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Thread: AW's Day of Listening - Interviews Thread

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  1. #11
    Teh doommobile, drivin' rite by you mscelina's Avatar
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    Maternal Instincts--Mary Misenor, alias Soccer Mom

    AW Day of Listening
    Maternal Instincts—Mary Misenor alias Soccer Mom
    by Celina Summers

    For some reason, I thought that this would be the easiest interview that I would do. After all, Soccer Mom (henceforth known as Mary) is one of my dearest friends. We drink cyber margaritas together. We have LOLCatz wars. We beta for each other. Every once in a while, we have serious conversations on serious topics.

    And we usually agree.

    Imagine my shock, then, when this turned out to be the most difficult of the three conversations I had with our revered senior members of Absolute Write. I’ve thought about this a lot this evening, pondering why that could be possible. Could it be that—perhaps, just perhaps, I know her too well?

    Let’s find out. Let’s start off with the basics.

    “I write for children under my own name and for adults as Mary Misenor. I have a JD. You probably know my professional credits. I have the Trunk Novel and my most recent short stories have been in Coyote Wild and Mouth Full Of Bullets. I'm a career prosecutor. I wandered about the world quite a bit. I sang with the Texas Girl's Choir from age 7 until age 16 and traveled to 8 or 9 countries with them including a tour across Europe. I had contact with a lot of people that I wouldn't have otherwise met since I'm just a small town country girl.”

    So far, so good. Right? This was going to be easier than I thought.

    NOT.

    “What was the one thing you swore you'd never do with your life?” I asked. I expected something exciting—like the running of the bulls in Pamplona or snake handling in some weirdo Texas church.

    She thought for a minute, but her expression didn’t change as she replied, “I can't come up with anything. Told you I was boring.”

    What? Did I really just hear that? Never one to give up on a set system of questioning, I persisted. “Did you end up doing it and why?”

    “I'm going to think on these two questions a bit more,” Mary said blandly, her face still as smooth as a donkey’s ear. “I'm just drawing a big blank.”

    Okay. Now I was confused. She thought a bit more and nothing happened. I was stunned. Not even a single LOLCat was in sight.

    It was time for me to change tactics.

    “What would you say the single most important life change you made was?”

    “I think having children changed me more than anything. Motherhood completely reshaped who I am.”

    Here I noticed something interesting. All three of my interviewees have mentioned this when I asked this question. I thought this rather odd. My kids hadn’t changed me that much. Hell, maybe there was something wrong with me. After a hurried call to my therapist, who assured me that I was normal and they were weird, I continued.

    “What brought you to writing?”

    “Boredom. No, seriously. I've always written. I got my first taste of publication when one of my poems appeared in the newspaper. I was seven. I've had periods in life when writing had to go away for a while. Law school was one of those. I stopped writing in 1990. Then in 1995 I was restless and bored and decided to pick the writing back up.”

    “Was it a compulsion or a plan?”

    “Compulsion.”

    That’s it? A one word answer? From a writer—about writing?

    It was only then that I realized that I was talking to an attorney. That JD thing she was talking about earlier? Juris Doctorate. The legal definition of a Juris Doctorate, according to The FreeDictionary.com (hey what can I say? I’m cheap) is as follows: “Juris doctor, or doctor of Jurisprudence, commonly abbreviated J.D., is the degree commonly conferred by law schools. It is required in all states except California (which includes an option called law office study) to gain Admission to the Bar. Gaining admission to the bar means obtaining a license to practice law in a particular state or in federal court.”

    Damn. No wonder I couldn’t get any answers out of her. Having once scored in the top two percentile on the law school entrance exam myself then discarding the law for theatre (yeah, I know—what was I thinking?) I was approaching this the wrong way.

    At that point, Mary interjected, “Did I mention that I left theatre to study law? It's true.”

    Oh really? Well, heck. That explained a lot. I realized that I would have to think like a lawyer if I was going to pry anything out of her. So, I threw her a curveball.

    “How much change have you seen in your profession--both as an attorney and a writer--for our gender?”

    Aha. Now I’ve got her!

    “As a writer: I've seen us get a bit more respect. I tend to write in women friendly genres anyway: romance, mystery, children. Women are the norm there, but those areas of writing have often been derided as "Cozy" "Bodice Ripper" "Easy Reader" and looked down upon. Now I think we are taken more seriously as professionals within the writing community, but still get little respect from the mainstream or from the general media.

