I want to welcome Jennifer Hotes as the first guest in my interview series, Turning Point: tales of transformation. I met Jennifer over 10 years ago at the first day of kindergarten. We both had infants in arms and I was immediately drawn to Jenn’s warm, positive personality. (There was no evidence of her obsession with the macabre!) Our daughters are still the best of friends and a few years ago I started hearing “Mrs. Hotes is writing a book.” Then last spring, who started popping up in my social media world, but Jennifer, promoting her new book, Four Rubbings. After 13 years as a stay-at-home mom, Jennifer is now a published author with another book on the way. In this interview Jennifer shares why her life long blood-curdling dreams are a gift, how writing a book can help moms survive adolescence and the importance of her mantra “let go and listen”.
Tell me your story of becoming a writer?
I had a nightmare in the dead of night and told my sister-in-law about it. She insisted that I write it down. I told her I couldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read. I am an artist, but I have never been a writer. From that day on, I began to carry a blank notebook with me everywhere and found myself writing down the story of Four Rubbings as I waited for my kids in school pick up line, but I didn’t tell anyone. Putting a voice to any new endeavor is terrifying. What if no one took me seriously? After I filled that first notebook I confided in a few people and the reception was positive, so I kept at it. Five years later, I’ve published my first book.
Your book came to you in a dream. Did it feel like calling? A direct message from the Universe that this work was yours to do to fulfill your purpose?
It took me awhile to agree to the calling, but yes. I’ve always felt a connection to something greater, despite growing up in a “no God!” home. I believe that life teaches you what you need to know. I receive exactly what I need when I let go and listen. I have always had blood-curdling dreams. (I thank my mom for enduring me as a child!) I now understand that these dreams are a gift. Each week I have a dream that sends me in a writing direction and I’m getting better at being in touch with this dark side of myself in my waking hours.
One quality of a calling is that it feels bigger then you. Just as you describe above, you never thought of yourself as a writer, yet here you are. How did you develop what you needed as you went through the process of writing your first novel?
When you accept your calling you have to let people help you, which is my Achilles heel. Asking for and receiving help made me feel vulnerable. Vulnerability is and opportunity to be courageous and courage allows you to expand, but it’s not comfortable. As I shared my writing, I gained allies that helped to drown out my inner critic.
One of the most terrifying moments of my journey was when my father mistakenly received a copy of my manuscript that was meant to go to my stepmother. My dad is an accomplished academic writer and I did not want him to read it, you know how we never want to disappoint our dad. His response was brutal AND honest and enthusiastic. He said it was great, but it could be better and asked me the turning point question.
“Do you want to be a mom or a writer?”
My manuscript brought the reader to the edge, but if I wanted to be a horror writer I had to leap.
How did your role as wife and mom shift when you committed to writing a novel?
In words, my family supported me, but in reality they wondered where I had gone. Why wasn’t the laundry done? Where were the groceries? My husband loves to work from home and was used to having access to me. You know motherhood is sugarcoated with guilt. It wasn’t until I got some momentum that I felt I was entitled to it and that I owed it to myself to honor my writing time.
Did standing strong in your needs benefit your family?
Well, my daughters had to endure me as I learned to be a writer, but in the end they now stand stronger on their own two feet. My older daughter was the one who told me that I had to finish and publish the book, She said, “Mom, you’re the only one who can tell this story. Write it down!” She was around 13 at the time and we were having a bit of friction, but the book gave us a middle place. We would go for walks. I would be vulnerable with her about my challenges writing and this gave her permission to be vulnerable about her feelings about growing up. The book kept our relationship strong and connected in one place during those challenging years and that alone made the whole thing worth it.
My husband has become my biggest champion. When you write a novel there are ugly parts. It’s like childbirth. Right before the last push, you are spent. You don’t think you can do it. Doug was right there with me, a stern reminder that I could do it and more then that I had no choice. He beat up my inner critic for me and Four Rubbings was born.
How did Four Rubbings get published?
I had submitted Four Rubbings to Booktrope Publishing, an indie publisher in Seattle and at that time they were closed for submissions, but asked for the manuscript anyway. I didn’t hear from them, so after a month I decided to self-publish. April 15th was my self-imposed publishing date, and I went into mama bear mode. I was determined to make this happen! My copy editor had some personal issues come up and kept delaying. I was frustrated. Then I heard this voice within that told me let go and be open hearted, allow her to take care of herself and her family.
In my mind I missed the deadline and scheduled a trip to Disneyland with my 10-year-old . We were walking around the park and the phone rang. It was Booktrope offering to publish the book! Let go and listen. The Universe tries to fix things for you and if you can just get out of the way things just happen.
Raised across the Columbia River from a nuclear reactor, Jennifer thought two-headed animals at the county fair were normal until she moved to the big city. Jennifer has been looking at the world through a cracked kaleidoscope since she was born and has been writing since her parents pushed her crib against a blank wall. You can find the author/illustrator most days in her loft, sketching for the Inventor-in-Training series, or writing the second book in the Stone Witch Trilogy. Fortunate enough to marry her best friend, she and her husband currently reside in the Seattle area with their two daughters, two cats and one unruly puppy. Jennifer is a board member for Providence Hospice of Seattle Foundation and chairs the organization’s largest fundraiser, the annual luncheon. She loves supporting this group of social workers, nurses and chaplains as they walk with families through the hardest path life offers.