Author Q&A: Liz Rognes

Author Q&A: Liz Rognes

Liz Rognes HeadshotLiz Rognes is the author of Cities of My Body, which appeared in our October 2015 issue. We connected with her about the writing process. Here are her responses.

What inspired you to write this essay?

I was pregnant while I wrote the essay. Pregnancy felt like such a powerful transition space for me. My son’s due date was right around the ten-year anniversary of what I consider to be the beginning of my recovery. I had great gratitude for my body, and I was keenly aware of the stories and struggles that my body had endured. I think, too, that writing this essay felt like embracing a space of questioning and change—not only the literal space of pregnancy, but also the space of what I call recovery.

How do your children inform your writing?

The writing I’m doing now is definitely informed by who I am now. I can’t write about my past without looking through the lens of this current moment. On the one hand, it helps me to find and articulate insight, but, on the other hand, the lens of now can be complicating when I’m writing about my past. For example, I identify as queer, but in the current moment, my life looks like a snapshot of heteronormativity: I have a male partner and a biological son. We bought a house. I’m working on some essays about sexuality, and my lens of now is a different lens than the one I might have looked through five years ago or ten years ago. It’s not a lens that is any better or worse; it’s just different. It’s the same for motherhood. I can’t write about the history of my body without knowing what my body has done for my son. I can’t write about my own childhood or my mother without an awareness of my own role in my son’s childhood. So the answer, I guess, is that my son doesn’t necessarily inform the content of my writing in an explicit way (unless I’m writing about him); motherhood, though, alters the lens through which I look.

How do you balance writing and motherhood?

Well, I don’t get to write every day. I also work full-time teaching English Composition. I’m also a musician. I schedule time for writing, and I do it. I take on a limited number of projects, and I (usually) meet deadlines. When I’m lucky, I can find the time and money to pay for a babysitter so I can write. I use naptime. I write on the bus. When I have a burst of inspiration or a bout of insomnia, I write in the middle of the night. But I try to give myself some flexibility, and I’m lucky to have a partner who values and respects my creative space. His mother lives nearby, too, and she is an incredible support for us, who gives us both space for work and creativity.

Do you share any of your writing with your children (if they are old enough of course)

My son is a year-and-a-half, but I’m open to sharing my writing with my son (if he’s interested) when he’s older. I don’t want my past or the content of my writing to be a secret from my son. I want him to know that I’ve struggled but that I’ve survived. I want him to know that it’s okay to make mistakes, and that there is no shame in telling stories about those mistakes. I also look forward to sharing some of my favorite writers and essays and poetry with him as he grows up. I want him to hear many different kinds of stories from and about women—not just me.

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Author Q&A: Stephen Camarata

Author Q&A: Stephen Camarata

Stephen C. PhotoStephen Camarata is the author of The Intuitive Parent

What was your inspiration for writing the book?

One of the real tragedies in modern society is that misunderstandings, misrepresentations, and outright hucksterism are undermining parents’ self-confidence. Marketers and the media are creating needless anxiety, and stealing the fun and joy out of raising children.  Worse, the national push to artificially accelerate learning and brain development is actually derailing healthy natural parenting that insures children will be confident, happy–and intelligent. I wrote this book to provide parents with accurate, up-to-date, scientifically grounded information that supports their own intuition and common sense of how best to raise their child. My hope is that the book will empower parents to filter out all the noise, marketing, and latest fad so they can focus on their child, respond to them naturally, and become an effective nurturer and learning partner.

How did your own experience as a parent inform your writing?

My youngest son, Vincent, was slow to develop spoken language skills. When he was in preschool, we were told by a special education team that he should be educated in a segregated classroom for children with intellectual disabilities. We were led to believe that because his third birthday had passed, we had missed the critical period for wiring his brain and that he was now doomed to be a slow learner across the board from here on out. Worse, we were told that he would never be able to go to college. Our intuition told us that this couldn’t be true.

We knew that his language skills lagged compared to other kids his age. On the other hand, his ability to do puzzles, comprehend numbers and draw were all far advanced compared to other children his age. He loved to explore the world beyond the boundaries of our fenced in yard and would often wait for one of his older siblings to open the door so that he could dart into the front yard and run up the street!

