Friday, May 7, 2010

How my mom nurtured my dirty mind

I'm hanging out at my parents' house in Salem for a couple days to attend some Romance Writers of America functions and drink wine with engage professionally with fellow authors.

(Incidentally, how many non-Oregonians know Salem is our capital? Most assume it's Portland, including whoever decided this city should have no commercial airport or TV networks of its own. It has vineyards, though, so what else do you need?)

With Mother's Day coming up this Sunday and my mom hovering around offering to feed me every five minutes, I've been thinking about some of the ways she fostered my creativity.

My parents never bought me coloring books as a kid. This was partly because my lack of patience and artistic talent meant I viewed coloring books as something to be completed in under two minutes, but there were other reasons.

"I didn't want you to feel like you had to stay in the lines," my mom told me later. "I always gave you blank paper so you could be as creative as you wanted."

This did have its drawbacks, like the time my brother and I got in trouble for drawing dirty pictures (though even our mom admits they were creative ones).

When I was older and had to do an art project on THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, my mom didn't bat an eyelash when I used modeling clay to create anatomically correct figures of Huck and Jim floating naked on a raft. And she was prepared to defend me to anyone who raised an eyebrow. "It's right there in the book," she agreed. "Not a stitch of clothes on."

These days, I rely on both my parents to proof my manuscripts when I need fresh eyes outside my pool of critique partners and beta readers. Considering the risque nature of some of my scenes, this isn't as awkward as you might think.

"There's a typo on page 112 in the third paragraph of the phone sex scene," my mom informed me on a recent read-through of a manuscript. "I think you meant 'thrust' instead of 'trust.'"

So how about you, dear readers? How did your mother foster your creativity as an author? Give her a shout-out in the comments.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to see if mom has a better word for "purple-headed warrior."


Bill Cameron said...

My mother told me I need to get my goddamn idiot head out of the clouds and enter a field where you get paid for doing something of actual value, like insurance. She then went to work at the insurance agency, teaching by example how utterly miserable a life working in a field where you get paid for doing something of actual value, like insurance, truly is.

Patty said...

*deep crimson blush*

This er... well... (coughs) It reminds me of the time I had to explain to my mother the difference between "bestiality" and "necrophilia". (shudders) I'm still not recovered.

In all honesty, Mom taught me to read when I was 4. When I was 4, nobody went to nursery school. It was just the two of us (my sister's birth later that year had not yet destroyed my fairytale childhood). It was a gift. Reading, I mean. Not my sister.

Today, I read novels in a day. When my boys go off to do manly things that I suspect involve scratching parts, farting, and lots of rough housing, I can read four or five novels in a weekend.

I think that love of reading evolves naturally into a desire to write.

So, yes, my writing aspirations are and always have been my mother's gift.

Excuse me while I go call her.

Linda G. said...

LOL! After reading this I don't I'll let knowing your mom reads your blog inhibit my comments ever again. :)

As for my mom...let's just say she encourages my lack of inhibition in my writing by *ahem* not reading any early drafts. ;)

Bria said...

Okay, so when are we all having a sleepover at your mom's house?

Cynthia Reese said...

Hmh ... so because I didn't buy The Kiddo coloring books, does that mean she'll grow up to be like her Auntie Tawna?

On second thought, I can think of worse fates. Like, er, maybe her Auntie Linda? ;-)

Karla Nellenbach said...

First, my Mom (as my Grandma did for her) passed her love of reading down to me. I can't thank her enough for causing this addiction :) Now, she reads my "final" drafts and gives her honest opinion. Yes, she has told me that certain pieces of mine bit the big one, for which I am glad. She's already labeled herself as my "content editor" whatever that means and expects a cut of all future earnings :)

Roland D. Yeomans said...

My mother was half-Lakota. And she would often tap my head and smile, "The world in there is much larger than the one your eyes see, Roland."

Being half Lakota and half Irish, she was familiar with the legends of both worlds. And that terrible winter, when she and I were snowbound in our basement apartment, my double pneumonia growing worse as my coughing increased -- she forced her mounting fear behind her, starting to tell me stories made up on the cuff, merging Lakota tales with Celtic myths.

And as I lay there shivering and coughing, a wonderous world opened up before me. Her tales provided the basis for my YA fantasy, The Bear With Two Shadows. I think I know why I wrote down those tales she told me, filtered through my own memories and imagination. It is my kiss to the winds to her spirit and to her love. But it could also be my desire to spin my own tales told in the darkness of the written page, to open the healing world of wonder to some other soul in the cold.

Whew! Didn't mean to get so long-winded. Hope your Mother's Day goes amazingly well, Roland

Anonymous said...

Hm, I think my mom would have a heart attack if she read my current works. She still insists that I don't have to write romance, but she's getting over that.

My mom worked a lot when I was growing up. With a sister 8 years older than me (and too cool to play with her little sister), I had to be my own friend. I had an imagination that didn't quit and wrote my first story when I was 7...Mom read it and was like "that's wonderful!". It sucked as did the other stories I wrote until I became serious about it.

I will say though, that she always encouraged me to write. She had more faith in my ability to string words together than I did. When I finished my first manuscript, she was right there celebrating with me. She's proud of me, even if she doesn't like my genre. She's the best ever.

middle child said...

My mom nurtured my dirty mind by leaving aroung copies of Cosmo and Fredricks of Hollywood catalogs. Creativity? She had tons of it. Art. Music. I can't say how I was encouraged to be creative but I will thank her for giving me the genetic material to be such.

Claire Dawn said...

I don't think I would mind showing my mother, but my mother on the other hand... I think a Catholic priest and some Holy water would be the order of the day. My mother is reading my book AFTER it's published, when she can't stop me from publishing it.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

OMG! I laughed out loud in the middle of the high school library just now. I wish you could be here to enjoy the expressions on my students' faces! LOL! Great post.

