Ann Hood

I made the decision that I wasn’t going to be a parent whose baby dictated their life. I wanted kids to be part of the life I’d built, because I thought I built a really fun, exciting life.

CW: Child loss

(February 2, 2021) Ann Hood is the New York Times best-selling author of 14 novels, 4 memoirs, a short story collection, a 10-book series for middle readers, and 1 young adult novel. Her essays and short stories have appeared in many journals, magazines, and anthologies, including The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and Tin House. She is a regular contributor to the Home Economics column in The New York Times Op-Ed page, and her most recent work is Kitchen Yarns, published with W.W. Norton and Company in early 2019. She is a faculty member in the MFA in Creative Writing program at The New School in New York City and lives in Providence, Rhode Island, with her husband and their children. She describes writer-motherhood in three words as “best thing ever.”


Ann Hood’s website
Ann’s books
Ann’s essay “The Boys of Summer,” NYT
Ann’s Craft Talks

Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference
The Lehman Trilogy
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Raymond Carver
Anne Tyler
The Addams Family
Charles Addams cartoons
The Beatles
The Pushcart Prize
Raising Arizona
Labor Day, edited by Eleanor Henderson
Wanting a Child, edited by Helen Schulman and Jill Bialosky
“Hamlet and His Problems,” T.S. Eliot on objective correlative
Andre Dubus III
Laura Lippman

sound bites

I’ve always loved to travel, so it seemed kind of natural to become a flight attendant. I wanted to be a writer. I thought, well, if I’m a flight attendant, I will surely have adventures that will give me more things to write about.

I loved my 20s. I was the happiest flight attendant. I was writing. I sold my book in my 20s. I just couldn’t see how kids would fit into my life. I had a long-term boyfriend who I adored, and we had this very distant, fuzzy idea of having kids someday, but it wasn’t something we talked about a lot or planned. I never had that biological clock ticking thing. Once I decided to have a baby, then I was all on board, and it wasn’t a hard decision. Once I had one, I wanted, like, five. I just loved it.

Because I was a writer for so long without children, I used to do whatever I wanted when I wanted. If I wanted to stay up all night writing, that was fine. If I wanted to lock myself away for a few days and finish a project, that was fine. If I wanted to drink in the afternoon, that was fine. Anything was fine! And all of a sudden, it’s like, oh my goodness, this is gonna be a challenge.

I had made the decision that I wasn’t going to be a parent whose baby dictated their life. I wanted kids to be part of the life I had built, because I thought I built this really fun, exciting life, and I thought they should fit into it. From the time my son was a baby, I was taking him all over the world with me. I was taking him on book tours. These things have got to coexist. I put him in those little chairs that you can bounce and bounced it with my foot and wrote my novels or essays or whatever I was working on.

“I had made the decision that I wasn’t going to be a parent whose baby dictated their life. I wanted kids to be part of the life I had built, because I thought I built this really fun, exciting life, and I thought they should fit into it.”

When I was in labor, I was judging the Barnes and Noble First Book Award.

I think pretty quickly, once my son was past being a toddler and went off to two hours three times a week to school, I retrained to myself to write when those hours opened up. I think so many women do that. I read an essay by Anne Tyler once in which she said that she would take her kids to school in her pajamas, get them out of the car, and run home to write and then pick them up. You know, all the other moms were like, “Are you still doing that writing thing?” Because she wouldn’t sit around and chat, because she knew she had that many hours. I think a lot of women who are writers and mothers have learned to do that same thing. It’s like nap time–okay I can write. Or a play date, I can write for three hours or whatever.

After Grace died, I didn’t write for about two years. I remember a really wise writer friend of mine said, “Of course you can’t write, because we write to make sense of things, and there is no sense to what happened.” Your mind can’t even try to make sense of it.

I sat down, and I wrote on post-it notes all the facets of grief. Then I looked at them all, and I chose the ones that I thought were the most interesting and created a character to sort of reflect that emotion. I had hope and love and resignation and regret, and then I made up characters to personify those things. And that was The Knitting Circle.

Over the course of writing The Knitting Circle and when it first came out, I would have this idea about grief, as if I figured out one little, tiny piece of it. I’d write an essay about that little, tiny piece.

I’ve had so many people—hundreds, maybe more—say, “You’re expressing what I don’t know how to say,” or “You wrote about something that I couldn’t explain,” or people would say they gave the book to their mother or friend or husband. For me, that made it worthwhile to talk about it, although it’s always hard.

Before I had children, I still wrote about motherhood, I think because I’m so family-oriented, and I came from a big family. The thing that interests me is relationships between mothers and daughters; sisters—I don’t even have a sister, but women. More than love stories, I like the women’s stories. Every time I would write a book, my mother would say to me, “Another bad mother. Everybody’s gonna think I’m the worst mother. I don’t like that.” They’re not bad mothers; they’re flawed. Once I had kids, I’m not sure my writing changed that much, except I was a better writer. I think I could explore things more deeply.

