parents of writers: a memo

Dear Parents of Writers (POW),

The summer book season will soon be in full swing. As several of you have writer-children with novels coming out in the next few weeks, the members of the board would like to take this opportunity to remind you of certain guidelines for interacting with your offspring during this sensitive time. If you have any questions or concerns, a registered POW counselor is available by telephone 24/7 at 1-888-POW-HELP to assist you.

Avoid sending your writer-child e-mail alerts with subject headings like "VegasBabe22 panned your book on Amazon." Although VegasBabe's comments might strike you as a serious affront requiring urgent action, your writer-child may take a more pacifist stance on the matter. Because your writer-child may not, in fact, take each and every internet review as seriously as you do—and indeed, may be avoiding them completely—it is important to inquire about her policy on this matter before filling her inbox with well-meaning updates every time an ignominious villain says something less-than-laudatory about her book.

Avoid asking your writer-child about her "plans" every time you talk on the phone. Your writer-child hasn't showered for a week; her "office" is a cardboard box that lives in the backseat of her boyfriend's car. Her "plans" involve acquiring a decent pair of socks in time for ALA, and possibly moving to this secret jungle camp in Hawaii that a cool stranger in whose backyard she recently camped told her about.

Avoid marching into tourist bookstores while you are on vacation, asking to be directed to your writer-child's book, and sending your writer-child alarmist e-mails when it is not in stock. Not every bookstore will stock your writer-child's book, especially the ones that sell mostly seagull magnets and coffee table books about sand dollars. Do not be surprised if your writer-child shows a bewildering lack of alarm about this state of affairs. Writer-children do not always appreciate the scope of these indignities; that is where you come in.

Avoid asking your writer-child if she has talked to her editor about publishing that barely-fictionalized travel novella she wrote at nineteen or the picture book she wrote and illustrated at age ten. Although the commerical potential of your writer-child's juvenalia may seem obvious to you, your writer-child will find all sorts of wily excuses not to pass them on to her agent and editor. You may wish to send said juvenalia to movie producers yourself, because otherwise there is no way you will ever see the genius that is Iggy The Iguana brought to life on the big screen.

Avoid asking your writer-child about her second novel unless you have first checked with her significant other to confirm that this is a Good Writing Day. If you receive an indication that this is a Bad Writing Day, wait twenty-four hours and check again.

Do listen carefully when your writer-child updates you on book news, to avoid making mistakes or exaggerations when repeating said news to extended family. A Junior Library Guild selection is not the same as an Oprah's Book Club selection; a Bloggy award is not the Pulitzer Prize. These differences may seem trivial to you, but may cause your writer-child considerable embarassment at Thanksgiving dinner.

Do seek out other POW's for support should you experience anxiety, frustration, anger or disappointment during any stage of your writer-child's career. It is not easy to be the parent of a writer, but remember that you are not alone.

Please feel free to reproduce and/or distribute this document at will, and our sincerest best wishes for this summer 2013 book season.

Velda Perez,
Chairwoman, Parents of Writers


  1. Absolutely hysterical. My favorite post ever!

  2. Funny. Really.
    Here's my un-funny comment: my parents didn't live to see my published books. The good part was that I didn't have to deal with ^^^, and the bad was that I didn't get to deal with ^^^.

  3. Dear Ms. Perez
    Please desist from sending my parents your association's notices. As I explained to your secretary the numerous times I called, I do not want my parents educated in the whys and wherefores of dealing with a writer-child. They already do not understand how I manage to work in my PJs and are waiting for me to have a corner office somewhere - despite the fact that said office (corner or otherwise) is unlikely to materialize. I like my parents clueless. Knowledge is dangerous in the hands of well meaning, but ultimately clunky parents like mine. They love me and they want me to be happy. They do not have to understand me.

    Writer-Child with Bunnies
    PS. You will likely receive similar correspondence twenty years hence from my daughter concerning her clueless mother. Gird your loins.

  4. You need a corollary piece of advice to Parents of Writers-not-yet-published. I await it eagerly.

  5. Along the lines of Writers-not-yet-Published, my mother, through optimism or a sincere need to impress, had bragged so much about all the books I had published that when I actually did publish a book she had begun believing her own press and asked me, "How many is this now?" I think this is also how she started believing I had a PhD.


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