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Reentry: An Author + Parent’s Guide to Reentering the Writerly World in 19 Literary Terms

[1]Please welcome Kristin Bair [2] to Writer Unboxed today! Kristin’s forthcoming novel Agatha Arch Is Afraid of Everything, which releases tomorrow, recently received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Writing as Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, she is the author of two novels, The Art of Floating and Thirsty. Her words have appeared in the Gettysburg Review, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, Poets & Writers Magazine, Writer’s Digest, and other fine publications. A native Pittsburgher, Kristin lives north of Boston with her husband and two kiddos.

Learn more about Kristin on her website [2], and by following her on Facebook [3], Twitter [4], Instagram [5], and Goodreads [6].

Reentry: An Author + Parent’s Guide to Reentering the Writerly World in 19 Literary Terms

  1. Exposition. In the months leading up to the publication of your third novel, there is no escaping the sense of being lost. During the six years since your second, you have deeply parented two children but had minimal interaction with the writing world. You stopped teaching workshops and giving public readings. Your social media engagement dwindled to posts of family photos and complaints about picky eaters. You declined invitations to speak at conferences and literary festivals. “Blogging?” you mutter. “What is blogging?” Your desk drawer is full of hair clippings, baby teeth, and crayon portraits.
  2. Symbolism. The morning sun strikes the pages of the novel you wrote during this deep parenting time. The one that will be landing in bookstores in just a few months. Sitting neatly atop your desk—the very desk now full of hair and teeth and kid art—this book was the single thread between you and the writing world during this six-year period.
  3. Flashback. Shadowy memories of your fervent connections as writer, writing teacher, reader, and speaker flit across your field of vision. Reading an essay to a crowd in Shanghai, the first time you read Sula, a student’s revelation while analyzing The Things They Carried, Lynda Hull’s voice luring you through a poem.
  4. Anaphora. You miss this world of books and words. You miss this visceral bond to those like you who love sentences and paragraphs. You miss connecting deeply with folks who love a damn good story. You must reengage. But how
  5. Circumlocution. Orbit is your son’s favorite verb. When he circles a neighbor on his bike, he yells, “I’m orbiting our neighbor.” When you drive the long way to the grocery store, he says, “We’re orbiting our town.” You follow his lead and begin to orbit the writing community. You sign into your Goodreads account. Refresh your Twitter bio. Put on lipstick for a new author photo.
  6. Metaphor. You read with your space-obsessed son about a rocket that uses an aeroshell to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere after a spectacular journey through the galaxy. An encapsulation that absorbs heat and protects a vessel from incineration. While he waxes on about solar flares and Ganymede, you fantasize about the writerly equivalent of this magical cloak.
  7. Cliché: It gets easier.
  8. Plot Twist. The COVID-19 pandemic hits. You, and the world, retreat into quarantine. When you leave the house—if you leave the house—you wear a mask, bathe in hand sanitizer, and keep a safe distance from all other humans. Bookstores shut down and all in-person book events are canceled.
  9. Mood. The isolation of quarantine amplifies the loneliness you experienced during the period of deep parenting. You are surprised by its seemingly endless ability to expand.
  10. Epitaph. You recall the creative writing teacher who, years ago, took your high school class to a cemetery, sipped something from a flask, and asked you to write your own epitaph. If only you could remember what you wrote.
  11. Quest. You Google “aeroshell for writers,” hoping REI is having a sale. Many entries pop up about writing but all feature the dreaded truth: “Missing: aeroshell | Must include: aeroshell.” Without this miracle device, your reentry into the community of writers and readers could be a rough and dangerous ride.
  12. Foreshadow. At dinner, your son yells, “I am gravity,” then thrusts a piece of chicken into his mouth. You consider the writer’s equivalent.
  13. Dramatic Irony. You learn to Zoom. Every author learns to Zoom. Virtual book events explode, and once again, you are attending readings and book launches all over the world…this time from the comfort of your couch.
  14. Connotation. You adore Venus as the dazzling morning star. Your son adores its chaotic truth: cloud cover, volcanoes, lightning, heat. As you accelerate toward the writing community from the Andromeda Galaxy of deep parenting, you consider metaphor and duality.
  15. Flash Forward. When your Advance Reader Copies arrive, you envision yourself in a crossword of squares talking and reading and answering questions about your novel. You order a Zoom-friendly shirt, a ring light, and a new shade of lipstick. You cannot sign books in person, but you can, in this new unexpected way, connect.
  16. Epiphany. Your kids photo-bomb your selfie with your ARCs. What could be more true or lovely as the shock waves of reentry begin?
  17. Comic Relief. There is no aeroshell.
  18. Denouement.With your son, you watch SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule splash down in the Gulf of Mexico after its historic journey to the international space station. “Welcome back to planet Earth,” mission control says, and the team cheers as the astronauts give the thumbs-up. You sigh. This is the kind of reentry of which dreams are made.
  19. Epilogue. You tell your son that scientists have discovered phosphine gas in Venus’s atmosphere. He grins when you say this indicates there may be life on this fiery planet, and you remember that in this story—in all stories—anything is possible.

 

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