Ariella Papa is a busy mom who has self-published two books. Most recently, she wrote a great article for XOJane about the icky men who hit on her when she traveled in her 20s. Ariella also explores these real life issues in her newest novel.
Have a novel inside of you? Consider publishing it yourself like Ariella did. Here’s how she got her e-book Momfriends and A Semester Abroad on Amazon:
“Like some exhausted lactating Rip Van Writer, I emerged from the first three years of motherhood to a whole new world in book publishing. I’d had some success with my first three novels, but then I took a break and focused on my two young children. Some people insist that you must write every single day if you want to be a writer, but having two kids means having no time. Slowly, once I got my kids on a good sleep schedule (and I stopped falling asleep by 8 p.m.), I started writing again.
I have always written about stages in women’s lives and how friendships can support and enhance those times. What struck me about my new identity as a mother was that sitting on a playground bench exposed me to “mom friends” I would never have met in the narrow confines of my own life.
I got to work on a book called Momfriends which was a humorous story celebrating the friendship between three very different women during chaotic moments in their lives. It was probably my best work to date. Unfortunately, my agent refused to read it. It didn’t have enough plot, she claimed. The suggestions she made to hook a Big Six Publisher sounded like gimmicks and not an honest portrayal of the good and bad in parenthood. The truth was that publishing houses, scared by the rise of the eBook market and their financial losses, were not taking risks.
Around me, writers I knew were trying hard to write books that didn’t suit them. Everyone hoped to find the magic formula for a book that “might sell.” But no one—not agents, not publishing companies and especially not me—could figure it out.
For a time, I refused to believe that I couldn’t sell my novel traditionally. I didn’t want to give up. Then, I started to question my choices. Maybe writing could just be something I did in another pre-kid world. Why make life harder? There was enough to do with my family and day job. In my little downtime—why not just sit on the couch and watch HBO? But tempting as this was, I couldn’t accept it. I wish I could tell you why I can’t make myself stop wanting to write, but I can’t. And…I can’t.
I remembered an Audre Lorde quote: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” For me it means to find a new way; the old way is broken. So like many other musicians, filmmakers, artists and authors before me, I went indie. I decided to e-publish. This was a shock to all who know me because I am the least tech-savvy person in the world. My computer crashes if I look at it the
wrong way. At the time, I didn’t own an e-reader and had never read a digital book.
But I wanted my story out there. So I did my research. I read just about everything I could. I got a copy editor, a cover designer, and a book formatter and set it all up.
And then I published Momfriends.
There are so many differences between independently publishing and traditionally publishing. I never see these books on a shelf in the bookstore, and any publicity or marketing comes from me. I’m not the most comfortable trying to sell my author brand, but I have no choice. There are no big budget ads or bookstore readings set up. Yet I felt more connected to this book. The choices about it are mine.
Momfriends came out over two years ago and it has sold steadily. It even picked up steam a year and a half into the release. That doesn’t usually happen in traditional publishing.
And so, I’m doing it again. I am releasing my next novel A Semester Abroad as an indie, too. In 2011, I had to explain indie publishing and sometimes e-books to people. Now almost everyone I know reads on a digital device. For those who don’t there will be a paperback. Indie publishing now includes paperback “hard copies.”
I have come to terms with the fact that I will never stumble upon these books in a
bookstore, but I can’t be stopped. I’ve got my own tools.
My friends are already asking me what to read on their summer vacations. The truth is, I have no idea. Unlike this time last year, there are no breakout books like Wild and Gone Girl. June looks like a slower month for book releases, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something amazing. We all just have to look a little harder (and consult the experts on these things). I checked out best-of lists from Publisher’s Weeklyand The New York Times and O Magazine, and here are my faves:
Kiss Me First
Lottie Moggach PW writes: This disturbing, engrossing psychological thriller will keep you up nights as the founder of a website that discusses philosophy lures a lonely young woman into a twisted scenario involving identity takeover via social media. A wild and wicked debut novel.
The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living Wendy Jehanara Tremayne PW writes: Summer is a perfect time to ponder—and try—living with less. Tremayne’s whimsically illustrated back-to-the-land memoir and DIY manual, which PW called a “rollicking, inspiring tale,” convincingly advocates for a “decommodified life.” Readers will be moved to consider everything from the concept of the gift economy to recipes for homemade toothpaste and kombucha.
Gail Godwin PW writes: Charismatic Helen Anstruther, the wry adolescent narrator of Godwin’s new novel, is left in the care of the “hopelessly effusive” Flora, a young family friend. The isolated and rambling house they share once served people recovering from tuberculosis or alcoholism. It’s 1945, Helen’s father is away on business and her mother is long dead, and the summer she spends with Flora—full of boredom, desire, and ultimately heartbreak—profoundly transforms them both. Godwin knows how to deliver rich, textured tales.
The Silver Star
Jeannette Walls O writes: Twelve-year-old “Bean” Holladay and her older sister, Liz, aren’t immediately concerned when their mother abandons them to “make some time and space for myself…to find the magic again”; she’s done this before—to chase a man, or her dream of being a singer. But when she doesn’t return after two weeks, the girls, who’ve been subsisting on a diet of chicken potpies, revert to plan B—buying bus tickets from California to their mother’s hometown in Virginia—to avoid being taken away by social services.
