Leveling Up: In Praise of Writer Dads

Image: iStockphoto - FunSand
Image: iStockphoto – FunSand


According to my kids I’m “funny a lot” and make them laugh. I’m a goofball. My wife says I’m excited because I have my perfect audience right now. I’m yucking it up for all I can get, because I know that shit’ll evaporate come twelve or thirteen. Hopefully by then they’ll like video games, or books, and we can continue bonding there.

Tobias Buckell
Tobias Buckell

New York Times bestseller Tobias Buckell is a Hugo-, Nebula-, Prometheus-, and John W. Campbell-nominated author.

His twins are four years old.

When I was their age I basically didn’t have a father. By the time my stepdad arrived, I was a thirteen-year-old pretty set in his ways, so I don’t really relate to anyone on that level.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

Buckell is the interview subject of Guy LeCharles Gonzalez in the debut of his new series of such profiles, “Writer Dads,” at VQRonline.org—Virginia Quarterly Review, the digital edition of which is directed by Jane Friedman, our great, good colleague and friend.

In the inaugural outing of the monthly series, Gonzalez introduces a new focus on a member of our community who has been overshadowed for a long time: the writer dad.

The writer dad.

“The writer who,” you ask?

We know the writer mom, of course, as a cherished icon in today’s authorial community and in publishing.

VQREven to say we “know” her is an understatement. We rightly revere her. We find her nourishing energy at every turn in writing today. Whole communities, major ones, revolve around the concept of the writer mom, this brave, inspiring soul who manages, somehow, to tackle the exhaustion of having and raising children, running a household, usually working outside the home as well, and writing.

Not for nothing, after all, are Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton, the creators of Writer Unboxed, itself, referred to as “Founders & Mamas.”

If anything, it’s not rare for the writer mom’s story to sound like this passage from Buckell in his interview:

When the twins were first born, as I write late at night, I just took on the late shift. My wife would go to bed at 10:30-ish, and I would be on. I’d write, and then wake the twins up with bottles, feed and change them, then put them back to bed every few hours until about six a.m. (at first they were on a strict feed-every-three-hour due to jaundice, and it became a regular schedule). Then I slept during the early part of the day. We teamed up for late afternoon and evening. We each got seven to eight hours of sleep.

I’m grateful to Gonzalez for spotlighting this subject so many are hesitant to touch, not with a 10-foot poll of how many among us think family men can have as viable and praiseworthy a challenge in writing as family women do. 

But we don’t hear or read such passages frequently by or about writer dads…who also know exhaustion, sacrifice, the wry laugh about “finding balance” in life, and the everyday heroics of struggling to keep a manuscript fed along with everyone else in the house.

It was such an apparent lapse, in fact, that prompted Gonzalez’ creation of this welcome, long-needed series, “Writer Dads.” In his introduction to it, Gonzalez writes:

Back in the spring, VQR published an interesting article by Becky Tuch, “The Choice and Challenge of Being a Writer-Parent,” that raised an interesting premise but wasn’t terribly representative, as few of the writers quoted directly were actually parents, and only one was a male writer, inadvertently reinforcing cultural stereotypes around writing as a career and the challenges of “life with babies.”

As a married father of two who has long struggled with finding the right balance that allows for enough time to write, I was disappointed by the absence of voices that resembled my own experience, and was inspired to do something about it. And so, “Writer Dads” was conceived as a series of interviews with professional writers who are also fathers, discussing how they balance the two, what the real challenges are, and how it affects both their writing and parenting.

I commend this series to you. I commend “Writer Dads”—and writer dads—to you.

I thank Tobias Buckell for his candor and generous humor about himself in this first installment.

Wouldn’t you think that for both business reasons and cultural enrichment, it would do us more good to work on getting more men into literature than to keep downplaying women’s clout in the field?

I’m grateful to Gonzalez for spotlighting this subject so many are hesitant to touch, not with a 10-foot poll of how many among us think family men can have as viable and praiseworthy a challenge in writing as family women do. Try putting writer dad into the search field on Twitter. Stand well back from your computer. The hits you get will stretch from here to China. Or from Beijing to us.

So why would so many intelligent people, including Tuch—who is with The Review Review and Beyond the Margins and teaches in Boston’s pivotal Grub Street program)—see women and not men as well, when they hear or read or write the phrase “writer-parent?”

How easily what is politically correct can outstrip what is simply true.

Tuch’s last line in the piece to which Gonzalez refers, reads:

Any conversation about balancing parenthood with writing ought to include the specific circumstances of writers’ lives.

Well, then, might not “the specific circumstances of writers’ lives” include male gender? Most parenthood, not all, is gender-balanced. Until we give more same-sex couples the chance they deserve to be parents, “balancing parenthood with writing” cannot be assumed to be a women’s issue. And yet, it usually is claimed as just that.

There are also powerful and remarkable writer dads here with us. To make them labor in a pink shadow is wrong. 

I am not a parent. I am one of those people who is more than happy with that. But Gonzalez is a dad. He and his wife wrangle two kids of their own, just as Buckell and his wife do.

Does the idea of one writer dad interviewing another writer dad—about being writer dads, precisely—make you think that you’re going to hear either overt or veiled diminution of writer moms? Do you assume that when the boys get together on this, it’s “let the dissing” begin, and the girls don’t have a chance?

Then  you need to read the whole Gonzalez-Buckell interview. These lines from Buckell may surprise you:

Women have a harder time of balancing this stuff. The expectations of society, the biological necessities of nursing, and so forth, plus the fact that women often end up doing more of the household and parenting stuff, means that it’s simply a matter of many women having less time. Many women writers who have kids don’t have the option of daycare, and the kids are around until kindergarten. If they’re doing the writing part time, it’s got to be tough. I can’t even imagine.

Have I given you a pause yet? You can answer silently, that’s just fine. No show of hands will be required. I prefer low-impact rumination when I need to rethink one of my own assumptions, too.

Not being the writer dad I so profoundly admire Gonzalez and Buckell for being, I’m casting about here for some little way I can help. I’m, at least, one of the boys. And a lot of us need to speak up, not only for all the writer parents of our industry, of course, but also for a more even-handed recognition of gender when we use that phrase “writer parent.”

It shows us to be at best over-compensatory—and at worst flatly bigoted—to suggest that a woman’s struggle to write amid family obligations will be automatically and in every case weightier than a man’s struggle.

These are both writer moms and writer dads.

It does us no good to prize one above the other. As we try to overcome the centuries of stupid, shameful oppression of women, it shows us to be at best over-compensatory—and at worst flatly bigoted—to suggest that a woman’s struggle to write amid family obligations will be automatically and in every case weightier than a man’s struggle.

Maybe from my own unique viewpoint  I can offer a couple of observations that are, as this column’s “Provocations in Publishing” branding seeks to remind you, controversial. They are nonetheless true.

