Posts tagged ‘literary mama’

Mama at the Movies: Ponyo and The Secret of Roan Inish

It was sea-creature month at the movies for me, first taking Eli to see the new Miyazaki film, Ponyo, and then watching The Secret of Roan Inish on my own. Here’s an excerpt from my latest Mama at the Movies column:

With all the summer buzz about the new Hayao Miyazaki film, Ponyo (2009), I thought maybe this would be my son Ben’s first movie-theater movie. He’s been reluctant to go to the theater, cautious of the loud soundtrack and the sense of disappearing into the story (which of course I love). I showed both boys the trailer and Ben, not surprisingly, said “That looks like a movie I might want to watch at home on DVD.” But his younger brother Eli wanted to go to the movies, and so while Ben was at school one day the two of us went to the theater together for the first time since he was a sling-riding baby who nursed while I dropped bits of popcorn on his head.

Please visit Literary Mama to read the rest!

The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway with Mama, PhD!

My friend and fellow mama-writer, one of the most savvy internet book marketing women I know, Christina Katz, is once again running her Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway where she gives away one book or magazine subscription every day in September. On September 25th, I’m delighted that Mama, PhD will be included in a trio of anthologies edited by Literary Mama editors Shari MacDonald Strong and Amy Hudock.

Our books — Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life; The Maternal Is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Motherhood and Social Change; and Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined–will be up for giveaway on September 25th. To see a complete list of what you can win, visit Christina’s Writer Mama blog. You can enter every day if you want, so bookmark her site and visit again and again. Good luck!

31 Hours Contest and Book Giveaway!

To celebrate the publication of her new book, 31 Hours, novelist and friend of Literary Mama Masha Hamilton is hosting a contest:

Email a paragraph or story (500 words max) about when your intuition has been right about your child.

The top five stories—selected by Masha and guest judges—will get a free hardcover copy of the book and have their stories featured on the 31 Hours site.

Entries accepted until: September 30, 2009
Winners announced: October 16, 2009

Don’t send your entries to me; forward them to mashaATmashahamiltonDOTcom

Book Review: Real Life & Liars

We interrupt this vacation blogging again to address what I read on my vacation, which started with the fabulous Real Life & Liars, the first novel by Literary Mama’s fiction co-editor, Kristina Riggle.

I’m in the happy position now that a good portion of my bookshelf is filled with books written by women I know and like. I suppose there could be some anxiety in this — what if I don’t like the book as much as the writer? — but so far I haven’t been disappointed. Still, many of those books developed out of columns I’d been following for a while, or grew in my writing group. In Kristina’s case, I’d only read one short story of hers, What Kind of Mother (published on Literary Mama), and although we correspond regularly and were lucky enough to meet last winter at a conference, I had no idea what her writer’s voice, her fiction voice, might be like until she read a portion of the book at an event during that conference and I was mesmerized. The mother of two young kids that I’d been talking to over dinner before the reading disappeared into a pot-smoking, raspy-voiced mother of three grown children, grudgingly submitting to an anniversary party thrown by her eldest daughter, a polished suburban mother completely different from herself. I knew then not to worry about the rest of the book.

And I adored it.

The book takes place over the weekend of Max and Mirabelle Zielinski’s anniversary party, a family reunion at which a number of family secrets and lies are revealed. Riggle narrates the story from the perspectives of Mira and her three children: Katya, a suburban mother of three who, as Mira puts it, “drags [her younger siblings] along under the wheels of her train”; Ivan, a struggling songwriter who can’t see the love that’s right in front of him; and Irina, who is accidentally (reluctantly) pregnant and married to a man who isn’t going to let her screw it up.

Mira sees her children like she’s got a magnifying glass on them, and Riggle emphasizes Mira’s maternal perspective subtly by granting her the only first-person narration of the book; her three children’s stories are all told in the 3rd person. Meanwhile, Mira’s husband Max, a successful novelist, doesn’t get a turn at telling the story, which nicely underlines his position in the family: in it, certainly, but always maintaining a bit of distracted distance. As his son, Ivan, puts it of Max, in one of my favorite lines of the book: he “always seems to be writing his novels on the opposite wall of whatever room he’s in…” It’s a tricky thing to handle the shifting perspectives so fluidly, but Riggle pulls it off without a hitch.

