Author Interviews

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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Author interview with Shirley You Jest Fiction Winner Amy Sprenger (revisited)

Back in January 2014, I interviewed author Amy Sprenger for my WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to another of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with writer and blogger Amy Sprenger. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Amy. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Amy SprengerAmy: Hi, Morgen, thanks for having me! I’m Amy Sprenger, mother of three, wife of one (so far, although we could always up and go polygamist some day), house frau, and when I actually stop procrastinating, author. I live in Chicago, where I used to be a sports writer and editor, then horrified Sheryl Sandberg by leaning waaaaaay out to stay home with my kids. While full-time mothering was rewarding (and also unpaid) and we made special, special memories (like my daughter pooping on my leg when she was potty training and my son coloring on the hardwood floors with a Sharpie), I needed something more before my brain turned into a soggy Cheerio. I had hilarious material in our everyday life, so I started blogging about my family as a creative outlet. Eight years later, I’ve published two books based on my mothering life and I’m still blogging irregularly about the crazy stuff my kids do.
Morgen: I love the image of a soggy Cheerio’d brain. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
cover_finalAmy: My first book, Baby Bumps: The Almost, Barely, Not-Quite-True Story of Pregnancy, Bed Rest and One Batshit Crazy Family, was published in July 2012. My second book, Over My Dead Potty, a short collection of humorous essays about potty training, was published in October 2013. Considering the embarrassing things I write about my children, I probably should use a pseudonym, but I don’t. Someday they’ll probably pay me back by changing their names to avoid association with me and my slanderous musings.
Morgen: Or, hopefully, be very proud. Which authors did you read when you were younger and did they shape you as a writer?
Amy: Believe it or not, I started reading Erma Bombeck when I was in seventh grade. I would take her books out of the library and devour them, finding the stories she told about her family hilarious and touching. Really, she was the first “mommy blogger” out there – not afraid to tell everyone that parenting isn’t all hot chocolate with marshmallows on snowy days and unicorns pooping rainbows in the backyard. It’s hard and real and funny and tragic and confusing and mind-boggling, usually all on the same day.
Morgen: Definitely an influence then. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Amy: I am just finishing up my third book, a memoir tentatively called, Yes Mommy. I didn’t say “no”, “don’t”, or “stop” to my kids for thirty days. Spoiler alert: I’m still alive, so they didn’t actually kill me; it just felt like it most days. It was an interesting experiment that I would recommend to every parent. Well, every parent who enjoys giving in to each and every deranged demand of a five-year-old mind.
Morgen: I’m only a parent to a 13-year-old Jack Russell / Cairn-cross but he has his moments of derangedness. Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Amy: Now that all three of my kids are in school all day, you would think I would be cranking books out like term papers. But you would be wrong. There’s just too much fun to be had now that I’m alone all day! I play tennis, go to yoga, have coffee with friends, take thirty-minute showers without anyone banging on the door, pee by myself with the door closed, eat cookies without having to share them and go to the grocery store without anyone ‘helping’ me by throwing random things in the cart. Somehow, I’m getting the third book done, but probably not on the timetable my agent was envisioning. In all seriousness, however, I do try to write each day while my kids are at school so I can play the role of Super Mom / Chauffeur / Referee / Chef / Maid when I pick them up each afternoon.
Morgen: It’s certainly satisfying to write something and as I told my creative writing students, 300 words a day is 100,000 words a year. Do you have to do much research?
Amy: Thankfully, as I write memoirs, I don’t have to research anything. But I am constantly making little notes to myself in my phone about things that happen or funny stuff that comes out of the kids’ mouths. Occasionally, if I am writing about something that happened several years ago, I will have to look up some pop culture reference to coincide with the time period I’m writing about, which usually results in me losing myself in a haze of YouTube and the Us Weekly website for six straight hours.
