I I I I I I I  


Adrienne Martini's writing slices like a paper cut, sharp and quick. Her story reminds us that life stings, and that we, all of us, can heal.

-- Allison Glock, author of Beauty Before Comfort
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Hereís the set-up, for those who donít know: I have a book coming out this month. It is called Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood. Itís being published by The Free Press, which is an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which still freaks my shit out to type.

In so many ways, this project has become my third baby, one that needs all kinds of special care that I am ill prepared to give. The gestation was a heck of a lot longer than either of my flesh babies combined. I can date this bookís conception to a day when my daughter, who is now four, was four-months-old.

The book wasnít a baby that I was sure that I wanted at first. After all, this baby, which is all about my family, my psych ward vacation and my insecurities, isnít exactly the kind of pretty that you want to show off to the world. But at some point I realized that parents Ė and, especially, mothers Ė are indoctrinated against ever admitting that child-rearing isnít always gorgeous, that sometimes we are ugly and our kids are, too. This is one of the last taboos we face, I think. Sites like AustinMama.com and magazines like Brain, Child help let a little light in, but it is still shameful to cop to anything even a little bit raw after youíve popped out a youngling.

Still, itís an uncomfortable place to be. I am on the verge of having all of this information about my craziness sitting on a shelf in bookstores. Libraries will have cataloged it. I have managed to convince myself that only four people in the universe will ever choose to read the thing and that three of those will be reviewers who are paid to do so. I know thatís not true, however. Iím not expecting Da Vinci Code-esque numbers but suspect the number of readers may hit triple digits. I find this terrifying.

I know that this confession will garner no sympathy. I am not asking for any, frankly. Iím approaching my impending publication with the same state of mind that Iíve approached my impending births. I am thrilled, mostly, with a side order of completely terrified. I wonder what I will unleash upon the world and if my baby will use his or her gifts for good rather than evil. And I have even less control over my paper infant Ė which isnít to imply that I have all that much control over my biological kids. I do, however, almost always know who they are with.

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To butcher the metaphor further, with my meat babies, I got so caught up in the process that I didnít spare much thought for the product. The nine months were spent with being concerned with what my body was doing and how I would respond to same. This is proof of my inherent narcissism, but it is also a reaction to a process I had little control over. As long as the babies-in-utero were physically sound, I didnít give them much thought and focused instead on my swelling feet and bitchy moods.

The same holds true for the book. When enveloped in the process of finding an agent (six months), writing a proposal and selling it (two years or so), writing the book (six months, of which a good three months was spent procrastinating) and navigating the mechanical process of proof and printing (seven months), itís hard to stay aware of what you are actually going to have at the end of the journey. Now that I hold the product in my hands, Iím wondering if this was really one of my better ideas. And, yes, I had that same thought during the first few weeks of each new babyís life. Both of those turned out to be my best ideas ever. My hope is that this publishing adventure will be similarly positive.

Whatís different this time is that I donít think my extended family will be nearly as thrilled with this baby as they were with the first two. This baby, since it is all about me and my failings, is also directly about them and their failings, too. It is a book about repercussions of the past beating like a big bass drum in oneís present. My spouse, of course, was one of the first to see the manuscript and may be my most strident supporter. His parents were complimentary. My dad appears to be thrilled with idea that I am a published book writer but found the book itself ďdifficultĒ to read. I donít blame him. If my kid had written about her thoughts of suicide, Iíd find it difficult to read as well. (An aside: thatís one of the reasons I wrote the book. If my daughter ever finds herself in a similar position, I want her to a) know that this is nothing new for the women of our bloodline and b) encounter just one person who might have a little more sympathy for the mentally ill because he/she read my book or one like it. Another reason I wrote the book is if I find myself once again in the same spot someone will have a road map to find me.)

The more eagle-eyed will note that Iíve not included my motherís response. There is a simple reason for that: I am a big fat pussy. At least ten percent of the book is about how her mental illness and denial about it affected me as a kid. I canít imagine that sheíll be thrilled about what Iíve had to say. But she is generally unthrilled by what I have to say Ė so much so that she frequently decides to not speak to me for months on end Ė that itís hard to know how this will affect our relationship, such as it is. I feel appropriately bad about being a crappy daughter who canít stand by her mom no matter what and I know how much I suck on this whole topic. I also know that silence wonít do anyone any good, especially my own offspring. I also feel appropriately crappy that this is how I make my living. But there it is.

Rather than focus on the fact that Iím realizing a long-held dream, Iím obsessed with how Iíve sold out the woman who gave me life. And I canít help but wonder if my kids will do the same in 30+ years. Will I be strong enough to take it?
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About the Author:
Adrienne Martini  has been a theatre technician, apprentice massage therapist, bookstore bookkeeper and pizza joint waitress. Eventually, someone started paying her for her words and an editorial mercenary was  born. She has written theatre reviews and features for the Austin Chronicle, blurbs about tofurkey and bottled water for Cooking Light and a piece about  knitting summer camp for Interweave Knits. She is a former editor for Knoxville, Tennessee's Metro Pulse and recently picked up an AAN award for feature writing. In July 2006, her first book Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood will be published.  During the day, she fields freelance gigs and crams knowledge into the heads of college students in Upstate New York. At all hours, she is mom to Maddy and Cory, and wife to Scott. 



 

I I I I I I I  

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