Have a great weekend! :-)

Southpaw said...

You mom is awesome!

My mom fostered my creativity in all aspects of the arts.

Linda G. said...

Cynthia -- Hey, waitaminnit! How'd Auntie Linda get to be a worse fate than Auntie Tawna?

Have I posted pictures of phallic wine bottle toppers or giant *ahem* screws on my blog?

Or posted about having fake sex in the car in front of the *gasp* neighbors? Uh-uh. (Granted, that one only because I didn't think of it first, but still...)

Sure, I may have been involved with gunrunners once upon a time, but it was entirely Not My Fault.

So, really, I think you need reconsider your statement. ;)

Jade said...

My mum has complete faith that I'll be published one day. Even though she's obviously biased, it's still nice to have someone who believes in you, especially in those times when you've lost your own belief.

I've always been a reader and my mum always encouraged me and never once censored anything I wanted to read. She handed me CATCH-22 when I was 15 and it blew my mind! Loves her for that.

Delia said...

I recently wrote a short story that was so laden with f-bombs that it will never see publication outside of my personal blog. Even with that, my mom, who could give the Pope Catholic lessons, said, "You know, Steven King would have given more background." To which I replied, "Mom, I'm not Steven King." She said, "Well, yeah, but..."

Growing up, though, the best thing she did was let me be with my books. I lived in a 1200 square foot house with six siblings (I told you we were Catholic) and one bathroom. To find a modicum of peace, I used to climb the maple tree in my backyard. At the top, there were three branches that formed a nice seat. I'd sit up there and read. She never made me come down.

Delia said...

And I just spelled Stephen King's name wrong twice in a row. Sheesh.

Robin said...


Sydnee said...

My mom is pretty open to anything, though not on the same level as yours is. I grew up with her telling me "the human body is a beautiful thing and naked people are beautiful and masturbation is normal" (without me even saying anything about those subjects, too - talk about awkward) so I spent all my free time reading racy smut novels and drawing naked people and saving (artistic) nudes on my hard drive so I could reference them to draw more naked people later. I'm very free about sexy things because of her, which is awesome because that's what I like to write about!

I've never taken a life drawing class, though - blame that on my dad and his fear of strange flaccid penises.

India Drummond said...

Best last line ever!

Tawna Fenske said...

Sorry again for jumping in late (just returning from road trip) but thanks so much for the lovely comments!

Bill, parents are great even when they teach you by doing the WRONG thing! (er, not that mine have ever done anything wrong).

Patty, I would have liked to be a fly on the wall for the "bestiality" vs. "necrophilia" conversation!

Linda G, don't tell anyone, but my mom has said she always looks for your blog comments first because you're a former teacher (her profession.)

Bria, I'll be back at Mom & Dad's place in a month for another RWA meeting. Want me to pop the popcorn and get everything ready for the pillow fight?

Cynthia, your lovely daughter should be so lucky as to turn out just like Auntie Tawna or Auntie Linda! :)

Karla, I agree wholeheartedly that a love of reading is one of the best things parents can pass along to their kids!

Roland, your mother (and your upbringing!) sound amazing!

danicaavet, make sure to remind your mom that romance is the #1 top selling genre of all. Even if she doesn't like smut, she can appreciate your business savvy, can't she?

middlechild, my mom caught me skimming "The Joy of Sex" when I was five. Pretty sure it was all downhill from there.

Claire Dawn, you know that even if your mom blushes furiously, she'll be so proud of you she won't be able to contain herself!

Shannon, thank you! Have a great weekend yourself!

Southpaw, you're right indeed! My mom is pretty awesome.

Jade, Catch-22 when you were 15? That's an amazing mom for sure!

Delia, I know exactly what you're talking about! Pretty sure my mom always knew I was reading under the covers with a flashlight long after curfew, but she let me do it anyway.

Robin, I will be sure to visit your blog ASAP to check it out. Thanks!

Sydnee, someday I'll blog about the story my mom always tells about me accosting my kindergarten classmate in the restroom and singing Mr. Rogers' "Your Body's Fancy - and so is Mine" to him while he peed. I think your mom would appreciate that!

India, you know, I'm still waiting for Mom to help me out with that! :)

Thanks for reading, guys!


Purple Cow said...

My mother didn’t let me watch television, and she used to focus on my maths marks and would leave me alone in bookstores while she did the rest of her shopping. At the time I just thought she was mean. I’m not a writer by the way, just a journalist. Writing descriptive sex scenes and not sounding silly must be really hard.

Patty said...

Tawna, the "bestiality" vs. "necrophilia" conversation actually took place on Broadway, in the lounge above The Roundabout Theatre (I think...) before we saw The 39 Steps.

I remember a loud chorus of "Check, please!" and half a dozen people tossing back drinks, then running for the elevator.

All except one brave man who grinned the entire time, then quietly slipped my mother a cocktail napkin on which he'd written his phone number.

As I said, still not recovered.

susan said...

I had no idea that your mom was so progressive! Live and learn.

Tawna Fenske said...

Purple Cow, LOL, you wrote, "Writing descriptive sex scenes and not sounding silly must be really hard." To which I must reply, "you said really hard." But I also have to admit, the sex scenes are some of my favorite things to write!

Patty, I'd love to hear how THAT date turned out!

Susan, my mom pretends to be shy and sweet, but she's neither :) She also totally rocks.

Thanks for reading, guys!

Anonymous said...

My mother read to me. Constantly. She got me hooked on Stephen King when I was 10! Oh yeah. Scared the Bejeebus out me, but all's well that ends well. I guess that's why I decided to major in English, instead of something more...useful?