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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Jamie Sumner ‘Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood.’

Drunk on Ink is a fun blast interview with writers, artists, filmmakers and more conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor.

 

Read  Jaggery Issue 11 Spring 2018

Jamie Sumner is a writer and mom living in Nashville. She is the author of the book, Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood. She has written for The Washington Post, Scary Mommy and Parenting Special Needs Magazine and has an essay forthcoming in The New York Times. She is also an editor at Literary Mama. She can often be found at the park with her three kids, the dog and a large cup of coffee. All the writing happens when everyone else is asleep.

Publishers Weekly says…

Feeling imperfect? There are mom-books for that – offering solace in faith and welcome infusions of humor as well. Jamie Sumner, in Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood (FaithWords, April 10) describes her journey through infertility and special needs parenting. Her trip has not been easy, but Sumner found in the Bible stories of women who show her hope, companionship and triumph in releasing herself in God’s hands.

UNBOUND gives hope and encouragement to all women whose picture of motherhood is strained by disillusionment, otherness and even despair. Women do not talk enough about the reality of motherhood: the struggle it takes to get there, the loneliness of it, the unmet expectations. We are often too ashamed to share our difficult stories. We quietly absorb the posts of sonograms and happily messy houses on Facebook as we inwardly wonder what’s the matter with is. We struggle to meet the everyday needs and special needs of our kids, caught by surprise that this is what motherhood looks like. With honestly and vulnerability, JAMIE SUMNER walks readers through each stage of her own journey to motherhood through infertility and special needs parenting.

 

Soniah Kamal:  First author/book you read/fell in love with?

Jamie Sumner: I have two books that wooed me at two very different times in my life. The first was C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was the first book to make me believe that magic could be hiding anywhere. The second was Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year. I read it in the NICU after my son was born and felt for the first time that no, it’s not just me and this particular situation, all mothers feel this crazy.

 

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Coffee to start. Wine to end.

 

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

As a former English teacher, my list is long. But I will say, Lord of the Flies. It’s such a testament to the unraveling chaos of our human nature when all the rules disappear. It’s like every single episode of Survivor made real.

 

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

Ah yes. Grapes of Wrath. I just couldn’t get through it. Steinbeck is a genius, but it took East of Eden to lure me in and make me go back for this one.

 

A favorite quote from your book? 

I have two:

“Life is a continual etching and erasing. We form expectations and God forms reality. Sometimes they line up nicely, like tracings at right angles. And sometimes God plays Jackson Pollock and we’re all over the place.”

“Motherhood is often like this, a continually changing plan that has you kicking the tires and eating fried rice.”

 

Your favorite book to film?

The first Harry Potter. It is magic made perfect.

 

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Parnassus here in Nashville.

 

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

I wish I had known that creation happens in secret, but promotion is one big loud shout through the megaphone. Being a professional writer in the modern world takes both the quiet and the noise.

 

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

Nope. You build your platform and hope that street cred will get you places. But ultimately, each work must stand on its own. Marketing gets easier with practice, but the writing and publishing reset with each book.

 

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dog! I have had my Zoe longer than I have had my husband. She might be my soulmate.

Favorite book cover?

I love Rupi Kaur’s the sun and her flowers with the hand-drawn sunflowers. It’s simple and genius, much like her work.

 

Favorite song?

“Heavenly Day” by Patty Griffin. It makes me want to take a nap in a field.

 

Favorite Small Press and Literary Journal?

As an editor for Literary Mama, I have to vote for us on this one. We hit such a unique market—mothers who write, and write well, and writers whose works hit on the mother-child relationship. We celebrate the famous and the up-and-coming and the great small press finds. We love it all.

 

Last impulse book buy and why?

I bought The Power by Naomi Alderman because I was 39th in the hold list at the library and needed in now. It was worth it.