    “As an attorney: I don't know that I've seen anything change in the last 15 years. It's possible for women to get near the top, but still damn hard to break through the glass ceiling. We still have to choose between career and family. In order to be taken seriously, many women try to—and are expected to—act like men. I refuse. People always tell me that I seem too nice to be a lawyer. I dunno. Maybe they expect me to bite the head off a pigeon before trial? I try my cases just like the girl next door and I win. So there.”

    Finally! A spark of life flashed in her jurisprudence-tainted taciturnity! I’d succeeded! Time for a new curveball—one without exclamation points. “Tell me one story that encapsulates how you handled a moment of great decision.”

    “Okay, gonna have to think on this one too. I have a few good lawyering war stories in me.”

    I waited for a day and then she pled the fifth on me.

    Obviously, it would take someone smarter than me to crack this cookie. Right off the top of my head, I couldn’t come up with anyone. So, I thought about Mary for a moment and recognized at last that she did have a weakness.

    I would have to exploit it.

    “If there is such a thing as perfection, what do you think it is?”

    “Perfection doesn't exist. It isn't possible from flawed humans. Flaws are beautiful though and it is the infinite variety that makes life wonderful.” Damn. A typical lawyer answer. But then, Mary’s weakness swam to the surface. The briefcase-toting façade cracked. “Okay, but chocolate is close to perfection. Reaaaaaal close. With coffee. On a cold morning. While the kids are still in bed. And I have a great novel to read.”

    I’d gotten to her. All of a sudden, Mary was no longer a lawyer. Out of the blue, she turned into a human. I knew I had to follow up quickly. “What is the loveliest sound you've ever heard?”

    Her face changed, softened. Even those glowing red demon attorney eyes lightened into something somewhat resembling humanity. “Baby laughter. If I could bottle it and sell it, I'd be a kazillionaire.”

    “What is the most important thing in your life that keeps you balanced—or unbalanced, such as the case may be?”

    “My kids. They keep me humble and force me to interact with the world. I could turn into a hermit, but they won't let me.”

    Was it possible? Was spawning the secret that all lawyers harbored, hidden in their oak-paneled offices as the sole evidence that they, too, shared the same DNA pool as the rest of the homo sapiens that inhabit our world? Is that why they all have those pictures of smiling kids on their desks? If that was so, then surely they had moments in the past that they dreamed of reliving, of rectifying in some strange way. So I asked her. I had to. “If you could go back to the age of twenty, what would you change now that would affect your situation today?”

    “Nothing. Yes, I'm that boring. But I like my house and my kids and can't imagine doing things differently—except I'd have focused on novels much earlier and stopped all that poetry nonsense. I was sooo emo.”

    I’d lost her again. In absolute desperation, I snapped, “Ten years from now, when you look back at this moment what will you wish you had told me?”

    Mary Misenor, attorney, author and Soccer Mom, grinned—and then laughed in my face. “I should have told you to find someone more interesting to interview. Seriously, I go to work. Play with donkeys. Do homework with my kids. Go to den meetings. Church on Sundays. Write in all the spaces in between. I'm pretty plain vanilla.”

    You know, for a while, I was kind of pissed off. Here I was, expecting some spectacular exposé on Mary’s exciting and demanding world and instead I got some rant about playing with donkeys?

    And then it hit me.

    Her life was pretty spectacular. Here was a woman who was juggling two careers, two children and at least two donkeys. Okay, five donkeys. While she claimed to be pretty plain vanilla, chocolate was as close to perfection as she thought she could get. What a dichotomy! What a contrast! Everything about her was a contradiction, as if when she’d developed her individuality she’d had too much to offer for just one person.

    She had enough to be two people at the same time.

    If you think about it, that’s one hell of an accomplishment. It takes a special person to be memorable, to be thought of with fondness or to inspire others to be the best that they can become. It takes a remarkable person to manage that while hiding behind a façade of normalcy so steeped in Americana that few would ever attempt to penetrate the second, private individual behind that façade. There are people in Texas who know Mary as a darn good prosecutor. There are people all over the world who think she’s one heck of a writer.

    But in the end, there aren’t many people who know the Mary Misenor who walks with her sons across the fields of her ranch at sunset, listening to them chatter about their last Scout meeting while they play with the toy donkeys who romp around their feet.

    Aren’t we the fortunate ones? We know the woman who smiles at us all and sneaks off to eat our chocolate while we’re not looking. I guess that makes the membership of Absolute Write part of a very elite group.

    Every group of diverse people needs a Soccer Mom.

    And every Soccer Mom deserves her very own LOLCat. Torture begets torture, after all.

    Last edited by mscelina; 12-14-2008 at 07:34 AM.

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