2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006: Named one
of the 101 best Web sites for writers by Writers Digest Magazine.
Chris Gavaler is the author of the novel Pretend Iím Not Here as well as the father of two young children. He has a masters in Education from Rutgers University and is a former high school English teacher.
Question: What made you decide to write a book?
Gavaler: The first book was a personal experiment. I had been writing poem sequences for about ten years and decided to give fiction a try. I intended my first novel to be a short story, but around page 100 I realized I had something else in my hands. I enjoyed writing it so much that I leapt into the next manuscript as soon as I was done with the first.
Q: What ultimately led you to getting it published?
Gavaler: Perseverance. Pretend I'm Not Here was the seventh novel I wrote. I have an inch-high stack of rejection letters from about 200 agents. Keeping at it, I learned how to market myself and my writing and so eventually caught the interest of an agent who was able to place my manuscript with one of her editor contacts.
Q: What was your biggest challenge in juggling parenthood with writing?
Gavaler: Time. I have three part-time jobs: I used to teach (now I work in a University grants writing office); I take care of my kids in the afternoon; and I write. Like everyone else, I need a few more hours in the day--specifically after my kids are asleep. Much of Pretend I'm Not Here was written in the afternoon during my daughter's naps. She has long since dropped those.
Q: Does this mean you have to set up a new schedule to write?
Gavaler: It's always shifting. Right now I'm between projects, but I hope to start a 2-hour writing shift in the morning with a few scattered evening hours, too.
Q: Did you feel confident you could be a published author and still meet the demands of parenting?
Gavaler: Publishing only complicates things during the couple months of publicity. It's the writing that's the real challenge. You need predictable blocks of time, otherwise it becomes a hobby that gets pushed out of the daily and weekly schedule when the rest of your life presses in. I committed myself to the job of writing, so, yes, I felt confident. Getting published is a different and stranger job, one that requires more than commitment and talent. You need luck.
Q: Did you have any help while you were writing your book? If so, how did you feel about it? Did your children participate in any way? If not, do you feel you could've done a better job getting your book written if you had?
Gavaler: My wife is a brilliant poet and English professor. She's my primary reader. You can't get better help than that. My kids like to draw on the backs of my old drafts. There's no shortage of scrap paper in our house.
Q: What sort of schedule did you finally decide upon in order to write your book around your parenting responsibilities?
Gavaler: I made myself become a morning person. I set my alarm at 6:00, six days a week, so I could write before my kids woke up. I wrote during naps, after bed time, whenever I could trade time with my wife. After you have kids, there's no such thing as "free time." It's all "barter time." You just have to be vigilant about how you use it. Kids make you efficient.
Q: What surprised you the most as a parent while you wrote your book?
Gavaler: My kids were fascinated by what I was doing. Madeleine started making her own "books," sometimes typing randomly on the computer, sometimes scribbling on pieces of paper and taping them into book shapes. Cameron would sit on my lap and crayon while I worked at the keyboard. Kids model their parents, so now I've got two budding authors in the family.
Q: When you were writing, did your children understand what you were doing and why? For example, did you tell them, "Daddy is writing a book?"
Gavaler: My biggest challenge was explaining to my then 3-year-old daughter what an agent does. Even the relationship between typing on a computer and a bound book in a bookcase is hard to explain. But Madeleine is five now and she understands it all. When I had a book signing in town, she wanted to sell photocopies of her illustrated stories at the book store, too.
Q: Now that you are published, does your daughter understand what you do and why?
Gavaler: Seeing the copies of my first novel surprised her. "Wow," she said, "I never thought there would be so many!" She definitely understands the idea of writing and publishing. She says that she wants to "work on the computer" like me when she grows up. Illustrator is very high on her future career list, too.
Q: How did you manage to promote your book while caring for your kids?
Gavaler: It was an intense couple of months over the summer. I can't imagine how a single parent would ever be able to do a book tour. I can't imagine how a single parent would ever be able to do anything. Cameron got mad at me for having a suddenly unpredictable schedule. He cried if I went out in the evening for a local book event, and when I came back from long weekends, he ignored me. Madeleine was easier because she understood more, and she was able to come with me sometimes.
Q: What's the best advice you've been given on writing?
Gavaler: Adverbs are not your friends.
Q: What's the best advice you can give to other writing parents?
Gavaler: Don't stop writing. You can't control luck, but you can control almost everything else. If you enjoy writing, then you should write. Publishing is a different game, but if you enter it with the long-term in mind, you can eventually win at it.
Dana Mitchells is the Internet pen name of the writer Dawn Colclasure. She is a former weekly writer for the former e-zine, Griper, and she has a poetry chapbook, Take My Hand, available from Amazon.com. Her work can also be found on Ten Thousand Monkeys , E-Fido and Absolute Write . She is currently seeking a literary agent for her novels. She lives with her husband, Jason Wilson, and daughter in California.