I kind of saw motherhood as a grand adventure, which I think it is. There were times, especially when Sam and Grace were little, when I can remember being in a grocery store, and they were just off the wall, being bad and running. I remember thinking, “No, this isn’t what this is supposed to be. I don’t like this part.” They were pretty much all good kids and did what they were supposed to do and were creative and fun. I had a lot of fun with them, but there were those moments when it was like, this isn’t what I signed up for. But mostly, I just always thought of it as an adventure.

When my kids were little, I would say, “You can’t come in this room for an hour.” I think it gets easier when they’re older.

“When my kids were little, I would say, ‘You can’t come in this room for an hour.'”

By the time I had my first kid, I already had written six books and I had columns in magazines. I was always working. But I have so many women students who feel guilty writing because they don’t think they’ve earned it, because they haven’t published yet. I’ve had women tell me that their husbands have said they could write for one year, and if you don’t finish it or the book doesn’t sell, then it’s not for you. We know that’s not how writing or publishing works. It makes me feel bad that in 2021, women are still feeling guilty about their dream or their work or their passion.

“It makes me feel bad that in 2021, women are still feeling guilty about their dream or their work or their passion.”

From when Sam was quite young, I was always a firm believer in the babysitter. We lived right near Brown University, and they just had a bulletin board with little paper you ripped off. I called up every kid, like, “Come. I need to work.” I think it’s great for your kid to be with a teenager. I would say we’re still very close to probably 60 to 70 percent of those babysitters.

Work—and your passion—don’t always make money. We will not be valued unless we value ourselves and what we’re doing, and I always saw the value in my writing time. I used to take my kids on book tours with me because I wanted them to see what I do. I wanted them to see that people show up. Sometimes there’s 4 people in the room, and sometimes it’s 400 people. I always wanted them to see it.

“Work—and your passion—don’t always make money. We will not be valued unless we value ourselves and what we’re doing. If you see your writing as worthwhile, then it is.”

If you see your writing as worthwhile, then it is.

I think my son completely loves that I’m a writer because it allowed him to pursue acting. I never once said, “You can’t major in theater” or “You’re wasting your time” or “That’s your hobby.” He wanted to be an actor, and I got it, because I’m an artist, too. He was shocked when someone said to him once, “Your mother’s gonna let you major in theater in college?” He couldn’t imagine that someone wouldn’t.

My kids appreciate what I do. I can I hear, when they introduce me to their friends, that they’re proud because they know it’s hard to be a writer, that you sit with nothing and you make something.

“It’s hard to be a writer, that you sit with nothing and you make something.”

Elle Nash

We can all do magic. The simplest definition of magic is putting your will out into the world. We do that with art.

(January 18, 2021) Elle Nash is the author of the novel Animals Eat Each Other (Dzanc Books), which was featured in O – The Oprah Magazine, and hailed by Publishers Weekly as a “complex, impressive exploration of obsession and desire.” A small collection of stories, Nudes, is forthcoming from SF/LD Books in Spring 2021. Her short stories and essays appear in Guernica, The Nervous Breakdown, Literary Hub, The Fanzine, New York Tyrant and elsewhere. She is a founding editor of Witch Craft Magazine, a fiction editor at Hobart Pulp and Expat Press, and runs an annual workshop called Textures. Elle has one child and she describes writer-motherhood in three words as, “boundary-building, productive.”


Elle Nash’s Website
Elle’s Book: Animals Eat Each Other

Textures, Elle’s writing workshop

Witch Craft Magazine, Elle’s magazine

Chloé Caldwell

Transgressive Fiction

Frisk, Dennis Cooper

Heartbreaker, Maryse Meijer


While I was working in the office, I was like, “I can’t imagine being a mom this way. I can’t imagine working full-time and trying to manage a household and a relationship and be a mom all at the same time. I don’t know how working moms keep it all together.” Now I am a working mom, and you just figure it out.

I had been working on a manuscript, and I was in the fog of breastfeeding, too. There’s something hormonally about it that made me feel not as sharp, a combination of exhaustion and having this new person always around. There’s this weird mind-melding thing that happens, where your identities kind of fuse, which I think is on purpose so you can understand and know what your baby needs. I had trouble breaking out of that when I was working on my manuscript.

I sat down and wrote my novel in 11 weeks. I just woke up around four or five in the morning, and my daughter was starting to have more regular naps, so I would write every time she was asleep during the day, too. I just committed to it. And that’s how I got my first draft done. It was definitely a lot of not sleeping.

I don’t want to speak to this as if it’s a universal experience, but it seems like new moms struggle with identity and feeling like their own person, and some moms struggle with this for a lot longer. Part of this is when moms feel guilty for taking time out for themselves. I experienced that, where I felt bad for asking, for example, for time to write on the weekends.

