I was with my mother the day she found out her first book was going to be published.

We got home from running errands and she went to check the answering machine (standard early 2000s protocol). There was a message from someone at St Martin’s Press, telling her to check her email. She had recently entered her manuscript in the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery contest, you see.

Anyway, she started to do that dithering, self-doubting thing that women are trained from a young age to do. “Oh, maybe they’re just telling me that I have potential, and to try again next year.”

I was about eight, and my mom says she clearly remembers me saying “mom, they don’t call AND email if you’re a LOSER.” What I remember is the sound she made when she read the email saying she had won and would be published. It was a squeal that distilled pure, unfettered joy – I’ve never heard anything quite like it before or since. We both jumped up and down screaming.

My mother is New York Times best-selling author Julia Spencer-Fleming. (You can buy her books at your local independent bookstore or borrow them from your local public library). So I grew up with people asking me if I wanted to be a writer like my mom. And I always said no, because I like getting regular paychecks, and because I knew I wouldn’t be as good a novelist as she is. Of course, I never thought of becoming a local newspaper columnist. To be fair, what teenager does?

Everything that is good about me comes from my mother (with the exception of my hair and my organizational skills, which I inherited from my father and grandmother, respectively.) Everything, either by the accident of her genetics or the deliberate ways she raised me. My writing talent, my theatricality, my sense of humor and my overly loud voice. All from Mom. (And if you have a problem with any of those things, well, now you know who to blame, I guess.)


Julia Spencer-Fleming is a wonderful novelist, but she’s an astronomical mother and, as my late father would tell you, one heckuva woman. She lost her husband and her mother AND her dog all in the same year, and you know what she did? She did not sink into the couch and become an alcoholic like I did. She got a new haircut and got my sister through her senior year of high school and into college all on her own. She took up teaching. She kept writing. (Yes, there will be another book.) And she helps me stay sober, because when I think about drinking again, I imagine my mother crying. That takes away any and all desire to drink, because my mom has cried enough, and I don’t want to be the cause of any more tears unless it’s absolutely necessary.

She’s not perfect, I guess, but her flaws are really just technicalities, like “drives too fast” and “constantly misplaced paperwork.” (Because, as any writer could tell you, your main character has to have flaws, or else they are boring, and my mother is anything but boring). My siblings and I are lucky that way. I know mother’s day can be tough for people with rough relationships with their mothers, or no relationship, or had moms who just plain sucked. You have my sympathies; you deserved better. And if you want, you can borrow mine. (She’s used to me lending her out to people in need of a homemade meal and an evening of general mothering.)

For as long as I can remember, my dad used to introduce my mother to people as “my lovely and talented wife,” or, depending on the situation, “the lovely and talented Julia Spencer-Fleming” or “the lovely and talented Mrs. Hugo-Vidal.” Now, my dad was not a writer. Not much of a creative, artistic type at all, really, god bless him. But it’s hard to find a better pair of adjectives to sum total up my mother.

So a happy Mother’s Day to my lovely and talented mother, the New-York Times Bestselling Author Julia Spencer-Fleming. With love, The Maine Millennial Victoria Hugo-Vidal. (See? I get a big fancy title too!) (Also I hope you enjoy your actual present, an oversized coffee mug.)

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: