Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Celebrating Ten Years of Literary Mama: Sophia Raday

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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. 

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Sophia Raday- Founding Editor

Twelve years ago a group of new mothers began to write together. We were grown-ups - indeed we were mothers -- but as writers many of us were newborns. We wrote haltingly, in fits and starts. We bumped into things. We fell. We cried. But a fresh world was opening up. I remember finishing my first piece, the terror and joy of sharing it with the group.

Like all babies, we grew. As writers, soon we wanted to connect with a larger and larger world. We began to go to readings and to seek out other emerging writers. One night a group of us went to see Francesca Lia Block read from her “momoir.”  Block talked about how her mother had helped her become a writer by beckoning her further, deeper into what she felt and thought. I realized that was the most important thing our writing group did for each other. We circled sentences in each other’s drafts and scrawled notes in the margin: “Tell me MORE about THIS!” or “How did this FEEL?” or “What did this MEAN to you?”

Before long, we became gawky adolescent writers, rebellious, hormonal, and questioning. Why were there so few portraits of motherhood the way it really was? The deprivation, the pressure, the fierce joy? We needed to express how brutal, how exhilarating, how all-consuming, how diverse were the experiences among us, and surely, among mothers everywhere. And so the idea of the website was born.

I was a founding Memoir Editor. What I loved about that job was looking for the diamonds in the rough, the mother writers who were in their writing teens, as I was, whose writing was perhaps not perfectly polished, but who made me gasp or cry or laugh with something fiery or startling. I wanted to mother those writers.

At the same time Literary Mama allowed me to continue to grow in my own writing. I took my first publishing steps with a Literary Mama column, Mommy Athens, Daddy Sparta. The column grew into a memoir, Love In Condition Yellow: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage. The memoir led to articles - one about how an out-of-print cult novel influenced General David Petraeus. That, in turn inspired my current project: a literary adventure involving a code hidden in three classic novels that have shaped American politics.

Over the last ten years, Literary Mama has been a mama to me. The site and the folks behind it have fed me, said “tell me more!” and on occasion infuriated me, but always cheered me on. I have thousands of writer-siblings: from the mothers taking their first writer steps today, to the novelists, poets, playwrights, columnists, memoirists, critics, and literary scholars that have been nurtured thus far by Literary Mama.

At Literary Mama’s ten-year anniversary, I hope you’ll join me in saying not just “Happy Birthday,” but most of all: Thanks Mom!

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Sophia Raday is the author of Love In Condition Yellow: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage. You can find out more about her at www.sophiaraday.com.


Sophia Raday is the author of Love In Condition Yellow: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage (Beacon Press, 2009). She lives in Berkeley, California with her Oakland police officer/Army Reserve colonel husband, their two children, a bipartisan dog, and assorted firearms. A founding editor of Literary Mama, Raday’s work has appeared here and in various anthologies, Stanford magazine, and the New York Times.


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