On Writing

Published on February 28th, 2014 | by Aya de Leon


How Being A Mom Helped AYA DE LEON Thrive At Writers Conferences

A couple weekends ago, I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference for the first time.  I presented on panels, read my work and pitched my novel to agents.  It was the best Valentine’s Day gift ever. I’m reflecting on all the reasons why, as a parent, this is such a rare and precious occasion, but also how being a parent has helped me thrive at writers conferences.

Becoming a mom is a little like moving from a big city to a small suburb.  Your old life is still there, going along without you.  You can read about it on the internet, but you can’t actually inhabit it anymore.  As a writer, you can still manage to write.  You scribble notes on a napkin, you get that uber productive 45 minutes on the computer while the baby is asleep (I used to write with my daughter on my chest in a sea of dirty dishes).  But the thing most parents can’t manage during their children’s early years is that writer’s nightlife.  The readings, the panel discussions, the critique groups, and the conferences.  Writer conferences are magical, because they bring hundreds of people into one spot for a weekend or more to focus on writing.  Editors, publishers, agents, publicists, writers, teachers, fans, and others come together to create a magical world where all everybody cares about is books.

When you become a parent, conferences become scarce either because you don’t have the time (i. e. childcare) or you don’t have the money.  I used to attend writers conferences all the time, but in the four years since my daughter was born, I’ve managed to attend three locally and one out of town.  And I could only afford it because, as a faculty member at UC Berkeley, I was able to get funds to go to three of the four.

I paid for the first one out of pocket.  In 2010, when I still thought I was writing a thriller, I went to Bouchercon, which happened to be in San Francisco that year–local for me.  I patched together a zany childcare schedule which had my baby daughter on site with me, breastfeeding at times. I was determined to inhabit my old writers life.

It was hard to focus, impossible to sink fully into the experience, and a logistical nightmare.  But I found it incredibly rewarding.  This was, in part, because two things had changed for the better.  First of all, I was grateful for every bit of information and each conversation with another adult writer.  This was predictable, but the second change was totally unexpected: as a mom, I was more outgoing and optimistic about making connections.  This was directly related to having a baby.  For nearly a year, I had walked around the world with a little adorable person on my chest.  Everywhere I went, people lit up, walked toward me with a huge smile on their face, stopped to talk to me, paid me compliments about my child’s cuteness.  Let’s be clear—they weren’t actually complimenting me or happy about me.  Even all the positive attention I had received during the nine months of my pregnancy was never about me; I was merely the vessel or the pedestal conveying the object of their interest.  But having all that delighted energy coming in my direction had accustomed me to talking to strangers, and expecting a positive response.  At Bouchercon, I was more gregarious and bold about interacting with people than ever before.  At the end, I asked two women I’d never met before to form a writers group with me because we seemed to have a good connection.  It worked out well, and we’re still meeting.

My daughter is four now.  People still have sweet things to say about her, but I don’t have the same vantage point on all the eyes lighting up because she’s not living on my chest these days.  Still, I appreciate the lessons I learned that first year of motherhood.  I was thrilled to take an optimistic perspective and an expectation of making good connections into the  SF Writers Conference that weekend.

Tags: , ,

About the Author

Aya de León teaches creative writing at U.C. Berkeley. Kensington Books publishes her adult novels, her award-winning “Justice Hustlers” feminist heist series (which includes SIDE CHICK NATION, the first novel published about Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico), A SPY IN THE STRUGGLE, about a young Black woman FBI agent who infiltrates an African American political organization fighting for climate justice and Black Lives (out now), and QUEEN OF URBAN PROPHECY about women in hip hop, police violence and the climate crisis (out now). In October 2021, Aya published a young adult thriller about a pair of undocumented Dominican teen girls who uncover a kidnapping plot to stop the Green New Deal called THE MYSTERY WOMAN IN ROOM THREE. Given the climate emergency, this novel was too politically urgent for traditional publishing, so it was serialized in in six installments on Orion Magazine, and is available free of charge. In October 2022, her next young adult novel comes out from Candlewick Books, UNDERCOVER LATINA—about a 14-year-old spy who passes for white to stop a white nationalist terrorist—the first in a Black/Latina spy girl series. In spring 2022, Aya is producing a free online conference called Black Literature vs. The Climate Emergency at UC Berkeley African American Studies. Aya is also working on a memoir of her body that explores the intersection of food, body image, race, and the environment. Finally, her Justice Hustlers series has been optioned for television, and she is currently working on the pilot. Find her at ayadeleon.com

One Response to How Being A Mom Helped AYA DE LEON Thrive At Writers Conferences

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to Top ↑
  • Subscribe to Mutha

    Enter your email address to subscribe to MUTHA and receive notifications of new articles by email.

    Email Frequency