Mélanie’s stories


photo by Piece of Heart Photography

On U.S. Mothers’ Day weekend, it seems a good time to revisit an article I first posted in July 2012. At the end of the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It (based on the novel by Allison Pearson) the Greg Kinnear character describes his wife (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) as “a juggler.” Words which I found very apropos of my own life nine years ago when I first wrote this post, when my own Mélanie was a baby, and still find apropos today. The words are also apropos for Mélanie Rannoch, Kitty, Cordelia, Laura, and Lady Frances in the about-to-be-released The Westminster Intrigue, which sees Mélanie and Kitty on a mission that ends in a knife fight and coming home to check on their children (for that matter Malcolm and Julien are too – fatherhood is also the art of juggling), Mélanie interviewing suspects while she watches the children play in the Berkeley Square garden, Cordelia hosting a ball while trying to be part of the investigation and parent Livia and Drusilla, Lady Frances getting up early the day after the ball (very unusual for Frances!) thanks to the twins.

I wrote nine years ago that I’m very fortunate that my own Mélanie’s temperament and my own schedule make iteasier than I had anticipated to keep up with my writing schedule while being a mom. But it is a juggling act, I said then, whether that means balancing a baby against my shoulder or nursing while I type one-handed, spooning applesauce while I brainstorm with writer friends, doing a book reading aware on the edge of my consciousness of some tiny squeaks as a friend walks with Mel at the back of the room, holding her asleep in my lap on the red eye while I edit on my iPad, having lunch with my agent and editor with Mel asleep in her carrier beside me.

Today the juggling also involves my job at the Merola Opera Program. As well as taking breaks during precious evening and weekend writing time for “mummy daughter time” . One busy Sunday as I finishing Westminster Intrigue I took a couple of hours off for Mélanie to have a play date and all of us to go swimming, and in the end I realized the break was good for me as well as her and got just as much done as if I’d been at the computer all day – because if I had been, I’d have spent a certain amount of time staring into space or scrolling through social media while my brain searched for the next coherent thought.

I think it’s fortunate that my writing process has always involved lots of thinking and mulling time. I wrote in the original post nine years ago about talking with Veronica Wolff, a wonderful writer, fabulous mom, and great friend, about how we can both only write so many words before before inevitably we need to ponder how to handle a transition, a plot development, an upcoming scene (it’s amazing how something as simple as getting a character into or out of the room can stymie one). And a lot of this mulling is subconscious, so I often find I can work through whatever writing issue is plaguing me during a break with Mélanie. It also can play well with having a second job. By the time I get to an evening of writing, some issues have sorted themselves in my subconscious while spending the day at my other job.

Of course some things fall by the wayside – I said that nine years ago and it’s still true today. I don’t blog nearly as much – I hope to get back to it. Nine years ago, I said some days I don’t look at social media at all and then there are other days when I find the one thing I can accomplish while tending to a fussing baby is updating Facebook and Twitter (fairly easy to do one-handed). Now it’s Instagram too and if all I get to is a social media post it’s because I had a late meeting and then spent the evening with Mélanie. (Since COVID, posting a photo every day has become a routine, because it gives me a reason to get moderately dressed up and do my hair and makeup 🙂 Nine years ago I wrote that that some nights I wonder how writing a book with a baby can seem entirely do-able but fixing dinner with one can seem an insurmountable challenge. Fixing dinner is easier now- and my daughter helps -it’s a fun activity to share. And as for my house – well, my friends can attest that I was inclined to let housework go when on a deadline even pre-Mélanie :-). And that hasn’t changed much in nine years :-).

There are days when I feel I’m not getting anything done – that was true then and now. But I have written a book and novella every year since Mélanie born. Even the days when I only write a few hundred words add up over the course of a week or a month. Averaging around 1,000 words a day, most days, works pretty well and is doable – even if those words are sometimes written between midnight and 2:00 am. Snatching moments to write is key. I started my new novella on Thursday night while sitting in the car with Mélanie waiting for the wonderful San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows drive-in concert to start while Mélanie watched Carmen Sandiego on my phone (like me she loves spy stories).

When I wrote nine years ago I had just visited the Stanford campus with friends and I showed Mélanie where Mummy was an undergrad. We went to the History Department, where I learned so much that helps me as an historical novelist. But thinking back to those days of balancing classes, rehearsals, an honors thesis, my first novel (which I was co-writing my mom while in school), I realized that the art of juggling is something else I took away from my university years.

Now Mélanie is writing her own stories, which entails a different sort of juggling – finding time when she can have the computer (those are good moments to clean the house). Having watched me write since she was born, she is wonderfully supportive and understanding. The night I was finishing the Westminster Intrigue copy edits she offered encouragement, helped with proofreading (she caught a misnumbered chapter), and shared her precious York mints to keep me going. Writing is so much more fun with her!

How do you balance different elements of your life, whether it’s writing or parenthood or other elements?

My daughter Mélanie is writing her first book. We are going to create a page for her on this site to post her stories, but for now she is going to share them here, one part at at time.

Here is the first part of Taleea’s Mysteries by Mélanie Cordelia Grant.

Once upon a time there was a princess named Taleea who lived in a beautiful castle. But one day, they discovered a traitor among them, and the castle was stormed. Taleea’s family was killed. As she ran into the forest, she saw a blur.

10 years later.

 Taleaa was watching a bear to find out what berries were safe to eat. When the bear left, she picked the rest of the berries on the bush that the bear picked berries from. She went back to her cave home because it was getting dark. When she got back, she started a fire to stay warm. She heard some rustling in the bushes. Then she quickly put out the fire so that the animal wouldn’t notice her. She got out her spear. She said, “Who’s there?”

She looked in the bushes, but there was nothing there. She started the fire back up and went to bed. The next morning, she heard something again. It was clear something was stalking her. She went to go get more berries and water. Then she saw a blur by the stream. And said, “Who’s there? I know there’s someone out there. Show yourself.”

She looked very carefully. She didn’t find anyone, but she did find footprints. She knew something was watching her.

One night when she came back to her cave home, there was someone in her home. Her sister was in her home..Taleea said, “Sis?”

Her sister Diamond quickly replied, “Taleea?”

To be continued