I won’t give the story away by telling what happens, but instead, and in the spirit of this sharply funny and concise novel, I’ll just share a few of my favorite passages:

Here’s Katya: “A mosquito lands on her linen pants and stabs through to suck at her. What’s one more parasite, Katya thinks. Go ahead, suck me dry along with everyone else. The reflexive shame kicks in at thinking of her family this way.”

Here’s Ivan: “For a time, Van had a poster of his hero taped on his apartment wall. Bob Dylan stared down at him every night and every morning, heavy-lidded, cigarette drooping.

“Then Van got drunk on whiskey and self-pity one night and ripped it down, and in the blazing light of morning, through his hangover fog, he’d noticed that the paint had faded all around where it was taped, so he’d been left with his imprint. It was like a chalk outline around the corpse of his ambition.”

And Irina: “She always seemed to zoom back toward home base after every relationship went up in flames, brushing ashes out of her hair.”

But my favorite character is Mira, knowing but flawed Mira, who muses, “We all have the best-laid plans for our children, and they go and ruin it all by growing up any way they want to. What the hell was it all for, then?” Mira’s children don’t need her like they used to, her marriage has settled into something more comfortable than passionate, and her job, teaching college, may be coming to an end as well. She’s faced with some things that are making her reflect on her choices, but she knows she’s got a lot to be grateful for; she did a lot right. And although I’m at a very different stage in my life than Mirabelle Zielinski is, I loved her voice, and felt like I was in very good company reading her story. She and her family are characters that are going to stay with me a good long while.

For more about Kristina Riggle, visit her website, her blog over at The Debutante Ball, or just go buy the book.

Mama at the Movies; Away We Go

We interrupt this vacation blogging to announce that the latest Mama at the Movies column is now up at Literary Mama:

In the grand tradition of summer buddy movies, Sam Mendes’ new movie Away We Go presents a couple who take to the road. They’re not running from the law like Thelma and Louise or Manny & Lo, nor simply exploring, like the guys in Sideways; like road trippers from Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz to Bree and Toby in Transamerica, Verona and Burt are trying to get home. The difference here is that they don’t know where home might be. Verona is six months pregnant, and the couple reminds me of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard in Make Way for Ducklings: they’re looking for a good place to raise their baby.

Please click on over to Literary Mama to read the rest!

Mama at the Movies for Father’s Day: Mary Poppins and Finding Neverland

I found unexpected Father’s Day fodder in the films Mary Poppins and Finding Neverland; here’s an excerpt from my latest column:

As my family counts down the days to a summer trip to London, I decided to prepare my sons the way I know best: by watching movies about the place. Of course, my choices might not be the most realistic visions of the city, but we’re not ready for A Clockwork Orange or The Elephant Man here (we may never be). I wanted to show them the London created by my childhood reading, the London of corner flower shops, chimney sweeps, and nursery tea, the London of Mary Poppins. I’m planning to read the books with the boys on our trip, but at home we started with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in Robert Stevenson’s 1964 musical film.

You can click on over to Literary Mama to read the rest!

An Interview with filmmaker Pamela Tanner Boll

As a college student, I interned with Women Make Movies, an organization that helps female filmmakers at every stage of their projects. I caught a glimpse of how difficult it was for women to get their stories to the screen, but I never saw into these women’s private lives, didn’t know if any were mothers; now that I’m a mother myself, I think about the intersection of motherhood and creativity all the time. So after I watched and wrote about the documentary, Who Does She Think She Is?, which profiles several mother-artists, I decided to interview the woman behind the film, director Pamela Tanner Boll. The result of that conversation has been published at Literary Mama this week; here’s a brief excerpt:

Caroline: How do you write a documentary film? Do you start with a loose script and then adapt based on interviews? Are there certain questions you have in mind before you begin, or do you leave yourself open?

Pam: I did not “write” the documentary until we began editing. I had a very firm conviction that I would follow these awesome amazing women as they made their way through their days, their art studios, their breakfast dishes, and errands, and loneliness and see what happened.

