On my blog today I’m talking to Pat Taub, a family therapist, a journalist, a writer/host for the Syracuse NPR station program “Women’s Voices,”a writer for Key West Magazine, and a writing teacher. Pat explains how her memoir, The Mother of My Invention, helped her make peace with her troubled relationship with her mother.
Pat Taub’s bio:
Pat Taub has had careers as a family therapist, journalist for the Syracuse, NY Newspapers and writer/host for the Syracuse NPR station, where she developed the award-winning program, “Women’s Voices.” She wrote profiles for the Key West Magazine, Key West, while living there. Now she lives in Maine, where, since 2013 she has been a member of the faculty at the University of Maine’s senior college. Recently she taught the course, “Women Sharing Stories.”
Pat is the author of the mother-daughter memoir, The Mother of My Invention, which describes how she made peace with her troubled relationship with her mother. Since 2016 she has been writing the blog, “Women’s Older Wisdom,” with a focus on helping older women to combat the culture’s prevailing ageism and sexism. (blog address: wowblog.me) Currently she is writing a family memoir about her family of origin.
Who are your literary influences or inspiration?
The following writers have inspired me:
Fiction: Alice Munro, Margaret Drabble, Haruk Murakami, Lorrie Moore, Grace Paley, and Elizabeth Strout. Nonfiction: Barbara Ehrenreich, Claudia Rankine, Mary Karr, and Arlie Hochchild. My editor, Clare Meade Rosen has been an enduring influence and inspiration.
What have people most liked or found most meaningful/funny/creative/ challenging about your book?
It has been gratifying to have women tell me how they were helped by The Mother of My Invention to heal their relationships with their mothers. The book’s central message encourages women to view their relationships with their mothers through their mother’s family and cultural experiences as opposed to a daughter’s wounded memories. Many readers reported that finding this new perspective was life changing because an empathetic understanding of their mother’s lives replaced the daughter’s former anger.
Why do you write?
I write because it helps me to order my life and because I want to share my experiences with the world at large. I love the reciprocity involved when I interview someone. I not only collect their stories, but my life is enlarged in the process from what they share with me. I write my blog because I want to support older women to age positively. I feel most alive when I write.
As a result of publishing your book, what have you learned about yourself and/or the writing process?
I was unprepared for how long it can take to see a book go from a first draft to publication. My editor cracked the whip, having me re-write more times than I thought possible! This was followed by agent shopping. When I did sign with an agent, he dragged his feet, so I ended up self-publishing.
What does your writing space look like?… like do you have a crazy mess of a desk full of notes and post its? Or is it a quaint chair at a coffee shop?
I actually have two writing spaces: one in my primary residence in downtown Portland, Maine and a second in my country retreat, where I spend my summer. My Portland space fills a tiny room, surrounded by bookcases and a small sleeper sofa. My desk is large, surrounded by family photos. A large vintage print of the Suffragettes hangs above my desk—the Suffragettes are a constant source of inspiration. In my country space I write on a large farmhouse dining room table with a wonderful view of my flower garden. From here I can catch breath-taking sunsets.
What genres do you work in?
Nonfiction, although about 15 years ago I wrote a short story that, much to my amazement, won a prize.
What feeds your process?
I’m a morning person, so most of my writing is done in the morning. In the afternoons I edit. If an idea grabs me late at night or when I’m out and about, I will capture in a small moleskin notebook.
How much time do you spend writing each day?
If I’m on a deadline for my blog or an article, I might write all day to finish it. Other times I often procrastinate. I try to write a little each day. When I’m not writing, ideas percolate, especially when I take long country walks. When I’m stuck, I might go for a walk to free up my thinking and to develop a new perspective. Solo walks almost always spark new ideas.
Who or what is your muse?
I created a small altar in my Portland office, which holds a Buddha image, photos of my mother and grandkids, and a trophy given to me when I left my radio show. They are reminders to pay homage to the creative women in my family; to keep a Buddhist orientation of self-compassion; and to reference a project that went from a dream to reality.
When did you first write a story? What was it about?
One childhood story that stands out is a play I wrote at summer camp when I was about 11. My cabin was charged with coming up with a skit. I wrote ours. It was a moral tale about a poor girl who stole food for her family. My skit raised the question: are there circumstances that merit breaking the law?