Switched at Birth is a TV sitcom series by ABC Family that I absolutely am hooked on. Why on earth? Because this show features a mom of teenagers discovering that she wants to write. I love seeing scenes when she is working in her kitchen, with her laptop and hipster glasses.
Yes, the story is about two girls that are switched at birth. One daughter went home to a low-income family with a single-mom and subsequently lost her hearing possibly due to not having adequate health coverage. The other daughter went home to a very wealthy family, enjoying all the benefits that come with having your own pool and going to a private school. When she, the wealthy one, suspects that her coloring and temperament don’t seem to be a family trait, she gets a DNA test and finds out that she isn’t the wealthy family’s biological child. At some point, the two families move in together and the resultant tensions and miscommunications have spawned four seasons of programming.
It is a very entertaining show, with strong female characters in all age groups, but what I enjoy watching most are the scenes where the mother (played by Lea Thompson of Back to the Future fame) considers this new identity as a writer, to grow beyond her role as a mother. She desperately wants to find out who she is now, and tries out tap dancing, singing, politics and fund-raising. But when she starts to write a memoir about the Switched at Birth story, she comes alive. We see she is confronted with the difficulties of writing a memoir, about people still living and situations that could hurt others by writing about it. The other mother (played by Constance Marie and also great to watch) insists that she stop. Kathryn also worries that she isn’t good enough. Her joy then is infectious when she sells the project.
In the third season, when Kathryn is trying to sell a new idea, she goes to New York to meet a book publisher. She is sitting in the publisher’s office, anxiously pitching her book. The gal says no, and asks if she has any other ideas. She doesn’t. Kathryn is so crushed afterward, having spent her one good idea. She has a lot pinned on having a career as a writer. She says that the kids are moving out, off to college, and she is terrified her life will have no meaning when the children are gone.
Being rejected is crushing. By mail, or email, getting your query letters back hurts. I also recognize that feeling of putting a lot on the concept of having a career as a writer. A few hours after being rejected in the show, Kathryn tells a scandalous story and the publisher, with whom she is having a drink, wants to turn it into a book. So now she has what she wants, a book deal, but it isn’t what she wanted to write. The publisher wants an erotic tell-all. Is she desperate enough about getting published to accept this offer? How far would you go to be published in the traditional way?
On the show, I get to see a lot of writing scenarios play out that I don’t expect to happen in real life. I’ve pitched books, but not in New York. My husband isn’t a State Senator. But without a doubt, I identify with Kathryn Kennish’s struggle to make room in her life to write and to claim the title of writer.
On an off-chance, I decided to check Amazon for the memoir. I remembered that there were book tie-ins with the Castle TV series, about another tv writer I adore. It turns out the memoir that Kathryn Kennish “wrote” is available to read and buy. It is a guilty-style pleasure, but I’d like to read it.