(1) Any seeming exaltation of women’s challenges in literature over men’s actually helps perpetuate the imbalances we see in men’s and women’s participation. Keep saying “Oh, guys don’t read nearly as much as women,” and you’ll make it true, just as surely as you’ll make girls (and boys) think they have to be skinny if you keep showing them svelte models in fashion ads.

From (Nielsen) Bowker 2012  Demographics & Buying Behaviors Annual Review
From (Nielsen) Bowker 2013 Demographics & Buying Behaviors Annual Review

(2) Any denial of women’s market dominance in literature over men’s obfuscates what statistics invariably tell us. Bowker Research—now Nielsen—has reported in its 2013 Demographics & Buying Behaviors Annual Review that more women buy books than men; they buy more books (units) than men; and they spend more dollars on books than men. We know this, we see it, we report it.

So wouldn’t you think, then, that for both business reasons and cultural enrichment, it would do us more good to work on getting more men into literature than to keep downplaying women’s clout in the field?

Gonzalez always has ready the right hashtag for this: #cmonson.

Are you willing to tell me that Buckell doesn’t speak brilliantly for writing women as well as for writing men when he says this in his interview:

I don’t want to be the parent who always is away from the kids writing, I want them to know I can be there for them. On the other hand, at some point, they have to learn I’m not just a father-robot. I am a fellow human being. It’s okay to not completely dissolve into this role of parent, kids are smart enough to realize we will have our own hobbies and careers. So will they.

If you don’t agree with me (and it’s just fine if you don’t, my Writer Unboxed colleagues know this by now), your beef is strictly with me, not with these two good guys who are addressing the topic together at VQR.

Porter - Provocations in Publishing logo header WU
Porter-provocateur branding by Liam Walsh

But I hope these writer dads’ courageous pickup of this sensitive issue is something you’ll allow a little play in the quiet honesty of your thoughts. Roll it over in your mind.

There are supremely effective and eloquent writer moms among us, and we are so much richer for their battles to be productive, articulate members of our profession. We honor them, we thank them, and we love them.

And there are also powerful and remarkable writer dads here with us. To make them labor in a pink shadow is wrong.

If we allow the brilliant efforts of writing women to eclipse the important realities of writing men’s travails as if they’re somehow less praiseworthy, then we are in bad faith. We know this. We have only to say it to come clean, to move forward together, to be better people in literature.

The time has come for us to honor, thank, and admit that we love these guys, as well.

I have a theory that in each of our lives, we appreciate the writer dads we know personally just as much as the writer moms we know. But somehow, the “branding” on the wider scale tends to skew things. (“I really like that guy, it’s men I can’t stand.”) What do you think?


About Porter Anderson

@Porter_Anderson, BA, MA, MFA, is a journalist, speaker, and consultant specializing in publishing. Anderson is The Bookseller's Associate Editor for The FutureBook in London, a sister site focused on developments in digital publishing. He is also a featured writer with Thought Catalog in New York, writing on publishing and on #MusicForWriters in association with Q2 Music. In 2015, Anderson has programmed the IDPF Digital Book Conference that opened BookExpo America (BEA) and is programming the First Word event at the Novelists Inc. (NINC) conference later in the year. And he is working with the Frankfurt Book Fair on special programming for its new Business Club suite of events and facilities, now in its second year, 13-16 October, in the 2015 Buchmesse. More on his consultancy, which includes Library Journal's and BiblioBoard's SELF-e among its clients in 2015: PorterAndersonMedia.com | Google+


  1. says

    Wow. Great article. I’ve never considered my writing journey any more or less difficult than that of my female counterparts, but it does strike me that writer dads are rarely mentioned in any of the blogs or magazines that I read. Like most writers, I come home from my day job, work a side job that involves the “non-fun” writing, then settle in with my novel writing. I begin my day at 6am and end it around 9pm. And I know my female writing friends are just as busy. But none of us complains (often). I hope to show my kids that dreams are worth working hard for. It’s not something that goes away after your 18th birthday. As long as you’re chasing it, you’re still young and alive. We’ve sacrificed much, put the dream on hold to provide for our families, but it’s always there waiting for our return. I do hope my kids are proud that I’d even attempted this venture. But mostly I hope they understand that it’s never too late to begin the journey.

    • says

      Hey, Ron,

      What a wonderful comment to lead us off here. Thank you.

      Your kids are lucky, really, to see you working away at this excellent goal. (If they’re NOT proud of you, send them to me, I’ll straighten them out, lol.)

      Seriously, there’s another element of what you’re doing, and I was just getting at this with CG Blake in my note back to him below — it’s the public perception of men, and especially writer dads, in literature: The more we can help readers, male and female, see and understand the process of doing this from within the family context as you’re doing, the more we build the case for literature as the valuable, highly contributive element of society it is.

      I think what I’m saying is that you’re a role model not only for your own kids and their valuations of dream-pursuit but also for other writers and the publishing community at large IF we can help folks be aware of writer dads along with writer moms.

      You’ve said it very well, we just don’t see the dads’ side of this in much of the material out there about it. The trend for so long has been to blog about and raise awareness of the writer moms’ great work and challenging (to say the least) circumstances but with a lot fewer looks at the writer dads’ experiences.

      The more we can see both — and the more we can hear such grand comments as yours about the primacy of working for our dreams — the more our widest readership, men and women, get to understand and engage with the whole spectrum of work out there. And that’s the goal.

      Terrific perspective, thanks so much, and all the best with that schedule and good writing amid great family life!

  2. says

    I was just thinking the other day that in social media I know far fewer writer dads (and men) than I do moms (and women). I know a few “daddy bloggers,” but certainly not nearly as many as mommy bloggers. And I wish I were friends with more of the dad writers, I really do. I’m all for diversity and different voices and POVs.

    But if you’re saying that women have an edge over men in literature in general, I would hesitate to make this into a generalized gender issue about writing and especially to say that women are no longer challenged in literature. According to VIDA (Women in Literary Arts: vidaweb.org) men far outweigh women in rates of publication (at least for short stories in important literary magazines) and rates of review in important publications. The New Republic, Francine Prose, and Meg Wolitzer have also written about this.

    It kind of makes me wonder if men are just less open IRL and on social media about being writers… dads or otherwise? Nonetheless, I completely agree that every writer — every person — should be appreciated for their individual contribution and voice to literature and to life. And so I’ll be the first to admit I love the guys as well.

    • says

      Hi, Julia!

      Thanks so much for the wise comment.

      To your point about VIDA’s work and apparent revelations, no, not at all — I don’t think that women have an edge, and I think VIDA shows us an area of public representation of literature that desperately needs work, its media coverage (since VIDA is especially and rightly is interested in how writers are covered by the media). As a news guy, I share a concern about the annual survey that has to do with how the publishers represent their authors’ work to the media outlets, but that’s is a question of methodology in publishing houses, newsrooms, and the research behind the VIDA report and its interpretation each year, not a suggestion that women don’t need more coverage and BY more women in the positions doing that coverage. I appreciate what VIDA does.

