Monday, March 22, 2004 posted by Jen at 3/22/2004 06:11:00 PM
Sometimes, I should just stay in bed.
One of the best parts of being an author is getting to do readings -- to connect actual faces and voices to the readers...to know that what I'm doing makes people laugh, or cry, or think about themselves and the world differently.
Normally, that is.
Yesterday Adam and Lucy and I went to do a panel organized by a large Jewish organization in a neighboring state. There was me, and the divine Laura Lippmann, whose work I adore.
Then there was a woman who'd self-published a memoir about her son's death thirty-seven years previously...and a professor published by an academic press.
Laura gave a wonderful, engaging talk about her books, mistaken Jewish identity and juvenile justice
The memoir lady spoke about her dead son.
The Holocaust guy talked about the Holocaust.
And then it was my turn.
Lately, the section I've been reading is a short, funny scene from LITTLE EARTHQUAKES about a couple trying to have sex for the first time after their new baby's arrival. (Needless to say, it's a very short scene).
But after the double whammy of dead son/Holocaust, in front of an audience whose average age seemed to be about sixty, I just didn't think that was appropriate.
The organizers had asked me to arrive at 10:30. The speaking started at noon. By the time it was my turn, it was one o'clock. The audience was fidgety. Lucy was fussing. I had a headache.
So I read a short, dramatic scene about two of the characters in my book meeting for the first time under stressful circumstances. I said I'd be happy to take questions about GOOD IN BED, IN HER SHOES, the experience of having a book made into a movie.
The Q and A is usually, by far, the most fun I have at any reading or talk I give, because that's when all the really funny stuff gets dished.
Yesterday, nobody asked anything. I didn't even get the "where do you get your ideas" question (answer: Target!)
I think that so much of mothering is a balancing act. At least that's true in my life. There's the parenting, there's the writing, there's the trying to be a good wife and keep the house in order.
Most of the time I think I do an adequate job of keeping all the balls in the air.
Yesterday, they all fell down.
"Jennifer Weiner was a huge disappointment and not worth the money," the large Jewish organization lady wrote to my speaking agent. A litany of complaints followed: she was preoccupied! Distracted! Hiding in the bathroom with her baby! (I was actually changing a diaper, but whatever). "We would never recommend her and we'll never have her back!"
I should add, for the record, that she felt Laura Lippman was terrific.
I wrote the lady a note apologizing for not being what she wanted. I sent her back her money.
Now I've spent the whole day second-guessing myself, and the whole notion of a new mother trying to have any kind of life at all outside of motherhood.
I shouldn't have brought the baby (obviously). I should have just gone ahead and read the sex scene (maybe). I shouldn't have agreed to do the panel in the first place (and, if I'd known there'd be the double whammy of grieving mother/Holocaust survivor speaking with me, and that I'd be turning in a final draft of my novel the next day, I never would have). I should have just started answering the questions that audiences normally ask (perhaps).
Or I should just acknowledge that you can't have it all -- you can't be a mother and a writer and a performer at the same time, on the same day.
I feel horrible, because in my whole history of writing and reading, I don't think I've ever experienced audience disappointment on this level.
And I don't know what else there is to do, besides sit here and feel like crap on a cracker.
Welcome to A Moment of Jen, author Jennifer Weiner's constantly-updated take on books, baby, and news of the world. Email me at jen (a) jenniferweiner.com.