Some of my favorite childhood memories are from the road trips that my family took every summer. My sister and I would set up a nest of sleeping bags, blankets, and our favorite stuffed animals in the back of our Pontiac station wagon, and off we’d go. Despite the long hours in the car, it was always an adventure.
Our most regular vacation destination was Las Vegas, oddly enough. This was in the days before Las Vegas became “kid friendly,” so most of what I remember from those trips were the endless buffets, the whoosh of air conditioning that provided instant relief when we entered hotels, my dad returning to our room in the middle of the night after playing blackjack for hours past our bedtime, and the mini circus acts at the Circus Circus Hotel.
I also remember my dad giving money to teenage boys to play the carnival games at Circus Circus, in exchange for whatever prizes they might acquire while playing on his dime. It was a win-win situation; the boys got to play the games for free, and my sister and I got new stuffed animals to star in our make believe stories during the long drive home.
Our trips were not just limited to Las Vegas. We also hit most of the National Parks west of the Rockies - the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and many others. We have numerous photographs of my sister and I posed in front of various landmarks, often pouting because we resented being forced to wear color coordinated outfits, which unfortunately lasted through junior high.
My favorite national park was Yellowstone. The grandeur of the mountains, the variety of wildlife, the bizarre geothermal features, all left a lasting impression in my eight-year-old mind. The experience was so powerful, in fact, that I felt the need to write about it.
So, on the drive home, I started writing a story about an eight-year-old girl who lived in Yellowstone National Park. Her father was a park ranger, her mother a postcard photographer, and she lived in a cozy cabin in the woods and consorted with wild, albeit friendly, animals on a regular basis. This was quite a stretch from my actual reality, growing up a mile away from the beach in a suburb of San Diego, but I think that was the point - that by writing about this girl in the mountains, I could live out a silly dream, no matter how far-fetched.
While my childhood writing aspirations tended towards fiction, my path as an adult writer has led me to nonfiction, and I believe this is why: my experience as a mother of three boys is sometimes so outrageous that it hardly seems like it could be true. I often feel like I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. It’s like writing fiction, except I don’t have to come up with stories from nothing.
In fact, it was the posting of my crazy stories on Facebook that led me to start writing in the first place. Whether it was Mason dislocating his elbow and me popping it back in instead of going to the doctor, or Jonah splitting his eyebrow open three times in three weeks, or Carter pooping out a rock, inevitably one of the comments was, “You should write a book!” I received enough comments along these lines to plant a seed in my mind, and I began to think, Maybe I really should write a book. I found that as I reflected on some of the more ludicrous incidents, I began to craft in my head how I would write about them - sometimes, simply words or phrases popped into my mind, but other times, it was an idea or layout for a whole chapter.
I consulted with a friend of mine, who had recently published a book. She told me, “I advise everyone who has a book in them to get it out. It’s too easy nowadays not too!” I did, indeed, feel as though I had stories in me that needed to be told, so I started writing them down in all of my spare time (insert sarcastic tone here), during naps, and after bedtime, and when I had babysitter coverage. I kept writing, and when I had a big chunk of material, I thought, “Now what?”
A friend of mine who used to work in publishing put me in touch with a woman who I now consider my writing mentor. The first time I met with her, she was full of information and suggestions for me - I took five pages of notes - but the biggest takeaway was that I needed to get some of my writing published and establish my credibility as a writer before attempting to engage publishers for my book. I had to prove that I had an audience for my writing.
Literally the next day, there was a posting in the Redwood City Mother’s Club group that the editor of the Redwood City Patch was looking for someone to write a mom’s column. We emailed back and forth, I sent her a sample of my writing from one of my chapters, she said she would love to have me write the column, I said I was worried about the weekly commitment, but I ended up taking it on and became “Alice in Motherland.”
Unfortunately, being “Alice in Motherland” has precluded me from being “Alice the Memoir Writer,” and since starting the column, I haven’t been able to work on my book as much as I would like, though my three boys continue to be a never-ending source of material. I asked my editor if we could change the column to every other week, or even once a month, and we agreed to try it, but then it turned out that a shift towards more user-generated content led to her decision to end the column.
Though I will no longer be writing my column, I will continue to write, and I hope you will stay in touch. There are a number of ways this can be done: you can follow me on Facebook (search for “Alice in Motherland”), Twitter (ASKinMotherland), or you can send me your email address by clicking the “Email the Author” button next to my name at the top of this article. I promise not to clutter your inbox with excessive emails, and expect that for now, I will only be notifying you if I write more articles, start a blog, or get my book published!
So now I must bid farewell to you, my readers, whether you’ve been following the column from the beginning, or you just started reading a few weeks ago. I have loved the connection I have felt with you, have loved hearing that something I wrote struck a chord with you, or made you feel like you weren’t alone, or made you laugh, or cry, or reflect, or even feel better about your life because it seemed easier than mine.
Thank you for what you have shared with me - your feedback, encouragement, honesty, and your tips about everything from free doggie poop bags to local Halloween parades. I have been honored and touched by your responses, and will always be grateful for this opportunity.
I hope you will stay in contact, and I welcome your comments and feedback any time.