Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
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 Wendy Gordon’s essay "An Unsettled Mother in an Unsettled World" and Kelli Zaytoun’s essay "Bearing the Body in Paradox."


Photo by Literary Mama photo editor, Heather Vrattos

Photo by Literary Mama photo editor, Heather Vrattos

In her essay, Wendy Gordon writes of living a multifaceted life; she loved the creativity and freedom being at home with her children provided, but still found a “darker, subterranean level” that made its way into her two novels. She tells of channeling the paradox of routine chores and dramatic writing into her work. Like Gordon, her protagonists are complex and they needed to be something other than a mother: "This psychic restlessness did not arise from my status as a mother. . .it arose from within me, part of my being for as long as I could remember."

Kelli Zaytoun also writes about living a paradox in her essay as she was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with twins. Her body, her self, was bringing forth life and death, health and illness. Both the cancer and the pregnancy "began as a single cell housed within my living, breathing, thinking body, going about its business of dividing, changing, and expanding without any conscious awareness or consent on my part." Zaytoun writes that this enigma of self and non-self brought about an awareness of life and nature that continues to inspire. "Surviving a complicated birth, motherhood, and illness, in all its humbling physical constraints, has given me stories that I attempt to tell with creativity and intention," she says.

In both essays, the writers reflect on how their lived paradoxes give illumination to daily practices of parenting and writing. How does contradiction inform your stories? Does your reality conflict with your aspirations? How do you deal with limitations?


Read Gordon’s and Zaytoun’s essays and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by January 9, 2017, for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note “December 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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