Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong somewhere? It’s an uncomfortable experience to walk into a place, start talking to people, and immediately realize that you’re different. I had that experience recently. I presented at a 3-day writing conference, and I took my 5-month-old baby with me. I should be used to this by now. After all, I took him to the Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium in February, but that was only for part of one day. This was an entire weekend of toting around a 20lb baby, juggling my gear, and having people walk up to me and start wiggling fingers and babbling at my son.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great ice breaker! I met a lot of authors who will probably remember me the next time we’re at an event together because I brought my baby. I love bringing my babies to conferences, but it has its downsides too. By day two I was burnt out. My baby was fussier, having his nap and feeding schedule thrown off and being overstimulated by strangers and noise. I could tell he missed his routine, and truthfully, so did I. I had to leave every class I tried to attend so that others could learn. I was so frustrated and since all of my presentations were done, I wondered if I should just go home. What could I possibly accomplish with a fussy baby and a troubled heart?
If I had been alone in this author journey of mine, I probably would have gone home. And there’s no shame in that, but I am so glad I wasn’t alone and that I didn’t give up. Instead, I sent a text message to my husband, who was home with my older kids. I sent another message to our writing group chat. I prayed they would be able to help. And boy, did they! While my baby rolled around on the floor, and I cried in a secluded corner of the conference venue, messages flooded in.
I recently read a fantastic post-apocalyptic trilogy by an indie author, Tricia Wentworth. We connected through a Facebook group when she posted about her success with "The Culling" trilogy, which she wrote while raising her two boys, giving birth to her third right before the final book in her trilogy released. I'm so glad she was willing to do this interview with me!
Also, be sure to enter our giveaway at the bottom of this post. You won't want to miss this incredible post-apocalyptic series!
"Being a stay-at-home mom to a four-year-old and two-year-old is insane. Writing books, monster-sized ones in my case, is insane. Doing both at the same time while being pregnant...there aren’t words. Writer-mom life is a special sort of madness, y’all. But the only thing I love more than writing is the three little boys that call me “Mommy”. I’m just crazy enough to think I can be a great mom and a great writer." - Tricia Wentworth
Bree Moore: Can you give us a brief summary of your publishing journey? How did you get where you are today?
Tricia Wentworth: It wasn’t until after graduating college the idea to write my own story came about. I was nannying a junior-high-aged girl around the time the Hunger Games movies came out. We got super excited and into the second movie release. I remember telling her I would’ve done something different with the plot in that movie/book, an alternate ending of sorts. Though I don’t remember how it was I would’ve changed it, I do remember what her reaction was. She said, “Maybe you should write a book.” To which I responded with something like, “That’s crazy, who does that?”
And here I am. Stilllll writing. From that point on, I began to learn about this art form we call writing. I wrote a very rough draft of the first book in a different series, but I just knew my writing skills were not where they needed to be to finish the other two books. Then I was sitting there one day, watching The Bachelorette on TV (it’s my guilty pleasure, don’t judge!), and I had this thought of “What if everyone died from something horrible and they had to date one another to find a partner to run the country!?”
Over 530,000 words later, that story evolved into my three published books today. Looking back, I should’ve known. I’ve always had a hyperactive imagination and I’ve always loved reading. How I wish I would’ve known sooner I wanted to write!
Bree Moore: Why did you choose self-publishing?
Tricia Wentworth: I started the process of sending out query letters to agents. I got lots of nos and one kind soul who said to keep trying and that my story sounded interesting but she didn’t have the opening in her schedule to take on another author. I felt like I was spending all my time researching and looking for an agent, and not just any agent, but an agent I felt was a good fit for me and my style. After a few months, it began to feel too much like online dating. With a swipe here and a swipe there. Here a swipe. There a swipe. Everywhere a swipe, swipe.
And call me a control freak, but with self-publishing, I loved the idea of having control over it all. Once I made the decision to go indie, there was no going back. I love that it gives the underdog a fighting chance.
Bree Moore: What has been your favorite part of self-publishing?
Tricia Wentworth: Interacting with my fans on my Facebook page and reading reviews of my published stuff. I have met some of the coolest people on this journey. It totally makes my day to get emails from parents too, telling me their child has been reading my books. Even though I am a measly three books into my author career, it is still just so surreal that people read my books. And though you can’t please everyone, some people actually LIKE them. Say whaaaaaaat?!
Bree Moore: How do you define having a successful author career?
