Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Writing Prompt: Making a Life by Hannah Vanderpool

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For each essay published by the Literary Reflections department, we share a writing prompt and an invitation to our readers to share their responses with us. Our editors will provide feedback on these responses and we will post our favorites on the blog. This month's writing prompt is inspired by Hannah Vanderpool's essay, "Making a Life."

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In her essay, "Making a Life," Hannah Vanderpool describes how the process of her children growing out of their need for her inspires not regret, but an urgency to put words to page. Yet this newfound need to write brings its own challenges. Vanderpool writes, "I’m shocked to find that this new/old urge to write is punishing. It is not folksy and warm. It does not smell of babies and grass stains. It's demanding, elbowing its way into the privacy of my dreams." She goes on to describe the difficulty of keeping the writer inside of her separate from her other roles, as mother, wife, and homeschooler: "[I]t isn't as easy as I'd hoped to keep writer self in her proper place. She keeps creeping downstairs like Rochester's Bertha, peeking around the corner while the kids and I are working, trying to set fire to my resolve to concentrate."

Vanderpool concludes her essay with an uneasy truce between her differing roles: "Right now I'm a homeschooler, and I will always be a mother.... But in the early morning, when my thoughts just belong to me, I lure words onto paper and I am electric. I know then that I will always be a writer, too."

Make a list of the many different roles you play in your life. How does writing fit in with these other selves? In what way does being a mother, a partner, an employee, etc. help or hinder your writing process? If you could alter one of these other roles to make it more conducive to a writing life, which one would you change and how?

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Read Hannah Vanderpool's essay here and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by February 10 for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note "Making a Life Prompt" in your subject line. We'll publish our favorites on the blog.


Andrea Lani writes fiction and nonfiction focusing on motherhood and the natural world. Her writing has appeared in The Maine Review, SaltFront, and Brain, Child Magazine, among other publications. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program, she is a Maine Master Naturalist, and she teaches nature writing and nature journaling workshops around Maine.


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