I wanted to stay open to the story. I did have certain questions, the main one being, what made it possible for these women to not give up on their dreams? What made it possible for each of them to believe in their voice, their talent, their truth despite lack of support and often, little recognition?

Caroline: Who are some filmmakers and writers you admire, or who influences your work?

Pam: I am more influenced by writers than filmmakers. I grew up reading, reading, reading. Some of my favorite books and authors are Virginia Woolf, especially To the Lighthouse; George Eliot’s Middlemarch; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; The Color Purple, just to name a few.

I was an avid movie watcher all throughout my childhood and early adult years. I loved all the Walt Disney films and the Tarzan series with Johnny Weismuller and Bonanza — big family dramas.

Click on over to Literary Mama to read the rest!

Mama at the Movies: The Iron Giant

I always imagined that my kids and I would watch loads of movies together. We would start at home with sweet animated features like Toy Story or movies I loved as a kid, like The Red Balloon. Then as they got older, we would go out regularly, settling in with our salty buckets of popcorn to watch the latest family flick. It hasn’t worked out like that, though. Ben, at seven, has only seen one movie in a theater, a special screening of The Polar Express for a friend’s birthday. He lasted about ten minutes before he came out to the lobby, overwhelmed; the loud soundtrack and the huge projected images were just too much for him. Meanwhile, although I managed a few mom and baby movies when Eli was still a tiny nursling, I had to quit those screenings before he was nine months old; instead of sleeping quietly while I caught up on the latest releases, he wanted to watch and chat with the figures on screen. At four, he’s happy to watch the same movies at home that Ben has been watching for years: Curious George; Toy Story; The Little Prince. But I’m getting bored, and wanted to find something new that might suit their very different temperaments.

Read the rest of the column over at Literary Mama!

Celebrate Mother’s Day with Motherlode!

My fabulous writing group, The Motherlode Writers, is reading at Book Passage on Sunday and we’d love for you to join us!

Motherlode is a Berkeley-based community of mother-writers. We work in a wide variety of genres, including essay, memoir, poetry, and fiction. Our work has been published in print and online outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Literary Mama, a variety of anthologies, and numerous other journals, blogs and ‘zines. Our recent books include Sybil Lockhart’s Mother in the Middle: A Biologist’s Story of Caring for Parent and Child (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2009); Sophia Raday’s Love in Condition Yellow: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage (Beacon Press, 2009); and Caroline Grant’s Mama, PhD: Women Write about Motherhood and Academic Life (Rutgers University Press, 2008). Readers also include Marian Berges, Ursula Ferreira, Rebecca Kaminsky and Sarah Kilts.

Bring the kids and join us on Mother’s Day for a celebration of motherhood and writing!

Sunday May 10th 2 – 3 p.m.
Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, CA 94925
(415) 927-0960

Book Review: enLIGHTened by Jessica Berger Gross

I don’t remember when I first walked into a prenatal yoga class. I was teaching at Stanford at the time, a two-hour daily commute, and maybe the fact that I was so darned uncomfortable –pacing around the conference table during class, fidgeting in my seat during office hours, using cruise control so that I could stretch my legs on the long drive — sent me to that cool, pine-floored studio once a week. There I gathered with the other round-bellied mamas and we stretched and balanced and relaxed through our ninety minutes.

After Ben was born, I returned to mom and baby yoga for a bit but, unsurprisingly, didn’t find the peace and relaxation I’d enjoyed during prenatal yoga. Ben was a noisy, needy, perfectly typical baby and although I aspired to be the kind of balanced yogini that could nurse while standing on one leg in vrksasana (tree pose), I could barely relax lying on the floor with him in corpse pose.

I returned to yoga during my second pregnancy; this time I wasn’t working outside the home, but renovating our house and caring for a three year-old kept me even busier. The once-a-week session seemed like the only time to spend thinking about this coming baby, and I wound up asking my yoga teacher to serve as my doula during my eventual 17-hour labor. I can’t say I consciously practiced yoga during the labor, exactly, but the training I’d absorbed, the thoughtfulness about breathing and stretching and opening, all helped me ride my labor peacefully almost toward the end. I say “almost” to account for the brief interval between feeling the urge to push and getting the doctor’s green light to push, when I recall shouting to my doula, “There is not enough yoga in the world to get me through this!” She laughed, which made me laugh, which distracted me enough to survive that last minute until I could push Eli out.

