As promised, Kasia’s – part two of Kasia’s guest post. Working with her on the anthology has been a great experience and I’m looking forward to the release. Read on to find out more about pulling together disparate viewpoints into a cohesive, informative, insightful whole…
I’ve learnt an enormous amount while putting the Anthology together, not only about motherhood, but about the publishing process. Thanks to all the wonderful women who have helped me through their essays, poetry, short fiction and artwork, I have a much deeper and more grounded view of motherhood. I’ve also learnt how to coalesce a diverse body of work into a cohesive whole – bringing together pieces so that they chime off one another, or strike a contrast. I’ve learnt about editing, and the legalities of licensing agreements. I’ve also learnt, in my own way, how to conduct and write up an interview.
There were perspectives from a few angles which I felt would be best covered by a dialogue: those of a midwife and lactation consultant who works with Medecins Sans Frontiers; an academic feminist perspective; and the thoughts of a psychiatrist who specialises in peri- and post natal mental illness. I hunted up all the advice I could on conducting an interview, and thankfully the women I spoke to were not only fascinating, but also friendly and approachable. They say that the first lesson of interviewing is to really listen, and that was a delight in these cases. Writing up the segments, especially avoiding the simple Q&A format, was time consuming, but worth it, in that I was able to draw together themes which reoccurred throughout a meandering conversation.
As an author with a small but established platform, it has been a curious time talking about the Anthology. My previous work, including a novel, The Artemis Effect, and many short stories, are speculative fiction and science fiction, and so I had focussed my blogging efforts around those subjects. The Anthology has quite a different target demographic. No doubt I’ve confused and even lost a few people with this shift in focus, but like most human beings, I’m not a unidirectional creature! My reading is nothing if not eclectic, so I suppose it’s no surprise that my writing endeavours would be also.
The other curious thing that I’ve noticed during the process of compiling all the work is my slight hesitation, and perhaps even embarrassment when talking about it in public. Most of my workmates are childless, as are many of my friends, and I can see a certain wariness in their eyes when I mention the project. I’m not (I think), one of those people who can only talk about the wonderful achievements of my child, regaling the room with hilarious stories of potty training.
However, I’ve come to recognise that it’s just one of the subtle ways in which motherhood is, well, not groovy. There is a dichotomy in the way it’s treated. On the one hand, mothering is seen as an almost sacred role. You hear statements like “It’s the best thing you’ll ever do”, and “It’s the hardest job.” Women, and especially those in positions of power, are judged if they don’t have children, yet, almost in the same breath, we hear, “Oh, you’re just a mother?” The vocation is also dismissed and looked down upon. It’s curious that it is much more socially acceptable to talk about marriage than it is about being a mother.
Ultimately, as the Anthology reaches the point where it is ready to be launched out into the world, I read through the many stories included, and am very proud of what we have achieved. These women have been brave enough to share their most intimate feelings and stories with us. On a personal note, this has been a serious investment of time and mental energy – while looking after my lad, and, for the last few months, working. I am personally proud of my juggling act, even as I realize that it is no more extraordinary than what many mothers achievement every day.
So – I present to you – ‘The Milk of Female Kindness – An Anthology of Honest Motherhood’. I hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed compiling it. J