Today I have a special treat for you. Well, two special treats – one for you and one for me. It’s only fair. Today commences my inaugural book review post and giveaway of one copy of Lost in Suburbia, a hysterical new memoir by my good friend and yours Tracy Beckerman.
The book just hit the bookstores last week, but I got an early sneak peak because I’m cool like that. Actually, I’m not. I typically never know about anything until it’s out of style, but Tracy changed all that for me, and I gotta say I love being in the know. And this is one book you are gonna want to know about.
I take humor seriously over here as you are aware, and I would not steer you wrong in that department. Tracy’s book does not disappoint. If her prologue is any indication we are in for a very real, completely relatable and totally hilarious look at the life of a mom trying to raise kids, maintain her sanity and recapture a little bit of her former self after leaving her cool behind in Manhattan for the more family-friendly pastures of the New Jersey suburbs.
She may be but one lone mom, but her memoir, or momoir, as Tracy calls it, tells the universal story of women trying to find a little piece of stable ground after becoming a mother.
I’m infinitely interested in the stories other women and their challenges as mothers as well as the whole writing process so I seized this opportunity to find out more about the woman behind the book. Below is a little taste of the book followed by my Q & A with Tracy and your chance to win a copy of her book.
As if that wasn’t enough, the other exciting tidbit I wanted to share with you is that tomorrow I’m revealing a whole new me. Well, a whole new blog, one that will look eerily similar to this blog, only way better! Everything should go smoothly, but just in case my new address is onefunnymotha.com. You’ll all have to re-sign up (please?) to follow along again and for that I apologize, but they just don’t make this blogging thing easy on us. The man is trying to keep us down. Don’t let that happen. Fight back, people! Fight back by re-signing up, Ok? It’s gonna be great. I’m gonna have all sorts of fancy stuff like Comment Luv and my own button and everything. So stop by. There’ll be free books for everyone. Just kidding. I can’t do that, but I can bring you the rest of your regularly scheduled post here:
Tracy cuts to the quick and doesn’t mince words right from the start. In an early chapter, “Why you Shouldn’t Let Your Mohel take the Red-Eye to the Bris,” she warns against the hazards of mixing delicate operations with overnight flights, but you have to understand this guy was her “go-to Mohel.” She explains he had conducted the bris of all the children in the family. “As it usually goes with births, there were a whole bunch of them in the beginning, and then things cooled down once everyone had been married for a while and stopped having sex.”
I’m not sure if the Mohel moved away because work dried up, but Tracy had to have him do the honors. Unfortunately, that required a red-eye trip. Don’t worry nobody was harmed in the making of Tracy’s book. And now for the word directly from the author herself, which is just as entertaining as the book. Enjoy.
- I’d like to hear a little about your background prior to motherhood and the book. I know you worked in the television industry and also wrote a syndicated humor column. Did you go directly from one to the other? What preceded the book and was there was a gap in your professional life once you had children?
First there was the job delivering singing telegrams in a gorilla suit. Not my proudest moment, but I made a helluva chimp and I did have a lovely singing voice. That actually preceded children, because, really, who would procreate with a woman in a hairy primate costume?
Many years later I had a career in the TV industry writing and producing promos for a local New York news station. It really wasn’t all that different from the gorilla grams, except I got to dress better, but the tips weren’t as good.
I quit my job when my son was about five months old to be a stay at home mom and didn’t work, or rather, did not get a paycheck, vacation time, or sick days for about five years. I started writing my newspaper column when my son was in kindergarten and my daughter was in pre-school. So there was about a five year gap in my resume, but I was able to add Professional Peanut butter and Jelly Maker and Laundress Supreme to my job skills, so I think it was time well spent.
- This is your second book, right? When did you first get an idea for a book, and when did it come out?
My first book, “Rebel without a Minivan: Observations in Life in the ‘Burbs” was a collection of my early columns and I self-published it in 2008. I did it to test the waters and see if there would be a market for a book for my newspaper readers. There was, so a couple of years later I ambushed a literary agent at someone else’s book event and asked her to represent me on “Lost in Suburbia.” She agreed and I swear it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I sung my proposal to her.
- How did the second book come about? What was your inspiration to write it?
