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

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A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire…

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Words have always lured me to the page. When I am not writing, I am reading novels, memoirs, books on writing books. But days pass; they turn into weeks and I realize I’m neither writing nor reading. I am depleted and stuck.

I find a colossal cake cookbook with glossy photos of cherry-topped chocolate cakes, pudding-filled layered cakes and cakes with interesting names: snow skin mooncake and rum baba. I pore over photos and essential baking steps. Which pan will I use: rectangular, circular, Bundt? I focus on ingredients, make lists of what I need: cream of tartar, almond extract. Then come the rituals — cracking the eggs in old familiar bowls, stirring the vanilla-laced mixture. The oven warming, the greased pan waiting. I feel domestic in my kitchen with sticky hands and a counter snowed with flour.

These baking rituals replace my writing rituals: steaming mugs of coffee near the window, special pens and notebooks. Still, words compel me to write, so I try. But the chair is impossibly hard, the room unbearably hot. Plus the birds are always squabbling outside, and who can even think?

In the kitchen, baking is therapy, art, a canvas for the soul. I watch the batter spill out in gooey ribbons. It is two cups sugar, a quarter teaspoon of salt and so on. Everything measured, everything mixed. Bake at 300 degrees. When I follow the recipe, I get the outcome I expected. This is not like life at all, like pouring everything you had onto the page and ending up with a rejection letter, or pouring your heart into marriage and ending up divorced.

I bake because I feel something when I slide my hands into fluffy oven mitts and pull the cake from the metal rack. The hot blast of air on my skin and something else too, something maternal. I bake, therefore I am …

Perhaps I am the mother I want to be, if only for a moment. I am June Cleaver, Carol Brady. I am not a single mom struggling to put down words, that mom with the messy hair, that mom who forgot to sign the school forms, who cried through a box of tissues, a box of chocolates, a box of tissues again.

When I don my apron, it is a superhero’s cape. But when I sit down to write, there is no recipe. There’s just me, a keyboard and my wobbly little heart. Still, everything that isn’t writing feels like procrastination. So I try again. And again. I try until I find unexpected courage, until the words feel like the right ingredients for an essay, a story, something that’s churning inside.

“The page is your mirror,” wrote Dani Shapiro in her book, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. This phrase helps me realize that fear keeps me from creating, from peering into the page and examining my own reflection. Here’s the thing about baking: it’s a cathartic practice in which I always end up with something sweet. But when I write, I get a piece of myself. And that is both beautiful and terrifying.

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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. Read more about submissions to the blog here.


Rica Lewis is a senior staff writer for an award-winning magazine in Florida. Her essays and stories have appeared in MUTHA Magazine, Motherwell, The Sunlight Press, Ellipses Zine, Fictive Dream, HuffPost and others. Her memoir is forthcoming. Learn more about Rica through her website.

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