What is Writin’ on Empty? The long subtitle of the book explains it all: “Parents Reveal the Upside, Downside, and Everything in Between When Children Leave the Nest.”
I’m proud to be one of three mothers who brought this book into the world in 2008. My co-editors, Joan and Julie, met through the empty nest discussion group Julie started after her daughter left for college. They came up with the idea of collecting stories and sharing them with parents who were having a tough time making the shift from a house bustling with teenagers, to those quiet dinners for two—or one. I came on board with some writing experience and three kids already out of the house.
We understand how it feels to stand in the doorway and stare into an empty bedroom, when the former occupant of that room lives across the country or on the other side of the world. We know the jumble of emotions you feel when you notice how much less you spend on groceries every week.
Our book (also an ebook), shares stories written by us and by other parents—moms, dads, and one grandfather—who struggle (or, alternately, kick up their heels) when they find themselves with a quieter, neater house devoid of kids. Some of these nearly-grown children have gone off to college, some have joined the military, and some are just taking time to explore the world.
We decided to self-publish our anthology. The learning curve was steep, but we put all the pieces together and produced a book we are still proud of.
We did a number of readings at bookstores around the Bay Area. And we had some stellar moments along the way. For example: one week, we made it to the Top Ten list in the San Francisco Chronicle:
QUALITY PAPERBACKS / BAY AREA
1.THE WHITE TIGER, Aravind Adiga (Free Press; 304 pages; $14): A chauffeur in India writes a series of letters to the Chinese premier confessing to the murder of his employer.
2 .THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (Riverhead Trade; 352 pages; $14): The coming-of-age story of a sci-fi-obsessed first-generation Dominican American geek.
3 . THREE CUPS OF TEA, Mortenson and Relin (Penguin; 349 pages; $15): Mortenson builds schools in Pakistan after villagers rescued him following his failed attempt to climb K2.
4 . RUN, Ann Patchett (Harper Perennial; 320 pages; $14.95): The life of a Boston family is forever changed after a violent accident.
5 .OUT STEALING HORSES, Per Petterson (Picador; 256 pages; $14): A man in a self-imposed exile recalls the childhood summer that changed his life forever.
6 . WRITIN’ ON EMPTY, Joan Cehn et al (No Flak; 180 pages; $19.95): A collection of essays for parents whose kids are leaving or have left for college or military service.
And we won the 2012 About.com Readers’ Choice award for best survival guide for parents of college kids.
But here’s the thing: since we published our book, a lot has changed. Social media, for one. The way we communicate (or don’t) with our kids after they leave home is eons away from the old once-a-week phone call.
We love our book, but we think it’s time to do a reboot with new essays that take into account the ease of texting, the temptation to follow our kids in an array of social media, and the fundamental things that still apply when kids leave home.
So, we’re asking for your submissions.
If you’ve written anything about your child leaving home, or if you’ve been planning to write something about it, this is a great opportunity to share your work with others who may need support, inspiration, or a good laugh. Whether you’re already redecorating that bedroom—or hitting the Kleenex box hard— let us hear from you.
We’re looking for essays only, up to 1500 words. You can submit them to us by clicking here: Submit to Writin’ on Empty. Write a 50-100 word bio, and send us your contact information, links to your blog(s) and your other writing, and whatever else you want readers to know about you. If you contact us at email@example.com, we’ll be happy to answer your questions.We want to hear from dads too, so please feel free to spread the word!