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What’s Your Job Title?

I hate it when people ask me what I do for a living.

The truth, the answer that they want on insurance forms, is Stay-at-Home-Mom.

I hate that title for a lot of reasons that I’m not going to go into here as this is not a mommy blog, but in truth I think of myself as a Work-From-Home-Mom. (These are actual terms, with acronyms. Did you know that?)

My child is two years old, and he is home with me. Which means from about 6:30 a.m., when he wakes up, to about 8 p.m., when he goes to bed, he is my primary vocation. We have play groups and appointments, we volunteer together once a week, and he is my buddy. As I write this, he’s telling me about what he’s doing right now while he eats his breakfast.

But I also have a weekly (okay, it’s summer, so twice monthly) fiction podcast that I am running, as well as a monthly baseball podcast plus I’m trying to develop myself as a writer which means working on short stories and a novel and this blog. And, of course, you can’t be a writer without being a reader, which means I need to figure out how to squeeze in reading time.

My hours? Really hard to quantify, but producing the podcasts (including scheduling, working with contributors, recording, editing, file conversions, writing notes, etc.) takes an average of six to eight hours a week to do, more if there are more complex or longer episodes, extra episodes and specials, or something goes wrong (nothing ever goes wrong with technology, right?) That time does not include marketing, social media, or what I would term if this was a real job “professional development” (networking, learning new skills, improving production and audio quality, etc.) It also doesn’t include time for my own writing, this blog, or reading. Add all of that together, and you are starting to see hours that resemble a regular part-time job.

I have a couple of friends who are Work-From-Home-Moms. One teaches in a ballet studio at her mom’s home (where she and her children also currently live.) One runs an online re-seller business mostly focusing on children’s books. Both do this while caring for one or two children under the age of three, and it’s really hard.

I’ve spoken before about how working parents and stay-at-home parents are jealous of each other…on the one side there is the luxury that is daycare and being able to sometimes leave your kiddo there for an extra hour or more to get something done, on the other side there is the idea of late mornings and not having to get everybody out the door and being able to focus all your energies on being home. For my work-from-home friends, they get the positives and negatives of both. They usually get some child care, some time away from their children, some interaction with the adult world, while also managing some play dates (another term I really hate) and activities for their children. They also suffer from extreme busy-ness and lack of personal time.

It’s tough. As the friend of mine who teaches ballet told me yesterday, she really doesn’t know how to define herself as she doesn’t fit entirely within one realm or the other. She has some things in common with her working mom friends and her stay-at-home-mom friends but doesn’t really fall into either category.

And I was jealous of her. Because I relate to everything she is saying but don’t feel like I can claim my work as work because at this moment it doesn’t make me any money.

The conversation on how, when, and if writers get paid is one I’ve had before in this space and not a new one for writers, so I’m not going to get into all of that here, but yeah, for me now is not a time in my career when I am making money as a writer or a podcaster. (In fact, podcasting actually costs me money, as media hosting is not free.) So here I am, a stay-at-home-mom with no income of my own spending part-time job hours and some of the money I don’t make doing something I love doing and will make time for, but when I’m asked what my job is I can’t really claim this because jobs make you money and this doesn’t.

I don’t expect to ever make a full-time living as a writer. There, I said it. If it happens, fantastic, I’m all for it, but I do not anticipate or plan for that reality. It would be great to get to the point where it makes me some money and I think that is doable, but it is a process and I’m not there yet. But even if I never make money, I won’t stop writing. I could not stop writing. I know people who have music or sports in their blood and must pursue those regardless of what other people think. Writing has been that for me since the age of six. Not making a living at writing is not going to get me to stop doing it, and whether I am working full-time or chasing a toddler around, I will always fit it into my life. Whether I am a “writer” on insurance company forms or not.

I get that staying home with my child is a luxury. (It’s also a luxury borne of the fact that going back to the job I had before he came would essentially mean working full-time to pay for the cost of full-time child care, which is a separate story.) While I don’t like the term Stay-at-Home-Mom, I do like the work (most weeks) and I won’t complain. I just wish I knew how to explain to others, even to other moms, about that 10-15+hour a week job I work in addition to what I am doing as a mom. What you do for a living is a big part of your identity in this culture, and mine is somewhat closeted. I also feel guilty every single time I am distracted from the job of raising my child to focus for a few minutes on the job of writing and podcasting.  Because you can’t do it all, but you can certainly try.