These precocious abilities did not square with what we were being told by the school. Thankfully, we listened to our inner voice and kept him in the regular classroom, and spent many hours tutoring him in reading at home.

By the time Vincent started middle school, he was above grade level in math and science. His reading ability did not catch up until he entered high school, but he is now an excellent—and avid reader.

We were sometimes told that we were “in denial” about Vincent’s abilities, and given questionable advice along the way. For example, a second grade recommended ADHD-medication because Vincent would not sit still during story time. I pointed out that he would sit still for hours when drawing pictures or working math problems and that the reason he was wiggly during reading time was because his ability to understand what the teacher was saying was below the other children in the classroom.

Despite the dire predictions from “experts,” my son graduated from college and is now an air traffic controller in the Air Force. Instead of listening to the so-called experts, we followed our intuition and nurtured his gifts in math, science and art—he won a city wide art contest while in high school—while patiently teaching him to read, which took nearly a decade. But what would’ve happened if we had taken the advice that was against our own common sense?

What message would you like the reader to take away after reading your book?

Every parent already has what it takes to raise a happy, confident, resilient and intelligent child. Be confident in your own ability as a parent. Don’t let any educational program, early intervention expert, or marketing scheme interfere with that special relationship. Pay attention to your child, read to them, talk to them, and play with them and be sure to heed your own ample store of common sense.

What was the toughest part of the writing process?

The toughest part of writing was actually choosing what would be included in the book. There have been so many wonderful adventures raising my own children, so many scientific discoveries on brain plasticity and neural development that support intuitive parenting, and a plethora of parenting fads and baby genius products pushed on parents so that integrating this information into a practical message was a bit daunting. On the other hand, writing brought back so many amazing experiences and memories!

What books have had the greatest influence on you?

Of Children by Guy Lefrancois was an excellent introduction to the wonder of child development, which I read even before I had any children. Of course, the work of Jean Piaget (The psychology of the child) and BF Skinner (science and human behavior) also had a profound influence. More recently, books by Steven Pinker (The language instinct and Words and rules) and Einstein Never used flash cards by Roberta Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek have been very influential. Finally, the neuroscience aspects of development were influenced by Neurons to Neighborhoods (by Jack Shonkoff) and by the Myth of the first three years (by John Bruer).

How do you balance fatherhood and writing?

The key is focusing on your child when you get home and leaving job worries and stress at the door. Even if you only have 15 or 20 minutes, you—and your baby can connect and enjoy one another’s company. I have found that being with my children is a nice counter weight to the stresses and pressure of the workplace. And is a whole lot of fun!



Author Q&A: Lisa Lovatt-Smith

Author Q&A: Lisa Lovatt-Smith

Headshot Lisa Lovatt Smith

Lisa Lovatt-Smith is the author of Who Knows Tomorrow. She began her career at the age of 18 as an intern for Bristish Vogue. In 2002, after a long career in fashion, Lisa left everything behind and founded OAfrica. Today she lives in Ghana with her family.

What led up to the moment where you quit your former life?

It was a combination of things. In the summer of 2002 I travelled to Ghana with my adopted daughter Sabrina to volunteer at an orphanage. The experience transformed me. The orphanage was so bad, the children were beaten and without food, and the place was filthy. The sheer awfulness of the whole thing moved me and I knew I had the resources to do something. I thought I could make a difference.

What was your inspiration for writing Who Knows Tomorrow?

I met a woman, Bonnie Lieberman, who broke the glass ceiling, she blazed her way to the top. She told me this was a story that had to be told.

What is the message you would like the reader to take away after reading Who Knows Tomorrow?

There are two messages. First the fact that anyone can make a difference. With a willingness to listen and learn, and ability to put a team together, one person can change things. The second is that if you give a child love they can’t fail and that the words we say are so powerful. Using encouraging words is so important.

What was the toughest part of the writing process?

I was distraught an upset during much of the time I wrote, the writing brought back all the horror I had witnessed.