“It seems like new moms struggle with identity and feeling like their own person, and some moms struggle with this for a lot longer. Part of this is when moms feel guilty for taking time out for themselves.”

It was easy for me to think: I’m staying at home and don’t have a job, even though I’m literally running an entire household, and I’m taking care of a tiny human. It was easy for me to think that I didn’t deserve the time, because there’s all this time already, even though that time is actually spent. I had to go through a process of seeing my alone time as valuable and important for me and setting boundaries.

I believe in everyone’s personal agency and a person deciding what is right for them and what their boundaries are, but in a coming-of-age story or this life experience with a new human, those boundaries can become really blurred. It can be difficult to figure out where the boundaries are.

[Elle’s advice to writer-moms:] The first step is to have really clear goals. The second step is not having excuses, being able to write whenever you can. My third step was making it known to my partner where I was, like wanting to write for four hours on Saturday morning and trying to negotiate that and making it known that it’s important for me on multiple levels—mental health, happiness, life goals, all those things. It also means being pragmatic about your time.

You have to have a good balance of being disciplined and being clear with what you want. But also, not beating yourself up when you don’t do it. I think the beating yourself up part of it can contribute to having low self-esteem, and that can impede you from being able to reach your goal overall.

“You have to have a good balance of being disciplined and being clear with what you want. But also, not beating yourself up when you don’t do it.”

I know that most bestsellers don’t tend to outlive their generation, and I’m also really interested in legacy, to a degree. It’s hard for me to look 10 or 20 years down the line and say, where exactly do I want to be? I would say I really don’t want to peak until I’m, like, 60.

“It’s hard for me to look 10 or 20 years down the line and say, where exactly do I want to be? I would say I really don’t want to peak until I’m, like, 60.”

I loved being pregnant in Arkansas. People were really wonderfully nice. It’s very family oriented and a bit more traditional and conservative there; people would treat you like a very high-class citizen when you’re pregnant. People would let me cut in line at the DMV. Everyone’s just really nice to you when you’re pregnant. They’re also really nice to you when you have a brand-new baby–but it drops off when the baby’s older and no longer cute.

“Everyone’s just really nice to you when you’re pregnant. They’re also really nice to you when you have a brand-new baby–but it drops off when the baby’s older and no longer cute.”

I find it very interesting how society treats pregnancy and pregnant women and what kind of pressure that can put on a person who wants to be pregnant but isn’t.

The first few months being back in your hometown that you left after high school is definitely really freaky. It’s almost like people still dress like it’s 2005 here sometimes. It did feel a little bit like going back in time. I also forgot just how powerful mountains are. Growing up, I never really paid attention to them, and now, every day, I stare at this mountain and I’m just like, “Holy shit. It’s majestic.” I don’t know why I didn’t care about it before.

“The real world kind of sucks. It can be really harsh, so I think having a community of people who are interested in the wonderful aspects of art that you’re interested in can make things feel less lonely.”

We can all do magic. It’s pretty practical. I think everything we do in terms of ritual is a form of magic. When you’re writing, and you’re creating a particular atmosphere in another person’s mind, that’s magic. It’s a very practical type of thing that we do every day. The simplest definition of magic is putting your will out into the world. We do that with art, we do that with our intentions.

“The simplest definition of magic is putting your will out into the world. We do that with art, we do that with our intentions.”

My dad pretty much was like, “Well, you’re going into college or going into the Army,” and I really was not wanting to go into the Army, so I went to school for journalism.

Continue to try every day, and whenever you find yourself comparing yourself to other people and where they are—if someone has a book announcement and you feel saddened by your own lack of that—just try to recognize that you’re relating to that person because you want to be where they are. It’s demonstrating to you that there is a pathway forward for you.

“I hope that seeing me doing something that I love can demonstrate to–and encourage–my daughter that she deserves that type of space, too.”

Writing is a balance of not being too hard on yourself but continuing to show up and do the work as much as you can. Accept that sometimes you have to sacrifice certain elements: If you want that extra hour of writing time, make your dinner as low effort as possible.

If it’s becoming too difficult, it’s okay to take breaks, especially when you first have a kid and they’re really dependent on you. They’re really little for a very short period of time. If you need to take that break and spend that time with them while they’re little, that’s 100% okay.

Creating Community for Writer-Moms, with Scribente Maternum

“I’m for women being just a little bit selfish.”

Carla du pree

scribente maternum

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.


Scribente Maternum website
Scribente Maternum February retreat
CityLit Project
Better Smarter Stronger
AWP Conference


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

“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

episode panelists

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

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 CityLabPortland 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.


Melanie Conroy-Goldman

“Before I became a mother, I was writing about characters. When I became a mother, I was writing as characters. I didn’t want to talk about things anymore. I wanted to be vivid and live inside of an electric experience.”

