Thursday, August 7, 2008

An Interview with Rebecca Woolf, author of "Rockabye"

I was so psyched to interview author and blogger Rebecca Woolf just the other day. Her new memoir, Rockabye: From Wild to Child, is based on her fantastic parenting blog, "Girl's Gone Child," and I've been a fan for a long time. Here's the interview, which also appears at Work It, Mom!

Rebecca Woolf's new book, Rockabye: From Wild to Child, starts out with an introduction subtitled "On Unplanned Pregnancy, for a friend."

"When I first found out I was pregnant, I couldn't say it aloud for several days," she confides, and instantly you identify with what she's written. Well known for her poignant, funny, and sometimes raw posts about navigating the world of parenthood on her blog, "Girl's Gone Child," when Woolf found herself pregnant with her son, Archer, she was determined to embrace the responsibility of motherhood while avoiding the stereotypes.

"Sacrifice is not what motherhood is about. Compromise, yes, but not sacrifice." Now 27, Woolf began her freelance writing career at 16 and has since written for publications from MSN to to the Huffington Post. She lives with her husband, Hal, and son, Archer, in Los Angeles; she expecting her second child -- a girl -- in early October.

Your book, Rockabye: From Wild to Child, is based on your wildly popular blog, "Girl's Gone Child." You also write "Straight from the Bottle" at Babble. When did you start blogging, and why?

I started blogging in 2002. My personal blog was called "The Pointy Toe Shoe Factory" and I mainly blogged about travel, culture, fashion and dating in Los Angeles. I'm pretty sure I had, like, two readers. It was very much an online journal that only a select few new about. When Archer was born, I closed the Pointy Toe Shoe Factory and opened a new blog, Girl's Gone Child, about being a new, young, city-mom. My blog slogan: "welcome to the new titty-flashing all-nighter." I knew no one with kids and was very much alone in my mommy-world so the blog started as a sort of monologue about my life as a new mother. I have written all my life so blogging has always been a natural outlet for spewing ideas, telling stories, making observations, regardless of whether anyone cares to read or participate.

How was writing a book different from blogging, and did your blogging style change after you wrote your book?

Rockabye was the first book I sold but not the first book I actually wrote. I wrote and finished two novels before my agent sold Rockabye on spec. I was actually working on a third novel when my agent sold my Rockabye proposal to Seal Press.

I would have never believed that my first published book would be non-fiction. I see myself as a novelist first, even though neither of my finished novels ever sold. I'm actually working on a new (fourth) novel, now, contrary to the advice of my agent. Fiction is a much more difficult sell than a memoir, but honestly, I'm not all that interesting and at this point in my life/career, I can't really see myself writing another memoir-type-book. Maybe by the time I'm ninety I'll be able to write some fascinating stuff but for now? The blogs are enough "me me me" writing. In the meantime, I'll keep writing novels and hopefully, eventually one will sell.

I'm pretty sure my blogging style is exactly the same. The book was exciting for me but the thing that most people don't recognize about publishing a first book is that -- unless it becomes some international sensation, life goes on as usual as does all writing done pre-publication (including blogging).

There's this great passage in your book where you talk about your son, Archer, doing his own thing while you work on your manuscript. Tell us more about how you managed to work on your book, at home, with a toddler in the house.

I wrote the bulk of Rockabye when Archer was napping and/or at night when he was asleep but of course there were days when Archer didn't nap or I still had more work to do so I basically told Archer that he needed to give me an hour to work and then we'd do whatever he wanted to do. I don't know how well he understood me but he was always really good at entertaining himself so I was able to get quite a bit of work done, so long as I really buckled down.

What's the hardest part about your work-life juggle now that he's older?

Time-management is everything, obviously. And there are some days when I should be working but am distracted by life and all its responsibilities. Now that Archer's in preschool I have six hours a day of me-time, but of course there is shopping and cleaning and life to attend to as well. Right now I'm spending (on average) about two hours a day working on my various projects (not including blogging) which isn't a lot of time. But it's what I have for now so I have to make the best of it. Eventually I'll get it all done... It's just a longer, slower process than it was pre-child.

How do you balance career and parenthood when you have to go tour to promote your book?

I left Archer with my husband and parents when I was on my three-week promo-tour promoting Rockabye. It was hard to be away from him for so long but it was important for me to enjoy my moment and do what I could to promote my book. I love my child more than anything but I believe wholeheartedly in the need to fulfill myself professionally. Every parent deserves a break and I'm lucky I have the support system (my husband, my parents) to wholeheartedly pursue my goals.

You've written so poignantly about the bittersweet aspects of pregnancy and motherhood, of the challenges you faced coming to term with the changes in your own life. Now, you're expecting your second child. How is this pregnancy different for you?

With a second pregnancy, I'm not only preparing for a new baby but I'm also preparing for the changes in Archer. I'm literally mourning my first baby, seeing that he's now become this kid, this brother... It's bittersweet, really. I'm also married to my husband this pregnancy (Hal and I were only dating a few months when we found out I was pregnant with Archer) and this time I have both friends with children and a community of bloggers I've befriended who have kids, so I'm not all alone this time around.

I also have a 3-year-old in front of me. It's amazing to feel this baby girl grow inside me as I mother Archer. And I look at him and think "Holy shit. There's going to be another one of you I'm going to love just as much."

It's hard to believe it's even possible.

Tell us what you wish someone had told you about pregnancy the first time around.

I wish I would have known how messy it was going to be after the fact. People are so freaked about labor and delivery and that's the exciting part because no matter how bad it hurts, you're about to meet your baby... It's like Christmas times infinity.
But then the child arrives and you're exhausted and bleeding like a mofo and uncomfortable and you have to wear those diaper-sized maxi-pads for a month and, yeah, I didn't know about all that stuff. I thought the labor was the only uncomfortable part.

I also had no idea how taxing on a relationship/marriage having a baby would be. I hear all the time about how couples have babies to "hold the relationship together" and I think, "how in the world?" Hal and I had to really work to keep ourselves from killing one another for the first two years of Archer's life.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about motherhood?

That the second you become a mother, you stop being yourself. One CAN and should be able to "do it all"... It just takes a strong work-ethic and passion. A great mother is someone who is fulfilled in her life, whether that means fufilling her goal to be a stay at home mother or finishing school or training to be an acrobat. For some women, myself included the word "mother" does not define them. And I think a lot of women are afraid that "mother" is the opposite of "ambitious career woman"... It just isn't the case.

Sacrifice is not what motherhood is about. Compromise, yes, but not sacrifice. We are all women, first. Women with dreams and wants and things we are passionate about both in and outside the home. And we should be nourishing those wants and passions (especially as mothers!) for what better way to set an example for our children?
I want my kids to know that they are my first priority but not my only priority -- that in order to be a loving mother/woman/person I have to nourish my creativity and follow my dreams. I have to make myself happy. I want to be a better writer and in order to be one, I must keep writing. I want to send that message to my kids. I want them to grow up knowing that their mother believes in herself so that they know to grow up with dreams of their own and have the tools to believe in themselves, too.

Share a bit of your life to-do list with us. What are some of your goals?

I just wrote a short film that I'm really excited about and is set to shoot later this year. I also just finished writing a one-hour cable pilot/proposal based on Rockabye and am currently shopping it with my husband who co-wrote it with me. I'm now working on a novel AND a feature-length screenplay I hope to have finished by the end of the year. Although, with a new baby due in two months, we'll see how that pans out. Ha!

What is your dream job?

To make a living writing fiction, both in book and on screen.

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