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 Lisa Witz’s essay, "My Family’s Stories" and Angela Berkley’s essay, "Keeping a Writer’s House with the Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes."

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Photo by Literary Mama photo editor, Heather Vrattos

In Lisa Witz’s essay, she explains how she initiated a 30-day writing challenge, eager to start putting her family’s stories to paper. Immediately, her three kids want to join her. At first, she protested: "Writing, for me, is a solitary act." But soon, the writing challenge becomes habit, something that formed family stories of its own:

My children are unabashed; my husband, too. They dove into this challenge without expectation or goals and came up with pages and pages of stories. I don't know if it’s the safety of our kitchen table or the innocence of youth, but this writing habit is now imprinted on my children's souls and it’s a mode of expression they can turn to, if and when they choose. After spending a month writing with my family, I've shed some of my reservations about being a writer and submitting work.

In Angela Berkley’s essay, she describes her mothering experience mirrors that of the classic children’s book, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. The first time she read the book, her reaction wasn’t positive:

I felt full of a hopeless, dull rage, and I cried. I had an unfinished dissertation, a year of failed job searches behind me, and two adorable, needy children. I cried because I was frustrated and incredulous: Heyward's story ends happily, with no one sacrificing anything and everyone getting everything they want—an ending that seemed barely imaginable for my own story.

But with further reading, the story shifted and so did her experience. Even as the little bunnies in the story help their mother with household duties, Berkley notes that the mother bunny, Cottontail, still falls shorts and needs help. In this way, her family gives and takes, requiring sacrifices:

I write to keep house in my brain, to arrange my mental space into the kind of delightful home that Cottontail finds her children have kept so tidily for her while she's away, with their sweeping and mending and singing and painting. I still sometimes feel like that homespace in my brain is too often empty; that I have to rush away from it more often than I'm allowed to linger. But some day not too far from now, my children will be hopping away to pursue their own ambitions, leaving me with—I can only imagine—space and time to stay as long as I like.

How has writing affected your home? Does it literally affect who sleeps in what room or how many books you own? More figuratively, does it shape your family’s values or schedule?

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Read Witz’s and Berkley’s essays and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by May 15, 2017, for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note "April 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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