(January 7, 2021) Melanie is the author of the novel The Likely World (Red Hen Press). A Professor of Creative Writing at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, she was a founding director of the Trias Residency for Writers. Her fiction has been published in Southern Review, StoryQuarterly, in anthologies from Morrow and St. Martin’s and online at venues such as She also volunteers at a maximum security men’s prison with the Cornell Prison Education Program. She lives in Ithaca, New York with her husband, daughter and step-daughters. She describes writer-motherhood in three words as richly entangled identities.


Melanie Conroy-Goldman’s Website

Melanie’s Book: The Likely World

Trias Residency for Writers

Peter Ho Davies

My Struggle, Karl Ove Knausgård

A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan

The Odyssey, Homer

“You Should’ve Asked,” a feminist comic about the mental load, by Emma

The Topeka School, Ben Lerner

sound bites

One of the things that I write about is that entering sobriety is an incredibly demanding life phase, and trying to parent while trying to also do the work of staying sober is an extra barrier that I think hasn’t often been written about, although some people have written about it incredibly beautifully. That act of balancing is both present in work for working mothers and for mothers who are struggling with various kinds of mental health issues, including addiction.

There’s a central betrayal at the heart of any addict parent, and if you ever hear any person who’s recovered from addiction talk about parenting, they’ll always say that they couldn’t parent in the way that it has to be. It has to be primary. There’s no other way to parent, because the addiction is primary.

“Before I became a mother, I was writing about characters. When I became a mother, I was writing as characters. I didn’t want to talk about things anymore. I wanted to be vivid and live inside of an electric experience.” — @mscongo

As the parent of a young child, a baby, you live so much in the moment. You’re embedded in experience.

“Motherhood turns you into a milk cow. Even if you’re not breastfeeding, you’re the provider of milk. There’s no two ways about it.” — @mscongo

There is a desperation to be yourself that emerges from being melded with another human.

I am no role model.

Every parent should have adequate childcare. There are probably lots of people who have kids under five who are barely writing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Anything else is extraordinary and superhuman. Anyone who’s squeezing out a couple of words a week with a child under five is doing great.

“Anyone who’s squeezing out a couple of words a week with a child under five is doing great.” — @mscongo

There’s still shame around not taking care of your kids full-time, not being a stay-at-home mom, and that’s bananas.

I know there are many women who are novelists, and many novels that don’t contend with children, but for women novelists, the assumption is that it’s hard to be both a writer and a parent. It’s not the subject. It’s not the plot.

I’m a feminist. I’m a second-wave feminist, so I’m not even a cool feminist.

The absence of adult supervision in certain narratives by women acknowledges the importance of good caregiving in ways that the traditional male adventure narrative doesn’t bother with. Someone else is taking care of that—a servant or wife or someone else. It’s not part of the story.

I’m seeing a lot of books where it’s central to the narrative that the man is sick of taking care of the kids, and then he takes off—and I’m worried that this is going to be like the First World male novel, and I’m not here for that. Like, I’m not here to feel sorry for the fact that you have to do 44% of the childcare.

“Mothers feel shame for things that weren’t our fault. We feel shame for every way in which our children’s lives aren’t perfect. We carry more shame than we deserve.” — @mscongo

I keep my children out of my work. They’re tempting, because they’re cool. I want to write about them. But I feel like that’s one line I can’t cross. I can’t write about my children. It’s complicated. It’s different from how I feel about drawing on other life experiences.

With every one of my children’s developmental phases, I got a little more time and brain space.

I used to compose on the page. I was always typing or writing longhand when I was composing. Now, I spend a lot more time in my head and playing around with scenes and even playing around with sentences and words. That’s usually something I do before I go to bed. And if it gets really good, I get up, and I write it down.

Katie Gutierrez

My biggest fear around becoming a mother was that suddenly I would no longer be a writer.

(December 17, 2020) Katie Gutierrez lives in San Antonio, TX, with her husband and two young children, who are 2 and a half years old and three and a half months old. She has an MFA from Texas State University, and her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Longreads, Catapult, and more. Her debut novel, More Than You’ll Ever Know, will be published by William Morrow in 2022. She describes writer-motherhood in three words as never enough time.


Katie Gutierrez’s Website

Katie’s Book: More Than You’ll Ever Know

Catch Me If You Can

Texas Highways Magazine (coming soon)

Alice Monro


When I got my book contract, any time I tried to sit down at my computer, my toddler would come in as a baby shark, or my newborn would be hungry. I ended up sitting in the dark breastfeeding, looking through the contract on my phone and signing it through DocuSign. You have this fantasy, as a writer, of what these moments will look like, and I never once envisioned it looking like that. But it also felt completely right for where I am in my life right now.

“A component of female desire is the desire to be known, to be seen, and to discover who we are in different environments and relationships.” — @katie_gutz

The experiment for me is to look at a character who is acting in an ostensibly amoral way and portray her in a way that very quickly makes her actions understandable. That’s part of the fun of writing for me. And that is when you’re succeeding as a writer.

