Seven Impossible Interviews #46: HipWriterMama

h1 September 19th, 2007 by Eisha and Jules

Vivian's self-portrait. Her mirror-photo-taking-skills are impressive, no?We have a rare and wondrous event here on 7-Imp: an interview with a blogger that one of us has actually met in person! Eisha got to talk to Vivian Lee Mahoney, a.k.a. HipWriterMama, very briefly at Grace Lin’s birthday party back in May. It was a fleeting encounter, but she was every bit as gracious and funny and, well, hip as you’d expect her to be from her fabulous blog.

If you read HipWriterMama, you already know that it’s jam-packed with thoughtful commentary on writing, reading, and raising her three girls. But if you haven’t put it on your regular roster of blogs, then we’ll let Vivian tell you about HipWriterMama’s excellent original features:

Inspiration Monday
“I started this feature because of a rejection letter. I finally realized I should be grateful for this letter—while it was a rejection, it was a personalized letter from and editor. After some thought, I decided to write posts to inspire myself and anyone else who happened to stumble across my blog to keep on moving toward those goals.”

Cool Books for Boys
“I started Cool Books for Boys for research purposes. Selfish, isn’t it? I wanted to get a better idea of what would be considered a “successful” boy protagonist and what boys like to read. And I figured other people who be interested in this too.”

Great Books for Girls
“Since I have all girls, I wanted to find strong girl role models in children’s literature for those times when they really aren’t going to want to tell me everything. (See this post.)”

Besides compiling excellent book lists and inspiring fellow writers, Vivian also creates “30-Day Challenges” for her readers, encouraging them to join her in achieving a personal goal and to check in to report their progress. Sometimes there are even prizes involved – real, actual prizes, not just the “success is its own reward” kind of prize.

Perhaps the most striking feature of HipWriterMama, though, isn’t technically a “feature.” Vivian has an amazing style, and writes with refreshing candor and razor-sharp insight about, well, everything: her daughter’s straightforward way of dealing with her food allergies, her sister’s struggle with dermatomyositis, and the pressure on girls to be and do “everything.” Her personal posts can be touching and heartfelt, downright painful, or uproariously funny, but her graceful prose is always a pleasure to read. Her daughters are quite the talented artists, too, and their masterworks frequently grace the blog.

In June, Vivian contributed three fabulous interviews with YA authors to the Summer Blog Blast Tour: Justine Larbalestier, Mitali Perkins, and Justina Chen Headley. She’s also a frequent participant in Poetry Fridays, and often plays host to the weekly event.

We thank Vivian for taking the time to be interviewed. We’re so very happy to have had the chance to get to know Vivian a bit better. Now it’s your turn. Enjoy!

* * *

7-Imp: What do you do for a living?

HipWriterMama, as depicted by her little oneVivian (as depicted here — and below — by her littlest one): I’m a multi-tasking mom of three girls. I work part-time for my husband and handle the marketing and recordkeeping for his real estate business. Working with your spouse is not for the faint of heart. But, someone’s gotta do it. I’m also a writer. Oh, it feels so good to write that. Nothing published . . . yet.

I spent so many years working in the corporate world, then rebelled against the bureaucracy and became my own boss, then rebelled against the status quo and stopped working when I had children.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, a regular Jo March, ever since I was a little girl. The funny thing is, my little girls are the reason why I decided to start pursuing my dream and dust off those old manuscripts and book ideas. I never regretted leaving the working world nine years ago, but as a stay-at-home mom, I really lost a lot of my identity and even self-confidence. I mean, I went from negotiating with CEOs and senior level executives of software and financial services corporations, to singing to “Dora the Explorer” and “Blues Clues.” Most of my identity was based on the success of my career and when I let go of it, I needed to find what fired me up again. And I wanted my girls to know that women can do anything and be anything they want. So, I started to write again.

I’ve been experimenting with different genres, but the ones I feel most confident writing are middle grade and young adult. I’m gonna be vague about these manuscripts right now, but I promise, once they ever get accepted, I’ll start sharing with you! So here is sample of what I’m writing . . .

I have a middle grade WIP that has a cool boy protagonist. I was surprised by this one, because I started this one off with a girl protagonist, and frankly, her voice kinda blew. So this has been fun — stretching out my comprehension of what boys are all about, to create a fun, mischief-loving boy.

I’m almost done with my revisions for an edgy YA — kind of a close look at a mother/daughter relationship. Yes, this is really vague, but I’m really thrilled with this piece and am afraid to divulge any more than this. I’m also working on an adventure/fantasy YA manuscript with a great boy and girl protagonist, who are off to save their friends. My hopes are to distinguish my story from all those other “save the friends” plots out there. Because, I’m really enjoying my revisions on this one.

