Back in December we were thrilled to be included in a post on Scary Mommy, featuring Parenting Books that Belong on Your Wishlist for 2015. Right at the top of the list was a book I hadn’t seen before, This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things (Parenting, Marriage, Madness), by Clint Edwards. Oooh, I thought to myself, fresh meat! I immediately started stalking him on Facebook, as we do these days, and found that I was woefully behind the times. Dude had appeared on Good Morning America! Where had I been? How had I missed him?
I was late to the party for sure. But lucky me! I now had a brand new book full of fresh essays by a talented, funny writer. There is nothing better than discovering a new writer and finding out that s/he’s got a TON of binge-worthy content to devour. Sometimes it pays to be a little behind.
Mid-Facebook-stalk, Clint and I connected over appearing in the Scary Mommy post, and he was generous enough to answer some questions about his blog, his family, and his process of creating his first book. So, let’s do this thing!
You’ve been blogging at No Idea What I’m Doing: a Daddy Blog for a little more than six years. That’s a lifetime in Internet years! How did you get started, and more importantly, how do you keep going?
Oh gosh! I haven’t been blogging that long. Although it kind of looks that way. I created a blog page as part of an undergraduate creative writing class, so my history goes back for a long time. I posted on it very sporadically for years. I didn’t really start blogging regularly until about two years ago. I spent the summer as a stay-at-home dad, and ended up writing an essay about it. I put it up on this old blog I never used, and it took off among my friends. This ended up becoming the first chapter in my new book. People were so damn into that post that I decided to try blogging about my family for five days a week for one year. That’s’ when I came up with the title “No Idea What I’m Doing: a daddy blog.” In that year I ended up in the Huffington Post, which led to the New York Times and then The Washington Post and finally Good Morning America. It was an awesome year, early morning writing and caffeine. Lots of caffeine.
I have yet to meet a writer who doesn’t mainline caffeine. We really should all get a Starbucks discount. So, is this essay collection directly from the blog?
Most of the essays are adaptions of blog posts. Some of them were never published. Some are posts I super-sized. Many originally appeared in other publications. All are awesome (shameless self promotion).
How did you decide it was time to publish your own book?
I have always wanted to publish a book. I studied creative writing in graduate school. I started out publishing in literary journals, mostly. I wrote a book that no one wanted to publish. It was very literary and depressing and now it just takes up space on my computer. I’d received more than 200 rejections from publishers/agents when I started blogging. That’s part of the reason it was so refreshing to blog. No one told me No. I just published what I wanted, and people read it. Honestly, it felt like sticking it to the publishing industry that had sent me so many rejections.
Traditional publishing is definitely a painful process. You decided to self-publish with Lulu.com. What made you decide you go with them, verses CreateSpace or another publishing platform? Pros and cons?
I don’t really have a good answer for that. I didn’t really shop around. I just picked them because I’d heard of them.
Let start with the cons: I must admit they called me every couple weeks for months after I first contacted them. Lulu is a group of determined bastards. This was actually very irritating. I’m also not in love with the cover, for one thing. I paid for artwork that looked good. But they changed the color (more faded). I argued with them, but they never got it right. Every little thing costs extra, and after the book came out, their customer service went to crap.
On a positive note, they made it easy to get my book out to Amazon, Google, iBooks, and many other English-speaking countries. They did all the formatting. That was easy. And it’s easy to get all the money I make into one place. I love that the book is print-on-demand, although I think that is standard with all places.
All in all, I don’t have much to compare it to. This is my first experience.
That sounds pretty similar to the way CreateSpace works now. I used Lulu for my first StoryTots children’s books, but they were just SO much more expensive than CreateSpace. Though, I’m not sure CreatSpace was around when I first published those. Tell me about your Kickstarter experience. For anyone who has thought about doing one, the fear is that you launch a Kickstarter, and nobody cares. How did you create a successful campaign?
I ran the Kickstarter at the end of 2014 to help me finance my book, and it raised $8,500. I’d felt really outed by traditional publishing, so self-publishing appealed to me. I had a couple friends that had run successful Kickstarter projects, and many of my followers had suggested I run one because they wanted me to put out a book. But yeah, I was really anxious to do it. Before I ran the sucker, I did a lot of online research on what works. And what I ended up discovering is that a lot of people run a Kickstarter, it flops, and they try again.
Really? That’s interesting.
That’s the really cool thing about it. You have as many shots as you’d like to get funded. I really focused on the fact that I had more than one opportunity. I got lucky having it work out my first time, but there really is no shame in running a Kickstarter more than once. Just be sure to really learn from what went wrong the first time.
I loved the essay where you talk about how your wife Mel basically turned you into a decent human being. It sounded like you and Mel were very, very different when you first met. How did you two end up together?
Oh wow! That’s a big question. When Mel and I met we were different people that attracted. She was soft spoken and quick to smile. She was a little nerdy. I was all into getting tattoos and loud mouthed. And get this: when we started dating I didn’t know how to type, and I’d never read a novel. I was 21.
And now you are a writer. That is amazing.
I told her I wanted to go to college, and so she typed all my papers my first semester. I would hand write them, but my spelling and handwriting were so sloppy, that I’d have to read them to her. Some of our early dates consisted of Mel hunched over the computer while I read a really crappy paper I wrote for sociology. From that time forward she has been the most supportive person in my life. How exactly it all worked out is still a mystery to me. Looking back it seems like a million small steps. We had to grow together, obviously, but I’m very happy that we did.
It sounds like you got really, really lucky, and as a reader I felt that way throughout the book. You frequently position yourself as the “bad guy,” being too cocky when it was your turn to stay home with the kids; saying the wrong thing to your wife; overreacting to your kids’ infuriating behavior. You’re very honest in your writing. There were several times when I though, Man, this guy is being such a jerk! But then somehow you turn it around, and the reader ends up on your side (and certainly Mel’s side).
Ha! Yes. This book really is about me coming of age as a parent and husband. It’s about Mel and me growing together. It took a lot of drop-down, drag-out, door-slamming fights for us to figure out how to live together and raise kids. We are still figuring it out. I assume we always will because raising a family is an ever-changing task. Most of the stories in the book are about times when I was acting like a dick without realizing it, and Mel set me straight. They are about me learning something, mostly lessons from my wife, and how those lessons helped me to grow as a parent. I think that is some of the real appeal of the book. I’m not afraid to describe how I messed up as a father and husband and what I learned from it. In fact, one thing that I keep hearing from readers is that wives read sections of the book to their husbands.
I thought about doing that! I didn’t (yet) but I do keep leaving my dog-eared copy in strategic places through out the house. And by “strategic” I mean in various bathrooms. It’s just a matter of time. But back to the kids. I admired your honesty about your anxiety over having a third kid. Some people have a number in their head of how many children they want to have. Did/do you have a number? Is it different than Mel’s number?
It’s funny you should ask this question. Right now it’s 4 a.m. and I am up with our third child. She’s almost two and just loves to get up early and steal toothbrushes. When Mel and I started talking about marriage, I didn’t want to have kids. I was really afraid that I’d be a bad father because my dad wasn’t around when I was young. That’s actually why I titled my blog “No Idea What I’m Doing.” Mel wanted to have three kids, a number that seemed extremely large. Eventually I was talked into having children, and it changed my life. But I thought we were done after two, and having a third sounded like too much. But now that she is here, it really is just more of the same. It’s just one more butt to wipe.
It’s like the turtle analogy, except with butts. It’s butts all the way down*.
*The turtle analogy:
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said, “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”