 

Soniah Kamal’s novel ‘UnMarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House USA. Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dreamis about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

Reflections in Retirement

This New Year will be different for me, even special, as it will be my first New Year in retirement. Not my retirement but my husband’s – at the age of sixty, after 35 years of service in government. The age of retirement seems odd, when politicians are voted to work on well into their 80’s.Judges of the High Courts retire at 62 while those on the bench of the Supreme Court remain till they are 65.Many foreign diplomats work into their 70’s.

Anyway, here I am with him, trying to finish unpacking hundreds of dusty cartons, collected over the past decades and stored in the anticipation of this time in our lives.Bubble-packaging takes up most of the space in the cartons. As I unroll each carefully sealed sticky-tape, it evokes images of a childhood game, ‘Pass around the Parcel’, only here, I would need to remember where I had bought the item or the person who had given it to me. Strange that visions of some of the packers flit to and fro through my misty vision, though I cannot quite place them all in context. As I open a hand-painted small tea-set, I think of my packers in Korea almost thirty years ago, who enjoyed the chai and samosas at 11 am and at 4 pm during their three days in our home. They presented me with this gift, saying I was kind and to remember them when I drank chai! I said I was just doing what we all do back home in India!

What hopes we had all those years ago, travelling thousands of miles across the continents, to seven countries, away from our parents, grandparents, friends – into new environments and diverse cultures and making new acquaintances. At the end of each posting, we would talk of future family gatherings in our home -of a lush green lawn that you could sink your feet in and breathe in the familiar air, then chase butterflies through the colourful flowers in bloom. We spoke of finally being near and living amiably with relatives and long-lost cousins and old friends.Alas.The pollution from vehicular traffic in front of our house is a health-hazard.

I place all the clothes and jackets that are wearable, gently-used, to one side – for the winter collection by local youthful volunteers.Its heartening to see them doing their bit so whole-heartedly, going into the streets and slum-tenements, inter-acting with the children.There are many books our adult children have said we may give too, and toys. It is with great love that I pack away these items- as each has memories of glad joy, even some sorrow, etched into its fabric, including every dog-eared page. A bit of my life ebbs away with each parting gift, but as I straighten up, I know a new little person will feel the same joyful emotions and be warm for a while – till he or she outgrows them too! This is the end of the road….just twenty odd boxes of such items, as we had always given away wearable clothes and some household kitchenware before leaving each country of residence.

The Deep-Fat French Fries Fryer that found its way back here is given away for free to the kabaddi-wala (*collector of old items), but I caution him that the plastic handle seems unsteady – I am unprepared for his toothy grin and “Chips”! Each item must be usable, the husband admonishes – Yes, I know. But we need to stop eating French Fries at our age and re-discover the magic of greens and healthy options.Of exercise or walks at a steady pace. Of the need to slow down and de-stress.To sleep early or get-up late, if we wish.

Our books are treated with great respect and we are going to re-read our favourites and those yet unread. Perhaps the spouse will start his carpentry again and his painting…the yacht does actually float – tested in a bathtub 24 years ago! The fire engine with its ladder and hose pipe has not been found yet…the treasure hunt continues!

I wonder at it all, this coming home, to retirement – this is the ultimate ‘coming of age’. It is not easy. It takes longer to get things done. It is tiring. It gets a bit boring, all this unpacking, but its for the last time. There is a sense of apprehensive finality. I have travelled the world since I was 5 years old. I am at some intangible cross-roads, full of indecision, torn between taking – off again or digging roots, at this late stage of my life.

I miss the clean cities I have lived in. I despair at the illiteracy around me and the sudden development – in uneven graphs, that defy the imagination. I am pleased that people are earning more, but saddened by the lack of civic consciousness.I am angered to see people on motorcycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws, even in cars – breaking laws by not wearing helmets, disobeying traffic rules, impervious to their surroundings,showing no respect for pavement-walkers, driving on the wrong side of the road.

But I am getting used to side-stepping past the old bulls that come to rest on the pavements,so stoic and at odds with the chaotic traffic, the congested city-dwellings and footfalls. I am becoming an expert at ducking sudden projectiles of paan (*betel-leaf)-liquid on my way to the corner store!

Yes, I have time to stand and stare now. In retirement.