7-Imp: How long have you been blogging?

Vivian: Since December 2006.

7-Imp: Why did you start blogging? Why do you continue to do it?

Vivian: My sister introduced me to blogging. At first, I was apprehensive about this. And then, when I started to read other blogs, I was blown away by the intelligence, kindness, and coolness of people out there. Then I was overwhelmed, because I never thought anyone would ever read my blog.

But it really didn’t matter. I wanted to discuss my writing progress and children’s books. And I didn’t know anyone who was interested in talking about these things. I mean, my husband Ned did, but there were only so many times I could watch his eyes glaze over, before I realized that I needed to rescue him from this duty.

Some of the first kidlit bloggers who commented on my blog were Jen Robinson, MotherReader, and Little Willow. It was thrilling to think that these amazing bloggers even read one of my posts, let alone took the time to comment on it.

I continue blogging because of the community out there and the absolute respect people have for each other’s opinions and expertise. It is amazing to even be considered part of this wonderful community.

HipWriterMama, as depicted by her little one7-Imp: Which blog or site would you take to the prom to show off and you love it so much you could marry it?

Vivian: Hmmm. There are so many awesome blogs out there, it’s so hard to single one out. I’m having a tough time making a commitment here. There are two reasons why I keep returning to blogs . . . either they are super funny/entertaining or they are so intelligent and impart tons of luscious information. If your blog falls into one of these two categories, most likely I’d like to take you to the prom. Just don’t tell the others.

7-Imp: What are your favorite things to do, other than reading and blogging?

Vivian: I love hanging out with my kids. Arts and crafts. Photography. I’m teaching two of my children to play piano, and one wants me to teach her violin. I’m always experimenting with food — my middle child has severe food allergies, so I’m in search of great food that tastes good for everyone in the family. And we’re always in search of cool science projects — our latest was making a volcano. Too bad we didn’t make it outside.

7-Imp: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Vivian: That I would be willing to share? Okay, how about, when I was in college, I cut my own hair when I was stressed out. I’m not just talking bangs here — but even the back of my hair. My friends were always impressed because my hair was straight. No uneven edges. No need to go to any hairstylist to get it fixed up. Needless to say, I cut a few of my friends’ hair too. Nowadays, I go to a hair salon, but I still always have to trim a few pieces here and there.

My middle child probably inherited the hair cutting “gene” from me. She’s been banned from scissors and markers.

7-Imp: What’s in heavy rotation on your stereo/iPod lately?

SteveSongsVivian: The music is pretty kid-driven in my household . . . SteveSongs, High School Musical, Hannah Montana, Cheetah Girls, and all those endless Disney compilations.

When I’m writing, I listen to Christina Aguilera, Good Charlotte, Joss Stone, and Josh Groban to get into character.

7-Imp: If you could have three (living) authors over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose?

photo of Linda Sue Park; click on image to be taken to her siteVivian: I’ll have some Silk coffee soymilk over ice, and offer some freshly brewed iced tea and lemonade (an Arnold Palmer), coffee, and red wine (which I definitely prefer over white wine). And lots of great food, of course.

Linda Sue Park. Markus Zusak. J.K. Rowling.

The Pivot Questionnaire:

7-Imp: What is your favorite word?

Vivian: “Hope.” “Mom.”

7-Imp: What is your least favorite word?

Vivian: The word that begins with a c and rhymes with “punt.”

7-Imp: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Vivian: My family. Classical and rockin’ music. Laughter. Kindness. The ocean. Great books. People who think outside the box.

7-Imp: What turns you off?

Vivian: Bullies. Bureaucracy. People who suck all the energy out of me.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Vivian: “Bloody.” Though I really don’t swear.

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you love?

Vivian: My girls giggling hysterically at their own jokes.

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you hate?

Vivian: The dry, grating scratches and whimpers from my middle daughter when she claws away at her itchy, sore skin until she draws blood. It kills me that she is in such discomfort from her eczema and we haven’t been able to find anything that gives her some relief.

7-Imp: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Vivian: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but if I could just snap my fingers and be transported to another world . . . pediatrician, broadcast news anchor, and brilliant, mad scientist.

7-Imp: What profession would you not like to do?

Vivian: Telemarketer.

7-Imp: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Vivian: “You’ve done good.”





16 comments to “Seven Impossible Interviews #46: HipWriterMama”

  1. Ladies,

    Thanks for this interview with a really hip and cool-lookin’ mama! I was so hoping to meet Vivian at Grace Lin’s party in May–but I never got the opportunity. I guess I must have been too busy serving–and sipping–the Prosecco I brought.

