Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One

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A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire...


Why Writers Must Listen

Last year I began the daunting task of writing a memoir about the death of my eight-year-old daughter, Molly. I spent a week at a writing residency in North Carolina, away from my husband and young daughter, which allowed me time and space to record my life with Molly. Yet upon returning home I was unable to do anything with all I’d written.

Perhaps it’s too personal, I thought, the subject matter too raw. But isn’t that what memoirs are made of?

I could not bear to write about my loss in a way that felt either utterly hopeless or glib, packaged, and neatly transformed. My call to write was strong, but I was stuck.

I learned about a memoir workshop at a place I had long dreamed of going: Yogaville, an ashram (spiritual community) in rural Virginia. Even though the workshop was only from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, I hoped it might provide the guidance I was seeking.

I checked in to my room in the guest house - simple, clean, roomy — a perfect retreat for my weekend. After a yoga class and dinner, we had our first workshop session. We discussed memoir and got to know each other and our workshop leader, Joan Borysenko.

That weekend, I ate nourishing food - which I did not have to prepare or clean up myself, had the opportunity for daily yoga classes and meditation, and attended workshop sessions. Using the metaphor of a river, we examined times in our lives where we floated easily with the current, got sucked into dark whirlpools, and were healed and renewed by crystal pools. Yet the magic happened when we got together in small groups to share insights and “aha” moments. I was so inspired by others that I couldn’t wait to continue working when I got back home.

The shifts I felt in less than forty-eight hours weren’t happening in my normal life. I was stuck and isolated, but discussing the process with others opened doors to new ways of seeing.

After the workshop I was able to view my life with my daughter more completely. I identified my character strengths, such as seeing the worth of all people, no matter their ability, as threads running through my life which kept me afloat - sometimes barely - during the deepest strongest whirlpools. Listening to others’ stories, insights, and feedback gave me a multi-dimensional way to organize my memoir, allowing me to tell a more complete and layered story.

Though not everyone will have the desire to go to an ashram, getting together with others - whether in a formal setting like a workshop or more informally with friends or writing buddies, can be inspiring, motivating, and meaningful. Sometimes it takes a shift in perspective to help us move forward again.


Join our After Page One series. We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude. The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects.

Melissa Sokulski is an acupuncturist, herbalist, and writer who lives with her daughter and husband in Pittsburgh, PA. When not at her writing desk, she can be found foraging for wild food and mushrooms in the woods of Western Pennsylvania. Her work has been published in Mothering Magazine, The Cooperator, and The Sun. She is currently working on a memoir about her daughter Molly, who died in 2007. Visit her blog at

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