If you haven't done so already, check out Jennifer's award-winning story "The Great Resign" and then return here for a chat with the author.
WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Q2 2022 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote?
Jennifer: This essay was inspired by my friend's offhand comment, "I'm not a country club wife, but I'm trying to be." It really sparked a combination of sadness, anger, and frustration about why the working world isn't set up for families to succeed. Particularly women, but all caregivers, struggle so much to live their best lives when society demands we work, run a household, raise children, work out, stay skinny, and maintain a social life – all the time. It's ridiculous and unsustainable. Then the pandemic hit and sent so many of us over the edge. I think it took a global pandemic for many of us to realize this is simply not sustainable.
Obviously, this is a hot button issue for me. As to the writing process itself, this one came pretty easily. It's rare, but sometimes pieces just flow. When that happens, I know I'm doing my best work.
WOW: Thank you for sharing your writing process. It’s such a wonderful feeling to feel that flow! What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay?
Jennifer: Apparently, I'm still processing the fact that I couldn't balance work and family! Honestly, my first thought when I finished this essay was that I need new material. But at the same time, it's such a common theme among my friends. None of us well-educated women know where we fit anymore.
WOW: Yes, it is absolutely a relatable topic for many women. But even with all of this happening, you are accomplishing some amazing things. Congratulations on completing a novel and finding representation! Can you tell us more about your novel?
Jennifer: Thank you! It was so exciting when I connected with Emily. She has worked so hard to help my novel shine. We're waiting on publisher responses now, but we're certainly interested in hearing from anyone who's interested!
My novel is called Everything We Did Not Do, and is centered around two very different women, one rich, one poor, one young, one middle-age. Anne Marie Richards is alone, newly divorced, her twins at college. When her elderly father, Cory, reenters her life, she sees an opportunity for meaning: taking care of the man who raised her. She dreams of rekindling a relationship damaged by miles and time. But Cory Richards doesn't want his daughter's help. He pushes Anne Marie away and insists they hire an aide.
Claudia Smith is a single mother desperate for a job. Any job. When she has a chance to work as Cory Richards' aide, she lies about her past and is hired on the spot. Her instructions are simple: cook, clean, drive, and stay close in case he falls again. She doesn't realize she'll also have to keep his secrets.
When Cory dies mysteriously, these very different women become intertwined in ways they never could have imagined, leaving them with a fierce determination to protect the ones they love.
WOW: Great hook! Thank you for sharing it with us. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you?
Jennifer: I'm really loving Anne Lamott right now. I love her essays on writing, love and life. Elizabeth Gilbert as well. She inspires me to live the way I want to live, not the way other people tell me to.
WOW: If you could tell your younger self anything about writing, what would it be?
Jennifer: To borrow an old, worn-out slogan: just do it. I really wish I'd started a blog when the kids were younger. I feel like I had more relatable material, and blogs were still fairly new back then. But honestly, we meet life where it is. I'm not sure how I would have found time for creativity amongst long work days, diapers, daycare, and playdates. For new writers staring out: be nice to yourself. Take it one word at a time.
WOW: I can see the Anne Lamott influence on your last piece of advice. I love it! Anything else you’d like to add?
Jennifer: Thank you so much for choosing my essay, and thank you to the women who've reached out to me. It's been a whirlwind last few weeks; I promise to get back to each of you. Your comments melted my heart.
WOW: Thank you for your thoughtful responses. Happy writing!