But again, mom and baby yoga wasn’t for me (especially since I never could find a mom + baby + preschooler yoga class), and yoga has fallen by the wayside as I find my best exercise time is a quick run before the boys wake up. My yoga mat is rolled up in the garage, gathering dust, and I look at it sometimes, thinking I should bring it upstairs, lay it out next to my bed, and try to get in a quick pose or two before bed. All of which explains why I jumped at the chance to read Jessica Berger Gross’s new book, enLIGHTened: How I lost 40 Pounds with a Yoga Mat, Fresh Pineapples, and a Beagle-Pointer. I thought it might help me get back on the mat.

I know Jessica’s writing from Literary Mama, of course, but also from her work editing the gorgeous anthology, About What Was Lost. EnLIGHTened is part memoir – a journal of her struggles with weight and the emotionally unhealthy family dynamic that contributed to her eating issues —part gentle how-to. She is so honest in her writing about her past (starting with the confession that her childhood nickname was the mean “Bubble Berger” because of the extra layer of fat she carried), that a reader is immediately sympathetic and open to her advice. The book is practical and pragmatic, full of diagrams of yoga poses, recipes, and sutras (both in Sanskrit and in English); she is so convinced of the benefits of her path that she offers a reader lots of ways to join her, and the result is friendly, charming, and accessible. I may not go as far as she does in her low-fat diet (I’m lucky not to have weight issues), but she makes me think twice about the ice cream in my freezer, or at least consider serving myself a much smaller scoop.

I figured I would read her book the way I do books by Michael Pollan or Barbara Kingsolver (books with which enLIGHTened shares some thinking): I am a member of her choir – I am a vegetarian, organic food-buying, yoga-aspiring writer – but as such, I try to be extra-sensitive to preaching, proselytizing and didacticism. So I’m happy to report that whenever she strays into potential eye-rolling territory, she pokes a little fun at herself. For instance, in the chapter on purity and cleanliness, she describes attending a retreat in which she was led through a thirty-minute exercise in “conscious sipping:”

“It was unnerving to drink so slowly. After all, I was used to downing a juice while talking on the phone or blow-drying my hair or driving my car or checking my e-mail. Plus, I was already hungry and it was only the first morning. “What do you want out of the next sip?” Alison asked. I wanted to be comforted, I wanted to be filled. (To be honest, I wanted a grilled cheese sandwich.)”

Later in the same chapter, she writes, “If you eat healthy and low-fat most of the time, you can splurge on the occasional more-indulgent foods.” I perked up, wondering what would count as indulgent for someone who bemoans her previously unenlightened nightly snack of Cheerios and chocolate chips (please! My indulgent snack is a bowl of melted peanut butter, topped with vanilla ice cream, granola, and chocolate syrup.) So she continues, “On a weekend—not every weekend, but on the occasional Sunday—Neil and I will go out for whole wheat organic pizza made with hormone-free cheese (I know, I live on the edge).” If she’s living on the edge, even my decent diet puts me over the cliff, but that’s fine. The point here is not that you slavishly follow every tenet she outlines here –I agree with her that we’d probably be healthier if we did, but I certainly can’t – but she offers a great menu from which you can choose.

Yesterday I finished reading enLIGHTened and then washed off my old yoga mat and rolled it out next to the bed. This morning I was already awake when the alarm clock went off, having been woken at 5 by my 7 year-old climbing into bed next to me. At the sound of the alarm, my almost-4 year old thundered down the hall and climbed in, too. I extricated myself from the warm pile and stood on the mat a moment, groggily collecting myself in tadasana (mountain pose) before stretching my arms up over my head and bending one leg at the knee in vrksasana. The boys giggled from their cozy nest, but tomorrow I’ll encourage them to come join me. Now I know this is the perfect way to start the day, and I’m grateful to enLIGHTend for reminding me.