Meagan McGovern

“The only things that matter are your time and attention. If I put my time and attention to having a perfect house or to making others approve of me, that’s where my life will be spent. I don’t have any interest in that.”

(March 3, 2021) Meagan McGovern writes fierce, funny, and true stories about the American food system, homeschooling, social justice, and the odd quirks of American life. She lives on a farm teetering on the far edge of the country in Washington state, raising beef, chickens, and children. She recently went viral in braids and a Target prairie dress, but her children, 10, 16 and 20, don’t think it’s nearly as funny as she does. She’s just finished a memoir about growing up on the run with a mother who was a con artist. She describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: “Everything is copy.”

Meagan McGovern on Medium
Meagan on homeschooling
Meagan’s viral Facebook post
Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Violence Against Women Act
Black Lives Matter

sound bites

Every single job that was lost in the pandemic was a woman, and every single mother had to deal with childcare.

If you had said to somebody five years ago, you’re gonna be at the point where Donald Trump is president, you’re fighting over toilet paper in the middle of a plague in the middle of an economic collapse, and there going to be people storming the Capitol … I’ve had enough of the dystopian science fiction novels for one day.

My children are odd birds, all of them. But they’re my odd birds. They’re my little flock, and we do what we do to get through.

I am all over the place. I am out in the garden while I’m also cooking, while I’m also supposed to be writing a book when I’m doing an interview, while I’m also homeschooling. If somebody asks me what I do for a living, I have no idea.

“My kids were challenging, so I stopped working for money and started working for my kids instead.”

I watched my three siblings and took care of them, cooked and cleaned and did all of that and swore I would never have children. I was never going to take care of little kids.

Living with my mother, you never knew which way was up and you didn’t know when you got home if the electricity was going to be on and if you were going to be having a playdate with your friend, or if there was gonna be a moving van in the driveway.

I always wanted to have an adventure. I wanted to do my own life, get away from my family, not be stuck as being identified as the oldest McGovern girl. I wanted to go find myself. I met my husband—sadly and wonderfully, I met my husband—and that was the end of that idea.

“I build all the castles in the air, and my husband runs around under my castles, trying to build foundations.” — @meaganmcgovern

When I met my husband, I said, “It turns out I didn’t want any children, I want your children—you.”

My son was, like, the world’s leading expert on the platypus for seven-year-olds for a long time, and we went to every museum to see every Australian animal we could find, we went to the kangaroo places, we did a marine mammal study because he was into orcas for a while.

I have felt not silenced by Facebook with having more followers, but certainly the depth becomes shallower. I find myself talking about things like gardening and cooking more, which are pretty innocuous topics, but they’re safe and they’re connectable. Gardening is relatable. My politics, maybe not so much.

“Homeschooling is not at home, and it’s not schooling. You are the contractor; you are not the builder. If you consider that an education is a home in the analogy, every child needs something different.” — @meaganmcgovern

“People who think they can’t homeschool think that homeschooling is sitting in front of your kids trying to teach them, and I don’t teach my kids anything. I get out of the way and let them learn what they want to learn.” — @meaganmcgovern

I think school’s old fashioned. School is outdated. The idea that any child can’t choose what they want to learn is horrific to me.

“Homeschooling doesn’t look the same for everybody. If it does, you’re doing it wrong. School is a way to teach 30 kids at once. Homeschooling is customizing an education for each child.” — @meaganmcgovern

Those who are homeschooling during the pandemic don’t get to see homeschooling. They see the worst of it. I like homeschooling when we have park day. In this group that we’re in, we have homeschool skiing, we have homeschool ice skating, homeschool roller skating, park day, archery club, chess club, math club. I ran three different book clubs. We have a homeschool for each group with goats. None of the people who are pandemic homeschooling will ever see the best part.

“There’s nothing wrong with going down 100 different paths to find out what you want to do and follow your passions.” — @meaganmcgovern

You always hear how Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were good friends, and they’d talk about the writing at Oxford and everything, but nobody ever said to them, “When do you feed your kids?” and, “When do you do the cooking and grocery shopping and your laundry?”

