Welcome to Writing at the Table! A blog about navigating the sticky (sometimes literally) terrain of mothering and writing.
Who I am and what I’ve done
My name is Dana Schwartz and I’m a writer, reader, activist, and mother.
A brief history
After graduating college with a BA in English Literature, I began my professional life working in book publishing, including St. Martin’s Press, Bookreporter.com, and HarperCollins Children’s Books. Briefly, I worked at MTV Networks, editing and managing their internal employee magazine, before leaving to freelance and pursue a Master’s in Fine Arts at Fairleigh Dickinson University. During this time I also became a certified self-defense instructor, teaching in many private schools and organizations in the tri-state area.
My childhood dream
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, probably soon after I became a reader. My parents used to let me read at the dinner table, a gesture I used to take for granted, and now realize this was one of their many gifts. I’m so fortunate that they not only encouraged my love of reading, but also my desire to become a writer.
My mom died years ago, but I know she was proud of my passion for storytelling, and wanted me to achieve my dream of publishing. Just weeks after her death, I received news about my first publication – a short story in a literary journal. Since then I’ve been published in other literary journals and anthologies, as well as online. I also performed an essay inspired by her at Listen to Your Mother in 2015, and another inspired by my daughter in 2017.
These days I still read at the table whenever I can, and write at my desk – an old wooden table. Some habits you don’t break.
The Journey (also, how to write with kids)
I haven’t always been a writing mom. After I had my first child in 2008, I stopped. Not surprising since becoming a mother is all-consuming, but after a year went by I struggled to return to the page. I felt too tired, too overwhelmed. As time went by, I began to wonder something else, something terrible: maybe I wasn’t a writer after all.
The longer I went without, the harder it was to return. I sat on the shore of my life and watched my boat drift away.
I realize now I was scared of failing. So I quit, thinking it would hurt less. But I was wrong. It was worse. Not writing made me brittle, angry, and short-fused. I became a miserable person, partner, and mother.
For a while I didn’t know how to fix myself, how to find happiness and peace amid the chaos and monotony of motherhood. I felt guilty for not enjoying the moment more. After my daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease at age three, I started a blog called celiac kiddo. It helped to write about our struggle and our gluten free journey – it helped to write. But I still hadn’t returned to my fiction roots.
Then one day, soon after my second child turned one, I started a story that had long simmered inside me. And for the first time since becoming a mom, I didn’t stop. I set aside time, I hired a babysitter. I made writing a priority.
Writing is a commitment, whether you have a family or not. There are days when I feel too tired, too brain drained to open my computer. Some days I let my boat drift away. But I try not to let it get too far. Nowadays I write whenever I can, as often as I can.