In this special episode, “Creating Community for Writer-Moms,” the founders of Scribente Maternum offer actionable advice for seeking out, creating, and participating in writer-mom communities. The panel features Rachel Berg Scherer, Carla du Pree, Caytie Pohlen-LaClare, and Elizabeth Doerr, whose bios can be found at the bottom of this page. Scribente Maternum is a community of writers that explores our emotions as mothers, provides space to recharge, facilitates connections with other writers, and inspires personal and collective action. The organization hosts an annual retreat in February.
Read the bios of this episode’s panelists at the bottom of this page.
Learn more about Scribente Maternum here.
An awesome tension exists between being the on-call parent and a creative professional.Rachel Berg Sherer
There’s a unique dichotomy of being both inspired by and distracted by our children. We created Scribente Maternum to live with that balance and find the time to still be creative and be moms.Rachel Berg Sherer
You’re always a mother, and you’re always a writer–even when you’re not actually doing the act of writing. You’re always thinking about these different personalities and how they show up in the world, how they announce themselves. My mom used to say: “When children are young, they’re around your feet, and as they grow older, they’re around your heart.”Carla Du Pree
“You’re always a mother, and you’re always a writer–even when you’re not actually doing the act of writing.” — Carla Du Pree
When we talk about balance, it’s not ever exactly 50/50; you’re going to give more time to your children, and your writing is going to drop down for a while, but then you might have times when you can do a little bit more writing. It’s a give and take.Caytie Pohlen LaClare
“I learned that if I was happy, my kids would be happy. If I fed my spirit, it meant that I could feed theirs.” — Carla Du Pree
I like to change the concept of what is writing. Writing can be the physical act of writing. Writing also means paying attention, observing the world in a different way, listening to people with a different ear, taking time to really absorb and observe what’s around you. That’s writing to me, and it’s not necessarily something you have to pinpoint or structure.Carla Du Pree
“Listen to children, the way everything is new to them. They’re like walking scribes. We have to listen and pay attention and be in that moment with them.” — Carla Du Pree
I’ve become a better writer in some ways since having a kid because I’m paying attention to what he’s observing in the world. As adults, we take some of the things going on in the world for granted. When we travel with my kid, he notices things that I would have walked right past. That’s a huge example of how they are sources of inspiration. If we see the world through their eyes, they’re our viewpoint and inspiration.Elizabeth Doerr
I’ve become so much more efficient since I had children. My whole process has changed. I find myself outlining entire essays in my head when I’m with small children and don’t have time to sit and write. I have an ongoing notes app on my phone, where I quickly type when something comes to mind.Rachel Berg Sherer
I’m very externally motivated, so having a group that holds me accountable, with deadlines, is how I will force myself to make time to write. The time is there; it’s just a matter of looking for it.Elizabeth Doerr
Writing with a baby or toddler is different than writing with elementary or high school kids. That’s the biggest thing to keep in mind: It continues to evolve. And just when you think you’ve got it down, it changes again, because your kids are in a new stage as well.Caytie Pohlen LaClare
“Motherhood is messy. You will not be perfect, but life isn’t either. And neither is writing. Quite frankly, that first draft is usually horrible.” — Carla Du Pree
When we started Scribente Maternum, we wanted a real space where mothers could embrace their motherhood and the idea of rage in motherhood—because there is that, too. Like, “How dare you take up all this time, when all I want to do is this one little thing.”Carla Du Pree
It’s a wonderful thing to find a writer who really identifies with the way you write or a poet whose work you really want to support and become writer friends or literary friends from that. There are all kinds of ways to build community.Carla Du Pree
Being a parent can be isolating, and being a writer can be isolating. It’s so important to have a place you can go where other people have similar experiences and can offer encouragement. Knowing that somebody else is going through the same thing helps you feel like a part of that group, and not so alone in your individual world.Caytie Pohlen LaClare
I think of mothers always as creative beings. You created a miracle. You have so much to offer, and it’s so important to hear your stories. When I think about black mothers writing, I remember I was on a goose hunt, trying to find stories that had characters that look like my children. I’m supporting every writer of color, every black mother, every mother, period. We need to hear your stories. Your children need to read them. I’m for women being just a little bit selfish.Carla Du Pree
My son was older when he read my work. He was stunned. He had this idea of who I was, but he didn’t know writer me. And I’ll never forget, he walked into the room, and he said, “Mom, this is you?”Carla Du Pree
We’re better parents when we set aside time for ourselves, like the metaphor of securing your own oxygen mask before you try to help somebody else. You can’t help anybody if you are exhausted, if you’re depleted, if you’re not fulfilled, if you’re resentful because these tiny humans are taking everything you have. We’re better mothers when we step away and do what we need to do to make ourselves feel whole.Rachel Berg Sherer
“We’re better parents when we set aside time for ourselves, like the metaphor of securing your own oxygen mask before you try to help somebody else.” — Rachel Berg Sherer
You’re not alone. Wherever you are out there, wherever you are on your journey, you’re not alone. There are other people going through the same thing, so reach out.Caytie Pohlen LaClare
Rachel Berg Sherer
Rachel has worked in public relations and communications, everywhere from from Capitol Hill to an order of nuns, taught tenth-grade English, and coaching Speech. She is the founder of Midwest Writing and Editing and writes a regular Feminist Parenting column for Rebellious Magazine for Women. Her work been featured in Solstice Literary Magazine and Minnesota Parent magazine. Rachel and her family live in Minnesota.
Carla Du Pree
Carla Du Pree is a fiction writer, a Maryland state arts ambassador, and the executive director of CityLit Project, a nonprofit that creates enthusiasm for literature. She’s a recipient of fellowships from Hedgebrook, Rhode Island Writers Colony for Writers of Color, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She’s won a Rubys Artist Grant and an MSAC Individual Artist Award for her fiction. Carla was awarded NASAA’s 2020 inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Individual award, and she is the Maryland State Department of Education’s Arts Leader for April 2020. Carla lives in Baltimore and is the mother of three twenty-something-year-olds and the grandma of a six-year-old grandson.
Caytie Pohlen LaClare
With Better Smarter Stronger, Caytie merges her purpose and passion into an organization that provides inspiration and education. Caytie lives in the Minneapolis area with her two sons and husband. Caytie also has two grown children and one new grandbaby. Her writing journey has been mostly for personal enjoyment, but she has also recently started writing more blog posts and marketing materials for her businesses.
Elizabeth Doerr is a freelance writer who helps justice and equity-focused professionals and brands tell their stories. She won a Maryland/Delaware/DC Press Association award for her 2015 Baltimore City Paper story about street harassment, “Stop Calling Me ‘Baby.” You can find her work in CityLab, Portland Monthly, and Baltimore City Paper among other publications. Elizabeth worked in higher education in the realm of experiential and social justice education for over a decade and she has frequently put her organizational and spreadsheet skills to work through event management. Elizabeth in Portland, OR, with her husband and son. www.elizabethdoerr.com