“Tolkien had four kids under 10 when he was writing Lord of the Rings, and he didn’t do laundry.” — @meaganmcgovern

“Your life doesn’t have to look like other people’s lives.” — @meaganmcgovern

“The only things that matter are your time and attention. If I put my time and attention to having a perfect house or to making others approve of me, that’s where my life will be spent. I don’t have any interest in that.” — @meaganmcgovern

I don’t have a lot of time for writing, but I do make it a priority. Even if it’s only 30 to 40 minutes of sitting down and fleshing out an idea or working on one chapter, I think it’s worth putting my time and attention into something that has value. Because otherwise, I’m useless. I’m not good to other people. I’m not a good mother, I’m not a good wife, I’m not a good friend. I’m stuck. I am never more miserable and unhappy and grumpy and nasty as somebody who is taking care of others and there’s no light for myself. I would much rather be a happy, easygoing mother with dishes in the sink.

“Just because other people figured out how to use hangers doesn’t mean I’m ever gonna figure it out. I mean, there’s certain things I just don’t want to spend my time doing.” — @meaganmcgovern

Your life doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s, but if you want friends, you kind of have to know what people are gonna think is creepy and off kilter. I do try to do the bare minimum to fit into basic society.

“If Target wants a great outfit to sell instead of the prairie dress, they should sell the Zoom outfit: fancy on top and sweatpants on the bottom with big pockets—stain-proof, wine-proof, coffee-proof.” — @meaganmcgovern

“There are things I’m never gonna do again. I’m never gonna wear high heels. I’m never gonna wear pantyhose. I’m never gonna do false eyelashes. And I’m okay with that. I can live with that as my legacy.” — @meaganmcgovern

Beth Ann Fennelly

Our view of motherhood is still this post-romantic vision of the mom feeling nothing but bliss for her child, completely content in the relationship, desiring nothing more. I think portraying motherhood that way allows new mothers, in particular, to feel like they’re insane.

(February 25, 2021) Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi, is a 2020 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow and teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Mississippi. She has received grants and awards from the N.E.A., the United States Artists, a Pushcart, and a Fulbright to Brazil, and has published three books of poetry: Open HouseTender Hooks, and Unmentionables, all with W. W. Norton. Beth Ann’s poetry has been in over fifty anthologies, including Best American Poetry and The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, and in textbooks. She is also the author of a book of essays, Great With Child: Letters to a Young Mother. Beth Ann lives with her husband and their three children in Oxford, Mississippi, and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as, “monstrous, magical, mind-bending.”


Beth Ann Fennelly’s website
Beth Ann’s Books
Beth Ann’s Washington Post article about her mother, “As the pandemic raged, my independent mother’s memory worsened, her isolation increased — and I was far away”
Emily Dickinson, “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?”
Denise Duhamel, “Bulimia”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

sound bites

“I just want to go back to a barter society where if I want a hamburger, I’ll write you a haiku.”

When you’re a writer, you get used to being vulnerable and honest, and I really value honesty. I’m interested in explicating my emotions to try to figure out what the truth is and valuing the truth almost above anything else.

When I was in high school, a Catholic, all-girls boarding school, writing was something you did to be a lady. It was like a finishing school thing. We weren’t exposed to contemporary writing or poetry at all. The only Emily Dickinson poem we read was, “I’m Nobody! Who are you? / Are you – Nobody – too?”

I remember reading a poem by Denise Duhamel about a bulimic woman eating a wedding cake, and it was so shocking to me that there was vomit in a poem. I just couldn’t believe that someone had written something that was so intimate and personal and revealing. It was a door into the path that I was going to follow, where I wasn’t interested in any type of mask. I was interested in figuring out how I feel and how other people feel and what we’re doing here on planet Earth.

I memorize poems and recite them to myself and train my ear through the art of hearing the words coming up my windpipe and out of my mouth. Writing is physical—as physical and rhythmic as dancing. Human beings are rhythmic creatures; our patterns of eating and breathing and sleeping and making love. When we’re writing, we’re putting our bodies back in touch with the old ways, the rhythmic, natural world, and finding pleasure there.

Before I was a mom, when I wanted to write, I had to have my desk clean and my favorite pen and the right mental space. Now, looking back, it was so precious to me. When I became a mom and my time got so attenuated and condensed into these weird little pockets, I would lunge into any opening that presented itself. I didn’t care if my desk was clean. I didn’t even notice.