Morgen: Ah yes, the downside of the joy that is the internet. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Amy: Is there any writer who HASN’T had rejections??? My first book, Baby Bumps, went on three rounds of submissions and we kept hearing that they loved the writing and thought my voice was hilarious, but that they couldn’t buy another mommy blogger book because they weren’t selling anymore. In typical me fashion, I missed the window on that by six months. Six months earlier and I would have been the darling of the publishing world. Sigh. But I knew this book could sell, so my agent, Jessica Faust, and I decided to self-publish it together, and it’s done very well. Writing is a tricky business and you need a thick skin. First, you get rejected by agents. Then, once you get an agent, you get rejected by publishing houses. And once you are published, you’re rejected by readers all over the place. You just have to focus on the next thing and keep grinding away. Writing well is the best revenge!
Morgen: Absolutely. I love getting mine! And the fact that Dean Koontz had 500 rejections is always encouraging. Thank you, Amy. It’s been great chatting with you.
I then invited Amy to include an excerpt of her writing and Amy said…
This is a post where I live-blog my husband’s vasectomy. Oh yes, I witnessed it and wrote about it. He got to witness the birth of our three children, so I thought it was only fair…
2:25 p.m.: We arrive downtown at the doctor’s office in typical Snarky Family fashion, that is, 10 minutes late. I drop Josh in front of the building and go to park the car. In the parking structure. Which sets him off because he can’t understand why I won’t drive around looking for street parking for an hour. Answer: because I am not him and I would rather pay the $20 and annoy the living hell out of him.
2:45 p.m.:  They call Josh back for his scheduled 3:15 appointment and I tag along. The nurse ushers us to a room and says the doctor will come in to meet with us and then they’ll have me go back to the waiting room. Little do they know, I am planning to blog about this and there is no way in hell I am leaving that room. I tell her I would actually like to stay and she stops dead in her tracks and looks incredulously at me.
“Well, umm, we really don’t have many people want to observe and I’m not sure what the doctor will say about that, but you can ask him,” she says.
You mean most people don’t want to see their husband’s balls get sliced and diced like a hibachi shrimp? Why the hell not?
2:47 p.m.: A rather attractive nurse comes in and tells Josh to remove all of his clothes and he gets super excited, thinking she’s hitting on him.
2:50 p.m.: Josh wonders where the scalpel is. I tell him they actually use a butter knife from the office kitchen, so the doctor will probably grab it out of the sink on his way in.
2:51 p.m.: A different nurse comes in and busies herself opening all the various surgical packages and cloths. She does this without latex gloves and without washing her hands. Awesome. After she leaves I point this out to Josh and he looks ill.
2:55 p.m.: We play a rousing game of “Name that Scrotum Part” utilizing the handy wall-mounted diagram.
3:05 p.m.: Still waiting.
3:10 p.m.: Yep, still waiting. Josh is looking more pale by the minute.
3:13 p.m.: The doctor arrives. Finally. Handshakes all around. He looks hard at me. “This is highly unusual to have a spouse want to witness the procedure,” he says. “Are you squeamish? Are you going to pass out?” Dude, if I thought I was going to pass out I would most certainly not have asked to watch. I assure him I am good to go. He asks, again, “Are you SURE you won’t pass out?” Now I am offended. Do I look like a pansy-ass wuss who can’t stomach seeing someone’s balls splayed open? “I used to be in hospital PR and I have witnessed brain surgery and open-heart surgery,” I say. “I feel confident I won’t pass out. In fact, if you need me to scrub in, let’s do it.”  Josh says, “Doc, as long as you don’t pass out, she can do whatever she wants.”
3:16 p.m.: Josh is locked and loaded. The doctor assures him that if the pain is too bad, they’ll stop because there’s no need to be a hero. Excuse me? Be. A. Hero. Josh. Seriously, suck it up because I can assure you any pain you feel right now will pale in comparison to the pain of hearing the phrase, “I’m pregnant” again.
3:17 p.m. The doctor asks Josh if he’s overly sensitive in the general region of the surgery, and Josh shrugs and says not really. The doctor aggressively begins washing the entire region with sterile wash, causing Josh to wheeze, “Wow, that’s … cold. I guess I am a little sensitive when it comes to my testicles.” The doc then pulls out a needle and announces that he’s going to numb the area now. Josh asks if they use any topical pain relief for the needle and the doctor waves his hand dismissively. Nope.
3:20 p.m.: The needle goes in and Josh’s breath whooshes out. Three different times. I actually watch his toes curl, but he doesn’t cry. He’s Ford tough.