Tricia Wentworth: As a writer-mom, if I manage to feed the children and hit my daily writing goal, that is success. Bonus points if I get a shower and a light application of makeup in that day! My ultimate goal has always been to replace my teaching income, and spoiler alert... teachers do not make thaaaaat much money. So I am working toward that goal. I want to be able to write full time once my three boys are all in school.
Bree Moore: Where did you get your idea for The Culling series?
Tricia Wentworth: Like I said before, it was a random idea I had that spiraled into what it is today. I will add onto that to say I had been wanting to read and looking for something post-apocalyptic. And not just post-apocalyptic, as in immediately after the end of the world, but post-post-apocalyptic. I had been wanting to read something that happened a hundred or so years after the end of the world, how it all worked out, how they grew the population back, etc. I wasn’t finding it in what I had been reading, so I wrote it. In my case the “write the book you want to read” saying definitely happened. I did exactly that in a genre near and dear to my heart.
Bree Moore: Do you have any marketing tips for authors you'd like to share?
Tricia Wentworth: Do your best to figure out AMS ads, specifically your blurb for the ad. Be ready to fail a few times while you get it figured out, but advertising is super important to us indie authors. It was a total game changer for me so I cannot say it enough! AMS, peeps. AMS!
Bree Moore: As a parent-author, what challenges do you face in making time to write, publish, and market your books?
Tricia Wentworth: I am a stay-at-home-mom to a newborn baby, born five days before my third book went live, an almost three-year-old, and a five-year-old. All boys. My house is filled to the brim with scooters and nerf guns and all things chaos. I aim for an hour of writing/editing time at naptime, or I did before the new babe came along since I’m on maternity leave from writing at the moment. Most of my writing time has to be from 8-11 pm, after bedtime, because it’s all I have. And it is hard to find the time and stay motivated. Mommyhood is exhausting, but I’ve found I need to write to feel like “me”. It’s my me time; it keeps me sane. It’s hard work and doubly exhausting trying to be a good mom and a good writer, so tons of grace is required. Some days I cannot and will not be able to do it all. I have to know that and remind myself of it daily. I also keep reminding myself that someday they will go to school. Of course then I will be a glorified taxi service too! So it will always be a struggle and take balance. And guts. Tons of guts.
Bree Moore: What advice do you have for other parent-authors?
Tricia Wentworth: Goals! I am super goal oriented. Every month I get out my calendar and make a big goal for the month, weekly goals, and daily goals. Annnnd, I schedule in time off, which in my case is Sundays to spend with my family. I work harder during the week knowing that day off is coming up and then I use those days off to regroup and relax. At this point, after making goals this way for going on three years, I am addicted to meeting my goals. Daily, weekly, and monthly. It feels good to keep accomplishing and slowly checking off the to-do list on the way to pub-day!
Bree Moore: Do you have any new releases coming in 2019? Or, what are you currently working on?
Tricia Wentworth: I have a cozy Christmas romance manuscript that is actually normal sized. I’m debating whether I can get it spruced up and ready to go for this fall. If not, for sure next fall. And then I’ll be starting on my spin-off series to the Culling series. After all this editing in getting my most recent book out, I am beyond excited for a blank word document and that blinking cursor. My fingers are itching to write!
Bree Moore: Lastly, what's your favorite kind of chocolate?
Tricia Wentworth: Allllll the chocolate. Except mint chocolate. I mean, why would you ruin something as sacred as chocolate with mintiness?! Save that crap for toothpaste.
Tricia Wentworth began writing at a young age but didn't realize it was her jam until after college. She is originally from small-town Nebraska. She currently resides in Texas with her husband, two sons, and English bulldog. When not reading, writing, or momming, she can be found squeezing in a run or feeding her sugar addiction by baking something ridiculously delicious.
Win an ebook copy of "The Culling"!
I was the kindergartener who read voraciously right out of the gate.
I was the 5th grader getting plastic trophies for finishing the year’s reading program, usually several thousand words above the goal.
I was the teenager getting grounded for reading too much instead of calling a friend or going outside.
I am the mother who, once latched onto a fascinating new book, doesn't do anything else until I've finished it. Don't worry, my kids still get fed! The dishes...well, they can wait, right?
I am a bookworm. I actually come from a family of bookworms. My husband is one, too. Unfortunately, the love of reading isn't exactly genetic, so making sure our kids love reading has been a goal of mine since our oldest was in the womb.
