Introvert vs. Extrovert by Guest Author Jacqueline Kolosov

sweetdisorderWe’re delighted to welcome Guest Author Jacqueline Kolosov to the ball today. She wrote the young adult novels A SWEET DISORDER (2009) and THE RED QUEEN’S DAUGHTER (2007), both from Hyperion. A native of Chicago, Jacqueline now teaches in the creative writing program at Texas Tech University. She blogs at

I would have to call myself an introvert with extrovert tendencies. I’ll explain. The etymology of the word ‘introvert ’ is helpful here. It comes from the Latin: intro for “inward” + vertere “to turn.” (In contrast, extrovert comes from the Germanic extra or “outside” and the Latin vertere, again “to turn.”) I need periods of solitude—periods in which I do turn inward–or else I get totally out of balance. This has not been that difficult for me for most of my life. I’m married to another introvert writer. I teach at a university where the hours are quite flexible, so I have traditionally had long periods of time to myself, time I have spent writing and reading (an equal necessity), but also painting, running, swimming, or practicing yoga—all rather solitary activities. Even when I practice yoga in a class, the focus is on turning inward.

jacquelinephotoThe challenge—the real kick in the head and in the stomach—occurred when I gave birth to my daughter, Sophie, in January 2007. My first novel from Hyperion, The Red Queen’s Daughter, was coming out that October. In March of 2007, Hyperion bought a second novel (what became the just released A Sweet Disorder). So I had to write a second novel with a new baby and a 2/3 time teaching position. I did not take a semester-long maternity leave. Looking back on that crazy-intense time, I realize the contract was a huge gift. It forced me to write the novel. More than that, it validated the time I needed to write which meant climbing the attic stairs to my study most days for 2-4 hours a good 4 days a week for more than half the year.

I narrate this story because this summer, while finishing a fourth novel, I began suffering from panic attacks that typically found me in the middle of the night, or at four a.m., a ridiculous hour to wake up, but so it goes. The panic started in late June after I finished several projects, including the award of tenure at my university and moving into a new home. Typically, when I finish something huge, my body gives way. I get sick, etc. This time, it was my spirit. I went to the doctor who told me, within twenty minutes of my appointment, “You’re out of balance.” Well, yes, I thought, why else would I be here? What I realize now is that I have not been giving the introvert part of myself what I need. I have been so disciplined for the last two and a half years, so compartmentalized, to use that silly word.

I went on a retreat on July 14—a sort of self-designed rest cure—to the mountains for a week. It sounds like a luxury, but it was my first trip without my daughter, my first vacation, really, since her birth. It was a difficult trip, but it was also incredibly rewarding. I stayed in a small house outside of Santa Fe with my dog and the birds as companions. I had time to work through a lot, including the panic. The etymology of rest is illuminating here because it comes from the Germanic rasto and its original sense was as a measure of distance. The Old Norse rost is “league, distance after which one rests.” In the late 16th century, rest also came to mean “support.” I consider the last two and a half years a journey, hence the need for rest, and the need to find a support in myself.

Yet no introvert is an island. And I have extrovert needs. I thrive in the classroom, for example, and tend to have strong relationships with my students. What I haven’t done enough of, however, is connect with other women who are also mothers and professionals. I have a close friend here who teaches at the university and has a daughter Sophie’s age. We support each other, but in the past month I have reached out further—or through serendipity, other women have come into my life. At my book signing last month, a woman I’ve long wanted to get to know, but haven’t taken the time to, came in after the crowd had dispersed. We talked for an hour about our shared experiences: the ridiculous arguments with our husbands, the challenges of temper tantrums and toddlers who refuse to go to sleep. It was incredibly helpful, incredibly reassuring, a huge gift. And then, an older woman, a massage therapist and a grandmother who helps her own daughter out a lot, has provided me with some outstanding counsel. These experiences have taught me a lot about the disadvantages, or potential disadvantages, of our society. We aren’t necessarily rooted in communities in the generations-old way (though we can connect through technology in a remarkable way). I’m realizing the importance, now, of building a strong network of support—of reaching out to people—while keeping a part of myself in reserve.

17 Replies to “Introvert vs. Extrovert by Guest Author Jacqueline Kolosov”

  1. Thanks for being our guest today! It’s so interesting how having kids forces us to be extroverts–but writers need some time alone with their thoughts. Your retreat sounds heavenly.

  2. Writing is a funny beast, because at its core, it has to be very free and sort of go-with-the-flow. But to actually get anything done, you have to take that flowy voice and make it work! I think most authors probably suffer from some sort of anxiety related to that dichotomy.

    And the network of support you mention is especially timely, as the Deb class of 2009 is getting ready to turn things over to next year’s class… and I’m realizing how much harder this past year would have been without this network of women who get what I’m going through.

