Mothers of Reinvention and Connection

The last few weeks have been intense, but in a positive way. After May, and the schpilkes it tends to bring (Google it – it’s a good Yiddish word to know), June has felt sunny and busy and productive and present tense. Not just a time to get through, but a time to be IN. How are you, people asked, like today at my younger one’s field day, and my answer is  “CONNECTED.” I feel, and I hesitate to even write this down for fear of the evil eye, that at the moment, all areas of my life are overlapping in a very affirming Venn Diagram kind of way.  

I was interviewed last week for the “Spawned” podcast with Liz Gumbinner and Kristen Chase from Cool Mom Picks.  I’ve long admired their site, blog, and podcast, and not just because Liz and Kristen are funny and excellent talkers who you feel like you’ve known forever, but also because they offer practical and useful advice about what to read, what to try, what to cook, and what’s happening in the world of parenting. They cut through the noise – whether it’s a tech issue, a parenting fail or win, or a great idea for teacher’s gifts, they are an excellent resource and always seem to know what’s up. I had a terrific time being interviewed, and it’s instructive for me to hear what seasoned pros bring to a medium (podcasting) I’m working on myself. 

cool mom picks spawned podcast mallory kasdan guest.jpg

The episode is called Mothers of Reinvention, and it was really cool to talk about the ways we've shaped our careers around our families. In talking about my "reinventions," from book publishing to voiceover work to children’s book writing to podcasting, I realized that so many of the MILKs I’ve been attracted to are authors because of that initial book publicist living inside me. Just this month, there are two MILKs with new hardcover titles out, and two with paperbacks. I know how much work it takes to write a book, and though their subject matter is all very different (Essays on marriage, juicy contemporary fiction, middle grade fiction and essays about women and ambition), I am so happy for all of these friends.

My interview on Spawned also helped me realize that years of hanging around actors, musicians, audio people and other creative hustlers really opened me up to questions about how people get from point A to point B, gave me confidence to try things that were non-linear, like podcasting, and how the people I've met in my work travels are all a part of this journey.

So it made sense, last week, that I was invited to attend a women’s collective through two other MILKs, Amanda Harding and Alessandra Olanow. We gathered at Alex’s beautiful home to pool resources, with the idea that what one awesome creative woman can bring to the table, another might need and so on.  It was inspiring and freeing to admit that many of us, working alone on projects and businesses, need community too. As Amanda, a wonderful person who works so hard as a teacher to create a community that gives back, always says, making connections is what it's all about. And Alessandra is such a talented illustrator – check out her work here.

Books by MILKs Ada Calhoun, Julia Fiero, Lisa Greenwald, Liz Wallace & Hana Schank

Books by MILKs Ada Calhoun, Julia Fiero, Lisa Greenwald, Liz Wallace & Hana Schank

On the mommy side, last week was my little one's 8th birthday, which then brings me back to MILK, and to this week’s episode with Journalist Angela Garbes. Angela is a journalist based in Seattle, and her wonderful book is called “Like A Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy.” I hadn’t read about or thought much about pregnancy and new motherhood in a very long while, as most of my MILKs have been more mature moms, but her book is fascinating, super well researched and feminist AF. I was grateful for the opportunity to talk to Angela about how different paths bring us to the same powerful, and vulnerable spaces as mothers, and how we can truly listen and support each other’s stories and choices.

Angela’s interview came at an interesting moment personally, as things tend to do these days. I loved having the opportunity to reflect on my son's birth story, and reconnect with that side of myself – remembering what my body is capable of and celebrating not just his life, but also my life as his and his sister’s mother. Motherhood, as commonplace as it is, is truly miraculous, and it is worth pausing to remind ourselves of this simple fact. 

So it’s full circle with the MILK connections right now, and it all feels lovely.  Happy summer!


My children’s book. ELLA, came out 3 years ago next month. I'm proud the book that made me an author still has a life, and that there are new readers aging into the story every year. ELLAs are everywhere, and OMG I simply love to meet them!

This weekend I was lucky to participate in two very different storytelling events. The first was at neighborhood bookstore Books Are Magic in Carroll Gardens. I’m in there a lot with my kids and they happily stock ELLA, which makes me happy in return. When longtime standby BookCourt closed suddenly last year just after Trump was elected, it seemed like the last straw in an impossibly horrendous moment for my country and more locally, my book-obsessed community. But Books are Magic came along and filled that void, and now it feels like its always been there. Trump … well, that’s a different book. 

books are magic brooklyn author mallory kasdan ella

BAM’s book buyer Abby Rauscher asked me to come in on Friday morning to speak to some local second graders about writing fiction and creating parody. I was thrilled to meet these awesome kids. The best part about writing and making art is the human connection that comes from sharing that art. When I get to talk to kids about their own writing and illustrations, their ideas and inspirations, it is the most energizing and connected feeling I can describe. Children are so honest, so earnest, and so damn imaginative and funny. It truly inspires me to dig deeper to create more.  

We talked about the process of making a book, from coming up with an idea, to shaping it with an editor, to handing the words over to an illustrator for his/her interpretation. We talked about printing, publishing and writer's block. We discussed parody, Eloise at the Plaza, and how The Local Hotel makes sense as a home for ELLA in 2017, and what it means to update something. It was wonderful fun, and the children walked out, holding hands with their partners clutching their ELLA bookmarks. 

