10 QUESTIONS FOR…authors of “Knowing Pains: Women on Love, Sex and Work in our 40s”


Author(s) interview with Amy Kossoff Smith and Cari Shane ParvenPrint







Bio:  Amy Kossoff Smith: Amy Kossoff Smith, Founder of The Business of Motherhood, is an internationally recognized Mompreneur who owns a Web site, www.BusinessofMotherhood.com, and blog, www.MomTiniLounge.com.  Available 24/7, just like Moms, the Web sites offer parenting tips, resources, and a host of ways to manage the job of motherhood.  Amy is a national wire columnist, with parenting articles published nationwide; a contributor to Discovery Health; a Featured Discussion Leader for Gannett’s first nationwide online Moms community (at DC Moms Like Me).  Amy has appeared on The Today Show http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/28796190/ , FOX and CBS News  http://www.businessofmotherhood.com/inthenews.html .  She recently published an essay in “Knowing Pains:  Women on Love, Sex and Work in our ‘40s.”  http://astore.amazon.com/wwwbusinessof-20/detail/1595942548

She is married to another entrepreneur in Maryland and spends a ton of time chauffeuring their 3 boys to playdates, sports practices and games…in her blue minivan.

Bio: Cari Shane Parven:

I’m a Margaret Mead wanna-be. Jane Goodall, too. I would love to sit all day and watch “my subjects,” then write about them. During the first half of my adult life, I pounded the pavement as a radio and television reporter. Now, I write for a living — essays, articles, blogs, manuscripts. I have written for The Washington Post, Cooking Light, The Washington Examiner, Fromer’s Budget Travel, and more.

My writing has caught the attention of producers on The Today Show http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/28793736/  as well as CBS News and a variety of national radio shows. I am a contributing essayist in Knowing Pains: Women on Love, Sex and Work in Our 40s http://astore.amazon.com/wwwbusinessof-20/detail/1595942548 and a writer for examiner.com. In the blogging world, I am a lead writer for WUSA-TV’s DCMomsLikeMe where I keep the mom-conversation flowing by “Keeping It Real.”  In addition, I have my own blog, “Inside the Beltway, Under the Radar,” (www.insidesidebeltwayblog.net) a popular resting place for those interested in the brilliant thoughts of Washington, D.C.’s powerbrokers (www.shaneparvenmedia.com). I am currently working on the final stages of my first novel, A Winter’s Spring, a story about a mother’s personal struggle with her mentally ill son. 

Though I am a graduate of Vassar College (and significantly brighter than my three children), I am still trying to figure out how to remove my head from the vice turned daily by my two teenage daughters and pre-teen son.


1. Tell us about your latest book.

AMY:  Both Cari and I contributed to the recently published “Knowing Pains:  Women on Love, Sex and Work in our 40s”  (www.knowingpains.com).  The book’s subtitle, “Old Enough to Know Better, Young Enough to Do Something About It,” says it all – this is a collection of essays that reads like a juicy diary, but it’s the tales of the woman next door.  Topics include love, loss, accomplishment, failure, friendship, work, and everything in between.  Our essays were about friendship (“Finding Friendship at 40” by Cari – http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/28793736/ ) and the work/life balance (“Stumbling into Cyberspace by Amy – http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/28796190/ ). 

2. How did you get started as a writer?

CARI: I came into writing by way of sibling rivalry. My older brother wrote for an inter-school newspaper in NYC, a newspaper that pulled writers from eight different Manhattan high schools. Not to be outdone, and knowing it would look good on my college transcript (!), I began writing for the paper my freshman year and was elected editor in my senior year. (Funny how that still makes me feel important.) I loved interviewing people (couldn’t get enough of it actually), but I really didn’t like the writing process. In college, I worked on the newspaper, but after stumbling into radio found the format – short, succinct pieces – so much more to my liking. Worked my way into television news, again short and succinct with lots of interviewing and social interaction, but eventually found TV difficult to juggle with a new family. I left television to become a stay-at-home mom, and after eight years, when my youngest was 4, cold called the Washington Post and convinced them to let me write a perspective piece on a long-distance, open water swim in which I would be competing. The editor asked me to write two articles and I’ve been writing ever since.

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

AMY:  The only thing typical about my days is mayhem!  I juggle a PR firm (www.writeideas.com), 2 mommy websites (www.businessofmotherhood.com and www.momtinilounge.com), and the incredibly busy sport-filled lives of 3 boys under the age of 11.  Typically (ok, at least 3 days a week), I wake up at 6 to exercise.  By 8:40, kids are on the bus; by 8:45 dishes thrown in the dishwasher; by 8:46, checking e-mail on my fuscia pink Blackberry at my desk, foamy homemade latte in the other hand.  I spend most of my time on my computer and phone, typing or gabbing away about PR and my latest mompreneur adventures.  I love to get out for a quick lunch, but typically slam something down at my desk.  Kids home by 4, and I shift gears to sports, carpools, and homework.  I see a lot more late nights writing at my computer than I’d care to admit, and am constantly trying to find balance.

4. Describe your desk/workspace.

CARI: I actually don’t have one. Let me reword that. I have a desk but it’s the place I pile bills, not write. So, I sort of flit around. Sometimes I write at the local coffee house, but at 9:30am, it becomes a toddler’s playground and the high pitched screaming gives me a headache. In the warm weather months, I write outside on my deck with my dog, Annabelle, who loves to bake herself in the hot sun. Mostly though it’s one of three soft chairs or the family room couch, though for some odd reason right now I’m sitting on a very hard stool in the kitchen. I love natural light, so when I sit down to write I try to follow the light. Mornings I spend on one side of the house, afternoon’s I spend on the other. What I really wish, though, is that I could hook my laptop up to a treadmill because, quite frankly, my tush gets quite sore sitting all day!

