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.
Rachel Sarah- Founding Editor
I’ve always been a writer. But I never imagined that one day I’d write about myself. I started out as a reporter when I was 21 and from there, I moved into education publishing in New York City. This turned out to be a great fit – stable with good hours -- when I got pregnant with my daughter.
Then, my daughter’s father split town. As the suddenly-single mom of an eight-month old, I held my fears and worries close to me. I did not break down and cry in front of my friends and colleagues at work. Only my journal knew how scared I was.
Just before my 30th birthday, I moved back to Berkeley, CA to be closer to my family. I was on a walk with my toddler when I noticed a flyer taped to a pole. "Journaling Through Motherhood,” it said. Amy Hudock, a creative writing professor and new mom, was starting a writing group.
I squeezed my daughter’s hand. “I’m going to call her,” I whispered.
A handful of moms showed up with notebooks and pens, and as our children toddled around us, we talked about how mainstream writing on motherhood was either nauseatingly sweet or so fear-inducing. We talked about how isolating motherhood could be, and how we craved a place to go out of bounds. I thought, I’ve never heard anyone say what I’m feeling.
We kept meeting once a week. One afternoon, a mom named Heidi Raykeil was brave enough to read a passage out loud about sex (which would later make it into her book, Confessions of a Naughty Mommy). I was in awe of her openness and vulnerability.
Months later, our little group connected to another author who lived back east -- Andi Buchanan -- and we took our writing online by launching Literary Mama: A Literary Magazine for the Maternally Inclined.
Now, it was my chance to open up. In my column, I wrote about dating again on Match.com and buying condoms with my toddler in tow. And yes, having sex, as I turned off the voice of the conservatives I’d grown up with, like Dan Quayle who’d scapegoated single mothers for our country’s problems.
I’d never written about myself. And especially not about such taboo topics. But it turns out, I wasn’t the only single mom having sex. Single moms emailed me:
I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one.
I felt as though I could have written it myself.
You are the first woman I ever met who is like me!
Then, when I least expected it, I met a man named Chris at a book launch party. I told him I was single mom, certain this would scare him off. He smiled. “My mom raised me and my siblings by herself,” he said. “I call my step-dad ‘Dad.’ ” I smiled back.
We got married in 2010 and I gave birth to a second daughter in 2012. Today, as the married mother of a toddler and a teen, I’m eternally grateful to the writers I met through Literary Mama for giving me the courage open up and write about that hole in my heart.
Rachel’s Literary Mama column caught the attention of a Seal Press editor, which landed her a book deal: Single Mom Seeking: Play Dates, Blind Dates, and Other Dispatches from the Dating World (Seal Press, 2007). Last year, 20th Century Fox optioned her book for TV. Read more from Rachel at her blog.