August 19, 2013

The Summer Series - Jenny Feldon

I began using Twitter reluctantly, having been told it was essential to my writing career. I really need to thank the person who said so, because it has led to valuable connections, wonderful opportunities and amazing friendships.

My guest today is the convergence of all of those things. We met through a writing group and became good friends. When she began working with Moonfrye.com (for whom she is Managing Editor of Content and Community) and put out a call for writers, I responded. Now we have a rewarding professional relationship in addition to a cherished personal one.

Jenny Feldon is a fabulous writer. Her work has appeared in nonfiction anthologies as well as many online and print publications, including Parenting magazine, Parenting.com and The Huffington Post. She writes the popular blog Karma (continued…) and was named one of BlogHer’s Voices of the Year in 2012. Jenny lives in Los Angeles with her family, where she balances writing, motherhood, and giant cups of coffee… mostly all at once. 

Her first book, Karma Gone Bad will be released in November. I am thrilled beyond words for her and know how hard she has worked to reach this exciting point in her writing career.



I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life. The happiest moments of my childhood were spent locked in a closet (don’t ask), devouring novels and scribbling down stories of my own. My first “book,” bound with red yarn and duct tape, is still proudly displayed on the bookshelf at my parents’ house. And now, twenty-five years later, a copy of my first real book, Karma Gone Bad, sits beside it.

Sometimes I can’t believe this is really happening.

Karma Gone Bad is a memoir, the true story of how my husband and I were “outsourced” to Hyderabad, India just one year after we were married. I went from being a fashion-obsessed, Starbucks-loving city girl to a lonely, culture-shocked housewife in a third world country. Monsoons, power cuts, buffalo in the road, endless bouts of food poisoning and no coffee anywhere…I was sure karma was punishing me for something terrible I’d done in a past life. I was miserable, and it was all India’s fault. Until I realized the problem wasn’t India…the problem was me. And once I finally figured that out, my life was forever changed.

When we came home from India, I was pregnant. My dreams of writing a book were put on hold as I prepared for the new baby and imagined what life would be like as a mother. I always knew I wanted to tell my India story, but I forced myself to set it aside. It simmered inside of me. Individual phrases and sometimes whole passages would come to me at the strangest times—changing a diaper, pushing a swing at the park, in the precious few hours I should have been sleeping between newborn feedings.

For the first eighteen months after my daughter was born, I didn’t write at all. I was completely absorbed in my new role as a mother, determined to do everything “right.” In the few moments I could find for myself, I read parenting books instead of novels. I spent time on websites like BabyCenter and CafeMom, trying to forge a new sense of self in an unfamiliar world.

But it wasn’t enough. Without words, I wasn’t myself. I craved the zen-like trance that came when I got lost in the flow of phrases from my fingertips. I felt half-missing, and I felt guilty about it. I was a mother now. I was supposed to be raising a daughter, not a career. So why did I feel this crazy sense of longing every time I walked into a bookstore or picked up a new magazine?

When E was eighteen months, I entered an essay contest. It was the first time I’d written anything more than a half-hearted blog post in what felt like forever. The topic was “The Meaning of Motherhood,” and I wrote about what it felt like to have someone more important than me looking in the mirror every day. When I received the email telling me I won, I stood in front of the kitchen sink and cried. The piece of me that was missing clicked into place. Writer. Mother. I needed to figure out a way to be both.

The journey from that day to this one (first drafts, query letters, agents, proposals, rejections, offers, editors, revisions, reviews, publicity, fear and excitement and gratitude and so much more…) has been a strange and exhausting and absolutely amazing journey. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words, and deleted most of them. I’m learning that sometimes, being a good mom means hiding my laptop under the couch (literally!) and forcing myself to be present with my children, playing Candyland or hopscotch in the backyard. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to do…but I do it anyway, for me and for them. The words can wait, and my children—who are growing and changing in ways that amaze me every single day—cannot.

And other times, I need to write. So I lean on my family, hire a babysitter, wake up at 4am—whatever it takes to get those words on the page. When I was on deadline for Karma Gone Bad, I wrote every night from 8:00pm to 1:00am, then set my alarm for 4:30am to get a couple of precious hours of writing in before the chaos of my “regular” day set in. Sometimes it was awful. Sometimes it was exhilarating. There were days when I thought I’d never, ever write the book I wanted to write and days when I felt like the worst mom ever. Somehow, it all worked out. The book got written. The kids were all right.

I hope, one day, my kids will understand why I had to chase this dream. I hope they find a passion in life that drives them the same way my love of writing has driven me. I hope they are lucky enough to find partners that support them the way my incredible husband has every step of the way.

Writer. Mother. Two lifelong dreams come true. Every day is a lesson in getting the details right…finding the balance and the strength to do each job as well as I possibly can. I screw up big time, all the time. But the moments when I feel like I’m getting it right…that’s what makes this whole crazy journey worth it.

See? Isn't she fabulous? These days, I'd estimate a good 90% of the books I read are written by someone I know. And that is incredibly cool. Cannot wait to get my hands on Jenny's! Karma Gone Bad comes out November 5, 2013. Preorder your copy here! 






Check out these other great Summer Series posts:
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