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Writing Prompt: Literary Reflections

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For each issue of Literary Mama, Literary Reflections shares a writing prompt, inviting our readers to respond. Our editors provide feedback on the responses we receive and we post our favorites on the blog. This month’s writing prompt is inspired by Ruth Dawkins’ essay “Confessions of a Diary Writer” and Billie Hinton’s essay “The Great Height and the Long View.”

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Photo by Literary Mama photo editor, Heather Vrattos

Photo by Literary Mama photo editor, Heather Vrattos

In her essay, Ruth Dawkins writes of discovering a box full of old diaries. Excited, she sits down to read them, eager to find something heavy with meaning. For hours that night and for days later, she reads among piles of notebooks and mementos. "The diaries are the only writing I've ever done without an audience in mind," she writes. "They were for me—only me—and I think it's for that reason they're so terribly raw." She compares her diaries to the stories her son tells her, hoping that he will continue to tell her the details of his life, yet acknowledging: "We can only listen for as long as he is prepared to talk and if—when—he reaches an age where the secrets become too much to tell, then we can hand him a pen and a diary."

Billie Hinton, too, links her writing practice to that of her child. Alone, on a writing retreat, she struggles to put words to paper so she picks up Isak Dinesen’s books for inspiration and begins to remember watching her daughter fill paper with stories of horses. Now, both of them are struggling with their own transitions. "I see the exquisite way my own path intertwines with that of my daughter’s, how our journeys are separate but each influences the other," she writes. "As her mother I could be considered the trainer, but everything she does trains me as well. I see her riding her own magical horse, sometimes walking, often trotting and cantering, and then galloping forward when she’s ready. She’ll get back on the real horse when the time is right."

In both essays, the writers reflect on watching their children tell stories by writing imaginative stories or by keeping memories in a box. How did you record your memories from your childhood, adolescence, or adulthood? How do you see your children imitate that in similar or different ways?

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Read Dawkins’ and Hinton's essay and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by December 7, 2016, for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note “November Prompt” in your subject line. Please do not attach the essay, but paste the response in the body of the email.


Whitney Archer is a writer, librarian, and a mother living in northern Virginia. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, AOL, and Salvo Magazine.


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