Hey, Cool Mom! with Jessie Ann Foley
I'm excited to introduce you to super duper cool mom! Meet Jessie Ann Foley, writer, reader, and, by all accounts, time-management guru. In the past four years, she's had three babies and written two books. I just finished her second YA novel, Neighborhood Girls, and really enjoyed it. If you grew up in the Chicago Catholic scene, it's highly relatable, but also unique in how it explores the traditions and rituals of this dominant culture. It brought up a lot of emotions for me. And I LOVE getting emotional!
Jessie was kind enough to share a little about herself- what motivates her, how she gets sh*t done, etc. You won't believe how cool she is!
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a Chicago-based author who writes books for young adults. Before that, I spent nine years as a high school English and Creative Writing teacher.
2. Describe your family.
My husband and I have three daughters, ages 3, 2, and 11 months.
3. What do you do most days?
When I’m on a deadline, I usually work about 40 hours a week, but it’s all very piecemeal. I’m lucky that my parents live ten minutes from me, and they watch my girls two mornings a week. The rest of the time, I work at night after the kids are in bed, super-early in the morning before they wake up, and/or on weekends when my husband isn’t working. Sometimes, all three kids nap at the same time, but this usually only happens when I’m driving. That’s why I bring my laptop wherever I go, just in case I get some unexpected time to sit in a random parking lot and get some writing done. I’ve talked to my mom friends about this, and they all do the same thing. One of my friends even claims she knows all the Starbucks parking lots that have good Wi-Fi.
4. Who/What is inspiring you these days?
I read a ton, and there are writers I return to again and again when I want to experience storytelling and language at its most magnificent: Louise Erdrich, Annie Proulx, and Anne Enright, to name a few.
But I also love to draw inspiration from creative people who work in different disciplines than my own, because it helps to remind me that there are some creative impulses that are universal. For example, the renowned chef Niki Nakayama talks about the Japanese concept of kuyashii, which is about using other people’s doubts as a way to push yourself to succeed. She says it was kuyashii that helped her overcome the sexism of her industry and eventually open her acclaimed restaurant, n/naka. I’m not a chef, obviously, but as a person who’s not naturally outspoken or assertive, I really loved this idea, which to me is very female, of quietly believing in yourself and learning to metabolize negativity into something you can use.
5. Tell us about the books you've written.
In my first novel, The Carnival at Bray, Maggie Lynch is just about to start her junior year of high school when her mom gets remarried and moves the family to a coastal town in Ireland. It was the recipient of a 2015 Printz Honor, among other awards.
Neighborhood Girls, which just came out last month from HarperCollins, is a coming-of-age story about sixteen-year-old Wendy Boychuck, who is trying to cope with the fallout of her corrupt father’s crimes when she finds out her all-girls’ Catholic high school is closing.
I have another YA novel in the works, scheduled for publication in late 2018 or early 2019.
6. What books are you reading or wanting to read? Why?
Some of my favorite adult fiction I’ve read recently: LaRose by Louise Erdrich, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies (has anyone NOT read this book?), Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book, and Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You.
YA recent favorites: Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep, Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns, The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry, Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina, and The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee.
My to-read pile is massive and ever-growing: right now the top of that list in adult fiction includes: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, And These are the Good Times by Patricia Ann McNair, and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. New YA books I’m excited about are Grit by Gillian French, Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed, and The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez.
7. What’s your favorite song for 1) a dance party 2) feeling sad
1) “Don’t Kill My Vibe”- Sigrid
8. What artists or designers do you like?
I’m obsessed with the current season of Project Runway (designers Brandon and Kenya, to be specific). The actor and theater director Michael Patrick Thornton is a huge talent, and I love that his tiny but mighty theater, The Gift, is just a few blocks from my home. And I’ve been trying to learn more about portraiture photography for my new book project, which is why I was so excited when I heard that Dawoud Bey, who teaches at my MFA alma mater, Columbia College Chicago, was named a 2017 MacArthur Fellow.
9. What clothes are making you feel good?
I don’t wear much jewelry, but I never feel complete without my hoop earrings. I buy the cheap multipack kind that has all different sizes in the same package. I can’t wear them day-to-day anymore—too hazardous when you’re holding a baby who wants to rip them out—so now when I put on my hoops, I feel good because I know I’m about to step out.
My fake hair braid from Sally Beauty Supply is my new favorite special occasion accessory. I’ve worn it to weddings, parties, and my book launch for Neighborhood Girls. It only came in two colors—bleached blond or dark brown, but apparently I have very generic hair because the dark brown matches my real hair perfectly.
I love H & M, and I always get super excited for their guest designer and studio collections, which look high fashion but are still actually affordable. Last year, I bought this pair of wide leg red pants from their A/W studio collection, but I was eight months pregnant so I couldn’t wear them. By the time I was able to fit into them again, it was summer. I FINALLY got to wear them to a book event a couple weeks ago. It was still eighty degrees, but technically it was fall and I was sick of waiting.
I bought my black leather jacket twelve years ago with part of my tax refund, and it has been a staple of my wardrobe ever since. It goes with everything and it never fails to make me feel cooler than I actually am.
Best use of a tax refund ever! I'm copying that and the genius Starbucks/laptop maneuver starting now! Thanks so much for sharing a little of your life with us, Jessie!