Sunday, April 10, 2005

Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter

When I arrived at the San Jose Mercury News, I had already heard of Katherine Ellison. She was one of the Merc’s overseas reporters and part of a trio that had won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Philippines’s dictatorial rulers, Fernando and Imelda Marcos.
I always admired her stories: they were full of telling details and context.

Our paths never crossed physically at the Mercury News. She left. I left. I heard bits and pieces about her through the years. I knew she was doing a lot of science writing.

But a few months ago, we met through a mutual friend. I was delighted to learn that Kathy, the mother of 2 sons, had written a book that argued that women actually get smarter through parenting. It is a revolutionary thesis, one based on scientific evidence. I’m not the only one who thinks her book is provocative; her publisher is putting a lot of marketing muscle into its promotion.

I asked Kathy to share with Ghost Word readers and me what it’s like to have a new book on the market. Her book will be released April 12 and she will appear on the CBS Early Show April 20.

“I finished writing "The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter" last winter, just under the wire to make the deadline to get it on the shelves by Mothers Day. I feel like I'm still recuperating from the last go-round with the copyeditor, as the publicity around the April 12 launch is now starting to take off. Time Magazine sent a photographer over to my house today, Sunday afternoon. He spent three hours in all, including setting up and winding down and snapping more than 100 shots. My two kids and their playdate stood behind him making faces to see if I'd look especially dorky.

I just got back last Friday from a day in Washington DC doing "media training" that a good friend arranged as a favor, since I'm set to be on the CBS Early Show April 20. And after that, a "satellite tour" of at least twenty cities, where I go into a booth and do them all on the same day. I bought a new jacket that cost more than half what the Netherlands paid for the Dutch rights plus chopped off my hair so I don't look quite so much like I've been doing what I did all last year -- writing alone in my converted garden toolshed all morning and cleaning house and shlepping my kids around in the afternoon.

It all seems vaguely like it's happening to someone else. I've written three previous books. (One was never published). This one is the first that a publisher has decided to really help promote, and it also seems to be the most commercial topic. Oddly enough, this book was also the most fun to write. Or perhaps not so oddly. I wrote a book I really wanted to read, and it looks, at least so far, like a lot of other mothers feel the same way. Especially now. We seem to be a kind of tipping point in the motherhood literature where people are tired of the confessional, mournful memoirs and are ready to hear something more encouraging. My fondest hope for the book is that it gives mothers more confidence in ourselves as we negotiate for a better deal -- from our spouses, bosses and society at large."

I'm off to New York for a few days. Radio silence for a while.

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