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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 Julie Lehman's essay, Ten Books.


Lehman describes the great care she took acquiring books for her children when they were very young and the pleasure she derived selecting, reading, and sorting treasured books with them. When her marriage ended, and she and the children moved out, the obvious thing was to take those books with them. Instead, Lehman left them behind so part of her children's lives could remain in place at their father's house. She took only ten books to their new home:

Photo by Literary Mama photo editor, Heather Vrattos

I did not simply forget the children's books. On the contrary, I thought long and hard about what to do with them. Then I consciously left most of them behind. I wish I could say I had a meaningful method for selecting the ten we took. In truth, it was more carnal than rational. I picked books that unfailingly made us feel good; books with words so familiar we could recite them, or rhymes that were rhythmically upbeat; books that my children requested time and again because they were rituals as much as they were books.

Lehman writes that although she hoped the books left behind would be a link to her family's past, the ten they took proved to be "lights illuminating the path to our new normal." She and her children stopped doing things that were no longer meaningful and "clung to the things that comforted and steadied us. Even though we only had ten books in our new home, we continued to read every night. It made us feel like us," she writes.

Do you and your children have a favorite book that serves as a kind of ritual? What is it about the book and how you read it that makes it one? What does it do for you? For them?


Read Lehman's essay and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by November 3, 2017, for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note "October Prompt" in your subject line. Please do not attach the essay but paste the response in the body of the email.



Susan Bruns Rowe lives in Boise, Idaho, and has two children in college. She has an MFA in creative writing from Boise State University and teaches writing workshops for The Cabin and The Osher Institute. Her writing has appeared in BrevityCreative Nonfiction, The American Oxonian, and the book, Fighting the World’s Fight: Rhodes Scholars in Oxford and Beyond.

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