Stop second guessing yourself! (Sane advice for writers and moms from Jen Singer)

I flipped Jen Singer a message yesterday: "How goes the book launch?"

"Agonizing and thrilling," Jen responded. "You know. The usual."

Jen is one of the sanest writers I know. She has to be. She's a mom, dispensing sane mommy advice via her website,, her Good Housekeeeping blog, and a multi-book deal with "Chicken Soup" publisher HCI. Her first book, You're a Good Mom, came out last year and was anything but the usual thrill ride.

"I’d met my editor, Allison Janse, from HCI at BEA just days before I was diagnosed with lymphoma," says Jen. "We were all aglow from our pending deal, with hugs all around. Well, no hugs because I had 'pneumonia,' which was really a 15 cm tumor in my lung. But I didn’t know that when I was at BEA."

When Jen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (a virulent blood cancer) and started chemo, she was still waiting on the contract for the three-book deal, but HCI stepped up and signed the deal anyway.

"I immediately burst into tears. When my oncology nurse asked me what was wrong, I told her how relieved and happy I was that the book deal was still going through. She decided that we’d celebrate with Haagen Dazs chocolate covered ice cream pops, and popped out to the store to get some. Immediately, I became addicted to these pops. Throughout my chemo and radiation treatments, I ate one, sometimes two each day."

Now, sixteen months into remission, Jen's finished writing all three books, and the first of the series, Stop Second-Guessing Yourself, came out this week. ("But I’m still working off the #@*! ice cream!" Jen adds.) Stop Second-Guessing Yourself offers the big picture on parenting toddlers in a way readers have never seen before. Anyone who's been there knows those toddler years are never what you expected when you were expecting. Skimming through Jens always-a-delight-to-read writing, I nodded a lot (and laughed a lot) and realized a lot of this common sense advice actually applies to the publishing industry...

The Major Meltdown: "The best way to deal with a tantruming toddler is to get the heck out of wherever you are and don't look back...It's the only way your toddler will learn that his manipulative superpowers have no effect on you."
(Having heard tales of woe from all sides, I know for a fact that editors, agents, and writers all have their moments. Getting on the diva bus only encourages it to make more regularly scheduled stops.)

How to Host a Playdate/Playgroup without Ticking Anyone Off: "Here's the dirty little secret about playdates: it's more about the mommies than anyone else. Don't be fooled into thinking you can sink into a comfy chair with your coffee and dish for an hour or two. Your parenting skills are on display and under scrutiny."
(Apply this dynamic to industry cocktail parties, signings, lunches, and "casual" meet 'n' greets.)

When Your Toddler is Jealous: "One day, your toddler is the center of attention and the reason for everything that happens in the house. The next, there's a new baby in the house, and everyone is oohing and aahing and ignoring your poor toddler, who probably feels like she's been knocked off of American Idol by some up-and-coming, no-good, talentless singer who seemed to come out of nowhere."
(Do I even need to connect the dots here?)

Beyond Blue's Clues--Entertaining Your Toddler: "As a full-time stay-at-home mom, I learned how to fill upward of 100 hours a week, some of it with entertaining and even educational activities, some of it with letting my toddlers pull all of the tissues out of the box and then stuff them back in. Did I mention it was 100 hours a week?"
(Have you noticed how that every WIP expands to fill the time allotted to it? See Colleen's "Fun Factor(y)" post yesterday.)

Whiiiiiiiiines: "Whining is your toddler's way of manipulating you into doing what she wants you to do. If you let her get away with it now because she's 'just a baby,' picture yourself at the mall in ten years trying to explain to your whining tween why she can't have a skin-tight T-shirt that reads: 'Is it hot in here or is it me?'"
(Trying to get what they want is in the job description of everyone at the negotiating table. Set your boundaries, gird your loins, and stand firm.)

It is important to remember: "You are not the only one going through it, no matter how lonely it feels at times."


Suzan Harden said…
Man, I really wish Ms. Singer had written these books ten years ago. I'm one of those "mean" mommies, who'd hoist their screamer on their hip and march out of Kroger's and leave a full basket of food behind. I'll definitely have to give her books as baby shower gifts!
Great post. Best wishes on the new book, Jen. And I loved the corollaries to publishing, which at times seems to be a business of toddlers. LOL.
Jen Singer said…
Thanks so much! So far, so good. And I just got the galleys for the preschool book in the series, which comes out in September. Also, a clean biopsy, so all is great.
jfrank14 said…
Jen, I'm so happy to hear you're doing well, and so glad to read this hysterical excerpt! The play date thing is so, so true. I will definitely grab a copy of your book. Can't wait! Best wishes, (another) Jen(ny)
Wonderful to hear about the clean biopsy, too, Jen. Plenty of more galleys in your future. :)

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