Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Literary Reflections Editors Share Tips

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Interested in publishing your literary reflection at Literary Mama?


Our literary reflections editors publish between six and 10 of the 50 submissions they receive during the year. Before Christina Speed and Kate Hopper left their posts as our editors, I asked them to share a few comments about the essays they worked with during their seven- and five-year tenures.

KC: Our guidelines encourage submissions with "fresh voices, superior craft, and vivid imagery" and those who write reflection pieces, like those published in Literary Reflections, are often encouraged to "dig deeper." What does "dig deeper" mean? What kinds of questions should writers ask themselves as they're writing reflection pieces?

CS and KH: This is a department deeply invested in the intersection of parenthood and writing, parenthood and reading, or something on this spectrum. The standout examples always weave the organic, intrinsic experience of parenting into the often self-selected, almost separateness of our writing and reading in a way that quenches a thirst. We recognize that reading and writing parents have a devotion to both their craft and their offspring. It is in this place where we seek that deep spot of revelation. We look for pieces that describe more than the push-pull of being a writer/mother reader. We encourage writers to ask questions and write their way into the heart of their story.

KC: Each piece you've ushered to publication is sure to have had its own revision/editing issues but has there been an over-arching issue--such as grammar or narrative structure--that's been a constant teaching point? In other words, are there two or three grammar or narrative structure "mistakes" that you commonly saw and would encourage writers to make special note of as they write?

CS: This is challenging to put into words, but I'd say that a large part of our revisions revolve around the delicate balance of showing rather than telling. The expression of one's craft as woven into one's parenthood is so difficult to express dutifully in English! Another common focus of revisions is the narrative arc -- bridging the overall piece with strong starts and finishes and with all the underpinnings necessary to carry a strong essay.

KC: What two writing-related publications--print or online--would you suggest to a mama-writer who hopes to be published?

CS: I read Creative Nonfiction Magazine and Brevity Magazine. These sibling publications feature craft essays and interviews with prolific, if not famous, writers. You'll also find strong narrative nonfiction in the short form and pieces with strong imagery, strong language, and beautiful narrative arcs. I firmly believe that strong reading leads to strong writing.

KH: In addition to Christina's suggestions, I encourage writers to check out River Teeth, A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative and Brain, Child Magazine. Both publish wonderfully-crafted essays.

KC: What's your next big project?

CS:  It is wonderfully bittersweet to leave Literary Mama. This has been such a nurturing place for me both as a reader and as a writer, but I also know it's time to focus on new career directions and offer an opportunity for another Mama to assist writers in bringing work to the light at LM. I have just finished my MLIS degree and am employed in a school library. Working with children and books is the perfect match for me, and I'm delighted that I secured a position last fall in the school my children attend. I look forward to reading future issues of LM with anticipation!

KH: I want to echo Christina. I leave Literary Mama with a heavy heart. I have been fortunate to work with such a wonderful team of editors and so many talented writers during the past five years. But I've realized that I need to direct more time and energy to my other teaching, writing, and editorial work. I provide editorial and mentoring services to writers of all ability levels, and I just joined the faculty in Ashland University's Low-residency MFA program. I also lead women's memoir retreats on my own and through Madeline Island School of the Arts. I'm working on a novel and also ghostwriting/co-writing a memoir. I'm excited about all of these things, but I've realized that I need more time in the day! I, too, look forward to continuing to read and support the fine work Literary Mama publishes every week!

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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