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 Sara Burnett's essay On Repetition and Revision in Motherhood and #MeToo and Deesha Philyaw's essay Remixing Memories: Back Down Memory Lane. Both essays grapple with the issue of how children figure into a mother's writing.


Photo by Literary Mama photo editor, Heather Vrattos

Sara Burnett finds herself on a train preparing to give a poetry reading. But she's distracted by news reports of the pending testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford regarding charges of sexual assault against Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Burnett can't shake the feeling of history repeating itself as she recalls watching Anita Hill's testimony decades earlier and recalls her own unsuccessful efforts in high school to stop a teacher's harassment of female students. As she considers her daughter's future in the context of the #MeToo movement, she believes her writing has to reflect these real-life experiences of women. She writes:

I have someone else I'm writing for and it seems increasingly vital to be revising the old scripts and writing raw. . . . My hope is to write my way into another possibility I had not previously considered.

Deesha Philyaw has a different concern with regard to writing and her children. Her essay is a rumination on the columns she wrote for Literary Mama from 2004-2007. Philyaw believes she did her children a disservice by writing about their lives without their permission, but also by not writing about her struggles with an ailing parent and an ailing marriage. She writes:

I wish I had shown my girls that it's okay to be brought to your knees. More than okay, it's human. It's simply what happens sometimes when death and disappointment come knocking, when the weight life gives you is stronger than your back.

Both Burnett and Philyaw want their daughters to know a deeper truth about life, and they see writing as a way to convey this truth. Do you use your writing as a way to convey some truth about life to your children? What is the truth you hope to convey?


Read Burnett's and Philyaw's essays and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by May 6, 2019, 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.


Susan Bruns Rowe writes and teaches in Boise, Idaho. Her writing has appeared in The Louisville Review, The Clackamas Literary Review, Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, and elsewhereShe serves as profiles editor for Literary Mama and teaches creative writing for The Cabin, the Osher Institute at Boise State University, and other organizations. Susan has an MFA in creative writing from Boise State University and an MA in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford University.

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