When I found out I was pregnant, I was overjoyed. But right along with that feeling of joy was this fear, this feeling of Oh, God, what did I do? What is this going to mean for my life? That all came up, and it was not as simple of an emotion as getting that phone call from the nurse. Because I still didn’t really have an idea of how motherhood would fit into my life, and I didn’t really have an idea of what kind of mother I would be.

“When I found out I was pregnant, I was overjoyed. But right along with that feeling of joy was this fear, this feeling of: Oh God, what did I do? What is this going to mean for my life?” — @katie_gutz

When we were on submission with my first novel and it didn’t work out, I had this overwhelming sense of, Okay, I’ve got one more shot. I’ve got to finish this book before I have the baby, and we’ve got to go on submission and try to make this happen, because I don’t know what it’s going to be like afterwards. And I think that I was really wrong about that. I had internalized that being a mother is anathema to being a creative individual, to pursuing any kind of art.

“My biggest fear around becoming a mother was that suddenly I would no longer be a writer.” — @katie_gutz

It’s been a big surprise, how much being a mother has positively impacted what I do, even though actually getting to work, getting to write, is more complicated.

I spent those first few months not sleeping, because all I could do was imagine every single worst-case scenario that could happen to this completely helpless baby. Being a writer, your imagination is pretty vivid, and I felt like I had to follow each fantasy through to its conclusion. I was surprised at the depth of that anxiety, the depth of my fear around losing my child and how that fear never goes away; it just becomes folded into your daily life as a mother.

“When we become mothers, we don’t stop being ourselves or having our own desires or experiencing the desire for adventure. It becomes a question of how to balance these deep emotions–or live with the imbalance.” — @katie_gutz

The days when I’ve become the most frustrated, the angriest, and the worst version of myself—you know, the monster, to my kids and husband—are the days when I wake up with an urgent need and expectation that I’m going to sit down for at least an hour, and revise one chapter or write 500 words. When I set these concrete goals for myself, and then the day explodes and none of it happens, that’s when I find myself extremely resentful of my kids, my husband, the fact that he doesn’t have to have a baby at his boob every two hours.

I try to let go of control and tell myself I’m just going to touch the work at some point today. That’s my only goal. I’m going to touch it at some point, if it’s working on one sentence, so be it. If I get lucky and both kids nap at the same time, I get two hours. Those are the days when things go the smoothest for me, when I can appreciate being with the kids but also whatever time that I actually get to work. Those are the days when I don’t set any expectation for myself, except that I’m going to touch the work and move it forward in some way.

I was thinking about practical strategies for moms with newborns, and for me, what works best is when I read books that seem to be in conversation with what I’m working on. That feels like I’m touching the work. It’s also giving myself permission to daydream and to use those daydreams as also touching the work.

I’m taking this time with a newborn to be active about using my daydreams for the revision process. When I get the chance to sit down, even if it is for 15 minutes, I go straight to it, no procrastination.

In the past, there’s been this conversation around writing as a very solitary, strictly scheduled or regimented existence. There’s so much happening in the background in this patriarchal society and sexist culture that was not talked about. It’s important to have these conversations about what it really takes to make a book happen.

The other day, I held up a book to my daughter and said, “Mommy’s writing these books.” And I could see her trying to put it together. It was a strangely emotional moment for me, having this small child who was starting to understand what I’m doing when I’m not being present with her.

When my daughter is old enough to read my books, I hope she’ll feel proud, whether or not she likes the books. I think that’ll be strange, because she’ll be getting access to some parts of me that she obviously doesn’t see as her mother. I hope it’ll bring us closer.

I just texted a friend the other day—it was one of the bad days—and I said, “I feel like I’m failing on every front.” I was snapping at my daughter and I was so resentful of this baby boy who just wouldn’t sleep. Every time I sat down, I had to get back up. I felt like everything I was trying to do, everything I was trying to be, was a complete failure. Some days are just going to be like that.

You don’t have to be sitting at your computer to be writing, but it’s also okay to just not be writing. It’s okay to do absolutely nothing that touches your work, because you’re also a person apart from being a mother, and apart from being a writer, and you need to be able to occasionally take care of that person, as well. Let’s become the monster, right?

Daria Polatin

There’s only so much pie, you know?

(December 7, 2020) Daria Polatin is a playwright, TV writer-producer and author who is developing a TV limited series based on her novel DEVIL IN OHIO for Netflix. She was a Co-Executive Producer on CASTLE ROCK for Hulu, where her episode “The Laughing Place” was named one of Entertainment Weekly’s Best TV Episodes of 2019. She has been a writer and producer on HUNTERS, JACK RYAN, CONDOR, HEELS and SHUT EYE. Daria received her MFA from Columbia University and is a founding member of THE KILROYS, the advocacy group for gender equality in the American Theatre. She has one son who is 11 weeks old and she describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: stunning, shifting, softening.