How about you? This isn’t just an issue moms face. Most writers are “writer and something else” and even when you get to the coveted place of writing for a living most writers face the “write what I want to” vs. “write what is paying me” question. Is writing a job title to you? Does your family love when you talk about your fun writing hobby? Is a vocation more than how you pay the bills?

However you are fitting it into your life today, happy writing!

Kris

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Episode 47 Contributors Part 4: Rhonda C. Poynter

As I’ve mentioned before, this episode is about family and moms, so Rhonda was nice enough to share a little bit of her family in her author photo. This is her and her son Gannon. Usually we do our bios in third person, but Rhonda’s testimony is so excellent that I am leaving it as is.

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I have been a freelance writer for over twenty years; my first book, Start The Car was published in 1998 and my second collection of poetry, Borrowed Time is pending 2016 – 2017 release. My son and I live in California for medical care, but we are originally from Chicago; I’ve lived in 45 states and three countries. Some of my publication credits are Frontiers, Wascana Review, Triggerfish, Rio, Sleet, Blue Bear Review, Freshwater, Houseboat and many other magazines, journals and anthologies. The light of my life is my son Gannon; I have never met a stronger, braver and wiser individual in my life.

Happy listening,

Kris

Episode 47 Contributors Part 2: Jesse Glass

As a continuation of last week’s conversation on Mother’s Day, this episode is all about those special women in our lives. To that end, here’s contributor Jesse Glass being held by his grandmother as an infant.

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Jesse Glass grew up on a horse farm outside of Westminster, Maryland. He is the author of The Passion of Phineas Gage and Selected Poems; Lost Poet (Drama), and Black-Out In My Left Eye (Novel/Prose Poetry/Poetry) and has just finished The Complete Gaha Noas Zorge (Babes of the Abyss are Friendly), a book-length, experimental poem soon to go to press. He’s lived and taught in Japan for almost 24 years.

Happy listening and happy Mother’s Day!

Kris

Writing Prompt: Tell Me Your Baseball Stories

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I thought the arrival of baseball season was a big event in my life, but it turns out I have nothing on the fandom of my toddler. He has been waiting for this. He may not know about pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training last week, but he does know about sunshine and that it’s time to go outside and play “Bat-Ball.”

In his honor and also because I love it, we would like to release a baseball opening day special episode and we thought that you, the listeners, might have some baseball stories to share. So send them and let’s get this season started!

Here’s the way this works:

  • Send your 1,000 word or less fiction or nonfiction baseball stories (will also accept poetry)
  • Make sure they are your own work (plagiarism is bad karma)
  • Email them to noextrawords@gmail.com or leave them on the listener feedback line at (425) 686-9495
  • Be sure to include your name and indicate how to pronounce it if it’s a tricky one.
  • Deadline: Friday, March 18

Happy baseball season,

Kris

Episode 28 Contributors Part 2 of 4: Aileen Hunt

A lovely story read in Aileen’s own voice!

Aileen Hunt is an Irish writer and essayist. Her work has been published in Hippocampus magazine, the Lindenwood Review, Work Literary Magazine, and Compose:A Journal of Simply Good Writing. Her essay The Shell of your Ear appears in Oh Baby! an anthology from Creative Nonfiction. You can read more of her work at http://Aileen-Hunt.com/, where she blogs regularly about her life in Dublin.

Happy Holidays!

Kris

Wrapping up A Christmas Serial 2015

Like a lot of you, this week is busy for us here at the Dersch house.

The family is coming for Christmas, the presents have to be wrapped, the cooking has to be done, and thanks to an unexpected couple of sick days with our toddler germ machine, we are behind.

I had to stop for a minute in all the chaos and write a wrap-up to the Christmas Serial we have been running this month on the podcast. Because, of course, that was part of the story’s message.

