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2019 Where Writing and Motherhood Are Celebrated

In 2002, a class called Writing About Motherhood was taught in Berkeley, California, and the group of mothers who participated decided to continue meeting and sharing their work. As a result, Literary Mama was born four years later.

The premise behind the Motherhood-centric ezine and blog is that all mothers have a story worth sharing. The website and its staff celebrate the physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual processes of becoming a mother through words and images that may be so stark it hurts.

As a mother of three whose day job and career involve writing, I was immediately drawn to this website and its focus on mothers who write. As any mother can tell you, taking care of children is its own full-time job. That, combined with the daily stressors that are inevitably part of the role, make clearing one's schedule and head long enough to sit down and put words on a page an often-difficult task.

The ezine

With July and August being the only two months without a monthly issue, the ezine features creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, columns, essays about writing and/or reading as a mother, book reviews, and profiles of mother writers and artists. Each issue is available online at absolutely no cost, and features work submitted by an extensive list of contributors combined with reader-submitted work from mothers, fathers, and even from a child's point of view.

Screenshot of the Literary Mama ezine
Screenshot of the Literary Mama ezine

The ezine also features thought-provoking interviews with writers in the industry who have much to share about what inspires them to write while parenting. For example, the most recent issue offers a profile of Sherisa de Groot, the founding editor and editor-in-chief of Raising Mothers, an online literary magazine which highlights the writing of femme-identifying and nonbinary people of color who parent.

One quote from this interview really stood out to me:

I need to be able to function as a whole adult, and 96 percent of my time I am in mommy mode. The other 70 percent I am working on Raising Mothers. (What? That's not 100 percent?) I use my time as best as I can each day. I did start journaling last year, but I've also taken a break from that. I don't believe in having it all anymore. I feel that tagline was a marketing tool set up to make us feel like failures as mothers. I reject it because typically men are not held to the same standard. I live on a sliding scale. If I can get a little of most things worked on/done, I'm in excellent shape. I will revisit this once my children are both school-bound, and I have more breathing room.

Sherisa de Groot

The submission guidelines for the ezine are printed here if you're interested in submitting your work.

The Literary Mama blog

In addition to the monthly ezine available, writers can also find an extensive blog that is updated several times a week. With calls for submission and guest posts featured in a series called "After Page One," the blog is full of helpful information and publishing opportunities for women who dare to take on the challenge of motherhood and writing.

After Page One

"After Page One" is the name given to a series of guest posts that are focused on motivating, inspiring and encouraging other "mama writers" to get started on a writing project, return to one that has been put aside, read more, have a positive attitude, and integrate their writing with motherhood. The most recent post in this series is written by Rica Lewis and discusses how she feels depleted and stuck, and unable to write. She mentions how her writing rituals are replaced by cooking rituals. In the kitchen, baking is therapy, art, a canvas for the soul, she writes. Here's the thing about baking: it's a cathartic practice in which I always end up with something sweet. But when I write, I get a piece of myself. And that is both beautiful and terrifying.

Calls for submissions

In addition to the "After Page One" posts, there are calls for submissions full of a wide range of opportunities to publish, including calls from Literary Mama, publishers seeking submissions, and for contests with impending June, July, and August deadlines. Each entry provides details regarding word length, deadline, topic, and payment (if applicable), which is extremely convenient—especially for busy moms who might not have the time for in-depth research into opportunities for publishing.

Writerly roundup

Another repeating blog series is Literary Mama's "Writerly Roundup" blog series, which features a curated collection of articles on the craft of writing and the creative life. Think of these posts as a collection of mini-summaries of multiple longer articles, which is perfect for busy mothers who don't have the time for a lot of personal and professional development.

For example, in May's Writerly Roundup, there are short, five to seven-paragraph summaries of the following articles:

  • "Make Them Care What You Think" by Nora Ephron
  • "The Hack's Guide to Finding Time to Write" by Bill Ferris
  • "The Perfect Writing Group in 5 Easy Steps" by Suzanne Roberts
  • "The Best Summer Books of 2019" by Jeva Lange

Think of this blog article series as offering quick "bites" while getting to the "meat" of the original article, including important quotes and takeaways from a fellow writer who has more time than you do to stay current on published advice for writers.

Been there, done that

The Literary Mama's "Been There, Done That" series allows readers, contributors, and editors to share their experiences at conferences, workshops, classes, writing festivals, and residencies. For this first entry into the series, Fiction Editor Felicity Landa writes about her experience at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. If you've ever been curious about what goes on at these conferences and festivals, this is an excellent way to experience them vicariously through the eyes of another writer and book lover.

Literary reflections

Writers love writing prompts. In fact, they're one of the easiest ways to tap into creativity when you're feeling particularly uninspired or have writer's block. For each issue of Literary Mama that is published on the website, there is a "Literary Reflections" writing prompt opportunity, allowing readers to share their responses.

There are two great things that happen if you participate in this. First, the editors of Literary Mama will provide feedback on the response you send. As any writer knows, feedback from professional writers and editors should be highly valued because it helps us perfect our craft and learn how to do things better.

Second, if the editors choose your response as their favorite, your entry will be posted on their blog. This is an excellent opportunity to publish your work online and hyperlink to it on your personal author page or social media.

Additionally, and perhaps best of all, the writing prompts are thought-provoking. For example, this month's writing prompt is inspired by Julie Sonnek's essay "My Fledgling Reader."

After a brief introduction to the essay, the prompt reads:

Is there a book or books that helped your children understand the story of your family? Was it a book that mirrored your circumstances or perhaps a book that helped your children see that there are many different kinds of families with many different, beautiful stories? Please tell us about the book and how it was helpful or inspiring.

May's "Literary Reflections",

Submitting your work to the Literary Mama blog

If you are a "mama writer" interested in submitting your work to the "After Page One" series, the site's editors request that the word count be between 300 and 500 words, and suggest that you consider the following questions when thinking about what to write for the post.

  • Consider the piece(s) you've published at Literary Mama, or elsewhere. What's changed since you published it?
  • Comment on a quote you have near your desk. Where did you first read or hear it? What do you know about the person or the setting in which the quote was made?
  • What was the most surprising thing you've discovered about yourself while writing?
  • What book(s) do you think every writer/reader/mother should read?
  • What impact has motherhood had on your work, your writing, or your priorities?
  • Do you have a writing routine? What do you do when you get blocked? How do you set priorities?
  • Have you attended a writing conference or book festival? How did the event inspire or educate you?
  • What mistakes have you made in your writing or parenting? What have you learned from them?
  • Do you have a writing community? How do they support you? How do you support them?

They also suggest that writers consider one or more of the following themes when writing: Collaboration, Practice, Cycles, Journaling, Creativity, Growth, Ritual.

The combination of motherhood and writing requires practice, growth, journaling, and ritual.
The combination of motherhood and writing requires practice, growth, journaling, and ritual. Photo by Jessica Rockowitz on Unsplash.

Final takeaway

In the hectic rush of motherhood, it's easy to place your passion for writing on the back burner. After all, the list of "to dos" rarely ever gets done and alone time is a fantasy—how is it possible to find the time (and space) to write?

These obstacles are why I think a website like Literary Mama is such a gem. Not only does it inspire mothers to share their stories of motherhood, but it also provides a resource for publishing opportunities, professional development, networking with other "writer mamas," and content that is aimed specifically at women in this subset.

Whether you are a literary mama, or you simply know one, it's worth adding this site to your bookmarks folder whenever inspiration and encouragement are needed.

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