I am thrilled to be included as a stop in the Literary Mama Blogging Book Tour. This newly released anthology of "reading for the maternally inclined" was edited by Andrea J. Buchanan and Amy Hudock, the managing editor and editor-in-chief respectively of the incomparable online magazine literarymama.com. The magazine was born when, "given the dearth of outlets for motherhood literature (they) decided to create the place (they) wanted to find, with the kind of writing (they) wanted to read...an online literary magazine of writing about motherhood" (xiv). Literarymama.com (click link below) is now a nationally recognized publication and inspirational force of nature; for the book, Buchanan and Hudock compiled over 50 pieces of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction culled from the past two years of writing on the site. The book is broken down into seven sections: Creative Acts; Mothers Raising Women, Defining Mothering; Mothers Raising Men, Exploring Mothering; Sex, Fertility, and the Body; Mothers, Fathers, Parents; Surviving Illness and Loss; and Healing the Past to Live in the Present. Each piece is short enough, any mom (or dad) could squeeze one in between feedings, changings, bathing, driving carpool, succumbing to laundry, or (if you have more than one daughter, as I do) between sessions of unsnarling the tangled ends of thick cornsilk hair. As the Reviews editor for another incredible online magazine (www.naturalfamilyonline.com), I have more books cross my desk than you can imagine. However, I can say--without reservation--if you are a mother and you'll only buy one book this year, buy this one and be exposed to a variety of genres and forms--and, prepare yourself, it just might illuminate the seemingly mundane details of life with children until you never quite look at it the same way again.
In 1996, I was under 21, halfway through college, already calling myself a writer, and suddenly--to my great surprise--the mother of a blue-eyed girl. Almost immediately upon seeing the second pink line on the pregnancy test, I turned to books to chart my course through the unmapped wilds of mothering. What I found was an empty vastness beyond the What to Expect and 20,000 Baby Names books. I was looking to be fed--but left hungry. I wrote my way into the depths, grateful for the few path markers I found--like Louise Erdrich's lyrical memoir, The Blue Jay's Dance (1995) or Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions (1993), which was a gritty and beautiful look at new motherhood. I also devoured MotherSongs (1995), an anthology of poetry, until it was dog-eared and falling to pieces. There were other books out there--but, they were few and far between, out of print, or difficult to find. By the time I gave birth for the second time in 2000, there had been a literary explosion of mother-centric writing and I was elated to see women giving voice to this transcendent experience. Now a mama of three and a published writer, I seek out writing about mothers and their creative process. I read articles, blogs, and books by incandescent women balancing babies and literature, toddlers and art shows, teenagers and editorial deadlines. These women inspire me--compel me--to move forward in my own process without a trace of competitive exclusion or bitterness. It's almost like, as mothers, we are forced open by our children, by the process of raising them and exposing them to the wide world. Since we hope the world will welcome our kids--we welcome other women into the creative life. There's always room at the table for one more--no matter her philosophies, beliefs, or choices. Books like the Literary Mama anthology set another place for diverse voices to join in the ongoing conversation.
Writers of the Literary Mama collection, I thank you. Ms. Buchanan and Ms. Hudock--my sincere appreciation for creating a forum and a book such as this. As I sat here this morning trying to decide which specific pieces I'd highlight, I waffled. Each piece clamored for attention--insisted on being given its due--until I could no more choose a favorite than I could among my own children. There are the serious pieces--the artistic and magical and ethereal--just like my oldest girl. Some are hysterical and high-energy and bold like my son. Still others break down barriers and defy expectations...and I think of my two year old daughter proudly proclaiming, "I a puppy!", then proceeding to spend the entire day on all fours, lapping up plates of food on the floor, and demanding to lick your face instead of kiss goodnight. In their introduction, the editors explain, "Our goal at Literary Mama is to take writing about motherhood seriously. By publishing writing exclusively by mothers, we assert that motherhood as a theme is worthy of great literature--and that mothers are capable of writing it. Our literary foremothers began this work generations ago. With Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined, we hope to further our role in midwifing the literary mothers of the future. For these are writers who do not deserve to be forgotten."
For this reader, at least, they never could be.