Daria Polatin’s Website
Daria’s Book: Devil in Ohio
Daria’s Play: Palmyra

Daria’s Series:
Castle Rock
Jack Ryan
Shut Eye

The Kilroys, Daria’s advocacy group for gender equality in the American theater



Time is really punctuated when you have a baby. I used to have a certain sensibility of my time and what I could get done, and now the periods I have are much shorter. Having to code switch really is tricky. A few minutes of feeding can feel like hours, and the nap feels like one second. Time just has all these new nuances, even though it is a constant.

Writing outlines is tough. I know a lot of writers outline their projects in different mediums, and it’s just not the most fun to do an outline, but it’s the scaffolding for the cathedral that you’re going to make.

Because of the amount I need to get done, I need to work quickly, and it’s a good lesson in not second-guessing myself. I need to make decisions and move on, whereas, in the past, I may have read a piece over and over and over and improved it one more time. I don’t have time to do that now. It’s about trusting the process and my intuition, trusting that I’ve been doing this for many years. I don’t want to say that I’m shortchanging the process, but I can move through the process much more quickly now. And I have to; otherwise, I couldn’t keep up, or I would have to take on less, either as a writer or as a mother, and I don’t want to do that. I want it all.

There’s never going to be enough time for all of the things, and I just have to make peace with that. I’m always probably going to feel like I’m not doing enough in a certain area, whether it’s this project or that project or with my son or with my husband. There are a lot of things that I’m going to have to be comfortable with. There’s only so much pie, you know?

“There’s never going to be enough time for all of the things, and I just have to make peace with that. There’s only so much pie, you know?” — @DariaPolatin

Every minute of TV costs a lot of money, effort, and energy to make, so you have to be relentless in refining every moment on screen.

I really love when each episode of a show has an arc to it. The Crown does that really well. Each episode contains a theme, a question, and an answer.

Books are the most direct connection between author and reader. There’s the least interference in that form of written material, a direct relationship with the consumer of the story.

“I now understand this very primal, Mama Bear, almost monster feeling of doing anything for your child. I have a new understanding, a visceral understanding, of what that is.” — @DariaPolatin

I want to be a safe space for my son, and I want to be a grounded place that he can always come to for comfort in whatever form that would be.

I’m fearful of not having enough time for everything; most importantly, my son, because he’s the most vulnerable of all of those elements.

I’m trying to stay grounded and teach through example. Taking care of the things I need to take care of is an important thing to do. If I just sacrificed my career and became a mother full-time, that’s not serving me, and I wouldn’t be happy, and that wouldn’t be serving him.

You have to be very present to be able to assess the circumstances and get out of your own expectations of what your child might need. It’s almost meditative, Zen-like, to step back and just look at situations with a clear, fresh perspective without projecting expectations onto your child.

Liz Harmer

I try to have an interesting and rich life where I am. I believe passionately that you can have an interesting, rich, not boring, settled, domestic life, just because you have a boring, settled, domestic life.

(October 28, 2020) Liz Harmer is a Canadian living in California. Her first novel, The Amateurs, a speculative novel of technological rapture, was released with Knopf/Vintage in 2019. Her stories, essays, and poems have been published in Lit Hub, Best Canadian Stories, and elsewhere, and her second novel, Strange Loops, is forthcoming with Knopf Canada in 2022. Her children are 13, 11, and 8, and here’s how she describes motherhood in 3 words: “Challenge and Delight”


Liz Harmer’s website

Liz’s Books
The Amateurs (Penguin Random House, 2019)
Strange Loops (Knopf Canada, 2022)

Romeo and Juliet, Baz Luhrmann (1996)

A Lover’s Discourse, Roland Barthes (1978)

Eros the Bittersweet, Anne Carson (Dalkey Archive Press, 1998)

The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis (Harvest Books, 1960)

“A Letter to a Young Writer,” Richard Bausch

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth McCracken

John Cheever

Stephen King

Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, Meghan Daum (Picador, 2015)

The Baby Book, Barry Sears (Little, Brown Spark, 1993)


“I’m interested in my own desire, and women having desire feels like this taboo thing that we’re confused about culturally.” — @lizharmer

I try to say yes to things, I try to meet lots of people, I do things that scare me a lot. I probably work a lot of it out in my writing by letting my characters do the things I can’t do myself or that I’m afraid to do.

“I try to have an interesting and rich life where I am. I believe passionately that you can have an interesting, rich, not boring, settled, domestic life, just because you have a boring, settled, domestic life.” @lizharmer

I try not to be afraid to see myself in my writing. I don’t think you can avoid yourself coming into your writing. But that doesn’t mean that I’m writing about myself.

I did learn to not have precious writing time, but just to be writing all the time. Just a little bit every day adds up to a lot.

