What my Mama Done Told Me about Writing: Advice from my Mom that You Might Consider

25 Aug

My mother & her beloved little poodle. Aren't they adorable?

Quite by accident, my mom gave me some excellent writing advice. We were visiting one day, just a regular visit, except that I had something important to tell her. We sat in her pretty living room with its high ceiling and matching everything. Like all women of her age group, my mom had “signature colors.” We were the only things in the room that weren’t pink or green. Or sorta French.

“Mom, I’m writing a book,” I said expectantly.

“Oh, no!” Her anguish was real.

I didn’t know if she was upset because I was writing a book and she didn’t think I could pull it off. Or because, according to our family by-laws, no one was allowed to even think about doing anything in the arts. Or crafts. Or maybe she was upset about both.

“Uhhh . . .” I said, eloquently, devastated. My mom didn’t approve of a project I’d been working on secretly for years.

Further conversation revealed that she had a friend who was an author. She knew how much work and mental stress he went through writing his books. She didn’t want me to have to go though it. The endless drafts, rewrites, and editing needed to get a manuscript in publishable shape. The trips to Lourdes and other holy sites that I would need to make trying to get an agent. Or publisher. The ruthless competition if I managed to get published. The pain, humiliation . . .

But I was born and raised in Silicon Valley, that’s what we do.

Having fleshed out her initial objections, mom changed her tune. She sat up straight and beamed. “Sandy, I want the first copy!” Delighted, she kept smiling. “What’s the book about?”

Ohh. I had a draft of the book written. While it was serious and even profound literature and had no explicit sex, the book had a definite erotic/sensual/dark tone to it. To deny those elements would be like denying them in Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I stumbled around, trying to figure out ways to tell her I didn’t want her to read it, ever. This was a woman I’d never heard swear. Not even “gosh darn.” I’d never heard her say the word “sex.” I had never heard her mention anything about the reproductive process, even during the famous mother/daughter talk when she allegedly told me all about it. (She remembered this talk. I don’t.)

“Uh . . .  Mom . . . Well, some of it is kinda . . . You know . . .”

My mother was always a beautiful woman, but I think she reached her greatest beauty in her later years. Her face rounded and became softer. She had those adorable, shining eyes. Which were fastened on me.

“Why, Sandy, you have to have sex in it. No one will buy it otherwise.”

I learned something about my mom that day. She wasn’t the prude I thought she was. I also learned about writing. That was good advice. If she’d been able to read my book, I think she would have felt gratified. In one area of my life at least, I’d taken her advice and utilized it to its fullest extent. I’m still working on her premise.

We had been talking about my first novel, Numenon, which went on to win six national awards. Unfortunately, mom passed on before the book came out, so she never was able to read it in the flesh, so to speak.

But I gotta say, “Thanks for the tip, Mom. You wouldn’t believe what I’m writing now.”

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan is the winner of twenty-one national awards, in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

Two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy are in production with a late (very late) 2011 publication date, or early 2012. If you liked  The Angel you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. TALES FROM EARTH’S END − The Rules of Romance and How I Break Them - September 21, 2011

    […] The sex in this romance is steamy, though not particularly explicit. By my standards, anyway. I am writing this book at the express direction of my mother, given years ago. Read this, she’ll tell you, too. […]

  2. YOUR SHELF LIFE » Will Duane, Founder and CEO of Numenon. Is He Real? - November 19, 2011

    […] in the world, it’s OK. I have permission from my mother to include sex in my writing. She’ll tell you about it here. I always try to follow my mom’s […]

  3. TALES FROM EARTH'S END − Are the Tales from Earth’s End Books Appropriate for Young Adult Readers? - September 7, 2012

    […] not is my mom. Amazing isn’t it, how that early conditioning endures? Here’s a link to an article about some writing advice my mom gave me once. The whole article is great, but here’s the bottom […]