What “advice” would you give other mother writers?

I sat down with my kids and explained I was writing a book, and I was going to be very busy, and it would impact their lives because they were going to be in it. I wanted them to feel a part of it, which they are. Then I made a timetable and in the morning I wrote, then again after dinner – for six months there was no after dinner play. Also, writers have to realize that there will be unexpected interruptions to the process. My daughter gave birth and I took a week off, it happens.

WhoKnowsTomorrow-COVERBuy The Book.

Thirty percent of author proceeds are being donated to support OAfrica.



Reader Q&A: Lisa Beauvois

Reader Q&A Lisa Beauvois ArtEach week we talk with one of our readers, here’s what thinking mother Lisa Beauvois of Baltimore, Maryland has to say.

Tell me a little bit about your family…

We are a family of five living in Baltimore, Maryland. My husband grew up in Yorkshire England; I grew up between France and Texas – and we met in Puerto Rico – so there are a lot of different ideas and languages floating around our household. Our eldest, Ella, is seven years old. She’s our quiet, pensive, artistic one and is presently crazy about theater. Kaitlyn, four years old, is a whirlwind of energy and full of quippy remarks and who occasionally settles down for a nice snuggle. Patrick, our two-year-old son, is a train and truck aficionado – which we didn’t realize until his second birthday when he received a collection of matchbox cars as a gift. Up until that point we thought he was happy playing the mannequin for the girls’ dress up parties! He’s making up for lost time and now only talks about trains, trucks and automobiles, and he talks a lot!

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?)

I subscribed to Brain, Child about five years ago when my eldest was three and I finally had five minutes to read something other than brief articles about ‘how to get your kid to sleep!’ A dear friend, Brigitte, originally told me about the magazine. We both savor each issue, wait impatiently for the next – and discuss the articles at length while waiting. Even the articles that seem to have nothing to do with my present life end up speaking to me and opening my eyes to the diversity of parenting ideas and creative solutions to challenges.

Brain, Child does not compare to any other magazines I subscribe to. When you announced your final issue two years ago – my fellow Brain, Child readers and I researched all sorts of parenting magazines in an attempt to find a suitable replacement. We scoured websites and perused the library shelves for similar writing. Slate, The Huffington Post (parenting section) and some Wall Street Journal articles provided short-term relief but since these were all online, I felt the loss of holding a quality print magazine that would help me connect to my kids and family. A real magazine I could take to the bath and read during my soak.

What is your favorite Brain, Child essay, story or feature?

My very favorite parenting article of ALL TIME was Catherine Newman’s It Gets Better (Summer 2012). That article made me cry tears of laughter and sadness at the same time as I recognized myself in the author’s younger self. It gave me such joy for the future. I made at least twenty copies and gave it to all the women in my mom’s group and my closest friends with kids. Brilliant.

I also loved Katherine Ozment’s feature article on sibling rivalry (All My Children, Winter 2012). It was awesome – fantastically researched, but also gave me practical ideas – that work. In the same issue was Barbara Dara Cooper’s haunting story of the pain she and her family suffered when faced with her daughter’s eating disorder. Excellent. My eldest daughter is 7, I’ve never had an eating disorder, yet Ms. Cooper’s writing left me feeling I had been there with her. I was edgy all week after reading it. I kept thinking about how hard the mom tried to help. Heart wrenching. I still wonder how things worked out for them.

I also love the debates – always come away feeling like I can clearly see both sides of the issue. And I immediately flip to the last page for Motherwit when I get my issue. Hilarious!!

What would you like to see more of in Brain, Child?

Brain, Child always provides me with different viewpoints, ideas, methods to approach this crazy mothering journey we are on. I always feel more centered, more capable after reading your articles. They open me up to so many new ways of looking at things – and they carry me through the moments of self-doubt – until the next issue hits my mailbox and I can get my ‘fix ‘! The only thing I would change about Brain, Child is to have it come out more often. That way there would be less time between issues and I could feel a little better about the parenting decisions I make daily – and not have to wait so long for the reassurance that I’m doing OK.

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