Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser
By Kris Woll
Once a month we talk with one of our writers. Here, some thoughts from Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser.
First, tell us a little about your family.
I have a very lovely husband I’ve been married to for nearly twenty years (how did that happen?) and four kids – turning 18 in September; 15; turning 11 in September; and five-and-a-half (the half is important to her). There are three boys and a girl.
Tell us a little about what you’ve written for Brain, Child.
Much of what I’ve written about for Brain, Child is about the experience of being an adoptive mother in an open adoption. We adopted our youngest child.
When do you write, and where?
I work from home. The blessing of that is early in the morning before anyone is awake, I can get to work. The obstacles include sick days, home days, laundry and summer. Mostly, I work when they are in school. I do get childcare or use other time (play dates) to work on weekends, etc.
How does parenting impact your work/writing?
I guess the biggest truth–aside from the ways the work of parenting can get in the way of the work of writing–is that parenting provides so much fodder.
Where do get your inspiration?
I don’t have to look far. I wrote an essay last week about making a sincere apology to my daughter after I got really pissed off that she was making me late to a Zumba class at the Y. Life is compelling and I feel lucky to be alive, so inspiration is not at all hard to find.
What books are on your nightstand right now?
I am reading Andrew Solomon’s epic Far from the Trees, which is fantastic – and very long. My next read is Lisa Jahn-Clough’s young adult novel Nothing But Blue. I am a big fan of her picture books.
Which blogs/sites do you frequent for good writing?
The New York Times Motherlode and Modern Love columns; Brain, Child’s offerings of course; Salon; and so often what people recommend captures me, too.
What is your favorite Brain, Child essay, story, or feature?
I wrote Motherwit for Brain, Child’s Special Issue for Parents of T(w)eens. I do not think of myself as a funny writer, and to be on that page was a thrill. There are many essays I’ve loved over the years; I think I was one of the very early subscribers. Like so many of us, Brain, Child turned me on to Catherine Newman’s work — and she remains a favorite essay writer (and a very lovely person, to boot).
Any advice to other parent-writers out there?
My best advice is to write because you want to write. Writing with an end goal muddies the most important part, which is to do the thing you love to do.
Kris Woll is a Minneapolis-based writer and Brain, Child contributor. She blogs at withalittlepractice.wordpress.com.
Each month we talk with one of our readers, here’s what thinking mother Melissa Uchiyama of Tokyo, Japan has to say.
Tell me a little bit about your family…
It is Isaac, my amazing husband, and our awesome clan: Kariin, our spritely, just-last-week-turned-three-year-old, going on thirteen; Jude, the irresistible five-month-old with massive thighs; and our two doxie-brothers, Sammie and Riley. The dogs we had shipped to us; they are the originals. Then came the kiddos.
I am now going on my sixth year in Japan, from a very different life in South Florida. My husband was born here, but grew up outside of DC. Life here is delicious, a bit simpler (no car, but tons of walking and trains), and pretty extraordinary.
I am a teacher by trade, a mom, and a bit of a food writer.
How long have you been a subscriber?
Secret’s out—just…one measly, life-filled month. After a few summers leafing through my cousin’s Brain, Child magazine, beachside, and lazing in hammocks, I knew that one day, when I became a parent, I’d surely subscribe to Brain, Child. That it would be as essential and as nourishing as prenatals kept in the diaper bag.
Well, I became a mother after leaving the US to live in Tokyo. I thought, for sure a subscription is no more. Not in the cards– it will cost far too much. However, now with my punky girl and my sweet bruiser, that same cousin gifted me with a subscription that is actually mailed all the way to Japan. Incidentally, she was also the one to talk me through contractions from her Vermont home to my Tokyo cab, via Facebook messages. Some part of me feels that this is some wonderful rite of passage, the magazines are now mine to recommend or loan out
Why do you subscribe to Brain, Child? (e.g. What does the magazine mean to you; how does it compare to other magazines you read?)
This magazine, my gift, helps me connect with savvy, smart parents, not glossy commercials but rich insights. I feel like it focuses on what we already do well and naturally, rather than focusing on what we lack or what we fear we will not have, materially. Pieces generally bring the reader to some change, some peace. The writing helps me to appreciate just where I am and recognize the beauty in these moments, poetry in even the spit-up moments. Encouragement to jot my own notes, take stock, and exemplify a courageous woman who can laugh at herself. It is honest, well-crafted writing. I appreciate that.
What is your favorite Brain, Child essay, story or feature?
Well, being that I am a newbie, there is a whole treasure trove for me to delve into online. For now, I memorize my dog-eared August copy, waiting for my next installment.
What would you like to see more of in Brain, Child?
Bicultural, bilingual (or trilingual) families, stories and features about growing roots in new places, stories of frustration, growth, and faith.
Want to read more thought-provoking essays? Subscribe to Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers and see why we’ve been receiving awards for literary excellence since 2000.