Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ask - Sarah Buttenwieser

Sarah Buttenwieser is a mom to four, political activist and writer  (not to mention a master baby namer, you guys.)

Sarah authors blog, Standing in the Shadows at The Valley Advocate; contributes to a parenting blog from The New York Times; writes for The Huffington Post, Momfilter, Babble, Bamboo magazine, and Brainchild magazine. She contributed to books, The Maternal is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Motherhood and Social Change, and Welcome to my World: Working Moms vs Stay-At-Home-Moms.

Sarah's writing is smart, honest and informative, though you'll never find Sarah boasting about her own intellectual leaps. She'd rather help you make your own, even if it means making herself a bit vulnerable by sharing her personal struggles. She shows a real trusts for her readers (both in what she says and what she doesn't) that is just really beautiful and makes reading her articles such a joy. 

It really pleases my soul to know that the same thoughtfulness and insightfulness that goes into her writing is guiding four beautiful children through the magic of childhood and on into world-sculpting adulthood. 

So, here's Sarah!

-- Anything you can share about your writing process? How do you
 work through ideas; are you super organized about it, or is there a ton of stuff constantly floating around your head? 

Sometimes, I do my best thinking about writing after I drop my kids at the bus stop while walking home. Another routine moment to work stuff out about writing is in the dark when I wake up really early. But I really just believe in showing up. That's so much of it for me. What I read, what's happening at home, a photograph I took and like, all that might become fodder (and this week I'm going to write about a friend's photograph I loved). I am less about planning though than working. I do write a lot. 

-- When do you work? Do you ever have the luxury of being uninterrupted? 

Theoretically, there are three days each week when all four of my kids are in school. Last week, though, there was one. Add two sick kids, but on two different days and a professional development day. This week, again, the tally is one. I love when I can just dive into some quiet, but I do sneak away and grab it even if people are about.

-- How does having little ones around affect your writing, both practically and in terms of inspiration? 

I moved from writing fiction to nonfiction when my eldest was a toddler because I realized I was too interested in what was going on around me to want to escape to someone else's world. So, simultaneously, the smalls inspire and tug at my ability to write. 

-- Are you ever writing and parenting at the same time or do you keep them separate? 

This is one piece of multi-tasking I do regularly. 

-- Who are some of your favorite authors of the moment? Any new stuff you're excited about?

I just read--and loved--Katie Rosman's memoir If You Knew Suzy. Like every other mama/writer I am about to read the new parenting and grandparenting memoir by Anne Lamott. My biggest writer (and illustrator) crush, though, at the moment is picture book author and artist Bob Graham. Has Anyone Here Seen William? is in heavy rotation in our house and I am reminded each read through how much I heart Bob Graham. This is about the oft-forgotten fourth child. It's touching and real and sweet--and a little scrappy.

-- What do you think is the most important thing we can do (or not do) to nurture our children's creativity and unique interests? 

Listen when they ramble on about things you never thought you'd be focusing on: and I do mean from construction trucks to lighting design. I believe if they grow up with their interests honored, they keep having more new, compelling passions.

-- What are your children's names? How did you choose them? Any almost names that didn't make the cut? 

Ezekiel, Lucien, Remiel ('Remy') and Saskia. We liked the names, that's the short answer. Ezekiel's contender for a name was Isaiah and then he was born in the caul--the water didn't break--and it's said babies born in the caul have second sight just as it is said of the prophet Ezekiel. Who's gonna mess with that? Lucien means light, and he was born on a bright May afternoon. Remiel is the archangel of compassion and he was born a few months before the Iraq War; we liked so much the idea of spreading compassion. Saskia is a name we loved from before our first was born and she was Rembrandt's wife.

-- any names you love right now?

Gosh so many. I am available to help! A friend just had Lucy Matilda and now I'm totally taken with Matilda.

-- two favorite things in/about your home (other than family/pets)?

My little cubby (I've written about it on the blog). The steps on the front and side porches.

-- The last thing you paid close attention to outside?

We're having a very early burst of warm spring weather and the flowering trees are bursting before the leaves have arrived; it's both pretty and kind of strangely out of kilter.

-- Favorite drink and snack for busy time?  

Pretty much addicted to local apples from August or September until they start to dwindle in variety and diminish in total deliciousness (about now, March). I'm working on other easy snacks, like carrots with peanut butter. Or rice cake with peanut butter. And always, the favorite treat is tart frozen yogurt.

-- You can go anywhere in the world and can leave today, where are you going? 

I have two places I really adore going: London -- we used to live there, friends, favorite streets to wander, Indian food, gardens to admire -- and the gulf coast of Florida -- sand between toes, that ocean breeze.

-- A few of your favorite sites for easy/quick ways to stay plugged into important issues (for busy moms)? 

My Twitter feed is heavily weighted to keep up on reproductive justice issues. 

Progressive Breakfast is a great resource, too for all kinds of issues progressive people care about.

-- Favorite political watchdog groups? 

Here's one group that can keep you up to date on reproductive justice issues.

The National Priorities Project monitors how much the government (our tax dollars) spends on stuff like war. I think this is a site to bookmark and watch closely.

-- any upcoming projects for you that we can keep an eye out for? 

I'm zigging and zagging some around the interwebs. I also started a Tumblr and for whatever reason I am enamored with it (and am trying to use it to report on my other cyber-whereabouts as things get published).

-- Name Game: please help us create a name by answering the following:

1. for the first name, what's a name of a beloved writer:


2.  for the middle name, what's a name of a activist/political mover-shaker whom you admire:


My goodness, what a family of names! Sarah, your childrens' names are so lovely and perfectly meaningful - oh, how I love them. Thank you for such a delightful chat and all the inspiration you provide.

(images 1-3 courtesy Momfilter,)


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  2. thanks so much for the sweet comment on my blog and so happy to find yours. I am loving it! So perfect as we are working on a name for our little one :)

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