“I was learning to play my bass sideways to accommodate my prenatal curvature,” writes rocker Lisa MaeRae Hinzman in her memoir “My Rock and Roll Pregnancy.” The story — and other adventures by moms and mothers-to-be — appears in Mamaphonic: Balancing Motherhood and Other Creative Acts (Soft Skull, 2004).
Editors Bee Lavender and Maia Rossini were both involved with the online resource mamaphonic.com. Rossini (who will discuss the anthology at Malaprop’s this week) recalled during a recent phone interview, “[The book] was Bee’s brainchild. One day she said we should put a book together about all the things people were talking about.”
But even more than an overview of mom-friendly topics, Mamaphonic deals with the struggles facing artistic women who want to continue their creative work even after the bambinos are born.
Dirty diapers: the new muse
“When I first had [my son] Spike, I was living in Staten Island and I was really lonely,” Rossini remembers. “I didn’t know any other moms like me.”
The editor had completed an MFA just before having her child, and wondered how she’d keep up with her writing. “When I finally moved upstate and met other moms who were artists, that was so important,” she goes on. “Just to have that play date when the kids could go off and play and we could sit and talk and still think of ourselves as artists.
“You can still think of yourself in that way, even if you don’t have the time to create right now.”
Writer Ayun Halliday turned walks through Manhattan’s East Village, baby in tow, into fodder for her art. “I scrounged around for a black fine-point marker and found one among the dead soldiers camped in mugs on our desk,” she writes in “The East Village Inky,” a piece named for the chapbooks she created and continues to release (ayunhalliday.com). “I felt as fluttery as a sophomore with a speaking part in Oklahoma. The moment I touched the pen to the paper, [my daughter] Inky woke up, so I put her in her little blue backpack and we walked around our neighborhood for hours.”
One of Mamaphonic‘s highlights, Halliday’s essay seamlessly navigates the creative impetus alongside diaper changes and nap times. “I’d always wanted to start a zine. I just couldn’t seem to come up with a compelling subject,” she admits. “It wasn’t until my daughter Inky turned one that I realized I had something to write about after all.”
Finding the tribe
Contributors range from new mothers to those with grown children, professors to punk rockers, a specialty baker, a poet, and a Flamenco dancer — each offering her own solution to maintaining an artistic identity amid carpools and chicken pox. Often the creative fixes mean unorthodox methods and lots of compromise.
In “How to Make a Record Label,” Eileen Alden offers a step-by-step mother’s guide to DIY music production: “1. Late at night, when the kids are finally asleep, at least temporarily, recharge your creative energy. Find a sitter to come over while you sneak out … to an underground deep house party … Come home exhausted but rejuvenated … 2. In the morning, after coffee, realize that in order to fulfill your dream you will need to make some 12″ records for DJs to spin.”
“I was right and wrong about everything,” confesses transgendered teen mom Katie Kaput in “A Fire Well Tended.” “I didn’t just have new things to write about; I had lost old things. I set things aside to become a mama to the most astonishing person I had ever met.”
“The book isn’t about alternative mothers — it’s about artistic moms,” maintains Rossini. But because both she and Lavender are also involved with hipmama.com (the only parenting Web site that marked the passing of Joey Ramone), when they solicited writing for Mamaphonic, they received essays from many non-conventional parents.
“We wanted to represent all sorts of artists,” the editor explains. “Being a stay-at-home mom is a luxury in this day and age — most moms have jobs. If you’re going to do art and raise children, it’s a lot of work.”
In “On the Road with Dangerbaby,” rocker Jen Thorpe sums up motherhood this way: “Constant fatigue, a devil-may-care attitude towards most things which don’t concern the care of a two-year-old, extreme patience interspersed with moments of transcendental joy and mind-numbing frustration.”
Sometimes moms just need to know that someone else feels the same way.
“Now you can reach out through the Internet or other resources. You can find other like-minded moms,” Rossini points out. (ashevillemamas.com is one local option.) “Before, when there weren’t working mothers, there weren’t those sorts of supports.”
However, she concludes, “When you find another mother who parents like you do, you find your tribe.”
More zines for the money
Local writer/illustrator Cindy Crabb created an unsuspecting superhero in her character Doris. Crabb’s collection of zines frankly explores gender, depression, abortion, art and other obsession-worthy issues of women. Microcosm Publishing recently released Doris Book: An Anthology 1991-2001, making Crabb’s backlog available in one convenient tome. Meet the author at Malaprop’s on Friday, May 6. 7 p.m. Free. 254-6734.
On Saturday, May 7, Malaprop’s Bookstore (55 Haywood St.) hosts Maia Rossini, editor of Mamaphonic. 7 p.m. Free. 254-6734.