Kathie Giorgio

Conversations with successful contemporary women writers… who are also moms (and grandmas!)

“I learned two things very quickly.  One, I needed a separate space to write.
Every place I’ve lived, I’ve made sure I had my own walls, my own room. 
This meant being in the basement a lot, but it was so important. 
If I had a delegated place to write, then I would write while I was there. 
If it was mixed in with doing the laundry or cooking or paying the bills,
those things interfered. 

I had to have my own room.”

kathie giorgio

Kathie Giorgio, fiction writer, author of a successful novel series and award-winning short story collection, director of AllWriters’ Workshops, wife, mother of four, shares her advice on writing, teaching, parenting children ranging from adults to adolescent, and, now, grandparenting.

kathie's family

Interview with Kathie Giorgio

1. Sometimes I wonder how much more writing I’d get done if my two small children (ages five and two) were a bit older and more independent. Kathie, you’ve raised three children who are now adults, and you have a daughter in junior high. In what ways has your writing process changed over the years, specifically in regard to writing while mothering babies and toddlers versus older and more independent children.

When my first child was born in 1984, I was already writing steadily.  I don’t think it ever even occurred to me that writing would be difficult; it was so much a part of my everyday life.  I learned very quickly that I had to start grabbing time wherever I could.  In 1984, I was still hand-writing manuscripts, and then typing them on an electric typewriter, the Cadillac of its time (really!).  While Christopher was still on a two-nap schedule, I hand-wrote in the morning, then typed in the afternoon.  Soon after he switched to a one-nap schedule, I taught myself to compose directly on the keyboard, which would save me lots of time in the future as I graduated to word processor, then computer.

By the time child #3 came along in 1987 (yes, I had 3 babies in 4 years), writing during the day was a thing of the past.  It was impossible.  Someone was always awake – there’s just no such thing as putting three babies down for naps all at the same time.  But bedtime was a different thing.  So I began to write at night.  My kids were tucked in bed by eight, I kissed my then-husband goodnight and I descended to my basement office, where I stayed for the next four hours.

I learned two things very quickly.  One, I needed a separate space to write.  Every place I’ve lived, I’ve made sure I had my own walls, my own room.  This meant being in the basement a lot, but it was so important.  If I had a delegated place to write, then I would write while I was there.  If it was mixed in with doing the laundry or cooking or paying the bills, those things interfered.  I had to have my own room.

Second, I began to incorporate music into my work.  I chose a song (at the time, it was “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera) and played it every night before I began to write. I associated the song with writing time and, like Pavlov’s dogs and their bells, I began to drool.  Well, figuratively, you know.  I’ve refined that further now…I assign a song to each longer piece (i.e. novel) that I write, and when I hear that particular song, I get much more quickly back into the world I’m creating, leaving my real world behind.  With kids, time is of the essence, and you grab every minute of it you can for yourself.

Once the kids grew older and I started to teach, primarily at night, I became an afternoon writer, something I still am.  I was very lucky when Olivia was born in 2000 – I had three teenagers in the house who knew their mother’s need to write very well.  They were 13, 14 and 16 when she was born.  They stepped in and took care of her when I needed to get my own work done.  I wrote while she took her afternoon nap, and when the kids came home from school, they played with her until I was ready to come up from yet another basement office.  Olivia was five when my third child left for college, and by that time, she was off to kindergarten and I still had my time to write.

2. Some mother writers struggle to find time to write amidst busy schedules with children, and I’ve heard that some wait until “school starts” to write, meaning that when their children are not in the classroom, they are not writing. Did you find that you could only write while your children were in school, so that holiday breaks and summertime were quiet times in your writing life? What about now, with your daughter in junior high?

I’ve never let summertime or school holidays stop me.  Why should it?  Parents who work outside the home still work when their children are on holiday.  Writers are at work too.

Again, my kids were never really aware of any other option. Their mother wrote.  That was her job.  They just grew up with that.  It was as natural as having lunch at noon or watching Sesame Street at two or having bath-time at seven and bed at eight.  My writing became a part of their lives.  Just as their lives became a part of mine.

I married again when my kids were twelve, thirteen and fifteen, and I brought them a stepfather who is also a writer.  Olivia has two parents who write.  It’s just a part of who this family is.  I think that’s where many mom writers make their mistake – they see writing as something outside of who they are, they see it as an extracurricular activity.  It’s never been that to me.  Writing is essential.  It’s not a hobby and it never has been.  Each of my kids knew that from the first day we came home from the hospital together.

3. Did you ever worry that your children would resent the time you spent writing, time that might otherwise have been spent with them? Now that three of your children are adults, have you found that they did resent you being a writer? Or, did they react differently than you expected? In other words, how do your children feel about you being a writer?

I really don’t worry with the big kids (I have trouble calling my babies adults, even though one is almost 29 years old and about to make me a grandmother!).  They’ve never seemed to resent me being a writer, and in fact, they usually want to talk about what I’m writing or read it themselves.  My middle son writes.  My daughter, child #3, is a mathematician, but she writes tremendous haiku.  My oldest boy is more science oriented, so he doesn’t have as much of an interest as the others do, but he’s proud of me just the same.

I worry more about my youngest, my Olivia.  Not only has she had to deal with a mother who writes, but she has a mother who owns/operates a creative writing studio.  If I’m not writing, I’m teaching, and if I’m not teaching, I’m meeting with a client one on one, and if I’m not doing that, I’m editing.  It’s a busy life.  However, very early on, she began to “write” right next to me.  She scribbled in books and then on pretend computers and now she has her own computer and she’s working on her own novel.  She’s around page 300.  She’s amazing.

