Mother first, writer second
Christine Lemmon is a very busy woman.
The mother of three young children – Jacob, 8, Michael, 6, and Julia, 2 – often awakes before dawn, setting about the task of getting her older kids ready for school, tending to daily household chores and spending most of her day with her energetic daughter.
It’s a delicate balancing act that so many mothers do every day, but one which Lemmon maintains with almost a non-chalant ease, her wide, ever-present smile indicating both happiness and contentment.
But Lemmon isn’t just an ordinary mother and wife. She’s also one of Sanibel’s most sought-after authors, having written the popular “Sanibel Scribbles,” “Portion Of The Sea” and – most recently – “Sand In My Eyes.”
So, how does she juggle all of these “jobs” at the same time?
“All I need is a two-hour chunk of time nearly every day to feel like I’m moving forward and accomplishing,” said Lemmon. “Sometimes I go weeks on end setting my alarm for five in the morning and writing until seven, or until the first child wakes.”
But lately, the author has altered her schedule, doing most of her writing between 9:30 p.m. and midnight, which has necessitated a routine of enjoying a good, strong cup of coffee in the afternoon.
Lemmon, who had visited Sanibel since she was just 2 years old when her grandparents were snowbirds here, recalled many happy memories of weeklong vacations to the island.
“my earliest memory of Sanibel… I remember laying in the water, with the waves – what little waves they were – washing over me,” she said. “My mother took lots of pictures of that.”
Another memory of visiting the island was meeting her future husband, John, on a blind date, arranged through a chance encounter of their mothers.
“We were both down here for the summer,” Lemmon explained. “Our moms met at Four Freedoms Park (in Cape Coral), struck up a conversation and set up our blind date. My mom came home and said, ‘Get ready. You’re going on a blind date.’ And I was like, ‘Oh mother, you didn’t!'”
Of course, their first date went well. And, 14 happily married years later, Lemmon is thankful for her mother arranging that encounter.
A former newspaper and magazine journalist, the Michigan native began an interest in writing her own novel when she was pregnant with her first child and her husband had been sent away on business.
“I just knew I had to write something,” she said, noting that prior to his departure they had purchased a home computer. “The first night he was away, I sat down at midnight and just started writing. And that eventually became ‘Sanibel Scribbles.'”
Following multiple moves across the country, from Fort Myers to northern California to Atlanta to Celebration (near Orlando) and back to Fort Myers, the couple finally decided to settle on Sanibel. They also decided to self-publish her first and second novels, citing the importance of creative control. But after “Portion Of The Sea” came out, Lemmon thought that by the time her next book was completed, she would like to have acquired a large publishing house in order to handle all of the work involved in printing and promoting her work.
“‘Sand In My Eyes’ just came out in March… and we self-published again,” she said, adding a slight giggle. “I decided to stick with my husband as publisher. If we were living on a farm, we would probably need to have a publisher to handle everything. But we live here on Sanibel, which is so supportive of the arts. People here are loyal readers and carry my books with them all over the world. I’m very thankful for that.”
According to the author’s Web site (www.christinelemmon.com), “‘Sand In My Eyes’ is the story of Anna Hott who is so overwhelmed by life that hardly is she seeing the beauty around her. It’s as if she is walking around with sand in her eyes. But then the widow from next door comes knocking at her door, and one by one, their woman-to-woman small talks help pull the ugly from Anna’s life so that beauty, peace, simplicity and contentment sprout forth strong and free.”
Like her previous works, Lemmon would like to see “Sand In My Eyes” trigger lively discussion at reading groups and be passed throughout families “from grandmothers to mothers to daughters and to friends.” On Saturday, June 13, she will be signing copies of her latest novel at Barnes & Noble, located at 13751 Tamiami Trail in Fort Myers. Her booksigning will begin at 1 p.m. All three of her novels are also available at local bookstores.
Asked what might be the premise of her next book, Lemmon added, “I have a lot of ideas, but I’ve still got to hone them down. I would like to write a story for my children, but it may wind up being a story for my grandchildren. Sometimes I feel guilty about feeling like a couch potato… I just need to find the time to write.”