Mom Interviews

Joni B. Cole

Author of "Water Cooler Diaries"

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It ties in very much to the fact that I teach writing and I know how to help people access their voices. Everybody's got an interesting life. Wouldn't it be great if all these women kept a diary about what they did? I'm just really nosy. I mean I'm REALLY nosy. I thought it would be just plain interesting to me! Quickly after that, i really began to put down how I'd do it, and I could see there'd be more value than just satisfying my curiosity. I found so many points of connection with those people, which was surprising because I didn't think I'd have many.

How many people did you reach out to for the project?

In each book, the calculation was that, to get the kind of diversity in terms of life experience and age and ethnicity and socio-economic status, we would want about 500 diaries. We also had to accept that we could only have so much time. We couldn't take chances with the quality of the book, so we needed critical mass. But with Water Cooler Diaries we had a real gift because we had partnered with Colgate Ladies 24/7 and did the national day diary website. It was both related to the book and not. For the women who came in through that website and created a diary on the same day -- March 27, 2007 -- we agreed we'd feature one of their diaries in the book, and that gave us an additional 400 diaries.

How did you and your writing partner, B.K. Rakhra, choose which entries to include?

Oh gosh, we'd read and then read and then read and then read. Maybe when we got the first cut, there were about 250 we could feature -- they were that good. But it's a mix, there's a lot to determine. We can't have 40 executive administrative assistants in the book, but we had about 40 contributions from them. With only 35 featured day diaries, you can't even have two medical examiners, even though their voices are completely different. But it's the hardest part of the job -- to choose. There are at least 200 voices in the book. But probably another 200 voices or experiences or excerpts were of equal entertainment value, but they just aren't in the book because there was no room.

Do you keep a journal yourself?

I actually never have kept a journal journal. People give me journals all the time, and they're so beautiful that I'm terrified to write in them! Also, at night, at the end of the day, just the thought of being reflective... ugh. What I do, though, is for the family, I keep a daily log -- pictures, I packed this for lunch, we went to piano lessons. It's just in a notebook, it's not online. It is really fun to look back at the most mundane stuff, though. It shows where your kids were at.

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