Interview by Susan Allison
When asked about her love of law, Michelle elaborates, “Since high school, I’ve never been able to resist an intense courtroom drama. I admire the art of a brilliant cross-examination, the elegance of a cleverly worded legal argument, and the craft of a piercing dissenting opinion. I also love how lawyers use the law to advance social justice. I headed to law school in search of my own set of practical tools for addressing workplace discrimination and social inequality. I wanted to study women’s equality more deeply, and learn how the law could better support working-women in particular.””
Michelle is a law professor who writes children’s books, and this might seem an unusual mix. Michelle explains, “Writing a children’s book is definitely not part of the job description of a lawyer or a law professor. But it turns out that lawyers are expert word-smiths and vivid storytellers. I latched onto the idea of writing a children’s book about working moms at the end of my two maternity leaves when I found myself dealing with conflicting emotions. I felt guilty about leaving my two young daughters with someone else, but I was also looking forward to teaching future attorneys as a law professor.
“I found myself struggling to figure out how to help my kids understand what it means to be a working mom. I searched for children’s books that could help us talk about my return to work, books that would encourage my daughters to be proud of the work that I do outside our home, and that would help them connect my mommy identity with my professional identity.
“I was frustrated to discover that most children’s books about working moms seemed to assume that kids must be sad and lonely while their moms are at work, so they offered various ways for kids to cope until their moms returned home each day. That was not exactly the message I was looking for (and it didn’t do much to allay my guilt). So I decided to write my own children’s book to fill the void. I wanted my book to celebrate diverse working moms doing a wide range of jobs. And I wanted my book to show how the work that women do as moms is connected to the work that we do outside the home—that we care for our kids and our societies with the same love, dedication, and commitment.
“On each page of MY MOM HAS TWO JOBS, children proudly describe how their moms care for them in a very special way, while also making the world better through their careers. The book highlights moms in a wide range of professions, including a teacher, engineer, police officer, doctor, secretary, dentist, firefighter, nurse, lawyer, waitress, military sergeant, veterinarian, and pilot.”
Support for working women and their children.
“I hope that My Mom Has Two Jobs will give all working moms a much-needed platform to talk with their kids about their own careers in a celebratory way. I hope the book will help children understand how their moms can do important work outside their homes, while still being loving, caring, and dedicated moms. I want the book to encourage kids to be proud of the work their moms do and to fuel their curiosity about their moms’ careers. I also hope that the book will help reinforce the message that women can do every possible kind of job, and that it might inspire young girls to imagine themselves in exciting careers as well.”
As a first-time author, Michelle speaks frankly about the publishing process: “For me, writing a children’s book was the easy part, but the unknown path of navigating the publishing world kept me from moving forward on this project for years. As it turns out, the publication process was less daunting than I had assumed. As a first-time children’s book author, my first step was to get a copy of The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. I sent my book manuscript to several small publishers that specialize in children’s literature, and I was thrilled to get a contract with Splashing Cow Books, which has since teamed up with a terrific distributor called DartFrog Books. DartFrog Books is a wonderful new avenue for authors from small publishing houses, as well as select self-published authors, to get their books onto the shelves of independent bookstores around the country.”
“Now that I’m working on an adult nonfiction book, Dads for Daughters, I’ve found the WNBA’s support and resources to be invaluable. I’ve also found it incredibly informative—and inspiring—to attend writers conferences to learn about the publishing process. As a researcher at heart, I’ve really appreciated books for newcomers like me, including Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents, and Jody Rein and Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal.”
Michelle talks about why she’s chosen to write her next book, Dads for Daughters. “In looking beyond legal solutions for advancing women’s equality, I found myself thinking in two different directions. The first was to find ways to disrupt gender stereotypes about women’s roles before they take hold—which is what lead me to write My Mom Has Two Jobs. The second was to find ways to engage more men in the gender equality fight that inspired the new book project.
Inspiring Men to become Advocates
“Dads for Daughters shares the stories of fathers who have been inspired by their daughters to become women’s rights advocates, and it launches a call to action for other dads of daughters to join the fight. It covers a wide range of arenas where work still needs to be done to achieve women’s equality, including in leadership positions, STEM jobs, government roles, sports opportunities, and equal pay. The book also offers dads of daughters concrete advice and resources to help become active supporters of women’s rights. This book will share encouraging research about the important role that dads of daughters can play in the women’s rights movement. Research has found that fathers of daughters—particularly dads with adult daughters who are working moms—have greater empathy for the challenges that working moms face, and they tend to be more outspoken advocates and supporters of women’s equality. CEOs who are dads of daughters, for example, have a smaller gender pay gap in their companies than in firms run by other men.”
Michelle Travis has taken on an important mission, and her books will continue to enlighten and galvanize men and women. She concludes with these inspiring words, “As someone who has entered the book publishing world as an unlikely latecomer, I would encourage everyone who has secretly harbored the idea of writing a book—particularly a children’s book—to dive headfirst into the process. Although the process has at times been daunting, I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously and not to hesitate to ask questions (to which my publisher will certainly attest). The joy of checking off ‘publish a children’s book’ from my ‘someday list’ has been well worth the journey. My daughters are now twelve and ten—well beyond their picture-book years—but they have enthusiastically supported me. My two proudest moments have been when my daughters asked me to sign their copies of the book and texted their friends to announce its publication. They definitely know a labor of love when they see it.”
WNBA member Michelle Travis is a law professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law. She is an expert on employment discrimination law and serves as the Co-Director of USF’s Labor and Employment Law Program. Michelle grew up in Colorado and now lives in the Bay Area with her husband, two daughters, and pet chinchilla. She is a former collegiate gymnast, a novice ballerina and an avid non-fiction reader. She is the author of My Mom Has Two Jobs, and is working on a new book titled Dads for Daughters.