Motherhood allowed me to focus more quickly because I only had these pockets of time. I didn’t waste time. I was able to get more quickly into the heart of something.

Motherhood made me a deeper human being. I don’t think you have to become a mom to be a deeper human being; there are plenty of people who choose not to, or can’t, become moms. For me, personally, I think it deepens my connection to history, to genealogy, to the future, and to the past, and it made me feel more a part of the world around me. That was ultimately beneficial for my writing.

I’m a research-type person, a Type-A, an A student, so when I got pregnant, I thought, “I want to be really good mom—I want to get an A—so I’ll just study. I’ll read. I’ll approach it like a Ph.D. exam.” I read the books so when my daughter would come, I would have no questions; I would have this nailed. And of course, I was completely unprepared, emotionally and psychologically, for all the shifts that I was going through. I was filled with questions. Writing is the best method of articulating my questions to myself and trying to understand my own emotions. I think it’s hard work to know how you feel in a certain situation. I use words to help me do that work.

I’m trying to explore some of the funnier parts of motherhood, which is not written about all that much, maybe because it’s a private space, but it’s also a sacred space and a romanticized and frequently sentimentalized space, which is dangerous. To sentimentalize something is to simplify it and weaken it. I write about some of the complexity of motherhood, and there’s a lot about it that’s funny, because we’re only allowed to talk about certain parts of it in a way that’s socially acceptable.

It turns out, despite my best intentions, I’m always going to be circling around motherhood but through different genres, approaches, and names.

I wrote this tiny piece about the first day at daycare, when my daughter comes home smelling like another woman’s perfume. I had this sense of betrayal, of jealousy that another woman had held her that close. That’s a crazy, crazy emotion, but it’s also an honest emotion. That’s interesting to me, because it’s not so often represented as a part of motherhood.

Our view of motherhood is still this post-romantic vision of the mom feeling nothing but bliss for her child, completely content in the relationship, desiring nothing more. I think portraying motherhood that way allows new mothers, in particular, to feel like they’re insane.

It has not been portrayed how messy and sometimes painful and crazy breastfeeding is. When you’re in it, there’s so much about it that’s hard and gross and amazingly blissful and mind-blowingly profound. It’s like all the complexity has just been sanded off so that what remains is the woman in the beautiful nightgown holding her sweetly suckling baby, and that’s like 1% of it.

Sometimes women talk about reading my books in the hospital after giving birth, and it’s a cool thought that someone would want my voice with them in that very vulnerable moment.

“We have no ethos that has presented the complexity of motherhood and validated the true emotional and physical difficulty of a lot of it.”

It’s a fascinating, complex mechanism that’s always changing—this growth organism of the family. I think if I got it figured it out, I would stop writing about it. But unfortunately, or fortunately, that will never happen.

When I was in graduate school, everybody was writing about the Greek myths—like, here’s my Perseus poem, as if I care. All the books that were lauded, that giant novel, the Hemingway, Roth/Franzen model, or the novel that’s about war … all the drama that is in those books that people are seeking elsewhere through fighting Odysseus, or whatever, is in motherhood. There’s so much drama in the act of being a mom. It’s all there.

In motherhood, your boundaries are exploded and your capacity for joy is exploding, your capacity for fear is exploding—you’ve never felt such extremes before. I never was someone who yelled until I had my second child. There are new emotions, new actions, not all of which are pretty, new fears—all of the hugeness of this crazy thing that is so everyday, and all around us people are doing it, and yet we somehow aren’t quite aware of how miraculous it is.

My problem is I want to do everything well. I want to be not just a mom but a really good mom, and not just a writer but a really good writer. I want to be really good friend, and I want to be really good teacher. I want to do service work and be a good human being. You can’t be good at everything, but some days, I’m good at one thing and not another. Some days I’m not such a good mom, but I’m a good writer. Other days, I’m really giving it all to my teaching and then I’m exhausted when I come home. I try to keep it in balance in the bigger sense, instead of that micro-sense. I think it’s the No. 1 challenge of writing moms. I think it is the single most essential and unending discussion that we have.

The contract I have with myself is to be at my desk and in the right mental space, which means I cannot have checked email, I cannot have looked at internet banking—all the things that bring people into my life that need things, because if someone needs me, there’s something in me that has to start worrying about that. I just have to go to my desk as close to my dream life as possible. I do think that kind of dreamy headspace helps at the desk. If I’m there, and nothing happens—if I can’t write, that’s fine. I was there. That’s all I asked of myself. I’ll try again the next day.