“I want to model for my daughters that you can have more things in life than a family. Family is important, and you love the people near to you, but also, you have to invest in yourself.” — @lizharmer

The way I try to not feel guilty is to remind myself that it’s important that my kids see me as a person. I think it’s important for parents to not be the servants of their children. Kids need to learn to be on their own in the world, slowly, and it’s important that they understand that we’re also human beings who have needs and boundaries. Whenever I feel guilty, I think, “No, I’m teaching them good boundaries.”

I don’t want to be like, “Well, just claim your time,” because it’s not culturally possible to do that. I acknowledge that part of the reason I claim my time is because my husband doesn’t give me a hard time about it. One piece of advice I got that was really helpful to me is that everything’s easier after the youngest child is 5.

It was important to me to not get overwhelmed by my ambition. When you haven’t written anything, a book looks really long. How are you gonna finish a book? I got into a routine that was useful to me, which was, “I’m just going to finish a story. And then I’m going to finish another story. And then maybe I’ll edit those. And then I’ll slowly get to a third story.” As time passes, you end up with 15 or 20 stories. The habit perpetuates itself.

On the mornings I don’t teach, I walk the dog without my smartphone. I just walk outside. I let that be a time of collecting my thoughts and letting my ideas stew.

I Skype with a good friend once a week, and we write. That is a really precious time. When somebody else is keeping you accountable, or also doing writing, you feel permission to do it.

“Here’s a hot tip: apple slices, peanut butter, and cheese are perfectly nutritious. You don’t have to make elaborate meals; you can just serve kids a pile of things.” — @lizharmer

Blair Hurley

There’s something dangerous about a girl who wants something for herself.

(October 22, 2020) Blair Hurley received her A.B. from Princeton University and her M.F.A. from NYU. Her stories are published or forthcoming in Ninth Letter, The Georgia Review, West Branch, Mid-American Review, Washington Square, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Descant, Fugue, and elsewhere. She has received a 2018 Pushcart Prize and scholarships from Bread Loaf and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. Her debut novel, The Devoted, was published in August 2018 from WW Norton & Company.


Blair Hurley’s website

Blair’s book
The Devoted (WW Norton, 2018)

Rabbit, Run, John Updike (Random House, 1960)

Snuffleupagus’s identity shift on Sesame Street

John Steinbeck

Alice Munro

A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki (Penguin Books, 2013)


Motherhood is such a powerful identity in our culture, our literature, and our lives that it’s nerve-racking to approach it yourself and to consciously make the decision to adopt this identity.

When I thought about motherhood as a young woman, I thought I should focus on my career and not really think too hard about parenthood. I somehow got the impression that it wasn’t feminist to long to be a mother.

“One problem I have with the ‘having it all’ myth is the idea that you have to somehow add motherhood and career ONTO your life, when there should be a way for these roles to complement each other; to be PART of your life.” — @bhurley

It’s been so great to connect with other writer-moms and see what they went through and what they struggled with at different stages. Connecting with other mothers helps with the sense of being alone.

Before I had my baby, I thought, “It’ll be hard until she reaches X milestone, and then I’ll get my life back and I’ll be myself again.” It’s not really that way at all. It’s taken some adjusting to realize that my identity has changed forever. I’m living a different life now, and that’s perfectly okay. Life is change, and change is not always bad. In this case, it’s been an incredibly positive change. There are so many ways that I feel more access to joyful experiences.

Before I had my daughter, I thought I could write the same way I was writing before, but now I realize that my identity has changed. I’m going to be writing different things, I’m going to be concerned about different things, I’m going to be feeling different ways. And again, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it will probably enrich my writing in ways that I have yet to see.

I’ve tried to make a distinction between what we generally call sentimentality and what might just be sentiment. It’s a useful distinction to make, because yes, there is a problem with excessive sentimentality in writing that instructs readers reader to feel tragic in a manipulative way, whereas sentiment is just strong feeling. I want my readers to experience strong feelings. I don’t want to be afraid or ashamed of sentiment.

I think women writers, and maybe mother writers in particular, can be denigrated or looked down upon if they’re willing to show emotion. There is a perception that if you write emotion from the perspective of motherhood, it’s inherently sentimental. But realistic writing is about showing emotion, being willing to make a reader feel something.

Many male writers write about domestic spaces and it’s seen as the height of intellectualism and experimentalism. I think about all the many Updike stories, for example, and somehow because it’s from a male perspective, focusing on the male vantage point, it’s seen as more serious, more legitimate than when women writers write about domesticity.

“Many male writers write about domestic spaces and it’s seen as the height of intellectualism and experimentalism, more legitimate than when women writers write about domesticity.” — @bhurley

Moral judgment would be passed on a character who is a mother who does something transgressive like leave a child, even temporarily, to just to get away, and who is not thinking about her child at all times. The stakes are so high for a female character who has a child.

I hope that my daughter will be proud of the work I do. I want her to see me working and to see writing as a major part of my life, something that’s part of my identity.

