Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Essential Reading: Teaching and Learning

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Literary Mama is staffed by writers (and writer-teachers) who volunteer their time here.  Thus I ought not to have been surprised that the theme of “Teaching and Learning” brought out warm recommendations for books on writing.  If you’ve been waiting for inspiration to sit down and, finally, make something of the ideas in your head, perhaps one of our editors’ favorites will provide the necessary spark?

Christina Marie Speed, Literary Reflections Co-Editor, writes, “I keep two copies of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within.  One is in my home bookcase, and the other is in my handbag.  Natalie Goldberg addresses the writer wherever he or she may be on the writing continuum and gently offers strategies, practices and thoughts to aid in shaping the writing process.  The book is unique because the exercises truly respect the nonlinear art of creativity.  After every reading, at every stage of my writing, I come away with a sense of calm and purpose.”

“Perfectly Normal” Columnist Heather Cori suggests What a Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher, now in its second edition: “Ralph uses his experiences as a writer as well as his experiences in classrooms to make writing come alive.  Not only does he attend to what makes for quality writing (from ages 5 to 95), but he also offers advice on how to make it happen.  His book has given me new ways to think about my work, and I plan to use it as our text this year for my ‘Teachers as Writers’ group.”

Blog Editor Karna Converse shares her own go-to writing resource: “Once a year, I reread Patricia O'Conner's Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing.  It's a friendly, witty refresher about the fundamentals of grammar with the over-riding theme, ‘Thou Shalt Not Embarrass Thyself.’  It's not necessarily a book I refer to for specific answers to my grammatical questions -- O'Conner's Woe Is I is better structured for that purpose -- but it’s one I read for the conversation.”

Fiction Co-Editor Suzanne Kamata has a new find: “I just finished reading Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart, which is partly a how-to book, but also a very personal account of one writer's beginnings and her development as a teacher of writing.  Like many of us, Kephart started out as a memoirist by writing about her son.  Her first book, A Slant of Sun, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Kephart now teaches writing at the University of Pennsylvania.”


Libby Maxey lives in rural Massachussetts with her husband and two young sons. With her academic career as a medievalist having died a stunningly swift death by childbirth, she now works as an editor, writes poetry, reads when able, and sings with her local light opera company. Her work has appeared in The Mom Egg Review, Off the Coast, Tule Review, Crannóg Magazine, Mezzo Cammin and elsewhere.


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