I started writing the story more than 10 years ago when an afternoon of watching Christmas movies inspired me to tell my own North Pole tale. For weeks I lived in North Pole fantasy land, drawing maps of the Factory and the town, thinking about what elves looked like, talked like, what their world was like. My computer ate an early draft (back up your work, people!) but I couldn’t let it go.

Originally envisioned as a novel for children, it lived in a notebook in my office for a long time, unable to find a home. When I first thought about doing a serial, this story was a top choice but needed a lot of work. I cut and cut on that draft of a novel to find the short story inside it…and a lot of those characters and early brainstorming did not make the cut. I am delighted by the final product, though, and hope you are as well.

I hope this story has life beyond Christmas 2015. My mom was always a big Garrison Keillor fan and I can remember him saying on the audio book of “Lake Wobegon Days” that just because something is in print doesn’t mean you aren’t still working on it. I have a good-sized collection of children’s Christmas books and would like to someday add this to it. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed it and I hope it brought something to your Christmas 2015.

The final installment of A Christmas Serial arrives right here tonight. If you aren’t caught up, please take a few minutes today amidst your wrapping, cooking, and errand running to check out Parts 1, 2, and 3. They are audio, so they work really well in the background.

From our home to yours, merry Christmas 2015. We will be back with a New Year’s episode next week and all manner of fun things ahead.

Happy listening,

Kris

Episode 13: Mind the Gap – filling in the spaces

Click here for full episode.

In “Hungry,” a war veteran has to leave his house when he doesn’t want to, which forces him into a conversation with his young neighbor who doesn’t see him or the world the way he expects. By Michelle Lee, copyright 2015, used with permission. Read her bio here.

In “Sealed,” a young man assists his father with an act of service he wasn’t expecting his father to do and learns something about that relationship. By Jeremy Schnee, copyright 2015, used with permission. Read for you by the author. Find out more about Jeremy at www.jeremyschnee.com.

What do you think of today’s show? Contact us and let us know or leave a comment below.

WANTED: Your Funny and Light Stories

UPDATE 11/4/15: Our holiday season production schedule is complete. Thank you for your submissions.

We are currently scheduling stories for the holiday season, can you imagine?

Yep, it’s August, and the kids in my neighborhood are hardcore resisting the Back to School sales, but in the world of No Extra Words, we are scheduling stories for November and December episodes.  Can you believe it?

This is a GREAT THING!  This means we have had fabulous submissions and that the upcoming episodes (which will be EVERY WEEK) are filled with fantastic short fiction by a very talented group of contributors.  But it also means my mind is in holiday mode.

And here’s the thing: we need some fun, funny, light, and family-friendly stories for the holiday season.

Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE the heavy and dark.  And you have a LOT of it coming.  But it’s not the thing for December, know what I mean?  Also our format for the holiday shows requires light and family friendly fare (that’s a teaser, you’ll have to wait and see what’s coming.)

Please don’t stop sending your angsty, dark, spooky, and futuristic stories.  They are amazing and I look forward to airing them.  But what I need right now is the fantastic, the light, the whimsical.  And no, it does not have to be holiday related (although it can be, and that doesn’t just mean Christmas.)  Follow the link and Submit Your Story (please put “submission” in the subject line still, if you want to tag it funny and light as well, feel free.)

So please, fill my inbox with stories for December, and whatever you do, keep on listening because I’m not kidding folks, there’s some GREAT stuff on the way.

Happy writing!

Kris

Episode 3: Dyslexic Thinking

Click here for full episode

In “Parent-Teacher Conference Day,” a stressed-out mom of two has to fit a conference with a teacher about how to help her seven-year-old learn to read into an already busy day and already busy life.  She fights her mom guilt and wonders if all of it is her fault.  By Kris Baker Dersch, copyright 2015, all rights reserved.

In “The Old Family Problem,” a man remembers his father who couldn’t read and endures his own struggles with reading before his son is finally diagnosed with dyslexia and he can begin to understand what his family has struggled with for generations.  By Kris Baker Dersch, copyright 2015, all rights reserved.

This podcast means so much to me because of its topic.  I hope you will let me know what you think, and look for Episode 4 around June 26.

Happy listening!

Kris

Our theme music is “Reverie (small theme),” used under Creative Commons license. Please click the link for more details.

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