3:22 p.m.: Doc is narrating his actions for the crowd, and while my view is partially obstructed, I have a direct line of sight of Josh’s face. And when the good doc reaches in and grabs the actual tube out, I see Josh’s ass leave the table he flinches so hard. Now, I actually do feel bad. When the doctor sticks the needle in to the tube to numb it, I suggest going to his happy place. Josh grits his teeth and doesn’t laugh.
3:27 p.m.: The first side is done. Josh’s toes haven’t uncurled since things got going, but I am on the edge of my seat. This is kinda cool. How many people can say they’ve seen the inside of their husband’s balls? I am a pioneer.
3:28 p.m.: Aaaand we’re starting Round II.
3:29 p.m.: This would be a great place to tell all the women reading to hide the following paragraph from your husband. I had no idea that there would be so much pain associated with this surgery. I feel really sorry for Josh right now. Not sorrier than I felt for myself when I was having a cerclage removed with no numbing shot, but pretty sorry. Josh says I can shove my sorries in a sack.
3:34: “I’m just sewing up the incision now,” the doctor says. “You really shouldn’t be feeling much of anything. Josh replies, “Really? Because… Yeah… I’m still feeling it.” The doctor says it’ll be over soon.
3:40 p.m.: The doctor helps Josh sit up. I’m not sure how he’s going to get his shoes on with his toes in a permanently curled position. I wonder if he can even walk like that. But more pressing would be how he’s going to walk after having his balls sliced like a loaf of bread. He looks pale, but he’s alive.
3:41 p.m.: The doctor hands Josh a wad of gauze and me two prescriptions. Painkillers!? These are totally for me, right? No? Oh. Oh right, for Josh.
3:42 p.m. The doctor tells me Josh is not allowed to do any chores around the house for the next year. I fake laugh. Josh winces. Are you kidding me? We have three kids — he’s totally giving them their baths tonight and the recycling needs to go out and someone has to take Jack to soccer tomorrow. It’s not like he had an angioplasty, for Christ’s sake.
The next few hours are a haze of rotating bags of frozen vegetables (organic, natch) and Tylenol doses. Josh spends the rest of the night in bed, icing his balls. “Who’s up for some loving?” I quip. His eyes light up. Really? REALLY? Don’t be absurd my friend. I get out the brochure and show him where it specifically states he has to wait a week. He says rules are made to be broken. I quickly run away.
But the big man was up walking around early the next day.  He showered, dressed and took Jack to his soccer game, then to the playground afterward.  As afternoon arrived and college football was about to begin, suddenly Josh complained of soreness and insisted he rest and watch some football.  The next day again he was up and at ’em early.  We went out to brunch and everything was fine.  Then NFL football was about to begin, and lo and behold, soreness once again in the groin region for Josh.
I let that line work on me for two days, but I sure as hell won’t be letting it fly next weekend.
And a short synopsis of her latest book…
If your potty training checklist includes training pants, flushable wipes, plastic tarps for covering furniture, a stack of US Weekly magazines and a case of wine, then this is the book for you.
The author of "BABY BUMPS: The Almost, Barely, Not-Quite True Story of Pregnancy, Bed Rest and One Bat Shit Crazy Family" and the award-winning blog "Snarky Mommy," Amy Sprenger is sure to have you howling with laughter and cringing in sympathy as she slogs through the toilet training trenches.
From unsuccessfully convincing her six-week-old baby to pee in a toilet to Cloroxing her own excrement-encrusted leg, Sprenger rolls with the punches and takes readers along for the ride in this short collection of essays.
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00006]Amy Sprenger is the author of the award-winning blog,, where she tells it like it is and isn't afraid to make fun of herself or her questionable parenting prowess.
The author of Baby Bumps: The Almost, Barely, Not-Quite-True Story of Pregnancy, Bed Rest and One Batshit Crazy Family and Over My Dead Potty, she has three kids under eight and a penchant for getting herself into ridiculous situations.
A former news and sports reporter, Amy lives with her husband and children in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood where she silently judges all the other parents.
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I welcome items for critique directly (see Editing & Critique) or for posting on the online writing groups listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
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