For those of you who haven't heard (I couldn't blog about this until he told his mum!), Mike received a letter this week notifying him that he has received 3rd place for fiction in the Kay Snow annual writing contest sponsored by the Willamette Writers!
Mike has been writing for 19 years now, although his first priority nowadays is taking care of our three busy boys. When we got married, I told him that I would support him for a year so he could write a novel. About five years later, I carefully broached the topic of having children. He hesitated...he wanted to wait to have children until his writing career had launched. As is typical with Mike, I just had to plant the seed and wait. (It's a good thing he changed his mind!) Eventually, he was on board to start trying to get pregnant, even though he knew it would drastically change his lifestyle.
By that time, I had been working at my firm for several years and had become successful enough that we knew I had more earning power than he did. In contrast to Mike's upbringing in England (where his college and grad school were paid for by the British government and he could even collect unemployment in the summers!), I had worked my way through school--both in high school and at university. So I appeared to be much more employable. We continued in our pattern of me going out to work, and Mike staying home and writing. And then taking care of the kids and writing when he could fit it in.
I know how lucky I am to have a stay-at-home dad (or what I call a "household manager," because that's more accurate to describe his role). When I was on maternity leave and recovering from three c-sections, I realized how blessed I was to have someone there to take care of me and the baby (and the other kids, once we had more than one). In addition, having three boys...what a blessing for them to be raised by a father, a wonderful male role model.
I would be lying if I said that I never get envious. Our ideal situation would be for both of us to work part-time. On the other hand, over the past several years, I've also become keenly aware that I need to go to work; it suits my social personality and my need for external validation. Staying home seems to suit Mike more than it does me. Before we had children, he was content to work alone all day long. That would have been a real challenge for me. He loves to live vicariously through the office politics that I share with him. He's always enjoyed telling me who I should fire! Thank God I usually don't take his advice on such matters, that is.
In recent years, it's been much harder for him to find time to write, and I feel badly about that. In addition, some rejection in the early years seems to have discouraged him some. He's written such a wide variety of pieces, from novels and short stories to children's books, but hasn't stuck with anything for awhile. Maybe he has a bit of the dabbler in him as well! I can relate.
A few years ago, though, things seemed to shift. He's been a part of a monthly writing group for over 10 years now, but recently he was invited to join a children's writers' group, which meets twice a month. He's been working on a young adult fantasy novel, and I think it's one of the best things he's written (and perhaps the most publishable)--but then again, I'm his greatest cheerleader and not a very good critic. That's why the writers' groups are good for him!
At the beginning of 2009, he began a new regime: he writes one page a day. That's it. No more, no less. I've asked him, "So what if you're in the middle of a thought, or are just getting going, and you want to write more?" Nope--he quits at one page. I've blogged before about how religiously Mike sticks to his rituals--much more so than the loosey goosey Marie. If my writing were going well, I wouldn't want to stop. But it somehow works for him.
Our friend Lynn asked him in the spring whether he was going to enter the Kay Snow awards this year, and initially he said he wasn't. But he changed his mind, and this is the first time he's ever received money for anything he has written. It's not the money ($50--which was spent on the celebration!); it's the significant milestone.
I'm hoping that this is the start of big things for Mike. I could never do what he does--I'm much more comfortable with nonfiction. I would also get very impatient with all the constant revising and rewriting he does after getting feedback from his writers' groups and mulling things over.
He wrote the short story he submitted specifically for this competition, because the word limit is quite short. He's hoping to expand it for submission to some publications. As the category was fiction, the other entries were probably chapters of novels along with short stories. They receive hundreds of entries from all over the country.
Here's Mike and me in 2003 at the awards banquet, when Mike won an honorable mention in the fiction category. Unfortunately, we had to take Kieran with us because of a family medical emergency...and I was out of the banquet room when he received his certificate because of the baby! This year will be different. No missed photo ops this time!
The day Mike got the letter, I stopped on my way home from work to pick up some cheery sunflowers and a bottle of champagne, and we had takeout Thai food to celebrate!
I have always believed in Mike's talent and potential, but now I have a hunch that he's on his way. Let's hope I'm right! Mike, remember us little people when you make it big! (I don't want to be the Chad Lowe of the Newberry Awards...) Haha!