21 June 2009

Interview: Sara O'Leary

Playing Hide and Seek With the Children (photo credit: EDGO)

Your back of the book bio:

Sara O’Leary is a children's writer, playwright, fiction writer, and sometime literary journalist.

Your playground bio:

In the spirit of my mothering style I have decided to only answer every other question. (This is akin to my technique of playing entire games of Snakes and Ladders by just repeating the phrase “Could you roll for me?” And don’t even ask me about hide-and-seek.)

Do you identify yourself as first a writer and then a mother, the other way around, or something else? Why do you think this is?

I identify myself first as a teacher--mainly as a way of staving off further questions. Sadly my subject area is “Creative Writing” --a term which I’ve always found unbearably fey. Sometimes I pretend to be a potter.

Did you always want to be a writer? A mother? How does the reality differ from the fantasy?

Never wanted to be a mother. Boy was I wrong. Always wanted to be a writer. (Not going to say it).

What are your measurements of success as a mother? As a writer? Have these evolved and, if so, can you talk about in what way and why do you think this is?

Will gladly disclose my age but flinch at measurements.

What's your writing schedule like? What was its journey to get to where it is now?

I like to write really bloody fast and get it over with.

Has becoming a mother changed how you write? What your write? If so, in what ways?

Time management is one of those mothering skills that spills over into all aspects of your life. For example, I can now fill out a questionnaire at breakneck speed.

How aware are your children of your writing?

One writes with me … we’re doing a YA novel together. One writes both much faster than I do, and much more than I do. They both are conscious of my children’s books but just last year my eight-year-old found my book of short stories in a shop and came up clutching it with a look of utter betrayal. “You never told me about this!” he said. He’s the same darling boy who asked when I was writing a weekly newspaper column: “Why is your picture in the paper every week when you’re not even famous?”

Virginia Woolf famously wrote, "…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write…." She never had children. Is a room to yourself enough for a writing-mama? What do you need?

Well, let’s not put Virginia in the corner – she was told she should not have children because of her condition. Anyway, these days I’m sure what she would wish for is a laptop of her own. Mine crashed this year because my film-making son had so loaded the hard drive with his projects.

When my first son was born, both he and our computer shared our bedroom. And yet there was room enough for all. Poor Virginia had no idea.

If you could go back, what would you tell your pre-children self?

Go ahead -- enjoy it while you can.

What do you think your pre-children self would tell you?

I’m bored. I’m lonely. I lack a sense of purpose.

In terms of this topic (motherhood and writing), do you have any regrets? Guilt? Envy?

Regrets? Only that I didn’t start having children a decade sooner and have a dozen more. Envy? One of my least favourite of the seven sins.

The early years of motherhood have been described by various writers as a haze or as an incredibly creative time. How would you describe it? Are you still in it? When did you leave?

My sons are eight and fourteen and I suppose it’s time I found someone else to blame this haze on.

Birthing a book is like birthing a baby. Way off or right on?

Bar the screaming.

I wanted to do this project because I found so few satisfying examples of the writing-mother. It was either the mythology of Alice Munro writing while her children played at her feet, the writer who resented and neglected her children because she was so consumed with her art, or someone like Sylvia Plath who ended up with her head in the oven. Which writing-mothers do you admire and why?

The ones I know. The ones with beautiful children and beautiful books. You know who you are.


Laisha said...

ha! I love this interview.

m said...

I know, me too.