      A agree, I wish I knew more writer dads.

      I also agree that guys tend to approach their writing differently in public. My first inkling of this whole issue turned up as I started working in conferences almost four years ago, and found that so many men were reticent to go to writing conferences because they generally hold their process and progress much more privately than women do. The idea of “sharing” what they’re working on and exposing any indequacies in their way of working is vastly less appealing to many men than women, I’ve found. (I don’t actually talking about my process, so I should include myself in this.)

      I’m glad to say that I’m seeing many more men at a lot of writing conferences today. I think the holdouts may be softening.

      And that, too, could start to give us and the readership more insight into our writer dads and their perspectives on things.

      Thanks again, Julia, always glad you’re here!

  3. says

    Thanks for writing about this issue. I agree with Julia’s comments. As a writer dad, I find the biggest challenge is to maintain a healthy balance among work, family, and writing. Note I put writing third on the list, though it occupies an important position and is a big part of who I am. I don’t find comparing which gender has it worse to be a very productive discussion. Rather, women and men with children face similar challenges to varying degrees and we should be supportive of one another, and the WU community is a shining example of the mutual respect we share. Porter, thanks for another thoughtful essay.

    • says

      Hey, CG (long time no see, LOL),

      I totally like what you’re saying here about where the priorities lie. It’s so easy, I’m sure, for good family people to keep it all in the right order. Seriously my hat is off to you writer dads and moms, it’s truly one of the Herculean (may I say HERculean for the moms?) feats of a modern life to be able to function as a professional writer while enjoying and engaging in a full family life.

      (In other words, Cooper the Literary Beagle is lucky he got his bath last night and his trip to the vet for his checkup this morning … if I had kids, I fear they’d be dining on Science Diet with the beagle, lol.)

      I hope it comes across clearly how much I agree with you that it’s the comparisons of “who has it worse” that get us into trouble on the gender question. It’s so unproductive and when it’s connected to issues of women in publishing, there can be some really understandable background there, even though to overweight moms vs. dads just gets us nowhere.

      I’m looking forward to seeing men become more engaged in literature both as readers and as writers. And the more we can help readers see good, strong male writers at work in the hearts of fine families, the more I think we can get both elements of male participation up — and I’m all too ready to point them toward the amazing women writers we have today, many of whom are not yet discovered by male readers.

      Good for everyone, in other words, I think if we can just work to even up this perception some.

      Cheers, CG, and thanks, as ever for such a cogent and on-point bit of commentary, it’s always good when you’re with us.

  4. says

    Great article, and good for all three of you to bring this issue into the wider discussion. In our house, both mom and dad are writers. Both mom and dad also have full time jobs. Both of us do the chores, though both of us are a little sporadic at it. But so far it works. I protect his writing time, he protects mine, and our son is not neglected. I think most marriages in my generation are far more equitable than in our parents’ generation. And frankly, I tire of the media constant patting of moms on the back for all they do (which is really just us patting ourselves on the back). We can all, moms and dads, be awesome without being martyrs and fishing for praise. There is dignity and honor in doing your work and your art well and allowing others to notice on their own. We don’t have to be constantly pointing it out to people. I’m always so much more impressed with a person who doesn’t show “how the sausage is made” in their lives and then you find out later (often at that person’s funeral) how much they overcame in order to love and serve their fellow man.

    • says

      Hey, Erin,

      This is a particularly gracious and self-giving comment, I really appreciate it.

      I couldn’t agree more that many marriages I see in younger people are SO much more equitable than past generations’. My own parents –while so much in love that I used to say they needed a good fight, lol — nevertheless “performed,” if you will, a remarkable round of socially dictated roles, right on cue and with huge disparities what could be expected by Daddy and what could be expected by “Mrs. L.P. Anderson,” as she was known (by his name).

      Your unfair pat on the back comment is wonderful. Check out Tobias Buckell’s supplemental piece he’s run — thanks to Guy Gonzalez for including it in a comment (http://bit.ly/1gRMqIV) — and you’ll see Buckell saying that HE feels bad when he gets pats on the back for being out with his kids when he takes the twins out in public. And, of course, his wife gets no such applause for doing the same thing. Dads get extra points for being involved with the kids. And you and Buckell are both very generous to bring these contrasting perspectives into the mix.

      Thanks again, really good to have your input. Here’s to people who don’t tell us how the sausages are made. :)

  5. says

    Fantastic article, Porter. I read loads of blogs and other media and I’ve noticed this lack of male voice, of male longing and sacrifice and sorrow. Perhaps it’s because women are more verbose about their struggles? One might call that an anthropological fact, measured and remeasured and proven over time. But maybe it’s because of what you said–society is overcompensating for centuries of downplaying the talents and hardships a woman faces. Perhaps it’s both.

    I, for one, love this idea of honoring both sexes, of men speaking out about the challenges they face as writers and parents, as human beings. It’s as engaging and stirring to me as a woman’s life. Maybe because there is a sense of camaraderie that naturally arises in this profession, or maybe because life is like good fiction–the more varied, honest voices there are, the richer we all are for it.

    • says

      Hey, thanks, Heather!

      Such a great comment. I love your point that “the more varied, honest voices there are, the richer we all are for it.”

      That’s exactly it, well said, and I’m so glad to read that you find the struggles writer dads face to be stirring and engaging, too, as are the trials women face.

      Check Don Maass’ great comment below — from his POV as both a writer dad and an agent dad (with both writer dads and writer moms as clients). He talks about the terrible pressure to succeed that men can feel because our social concepts of “manhood” are all about getting it done, acing it, winning, slam dunk. I think there can be a lot of fear going on for a guy writing when he’s made what Don calls “the Deal” with his wife to get his writing done.

      Such a multi-layered topic, thanks so much for jumping in!

  6. says

    As one who delayed her writing career until after the kids where grown and on their own, I can only stand in awe of anyone, male or female, who is able to work a full time job and then come home and find the energy to be creative. My hat is off to you, whether you are writer moms or writer dads!

    That said, I would like to address the perception of a girls’ club mentality when it comes to praising writer parents. Julia touched on the issue in her response above. I can only speak from my own experience, but I have not observed women overtly trying to be gender exclusive when writing about the trials of being a writer parent. In writing about their own experiences, they simply aren’t thinking about the guys.

    Instead of an attempt at exclusivity on the part of women, what I believe we are seeing is a group that got tired on banging on the door of the boys’ club begging to be let in and simply said to heck with it. Women writers turned to their own gender for their audience and it has paid off handsomely. I don’t feel that we women are trying to exclude you guys in any way. In my writers’ groups, which are dominated by women, we shout for joy when a guy joins. We value the input of both genders because it enriches all writing.