Spending my time with my family or my writing or my friends or the arts—that’s what’s valuable to me, not a designer handbag. But if you live in a culture that’s always showing you designer handbags, and the only question you’re going to be asked today is “confirm purchase?” or “go to checkout,” you have to struggle to keep your eye on the prize, when the prize is time, beauty, and truth.

I try to keep in mind a statement by Emerson, who said, “Guard well your spare moments, for they’re like uncut diamonds. Spend them and they’re worth will never be known.” So, those moments that we give away, what could we have done with them? What could we have written? What amazing time could we have spent with our family? If we give it all away and use it up, we’ll never know what those moments could have been.

Kristin Bair

We have a wedding cabinet we brought back from China; it’s a huge thing that fits nowhere. I dreamed I was in it with a family of big, male lions. The goal was for me to survive, and I was like, “This is symbolic.”

(February 18, 2021) Kristin Bair is the author of the novel Agatha Arch Is Afraid of Everything. Under the name Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, she has published two novels, The Art of Floating and Thirsty, as well as numerous essays about China, bears, adoption, off-the-plot expats, and more. Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Baltimore Review, The Manifest-Station, Flying: Journal of Writing and Environment, The Christian Science Monitor, Poets & Writers Magazine, Writer’s Digest, and other publications. Kristin has an MFA from Columbia College Chicago and a BA from Indiana University, Bloomington. A native Pittsburgher, Kristin now lives north of Boston with her husband and two kids and describes writer-motherhood in three words as “Are they asleep?”


Kristin Bair’s Website
Kristin’s Books
Kristin’s article, “Why Some Women Wield Exclusion Like a Superpower,” Scary Mommy
Sara Teasdale


“Moms just muscle through, cleaning up the puke.”

Mothers’ groups are very complex entities. They’re wildly supportive and nurturing—and they can also just cut you to the quick in seconds.

Sometimes, moms in a group that’s intended to be public become very good friends. I think they should just close ranks and say, “We’re not really that group anymore; we’re really a group of friends who want to be together and aren’t really interested in new members.” That’s a fine thing—but I think you have to be clear about your intention.

Every Facebook moms’ group has a provocateur, somebody who provokes, who always says the thing that everybody’s thinking, but nobody says out loud.

I think moms have an inclination not to go too far toward any kind of negative emotion because of that protective mama bear thing.

I wasn’t raised in a house where we were taught to manage big feelings in really productive ways, so that’s something I’ve worked on over the years and explored on the page. As a mom now, trying to teach my kids how to process and express big feelings is not easy. You’re not born with that ability. It’s something you learn when it’s modeled and consciously taught. Now I have a 13-year-old with hormones who’s at the point when teens start to break away emotionally, but at the same time, having the surge of emotions. I’ve realized it’s not a lesson you learn once; it’s a lesson you learn over and over again in life.

When my 13-year-old starts getting very loud and expressive and can’t control her emotions, I remember that the teen brain is like a shaken snow globe, and you’re not going to be able to get through to them until the snow settles.

Judgment and exclusion starts so early. If there’s anything I wish I could get rid of in women’s lives, it would be that urge to exclude. It starts so young and it’s so hurtful. I see it already in my 13-year-old’s girl groups.

I announced when I was seven that I was a poet and nobody should bother me when I was working on my poems. My mom said, “You can’t be a poet.” And I said, “I am. What do you mean that I can’t? That’s just my life now.” And, it’s always stayed that way.

My first poem was about a hummingbird. I’d never seen a hummingbird.

At the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, I was writing both poetry and fiction, and a somewhat famous male poet told me that I couldn’t do both. That really froze me in my process of poetry. I remember that exact moment, the breakfast, what I was eating, and just how it stunned me and it was just so debilitating. It’s funny because I’m such a mouthy person otherwise, but when paternalistic buttheads would speak to me at that point, I’d crumble, which just pisses me off now. I’d love to call them up and let them have it. But, it did inform the way I teach. I’m so careful with what people are interested in writing, what they already write and what they hope their potential will be. And I never, ever say, “Nope, that’s not gonna work for you.” I hope that everybody always expands as opposed to shrinks.

