Book #52: A Personal Essay Around Wemberly Worried

Wemberly Worried -- CoverWeirdly, today’s picture book blog post is also a brief personal essay. I’ve always wondered where these two niches — personal essays and A Book a Day — would converge, and I am happy to announce that the day has arrived. I think.

I’ve spent these past few days in a complete panic. What, in the name of all things good and great, was I thinking when I decided to create a blog with the promise of nine — yes NINE! — posts every week? I write about a picture book every day and I post a personal essay on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and often the essays are so long I wonder if anyone even reads them. Well, some of you must.  I see you out there in the comments section. I love you all for that, believe it.

I didn’t think my personal essays would go on so long. Who knew I would have so much to say about being a gay or why Goodnight Moon is about death? I’m thrilled that in less than two months nearly sixty people have signed on as subscribers and still hundreds more have read my admittedly prickly public school essays and the long invectives about my family.

But dear readers, like Wemberly, I worry.  A friend of mine warned me that if I didn’t shorten my essays I would lose my audience (she says online readers don’t generally read long pieces on the internet) and that I would burn out completely.  I don’t agree with either of these claims — I’ve loved writing these stories more than I can say — but I did forget that it is often difficult to keep up the delivery of numerous posts with three small children and a household to run. And this week both Lynn and I came down with some kind of viral plague that made carrying a basket of laundry up the basement steps feel like we were Sisyphus. Then we both got Strep, which is a really inviting thing to tell a babysitter over the telephone as you try to keep the desperation in your voice at a level two notches below complete hysteria.

I won’t tell you what my house has turned into these past few weeks, what with all the writing.  Oh, who am I kidding. I’ll tell you. Better yet, I’ll post a picture. No, better not.  It would be sad to die of shame before revealing my truly best stuff.

I’d intended to post How to Thaw Your Unborn Children, Part 5 today, but once again, I don’t think it’s fit for reading  yet.  It’s actually a very funny piece about online dating, writing the perfect profile, and how I ultimately got together with Lynn. Lest you think I am on some kind of self-aggrandizing or narcissistic endeavor in writing you all these personal stories, rest assured that most days I am disgusted and embarrassed to be sharing so much personal information with so many people.  Still, I believe there’s a need for this kind of writing. Who said we read to avoid loneliness?  I know there are people out there who have been through some of the ordeals I’ve suffered through, and I’m glad to provide solace or entertainment or some combination of both.

Still, like Kevin Henkes’ Wemberly, I worry.  I worry that all the writing takes away time from my children (it does) and that, like my old editor, Susan Hirschman warned, I’m writing about the wrong things.  You are a children’s book author, she used to say.  Stop wasting your time on other diversions and write your book.

When I wrote Beyond the Mango Tree in 1997, Susan Hirschman actually sent a copy of the draft to Kevin Henkes. Susan and Kevin have a close relationship because she discovered him when he was very young, and now he is extremely successful and famous in the children’s book world. Kevin called me then to tell me how much he loved Beyond the Mango Tree and, ten years later, he sent me a handwritten note through the regular mail to say that he was revisiting the book with his children and that he still loved the book so much. These recollections should make me feel proud, but instead the memory just gets me sad. Where are those days when Beyond the Mango Tree was in its embryonic stage and I furiously drafted chapter notes on paper napkins in a San Francisco coffee shop? Where’s the excitement? Where’s the energy and the impossible arrogance? When my book was reviewed in the New York Times I was twenty-eight years old.  I figured it would be the first of dozens.

I wish I could say that my writing career foundered because I got a little waylaid by divorce, becoming a homosexual, and trying to get inseminated by a reproductive endocrinologist who looked exactly like Karl Rove, but I don’t really think this is the case.  I think I stopped writing in the genre because it’s not the only kind of writing I want to do in this life, although what kind of writing I want to do remains to be seen. Which feels dangerous somehow, given that I’ll be in a geriatrics ward any day now. I’d better get moving. Oh, my back.

For now, blogging’s the thing.  And worrying.  But if you read Wemberly Worried you’ll see she eventually calms down a little. She copes. For me, it’s probably nothing a double dose of Zoloft and a swig of Frangelico can’t fix, but who knows? Maybe worrying makes the muse grow louder.  We’ll see.

Sorry for this departure, readers.  What happens when a blogger gets sick?  Does she call up a substitute writer?  What’s the day rate?  Anyone want to write a guest post? 

Wemberly  Worried -- with bunny






Click here to read Book #53


  1. Dear Amy–
    My children are visiting relatives without me this weekend. I’m coming over to clean your house, do the laundry and put your life in order. Prepare yourself.

  2. People read your blog. I do…every word of your personal essays. I love them all! 🙂 Your readers appreciate your dedication! I would say “Don’t worry so much” but I know that when people say that to me I never actually stop worrying. Love you and your writing!

  3. Hello Amy,
    I read your blog posts, well, especially the personal ones. Your stories are so interesting- about things I would love to ask people but figure it’s too nosy.
    I read some of the book reviews too, but I spread out blogs I read over the week so I miss some. Also, my kids are older now, and I spent so much time reading them books- which, yes, is awesome- that for the time being I want to read more grown-up things.

    Nine posts seems like quite a feat, plus all of the conversation that goes afterwards must really add up time-wise. Being home with little children can be isolating, and I think this is an excellent way to create community and stay sharp.

    Thank you for your writing. I look forward to reading more.
    I have meant to comment more, but just haven’t been that conversational lately.

    I hope you all feel better and Ray is happy at his new school!

    • I love that you say I write about things you’re too nosy to ask people. It’s like this great little anecdote! Ray is very happy now. Which is good because now I can focus more on writing about topics that mortally shame, like my lesbian love life. xx ABZ

  4. Matt Wright says:

    Online dating rocks.

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