Friday Speak Out!: My Baby’s First Outings, Guest Post by Sheila K. Collins

Friday, September 27, 2013
Somehow I got into the habit of referring to my memoir as “my baby.” Last year I even teased my pregnant daughter-in-law that I wanted to have my baby before she had hers because I’d been pregnant longer.

She beat me by a whole year. As it turns out, Warrior Mother was released on my granddaughter’s first birthday, August 28, 2013. Now I’m getting to learn what happens for a writer when her baby has finally been birthed.

Like a new mother of a human baby, the arrival of the offspring is just the beginning of a new author’s life. This is not the season to give oneself over to shyness or uncertainty. Both books and babies need lots of tender loving care after they arrive so that eventually they can live on their own. And that’s what we wish for our creations, that they will someday be able to live without us.

“So what now?” People ask. “What’s your next writing project?” That question feels like someone asking my daughter-in-law on the way home from the hospital, “So what now? When will you have your next baby?” I am continuing to write but at this point my writing skills are being used in the service of the baby I’ve just had.

I’m busy exploring ways to introduce my new offspring to friends, family, and community. Since my book is autobiographical, I’ve been a frequent visitor at the post office, mailing signed copies to some of the people who appear in my book, people whose stories have been important in the telling of my own. I’m gifting copies to people who helped to midwife this baby; to edit and advise, to read early drafts, to endorse, and to provide encouragement when it seemed I would be in labor forever. As all successful published writers can attest, it takes a couple of small villages to bring a new entity into the world and help it find its place in it.

Moving toward sharing Warrior Mother with people who don’t know me personally, I’ve been collaborating with my son on the creation of a book trailer. Like a movie trailer, we hope this minute and a half excerpt will entice people to purchase a ticket to the experience of reading the book. Our collaboration, going through family pictures that illustrate some of the events described in the book, has turned out to be, for each of us, an extension of the healing that took place for me throughout the process of writing the book. Now, as I prepare to use my skills as an improvisational artist and “perform the book” in my hometown and at an independent bookstore in Scotland, it won’t be long before I’ll be able to see the impact my baby will make in its readers’ lives.

* * *

Sheila K. Collins is a dancer, social worker and improvisational performance artist. In Warrior Mother: Fierce Love, Unbearable Loss and Rituals that Heal (She Writes Press), Sheila shares how she got through the loss of two of her grown children. See Sheila in action with her performance troupe at TedX Pittsburgh, friend her on Facebook, and Tweet her @SheilaKCollins.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Sioux Roslawski said...

Sheila--Memoir is my favorite genre to read, and it's usually what I write (short, creative nonfiction pieces, for anthologies).

Combining your gift for improvisation and your gift with words seems like it will be a marvelous way to introduce your baby to the rest of the world.

Congratulations. Your stretch marks and the pain are now forgotten, due to the euphoria of giving birth...

Margo Dill said...

WOW! First of all, you have written about a terribly painful (I can't even imagine) topic in your memoir, and now you are exposing it to the world. I've had a baby (early and a c-section) and I think maybe you birthing your memoir might have been much, much harder! Congratulations to you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

MonetteChilson said...


Thank you for articulating the post-partum dilemma all authors face after birthing a book. Until I read your post, I felt a twinge of inadequacy every time someone asked, "So, are you working on your next book?" in the weeks following the publication of my first book this past summer. I explained, as kindly as I could, that I was focusing my writing now and publicity and generating buzz for the book I JUST PUBLISHED X NUMBER OF WEEKS AGO. Sadly, only another writer can really understand how much those well-meaning questions cut deeply into our sense of professional viability. While it is true that we are writers when we write, it is also true that we are writers when we invest ourselves in the nurturing of our words that are still finding their way in the world. I appreciate the reminder.

Best of luck with your book!


Sheila K. Collins said...

In many important life passages there is pain and discomfort, like your mention of having a c-section, but having support while we go through this transitions makes all the difference. One of my favorite things about women is that most of us are not afraid to ask for help, and willing to respond when someone needs it. Being a writer is easier when we have the support of other writes. Thanks for your words of encouragement.

Sheila K. Collins said...

I love your mention of stretch marks and pain now forgotten once the baby or the book is here. There are new challenges, new skills to learn, and I'm finding, just like a new mother, I need to be patient with myself as I learn what's needed to communicate about my book. Thanks for your encouragement.

Sheila K. Collins said...

As I'm looking ahead to my next writing projects I'm looking toward shorter forms than another book. I just had a chance to write and read some short, (less than 200 word) pieces, and it was great fun. I especially enjoy the sense of completion that it took me years to experience with my book.
Thanks for your encouragement. Good luck with your writing.

Audrey said...

I am so proud of you for writing this book. I am putting it on my to read list.
Enjoy this time with your "new baby",and don't let anyone make you rush this special time away.
You give me fresh encouragement to work harder on the project that has lived long enough in my mind!

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