Combining Writing and Parenthood
Writer and mother, Sandy Bennett-Haber, tells the story of how she juggled motherhood and book publishing.
When I first started the You Won't Remember This - travel with babies project, I wanted to do everything myself. Learning as much as possible about all the different elements of making a book was part of the excitement of the challenge I had set for myself.
The book is about travelling with babies. I was inspired to create it because I had my stories to tell about travelling with my son, and because I wanted to collect and share other peoples stories.
I called out for contributions, read what was sent to me, made decisions about the content that would work, and edited the stories that needed an editorial hand. I also wrote the introduction and contributed a story to the collection. I then researched different print-on-demand options, pondered the size of the print version, considered cover art and started learning about typesetting.
At first glance it can seem like all you need in order to get a book out into the world is a manuscript: upload your file, use your POD platform’s nifty cover design program to create a cover and submit your files. Once you start reading the submission guidelines helpfully put together by print-on demand companies – if you are someone like me, who has a Creative Writing background rather than a design or computer software background – you quickly realise that they are not written in the English that you used to write your manuscript.
Anyone who has a child knows that the concept of spare time, free time, leisure time – whatever you want to call it – no longer really exists. This project was a labour of love, it was created in the spaces “left over” from my very full life. As the weight of my second pregnancy began to make itself known, so too did the weight of the work still required to turn the bunch of amazing stories sitting in files on my computer into a book.
I eventually acknowledged that I needed to outsource some of the jobs. Baby Finn arrived around the time I was ready to tackle the typesetting and after a few attempts I realised that the book, myself and my family were not going to be best served by me single handedly doing each and every task involved finishing the book.
I could have a) purchased the software required to professionally typeset the book and paid a babysitter the hours that would have been required for me to learn the software and get it to the standard I wanted. Or b) pay typesetters to give me a professional product. For me, software plus babysitter plus my time did not add up to a better, or cheaper, option than paying someone who knew what they were doing to do the job for me. Yes, I would have been able to add the ability to use (some of the features of) InDesign to my resume, but I am not sure I would ever have finished if I had stuck to my original DIY plan.
If motherhood and book-crafting have taught me anything, it is the importance of outsourcing. These days I try to use my energy where my skills lie – and I skill swap, beg, and pay for others to do the things that I am not so good at.
Sandy Bennett-Haber is an Edinburgh based Australian. She took nearly two years to collect together the stories that make up the book You Won't Remember This – travel with babies and then commissioned Hewer Text to typeset them so that they could at long last be a book. You can check it out at www.travelswithbaby.co.uk