    The young men you have written about in your post deserve as much credit as writer moms for doing what is so difficult – finding balance and time to write. I find it interesting, however, that the column in the prestigious Virginia Quarterly Review is devoted exclusively to men’s experiences rather than those of writer parents of both genders.

    Provocative as ever, Porter! Keep up the good work!

    Linda Bennett Pennell
    Author of Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel (2013) and Confederado do Norte (2014)

    • says

      This is very perceptive, Linda, thanks for it.

      Do check the great comment left for us by Guy Gonzalez, who has started the Writer Dads series at VQR. He’s graciously softening a couple of the harder edges I brought to the material with my own interest and interpretation, just a touch, and that’s to be respected. (Guy is a great guy, he and I go back a few years and his sense of fairplay is journalistic-grade stuff.)

      I think your description of women’s response to being rejected by the boys’ club is really good, it has the ring of logic and truth. The image of exclusivity, I’m sure, is at least as frequently applied from the outside as generated from the inside.

      VQR’s use of the Gonzalez series isn’t quite as unusual as it seems. The Web site in particular is great about using firmly explicated opinion and essay to lay out one point or another, then later material may come in that refutes or otherwise differs with the original work. As a journal, in other words, the currency is opinion rather than fact and point-by-point balance, as you’d see in a purely journalistic setting.

      I’m with you, my hat’s off to the writer moms and writer dads. What a hurdle that represents for anyone.

      Thanks again, Linda, great to have you with us.

  7. says


    As a writer dad, I relate.

    I wouldn’t say writers moms or dads have it tougher. Both must juggle, sacrifice and find a balance. What separates the two groups, I think, are that their stresses have different roots and expressions.

    I am also an agent dad, so I’ve had a chance to see writer parent conflicts play out in the lives and on the pages of many writer dads. Writer moms feel conflict over family obligations. Rarely do I hear writer moms mention writing income as a primary, all-consuming concern.

    Writer dads are different. For them, writing sooner or later becomes about money. I don’t mean simply that getting income from one’s writing would be handy. It’s not just about being a provider. For writer dads, producing income from writing equates with the male identity itself. Failure to sell means failure as a man.

    You see this clearly when married couples make “The Deal.” The deal goes like this: “I’ll support you while you get going as a writer, my reward will come later.” When a husband is supporting a wife, time never enters into it. Imaginary deadlines aren’t mentioned. There are no five year plans. The urgency for validation that writer wives feel usually is expressed in terms of obtaining personal fulfillment.

    Writer husbands, on the other hand, will a few years after making “The Deal” get crazy. Artificial deadlines loom. Returning to the dreaded day job is unthinkable. The pressure to man up, meaning bring home the bacon, is intense. Pressure to “finish”, submit and be successful force manuscripts out into the world (and sometimes, unfortunately, into the hands of the reading public) too soon.

    Writer wives equate writing with connection, community and personal expression. Writer husbands equate writing with manhood. Those are generalizations, of course, so there’s no need to nail me on them.

    The nice thing about being a writer dad is that I’m a dad. Parenting my adopted son has made me measure myself and become a better human being. People tell me I’ve mellowed and grown more wise. That’s nice. For one thing it means I could become a better writer, too.

    • says

      Man, Don,

      Next time I get anywhere near this topic, I’m coming to you to see if you want to co-write.

      These are some really good motivational insights, masterful in the precision your perch gives you on this topic.

      Your dual agent+writer dad status means you’re seeing, with the command of an invested interest, both your writer mom and writer dad clients and associates over time and with a super level of closeness to the very issues this involves, as agent, as dad, as writer, as husband. Most of us will see a writer mom or dad in a larger context than you can. We know them from the soccer team or from the book club or from the office or whatever. “Writing a book!” yeah, we know that, but only as feature of the aggregate public persona. Few of us get to see into their experience of the writing — and who they are in it — as you do as an agent (and fellow writer). I envy this perspective.

      The manhood issue for writer dads is something I’m glad you’ve brought into the conversation, thank you.

      I don’t know if you’re familiar with the work that Michael Kimmel and Todd Reeser and others have done in the masculinities field, but they would immediately sketch out the variations on the manhood pressure we can expect to see gather around the topic.

      The community and connection and personal fulfillment/expression that many women find in writing, I’m sure, can be similarly parsed, and as soon as you put these observations into this context, I think of my friends who are writer wives and writers moms and yeah, there they are, experiencing it just as you’re saying. The connection, community, “fellowship” (to grab a term with a male connotation but the right implication), is something I wish I could feel more of in my own work. I’m thinking of female memoirists I know, and what’s driving them and how they play it out.

      When you speak of those values for many writer wives — community, expression/fulfillment, connection — I think you’re describing one reason we see fewer men at writing conferences than women. The impulse for men seems rarely as much about sharing and exchanging and exposing their work and process. Women seem inevitably, admirably better suited to that social context for their work. Hence one reason for the female-male ratio. (At one conference I covered on the West Coast, all but one hotel lobby men’s room were made ladies’ rooms because the conference was almost 90% women.) I’ve seen less extreme ratios since then — and we need to see more men take advantage of these events.

      When I’ve done my informal polls on this (people send me updates on male-female ratios at conferences I can’t get to, as well), men have been very candid about saying that if they go to a conference at all, it’s much like when they go to a store: they have a list. They want to accomplish A, B, C and D. They aren’t there, as many women writers may be, to network, bond, and share the ride, and men seem less happy with sessions or programs that pressure them to reveal their work. We don’t need to place evaluative reactions on these points, of course. But understanding what some writers may be seeking as opposed to what other writers may want is healthy and gives us a better picture of how the creative impulse lands in social and educational (conference) settings.

      I think this has to do, to some extent, with the male vs. female readership, too.

      Bethanne Patrick and I enjoy going back and forth on this. I once followed up on her assertion (I should say, her repetition of a common assertion) that men won’t read fiction. Well, of course that’s not true (any more than an assertion that women won’t read nonfiction). If this were true, our Nevil Shute and James Salter and that Hemingway guy and so many others wouldn’t have sold much — and have you read Le Carre’s new thing, Delicate Truth? No man alive wouldn’t enjoy that fiction. Same for Jason Matthews’ Red Sparrow. Same for everything Barbara Kingsolver has written. We have powerful, new fiction being written every day (both by men and women) that’s instantly accessible to men (wait until Andy Weir’s The Martian comes out) and when you look around on the plane, the guys are reading it, they’re not stuck on nonfiction. But as Bethanne and I have agreed, the fact that she could pose the idea — “guys never read fiction” — says so much about how eagerly we clutch these tropes. I think the memes are creating the problem of imbalanced readership, not describing it.

      Well, now I’ve written another whole post. It’s your fault, Don. LOL. “The Deal.” Exactly. If you were a writer dad with The Deal, facing that countdown to when you needed to start showing proof in the pudding, would it become easier or harder to have a child show up? Greater or lesser pressure? Does parenthood increase or decrease (or something else) the sound of the ticking clock? Congrats on these insights — and on fatherhood.