5. Favorite books

CARI: This is such an impossible question. It’s akin to picking a brides maid: you always feel like you’re leaving someone out. To make the selection process easier for myself, I need to think about books by decade. In the 70s, when I was a pre-teen/teen, I’d have to go with anything by Judy Blume, Are You There God it’s Me, Margaret was the book that turned me into a journal writer. Forever is the book that made me at once pine for a boyfriend and fear actually getting one. In late high school and college, no question (though I’ll hate myself if I’ve left one out), Invisible Man, Sister Carrie and Lolita. In my 20s I went through a Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow and Philip Roth phase though I haven’t read any of these authors in years. In my 30s I think I was so sleep deprived and involved with my young children that my book selection became completely kid-centric. Oh The Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Suess may have to top my list, though Jane Austen’s Emma somehow snuck itself in, in between bedtime stories. Now that I’m in my 40s, I’ve gotten very picky. I’m re-reading and loving a lot of the classics; I listen to lots of them on CD in the car for time-management’s sake. Getting more specific, I think I can unequivocally say that Wallace Stegner is the most beautiful writer I’ve ever read. The way he strings words together is so insanely magnificent that when I think of his books, no – his words – I think rich and creamy. It’s lovely. But the one book that stands out for sheer ingenuity has to be The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. It amazed me how she was able to make a complicated story feel so uncomplicated. Plus, the book left me shaking with tears.

6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you 


1) I like to wake up at the crack of dawn to get work done. I love a quiet house and actually have no problem jumping out of bed at 4am to write. Then, four mornings a week, I leave the house at 5am to swim with a masters swim team for an hour to an hour in a half. Swimming is my morning cup of coffee.

2) I love to talk about sex. I find nothing embarrassing about the subject, though I am horrified about the sexualization of our children. What they know at 13 is frightening.

3) When I was a kid, my mother used to force me to talk to strangers. Seriously. Mostly it was on the ski slopes (“a safe crowd,” my mother calls skiers). When I skied with my mother she would hang back just as it was our turn to get on the chair lift, forcing me to go up the lift with a stranger. Then she’d yell, “find out everything about them, name, age, what they do for a living and report back to me at the top.” Oddly enough, I did what she asked. I have no doubt my mother’s wacky plan turned me into a reporter.

7. Favorite quote

AMY:  No question, the first quote that comes to mind was one that literally changed my writing life, and it didn’t come from a historian or celebrity, rather from someone much closer to home…my dad!  About two decades ago, I desperately wanted to be my own boss, to have my own business.  My dad bought me a book, “Secrets of a Freelance Writer:  How to Make $85,000 a Year” by Robert Bly. 

Book link – http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Freelance-Writer-Second-Make/dp/0805047603/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1234639508&sr=1-1

In the front, he wrote, “You only need start.”  Not “to start,” but one of those “just do it ‘starts’” The book – a manual for how to freelance, become rumpled and frayed as I read how to get into the business.  And that confidence and inspiration from my dad, is a quote I’ll never forget.  It applies to so much in life, and has pushed & prodded me to “start” lots of things I might not otherwise have had the guts to do.

8. Best and worst part of being a writer


Best: I love the way writing makes me think and feel.

Worst: While I love the quiet of writing, I find the solitary nature of the job challenging because talking to people feeds me.

9. Advice for other writers 

AMY:  You only need start!  Seriously, go for it!  With the blogosphere, anyone can be a writer.  Be one, and be a really good, creative one!  The one tip I’d share about fine-tuning your writing is to read, reread, chop, edit, and then do it again.  You can read your piece in front of a mirror, which helps in the editing process.  And you should leave your piece for a day and come back to it when you’re more fresh.  Being too close to your writing can prevent you from being objective, tight, and great.

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience. Can be funny, embarrassing, inspirational, etc.

AMY:  I never thought I was a good writer in journalism school.  I went to Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, where anytime you misspelled a name or got someone’s title wrong, it was an automatic “F.”  I wrote an article for my high school newspaper, “Offbeat tactics kids use to get into college.”  That one article was my lucky charm 3 times – literally!  First, when I decided I’d messed up in accepting University of Michigan’s offer and had to go to Northwestern.  That article got me past the receptionist (she remembered it), and into the school a second time.  The article juiced up an editorial meeting on my junior year internship and was re-published on the front page of The Virginian Pilot and Ledger Star.  And senior year, I entered it into the William Randolph Hearst Writing Competition (known as the college “Pulitzers”) and won the feature category.  On the finalists’ trip to San Francisco, I found myself competing with 8 other writers, who I considered much better than me (lack of confidence once again).  At the awards dinner, I still didn’t think I’d done anything special when they introduced me to Mr. Hearst.  And as they read the national winners, I voraciously clapped for #3, #2, and went numb when my name was called as #1.  It was my proudest writing moment, and gave me the confidence to pursue a writing career post-college.

Where can people buy your book?

You can find Amy online at www.BusinessofMotherhood.com or www.MomTiniLounge.com or www.WriteIdeas.com.

You can find Cari online at www.ShaneParvenMedia.com or  http://www.insidesidebeltwayblog.net.

You can find Knowing Pains online at www.KnowingPains.com.  Available mostly through Amazon, you can purchase Knowing Pains at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s