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I'm living the dream
And trying to feel it
Hey guys - HAVE I MENTIONED I WROTE A BOOK? HAVE I BEGGED YOU TO PREORDER THAT BOOK FOR MONTHS ALREADY? HAVE I TOLD YOU IT WILL BE IN THE WORLD IN 25 DAYS? Yes yes definitely yes. And now I’m actively choosing not to apologize for my lack of chill because wow, this is a bonkers experience that no one can prepare you for.
My entire family (spouse and three kids) are traveling to New York to help me celebrate the book launch on April 25th at Books are Magic, and I have a bunch of fun events planned in other states (and virtually) that you can check out here. PLEASE COME if you can! It’ll be so nice to have some pals in the room/Zoom windows.
This is my first book, and I’m leaning heavily on author friends to guide me through this Very Special Time. One of those friends texted me this which pretty much sums it up.
Unfortunately (because I’m me and not someone else), when loved ones ask if I’m “excited,” I say “yesssss” with a shrug behind every sound wave, because while sure I guess I’m excited, I’m mostly terrified of failure or embarrassment or not controlling enough of what I can control. Unfortunately, I’m told these feelings are TO BE EXPECTED.has this to say about being a debut author.
The trip from struggling writer to published author is a vision quest that takes place in a protected area bordered on all sides by strip malls. It is like sitting at a dinner table in haute couture with a dirty diaper on. For a lot of writers, it will prove to be the most emotionally unsteady period of their lives. It is a privilege and a gift and an honor to be a debut author, but it is, above all things, an existential test.
Anna Sproul-Latimer ofsays this about the lead-up to a book’s pub date.
It’s a moment where there’s really not much to do; anything you could be doing is either stuff you should have been doing months ago or stuff you can’t do until just before publication. How fun for you!
A process as emotional as putting your first book out into the world is bound to pull forward your own latent fears and insecurities about yourself and your needs. I think these feelings of wanting too much, pushing too hard, bothering people with emails, and so on, are inherently tied to gender, the anxiety of being an “ambitious” woman and the impulse to apologize for or minimalize that ambition by being as easy to work with as possible.
In summation, writing a book and then working your ass off to get as many eyes on that book as possible is A LOT.
On the one hand, no one has any way of predicting why some books do well and others don’t. On the other hand, maybe an excerpt in this publication or an interview on that podcast will launch a book into the literary stratosphere! (This is highly unlikely, but my brain likes to fuck around with magical thinking).
I threw myself into professional writing solely on the basis of wanting/needing to express an existential crisis of identity following the onset of motherhood, and despite having written academic papers on selfhood in Portrait of a Lady and the use of the word “happy” in Northanger Abbey and the depiction of “spinsterhood” in Lolly Willowes, I had no journalistic background and knew approximately zero professional writers before I started blithely and cluelessly pitching editors like the sweet springtime child I was.
My first published piece was about my period.
Through sheer stubbornness, I somehow cobbled together a career (after many, many, many rejections and professional stumbles), but it wasn’t until a few years in that I began to dream of A Book. Once I let the dream in, of course, there was no going back. The image of The Book took hold despite having no clear idea of what The Book should be about.
I signed with my agent when I was two weeks postpartum with my third kid, and we tried (and failed) to sell a collection of essays about motherhood inciting my feminist rage, and later, a nonfiction book about how the angel of the house is alive and well in depictions and expectations of contemporary American motherhood. Seeds of both “failed” books ended up in Momfluenced!
And now The Book is A Real Book. With a title and a cover and everything! And I find myself trying as hard as I can to do the impossible and experience the fulfillment of a dream.
And this is where I tell you that living my dream of writing a book feels sorta like living my dream of becoming a mother because both dreams were based on nebulous imagery and foolish beliefs in the ability of the external to fundamentally change or improve the internal. Motherhood did not imbue me with radiant strength or peace. Mothering meant that my days and skillset drastically changed but I was shocked to realize that my many human frailties and vulnerabilities remained, despite the fact that I’d attained Madonna status. I fear that being a published author who has written A Book might be the same. Maybe, despite having become this person I’ve dreamed of becoming, I’m still me. Middle-of-the-night anxiety sweats and all.
I don’t love the “birthing a book” metaphor simply because it feels reductive, over simplistic, smarmy, and somehow minimizes the intense reproductive labor of creating a human and the intense intellectual labor of writing a book. But I think there’s something to be learned from my flawed thinking that motherhood might be a shortcut to complete fulfillment and transcendance. Like, yes, I’m trying to enjoy seeing something on which I worked very hard and very long become a real thing. But I’m trying NOT to assume it will change the core of me or my days.