We have a wedding cabinet we brought back from China; it’s a huge thing that fits nowhere. I dreamed that I was in it with a family of big, male lions. The goal was for me to survive, and I was like, “This is symbolic.” When the door opened, and I came out with the lions being my pals, I was like, “I’m gonna survive this damn pandemic.”

In China, you usually have somebody to help you out at home. I had a lot of time to both write and be a mom. In China, it was amazing to be able to do both fully, which rarely happens in the United States. I always tell my husband that I was a much better wife there, because I had time. I could be the best mom, the best writer—not in terms of the quality of my work, but the most productive—and also the best wife because I had time. I wasn’t strung out and exhausted and worried all the time. Here in the US, there’s no time. I’m not as good a wife. It was a real gift for five years that I don’t take lightly.

As women writers, we are not accustomed to being allowed the time to write. I don’t think male writers have that kind of weight of responsibility and emotional responsibility for a family.

I feel ashamed that I should even think that I deserve the ability to write every day without distraction, which is really truly the only thing I want to do. There’s shame and guilt even just saying it out loud.

People go back and forth on whether we are born writers. Different people probably have different experiences with that, but I have always firmly believed that I was born this way; that for whatever cosmic reason, I am supposed to be doing this. But, the world doesn’t exactly work with you on that, so I’ve gotta keep pushing against it.

Lori L. Tharps

Your books want all of you, and your kids want all of you. You have to figure it out.

(February 11, 2021) Lori L. Tharps is an author, journalist, educator, podcast host, and popular speaker who is inspired by the collision of culture and color and fueled by creativity and passion. Lori has served as writer and/or editor for magazines, including Glamour, Parents, and Essence, and has written for The New York TimesThe, and The Washington Post, among others. She is the author of the three nonfiction books, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in AmericaKinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain; and Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families and the author of the novel, Substitute Me. Lori has 3 kids and describes motherhood in 3 words as: “inspiring and exhausting.”


Lori L. Tharps’s Website
Lori’s Books
My American Melting Pot, Lori’s Blog & Podcast

This Year You Write Your Novel, Walter Mosley

Black Ice, Lorene Cary

Exile Music, Jennifer Steil

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, Joanna Ho


Because I come from deadline journalism, I give myself internal deadlines, like, “You have four hours to get this chapter done.”

I credit my children for endless sources of story ideas. Almost every book I’ve written has something to do with my children.

My kids have made me really efficient. I’ve watched people with no kids struggle to get that first book written, and I’m like, “Don’t ever look at me and say you don’t have time. I don’t feel sorry for you. If it’s important, you figure it out.”

If you’re working on a beautiful novel that needs slow work, it’s not the same as turning out nonfiction. There’s kind of a boom, boom, boom, boom, boom rhythm to nonfiction. Fiction is a little more like a slow cooker; you gotta let it marinate, and there’s no way you can speed it up. If you try to speed up a slow cooker, it doesn’t work. You get hard beans, raw meat.

“Fiction is a little more like a slow cooker; you gotta let it marinate. If you try to speed up a slow cooker, you get hard beans, raw meat.”

I credit my mom with making me a writer because when I was eight, she bought me an antique, big box, Remington typewriter. That’s when I fell in love with the idea of being a writer.

My mother was a nurse, a psychotherapist, a cultural anthropology professor—she was always getting new degrees. She had a subscription to Natural History magazine, and she could explain all things through the animal kingdom. My brother and I would ask, like, “Why is it wrong to have sex when you’re young?” and she’d be like, “Well, the badger…” There’s something about a badger having an erection for hours.

Some people would call my mom a liar. She’s not a liar at all; she just exaggerates a lot. She’d tell my siblings and I about a patient who lacerated his liver on the escalator because he didn’t tie his shoes. Now we all tell our kids to tie their shoes, like, “Don’t trip on the escalator, because you could lacerate your liver.”

My mom was busy, highly educated—in the sense that she was always going back to school for something or another—but she was such a good mom. She cooked, she baked, she sewed. She had three of us, and I never felt like my mom’s work was more important to her, even though I know her work was very important. She was saving people’s lives. We knew all her patients’ names. But I felt like she loved us so much. I never, ever felt like we were in the way. As an adult, I realized we were in the way. She could have done a lot more, but she never made us feel like that. I just feel so grateful that she made us a priority, even while she was pursuing her own passions.

