One of my favorite summer activities is relaxing in a beach chair with a good book. Which is why I’m thrilled to introduce Newburyport mom and local author Colleen Temple in today’s interview! Colleen’s debut novel comes out tomorrow and I already have it on order. Keep reading to learn more about Colleen, her family (and their favorite Newburyport spots) as well as her new book, Summer Breakdown.
Where are you from originally and what town do you live in now?
I’m originally from Babylon, New York, on Long Island. I came up to Massachusetts for college—Merrimack, in North Andover and aside from volunteering in Chicago for a year after graduation, I’ve been in this area ever since. We lived in Lawrence for about ten years and just moved to the North Shore last summer.
How many children do you have and what are their age(s)?
I have three—8.5, 6.5, and 4.5—it’s wild in this house!
What’s your favorite family activity on the North Shore?
We LOVE when we can score a spot down at Sandy Point and hang out at the beach for as long as everyone can last. Or! Going down there in the evening with some dinner was something we enjoyed a lot last summer.
Where’s your favorite place to eat and/or shop on the North Shore?
I love getting a coffee at Olive’s Coffee and Bakehouse or avocado toast with an egg on top from The Coffee Factory. Any burger on The Paddle Inn’s menu I know will be good, and many happy family memories have involved a lobster roll from Bob’s. If you asked my 4-year-old though, she’d hands down say chocolate chip pancakes at Angie’s is the way to go!
In fact, I have a book signing on Saturday, 6/25, from 9-11am at Olive’s in Newburyport and I’m pumped. Would love to meet some North Shore Moms there!
You’re a writer! Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started writing.
I’d love to! I used to write a lot when I was little—journaling, poems, song writing! I lost some of that along the way of growing up and pursuing other things but then started a blog when I was out of college called, The Daily Craic, where I’d write about life in the Boston area. That turned into more mom content when I had my first baby, and then I was eventually recruited by a friend from back home to start writing for a new (at the time!) website called Motherly.
I was Motherly’s first employee and wore many different hats there but eventually settled as the essays editor for a while, establishing the Motherly Stories channel and building that up. I’m really proud of the work I did there! I got to write so many essays about early motherhood and document that period of my life. I got to read and edit talented writer’s stories and learn so much from other mothers along the way. I compiled and edited Motherly’s first book called This Is Motherhood, a collection of essays and journaling practices and that was my first foray into the publishing world. I wrote and delivered the book proposal when I was nine months pregnant with my third!
I always knew I wanted to write a novel, though, and in early 2019, I decided it was time to just go for it—and I kept chipping away at it and now, here we are.
Your debut novel comes out tomorrow. Congratulations! Tell us about the book.
Thank you! Summer Breakdown follows Sabrina on her reluctant journey back to Seaside, MA to her childhood home. Her husband stays back in Chicago and she takes her two small children with her for the summer. Sabrina’s estranged alcoholic father is dying, and she hasn’t seen her family in years. Going back home unearths secrets, old habits, grief, and even a hot ex-boyfriend.
It is ultimately a story about a woman choosing herself. It’s a love story, but a love story in many different ways—love within yourself, love for your parents in accepting who they are as flawed, imperfect individuals and not just your parents, love within a marriage during the chaotic time of raising babies and building a life together, and love for your children throughout the many different stages you go through together.
Where is the book set?
In fictional Seaside, MA.
Will readers recognize any of your favorite local spots in the book?
I didn’t want to limit my imagination in terms of feeling like I had to be super accurate on the setting, so I was very intentional about creating a made-up town. Their stroll down Main Street and the old church Sabrina describes might give you downtown Newburyport vibes. I feel like I took some bits from all the beach towns I love—Babylon, where I grew up, Newburyport, the Cape, etc.—and created Seaside.
Name three books you’d recommend to moms for their summer reading list.
I think every woman should read Gabrielle Union’s memoir, You Got Anything Stronger?, I’m currently reading an absolutely beautiful book called Between The Mountain And The Sky right now, and then I’m looking forward to checking out Elin Hilderbrand’s new book, The Hotel Nantucket.
Any tips for balancing your writing & motherhood?
Get the Google docs app on your phone and/or get used to writing in the notes app on your phone so you can jot ideas down anywhere at any time. I do prefer the Google docs app for writing on the go, though, because I have accidentally deleted something I was writing in the notes app before and as far as I know, there’s no undo in there so it disappeared and I had to start from scratch.
I have written many essays on my phone while lying with my kids at bedtime. I’ve written in the car, in the driveway, when I’ve been trapped in there with sleeping children, sitting on the floor of the waiting area at dance class, stopped in the car pickup line at school. Because I’ve gotten used to writing on my phone, I’ve been able to write or at least jot down ideas whenever I need to.
There was a season where I could wake up super early and write before the kids got up but that wasn’t sustainable for long. It worked when it worked, but when it wasn’t working anymore, I’d find other times to write. Nap time, after bedtime, on Sundays when my husband was home, etc. Be open to changing your writing schedule around based on the season of life you’re in.
And when you get those pockets of time to write, please don’t feel guilty for doing that and not being with your family!
What is the best piece of mom advice you ever received?
Accept help. Don’t pretend you don’t need it. Don’t try to be polite and say things like, “No, that’s okay” when you actually mean, “OMG thank you that would be so helpful.” For the most part, people offer to do something/to help because they genuinely want to help you, so let them!
What’s your favorite thing to do when you need some “me” time?
Pop in a podcast and go for a long walk. Swim. Or crawl in bed and binge watch something wonderful like season two of Bridgerton (just finished!).
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