And the Mountains Echoed Khaled Hoseinni O writes: And the Mountains Echoed opens like a thunderclap, with a fable of sacrifice told by a destitute Afghan villager to his son and daughter. What makes his sad tale even more searing is that the children are unaware their father is about to sell one of them. From this dramatic opening spins a constellation of star-crossed characters.
Sisterland Curtis Sittenfeld NYT writes: The high-concept gimmick at the heart of Ms. Sittenfeld’s new novel, “Sisterland,” is the premise of twin sisters who have strange psychic powers that enable them to foresee the future. One twin tries to suppress her ESP; like Samantha, the nose-twitching witch in “Bewitched,” she just wants to live life as an ordinary suburban housewife. The other sister cultivates her unusual gifts and becomes a professional psychic; she gains national fame when she warns that a terrible earthquake is going to hit the St. Louis area and is interviewed on the Today show. In both books Ms. Sittenfeld’s gifts for portraying the inner lives of her heroines manage to transcend the silliness and contrivance of her plots.
Bad Monkey Carl Hiassen NYT writes: A washed-up monkey, sex in a morgue, a severed arm at the end of a fishhook and other Carl Hiaasen capers make Bad Monkey his funniest novel in almost a decade.
Spring is in the air along with loads of birds. The kids and I love watching these creatures and listening to them sing. Two recent children’s picture books celebrate birds, and my kids loved both of them.
Let’s Go Hugo
by Angela Dominguez
Hugo is an affable little bird guy who lives in Paris and loves to play in the park. One day he meets a cute yellow feathered friend named Lulu. She happily hangs out with him all day and then wants to go to the Eiffel Tower. The only problem–which Hugo tries to hide at first–is that he’s afraid to fly. If you have a child who’s apprehensive about anything right now, this little picture book just might make him feel better. My kids rooted for Hugo and especially loved his little French mustache.
The Eagles are Back
by Jean Craighead George
This book covers a lot of ground. It opens with a pair of eagles who lost their baby eaglet eggs before they hatched. A little boy watches them in the field every day, and he’s very worried about the endangered American bald eagles. The story kept my kids interested even though it delivers a heady message about our nation’s great bird and protecting its environment. What reeled my readers in was the sweet story about the boy, the park ranger and the dad. The paintings–rich, emotional and timeless–expertly wrap children into this story written by the talented Jean Craighead George, a Newberry Award and Honor winner, who sadly passed away recently.
Jennifer Gilmore‘s The Mothershas become a praised and hot new novel. It’s about one couple’s struggle with infertility and then the rigors of adoption. Jennifer wrote her book after going through a similar hardships herself. Luckily, her personal story has a happy ending. Here’s more directly from Jennifer about her life and her book:
“Since we met in our late twenties, my husband and I have wanted to make a family. I’d been sick, though, and was told by my doctors I’d never be able to have children.Despite this ominous declaration, I went on to become pregnant, which ended in a miscarriage. After several rounds of unsuccessful IVF procedures, we decided to pursue domestic adoption.
We were utterly unprepared for the adoption process, despite extensive research. And the deeper we got into the world of paperwork and agencies and lawyers and the choices we had to make, the more issues of race and class, and also what motherhood means, ignited the novelist in me. I wanted to investigate not only the difficult and shocking process, but also the deep and complex wanting to be a parent and the stress not being able to make that happen puts on a relationship. I hope my new novel, The Mothers, does this.
After a long and winding and often terrifying adoption path, my husband and I have been fortunate enough to have a newborn at home with us, for good. We are adjusting—with pleasure—to the daily rhythms and changes of a growing infant. There were times we thought this would never happen, and so becoming a family of three feels delicious, something to savor.
And yet, like my friends and family who came to motherhood easily, I have some of the similar concerns. There are the financial pressures—our savings and then some went into trying to have a child—and there are the pressures of space that come when living in a New York City apartment, with or without a child. While often there is little predicting when a child enters any of our lives, adoption can be quick and unexpected, as ours was. And so we are living the same frenetic life we were before his arrival .
As a writer, I work at home. Right now, the baby is asleep in his swinging chair, but he could—and will—wake up at any moment, wanting to be held, fed, changed. I do all these things with pleasure, but as a writer works for herself, there is no maternity leave. Now, I meet my deadlines in quick spurts. And I would be disingenuous if I did not admit to being worried about the future. Beginning a novel takes huge swaths of empty time and silence and solitude. And as a novelist, I have to believe I will be working on a new book very soon.
I am not the first writer to become a mother. Women managing work and parenting has been tackled and discussed and hashed over privately and in the media for decades. For writers though, especially women, it is especially difficult to carve out time for work when there is a child right here, whom I have yearned for, waiting for me to pick him up, bring him to me, hold on to him forever.”
You’re seeing The Great Gatsby this weekend, right? It’s Mother’s Day, so you should be taken on a golden horse-drawn carriage if you wish. You should eat all of the Milk Duds you please and stay out way past your kids’ bedtime. This is what I might do considering how much I love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic book that comes out with my boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio tomorrow.
If you can’t make it–or even if you can–check out these Gatsy-inspired cupcakes. Book Expo America’s Book Bliss and The Huff Post Books teamed up to make these book-inspired desserts. I’m going to suggest The Great Gatsby at my next book club–but only if we agree to serve these chocolate yummies.