Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
For Your Journal: Writing Prompt

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Do you keep a journal – or wish you could get one started? Literary Mama wants to help.

Three times a month, I’ll post a writing prompt. Open a notebook and write for 10 minutes. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation – just write. Then let the writing simmer and your mind wander for awhile.



Hidden at the bottom of a drawer, in my living room coffee table, is a folder. I don’t open it often but its contents—sympathy cards, obituaries clipped from newspapers, and bulletins from funerals and memorial services—can’t be thrown away. The clippings and bulletins record the details of birth, schooling, and life work; the personal comments written in sympathy cards keep memories alive. Strung together, stories about the deceased—a father, four grandparents, and a great uncle in my case—wait to be written and shared with those who didn’t have a chance to meet him or her.

In his introduction to The Socialite Who Killed a Nazi with her Bare Hands, William McDonald, obituary editor of the New York Times, writes that obituaries are stories that help us understand what it is to be alive in this world: “Obituaries turn real lives into stories. Indeed, more than any ‘story’ in the newspaper, the obit, at its best, lives up to that billing: it is a rounded account whose arc has a clear beginning and end … We know that no life reads like a novel or script but we grant the obituary writer a degree of literary license because we understand a life best when its various strands can be woven into a story, driven by events and moving in chapters to, in this case, an inevitable conclusion.”

Journal Entry: Write a personal profile about a loved one who passed away before your child had a chance to get to know him or her. Refer to the obituary for details, but use the comments written in sympathy cards (or stories you heard at the funeral or memorial service) to create the character.

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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