Monday, May 21, 2012

Guest Blog by Gillian Marchenko: Making Space for the Necessity to Write

Gillian's writing nook (I must say,
I am a little jealous...)
I am developing a little series here on how mothers fit writing into their lives, and today I am happy to welcome Gillian Marchenko. If I remember correctly, it was about two years ago that Gillian appeared in my memoir class with a fully rendered manuscript that needed help shaping, but very little editing. She is a natural writer. Since she fits writing into an immensely busy and demanding life as a mother, I invited her to talk about how she actually does that:

Annette: What prompted you to pursue writing even though you are the mother of four young daughters?

Gillian: E. M. Forster said, “How can I know what I think till I see what I say?” I am a life-long journal keeper, but after the birth of my third daughter and her diagnosis of Down syndrome, writing became necessity. The first year of her life I wrestled a hallowing grief over the child I expected and the mother I was to become on the page.

My journaling delved deeper as my daughter grew. Images, situations, and details bobbed up to the surface of my conscious. A fear of brokenness - broken people, broken things, and ultimately, my own broken heart, had been tucked inside me since childhood. I wrote, and a thought nagged. Perhaps these words were meant to be read by others?

A memoir emerged.

How did you find time to finish one book manuscript and start another while having little ones at home?

Once I understood I was no longer writing journal entries (with a nod of approval from my husband Sergei and our children), time was carved out of the family schedule to write. I am fortunate to have a supportive spouse with a flexible work schedule.

Do you actually use the time they are in pre-school to write? Or do chores get in the way?

Chores are hardly an issue. I easily ignore a pile of dirty dishes in exchange for a few moments of sedentary peace, cerebral connection, and the tactile pleasure of tapping out words on a keyboard. My issue is social media. I’ll be typing along and think, I’ll just check Twitter for a minute, and then ‘wake-up’ a half-hour later lost in a maze of Facebook stati. I set limits; but honestly, I lack discipline.

Do you have a particular writing routine?

I aim to write three days a week. I start at eight after the kids go to school and end at two o’clock when the older children return. On writing days, my husband cares for our preschooler after her bus comes at 11:30 a.m. and makes up his work hours at night. I am a mom, though. School assemblies and doctor appointments never fail to show up on scheduled writing days. With young children, I am thankful for what I get.

Do you have a particular place where you write?

I have a nook in my bedroom where I write during the school year. In the summer I write at a favorite coffee shop. I get free coffee refills, and the kind people there never mention my frumpy hair or the stains on my shirt, sure signs of a frazzled mom.


  1. I really love this new series you are doing- it gives so much insight into the writing process.


  2. Thanks for the opportunity to share, Annette! I'll be back to read about how other moms find time to write.

  3. Alexandra KuykendallMay 21, 2012 at 10:53 AM


    I had no idea our lives were so identical! I am reading this because I got distracted on twitter while I'm supposed to be writing my memoir during one of my three days a week of writing. I also have four girls, two who are in school and two at home with the sitter. Incredible. Thank you for giving me hope that I am not alone (I am writing from a university library near our house).

    Love to you sister.


  4. Alex, I didn't know we had so much in common either. And we have the MOPS stuff, too.

    Some day we need to meet or a drink :).

    Would love to hear more about your memoir. You go Mama!

  5. I am also a mom to a chld with Down Syndrome and a writer. Well, i love to write but lately i have not had time...this blog came at a good time...thank you Gillian!

    1. Thanks for the comment Eiluv2Write. Make some time for yourself. It's important :). And let me know if you have a blog, would love to see your little one with DS :).

  6. Very inspiring! Social media gets me every time too.

    1. Yeah, I am supposed to be writing right now :).

  7. It is so wonderful to hear details about how other moms make room for writing. I'm looking forward to more of this series!

  8. I always admire your writing, Gillian - even in a blog post! The writing nook is beautiful.

  9. Simply Jan - glad you liked Gillian's post. Thanks for stopping by.

    Anjuli - glad you like the idea of this series.

    Alexandra & Gillian - glad to see you two connected!

    Eiluv2Write - I hope Gillian's post encourages you to keep writing. Even if you only manage a little very day, it's still something.

    Julie - it so easy to get lost in social media, isn't it?

    Dona - thanks for your interest in this series.

    Stephanie - isn't that nook gorgeous?

  10. Beautiful post Gillian. And yes, nice nook!