“I love a woman writer who’s willing to engage with a little bit of cruelty, a thin edge between tenderness and viciousness.” — @bhurley

Motherhood is changing my writing about girlhood; particularly, I’m seeing how fiercely girls want to become—to grow and to become themselves. Even at my daughter’s young age, I can see it in her desires and in the way she’s trying to figure things out and how she gets excited when she’s masters a new skill. It’s a powerful desire to become, which I find deeply moving to witness, and I feel honored to witness.

When I’m writing characters, I want to try to capture that desire and that process of becoming. Everyone wants to become—and when girls are wanting to become, it’s seen as a dangerous thing. There’s something dangerous about a girl who wants something for herself, who wants to transform. I hope to write characters that have that ferocity of desire, and to engage with its danger and risk.

“There’s something dangerous about a girl who wants something for herself.” — @bhurley

Before I became a mother, I thought I would feel resentment, like I was a prisoner unable to work and I would feel horrible about it. But actually, it’s more insidious than that, because I’m too busy feeling joyful with my baby. That’s why the work is not getting done. I’m the jailer. I’m the one keeping myself from writing. I did not expect that at all. The happy aspects of parenting are actually the ones preventing me from being productive right now.

My husband and I have devised a system where we each have one day a week that we’re the primary parent to give the other partner the chance to work.

It takes a concerted effort to find that quiet place I think is essential for good writing. If you’re only trying to write in little bits while feeding the baby, I don’t think you’ll be able to arrive at bolder and deeper and darker ideas.

“It’s important to have unfettered time, however you manage it, and to do your best to honor that time and only focus on writing.” — @bhurley

It’s tempting to feel that any time you take for yourself, you’re taking it away from your child. That can be heartbreaking. I think a lot of women feel that, and it’s so unfortunate because it’s an illusion. It’s so important for women to feel okay about valuing their work and valuing themselves. And ultimately, it’s important for their children to see their mother valuing herself and valuing her work.

We need breathing spaces; we need to have private and quiet spaces for our own growth. I’m trying to remember that it’s good for my child to allow her these spaces. Even in these few months, I’ve seen how it’s usually the moment I take a little step back that she learns a new skill. A silly example: I kept trying to guide her hands and guide her hands to help her hold her sippy cup, and finally, I said, “You figure it out.” And then she did.

Amy Shearn

So much of being creative is giving up control and letting in a little bit of wildness.

(October 15, 2020) Amy Shearn is the author of the novels Unseen City, The Mermaid of Brooklyn, and How Far Is the Ocean From Here. She is a senior editor at Forge and a fiction editor at Joyland, and her work has appeared in the New York Times, SlateLiterary Hub, and many other publications. Amy has an MFA from the University of Minnesota, and lives in Brooklyn with her two children.


Amy’s website

Amy’s books
Unseen City (Red Hen Press, 2020)
The Mermaid of Brooklyn (Touchstone, 2013)
How Far is the Ocean From Here (Crown, 2008)

Forge, Medium’s publication on personal development

Amy’s feature on stoicism: Forge, “What Happens When You Go Full Stoic”

Norma Jean the Termite Queen, Sheila Ballantyne (Doubleday & Company, 1975)

The Barter, Siobhan Adcock (Penguin Random House, 2014)

The Days of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions, 2005)

Forty Rooms, Olga Grushin (Penguin Random House, 2016)

100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write, Sarah Ruhl (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015)

Lenka Clayton’s Artist Residency in Motherhood

The Resort: A workspace outside the home with virtual monthly memberships, craft talks, and accountability groups

sound bites

The practice of giving up what you can’t control is so useful in this time when there’s so much that’s crazy and stressful that I am not in control of, as powerful as I am.

I’m aware of how much my daughter is watching me, and I think about the kind of woman and mother I want her to be—or feel like she has to be. I would never want her to grow up and think, “Oh my God, I have to do everything perfectly.”

“So much of being creative is giving up control and letting in a little bit of wildness.” — @amyshearn

If you’re going to have kids, sit down with your partner and have a real conversation. Tell them, “I am going to need this much time to work on my writing. When are we going to make that happen?”

Something I think is hard about writing as a mother is that your goal as a mother is to make things pleasant and take care of people—but in writing, it’s much better if you’re not trying to be pleasant. You’re trying to be as honest and real as possible.

People think your main character is you, no matter what. It’s insulting because there’s a subtext of, “How could a woman really create something from scratch? Obviously, she’s just writing about herself.”

“There’s amazing intimacy in the relationship between the writer and the reader who never meet each other. It’s almost otherworldly.” — @amyshearn

We’re in a moment where historic numbers of women are dropping out of the workplace. The husband’s career is being prioritized, and that’s not a failing on the part of women; the system has failed.

“There’s such dissonance in the way many of us live so disconnected from our mammal selves. I was working at an office, not seeing sunlight or breathing air—and also growing a person in my guts. That’s bananas.” — @amyshearn

Life is not interrupting the work; life is the work.