Today I’m happy to welcome Nichole Bernier, author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D to Teresa’s Reading Corner. Since its release in June I’ve heard nothing but good things about the book from fellow bloggers.
I’ve really enjoyed following Nichole Bernier on twitter for awhile. When I decided to feature The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D, I took a look at Nichole’s website and learned about her inspiration for the story and knew that I needed to chat with her.
Please welcome Nichole Bernier!
One of the things that I’ve learned since the birth of my second child is that you can’t do it all. As a mother of five, do you have any tips or tricks to share about balancing work and motherhood?
The minute you throw kids and work in the same timeline, something’s gotta give, doesn’t it? I have an unscientific theory that if you are an involved parent, regardless of how many children you have, you get about three things to call your own.
Before I started my novel I was a fairly multifaceted person: running, photography, cooking, knitting, skiing, golf. When I became serious about the novel most of my hobbies went down the tubes, and after the few TV shows I liked went off the air, I didn’t get attached to any new ones. I don’t say that with any particular pride, and it’s a little embarrassing to be that out of touch with popular culture. But it’s amazing how being a busy parent has the laser-like ability to triage what’s really important to you. One free hour, gun to your head: What do you want to do? It’s sort of a blessing to know this about yourself. It makes you less likely to piddle time away with time-wasters and should-dos.
As for tips: I’m not ruthlessly organized, but I’m ruthless about grabbing a productive moment when I see one. Laundry and dishes can always be done when the kids are underfoot, but writing can’t — so I have no guilt leaving the dishes and clothes in temporary (and usually not-so-temporary) chaos. I know I don’t write well late at night anymore, but I might early in the morning — so I put a thermos on the nightstand, every night, in case I wake up before the kids do.
Also: God gave us smartphones not just to take great pictures on the soccer sidelines, but to type short thoughts to ourselves while we’re pretending to take great pictures. The little people will never notice that there are half a million action shots instead of a million.
This is so true! I have to be honest, I am the same way. I have no idea what new shows are on right now. I’ll see someone mention something on twitter and I’ll have to Google it because I’m clueless! Those are some great tips!
What question are you never asked in an interview but wish you were?
Why did you choose the college you did?
I think some of the early adult choices we make say a lot about who we were and who we thought we were becoming — and whether we did or not. I chose my undergraduate school because it represented what I thought I was, or what I thought I should be: very sporty and very socially outgoing along with the smart. Aka, not too too serious. But I probably would have been happier if I’d embraced the serious/bookish part of me earlier, and gone to a more intellectually serious school with a side order of fun. I probably would have been more lighthearted that way, instead of rattling the bars of my party-school cage.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished THE WISHING TREE, a little-known children’s book by Faulkner. I’m writing a piece for Salon on how I heard about it, tracked down a rare copy without spending a mint, and then — since Faulkner isn’t exactly See Spot Run — decided whether or not to share it with my kids. (I did. We read it aloud together, I editorialized, and they were riveted: ages 11, 9, 6, and 5. We let the 3 year old stick with See Spot Run.)
Is there a book that you always recommend (aside from your own) when asked for suggestions?
Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner, an insightful portrait of two couples, and their marriages and friendships spanning decades. It’s unflinchingly honest about the ways we become more pliable, brittle, and sometimes manipulative with those we love as we age.
When asked to participate in the ice breaker two truths and a lie: What are yours?
1. As a teen I regularly had a boa constrictor wrapped around my body.
2. My novel made me a bazillionaire in its first day of printing.
3. I’m so party-game clueless I had to Google “two truths and a lie.”
What’s next for you?
I’m working on second novel about a real-life forbidden island I was able to visit; if there is anyplace on God’s green earth that is haunted, it’s this.
But truthfully I adore writing essays, first person pieces that throw a lens on current events, or on a poignant moment with larger meaning. I’m really enjoying writing these regularly right now, pieces about an incident with sexual harassment I experienced in the 90s, and my experiment with Pinterest.
I first started journalism with a love of Anna Quindlen’s essays in the late 80s, and it feels like I’ve followed her example full circle, her from journalism to fiction and back to essays.
Nichole Bernier is author of the novel THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D. (Crown/Random House), a finalist for the 2012 New England Independent Booksellers Association fiction award, and has written for magazines including Elle, Self, Health, and Men’s Journal. A Contributing Editor for Conde Nast Traveler for 14 years, she was previously on staff as the magazine’s golf and ski editor, columnist, and television spokesperson. She is a founder of the literary blog Beyond the Margins, and lives outside of Boston with her husband and five children. She can be found online at nicholebernier.com and on Twitter @nicholebernier.
Nichole, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. I look forward to reading more of your essays and your next novel.
If you haven’t already, definitely check out The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (and enter the giveaway for a copy of your very own)
© 2012, Teresa. All rights reserved.