Ask Me Anything

I’ve been asked by Mahalo to participate in their new author series, which was a lovely request to get.

The deal is this: you get to ask me anything and then I have to answer in a video interview.

Already, people I don’t know are submitting questions over on this thread at Reddit, which is one of the great things about publishing a book.  And a (generally) great thing about the internet.  At their best, both let you have a conversation with new people, in ways you couldn’t manage on your own. I *love* hearing from readers and finding out what they think, and having a  new conversation about writing and motherhood, and writing about motherhood.  This is your chance to get to the bottom of the book and my motivation for writing the book. It’s a chance to talk  about writing a memoir, doing research, and navigating the crowded waters of mommy lit. We can talk about staying the publishing course and the hard facts about becoming a mom, and how mom’s can find time to write in the first place. Just let me know: what do you what you want to know most?

I’ll do a Skype interview with the producers and answer the questions next week. You have until July 12, 10 PM PST to get your questions in.

Ask me anything! Really!

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That sleep book

Here’s a link to a great piece in the San Jose Mercury News about that sleep book everyone is talking about. I weigh in on the book through the reporter, the terrific Karen D’Souza. It took me a while to warm up to the book. I would be lying if I said I never had that emotion (in fact I just might have had it on Tuesday night) but I do try not to have it in so many words. still, it’s a funny send up of what can be a really over sentimentalized genre. And parenting moment. If you had to buy two books ( besides A Double Life, of course!) for a new parent, you couldn’t go too wrong with Go the F-ck to Sleep + Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.

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He Loves Me (Not)

Last Friday I had the good fortune (depending on how you look at it) to be part of Literary Death Match in San Francisco. There were worthy opponents and terrific judges. It was great fun. You can read the replay here.

I read a newish piece of nonfiction, and the reception was so overwhelming–as many people requested copies of the manuscript–that I decided to do something different and democratic and social-networklike with it, and post the piece in full here and on Red–because one of the lovely judges was Red Room founder Ivory Madison.

So: Many thanks, listeners, for all your enthusiasm. It was my honor and pleasure. Please read, enjoy, feel free to share, with attribution. And comment. I love comments.

He Loves Me (Not)

By Lisa Catherine Harper
Performed at Literary Death Match, episode 39, San Francisco, 2011
My five-year-old son doesn’t love me.  I know this because he tells me so on a regular basis. Mornings, I stand on the threshold of the open door and as he races out into the cool morning, I utter the ritual phrase of mothers everywhere. He smiles but says nothing in return. Some days, when he and his sister are not bolting out the door into their father’s waiting car, I bend to kiss him goodbye. He steadies his smooth cheek against mine, accepting my affection, but he does not reciprocate. At bedtime he says, “I like you.”

“But do you love me?” I press, trying not to take his slight personally.  “Do you love daddy?”

“Not really,” he shrugs. Sometimes, after a moment he reconsiders. “I love you a little-lot,” he says.

“What does that mean?”

“It just means that I like you. I like you a little-lot.”

And that’s all I get. Liking me “a little-lot” may mean that he likes me just a little bit or that he likes me less than a lot or maybe a lot more than a little. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean that he likes me a lot, and I know for certain that he does not think that he loves me, at least not in his own correlation of words-to-feelings.  This is in direct contrast to his eight-year old sister, who screams, “I hate you” on a regular basis.  By this, of course, I know that she cannot live without me.

It’s not that Finn’s emotions are shallow.  He is steadfast and devoted to the objects of his affection.  The cardboard boxes for every LEGO set he has ever received live in a jumble of “important materials” under his bed. Every once in a while I fish out a used lollipop stick or disposable coffee lid.  He saves every postcard, sticker, and piece of plastic junk from every birthday party we have ever attended. Strings and loose beads are talismanic.  

Nor is Finn fickle. He had the strength of character to refuse all non-white food for over a year. He has the patience and devotion to sit patiently in the pre-dawn hallway until the crack of light under the door signals that his beloved sister is awake.  Nor is the problem that he is compromised in his verbal ability:  he accurately evaluates mediocre picture books as “goodish-baddish.”  So when he tells me he doesn’t love me (or my husband, or any of his four grandparents, or his babysitter, or even his beloved sister), I have to believe him.  He is a boy who knows his own heart.