    HipWriterMama and I have a few things in common–like favorite word, most hated word…and wanting to be writers.

    Good luck with your novels, HWM. I hope your dream comes true!


  2. I look forward to reading Vivian’s “cool boy” novel. Awesome.


  3. Elaine, Thanks! I hope your dream comes true, too!

    Susan, Thanks…it’s a work in progress…one of these days.

    Jules and Eisha,
    I really feel like I won the lottery since you interviewed me and all. Thank you so much. I
    appreciate all your efforts on this–you gals rock!


  4. Great interview! i participated in HipWriterMama’s Inspiration Monday last spring and I won a prize! It was a gift cert. to a book store and i used it to buy Writing Down the Bones. The best prize I ever won!!!


  5. Yay!! Vivian is one of my favorite bloggers and so I loved this interview. All of your upcoming projects sound amazing, HWM! I can’t wait to read them someday.


  6. Great interview — I almost went with Vivian’s choice for least-favorite word, btw.


  7. Wow. And I thought I knew her! (I mean, not really, but as a regular HWM reader I end up feeling like an old chum, you know?) Anyway, thanks for this great interview and, Vivian — your books are gonna be GOOD!


  8. HWM , you are one of my favorite bloggers. I was heartened to read about the part where you lost some of your self-confidences with leaving your job and becoming a mother, yet are gaining it back AND writing too. Even though I’d never want to work as a public librarian again, I still wonder sometimes if I’m wasting my degree. I’m glad to see a photo of you finally, though it’s funny– I realize now that I always pictured you as looking like my high school friend Yolanda. Of course, that means I was picturing you as a 16 year old girl!


  9. P.S. Mo Willems says he loves the bloggers.


  10. Alkelda, I also cheered when I read that part of Vivian’s interview. I was not hangin’ out with CEOs when I decided to give up two careers that were occurring simultaneously (as well as a bajillion not-for-pay professional service projects), but they were still my chosen fields of work, and suddenly dropping them to change diapers was hard (though also wonderful in its own ways). This is why I blog — to keep up, and ’cause you all are better at abstract thought than a two-year old.

    And I thought Vivian would look like Edie Brickell, for some reason — the old-skool-late-’80s-with-the-New-Bohemians-what-I-am-is-what-I-am version of Edie, that is. Not the older (but still beautiful) omigod-she’s-married-to-Paul-Simon-and-has-KIDS-with-him version.


  11. Oh, my gosh, I love your kids’ art! So filled with love.

    Vivian, I quit work to be with with my kids. I started writing to keep my brain moving and lo and behold, only 18 years later, I had my first novel published! ;) But my writing mentor (who is a grandmother) always tells me that my being a mom is part of what makes me the writer that I am, and I should always honor that. I think you’re already doing that, and with style!


  12. Wow…I am so flattered with everyone’s kind words.

    Cloudscome–Writing Down the Bones is wonderful. Hope you’re getting more writing done.

    Erin– Thanks so much! I really enjoy your blog, too! And am still so grateful for all your helpful advice as to myspace…

    Kelly–There are quite a few choice horrible words…but that one really takes the cake, doesn’t it?

    Liz–My “partner-in-crime” when our blogs were so young–I feel like we’ve known each other forever! Here’s to comfortable friendship and to great books!

    Alkelda–I love your blog too! I’ve decided it takes so much hard work and sacrifice to be a good mom, whether you work or stay at home. From personal experience, while I am so glad to be home with the kids, it’s been so hard to maintain any semblance of independent, savvy identity. It certainly is a work in progress. Ohh…to be sixteen again, even for a little bit, wouldn’t that be such a hoot?

    Jules–I would love to get some of that good ole Edie Brickell hair and bohemian flair. Maybe that would get me moving and grooving to a new beat.

    Sara–Thanks for those encouraging words. So, so appreciated.


  13. Thanks, J&E! Vivian has been one of my favorite bloggers since day one (and I’m so glad to have been one of her early commenters). It’s nice to get to know her better through your interview. And Vivian, I’m really looking forward to that cool boy book.


  14. Vivian, yay for you, for your blog, and for your family. I too enjoy Silk soymilk (though not the coffee kind) and greatly value hope. :)


  15. I’m catching up on interviews – I’m glad I didn’t miss this one! Hipwritermama is a wonderfully welcoming blogger and it was great to read more about her life and upcoming books!


  16. What a great interview! I’ve been reading Hip Writer Mama for quite a while so it was nice to learn more about Vivian. Thanks!


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