14 months ago, I became a mother, and the sleepless nights began. Every other baby I know has gone on to sleep through the night, but not my son. He gets up at least 3 or 4 times a night, and frequently gets up 5 or 6 or even 7 or 8 times a night. He wakes screaming and it can take more than an hour for him to go back to sleep. (I learned the hard way that if you leave him in the crib, he’ll just keep crying.) And sometimes he’ll just be awake–wide-awake–for a long time, like last night, when he was up for close to two hours.
I’m not writing to complain. Though I’ve noticed the perpetually dark circles under my eyes, and though some mornings I have to drag myself out of bed, and though some nights I get super mad at him (like last night, where I finally said, in a firm, almost cruel voice, ”Play time is over, my friend,”), I’ve learned to deal.
In fact, recently, I decided to use that time to write. Obviously, I can’t write write. But I can write in my head. I can think about my current novel-in-progress and work out plot problems. Or think about my dreams (which are dramatic and spell-binding and memorable, especially since they get interrupted in media res) and how they could translate into a story. I’ve never been the type of writer who would drag myself out of bed at 3 a.m. to write because I had to get an idea down, but now I’m dragged out of bed most nights at 3 a.m. so at least I can think about things, and then take notes come morning.
I’ll let you know if it works.
It’s been a couple of busy months. November’s highlight was speaking at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference and the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) Conference in Chicago. The difference was striking! At NCTE, my audience was 3 people; at ALAN, several hundred (possibly up to 600, as the number of attendees was 600 but who knows how many were in the room when I was there.)
I was surprised that fewer authors stuck around to “watch” ALAN. Most of them arrived 15 minutes before their talk with their “handlers”–a publicist or an editor–in tow, and then left as soon as they were done. But I enjoyed watching the show for most of Monday and all of Tuesday.
I heard a great talk by Matt de la Pena and then, later, I was passing through the room when he was on a panel and he quoted his father: “If someone who has nothing tries to give you a gift, always accept it.” Absolute gold, that piece of wisdom; if somebody who has nothing offers you something, they are offering you their love and their heart, and you never reject that, never ever, no matter how humble the gift even if you feel like you shouldn’t accept it because you have “more” than the person giving to you.
Thank you, Sara Zarr, for not falling prey to the fact that you were on the “romantic panel” and for reminding the world that there is a huge problem with the message we receive from, basically, everywhere that we don’t “matter” unless somebody loves us romantically.
My mom came with me–she flew from Texas, I flew from California–and she took care of Nesta for me while I spent time in my publisher’s booth, gave my talks, and generally schmoozed around. They had a great time and Nesta apparently charmed all the ladies who cleaned our hotel room, the concierge, and the bell hops.