Writer, with Kids: Emma Wunsch

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Emma Wunsch’s short stories have been published in: Lit, The Brooklyn Review, The Bellevue Review, Fugue, J Journal, and Natural Bridge. She is currently revising a YA novel.

Age of kids: Georgia 3.5 and Dahlia 22 months

What was your writing schedule (ideal and actual) like before kids, and how has that changed?

I’ve really never had a writing schedule—generally, I’ve scheduled time to write in between things. Even though it feels like its never enough time, I’ve always been more productive with structure. Before kids, I wrote when I wasn’t teaching adjunct English classes or working as an administrative assistant. Now, it’s generally a few hours a week when the kids are in preschool/with a babysitter. Since my oldest was six months, I’ve had between 4-10 hours a week of childcare. Because I don’t have a ton of time, when I do sit down to write/revise I’m fast. I’ve learned that when I’m away from the girls, I can only do two things. I can write and I can go to the gym, but I can’t also clean my car and get a haircut. The two-thing rule has helped me utilize my time better.

Also, since my husband teaches at a college, he’s around during the summer, which gives me more time to write.

How do you remain present for your family even when you’re sunk deeply into a current project?

It’s not a choice: even the most riveting character in my mind, can’t compete with a toddler’s meltdown or demands for an animal tea party. I’m okay with that. The stories will wait; the kids can’t. I tend to think about plot points when I’m swimming, doing yoga, or driving alone.

How has parenthood changed the work itself, if at all?

Whether it’s having a teenage narrator or writing from the perspective of a dad agonizing over his daughter’s anorexia, I’ve always written about family. There are younger children as minor characters here and there since they’re very good for details (snot-encrusted sippy cups for example), but I don’t think my writing has changed that much. I have an idea for a novel about a sick parent of a young child and I decided that I just couldn’t do it—too scary/ close to home at this time in my life. Maybe when my kids are older, I’ll write it.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a working artist and a parent?

Money. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to be home for almost four years, but I’m going to need a paying job soon. Having a job, raising kids, making time to hang out with my husband, and also trying to find the time to write seems really daunting.

Do you have any advice to other writers with kids or who plan to have them?

I’m not sure I’m the person to ask for advice since my books haven’t been published yet, but I’m okay with messy floors and unfolded laundry if it means I’ve spent nap-time reading a novel, frantically editing, or playing with my older child. I’d much rather have dust bunnies under the beds than miss out on my kids’ childhoods. Soon enough, they’ll be gone and it’ll be me and the stories in my head. And the dust bunnies since I’ll probably never get around to tackling them.

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Writer, With Kids