I was sharing some fabulous photos of my mother, who passed away in 2013, when a childhood friend asked me if she was supportive of my writing.
My first impulse was yes. Then I had to rethink the question. Was she really? It didn’t always seem so.
It’s true my mother more than tolerated my creative pursuits. She supplied me with pencils, paints, scissors, glue, and giant pads of paper. She colored with me. She drew pictures with me. She read to me. She taught me to sew and embroider, and let me cut up my clothes to redesign them. She let me paint on my bedroom walls.
As a girl, I remember laying on my back in the middle of the living room, staring up at the stucco ceiling for hours. My mother might have peeked in to see what I was up to, but she left me alone. She was probably just happy I was quiet — I’m sure she had no idea I was making up stories about the characters I saw in the swirls of plaster, or imagining the house as upside down and filled with water and I was swimming through it.
No surprise I showed an aptitude for art and writing in school. I told her I wanted to be a journalist, but that was only because journalists write, and that’s what I wanted to do. She said, “Oh, no, you can’t do that. That’s too hard.” I understand now she was trying to protect me from what she saw as the School of Hard Knocks, but, back then, I was devastated. Didn’t she think I was smart enough? What was she trying to say? Do something easy?
I pursued art instead of writing, but I have to admit my self-confidence floundered for many years.
My return to writing
Eventually I found my way back to writing. I went to conferences and poetry retreats and weekly workshops. My poetry was getting published. I won a chapbook award. I placed in contests. I felt successful. I was having a great time. My mom smiled and said “That’s wonderful,” but it wasn’t until I was paid for teaching a workshop that she said, “Now it means something.”
My writing didn’t mean anything before then? I had to laugh. it was okay. I knew what it meant to me.
School of hard knocks
When I switched from writing poetry to fiction, I told my mother about the stories I was working on, and she listened with great interest. She was excited for me when I entered a low residency program at the University of Southern Maine to earn a Masters of Fine Art in Fiction. But then I had a novel to sell. Every writer knows this is the official School of Hard Knocks. Even Mom knew getting it published would be hard work. I shared my ups and downs with her, and she empathized. Yet, several times she said to me, “Why don’t you write a children’s book? You’d be good at that.”
I just smiled and said “Maybe I will.” She was only trying to help me the best way she knew how.
The sad thing is my first novel will be published this summer, and she’s gone.
She fostered creativity
Looking back, I’d have to say yes, my mother was supportive. She loved everything I did. She allowed me my flights of fancy. She let me be a dreamer. In fact, when I got a D in chemistry, she said, “That’s okay. You got an A in English and art. You aren’t going to be a chemist.”
Sometimes her advice or comments may have been misguided, but that’s all right. My mother let me be me. She was absolutely supportive.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of In the Context of Love, about one women’s need to tell her story without shame. Adult contemporary fiction
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers Favorite Book Finalist
2016 USA Book News “Best Book” Finalist
Angelica Schirrick had always suspected there was something deeply disturbing about her family, but the truth was more than she bargained for.
“With tenderness, but without blinking, Linda K. Sienkiewicz turns her eye on the predator-prey savannah of the young and still somehow hopeful.” ~ Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of the #1 NY Times Bestseller, Deep End of the Ocean