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book inc  –  journal  –  Mom, We Need Batteries

Mom, We Need Batteries

book inc PAL Jennifer Gaites reflects on the intersection of her creative pursuits and everyday life, from preparing for an author interview to balancing family demands.

By Jennifer Gaites

May 09, 2024

A few weeks ago, I was invited to sit down with author Mary Beth Keane to discuss her most recent book The Half Moon, and to ask her all of the things I could possibly want to learn from a bestselling writer.

I reached out to my book inc writing community to see what they might ask, came up with a list of questions, and pored over the novel. My family heard about it for weeks–my excitement, my concerns, my thoughts on the book. In other words, I spent a lot of time in my head (and maybe dragged a few others in there with me).

But, the night of the event, a list of questions in hand, I did everything I could to get out of my head and be present. As the room filled, my phone dinged and I looked to see a text from my 12-year-old: Sorry to bother you with your famous person but we need triple A batteries.

With his vague acknowledgment that I was doing something exciting (to me), he brought me right back into the mundane details of life. His text added levity. I laughed, which helped with my nerves. 

Like most people who devote any time to writing, I spend a decent amount of time with my thoughts. At any given point in a project, my brain is like a rat in a maze, trying to find my way through a problem of structure, stakes, or what it is I’m actually trying to say. No matter how lost I get in there, however, something from actual life inevitably pulls me back to reality with a sudden jerk. A text from a college kid. My youngest needs his lunch packed. The dog is pacing to go out. Re-emerging into the real world, I often feel a kind of whiplash as I ground myself in reality. And, usually, laundry.

Of course, like everyone else, I’m used to multi-tasking. But there’s something different about losing yourself in a creative pursuit and then being drawn back into everyday life. It feels disorienting at times, like emerging from a dark movie theater on a sunny day. Not only am I squinting a little, but sometimes I’m asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” Like, why am I wondering if my novel’s protagonist’s dog running away will amp up a good dark-night-of-the-soul-moment, when dinner needs to be prepared and squeezed in between school and band practice for the real people in my life? 

There will always be the things that pull us away from our creative interests. But, for me, stories–real and imagined–are how I make sense of the world. Writing keeps me engaged with a part of myself that I like. And, so, the whiplash is worth it.

Right before the book talk started, I showed Mary Beth Keane the text from my son. She told me about texts she’d gotten from her son earlier that afternoon, and we briefly compared head-scratching moments with children and teenagers, their take on things, and how we’re trying to help them navigate the world they’re living in. And then we sat in front of the audience of readers, and discussed her book and all things writing.

When I got home, I jotted some notes from our conversation, trying to hold onto some of Keane’s wisdom. Then I wrote a shopping list for the next day. We can exist in two realms: the creative realm and the one where remote controls need batteries.

Jennifer Gaites

Jennifer Gaites is a writing instructor at Project Write Now and a book inc Peer Artist Leader. Her work has appeared in River Teeth's "Beautiful Things," Hippocampus, and Literary Mama. Her flash essay "{ }nesting" won first place in WOW Women on Writing's Quarter 4 2023 contest.

Jennifer Gaites is a writing instructor at Project Write Now and a book inc Peer Artist Leader. Her work has appeared in River Teeth's "Beautiful Things," Hippocampus, and Literary Mama. Her flash essay "{ }nesting" won first place in WOW Women on Writing's Quarter 4 2023 contest.