Whoops. Guess I kind of answered that in the last question. But I will tell you that one of the things that motivated me, aside from aspirations to meet Hoda and Kathie Lee*, was to have the opportunity to tell my story in depth, and share it with other moms who had gone through a similar experience. Writing a column is a great gig, but the 550 word count can be a little limiting when you are trying to explain how pregnancy and parenting led to a prescription for Prozac. I wanted the breadth of a book to really get into it, explore my journey, and give my readers a chance to connect with it on a deeper level.
(Guess what? All Tracy’s dreams are going to come true next week when she’ll be appearing on Hoda’s and Kathie’s show! Tune in on Tuesday April 16th at 10:00. You know I will be.)
- As a fellow writer and aspiring memoirist I’m always interested in the process. How long did it take you to write the memoir? Did you keep a schedule? Did you outline? How many revisions did you do? Did you ever think it would be done? Did you have a deadline or agent at the time you started it?
When you are writing non-fiction, there is a whole process you have to go through before you ever submit your book to publishers. Your proposal typically includes an overview of the book, a detailed description of each chapter, a sample chapter, marketing analysis of competing books in your niche, and a lot of info about you and who will buy your book. This took me about four months to put together. By the time I had completed the proposal, I not only had a really good idea of the trajectory of the book, I also had a detailed outline for each chapter, so writing it was a piece of cake. Well, not really a piece of cake. More like a complicated tiramisu. But I at least had a structure to follow. Writing the book took another 5 months, including revisions, so all told, it was about nine months. I liken it to a pregnancy because the time frame was the same and I gave birth at the end.
- How do you get any writing done with (two?) kids?
I throw a lot of candy at them and record many episodes of Spongebob Squarepants for them to watch.
- Your writing is super funny and very real, but aside from a humorous, relatable, enjoyable read I wonder if you have a message you hope to impart or a strong personal reason for writing this memoir.
I do! A couple of messages, actually. The first is that it’s really normal to lose yourself in parenting. Especially if you had a big career before you had kids and then you decide to stay home with your kids and chuck the career. We are a very title driven society. I found that when I didn’t have an impressive job title and a big paycheck to define me, I kind of lost my identity. It’s not that I didn’t love the time I was spending with my kids or see the value in being with them, but society really sends us mixed messages. We are told that being home with our kids is the best thing we can do, but when I would go to a party and tell working folks that I was a stay at home mom, they would walk away and go find someone else more interesting to talk to. I was no longer getting the external validation I was used to receiving for my job and I had a really hard time with that. Especially after we moved to the suburbs and I had trouble connecting with like-minded women.
Eventually, as you know, I got both my inner and external cool back, but I learned a lot about myself along the way, and felt it was an experience worth sharing with other moms.
The other message is that it is not only important, but crucial to keep your sense of humor when you become a parent. So many “experts” tell you how to be a good parent, how to discipline and set limits and talk to your kids about drugs, etc. I found that teaching my kids to laugh at their mistakes and find the humor in disappointments and just enjoy life in general is a lesson we need to focus more energy on!
- With your first book was it hard to find an agent? How long did you shop around? Any tips?
I self-published my first book so there was no agent involved. With my second book, I queried a bunch of agents by email and got no interest until I stalked one at another book event. There’s nothing like an in person pitch to make an impression.
8. Was your blog an off shoot of the books or vise versa? How long have you been at the blogging game and how do you manage books, a blog and a couple of kids?
The blog was an off-shoot of my column and a place for me to cultivate ideas for both the column and the book, but also a place for me to grow my audience. I started the blog in 2010 and have woefully neglected it, and my kids, while I wrote and marketed the book. It’s hard to do it all. I try to segment my day… this hour is for exercise (ha!), these hours are for the kids… this chunk of time is for my writing. My husband get’s anything that’s left over and if I still have anything left at the end of the day I’ll do a load of laundry!
Tell us how you got your cool back (or are still looking for it), and I’ll pick one commenter’s name at random to be the lucky winner.
Find more of Tracy and learn all about her book tour on her blog Lost in Suburbia. For her tri-state area friends she’ll be spreading herself around so check out she blog for an event near you. One such event at my personal favorite bookstore Watchung Booksellers in Montclair is Wednesday April 24th. You know where I’ll be.
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