He's six, homeschooling at a kindergarten level and reading at a second-grade level. His next oldest sibling is hot on his heels. My kids love books more than candy and toys. They spend a significant amount of time each day reading, aside from bedtime stories. A new book is irresistible to them, and it isn't long before they have it basically memorized.
I don't say this to brag about my children the way parents are inclined to do (okay, maybe a little), but rather to say that we're well on our way to breeding the next generation of book lovers in our family. I wanted to provide a brief list of things that seem to be working so far to make our children into bookworms, so that you can instill a love of reading into yours, too!
While I wasn't one of those new parents that read to my firstborn in the womb, we did start reading to him as soon as he began to sit up. We read from the same two or three books every night, delighting in his obvious thrill at our animal noises and silly sounds.
With reading a part of our first baby's nightly routine, it's been easy to create a habit that has lasted his entire life so far, and now his three sisters (and in-the-womb brother) all enjoy story time before bed. We also “leveled up” with our oldest and started reading chapter books with him after his sisters are in bed. Nothing gives me a greater thrill than sharing my most favorite childhood stories with my son, and discovering new ones together, too!
Give Unrestricted Access to Books
We keep a multitude of books on a shelf just the right size for little hands. There are many benefits to this that I believe far outweigh the cons. First, kids internalize that books are a green-light item. They're allowed to read them, look at them, even play with them. It's easier to say no to grown-up books that we want to keep nice when they have several shelves of their own books that we can redirect them to. We select quality books and keep them rotating through the shelves so they always seem fresh and new (and so mom and dad can get a break from reading that one really long or annoying one, am I right?). We've utilized generous grandparents, thrift stores, and libraries to keep our collection exciting and refreshed. (Although, I'll admit that we rarely check out library books… the potential for damage and the cost of replacement is too high in my house with four sticky, chaotic, enthusiastic readers!)
I know you're tired after chasing them all day, running errands, and keeping them alive. But when your toddler runs up with their favorite book, or your older child stops you every other sentence to ask a question or make an observation, try your best to turn down the cranky dial and make it magical for them. We're imperfect people, but we can find ways to bring joy into reading. Maybe it's an extra ridiculous voice or face, maybe we add inflection and alter our tone, maybe we introduce our children to audiobooks, movies, or musicals based on the books we read. We read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my oldest last summer and he loved it, so when the local Jr. High announced their production of the musical, we bought tickets and made sure he got to go. My energetic six-year-old sat through the entire thing, riveted. He loved pointing out all the differences he noticed between the book and the show. I'm looking forward to sharing one of the film adaptations with him, too.
A very critical point to make here is that we never force reading on our kids. d. It's one reason we home school. A child can sometimes be forced into reading too soon because of school requirements. It’s one of the quickest ways to kill the joy of reading, making it something a child might not discover until adulthood, which is a tremendous shame. I think some of the danger is mitigated by reading in the home before school begins. Help your young reader find books about things they love to keep the spark lit, even if reading becomes hard for them. My son loves sharks and sciency things like tornadoes and weird fungus. A book like that will keep him occupied for DAYS. So does his now-tattered copy of Calvin and Hobbes comics. I try not to be too picky, as long as he's reading!
Monkey See, Monkey Do
If you don't read, why would your child? They are the world's best mimics, and if you never make time for any sort of reading beyond Facebook scrolling, I can assure you that most children won’t see that reading has any sort of value. Let them see you do it, and tell them about what you’ve read recently. In today’s age of technology you have no excuses. Audiobooks make “reading” during your commute or while doing dishes or laundry possible. Even many e-readers come with read-aloud options. Ebooks make reading on the train or in the car an option for some. Those that get carsick can slip a Kindle in our purse and read in the waiting room or in the school pickup line.
I love paperbacks and hardcovers, but let’s be real: kids trash them, they pick them up and walk off with them, they lose your spot no matter what sort of bookmark you use, and they can be plain inconvenient. My personal library is filled with my very favorite books in print format, but for reading in general I have grown to love my Kindle. Since I often read to my kids from it for home school, they know when I’m holding it that I’m reading.
If you are reading this article and you don’t love reading try reading something you’ve never tried reading before. Pick up a new genre, a new author, an audiobook, try it again. You might find something you didn’t expect to love and become a bookworm yourself.
Reading ought to be something your kid loves. I believe nothing will prepare a child more for success in the future than a deep love of reading. I look forward to seeing the light catch in my children's eyes and to help form their love of reading even more.
Are you raising bookworms? How have you taught your kids to love reading?
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.