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 Amanda Caverzasi's essay A New Picture.

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Photo by Literary Mama photo editor, Heather Vrattos

Amanda Caverzasi puts her promising writing career on hold when her children are born. She looks forward to resuming it again when her children reach school age. But then a new challenge arises. Her six-year-old daughter starts having temper tantrums in kindergarten, getting so upset that she "dances berserk." When nothing else seems to work, Caverzasi decides to seek the help of a therapist.

The therapist tells her she needs to be calm and not panic when her daughter starts getting upset; she has to be a "wise woman." But Caverzasi finds this difficult due to her increasingly poor self-image as a mother. Then she reads the memoir of American choreographer Agnes de Mille whose "fake it until you make it" strategy leads to great success. "It struck me suddenly; when my daughter lost control, all I had to do was pretend I found it." She writes:

I had to let the impulse to act quickly rise up through my consciousness and burst. And once the bubbles of panic were gone, I'd ask my daughter why she was feeling so upset. . . . And ever so slowly, I'd help my daughter peel back the rapid succession of things she experienced before she lost it, and I'd help her put words to feelings that made her go berserk.

As her daughter's behavior improves, Caverzasi returns to her writing. One day she drives six hours to a writers' conference in her pajamas and changes into a suit moments before arriving. The complete transformation surprises and delights her. She decides the "fake it until you make it" mantra has benefits for aspiring writers as well.

Has there ever been a time as a mother or as a writer that you decided to "fake it until you make it"? What were the circumstances that made this approach necessary? What did you learn along the way?

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Read Caverzasi's essay and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by June 3, 2018, for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note "May 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 memoir for The Cabin and The Osher Institute. Her writing has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, The American Oxonian, Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog, and the book, Fighting the World’s Fight: Rhodes Scholars in Oxford and Beyond.


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