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 Leeny Sullivan's essay, A Box Labeled "Tinsel and Lights."


Photo by Literary Mama photo editor, Heather Vrattos

Leeny Sullivan describes sorting through a box of childhood memorabilia and discovering scraps of her writing that remind her how important writing once was to her. The experience reminds her, too, of other women whose histories have been lost or forgotten by their loved ones because there is no written record of them. She decides to write a blog to preserve her memories and ensure her children will have them when she's no longer able to convey them herself. But writing down her experiences as a mother has another, unintended lesson:

I've realized that another way to preserve my memories and their memory of me is to continue being memorable. That means being present and active in their lives, but also in mine—letting them see me passionately engaged in interests that exist independently of them. So much of a mom's identity gets lost in the kids; the blog has inspired me to write for the sake of continuing to write, to reflect on things my kids don't know I think about, using language more coarse or colorful than I use with them. . . . In doing so, I'm reminding myself as much as them that no mom is just a mom, no matter how sacred and honorable the position, and that every person is bigger than the box she might find herself in.

In sorting through the box, Sullivan begins a journey whereby she rediscovers her reason for writing, a reason that goes deeper than the admirable purpose of preserving memories. She writes as a way of understanding her own identity and as a way of preserving it.

How does writing help you understand or preserve your identity? Does it give you a way to express opinions or creativity? Is it an outlet for fictional characters and stories you bring to life, distinct from your own? Or perhaps it helps you make sense of experiences from your past?


Read Sullivan's essay and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by January 5, 2018, 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.



Susan Bruns Rowe lives in Boise, Idaho, and has a child in college and one in high school. She has an MFA in creative writing from Boise State University and teaches memoir for The Cabin and The Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning. Her writing has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, The American Oxonian, Penny, and the book, Fighting the World’s Fight: Rhodes Scholars in Oxford and Beyond.

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