I am so excited to welcome former Deb Lara Lillibridge back to the ball this week! I feel as though I’ve known Lara forever, although I suppose it’s been less than a year. She was the deb from last year who first emailed me to ask if I would like to be one of this year’s five, so let’s just say I’ve been fond of her ever since. She is truly an amazing writer—I’ve read each of her memoirs and am in awe of both her beautiful writing and her unfailing ability to make me laugh. Her latest, Mama, Mama, Only Mama is a guide for the single parent, but should really be required reading for all parents, in my humble opinion. It is sweet and funny and poignant. It made me both cry and laugh out loud, which is the best thing I can say about any book.
Lara Lillibridge sings off-beat and dances off-key. She writes a lot, and sometimes even likes how it turns out. She is the author of Mama, Mama, Only Mama: An Irreverent Guide for the Newly Single Parent—from Divorce and Dating to Cooking and Crafting, All While Raising the Kids and Maintaining Your Own Sanity (Sort Of) (Skyhorse Publishing, 2019) and Girlish: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home (Skyhorse, 2018) a Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards Finalist. Lara also recently co-edited an anthology with Andrea Fekete entitled Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility (Cynren Press, 2019).
You can find Lara online at all of these places:
Keep reading to the end of our interview so you can find out how to win a copy of this uproarious and tender memoir/guide for parents!
Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
I always go back to The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch. She taught me that there is more than one way to tell a story—that deviating from the traditional, linear path in memoir can unlock emotional resonance.
Have you ever traveled to do research for your writing? Where did you go?
For my first book, Girlish, I travelled via Zillow and Google maps to my father’s condo in Anchorage, Alaska, where I able to take a virtual tour of his exact unit. I also found the camping lodge we visited at Lake Louise, Alaska, and found the specs of his boat, The Ghost. I looked up the tiny fishing villages we sailed to.
I drove back to my old neighborhood in Upstate New York, and although it took a few attempts to gather my courage, sat in my car in front of the house I lived in with my first husband.
I still live in the same suburb that Mama, Mama, Only Mama takes place in, so I didn’t have to go anywhere out of the ordinary for that book.
What was the first piece of writing you ever published or saw in print?
My hometown newspaper had a Kid’s Page that paid $5 for essays by children 12 and under. I read it religiously, and when I was nine I rewrote a school essay to fit their aesthetic. It was my first paycheck from writing, and it was more about the business side of writing that the creative work—I didn’t much like the essay I submitted but I knew it was what they were looking for. I was heartbroken when they misspelled my name on the check.
Tell us about your next big project.
I’m getting closer to finishing the middle grade fantasy novel I started during my Deb Ball year. After publishing two books for grown-ups I want to write books my kids can read and show their friends. My youngest gave a print-out of my current WIP, Dragon Brothers, to a friend at school. When I volunteered in the classroom Valentine’s Day party, this kid I’d never met before ran over to me brimming over with excitement about my story. He had very specific ideas of what I needed to do in the sequel. It is one of the highlights of my writing life. I want more of that—kids so excited about books that they’d rather talk plot than play a party game.
Share one quirk you have that most people don’t know about.
Being a mother made me slightly ambidextrous. I was profoundly left-handed, and couldn’t even manage a fork with my right hand, so I always carried my kids with my right arm so that I could still function. After years of carrying kids around, my right arm is now stronger than my left, and when we play catch or Frisbee, alternate my throwing arm, which impresses my kids. They are 11 and 13, and I feel as if my years of being able to impress them are coming to a close.
Being a single mother means relaxing your cleanliness standards. A lot.
Being a single mother means accepting sleep deprivation as a natural state.
Being a single mother means hauling a toddler, a baby, and a diaper bag while wearing high heels and a cute skirt, because you never know when you’ll meet someone.
Being a single mother means finding out you are stronger than you ever knew was possible.
Written in the style of a diary with blogs, articles and recipes tucked between the pages, Mama, Mama, Only Mama follows Lillibridge and her two children, Big Pants and Tiny Pants, out of divorce, through six years of single parenting, and into the family blender with a quasi-stepfather called SigO. Complete with highly useful recipes such as congealed s’more stew, recycled snack candy bars, instant oatmeal cookies and a fine chicken casserole that didn’t pass Tiny Pants’s “lick test,” Lillibridge grows into her role as mother, finds true love, and comes to terms with her ex-husband.
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