Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: Why I Read

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A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire


Read BEFORE You Write


“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” - Stephen King

I was very young and terrifically impressionable when I first read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I don’t remember all the wisdom that was imparted through that well-worn library copy, but I do remember what was most relevant to me at the time. Just beginning to nurture my creative self and to dip my toes in what can be a ruthless world of rejection called publishing, I recall that Stephen King received a lot of rejections in his early days. I remember his articulate words of encouragement as they stroked my worries. His message: you will be rejected.

I was somewhat older and defiantly unimpressionable when I first read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. I thumbed its pages in fits and starts, reading a chapter or a sentence, maybe a paragraph or two at startlingly infrequent intervals. This was during my desert period when life pulled me away from my writing toward other, time consuming pursuits like a career that made money in the short-term, like marriage and the practicalities of bourgeoning adulthood. I remember that Goldberg wanted me to write often and with purpose. I wasn’t ready to heed her advice, though I stored it in my mind. Writing is a practice and it takes practice. Devote yourself to it.

I had recently blossomed into a new life role, motherhood, when I first picked up Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. The birth of my son put a halt to my professional pursuits and my intelligence melted over mindless diaper changes and days spent coo’ing, not verbalizing complex ideas. I turned (back) to writing as a way to manage – manage my own destiny, my own emotions, manage words on a page, manage something I could control. I remember reading Lamott’s hilarious advice to “write a shitty first draft.” It reminded me that I didn’t have to be perfect, as a writer or as a mother. What was important was the “getting out” of ideas, emotions, love.

Writing and reading have always come packaged together as complementary activities in my life. I am a writer because I read, a reader because I write. My favorite authors teach me story structure and character development. My favorite poets school me on metaphors and imagery. The memoirists I admire show me how to spin tales from my life into scenes others will want to imagine. Inspiration can come from anywhere – an article I read in The Huffington Post inspires a blog entry about workplace equality. A featured essay on The New York Times' Motherlode blog changes my approach to a short story; a poem published on Literary Mama ignites the imagery that leads me to write a new poem. I’m encouraged to adjust my daily schedule when I read how other writers have managed to incorporate writing into their lives.

I read anything and everything, anytime I can, and try to get the most out of every genre. The experts say that is the key to a successful writing career. I believe it.


Join our After Page One series.  We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude.   The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects.

Karen Bannister is a writer and editor. She lives in British Columbia, Canada with her husband and three children. Formerly a student of The Momoir Project, she is a regular contributor to The Momoir Project Blog. Her personal blog site is

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