In the summer of 2016, Ashley Flynn says she was going through “serious mom guilt” about working full time and sending daughter Nina to daycare as a baby. Going through the transition and adjusting to a “new normal” as a family with husband Colby, an idea of writing a book of poems about their lives came to her after late nights of rocking and coming up with rhymes.
An “anthem for working mothers everywhere,” Flynn hopes her recently-released children’s book My Favorite Job is You helps as a light-hearted look at late nights, early mornings, all while parenting and having a career. 605 chatted with the Sioux Falls author on the process, her inspiration, and what she likes to do with her family in their (very little) spare time.
I knew I wanted to write… for a long time, and was a journalism major in college, but never really wrote seriously after graduation. When my daughter, Nina Rose, was born, I felt these overwhelming emotions that I wanted to capture. Somehow (strangely), whether it was the hormones or lack of sleep, my writings ended up rhyming. I’d come up with these little rhymes while I rocked her to sleep each night. Sometimes the poems were just nonsense, and other times I’d pick a topic that was on my heart and turn it into a rhyme. I have a compilation of poems from her entire first year in a little diary, all on different topics.
What I love about poetry is… it’s really not as intimidating as it may seem! As cliché as it sounds, if you have an inspiration and idea that’s truly speaking to you, it will just come through you. You really can think too hard or put too much pressure on it, which just kills the process and the ‘creative juices.’ Also, don’t let the idea of poetry intimidate you… it is what it is! No matter how short, simple, or silly. Who cares? Especially if it rhymes. If it rhymes, it’s guaranteed to be cool.
What some people don’t know about children’s book writing is… they’re simple, but can be incredibly touching to the reader. My favorite children’s book to read with my mother growing up was Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. When we would reach the last two pages, I remember just staring at my mom to see if she was going to start crying. She always did! I couldn’t believe a book could make an adult cry. Children’s books can have a profound impact on both adults and kids. That concept inspired me in my children’s book, too. I could write something meaningful to both the mother and child.
Challenges I faced while producing the book were… so many roadblocks, twists, and turns. Mostly roadblocks. I started the process self-publishing, and that was not working out the way I thought it would. Once I eliminated the expectation that I had to self-publish and do everything myself, things went much smoother. But that’s not the case with everyone. Self-publishing is great. In this circumstance however, I had to delegate and seek guidance.
One trick to fix writer’s block is… don’t rush or force the process. Step away, even for 24-48 hours. While you’ve stepped away, try not to totally forget about where you’ve left off, but also try to think a little bit about different angles and perspectives. Sometimes when I’m up and about living life, something will just pop in my head and make me think, ‘Duh! I need to somehow incorporate this.’ So stepping away, but not fully detaching, if that makes sense.
What I want people to take away from this book is… I hope My Favorite Job is You offers all mothers encouragement as they balance both motherhood and a career, or all of the demands of motherhood. Even the most basic, routine days can reveal an array of emotions, so it was important for me to turn those daily feelings into relatable words. My hope is that this book gives working mothers the encouraging words they not only want to say to their children, but also to themselves. Motherhood can be isolating, but we’re so not alone on this journey.
A favorite line from the book is…
My projects are important,
And I love the work I do.
I try my best to do well,
But my first concern is you.
I knew for the illustrations that I wanted… them to appeal to both the mother and child. While the story is a children’s book, it’s also very much directed toward the mother. I had a very specific ‘look’ in mind for the illustrations, and the book’s illustrator, Stella Koh, knocked it out of the park. She was very patient with my sometimes overly-specific edits.
Another project I’m working on currently is… nothing at this time. I’m due with our second child this month, so I’m waiting to see what kind of inspiration he brings! No pressure, buddy.
When I’m not writing, I’m… being a wife and mother. Working. Being pregnant and trying to stay cool (literally and figuratively).
When my book first was published… I first experienced the book with my husband and daughter at home. It was emotional and very special. Afterwards, I had a little get-together with some of my close friends and our mothers that was already pre-scheduled before I knew the date I’d receive the finalized book, so it was very exciting to bring the book to the party and show everyone. My mom and I cried. Lots of squealing and jumping.
A go-to spot for me in South Dakota is… stopping at Wall Drug for a donut when we’re on a road trip. Like every South Dakota native, I had countless Wall Drug memories (and photo ops) growing up!
One thing we love to do as a family in this state is… fish! We love taking the boat out to a close lake and trying to get our limit. We can normally get about four hours out of Nina, as long as the snacks are endless and the princess songs are loud and on repeat. She enjoys dancing on top of the cooler much more than reeling in the fish, but I think I might, too… Boy, has fishing changed for my husband…
For more information, visit flynnstorytelling.com.