Friday, 1 June 2012

Terri Giuliano Long on Writing & Motherhood

I grew up in a big traditional Italian family. Being a mom has always been part of my story, an expectation as well as a dream, an essential part of who I am. It’s only natural that being a mother would shape my life as a writer and it has - both practically and philosophically.

My husband and I have four daughters. We were very young when our eldest was born; in that sense, I’ve lived my life backward. We had children, and then I attended college and graduate school. While our children were growing up, I worked part-time. Although all my jobs involved writing, I didn’t have the luxury then of an apprenticeship in creative writing. Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining. I loved my life – and my jobs. I wrote news and feature articles for the town paper, a column for a regional paper. I edited a newsletter, and wrote copy for marketing, advertising and public relations. This was all great practice.

I attended my first creative writing class in my mid-thirties. Once I did, I was hooked. As a young woman, I’d read mostly spy novels and sweeping sagas like The Thorn Birds. In my thirties, I favored literary fiction, stories about people and families that felt real and pertinent to my own life. Like most authors, I wrote stories similar to the stories I read.

Given the timing, the fact that my life revolved around my family, it’s not surprising that family plays a central role in my body of work. When I wrote In Leah’s Wake our daughters were teenagers. At the time, immersed in their world, I was acutely aware of teen issues and problems. In Leah’s Wake is not our family’s story—not a single event portrayed in the novel happened to us - and I’m not, or at least I hope I’m not, anything like Zoe. But the thoughts and feelings I describe absolutely belong to me and spring from my being a mom.

Like Zoe, I worried constantly. I used to think, if only I knew everything would turn out well; I wouldn’t worry so much. Of course we can’t see into the future, and fear of the unknown kept me on edge.


Addressing Issues Related to Parenting & Parenting Philosophies

The ways in which my philosophy and parenting style were accepted or challenged by others, my fears, my anxieties, the pressure I felt to raise perfect children, inspired and drove In Leah’s Wake. My novel-in-progress, Nowhere to Run, is a psychological thriller, a very different story from In Leah’s Wake, and yet many of these issues and themes repeat.

Parenting is the toughest job in the world, bar none. Unfortunately, children don’t come with instructions. We do the best we can. Really, that’s all we can do. The Tyler family is far from perfect, yet they love one another. Had the community rallied and supported them, Leah might have not have gone down such a terrible path. At heart most teens just want to feel accepted and loved – not for what they accomplish or contribute, but for who they are. When problems arise or when teens go astray, the fallout affects the entire community.

These themes of community and communal responsibility run through both novels. This repetition of themes is, of course, common with novelists. Like anyone else, authors are driven by our internal beliefs, philosophies and assumptions. We all have what my college philosophy professor called “mobiles,” or internal motivators that we may or may not be conscious of. For better or worse, novelists tend to be more introspective than the general populace; we’re always thinking and digging, trying to scratch the itches that most normal people let go. Those itches become storylines or themes in our work. This is certainly true for me – it’s one of the myriad ways that being a mother has influenced me as a writer.

I feel tremendously blessed to be a mother and doubly blessed to be a mother of daughters. My family means everything to me and they come first, before anything or anyone else. If my children need me, I attend to their needs. As with many moms I know, this affects my productivity. I admire writers who can pump out a book every year. I doubt that I’ll ever achieve that goal. This makes me neither a martyr nor a hero. It simply makes me a mom!

About Terri
Terri Giuliano Long is a contributing writer for IndieReader and Her Circle eZine. She has written news and features for numerous publications, including the Boston Globe and the Huffington Post. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. Her debut novel, In Leah’s Wake, began as her master’s thesis. For more information, please visit her website. Or connect on Facebook, Twitter or Blog.

And... for a chance to win a copy of In Leah's Wake, simply enter a comment below and make sure I have a way to contact you. The prize draw will take place on 18th June.


3 comments:

Beadyjan said...

Sounds interesting count me in for achance to win please

Portugal said...

This story was superb. This could just as easily be titled "Deconstructing the Perfect American Family." Giuliano creates the perfect storm in this family: take an already strained marriage suffering the long-term after-effects of infidelity, the colossal parental mistake of living vicariously through your children and pushing them toward your own unrealized goals, and a rebellious teen unable to handle the pressure, hellbent on racing toward every unhealthy thing she can, and you have this book.

Having been a rebellious teen, and having raised a rebellious teen, this story is dead on. When you hear about someone's child spinning out of control, you don't think about the ripple effect. You simply see the destruction the child is wreaking in his or her own life. But the effects throughout an entire family--sometimes even through an entire community--are far-reaching, and Giuliano captured that aspect perfectly.

There are no perfect people in this story who did exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, every time. Instead, there is a flawed husband and wife, both trying to stay faithful despite the tremendous stress of their daughter's behavior, trying to stay patient, worried out of their minds. There is a younger sister, as different from super-athlete Leah as she can be, desperate for her sister's approval, desperate to make her parents see their mistakes, desperate to hold everyone together. And then there is Leah herself, the anti-heroine, her logic tragically unsound, colored by immaturity and angst, whose splash in the rebellion pond causes a tsunami through her entire family.

Unknown said...

Being a parent is the hardest job in the world and the worst thing is learning to accept you will make mistakes and your children not understanding when you do. Children expect their parents to be perfect and sadly we are not. You always feel you could have done better being a mother or a father.Twitter lifebylizzy