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