious dark side. As I frequently joke, everything my daughter learned about death, she learned from Disney. That said, movies have helped us broach a lot of serious issues in our family. Recently, my daughter lost her grandmother, and she explained it to us as “Nana is in the stars with Mufasa.” Which, when you think about it, is a beautiful way of looking at things.
Also, I strangely enjoyed writing “U is for Ultrasounds,” because, for the first time, I was able to admit that I never saw anything in those damn pictures. I think there’s something therapeutic in moms sharing that we’re not perfect. And there’s lots of imperfection in Mommy A to Z!
7. If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?
I wish I had more time to see friends. As we all know, being a mom – as well as a writer or a blogger – can be isolating. Nowadays, most of my real-world interaction is from behind a computer screen. I miss sitting across from girlfriends over sushi and catching up on our lives. Oh, and I’m a terrible parallel parker. I would gladly change that.
8. How can someone get your book?