You can be a writer and a mother, but to be a really good writer, you don’t want to have kids because you want to be completely consumed. I get completely consumed in my story, and I want to write, and I don’t want to go play in the snow with my daughter. When she asks, I’m like, “Not really, no. I want to finish revising my novel because I’m in it.” But then that means I’m not being a good mom.

Some people say your children want to see you happy. No, they don’t! They want to be happy. That’s bullshit. I think that is the biggest crock of dookie that anybody’s ever told somebody. Children are hardwired to be selfish; they don’t have that altruistic sense, like, “As long as my mom’s happy, I’m fine being ignored.”

They don’t want Mommy to go on this business trip. They want you home. That doesn’t mean that you can’t figure out how to go on the business trip or to the writer’s retreat or whatever you have to do, but don’t fool yourself by thinking your kid wants this for you. “They just they want to see me get the Pulitzer!” Uh-uh. Your books want all of you, and your kids want all of you. You have to figure it out.

“Your books want all of you, and your kids want all of you.”

Maybe your book isn’t as good as it could have been, had you been 100 percent in it all the time. But it’s probably good enough. And kids are super resilient, so if you slip up, it’s probably gonna be okay.

You can train your children that, “When Mommy’s in her writing room, you have to respect that.”

Your books are your children and your children are your children. If you have more than one, then you know that you have to give a Kid A solo time, and you’ve got to give Kid B solo time.

If there’s directions somewhere, my mom could fix a vacuum cleaner—although she did blow hole in the wall once.

My mom knows how to fold sheets perfectly. She knows how to do laundry and get the spots out. I buy my kids all dark blue clothes. That’s my secret tip.

I write because I want to make people feel seen.

One of my sons looks Black and one doesn’t. This is not just “Oh, haha, funny—maybe one needs more sunscreen than the other.” This is, “How do you tell one child that they’re a marked man, and the other one has the freedom and innocence of just being a child?” That’s not insignificant. How I dealt with it was to say both of my children are Black; the pigment in their skin doesn’t designate them as Black, so they both get the quote unquote “talk.” When they were much younger, I wasn’t telling them, “Keep your hands on the steering wheel.” That’s not where they were. I wasn’t willing to say, “You can’t wear hoodies.” I did not want to create a wedge between my sons about who was privileged and who wasn’t. We spent a lot of time normalizing the fact that our family members are all different colors and different hair textures.

The main thing is to make sure that your children feel confident and comfortable in the skin they’re in, because for one reason or another, they’re sure to be confronted about the way they look. If you have instilled in them that they are perfect, that this is the way that God made them, then they’ll be more prepared for whatever comes their way.

One of the psychologists I interviewed for the book used the term was Normalized Difference, like flowers in a garden. There’s roses and daisies and tulips and they’re all different colors, and that’s what makes the garden so beautiful. I find myself using a lot of that kind of phrasing when I talk to my daughter. That’s why we do things like, “You’re the color of a garbanzo, and you’re the color of a toasted almond, and what color do you think I am?” And she’d say “cinnamon-dusted hummus.”

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.”

Rachel Zucker

This is a call to women my age and older, particularly white women or women with privilege and power of any kind. Now is the moment. Do not let us go back to the worst part of what was before.

(January 28, 2021) Rachel Zucker is the author of 10 books, including, most recently, SoundMachine. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, MacDowell Colony and the Sustainable Arts Foundation, Zucker is an adjunct professor at New York University and at the Antioch Low Residency MFA program. Founder and host of the podcast Commonplace: Conversations with Poets (and Other People)Zucker is working on an immersive audio project (also called SoundMachine) and a book of lectures called The Poetics of Wrongness. She’s the mother of 3 boys ages 21, 20 and 13, and she describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: “attachment, attachment, attachment.”


Rachel Zucker’s website
Rachel’s books
Commonplace: Conversations with Poets (and Other People, Rachel’s podcast
MacDowell Colony
Sustainable Arts Foundation
Podcast: Appearances with Sharon Mashihi
Kaitlin Prest‘s podcasts The Shadows and The Heart
Sharon Olds
Claudia Rankine
Sarah Vap
Makenna Goodman, The Shame
Darcey Steinke, Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life
Sarah Manguso
Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement
In motherhood, Tillie Olsen famously said, “You’re so terribly interruptible.”
The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Katie Peterson (Check out the Writer Mother Monster conversation with Katie here!)