Sunday morning was another event, wonderfully planned by new friend and fellow Brooklyn mom, Dara Fleischer, who works in events for Saks Fifth Avenue. She asked me to come to their newish downtown store in the Brookfield Place mall to read ELLA and host a cupcake decorating session provided by the fabulous Sprinkles cupcakes. It was amazing. I sat in a beautiful millennial pink chair, reading to the kids and surrounded by the most incredible women’s footwear. The lighting was wonderful, the coffee was flowing, and the staff at Saks was incredibly welcoming to all. I felt like Barbra Streisand! My kids were even impressed. 

saks downtown event author mallory kasdan ella eloise parody nyc

I met a bunch of ELLAs, a bunch of MILKs, and some dads too. We filled in Marcos Chin’s coloring pages, I signed books sold by Books Are Magic, and watched kids decorate and tear into some seriously gorgeous cupcakes. There were beautiful silver sparkly Saks purses as giveaways, which my son insisted on handing out to every child.

So thank you to Books Are Magic, and to Teresa Ward, Kristin Smith, Kaitlin Brown and Dara Fleischer at Saks, and Aiyana Coker from Sprinkles Cupcakes. It really was an excellent weekend for me, for ELLA, and for books and community.  And cupcakes.

blah blah blah

It’s funny, but not funny. How when things are moving along for me creatively, finally starting to coalesce, when I have some linkage between the hundreds of tabs open in my brain, and I’m about to sit down to tap into those ideas and stories blending and blooming like food coloring in the bathtub, that’s when another crazy fucking tragedy explodes and I’m paralyzed looking at my news feed with an open mouth and tearing eyes.

This feeling: this creeping, seeping, horribleness. It keeps HAPPENING.

This is my 40th year. And things have gotten way adult. The last six months have begat one situation after another, a whole assortment of hurt from every category: Crazy Storms. Gun Violence. A sick parent. And now, an act of terrorism that feels, in its intense personal carnage, like a massive, evil, kick in the kidneys. Because it could happen to any of us, anywhere we go, and we kind of forgot about that for a bit didn’t we?

First I try not to look at the images and read the stories. Then I indulge. And then, I don’t know how to be normal for a few days. I can’t explain these tragic things to myself, why this person, how that person, what if that person ….. so I just smother it out by literally inhaling the innocence of my kids, breathing them in as we cuddle and play and dance to Beyonce.

I have my version of prayer and meditation when things are tough. I have my people I turn to for guidance and to crack open my thoughts: writers and comedians and people I love and all of that helps me grow and laugh and think.

But I am really scared. Times just seem so chaotic. I never know what news my New York Times alert app thing will alert me to when I get off of the train.

I want normalcy. I want my struggles to be about doing best by my loved ones and being happy and productive. But it seems that this fear and this sort of “what now?” is our reality. What will be the next scary thing? How will we adjust to the next one?

I know this is what it felt like for my parents too, as they went through scary times and tried to keep us safe and relatively free from suffering. And I guess that’s the true shift, because now I know they can’t make anything better. And I am in charge of making sure my small underlings are ok and protected by pretending its all going to be ok. I have been passed that particular torch.

I know this feeling will pass, soften, minimize. But the fear/anxiety/anger/sadness combo — it comes on hard, fast, and lately, all too frequently.

friends with kids

Have you seen this movie yet? Jon Hamm and his sexy ass frat guy hotness? Awww yeah.

What? Erm. Sorry. Ok, yes. So this movie “Friends With Kids” takes place partially in a Brooklyn village neighboring mine and contains verbatim conversations I’ve overheard from my colleagues, the Brooklyn parent people. The supporting characters are exaggerated versions of folks in my world, so it’s funny, sad and cringe worthy because the behaviors are so familiar. The haggy and angry mothers bitching at the clueless or confused dads. The needy kids who don’t seem appealing because they aren’t yours. The judgment by the pre-breeder main characters of the have-breds and vice versa read like parenting blog comments come to life on screen.

The film is primarily about how people with (small) kids have a hard time keeping love and sex and even “like” in their lives after the invasion by the littles. How some couplings survive the stresses and remember why they wanted to do this, and how some simply cannot. And asks the question: can the disintegration of passion in a relationship with the addition of kids to the mix can be avoided with some type of creativity? Also, where do the kids fit into all of this? They will, after all, eventually be people someday as well.

Ironically, I wanted a break from the stresses of my own Brooklyn first world problems, so I went to see it in the middle of the day, alone. And I’ve been chewing it over ever since. The film really captures that it's difficult, impossible even, to understand what it’s like to have a family, until you do. And once you do, you can’t imagine choosing that prior life without them – even though you miss your old life desperately and kind of dread and often resent the overall scary responsibility of the day-to-day new family version. (And by “you” here I mean “me.”)

It also got me thinking about navigating friendships. Childhood friends, pre-kid friends, work friends, mommy/daddy friends, new couple friends, — so many complicated friendships emerge and disintegrate as we settle down and spread into a community.

I’ve always had a lot of friends and felt confident in my ability to nurture these relationships. It has been important to the idea of my best self that I’m a person who puts friendships first and is considerate of others’ feelings and needs. But with the complexities of small people who rely on me, demand my mental and physical short and long term focus, I’m finding certain friendship situations to be challenging.

It makes sense. We all have our own craziness going on. We are at the center of our own lives, obviously, and as empathetic as I want to be towards others, it’s my own crap I have to face when I have the time to confront it. It’s an obvious concept that everyone has some mania brewing on a given random day when you see them in an elevator. And yet, I forget.

So after a few confrontations with friends in the past few weeks, and feeling like I’ve disappointed others, I’m trying to figure out how to move through these yucky moments. I need my friends. And they need me. We are tied together by history and nostalgia and commitment, and we need to wrestle and fight to keep these bonds strong. Friends with older kids, younger kids, friends with no kids. We are all doing our best for each other.