One way that I’m very lucky is that I live in a live-where-you-work condo.  My business is on the first floor. We live on the second and third floors. So even when Mama’s at work, I’m only a stairway away, either up a flight of stairs in my office, writing, or down a flight of stairs in the classroom, teaching.

4. Have you ever tried to include your children in your passion for creative writing? Did/do you encourage your children to write?

Oh, yes.  During the summer, I teach creative writing camps for elementary through high school students.  Andy and Katie, child #2 and child #3, both took part in the camps.  Andy, as an adult, has taken my online Book-Writing Workshop.  And Olivia, as I said, is writing and writing and writing.

5. How do you find the balance between mothering and writing? Do you ever find the lines crossing in interesting ways?

You know, not really, in terms of the lines crossing.  I guess I see writing as who I am, and mothering as what I do. I see lines being crossed in my mothering and my teaching, without a doubt. That same desire to nurture and support is there for my students as well as for my kids.  But writing…writing is still just pure ME.

So I think that’s where the balance is.  If you picture one of those old-fashioned scales, the kind with two dishes on either side of a balance beam, I’m on one side, with my writing, and my family is on the other. We’re perfectly level.  I know who I am, and so do my kids.  They also know that I love them dearly.

6. Tell us about your All Writers workshops and how they interact with your writing and mothering life.

AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop is a creative writing studio located in Waukesha, WI.  We are international, with students in 18 countries, 19, if you count the US, which I suppose we should! AllWriters’ offers online and on-site classes and workshops in all genres and all abilities of creative writing.  We also offer coaching and editing services.

Because AllWriters’ takes up the first floor, and my home is on the second and third, my studio and family life often intersect.  My kids know many of my students (and my big kids’ friends are starting to turn up in classes!) and my students are well aware of my kids.  All it takes is for me to come upstairs to switch into full Mama mode.

7. Have you any advice to share with mother-writers who may be struggling to continue their craft or to find the path toward publication?

Take yourself seriously.  This is not a hobby or something you just dabble in.  If you want to write professionally, you have to treat yourself like a professional.  Professionals don’t work only when their children allow them to.  Professionals let their children know that this is their life and their work and they need to be able to do it.

Can you imagine a doctor or an accountant or a hair stylist saying to her child, “Honey, Mommy needs to go to work now.  Is that all right with you?”  Of course not.  Yet writing moms seem to think they need to have their children’s permission to work.  You don’t need permission to be who you are.  Just BE.

8. Tell us about your series of novels.

I write literary fiction.  My first novel, “The Home For Wayward Clocks,” was published in June of 2011.  It’s a hybrid, a cross between a novel and a short story collection, I guess you could say.  The odd-numbered chapters are all novel, with the novel arc and storyline.  But the even-numbered chapters are connected, but standalone, short stories.  The book has won an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, and it was nominated for the Patterson Fiction Award.  My second book, “Enlarged Hearts,” was released in April 2012, and it’s a linked short story collection.  Book #3, “Learning To Tell (A Life)Time,” is the sequel to “The Home For Wayward Clocks,” and is due out in 2013.

9. What’s next for you?

No more children, that’s for sure!  But grandparenthood, starting in January of 2013.  And continued parenthood, since I’m still raising my 12-year old, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m still raising my big kids too.  Teaching, of course, reaching and supporting as many writers as I possibly can.  And writing the next book, the next story, the next poem. As they come to me. And they will. All it takes is sitting down at my desk every afternoon.

Thanks so much, Kathie!

All my best,

Jenn

Author Bio:

kathie and familyKATHIE GIORGIO’S first novel, “The Home For Wayward Clocks,” was released in 2011 by the Main Street Rag Publishing Company, and has received the Outstanding Achievement recognition by the Wisconsin Library Association Literary Awards Committee and has been nominated for the Paterson Fiction Award.  Her short story collection, “Enlarged Hearts,” was just released in April 2012 by the Main Street Rag Publishing Company as well.  New stories will be appearing soon in the Ampersand Review, The Main Street Rag, St. Petersburg Review, and a new fiction anthology called “Keeping Track” by the Main St. Rag Publishing Company, as well as two poetry anthologies, “Journey to Crone,” by Chuffed Buff Books, and “Wine, Cheese & Chocolate, A Literary Feast” by the Manzanita Writers’ Press.  A poem is out in the 2012 Wisconsin Poets Calendar and another will appear in the 2013 calendar. Her short stories have appeared in Los Angeles Review, Harpur Palate, Fiction International, Dos Passos Review, Ars BookEnlargedHearts_ThumbMedica, Thema, CutThroat, The Pedestal, CAB (Conversations Across Boundaries, Lalitamba, Riverrun Review, Alimentum, Evening Street Review, Frontstem, Bayou, Epiphany, Lowescroft Review, Eclipse, Potomac Review, Third Wednesday, Arabesques Review, Hurricane Review, Oyez Review, Jabberwock Review, Karamu Review, Reed Magazine, The Binnacle, Licking River Review, Bellowing Ark, Hiss Quarterly, Midway Journal, The Externalist, Fogged Clarity, and many more.  Her stories and poetry have also been in anthologies by Papier Mache Press, Main Street Rag Publishing Company, EBibliotekos, Pill Hill Press, Fearless Books and Susurrus Press.  She has been the featured author in Women Writers’ ezine.  She’s been nominated twice for the Million Writer Award and for the Best of the Net anthology.  She is the director and founder of AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, a creative writing studio.  She also teaches for Writers’ Digest and serves on their advisory board.

*Editor’s note: Visit Kathie Online and visit AllWriters’ Workshops (where I’m also a faculty member).

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Interview with Kathie Giorgio, author, AllWriters’ Workshop director, mother, and soon-to-be-grandmother « Jennifer Givhan, Poet & Novelist

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