Mike & Ollie
by Susan Bearman
Some people suffer from writer’s block. Not me. My problem is too many writing projects. The siren song of the new idea is irresistible to me. Right now, for example, I’m working on an alphabet picture book based on my husband’s pet shop (http://theanimalstore.com) that I plan to self-publish. I’ve been searching for the right vehicle to experiment with print on demand, and I had this great idea. My sister-in-law Rebecca Hamlin (http://www.chichonia.com/about.html) , a magnificent artist, is working on the illustrations.
This idea came about because I am completely redoing the website for my husband’s store, which is from way back in Web 1.0 and in desperate need of an overhaul. It involves writing copy for dozens of new pages, all of which require research. So of course, that seemed like the perfect time to start the picture book, so we can have it ready to launch with the new site.
I also decided to try my hand at NaNoWriMo for the first time — National Novel Writing Month. My brother says I’m cheating because I’m working on a memoir, not a novel, but there are plenty of other NaNo rebels out there who support me. NaNoWriMo seemed like the perfect opportunity to draft my memoir that has been simmering for almost 19 years.
My twins were born at 24 weeks gestation, at just about a pound and half each. They spent nearly five months in the hospital, a year on oxygen, and many years in therapy catching up. It’s been an exciting roller coaster of a ride, and many people over the years have encouraged me to write about it. When my twins graduated from high school in June, it seemed like the right time to tell my part of their story. The rest of it, from here on out, is theirs to tell.
Plugging along at a pretty good pace, I’m well past the halfway point of the NaNo 50K word goal. As I was writing, I remembered some little journals that I kept while the babies were in the hospital. I hauled them out and began transcribing them (great for the word count), but realized that I would not be able to use them verbatim in my memoir. They are raw, unfiltered, present tense letters to my sick babies. There is plenty of information and emotion to mine from these journal entries, but they are not something I will use in their entirety.
It occurred to me, though, that since I was already transcribing them, I could use this material in a different way. I envy young mothers today for their access to the Internet and the support it can provide. I would have loved to have been able to reach out to another mother who understood what I was experiencing. There weren’t that many of us back then.
So I decided to post my journal entries on a new blog called Mike&Ollie (http://mikeandollie.wordpress.com/about/), the joint nickname used to refer to the twins in the hospital (think Brangelina). Today, November 17, is the official launch, as well as the twins’ birthday. I will post every day between now and March 26, which is the date we were finally all home from the hospital. My hope is that parents who read it will find hope and inspiration from two babies who have been through it all and who came out well on the other side. I know my children have always inspired me. Today, November 17, also happens to be National Prematurity Awareness Day (http://www.modimes.org/news/nov1_2010.htm ). This seems like a perfect way to celebrate.
Thank you so much to Rebecca, who has wholeheartedly supported this project since I first committed to it in an essay at the beginning of the year. Everyone should be so lucky as to have such an enthusiastic supporter.