Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Celebrating Ten Years of Literary Mama: Cassie Premo Steele

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October 2013 marks Literary Mama’s ten year anniversary! On Wednesdays for the next few months we'll celebrate this milestone with editors and columnists, both past and present. They'll share what being a part of Literary Mama has meant to them, what they hope for the future of the magazine, and how Literary Mama has shaped their writing, their mothering, and their lives.


It Began with a Friendship: Reflections on Literary Mama’s Founding Editor, Amy Hudock
by Cassie Premo Steele

We met in graduate school. At the time, she was married and I was not. But this difference between us was not as important as what we shared: histories of difficult childhoods, a love of words and women’s writing, the desire to live an authentic life, and an ability to laugh deeply at the absurdity of life.

Ten years passed. We lost touch. One day, my husband came home from work and said, “Guess who I saw today?”

She had moved several times, and I was still in the city where we met. When I heard she had returned, it was like reconnecting with a part of myself.

This time I was married and she was not. But now, in addition to all we had shared as young women, we also shared motherhood. Both of our daughters were toddlers. She had founded Literary Mama by then and she encouraged me to submit something. I submitted a poem called “The Beginnings of Rain.” 

Over the next ten years, my involvement with Literary Mama grew. I continued to submit stories and essays, I was a co-editor of Literary Non-fiction for a time, and in 2009, I began to write my “Birthing the Mother Writer” column.

By that time, Amy had allowed others to take over the day-to-day reins of editorship at Literary Mama. Like a good mother, she had allowed her creation to grow and gain independence.

Our friendship continued to grow, too. Now that she had remarried and settled in the state where we met, we could share time together like we had when we first became friends. Taking our daughters to the park, attending the SC Book Festival, or meeting at Monday Night Poetry in Charleston – these became excuses for deep connection and that bawdy laughter we had always used as a balm over life’s changes.

Now she is married and I am not. There is something magical about such a friendship that withstands life’s changes. After more than twenty years, I can still look into her eyes and know she is on my side. That’s what true friendship is. I am grateful that she has extended this same openness and loyalty to Literary Mamas everywhere, and I dedicate this poem to her:


There was a time when
women wore masks
for magic.

We would welcome
the birth of babies
with a face of hands,

hold their whole
bodies next to us
and help them breathe.

We would heal
sorrows with
our mirror eyes,

offer silver tears
in trade
for stories.

We would listen
to the voice of the dead
through our fingers,

and give poetry
to translate
the message.

We would harbor
secrets with our
silent mouths,

some truths are best

It is the same now,
though there are places
where engines,

plastic, and lights
make you think
everything has changed.

It has not.
There is still
magic in each

in her hands
and in her heart,

in her head and
in her hearth.
Walk to where

you can touch
your face, and
know you can

shape its likeness.
Listen to the beat
of your heart, and

know there is no life
without its rhythm.
Hear the heavens

in your head, and
write down what
they are saying.

Light the candle
in your hearth,
and watch its

movement as
a sign of all
we could be seeing.

Cassie Premo Steele, Ph.D. is the author of 13 books, most recently Earth Joy Writing. The book includes writing prompts for every month of the year, plus audio meditations and video workshops. She teaches an innovative online course combining mindfulness and feminist theory for women academics called The Feminar. Cassie is currently working on a memoir about how coming out returned her to her mother and her faith.

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