In July 2009 on June 30, 2009 at 8:27 pm


Photo by Lisa Guidarini

Ayelet Waldman

Ayelet Waldman

Interviewed by Lisa Guidarini

Ayelet Waldman created a firestorm a few years back with her essay “Modern Love” in which she claimed to love her husband more than her children. In her new book, Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace, she delves into the contemporary attitude of putting your kids above all else and society’s obsession with judging women in accordance with unrealistic images of what “Good Mothers” are supposed to be.  Here, Ayelet Waldman graciously agreed to an email interview:

LG: Any regrets about how much you revealed about yourself and/or your family in Bad Mom? Anything you wish you hadn’t said? On the other hand, anything you’re sorry you left out?

AW: God, did I leave anything out? I doubt it.  There is a line in the book that I have removed in future printings. I’d rather not draw your attention to it, but it’s something I deeply regret saying. Have fun leafing through the pages to find it!

LG: If you’d never had the major situation involving your comments re: your children and your husband, do you think you’d have written an autobiography/memoir so early in your life?

AW: Definitely not. The brouhaha was definitely the inspiration. I’m by nature a somewhat contrary person, but I’m also thin-skinned. The book stemmed from a simultaneous urge to explain myself and to say, “Oh you thought I was a bad mother back then, did you? Well, look at me now!”

LG: With two authors in the house, how do you work out writing schedules? Do you have separate offices or separate hours?

AW: We both work at home, in a little studio we share in the back of our house. We work back-to-back — our desks face opposite walls. We try to work at the same time, when possible, and then Michael goes back to work for a few hours every evening. He has a hard time getting rolling when the sun is out. We’re much happier working together than apart.

LG: When you married Michael you said you wouldn’t become a writer. Had you ever had writing ambitions earlier in your life, any latent thoughts of writing one day?

AW: I found a journal I kept in 7th grade that talked about wanting to be a writer, but if the poetry in the journal is anything to go by, it’s a blessing I waited as long as I did.

LG: Are you still getting backlash from the marriage/family comments/issues? Any hate mail, snide comments, etc.?

AW: I get the odd nasty email, but the vast vast majority of the feedback I get is positive. Almost every day I get heartbreaking emails thanking me for expressing something the author of the email felt but could not bring herself to say.

LG: With all you’re juggling, how do you decompress? What do you do to relax?

AW: I belly dance. Seriously. I go to this awesome belly dancing class called “Shimmy Pop” and rock out to Beyonce and Shakira and a whole host of Lebanese singers. With all the gyrating I do, you’d think I’d be thin by now.

LG: Can you list a few authors you admire, living or dead, and have any of them influenced your own writing?

AW: Lorrie Moore — I try to read a Lorrie Moore short story every day before I start writing. She reminds me what good writing is. Jane Austen — because I’m not remotely original (and I adore her books. I reread them constantly) David Foster Wallace — but only the nonfiction. I don’t get his fiction. Salman Rushdie — even his bad novels are magnificent.

LG: Many authors find they can’t read while they’re writing their current work in progress or they’ll risk being influenced by other authors. Is this true for you?

AW: That’s just lame. They’re so brilliant they can’t bear to be influenced by Jane Austen?  I’ve heard that a lot, and it’s usually from a writer with a designer’s name in the title of her book. Or a pair of shoes on the cover. Good writers write because they love to read. Good writers are always writing, and thus if they were precious about not polluting their luminous prose, they’d never read. Writing is a craft, you learn it by imitating people better than you are. I’m lucky. The literary landscape is strewn with people with more talent than I. There’s never a dearth of books to read.

LG: What’s your next writing project? Anything in the works right now?

AW: Red Hook Road, a novel, will be published in May 2010.

LG: Any advice to aspiring writers re: how to hang in there even when things look hopeless? It’s a tough publishing world out there …

AW: If you a writing because you want to be a writer, you’re doomed. It’s bleak out here, even for writers with track records. If you’re writing because you love to, or because you have to, then you’ll be okay. My best advice is that writing is a physical discipline. You have to sick your butt down in the chair every day (or every workday). There’s another word for ‘waiting for the muse to strike.’ We call it procrastination.


by Amy Gail Hansen

Friday night. Quaint, corner table.

My husband bends over spaghetti;

I revisit our last encounter.


I came to you ravenous, needs unmet,

dreams under-realized, thoughts scrambled.

I asked only to speak and be heard.


You hung on my words, unspoken.

Guarded my fears, championed my ideas.

I giggled at such chivalry.


At first innocent, slow and smooth,

but soon I allowed the pleasure

to ripple to my fingertips.


And after, I trembled. Wept. Laughed

at your revealing a woman I’d forgotten,

thought had forgotten me.


My husband knows, never asks. I hope

He fears your power and charm,

but know he deems you a whim.


Silent dinner, sober drive home.

He retires, but I linger, wonder if

I need to see you, feel you so soon.


Yes. I tiptoe below, tuck away

to our secret place, flip a switch,

and beckon another rendezvous.


That first touch, my hands quiver,

but soon fall in rhythm, fall in love

again with you, my novel,


going on chapter two.

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