    • says

      Although I truly admire writers who are also parents, I am not one. This is a tough enough gig no matter the distraction, but caring for the needs and wellbeing of beloved offspring has to rank right up there among the most distracting of possible distractions.

      So even though I found the post and comments really interesting, I wasn’t sure I had anything of substance to add. But the thing since I read it, I’ve been thinking about “The Deal,” as Don names it, and how lucky I am. I can totally relate to the self-imposed deadlines and the threatened manhood Don refers to.

      I’ve been at this quite a while (well over five years, but that was a number I originally imagined to be fitting as well). And all the while, I’ve devoted more time to writing and less to my other gig (carpentry). All the while, with my wife’s encouragement and support. And it’s not your everyday, garden-variety support. For example, I recently had a choice between taking on a major remodeling job or devoting myself to a major rewrite. I was feeling compelled toward the remodel gig, handle the revisions on weekends and afterward, but my wife was adamant that I turn it down and focus on the rewrite. I know how lucky I am.

      And yet, there is a lingering unease about it all. My wife routinely reminds me of my contributions to the smooth operations of our household (yep, I’m a house-husband, and fine with it!). But there is a lingering sense of failure in not contributing in a financial way. I’m not sure if it’s more pronounced for men, but I’m guessing it is.

      Anyway, great fodder for thought and conversation, Porter and Don!

      • says

        That’s it, exactly, Vaughn.

        I’d say you’re right on the money in terms of what Don is talking about.

        That “lingering unease.” Exactly. You really do, clearly, have the best wife in all Christendom, lol, but I’m sure that even her generosity and support at times can ratchet up the pressure to bust through and turn a major penny on the writing.

        More pronounced for men. I feel sure it is. And that’s without any disrespect for the rising position of women as earners in so many households. Pretty much the opposite: I’d say that the more success women have outside the home as breadwinners alongside their husbands, the more that undercurrent of manhood-expectation is going to natter away inside the male mind, must keep up, mustn’t look unable to earn, must show a gain.

        Over the centuries and millennia of the stupid and shameful oppression of women by men, the male uber-mind had to teach itself many things to create an assumption of rightness. “We are the earners” was certainly one. And each of those supposedly ameliorating demands men placed on themselves created potentially crippling “tapes” that run all by themselves all the time in the modern male head. (“Men are ugly, women are beautiful” was, of course, the classic — if men were to hold the power, they’d “let” women hold beauty in exchange.)

        So yes, I can really understand how you can find yourself wondering at times where this gig places you in relationship to such auto-drives as we all carry around with us.

        These aren’t easy questions or circumstances and, as we see Don doing, placing them where we can look at them without trying to force answers or “solutions” (as pop society loves) is important. We don’t have answers to this or we’d deploy them. The position of a creative male whose work isn’t generating income simply carries special baggage into the room for which we don’t have the right storage space yet. It’s going to take time.

        As your relationship with your wife surely shows, however, the best thing men under such pressure can do is to continue to work toward a full and equal empowerment of both genders so that, at the very least, the setting in which these quandaries are discovered is as stable, healthy, and transparent as possible.

        That, I think, means getting our act in gear and being sure we get writer dads into the mix when we talk writer moms, men into the mix when we talk readers, boys into the mix when we talk literary education.

        And it’s great to have these conversations via WU in which people jump in with a clear commitment to serious, sensible debate.

        Thanks again for the help over on the Facebook side, too.


    • says

      Even though I’ve recently been dubbed the (liver-pecking) eagle to Don’s fire-carrying Prometheus, I’ll accede to his desire not to be nailed on generalizations, except to say that in my long experience of working with both men and women who have made “The Deal,” I’ve seen equal displays of grace OR fear/impatience in spouses of both genders. And equal proclivities for creating crazy-making and arbitrary deadlines on the part of writers of both genders.

      I think we would both agree, generally, that “The Deal” is often a disaster on a lot of levels, and should only be entered into in the most clear-eyed way, with a whole lot of money in the bank and maybe a very strong and concrete likelihood of success on the immediate horizon to help keep all parties from losing their minds.

      As a non-parent writer, I’m with Porter (and others) in being in complete awe of the emotional and practical juggling necessary to be both a writer and a parent (not to mention a good spouse or friend or son/daughter or citizen of the world). It’s a whole lot for anyone to undertake.

      And as others have said, I don’t think the paucity of male voices in this realm comes from a desire on the part of women to exclude them from the conversation, though I do think there are slightly different conversations to be had. Or I at least question whether that’s the case.

      As a tangential example, I’ll point to a friend of mine, recently divorced, who for professional and other reasons lives apart from her children–in a totally different state–several days a week. And has to explain ALL THE TIME why that’s the case, constantly, it seems, having to justify that decision to others. Yet I could point to dozens of men who live away from their children and see them maybe once every few months without feeling like they have to jump through hoops to prove they’re decent fathers.

      I bring up this example to add to the point Don and others have made about male vs. female identity, how the expectation is that men value themselves via their work (and are perhaps valued that way as well) and women through their relationship to family and community, which puts the conversations writing moms and writing dads might have into different spheres.

      Yet, it all seems so limited and monolithic, so I’m glad for the topic to be broadened on behalf of all parties. I would LOVE to hear more from dads (or even non-dads) who struggle with managing their social and familial obligations and finding time for their art/writing work as well.

      And I’d love to hear more voices of women who have chosen art/work over family/community and feel perfectly justified in doing so. The more conversations we have, the more nuanced our understanding becomes and the less likely we are to have limited binary views of anything.

      Broadening that to writing workshops, I wonder if some of the reason men are under-represented in the conference arena has not only to do with men having different agendas in attending such conferences but also some sense of pride/shame in asking for help?

      The same mechanism that we like to joke about when we insist men will never ask stop and ask for directions–could that be in place when it comes to writing conferences? And could that same reluctance to expose vulnerability keep some writer dads out of the big conversations?

      What’s interesting is that as an editor, my clientele is pretty evenly split. So, men are definitely okay with seeking help privately, and maybe they feel more justified in spending money there in a process that they can see might provide direct leverage to their success, where the benefits of a conference might be more nebulous to them?

      I guess that’s a bunch of different questions/arenas, but at the end of the day, I’m happy to hear from ALL voices and believe there’s a definite benefit to inviting ALL experiences to the table.

      • says

        Hi, Lorin,

        Thanks for the input here. (We all respond to Vaughn, actually, he’s clearly the Community Dad around here, lol.)

        Of many good points you’re making, one that interests me in particular is the concept of (some) men preferring to seek help and guidance more privately than (some) women. I think this is a very valid point, particularly as it relates to conferences. This is part of what’s behind the high women-to-men turnout ratios at so many conferences, as I was saying in my note to Don. I did a small piece years ago about this for Susan Cushman’s blog, and this appeared to be part of what makes the confabs less a draw for (some) men than for (some) women.