So in the spirit of honest celebration rather than misguided attempts to Live A Dream, I’d love to share some blurbs written by writers I’ve long admired that somehow make it easier for me to feel pride/joy/fulfillment. Being read and seen through the eyes of others has a funny way of making shit real, doesn’t it?
Reading this book feels like having the best, most nourishing conversation about media, race, capitalism, and the collective public scream that is parenting right now with a friend who has done all the reading. Petersen’s deep research, smart analysis, and warmth makes this essential reading for parents who want to know what pulls us toward the endless scrolling that is an inescapable part of our twenty-first-century lives.
Momfluenced makes rich text of our often mindless scrolling, unpacking the ways performances of social media motherhood help and hinder parenting in its personal and political spheres. This book provides all the delicious pleasures of envy-snarking on the neutrals of your newsfeed, plus the necessary catharsis of your favorite group text, with the bonus of nutrient-rich research into how race, class, and politics influence our cultural conception of the ideal mother and why mindful consumption might be the first step to change. I’m so glad we have Sara Petersen’s voice to unravel these complexities with humor and pathos.
A thoughtful and freeing look into mommy influencer culture and how it shapes how we see each other and ourselves. I started underlining until I realized I was underlining the whole page. An important read for anyone who has ever gotten trapped in the endless doomscroll toward being a better, more beautiful mother.
Reading Momfluenced is like having a frank conversation about motherhood, gender, and capitalism with someone much smarter, wittier, and well-read than I am. Sara’s vulnerable, incisive, and funny-as-hell take on momfluencer culture will stay with me for a long time. Fans of Under the Influence will gobble it up.
Incisive, illuminating, and prescient, Momfluenced thoroughly excavates of one of the internet’s most fascinating and insidious subcultures. If I could heart this book twice, I would.
For women disappeared by the Cult of Domesticity, Momfluenced opens up the possibility of self-reclamation with a passionately conceived deep dive into modern motherhood as performance, commodity, and fantasy. An eye-opening must-read.
Momfluenced takes us on a journey to understand our own history of domesticity and how it affects so much of our culture today. Petersen unpacks influence through a lens of who has power in this country and teaches us how we can change the narrative for the women coming up behind us. A must-read!
This is the book for anyone who has ever sought to untangle their own desires and experiences of motherhood from those fed to us by the happily married duo of capitalism and white supremacy, and by that duo's children: perfectly curated social media feeds, family portraits sprinkled with ads, images of tiny bodies and reproductive lives packaged for maximum profit. It is for parents and kids and anyone interested in the ways we sell ourselves to one another, and the ways we have been taught to perform. Sharp, glittery, warm and incisive, Momfluenced does what momfluencers cannot: it tells the truth.
- Hannah Matthews, author of You or Someone You Love: Reflections of an Abortion Doula, which you should preorder here!
Thea Lim wrote this about the feeling of being read by others, and I think it’s pretty apt.
I try to focus on what the whole enterprise is really for: the fact that, at this very moment, someone might be reading something I wrote, and feeling touched by it. ISN’T THAT MAGICAL?
It is magical.
Please come say hi at any of my book tour events (I’ll keep updating the page as more details are finalized) and please reach out if you’re interested in having me come talk (about the book or Instagram ads or my hatred of Mother’s Day) to your school, workplace, or other organization/event venue.
GoodReads is hosting a Momfluenced giveaway, which I think ends today! And if you’re a GoodReader, while you’re there, please mark the book as “want to read” (or if you’ve read an early version, leave a rating and review!). You better believe I’ll be begging you to review it on Amazon after April 25th too because sadly, algorithm is king.
As a sincere THANK YOU for indulging my endless book promotion when you’d probably rather be reading about golden dildos, I am offering this 💥GIVEAWAY💥 to you, my beloved newsletter readers.
SWAG. If you’ve preordered Momfluenced, and want to receive 2 sticker sheets, 2 #momfluenced pencils, the best grocery list notepad on the planet, and a personalized note from yours truly, simply email me at saralouisey at gmail dot com with the subject line NEWSLETTER GIVEAWAY and a photo of your preorder receipt. I’ll then choose 5 winners at random who will get all the goodies plus a look at how bad my handwriting really is.
PS: If you dig my swag, it was designed by a dear friend’s incredible shop, which you can check out online here. They have the best card selection and the cutest shit you will suddenly be convinced you can’t live without. I mean. And yes please.