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May 6, 2013

A mother’s tale

Burnettsville author to hold book signing Tuesday.

As Jan Blackburn will tell you in her debut book, the kind of maternity perpetuated on 1950s and 1960s television by Harriet Nelson, June Cleaver and Marion Cunningham is no longer the status quo.

“Motherhood and Other Natural Disasters” came out in February and was self-published by Blackburn through the publishing company Inspiring Voices. Twenty years in the making, it provides a humorous and heartfelt account of Blackburn’s experiences as a mother.

“I found it very difficult to be a parent and work and do all the things you were supposed to do,” Blackburn said. “Our generation was told we’ve come a long way baby and you can have it all. And so most of us from my generation tried to do that.

“Then we got caught in the reality that it was impossible to be a full-time career person, a full-time mom and a full-time community person. It became part-time everything and you didn’t do anything really well.”

Blackburn said before “Motherhood and Other Natural Disasters” became the book it is today, it was a survey she sent to mothers across the country in the 1980s asking for their thoughts on how they handled the stresses and pressures of parenting.

“I grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” she said. “My mom was a home mom and she made it look so easy. But I discovered it really wasn’t. I was trying to figure out how do we get back some of that innocence, some of that quality time that we lost.”

Blackburn sent the survey out like a chain letter and eventually received responses from New York to California. As she started compiling the responses however, she soon found her own sense of humor taking over and started penning her own experiences.

And so started the decades-long experience of crafting the book, inspired by her sons Nick and Jake, punching out a chapter or two whenever she had the time.

“Writing was always an outlet when I was a kid,” she said. “I would write these ridiculously sleazy novels that were totally pointless. Later in my angst-ridden teenage years, it was poetry, haiku, then in my college years it was time to write heated editorials and carry protest signs, I had that generation.”

Writing the book was one thing. Publishing it, Blackburn said, was another. “The rejection letters would beat me back from the post office.”

Then one day last year she came across an ad in “Guideposts” magazine for a book writing contest in which the top three submissions would receive a publishing deal from the magazine’s publisher, Inspiring Voices. The pile of pages she had come to call “Motherhood and Other Natural Disasters” had been sitting in her drawer for a while, so she figured it was time to take a chance on a contest rather than a publishing house.

A few weeks after she submitted the manuscript, she received word she was in the top 1,500 entires. Shortly after that, she was told she made the top 300. Then the top 33.

When the top three were announced, Blackburn’s name was not among them. The success she did acquire in the competition was enough to drive her toward self-publication, however, a route she said is ultimately worthwhile despite the expense.

Blackburn, a nurse for the Frontier School Corporation, also writes a regular column called “Buzzin’ with Mrs. B.” for the “News & Review,” a community newspaper in Monon.

Copies of Blackburn’s book will be available for purchase at an author talk and book signing at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Monticello Public Library, 321 Broadway St., Monticello. It is also for sale locally at Canaan Bible Book Shop, Rekindled, and The Nest, or online at barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com and inspiringvoices.com.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

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