Julie Vick is the author of ”Babies Don’t Make Small Talk (So Why Should I?),” a humorous advice book for introverted parents navigating the early years of parenthood. She has written for New Yorker Daily Shouts, Parents magazine, Real Simple, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. She teaches writing at the University of Colorado Denver.
SunLit: Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to write it? Where did the idea originate?
Julie Vick: After I became a parent, I began writing a lot of parenting humor (often as a way to cope with parenting frustrations). I had some success with humor pieces and started thinking about a book project. The book that I would have liked to have as a parent that I didn’t have was one aimed at the unique challenges of parenting as an introvert.
Parenting is not exactly a quiet pursuit with a lot of opportunities for alone time, so there can be obstacles for introverts. I combined my humor writing background with the idea for this humorous advice book for introverted parents of young kids.
SunLit: Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it?
Vick: This is part of the introduction to the book that explains what introversion is and how it can relate to aspects of parenting. I think it gives a good sense of what the book is about to potential readers.
SunLit: Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you actually sat down to write?
Vick: I had been writing a lot of short humor for places like Parents magazine and McSweeney’s and honing those humor writing skills definitely influenced some of the satire pieces in the book. As a tired new parent, I always appreciated books that didn’t take themselves too seriously, so I wanted to capture that voice in the book as well.
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I also didn’t love parenting books that made it seem like there was only one way to parent, so I wanted to convey that in the book.
SunLit: Once you began writing, how did the structure of the book evolve?
Vick: The book definitely evolved through the proposal and editing process. When I wrote the proposal, I initially thought about making it straight satire and just for laughs, but I thought that some advice on the topic would be useful too.
After I signed with my publisher and started the first draft, I initially didn’t have any first-person stories in it but I tried adding some and my editor liked them, so I went back and added more throughout.
SunLit: What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?
Vick: I signed the book contract in the spring of 2020 and had a short deadline to write the draft, so one of the biggest challenges was just trying to write a book while parenting during a time in the pandemic when there were not a lot of childcare options.
“Babies Don’t Make Small Talk”
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But I also appreciated that I had something humorous to focus on when so much other stuff in the world was so bleak.
SunLit: Walk us through your writing process: Where and how do you write?
Vick: I have a teaching job and kids so finding writing time is typically my biggest challenge. I don’t have a consistent time I write but I just fit it in when and where I can.
I read somewhere that if you can write a couple of hundred words a day you can write a book in a year, so I try to remind myself that even writing in small pockets of time is helpful.
SunLit: For people who may not know, can you define what an introvert is?
Vick: There are different definitions out there, but one common one is about energy. Introverts get drained by socializing and external stimulation and extroverts get energized by those things.
Many people think of introverts as being shy, but shyness or social anxiety is about fear of judgment in social situations, and some introverts are outgoing but just get drained by certain situations and need some alone to recharge. I’m both shy and introverted and the book touches on content that is applicable to both types of parents.
SunLit: Tell us about your next project.
Vick: I’ve been working on a proposal for a humor book for outdoorsy parents, so I’m hoping that will be my next project.
Quick hits: 10 more quirky questions
SunLit: Do you look forward to the actual work of writing or is it a chore that you dread but must do to achieve good things?
Vick: It depends on what I’m writing. I think first drafts tend to be something I look forward to more. On the other hand, revising is work that I know I need to do but it is often more difficult and slower, so when I need to do revisions, I can instead become very interested in re-organizing my spice cabinet.
SunLit: What’s the first piece of writing – at any age – that you remember being proud of?
Vick: In elementary school there was a writing activity we all had to do as, I think, part of an assessment. I remember them projecting a picture and we all had to write about it, and I wrote a story from the point of view of a sidewalk. After we turned them in a teacher in another class stopped me in the hall to say she had enjoyed my story. I remember being proud and realizing that maybe not everyone else had taken an unusual point of view with the exercise.
SunLit: When you look back at your early professional writing, how do you feel about it? Impressed? Embarrassed? Satisfied? Wish you could have a do-over?
Vick: My first introduction to professional writing was interning at the Boulder Daily Camera when I was studying journalism at CU, and I am mostly proud of the pieces I wrote. I was pretty terrified to start interviewing people but found that people were typically easy to talk to for the entertainment stories I was doing.
SunLit: What three writers, from any era, can you imagine having over for a great discussion about literature and writing? And why?
Vick: If we could time travel Jane Austen, Dorothy Parker, and Erma Bombeck together — that would be entertaining. They all had different styles and approaches, but I would find it fascinating to hear what they have to say.
SunLit: Do you have a favorite quote about writing?
Vick: I don’t really! I do have a favorite short story about writing—Lorrie Moore’s “How to Become a Writer” because it makes me laugh and captures the ups and downs of being a writer well. The first line of the story is, “First, try to be something, anything, else.”
SunLit: What does the current collection of books on your home shelves tell visitors about you?
Vick: First, that I am not very organized, but also that I’m a writer, a parent, and I like funny books.
SunLit: Soundtrack or silence? What’s the audio background that helps you write?
Vick: Usually silence or I can sometimes do very low music if I can’t really hear the lyrics.
SunLit: What event, and at what age, convinced you that you wanted to be a writer?
Vick: I think it was mostly early encouragement from some teachers. I remember doing well in AP English in high school and thinking that writing was something I really wanted to do.
SunLit: As an author, what do you most fear?
Vick: I think just getting something wrong. Even though I often write humor I try to get the details and nonfiction aspects of it right. I try to be pretty serious about writing humor.
SunLit: Also as an author, what brings you the greatest satisfaction?
Vick: Just hearing from people (who are not friends or related to me) that they enjoyed my book.