I’m trying to figure out how to date as a 49-year-old woman, during a pandemic, when I take COVID really seriously. I am basically Rip Van Winkle— like I woke up 25 years later, and I don’t know what Tinder is. How do female humans do this?

“I’ve been trying to do a better job of telling my kids how much I love to work and not feel horribly guilty about it.”

It’s so hard to have solidarity amongst women, amongst mothers. Motherhood is so intense at almost every stage. It’s hard to be interested in menopause when you’re obsessed, understandably, with sleep training. It’s hard to think about having sex after a hysterectomy in your late-40s after a divorce when your nipples hurt from breastfeeding. I’m desperate for wisdom, experience, advice from mothers who are half a generation older than I am, but it’s hard to have that conversation when we’re at such different stages.

Part of why I wanted to be a mother was that I wanted to do it differently than my mother had done it. One of the central damaging things was my mother was a writer and an artist, and I thought she chose her work over me. She was ambitious and did the best she could, but it wasn’t really good enough—and then she got divorced and ruined my life. I have a very different understanding of that now.

I’ve never been able to do what my mother did, which was to say, “I’m working now. Go away,” or to just go away herself. I have struggled with that so pointlessly.

It was one thing to teach, it was one thing to make money, it was one thing to fulfill a family obligation to go to a best friend’s wedding or something, but to go away to write was something that I couldn’t imagine.

You have to commit to many residencies for four weeks, so it’s really prohibitive to almost every mother that I know. I don’t think people think very hard about how exclusionary it is. Those residencies were basically created for men with tenure-track jobs who were on an academic calendar.

The McDowell Fellowship was a profound experience. It was the first time in my adult life that I didn’t have to make dinner every night, that somebody fed me. That was very emotional, actually, to be cared for in that way. I’d never had that experience—not from my mother, not from my father, certainly not from my husband.

I was less hirable than some other people for junior faculty positions, because by the time I was full on the job market, I had six books, I’d won awards, I was too old. Nobody knew what to do with me.

I’ve been trying to do a better job of telling my kids how much I love to work and not feel horribly guilty about it. That’s also a weird thing that I used to do when they were little, sort of act like it was not what I wanted.

With this whole helicopter mom thing, now we’re screwed because we’re too attentive. It’s never ending with the fault and the shame and the guilt. Kids also need limitations, and they need to be safe, and the world is so “horribly dangerous,” but if we keep them too safe, then they’re not going to be resilient. I mean, it’s impossible.

Prose, poetry, memoir, short story, creative nonfiction, essay, lyric essay, audio transcription–there was no one of those that was adequate to describing the experiences that I was trying to describe, which are primarily stories of motherhood. How do you record, or describe and communicate experiences that are internal or external, in the body, in the subconscious, the way you have the running tape in your mind all the time? The novel wasn’t really invented for that material.

“The person who made Candy Land should be killed.”

What kind of narrative structure or lyric structure can contain or embody what it means to be interruptible but also have a relationship with the reader in which you don’t seem psychotic?

People are so fucked up in their ideas about “you have to sleep with your child, you can’t sleep with your child, it’s incest, they’re never going to individuated.” And it’s like, everybody’s just trying to get some sleep and not feel abandoned.

“The problem is that the pandemic, so far, has made every vulnerable group more vulnerable, and the few people who were basically immune to everything that could possibly go wrong in a person’s life have made billions of dollars.”

