Writer, with Kids: Leesa Cross-Smith

Leesa Cross-Smith, author of Every Kiss a War and editor of WhiskeyPaper

Age of kids: 10 and 8

What was your writing schedule like before kids, and how has that changed?

Before I had my daughter, I was writing obituaries for the local newspaper and was only sometimes working on fiction. I didn’t have much of a schedule at all and hadn’t taken writing fiction very seriously since graduating from college. Newspaper schedules are pretty hardcore so I didn’t have two days off together, worked holidays…was nine months pregnant…didn’t have the time to write fiction, really. Once I had my daughter, I had no time to write and didn’t read or write anything really until the last Harry Potter book came out. By then I’d had my son and my husband and I shared one copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and passed it back and forth and back and forth and it was the first book I’d read since before I had my daughter. I didn’t read any entire book for several years, which sounds so weird to say now because I read so much, but I was nursing my daughter constantly, a stay home mom, attachment parent and I couldn’t leave her with anyone else very often because she just wasn’t having it/wouldn’t even drink from a bottle. When I had my hands to myself I gardened or knit and usually slept. When I had a three year old and one year old at home during the days, I did slooowly begin working on my short story collection, praising God for PBS Kids and Goldfish crackers so I could have a half an hour here or there to work a little bit. Now that both of my children are in school, I have more time for things. I also benefit from having the best husband who does his part completely and allows me to have time to myself/time to work.

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

I don’t know if it’s changed my work, honestly! I don’t think so. If at all, my desire to write about motherhood is there sometimes…when it wasn’t there very much before. But that being said, I don’t write about motherhood very often, but probably will down the road. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

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

I try to make myself available for my kids always, but am also hardcore about needing time to myself and time to work. So I will work with my computer on my lap, in the same room with them a lot of the time. But when I need a quiet space, I have no problem telling them Mommy is working and that I need an hour or so in the bedroom with the door locked and they need to entertain themselves. If my husband didn’t sweetly stop me sometimes, I’d probably work 24/7. I can be hardcore and get in the zone and not even stop to eat or drink. Bless his heart for making me sandwiches and tea and coffee and reminding me I’m not a robot. And when it’s time to take a break, I take a break. Laptop away, books up, phone up so I can be present. Yes.

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

I’d have to say the events are the most challenging aspect for me. I’m really a house cat and not very big on big events/readings/festivals anyway, although once I get there I do usually have a rad time. But organizing time for me to be away from my family is difficult sometimes and bringing them with me is an option from time to time which is nice but then my husband has to play single parent all weekend and I don’t always want to put that burden on him. It’s easier when we can all travel together but this past summer during my first book tour, my husband and I were like two ships passing in the night and I didn’t like missing out on so much. I can’t even remember some of the cities/hotels I stayed in like I was Mick Jagger orsomething. It was weird and not at all how I normally do things. I had a great time met lots of awesome people but it’s not something I’ll be able to do in that same capacity for a while. It was a little much for me.

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

Everyone has their own way of doing things, fersure. I think time alone is just as important as time together, so I definitely think writers with kids should find time to work on their art even when it’s hard or even when they’re tired. Some of the best stuff can happen then, unexpectedly, methinks. That’s kinda beautiful. And I think it’s important for our kids to see us working, creating things, taking time out to work on ourselves. I think it sets a good example for them on down the road.

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Writer, With Kids