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We who are about to breed: Katy Henriksen.

August 11, 2011 \am\31 10:00 am

 [In which WWAATD asks writers and other artist types about life as breeders/parents/kid-keepers.]

Name: Katy Henriksen

1. What is your kid’s name, age? 

Adele Cecilia, will be two years old Sept. 2.

2. How do you balance your time between parenting and writing? 

Short answer is, I don’t. I still haven’t figured out a good time for writing, although I’ve never been one for writing routines. Just as prior to life as a parent, I pretty much write into the wee hours, that quiet time when nothing else is asking me for attention. I trade in a good night’s sleep to actually get some creative work done. This is sometimes problematic because my daughter still rarely sleeps throughout the night, so I don’t even have a respite then. Prior to parenthood I could sneak in an occasional all-day writing/reading/editing session, but that’s definitely extinct now. In the end I steal time away that I didn’t even know I had and when that happens it’s a bit of magic.

3. What is the best piece of advice about being a parent and a writer?

I’ve interviewed many musicians who’ve become moms and when I think about advice I think of the conversations we’ve had, which aren’t really advice so much as reflections on what does and doesn’t change and how to navigate it all. Finding the time is probably the most difficult. If before I thought there were always clothes to be folded, dishes to wash, all those day-to-day chores that suddenly seem essential when procrastinating, well now that’s exacerbated and maybe it’s now easier for me to let the sink pile up, for clothes not to make it into the dresser drawers right away. So in essence it makes me value any sliver of time I do have available more. Whereas I used to think nothing of closing the bar down at 4 a.m. on a Friday night and sleeping in until noon only to roll out of bed in time to meet a friend for a 1 p.m. brunch, I now choose to spend that Friday night writing and am beckoned awake at 6:30 a.m. to tend to my daughter. I actually just read an interview with Megan Mayhew Bergman, whose debut short story collection Birds of a Lesser Paradise comes out on Scribner next year, which I found quite inspiring. She has an infant and a two-year-old and she talks a lot about motherhood inspires you. At one point she says: “Nothing like a cosmic kick in the teeth to get you moving ahead on your dreams,” when describing a six-week span in her life that included the birth of her first daughter, the death of her mother-in-law, finishing her MFA while working in a consulting firm, and moving. If anything motherhood teaches you the urgency to seize the moment when you have it, it gives urgency to your dreams, and I find that powerful even if I haven’t successfully navigated a way to really spend as much time writing as I’d like. The full interview with Bergman is available here.

4. How has your writing changed since becoming a parent? 

Again I think of the musicians I’ve talked to, specifically Dar Williams, who I interviewed before I became a mother. When we spoke, her child was in pre-school and I decided to ask if becoming a mother had changed her music, if at all. She said it really hadn’t, other than she didn’t squander time the way she had before. Now that I’m a mother, I tend to agree with that sentiment. My writing is essentially the same but perhaps the urgency is more. When I DO at long last have time to devote to myself, I treasure those few moments.

5. Tell us something we don’t know about you and being a writer-slash-parent. 

Wish I could tell you that I was hammering away on my laptop while nursing a newborn, but that generally wasn’t the case, although sometimes Adele would be asleep in my lap and I’d be on my computer. Usually though I was just trying to catch up on email and stay at least a little bit in touch with the outside world. Maybe though, more than wanting to get writing in, I value time I have to read, to really devour a good book. Whereas it used to be fairly easy to read a novel or book of poems or essays in one sitting, I am trying to recalibrate since I just don’t have large chunks of time to myself at all anymore. I’m trying to adjust to that. I’m slowly fitting more reading time in and when I do I feel utterly decadent. Like a few weeks ago I delved into Luc Sante‘s Low Life. I pretty much neglected any projects and chores I had and skimped on sleep so I could devour that masterpiece of New York City’s underbelly of the latter half of 19th and early 20th century. I fit in passages about McGurk’s Suicide Hall and its tales of whores who killed themselves by drinking carbolic acid in in between cooking some mac ‘n’ cheese, cutting up strawberries and pouring sippy glasses of milk.

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