        One of the main reasons I keep harping on all this (some folks have heard me banging on about the ratio of female to male participation in the community overall, etc., for years) is that I think this reflects trends in the readership, as well.

        I actually think that men read a lot more than we know or that our best surveys are registering. I think they buy more books than we’re tracking (because they don’t tell survey takers how much they actually buy and read).

        When you raise men and boys against a general background of “men don’t read, women do,” and “reading is for girls, sports are for boys” … and then when the marketplace is so heavily slanted toward romance (“Shirtless Men Kissing Beautiful Women,” as I call this, lol, based on so many covers), even though our stats show that mystery, not romance, is the biggest-selling genre field…and when you set up (some) conference events so that they overwhelmingly favor women’s issues over men’s (I’m talking specifically about AWP’s annual programming, and I wrote about this in “That ‘W’ in AWP” in Writing on the Ether — 23 sessions on women’s issues, one session on men’s issues) … well, you get the picture. It may not look cool to a lot of guys to talk about reading and writing.

        I’m the first to say that much of the perceived imbalances here come from the fact that women HAVE stepped forward and taken on roles and issues in the books community while men have hung back. In fact, in my piece on AWP’s annual ratio of women’s-issue sessions to men’s-issue sessions, I make the point that I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with 23 sessions on women’s issues. I say let’s keep every one of them. What I want to know is how to get more sessions going for men, too — men reading, men writing, men stepping forward as a larger presence in literature.

        The best thing to happen to men’s reading, by the way, is the electronic reader. Because you don’t have to show others what you’re reading. No Shirtless Men Kissing Beautiful Women covers to flash around on the plane, if that’s what you want to read. You can tell your buddies it’s those PDFs from the office. They don’t have to know you’re reading John Le Carre or Dave Eggers or David Gerrold. e-Readers are another reason I think men are reading more than we know. Because we don’t see them do it.

        Clearly, we need and want to respect (some) women’s enjoyment in sharing their reading and being more openly available to working on their writing together. Believe me, there are many times when that’s pretty easy for men in the business to envy.

        Just as clearly, we need and want to respect (some) men’s general tendency to prefer to read and write more privately, regardless of whether this involves a point of pride in not asking publicly for help, as you suggest. There’s not a thing wrong with that.

        And when it comes to writer dads, this is where something like Guy Gonzalez’ new series can be such a boon. It can help other men see this going on, usually out of sight, in family settings under difficult circumstances (check out Paul Anthony Shortt’s comment below) — not to get guys to be more social about it but simply to let them know they’re not alone, they’re not crazy, they’re not off on some weird, unmanly trail. This doesn’t take a thing away from women, as I think most of our Writer Unboxed respondents understand really well.

        I remember saying to Bethanne Patrick once that if she knew a guy who should read a given book but didn’t think he’d do it (because it was fiction, not nonfiction), just hand it to him, tell him he might like it, and leave. Works like a charm. And I think the writing does, too. Guys like to get what they need (guidance, training, feedback, etc.) and go back to their dens and studies and basements and attics and work on it. Because, as Don says, the goal for them likely isn’t the same connection/self-expression goal that some women enjoy, it’s often rooted in questions of identity and manhood.

        The better we get at openly recognizing and validating all these approaches, the more readily everybody can find their way to books.

        Thanks again,

  8. says

    I’m a double writer dad. I am both a aspiring novelist and a food blogger. I write my own blog about grilling (www.GrillinFools.com), blog for both Sears and Char-Broil in my spare time between a full time gig, three young boys (5, 3 and 6 months), a wife, a home and on and on.

    Since the new baby has been born, my writing in general has gone down the tubes. I did a little editing the last two nights from about 10:30-11:30. That was the most I’d worked on any writing in a few weeks. Add in the fact that the holidays are coming up and I doubt I will get much if anything done on either writing front.

    This post hits home. The writer dad or blogger dad is very much in the minority in terms of acknowledgement, but we are out there. Now I have to go, the baby is screaming and really needs a bottle and a nap. I’m just not sure of the order…

    …….Scott Thomas

    • says

      Hey, Scott, thanks for the good input!

      A double writer dad, indeed, and three boys for you and your wife to handle. I’m in awe, honestly, just in awe. I have one beagle and can barely keep up with his needs, lol.

      The multiplicity of what you’re handling — even the two blogs on grilling atop the book work — just boggling. Next time the baby is screaming, I’d say the right order is (1) a drink for YOU, then (2) the bottle and nap for him. :)

      All the best with it and thanks for somehow finding the time to read this post and comment.

      Let me guess…something is now burning on the grill because I distracted you with this, right? :)

      Double writer dad. Did I mention that I’m in awe?

  9. says

    Gender differences. I see my husband’s identity more wrapped up in his work than mine. For years I was a scientist. I quit working to stay at home with my children and became a writer mom. The transition was hard, but hey, I had sweet-smelling babies to nibble on. Believe me, I have it easy compared to the father who must support his family AND carve out time to write, even if he has a helpful and supportive wife. I couldn’t do what many fathers do, let alone writer dads. My hats off to them!

    • says

      Vijaya, what a generous, thoughtful comment.

      You’re echoing in your own experience something that Donald Maass has really gotten into extremely well here in his comment (a few above this one) — Don is pointing out that as an agent he seems how tied up many writer dads’ need for success as writers is in their sense of manhood (specifically financial return).

      The societal pressures here tell men that they must be successes and that the money must come in to prove that success. And, as Don tells us, he sees these guys start getting very crazy after a certain number of years without that success showing up…”failure” in terms of what they’re trying to achieve can involve for them a profound element of who and what they think they are in the world.

      So when you say that you can see your husband’s identity “more wrapped up in his work than mine,” you’re really hitting it right on the head. This is a major consideration here for guys AND for women who write, especially in the family setting.

      Super of you to see this so clearly in your own experience and household as a writer mom.

      All the best with your work and the family. Our hats are off to YOU!

  10. says


    Thanks for the thoughtful and provocative post about the interview and series overall.

    I should clarify that Tuch’s original article inspired me due to its under-representation of writers who were parents, not just dads, and my desire to put the spotlight on dads isn’t in any way meant to be a commentary on the attention writer moms get: “…few of the writers quoted directly were actually parents, and only one was a male writer, inadvertently reinforcing cultural stereotypes around writing as a career and the challenges of ‘life with babies.'”

    Tuch herself mentioned that she purposefully sought out non-parents in response to the P&W article that inspired her to write about the topic, and that she had trouble finding men to interview for her article, and it was that latter point that really triggered my decision to do it myself.

