Gillian’s writing nook (I must say,
I am a little jealous…)

I am developing a little series here on how mothers fit writing into their lives, and today I am happy to welcome Gillian Marchenko. If I remember correctly, it was about two years ago that Gillian appeared in my memoir class with a fully rendered manuscript that needed help shaping, but very little editing. She is a natural writer. Since she fits writing into an immensely busy and demanding life as a mother, I invited her to talk about how she actually does that:

Annette: What prompted you to pursue writing even though you are
the mother of four young daughters?

Gillian: E. M. Forster said, “How can I know what I think till I
see what I say?” I am a life-long journal keeper, but after the birth of my third
daughter and her diagnosis of Down syndrome, writing became necessity. The
first year of her life I wrestled a hallowing grief over the child I expected
and the mother I was to become on the page.

My journaling delved deeper as my daughter grew. Images,
situations, and details bobbed up to the surface of my conscious. A fear of
brokenness – broken people, broken things, and ultimately, my own broken heart,
had been tucked inside me since childhood. I wrote, and a thought nagged.
Perhaps these words were meant to be read by others?

A memoir emerged.

How did you find time to finish one book manuscript and
start another while having little ones at home?

Once I understood I was no longer writing journal entries
(with a nod of approval from my husband Sergei and our children), time was
carved out of the family schedule to write. I am fortunate to have a supportive
spouse with a flexible work schedule.

Do you actually use the time they are in pre-school to
write? Or do chores get in the way?

Chores are hardly an issue. I easily ignore a pile of
dirty dishes in exchange for a few moments of sedentary peace, cerebral
connection, and the tactile pleasure of tapping out words on a keyboard. My
issue is social media. I’ll be typing along and think, I’ll just check Twitter
for a minute, and then ‘wake-up’ a half-hour later lost in a maze of Facebook
stati. I set limits; but honestly, I lack discipline.

Do you have a particular writing routine?

I aim to write three days a week. I start at eight after
the kids go to school and end at two o’clock when the older children return. On
writing days, my husband cares for our preschooler after her bus comes at 11:30
a.m. and makes up his work hours at night. I am a mom, though. School
assemblies and doctor appointments never fail to show up on scheduled writing
days. With young children, I am thankful for what I get.

Do you have a particular place where you write?

I have a nook in my bedroom where I write during the
school year. In the summer I write at a favorite coffee shop. I get free coffee
refills, and the kind people there never mention my frumpy hair or the stains
on my shirt, sure signs of a frazzled mom.