Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Use Your Words Contest Winner


Congrats to the winner of the Use Your Words virtual book tour contest sponsored by author and LM Literary Relfections Editor Kate Hopper:
Sara Barry, who submitted through Heather King's Extraordinary Ordinary blog. Sara will receive a one-hour writing consultation with Kate, via phone or Skype.

Kate's comment: "I love how Sara captures so much of her experience short time mothering Henry in these few paragraphs. And I love how she has framed it all with cooking peaches."

Congrats, too, to these two runners-up:

Kati Harr for her character sketches. She submitted her pieces through Rachel Turiel's blog, 6512 and growing. Kate wrote: "I love her detail, and how I feel as if I know (and can see) her adorable son and his yolky smile in these paragraphs."

Heather Chaet for her motherhood model piece. She submitted her piece through Aidan Donnelley Rowley's blog, Ivy League Insecurities. Kate wrote: "I love how Heather's experience with her mother (and the care and love with which her mother cared for her) is mirrored in her own mothering."

Kate's final words: "All the pieces were so lovely! Thank you to everyone for participating and for writing your lives. Your words matter!!"

Sara's winning entry: Peaches

The tile floor was cool, even in the August heat with the stove blazing and two full canning pots full and bubbling. I stood at the butcher-block island chopping peaches for tomato-peach salsa, and the juice spilled and pooled and dripped on my toes, sweet and wet and sticky.

I slipped in that puddling juice back four summers to my own kitchen.

There I stood at our harvest gold counter with a pile of fuzzy fruit spilling juice on my toes as I prepped peaches for peach ginger jam. My baby Henry was in the other room. I didn't know how little time he had. If I did maybe I wouldn't have bothered with peaches that year. Maybe I would have at least dragged the oxygen tubing into the kitchen (far from the open flames of the gas) so he could see me and smell them. Or maybe I would have dripped a bit of that golden sweetness onto his tongue.

But I didn't know, and what I needed most was normal. I needed something to ground me as the world shifted underfoot. Peaches were ripe, so normal meant making jam.

That day, the physical therapist came, and I washed my hands and wiped my feet and took a break from peaches because not everything was normal despite them.

The PT recommended that we not use cloth diapers as they made it harder to get his legs in a neutral position. I tried it myself after she left. With the cloth, I couldn't manipulate his legs into the right position, so how, with his low muscle tone, would he. I cried then: one more thing to give up, one more thing not as I planned. Looking back now, I can half laugh at myself, at the things I worried about and cried about. But it's only half a laugh, because those worries and sadness were real, part of what I lost along the way.

During those early days, I was fighting not to lose so much--I couldn't birth him naturally, hold him for two days, breastfeed him, wear a sling, use cloth diapers, carry him into the kitchen without pulling off cords . . . but I could make jam.

I mentioned to my canning friend that I made peach jam alone that summer of 2007. "Wow!" she looked at me, surprised, "wow."

"I just needed something to be normal," I shrugged.

It was my refrain that summer. "Normal" became ever shifting ground, so I grasped at what we used to do, what I had planned to do, what I imagined we'd do. Normal is why I why I read him stories even when he was sedated. It's why I walked him down to the café on the corner and my mom helped me carry him in, oxygen, monitor, and tubes in tow. It's why our neighbor remembers seeing him sitting in his stroller while we weeded the strawberry patch. It's why I stood in a steamy kitchen with sticky juice drip, drip, dripping.

I let go of a lot of expectations that summer, but at the same time I held tight to the things I could manage to do, the things I could control, which is why I found myself covered in peach nectar that single August of my son's life. And now? Now life is "normal," in many ways. It's busy and full of tiny hands and big hugs, meltdowns, snacks, diaper changes, stories . . . and every August there are peaches, juicy, sweet, dripping peaches.

Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers is the first book to focus on the craft of writing using motherhood as the lens, but it doesn't just focus on how to fit writing into a busy life. Instead, Use Your Words focuses on the craft of creative nonfiction, and how a blogger can take her stories and experiences as a mother up to the next level and become part of the Motherhood Literati.

Karna Converse is a freelance writer who’s written everything from technical documentation and price proposals to newsletter articles, devotionals, personal profiles and essays. Her essays have been published in a variety of regional and national publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, the Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup anthologies, Our Iowa, and on Iowa Public Radio. She and her husband are parents to three young adults. Karna is a former blog editor, senior editor, managing editor, and editor-in-chief of Literary Mama.

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Sara, your words are beautiful. Your piece of writing touched my soul on this hot day in June. So I say thank you. You gave me a gift tonight and I thank you!
So lovely. Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece and more information on Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers.
Congrats, Sara! Both sad & beautiful. XO
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