    Interestingly, Buckell seems to have anticipated the Rorschach test our interview is becoming and posted his own clarification the day it was published: “Talking about being a writer who is a dad is a little awkward for me, because obviously society does toss more cookies your way for doing the same job as a writer who is a mom.” (http://bit.ly/1gRMqIV)

    For me, the series is simply about spotlighting writers who are dads as a[n arguably selfish!] vehicle for the kind of insights and inspiration that are generally missing from the discussion, a point Tuch and I actually agree on.

    Thanks again, and thanks to the others here who have left equally thoughtful comments. Hope to see you all at VQR for next month’s interview! :-)

    • says

      Hey, Guy,

      All points appreciated, and thanks for commenting, as well as for opening this good series at VQR.

      I don’t think your intent has been unclear. (And this is why I took care to quote your intro, as you do again in your comment.)

      I have to say, I find it interesting that Tuch said she had trouble finding men to interview for her article. Are you having trouble finding men to interview for your series?

      Your line — “the kind of insights and inspiration that are generally missing from the discussion, a point Tuch and I actually agree on” — is probably where (if at all) my interests and yours take on different shadings. I get and like, obviously, your interest in getting some of the writer dad insights ad inspirations we can all use into the discussion. Then I go on to wonder why those insights and inspirations are “generally missing.”

      Don Maass has some great points in his comment above about the connection of perceived manhood relative to the experience for many writer dads (and, most specifically, relative to what may be seen as “success” in the role). I think this is a telling component of the issue and it’s the sort of thing I’d like to see surface, where natural, in the work you’ll be doing on the series. Observations of these kinds indicate that the “insights and inspirations” you’re seeking may be generated from deeply seated contexts of personality and self-regard.

      And, as you point out, this in no way says that there is a “wrong” here at all, not by comparison to the insights and inspirations of writer moms, nor in any sense of parent writer motivation.

      It can be very easy to ascribe perjorative content in these areas, can’t it? Observation, evaluation, appreciation of writer moms need not mean a criticism of men who write. Nor should we shy away from hearing writer dads’ input because of some loose assumption that a focus on their purview for a time is an implied criticism of women who write. It’s not. It’s a matter, as you say, of getting to some views often missing from the discussion.

      “Defensiveness” is a far tougher concept on the sociological scale than on the personal. But I think we need fear no initial “defensiveness” when we talk about writer dads and writer moms for the values they bring us. Someone who sees an automatic offense to one or the other gender is reading in a bias that can only put a damper on the exchange and limit what we can learn from it.

      And I find a really healthy chorus of good opinion here in our WU comments that both men’s and women’s experiences as parent writers are important, valid, and interesting, neither one outweighing the other.

      Which means, you have a good audience here, and far beyond, I’m sure, for your series. Congratulations on that and on a good start.

  11. says

    Porter –

    I’m way behind on everything right now, as you know, but this popped up and I find I have a comment to make. ;)

    I think age, culture and gender roles play a huge part in this discussion. I, too, remember women in my mother’s generation identifying as “Mrs.” rather than their own name. Used to drive me nuts, actually.

    If I may go out on a limb here, I think writer dads identify more with “writer” and writer moms identify more with “mom”, at least in an obvious, public way. Women seem to struggle more with being taken seriously. We (I am one, after all) tend to incorporate our private lives into our writing more than our male counterparts; we reveal more of ourselves and are more willing to share our shortcomings (as writers and moms). Again, gender roles, because I think – assumption again – that men are more reluctant to reveal themselves. That’s why you see more men at tech conferences than writing conferences: the writing is “them”, the algorithms are…algorithms. More objective, less personal.

    My best friend has written 40-something books (romances and medical thrillers) over 25+ years. Her children were little when she started, and she began by writing overnight, when everyone was asleep, while working full-time as an ER nurse. She quit that when the writing income caught up. But she still writes overnight.

    I’ve worked from home for as long as she’s been writing, the last four on my own writing journey. My family has the luxury of not “needing” a full-time income from me. But everyone’s situation is different. One only needs to look at JK Rowling’s ability to write Harry Potter as a single mom.

    As far as writer dads, I do know a few, but only William Lucas Walker identifies as such. His columns in Huff Post are unique, not just because he’s gay, but because he’s willing to reveal the sometimes hysterical cluelessness that moms and dads alike can identify with.

    I’ll tell you, though, what is an interesting dynamic in being the writer in a marriage: it’s not a career that is easily shared. It’s not like me playing “corporate wife” (which I do as little as possible). They can’t do the writing for you. They may or not be good sounding boards. Sort of like when I was young and stupid and dating actors: I could run lines with them and carefully critique their performances, but I couldn’t get on stage with them (and when I did, it wasn’t good, lol).

    Writing is solitary, but it doesn’t have to be isolating. That’s why writer mom groups are so successful: they bring women together (online and IRL) who share similar challenges. Would writer dad groups be as successful? I have no idea, Porter. What do you think?


    • says


      I WAS the actor people dated when they were young and stupid.

      Youth and stupidity still hold (the same) special place in my heart.

      These are great comments. I really like your formulation of a writer mom being more about “mom” and a writer “dad” being more about “writer.” — a perfect way to echo what Don Maass is saying about how men’s concepts of manhood and successful masculinities become tied up in their performance as writers. (His comment is almost chilling in the accuracy of what I’ve seen men going through in this, too.)

      You really get into a fascinating area when you start talking about writing being a hard vocation to share in a marriage. No shit. I can see this so well. In fact, now that you say it, I don’t believe I’ve ever trusted a single writer who has told me that his or her spouse was “my best critic” or “my most valuable reader.” This may be awfully unfair of me, but I can’t see it. Even the most professional couple simply cannot, surely, escape some emotional component in how they see each other’s work. (And if they don’t, then something may be wrong with the marriage, lol.) I’ve wondered a lot about how two successful writers can handle marriage, too. My guess is that they DON’T share the writing. But I’m only guessing. And always, the public message is that they DO share it. Reading the latest pages at the kitchen table while the other one does the dishes…I’m so sure.

      But, hey, what do I know? I read my stuff to my godbeagle and take his silence as a sign of its brilliance. According to him, my stuff is great. :)

      Yes, I think men not only can find groups supportive but do. I was telling Natalie about Bowker-now-Nielsen’s surprising finding last year that men talk about what they’re reading online (to each other) more than women do. Remarkable. Guys are chatting and forum-ing and whatnot about books. My guess is that there are some writer dad groups going, too, but that their “way in” is the dad part, not the writer. Within that experience, some of the writing might become fair game for discussion. On the whole, however, I think men remain (and likely will remain — this is not something that needs fixing) less big on sharing their writing (especially problems with their writing) than women are. Men like to look good doing things. Sausage-making isn’t what you do in the front window, if you’re a guy.

      And yes, “Mrs.” and — even worse, to my mind — the man’s full name. I’m Porter Anderson III. Daddy was Porter Anderson Jr. So my mother — Jean Madeline Campbell — was known in South Carolina as Mrs. Porter Anderson Jr. When they went somewhere as a couple, they were introduced as “Rev. and Mrs. Porter Anderson Jr.”