    I love the way women can come together and support one another. It’s in our instincts!

  3. Thanks for being our guest. What an interesting post. It’s true that motherhood is shock to the system, and I totally agree that we don’t have all the networks. Our families often live far away, and women are so busy working and running around, but those ties are so important. Good for you for getting that second book out there, and congratulations!

  4. Yes, I do think women naturally and rather serendipitously reach out to each other. I’m curious, how have all of you built a support network via the Debutante Ball? As I contemplated my response–and I hope it isn’t too confessional, I hoped it might help someone out there–I realized that while we are often so spread out, we can build a network via technology.

  5. I think we are a kind of natural support group for one another because we’re all going through pretty much the same thing at the same time. But I think the truth is, you kind of have to be brave enough to ask for help when you need it. It’s easier – and seems more natural for a lot of us – to say, oh, everything’s GREAT. And of course, you don’t want to be a complainer. But for me, I think it’s important now and then to be able to say, ‘You know, things are not so great.” That’s when you get the support and cheering on that you really need. We all need that sometimes!

  6. Hello Jacqueline! The “Monday” Deb speaking, here. Yes, we do support each other here, and the Internet as a support network has saved my sanity more than once and not just in writing.

    Speaking of mother-writer-professionals, may I direct you toward Literary Mama? The e-zine for which I’m co-editor for fiction, and which grew out of that very need… .

    Thank you for such a thoughtful post today!

  7. Jacqueline, as to the “how”, we use a Yahoo group to keep on top of the details of maintaining the site. Little did we know when we started it that it would cover topics ranging from, “I booked a guest for 8/1/09” to “Someone please tell me it’s normal to feel this way!”

    You’re right–technology can make all the difference in the world. As can just reaching out to people.

  8. Wow, I have loved talking to all of you today. And Katie, I do plan to take that Jung test. I have always connected more with Jung’s way of looking at reality than Freud’s. And what I like about tests are the ways in which structures–categories–help us to name and organize and get a handle on aspects of ourselves and our experience, whether it’s introvert/extrovert of the aruyvedic school of body type/personality. Anyway.

    Thank you, Kristina, for sharing the e-zine and the anthology. I will look into both. I wrote an essay while I was on my retreat, and I called it “In Search of Rest” using the etymologies of various words including rest and surrender as starting points. A close friend, fellow writer and mother, Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum, read it and just replied… Via email as she’s in Seattle for the summer. Technology is marvelous in the way it does help us to stay in touch.

    I look forward to reading all of your work. I’m reading Katie’s Bad Girls right now and loving it.

    Thank you all so much for inviting me to participate.

  9. Wow, what a wonderful post. I can relate to so much of this, having sold my first book when my daughter was 15 months old. I struggle with these same issues of balance and it’s always a relief to know I’m not alone. Thank you!

  10. Danielle,
    Oh good! I hoped my post would resonate with another mother-writer. You are by no means alone. The more women I talk to, and 2 of my close long distance friends are writers and mothers have been through this terrain. What is your novel?

  11. I’m most curious Jacqueline, as an introvert (INTJ by Meyers Briggs type talk) I can usually feel my energy drain and pay attention to it so I can decide a plan recharging times. What do you believe mainly contributed to not tuning into that sooner? Certainly as a young mother, I’m thinking motherhood and then I reread ALL the work you took on? I’m just curious because I coach introverts in business. How wonderful to be so revealing. Thanks.

    Patricia Weber

  12. This exchange is wonderful, and makes me feel so proud and grateful to be one of the 2010 Debs. It’s common to hear how technology isolates people, but forums like this do the opposite. I’ve also got a young baby (he’s 8 months), and two older kids, and I’m struggling to juggle finishing book number two while I get ready for my first novel’s release. Hearing your story, Jacqueline, makes me feel like I can do it but it also reminds me to try to get some of that solitude that I need to re-charge. I am fantasizing about taking a rest cure someday! I think as women and mothers we tend to put ourselves last — to think that an hour alone for a walk is an outrageous luxury — and it’s so good to hear others talk about its importance.

  13. Dear Patricia,
    I am only now replying to your post, and I think yours is an excellent question. How didn’t I tune into this sooner? Well, to some extent I did, but as an untenured faculty member, I could not really step out of the picture too much. And of course I had the momentum of the writing. Prior to Sophie’s birth, I always juggled a lot. I think I deeply underestimated how much sleep deprivation would play a role–and the demands of a growing person. I guess I don’t have a good answer. I do think weaning her–which was part of the Santa Fe trip–was a huge step, as nursing is superb, obviously, but it takes a lot from a woman’s body. I’m really glad this post proved valuable for others. That was my hope. Warm best, Jacqueline

    & SARAH,congratulations!

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