It’s not that he can’t love. In those dim moments in his bedroom, he admits that there are things with great claim on his affections. Mostly those things would be LEGO. “It’s really hard,” he tells me when I question him. “I just love LEGOs. So. Much.” And then he buries his head in his blue fleece blanket overcome not with guilt but with the tactile memory of his beloved bricks.

And this is what gets to me: my son is a passionate, affectionate, enthusiastic child.  There are many things that he loves—and for which he vociferously proclaims his love.  Matchbox cars, rockets, certain video games and TV shows, my iPhone, Captain Underpants, the Last Airbender, gymnastics, Indiana Jones, a sassy, smart girl at his school (to whom he writes passionate BFF notes with his sister’s help). He loves digging in the sand with his best friend, rice, dirt, swimming, apples, and anything that involves a ball or throwing himself off great heights.  And once, mired in dust, grading a long dirt road for their trucks in the park he turned to his best friend, a boy as sweet and tough as they come, with whom my son shares a magical affinity, and he said:  “I wish I were you.” Later he clarified, “I just really love Ian. I want to be like him.” There it was, that word-love-uttered in unabashed sincerity. Just not to me.

There are signs that deep down, my son and I do have a future together. Unlike his sister, whose independence is fierce and prideful (and sometimes her downfall), my son relies on me with an easy, disarming grace. He accepts my company and my help, and when he asks me to leave him alone to play, he does so respectfully, as if he is afraid he will hurt my feelings.  He is the child whose small hand reaches unthinkingly for mine when we cross a street, who walks hand-in-hand, block after block, unselfconscious of the fact that he with his mother. Even on the way to kindergarten his smallish-biggish hand curls into mine until we reach the blacktop, and then he races to join his friends, the necessary but nearly empty red backpack swaying against his back. He is the child who climbs into my bed on a cold morning to curl the still-warm skein of his body into the curve of my own. He lies still against me in the afternoon quiet, telling me about his friends. When we read books at bedtime his shampoo-fresh head lays easily on my chest.  He will run at full speed and jump into my arms when I pick him up from school, like a sailor on shore leave, the force of him nearly knocking me over. He will come and sit on my lap, arms draped over my shoulders when he is sad. He seeks me out first when he is hurt in any way.  He craves touch–even my imperfect, smelly, awkward touch.

He loves me. He loves me not. He must love me. He does in fact love me. He does not know he loves me.

My son believes now in passion. He believes in those things that grab you by the throat, roil your gut, make your eyes shine and your pulse race. He loves the things that make you shake and forget to eat. For him, excitement is love. Pure pleasure is love.  Mastery is love. And yes, these things are necessary, even central to life. But they may not be love.  So how can I teach him that those other things, the abiding calm, the deep sense of safety, the smoldering comfort that he knows with me, his father, his sister is another part of love’s beating heart. Of course, I can’t.  I can only stand by him and wait, like the steadfast soldier, hoping not to be drowned in the rush of his life. There is nothing else to do.  Because my son is exactly like the rest of us. Already he knows his own heart.  Almost.  

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I participated in this amazing event last week: Bookswap! at the Booksmith in San Francisco.  It’s exactly what it sounds like: an old fashioned book swap, this time faciliated by a terrific community book store and fueld by food and free-flowing drinks (yes, including wine). For $25 you get your ticket and the company of about 25 other book lovers.  You show up with a book or 2 of your own to discuss and swap.  Two authors host the event, along with the Booksmith staff, and after a cocktail/mingling half hour, everyone joins a table and talks about their stash of books.  Everyone rotates tables and things get all mixed up, and at the end of the night there is a swap, which includes stealing. Think of a white elephant gift exchange, but with books. It’s really fun.


The conversation is terrific. The night that I hosted, there were newcomers and a whole host of regulars, many of whom lived in the neighborhood and had a deep connection to the store.  I loved meeting so many different readers and having so many different conversations about what and how to read.  But most of all I loved the democracy of the event. Readers brought every kind of book imaginable, from Oprah picks to graphic novels to popular thrillers to epic historical fiction to classics to sophisticated translations to memoir to comedy to contemporary novels.   There was no pretension, no judgement, no sense that any one kind of book was better than any other (though the Patti Smith was a hot pick).  Which just confirms what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: it doesn’t matter what you read, really.  It doesn’t matter how you join the conversation.  It just matters that you do.  The reader is out there.  Really, the reader is everywhere.

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