In the meantime, today I'm answering the first of my reader-submitted questions about Literary Mama and the LM anthology. These questions come from fellow Seal Press author and good friend Miriam Peskowitz.
- Why should mothers read literature? Isn't nuts-and-bolts, how-to parent writing enough?
Good question! But to me, in a way, that's like asking, "Why eat fruit? Isn't eating grains and vegetables and protein enough?" As an avid reader, I can't imagine a life without reading, and even though motherhood has compressed my available "free time" to an incredible degree, I find myself needing good literature now more than ever. And when I say "good," I don't mean lofty, or Important, or boring, or academic, or literary, or whatever adjectives people like to use to describe books that seem more like assignments than enjoyments; I just mean works that lift me out of my own life. As a mother, alternately plunged into the most mundane and most vital aspects of existence, reading books is a window out of and into my busy, complicated, boring (and when you think about it pretty incredible) life.
As to the question of nuts-and-bolts, how-to writing about parenting – sure, that is good to read. It's always enlightening to see how other people accomplish the practical aspects of motherhood. (For a great recent entry into the "-hacker.com" Web 2.0 fray, see ParentHacks, a compilation of quirky, practical, creative, and sometimes hilarious tips from random parents.) But that kind of glossy magazine stuff can be addictive for me – in a bad way. I find myself too easily getting sucked into the idea that there is some kind of definitive solution to whatever problem is facing me, and that if I could JUST. TRY. HARD ENOUGH. I could be the best parent ever. Of course, this is designed to fail. And for me, that kind of "quest to be the best" is very toxic. It makes me anxious, it makes me feel bad about myself, and it makes me rigid. When in reality, parenting is dynamic and fluid and ever-changing. So I like to balance out the advice writing – which certainly has its place, and which is very comforting to me in small doses on certain subjects – with the kind of writing I find in literature.
What's the literary in Literary Mama?
The "literary" in Literary Mama is just what I described above: the willingness to explore more than just the prescriptive, to imagine a multitude of ways to approach a subject, and to engage that subject in writing. Do you have to be a writer to enjoy Literary Mama? No – but I'm guessing you probably have to be a reader. Or at the very least, someone who is interested in reading. "Literary," I know, sometimes scares people off – what, are these a bunch of smartypants, high-falutin' snobs who would sooner die than read a book with a pair of stiletto heels on the front? I can assure you that we at Literary Mama are equal opportunity readers who enjoy everything from chick lit to memoir to screenplay to literary fiction and everything in between. The Literary in Literary Mama is about making mother-writing count as "real writing," as writing that matters. And if you care about that -- and about reading that kind of writing -- then you're a literary mama.
Literary Mama's editor-in-chief, Amy Hudock, also chimes in with an answer to Miriam's first question about why literature about motherhood is important:
- All literature is about story-telling, about sharing what is
inside with the outside world. Traditionally, people would share what
they were feeling and experiencing through stories so that they would
not feel so alone. The tribe would gather, and stories would be sung,
performed, acted out or spoken so that all could know what was going on in the hearts and minds of the people they lived with. Now that we
have the printed word so readily available, we can still engage in that kind of sharing -- but through reading that reveals more than how to do something. When I became a mother, I wanted to read what other mothers felt, how their lives had changed, what they had learned about the world and themselves through motherhood. I wanted to know what was
going on in the inside of other mothers so I could better understand what was going on in me. That is why I read literature about motherhood. That may be why other mothers do, too.