A year or so ago, a mutual friend told me that Jillian Lauren and I should be friends. We lived in almost the same neighborhood, she was a writer of books and one day I wanted to be a writer of books. Upon the person recommending Jillian to me, I downloaded and devoured her first memoir, Some Girls.
Some Girls is about Jillian Lauren's time in a harem. I could not imagine more jaw-dropping subject matter, and it is a memoir I recommend all the time. Through a few introductions and social events, Jillian and I have become friends. And she is strong and tender and beautiful and funny, all things I love in a woman. She is also a fantastic story teller.
So even though we are friends, it was really her good writing that had me excited about her latest book Everything You Ever Wanted. Just as sensitive and compelling as Some Girls, but told from a radically different place in life, Everything You Ever Wanted is about Lauren's pursuit of motherhood, and what happens after it comes.
She is adopted and she adopts. There are some really hard truths in this book about those things, and as there is adoption in my family, too, I read with interest and sadness and gratefulness.
Jillian Lauren is married to the bass player from Weezer (I admit to being a shrieking fan in my younger years), and so there are parts of the story that are so unique to entertainment families, and also to LA in general, that made me both proud to live in this city of limitless resources and also frustrated to live in a progressive city that closes doors.
I read this book in a matter of hours, so curious was I to find out what happens next. To this mother, to this little adopted Ethiopian child, to this unique family who just wants things to be kinda "normal."
I asked Jillian just a few things about writing and Everything You Ever Wanted:
I loved your book Some Girls and was even more blown away (in a totally different way) by Everything You Ever Wanted. Talk to me about the writing process for someone who is exploring such sensitive heart issues. Are you able to detach? Do you have to take to your bed? ‘Cause you have mastered the vulnerability thing.
It's a little bit of both. I definitely have moments when I'm writing and weeping. I think that's a good sign. I always figure that if I'm not willing to cry over this stuff, how could I ever expect anyone else to cry over it. But there's a point in the editing process when I have to step back and look at the craft aspect: Is there a narrative arc? Are the scenes successful? Are my characters complex and multi-faceted? Is there a rising sense of conflict? I think the best work strikes a balance between craft and raw emotion.
I’m going to ask you the question I get all the time as a blogger who writes about her family: What are your thoughts on telling “your story” versus telling “Tariku’s story.” There are two distinct camps here: those who believe our stories as mothers naturally involve our children, and those who believe these very personal tales belong to the children first. Did you have reservations sharing some of these things? Worry how he would perceive it when he was older? As a natural-born writer, what is your philosophy on the parts of memoir that involve other people, specifically our children?
The ethics of writing about one's children is a tricky subject, and people tend to have strong feelings about in one direction or another. For me, it's a fluid discussion, and one I reexamine every day. There are certainly some deeply personal parts of Tariku's story that I would never share. But I do think that as parents, we also have a right to our stories and our own voice in the world. We don't trade that in at the door. Motherhood is such rich fodder for artistic expression, as valid as any other subject. I'm not always sure I'm such a terrific mother, but I am a pretty good storyteller. That's a strength I have to offer my son. This difficult but ultimately triumphant story of Tariku's childhood is my gift to him. I want him to be able to hold it in his hands one day and see his shining soul in it, to know how fiercely he was loved.
You’re a rock star wife, and I can’t let this fact slip by unmentioned. I’m also married to a passionate artist, and although I don’t want to be defined by my relationship to him, I’m still naturally curious about the dynamic of being hitched to someone in a famous band. Can you speak to how you have or have not taken on any of that as part of your personal identity? When you stand backstage at a show, when he plays to thousands, or a Weezer song comes on the radio, do you feel…part of that? Is there a cliche to it that you relate to or run from?
I love being a rock wife. It's definitely not for everyone, but for a gal with the right temperament, it's such a blessed life. I have an adventurous spirit and I'm not crazy jealous or clingy, so we do okay with the stretches of time apart. For many years, I never missed a Weezer show. We traveled all around the world together when we first met. I would curl up in the back lounge of the bus or at a sidewalk cafe in a foreign city and do my writing while the guys were working. It was such a drifty, idyllic, romantic time.
I was at a very different place in my career then. I was getting my masters. I'd only had a few little things published. I definitely felt like I had to fight for my own identity, so I wasn't just Wifey with a capital W. It's easy to be overshadowed by the passionate, bright stars with whom we're fortunate enough to share our lives, right? But I did always insist on carving out space for my own passions and dreams. Now that we have Tariku, it's even harder to carve that time out, but I still force myself to do it. It's not easy, but it's so worth it. All of it. When I stand with my son on the side of the stage and we watch Scott play, I'm always overwhelmed with gratitude and joy. And when I get home to my own quiet work, it keeps me anchored in who I am.
I'm super excited to offer a giveaway this week to celebrate the launch of Everything You Ever Wanted! You won't believe what's in this awesome giveaway package:
Here's how to enter using the widget below:
- Leave a comment on this blog post telling me why you want to win this prize pack.
- OR Tweet about the giveaway (you can do this once a day)
- OR Pin the image of the book at the top of this post to one of your boards on Pinterest
- OR do ALL THREE for triple chances to win.