      Remarkable times, those were. Thank God they’re behind us.

  12. says

    Your article was great, and as is so often the case here, the comments have taken the conversation deeper yet. I love this community.

    It’s made me think about one of my favorite unexpected things I love about Facebook: the window I get into the lives of some new dads. There are a couple of new dads in my feed and to watch them revel in their kids, in the confusion and joys of parenting, the struggle, the fun is wonderful to me — because it’s so rarely seen. They’d been having those moments aplenty, but the rest of us didn’t know about them, but because of a minor share, a little update, a silly photo, we are let into this process. And it’s beautiful.

    I’d love to be more let into the process of writers who are dads, to see how the different pressures on them affect their parenting and their writing. Donald Maass’s piece is so personal yet so insightful about culture. Hopefully the WU twitter monkeys will let us know when there are new posts in Gonzalez’s series. And I have to give a shout-out to a friend who is a writer and a young dad and writes about it on his blog, in a category called “First Draft Father.” Here’s a recent one: http://inamirrordimly.com/2013/08/22/first-draft-father-turning-away-from-the-computer-screen/

    • says

      Hi, Natalie.

      You can always drop the VQR online site into your RSS feed to see when new posts arrive (Guy’s series on writer dads is monthly), and there are new and interesting essays there on a huge range of topics all the time. The blog is free to read, you don’t have to have a subscription: http://www.vqronline.org/blog/

      Your comments about being able to see into more of men’s emotional experiences online is interesting, too. Despite the fact that surveys show women buying and reading more books, a report last year from Bowker included a surprising discovery: Men (reader dads, not writer dads, just men in general) actually TALK more about what they read online than women. Bowker’s (now Nielsen’s) researchers found men engaging in forums and chats about what they were reading more than women did. That opened a lot of eyes. And, as is reflected in what you’re saying, this discussion about books appears to have been held primarily among men — no evidence of any exclusivity there, just a tendency to talk to other guys rather than to women about what one was reading. Fascinating, huh? To me, this is another reason to hope that more me can be led to read if we just stop telling them that “men don’t read.” As I told Bethanne on the “men don’t read fiction” thing, you just put an Ian Fleming Bond novel into a man’s hand. Then go away, leave him alone. He’ll read it. :)

      Thanks, really appreciate your comment,

  13. says

    I completely relate to this. I’m a pretty new author. My first book, Locked Within, was released last year and my second, Silent Oath, only came out last month. Next year I’ll have two new releases (one with my publisher – Final Hope, the end of my current trilogy), and a self-published title called Lady Raven), and I aim to raise that number to three for 2015, with some new series’ starting.

    I’m also a new father. I have 10-month old twins, and my wife is expecting another baby in January.

    I work full-time as well, since I don’t make nearly enough from my book sales to take it on as my sole income.

    Another factor in the demands on my time and energy is that my wife is a wheelchair-user. She can walk short distances with the aid of crutches, but it can be painful to do for long periods so I tend to do a lot more of the running around the house, and carrying the twins from place to place.

    Did I mention I’m also a chronic pain-sufferer? I have a minor back injury which leaves me in general discomfort most of the time, and flares up pretty badly time and again.

    With all of this, I still have to make time for writing, editing, managing my online presence, and promoting my latest book.

    • says

      Hey, Paul,

      Great to hear from you and thanks for jumping in on what has turned out to be a really lively discussion — thanks to the Mighty Writer Unboxed Community’s willingness to look serious issues right in the kisser. (It’s why “Provocations in Publishing” is such a blast to write for this site.)

      My favorite part of your whole post is the add in which you remember that the twins are 11 months old, not 10. That just about says it, lol. (Totally understandable, too, especially with a third child on the way.)

      An amazing array of challenges in your work, I have to say. More power to you. Don’t know where you found the time to read Writer Unboxed and drop a comment, but really glad you did.

      All the best to you, sounds to me as if you’re “doing the work of 10 men,” as one of my CNN producers used to say. :)


  14. says

    I appreciate the post, Porter, and the many thoughtful comments. (As always: Love WU!)

    Part of what makes this topic intriguing, I believe, is that we are forced to talk in generalities about issues that are complex and nuanced. We also can’t overlook how sexism affects all of this in myriad, sometimes subtle, ways, from stereotyped parenting roles to the reality that women (STILL!) earn less than men in the marketplace. (On top of that, ethnicity, race, economic status, and much more, combine in unimagined ways to influence individual experiences and perceptions.)

    * mind boggled *

    I think all of this touches on the tension (and symbiosis) of making art, making a living and making a life.

    Corporate America, to use a generality (lol), talks a good game about work-life balance but often doesn’t deliver. (Puritan Work Ethic meets 21st Century “Rightsourcing.”) And then there’s stress (good and bad) from our info-saturated, always “on,” networked lives. In this environment, it’s difficult for anyone to find the time, mental space and physical and emotional energy to write–let alone assume the additional responsibilities of caring for loved ones, be they kids, aging parents or an ill spouse. Of course, these experiences also bring joy and insight and love, all of which enrich our lives and our writing.

    It’s difficult for everybody (moms, dads, non-parents), and writers need support. I’m looking forward to checking out Guy’s series. (His presentation at last week’s Get Read conference was powerful.) I think “writer dads” is an important topic to explore.


  15. says

    Hey Porter! Wow, did I miss the party I’d been waiting for :) Great post, and as a writer dad, I’m chuffed to bits to have you shouting out for us. Thanks!

    Ditto many comments here about the need to avoid drawing generalizations and distinctions of worth or value or quality/quantity of effort between writer moms and writer dads. It’s not about who has it harder.

    Every writer parent knows this to be true: You write when you are able to. And when you’re not, you do your darnedest to stay sane while the bullets fly and that story is sitting there not writing itself.

    I’m blessed with a fully supportive spouse and extended family, so I’ve got more flexibility than, I suspect, a majority of writer parents out there, moms and dads alike. I’m also #1 on deck for household management, laundry, cooking, and cleaning, etc. It’s that support that I see reflected most in your thoughts on why writer dad’s aren’t heard from or about as compared to writer moms.

    It’s a social issue, and one that we internalize, as men who do not hold down 9-5 jobs that win the bread that keeps the family in food, clothing, and shelter. I’m the first to admit it. Some days, I wake up feeling like a complete and utter failure, a burden on my family, less than my children deserve. I’d bet a lot of writer dad’s feel the same way now and then, and as much as society has opened to public discussion of mental and emotional health, we still live in a world where boys don’t cry.

    As that changes, I imagine we’ll see more vocal writer dads joining the ranks of very vocal writer moms. We’ll start talking about parent bloggers and parent writers instead. That’ll be a good day, indeed.