I hope we can come out of the pandemic with real personal and, more importantly, institutional change. There are things that we should never go back to. There’s no reason for in-person parent-teacher conferences. Just be done with that. A lot of things are opening up in ways that, hopefully, will give people more accessibility, opportunity, and potential for an equal playing field. The problem is that the pandemic, so far, has made every vulnerable group more vulnerable, and the few people who were basically immune to everything that could possibly go wrong in a person’s life have made billions of dollars. And it’s really hard to protest right now safely, so that constellation of things is very concerning to me. How do we continue to dismantle capitalism, for example, and racism and white supremacy and things that exclude women and exclude mothers? Well, I think that a major societal disruption, which is what’s happened, is one of the things that we needed to make this happen. But how do we not slide back is really the question. It’s not primarily the job of mothers and parents with young children; it is primarily the job of people like me. I don’t know yet how to participate in that fight, to not slide back, to move forward. But it really has to be the work of women who don’t have young children at home, who are not struggling just make enough money or keep their jobs, so I don’t know yet how to do that work most successfully and powerfully. But I think this is a call to women my age and older, particularly white women or women with privilege and power of any kind. Now is the moment. Do not let us go back to the worst part of what was before.

“I hope we can come out of the pandemic with real personal and, more importantly, institutional change.”

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.

Tzynya Pinchback

Regardless of what I’m writing about, I want to start with beauty or end with beauty.

(November 12, 2020) Tzynya Pinchback writes poetry shaped like prose and essays that would rather be poems. She’s the author of How to Make Pink Confetti (Dancing Girl Press 2012) and her work appears in American Poetry Journal, Mom Egg Review, WOMR’s Poets Corner, and others. Tzynya is a finalist for 2020 Poet Laureate of Plymouth, Massachusetts, and mother to a 23-year-old daughter. She describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: PRIMAL. THEATER. SANCTUARY.


“In some weird way, getting cancer made me a better writer. It made me trust my voice more. It freed me up to write about whatever I wanted. So much of what I write is about what scares me.” — @Tzynya

Before motherhood, I was very eager. I wrote all the time, every day. It was urgent. It didn’t matter if I didn’t sleep, if I didn’t eat. It was something that I had to do all the time. When my daughter was born, I looked up one day, and I hadn’t written in a year. I couldn’t find the words to capture how big mothering was. It replaced the desire to write.

“I couldn’t find the words to capture how big mothering was. It replaced the desire to write.” — @Tzynya

In my mind, I would have one child walking beside me, one in a sling on my chest, and a double stroller. This was my fantasy. I would write at night when they were asleep and teach writing workshops. I’d be cooking from scratch and baking and sewing and just doing everything perfect. I had a very unrealistic idea of motherhood. When I first became a single mom, I let go of some of that.

So many things are out of control when you become a mother. When I was pregnant, I had my birthing plan spelled out to the T. I knew how I was going to give birth, how I was going to deliver, I wasn’t going to use any drugs, what I was going to wear—all the way down to my socks. None of that came to pass.

“Pain is a very interesting thing. It’s so violent. It’s loud. It’s obnoxious. So, I felt like my writing had to shrink.” — @Tzynya

The sicker I got, the more I wanted to find and write about beautiful things. When you’re really sick, you start to notice little things. Like, when you’re driving back from the cancer center, you notice a little 7-year-old skipping down the street, and you instantly remember that unbridled joy of skipping through a hopscotch pattern. Then I’d go home, and I write about that memory, drawing hopscotch in front of my house when I was a little girl.

Regardless of what I’m writing about, I want to start with beauty or end with beauty. That’s my dream, my motivation. It doesn’t matter if it’s an essay, poetry, fiction—I just really want there to be a starting point of something beautiful, even if the only beauty in the work is the language.

“Regardless of what I’m writing about, I want to start with beauty or end with beauty.” — @Tzynya

My story as Elizabeth’s mother diverges from her story, and there’s a line there. So, if I’m ever writing anything that I think may start to intrude on her narrative, then I will take it to her. I never want to, in telling my story, intrude on hers.

It’s a little overwhelming to think that my daughter is going to see me splayed out, writing about my flawed decisions. But at the same time, maybe it will help her when she has to make decisions. I would rather her understand how many mistakes I made, and how I went to bed every night doubting if I’d made the right decision. I think it’s great for her to understand that there’s no perfect way to be a mom or a woman or a human.

“It’s a little overwhelming to think that my daughter is going to see me splayed out, writing about my flawed decisions. But I think it’s great for her to understand that there’s no perfect way to be a mom or a woman or a human.” — @Tzynya

I always tell my daughter: Follow your heart, and follow it all the way through. Don’t give up on it. Don’t settle. You will have to compromise, because that’s life, but don’t settle. Just do what’s going to bring you joy and make you happy and make you solid and fulfilled at the end of the day.