Writer’s Digest “When Writing and Parenting Collide Winners”: First Place Goes to Kristin Carlson

Writer’s Digest Magazine, October 2007Kristin Carlson’s “Multi-Tasking Mama” took first place in the Writer Mama Contest, sponsored by Writer’s Digest Magazine. Kristin is from Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Congratulations, Kristin. You earned first place and publication in the October issue of Writer’s Digest and a signed copy of Writer Mama.
Multi-Tasking Mama
By Kristin Carlson

Writing with kids is like meditating in a bowling alley. It teaches focus.

“Is something wrong with your phone?” a CEO asks.

I move the receiver farther from the cracker-crunching child in my lap and reply with practiced nonchalance: “Sounds fine to me.”

One particularly challenging day, my 3-year-old daughter, Isabel, hollers from the hall: “Can Isaac play with that hot thing?” I fly into the playroom to discover my 2-year-old son carefully melting triangles into the carpeting with my iron—so much for child proofing.

I decide to hire a sitter, which works brilliantly (meaning I’m only interrupted for meltdowns). Until, one day, she calls in sick. Calamity. I have no backup and a crucial phone interview.

I load my desk with emergency supplies: paper, crayons, a tea set, band-aids and a jumbo box of animal crackers. At the appointed hour, I start a “Bananas in Pajamas” video, retreat to my office and dial. Disaster. Interview delayed. Turning off the video now would be prelude to a tantrum (or two). So I let it roll, hoping the delay won’t run longer than the film.

At last, I’ve got Mr. New York fashion mogul on the phone and I’m in the zone. Just in time for the kids to erupt into my office. I give the universal shush sign and toss crayons and paper toward my beloveds, loose sheets fluttering to the floor like white flags. Isaac “accidentally” colors on Isabel’s paper and she wails like a siren. I hope Mr. New York assumes I live near a fire station as I toss animal crackers over my shoulder, like breadcrumbs to persistent pigeons. I’m taking notes, but my only thought is: “Bad mommy.”

“Tea?” Isabel asks, too close to the phone.

Isaac tips the pot and pours, solemnly intoning: “The blood of Christ poured onto you.”

It’s Lent, and he’s a little confused by communion. I conclude the interview and hang up before Mr. New York can wonder if I’m calling from a family-friendly monastery.

“Tea Party!” Isabel shouts.

I’m off the phone, but I still have a deadline. “Let’s pretend we’re in a fancy restaurant where everyone whispers.” I have forgotten that Isaac’s whispers could wake the dead. And Isabel cajoles me to drink fake tea at every third sentence. I feign sips of bliss between trains of thought until Isaac steps on a plastic cup, which breaks—along with the camel’s back. I put on another video.

Finally, first draft completed, I enter the playroom and announce: “Tea time.” Isaac continues dancing to the Curious George theme song, and Isabel turns away haughtily: “Not now mom, I have a fax.”

I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to have a “real job”. (My daughter tells friends that her mom just plays on her computer all day.) What can I say? I love a challenge. I must, because these days I’m a write-at-home mom with two kids and a puppy.


Kristin, it would be so great if you could come on over and share any ol’ process-oriented thing you want to share with your fellow writer mamas. But no pressure. Only if you wish.

I’d also appreciate any comments that notice what is working about this piece as a short essay about what happens “when writing and parenting collide.”



11 Responses to “Writer’s Digest “When Writing and Parenting Collide Winners”: First Place Goes to Kristin Carlson”

  1. 1 Erika October 1, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    I laughed out loud so I would say it definitely worked for me. The opening analogy made me want to keep reading. It was great how you managed to squeeze so many issues into a single writer/mommy day – time pressure, guilt, unexpected child care challenges, unexpected interview delays, and all the possible tricks you can throw out to make it all work. Great essay Kristin!

  2. 2 Karrie October 2, 2007 at 5:23 am

    I loved it, too. What impressed me most was how effortlessly it flowed. Kristin, if you get a chance between cracker crunching holy sacraments and the next New York mogul I’d love to know how many drafts you worked to get it this seamless.

  3. 3 Amanda Hyatt October 2, 2007 at 5:45 am

    Oh, I had such fun reading that. Absolutely spot on. A worthy winner. It could have been any day in my house, but so beautifully phrased. Entertainment at is best.



  4. 4 Mary Jo C. October 2, 2007 at 6:58 am

    Congrats, Kristin! You definitely followed the theme and show vividily how writing and parenting collided in calamity! Loved it! Especially the “blood of Christ” scene; relating that we each have children with their special “personalities”. Wonderfully written, making each word count, important when there’s a tight word count limit!

    I workshopped my essay twice with my writers group, but I can see now that I did not capture the essence of writing while kids are underfoot, just compared the writing experience and struggles with parenting experiences and struggles. Kudos to you!

  5. 5 Beth K. Vogt October 2, 2007 at 8:53 am

    After reading Kristin’s essay, I felt like I have nothing to complain about as a writer mama.
    And I confess, I laughed at her kiddos’ antics. Admittedly, if they’d been my kiddos, it wouldn’t have been a laughing matter–it would have been my writing life colliding with my mama life.
    I loved how she included dialogue–especially her son’s “The blood of Christ be poured on you,” line.
    Children say the darndest things!

  6. 6 amy October 2, 2007 at 10:31 am

    I love yr book- I am devouring it between naps and such. Merci to you smart woman! xo amy

  7. 7 Kristin October 2, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    What a treat to hear the responses of other writer mamas to my essay about the collision of parenting and writing. Kids do indeed provide a wealth of raw material. The tricky part is finding the time to capture and polish it. I have a chair in my bathroom (yes, my bathroom)reserved for quick journaling. I jotted the first draft of this article sitting on my little wicker “throne”.

    My goal with a first draft is to be very free — to simply tell the story as I would to a friend. Luckily, I have several friends who are terrific Writer Mama’s themselves. Once I guided the piece through a couple of drafts, I consulted my best “continuity editor”. She asked the questions I needed to hear to clear up the remaining fuzzy bits and clunky transitions. I wrote about six or seven drafts in all.

    I like to write the first draft quickly, in order to outwit (or outrun) my pesky internal critic and editor. Only when I’ve finished a complete draft do I unleash the woman with the red pen (i.e. the editor in me). Rewriting always takes far longer than writing, but it has its own rewards. Like all of your supportive comments!

    Thanks to everyone who read this piece and to Christina Katz for providing a forum for all of us Writer Mama’s to share our trials and triumphs.

    Happy writing to all,


  8. 8 marnini October 2, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    I really admired how this piece was written the first time I read it in The Writer’s Digest. Congratulations Kristin you did a great job capturing the moment. I had a great laugh reading it.

  9. 9 contentmama October 3, 2007 at 5:39 am

    Bravo, Kristin! If we keep our eyes on them (most of the time) kids keep us grounded. How can we become too lofty with animal crackers jamming our keyboards? Your essay speaks so candidly, giving us the chance to laugh along with you. Many congrats.

  10. 10 Heather Haapoja October 3, 2007 at 6:51 am

    Congratulations, Kristin! What a great piece! Now that my kids are older, I don’t often experience days like that, but there is still a vague memory… and this essay brought it all back. Very funny, very real, great job. And thanks for sharing your tips! ;o)

  11. 11 Karla November 12, 2007 at 9:22 am

    Great article!

    Would you happen to be the Kristin Carlson that studied at Concordia University in Montreal? I’m looking for an old friend by the same name.



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