The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘A Letter to My Mom

Affirmations-366Days#57: I pay close attention to what readers tell me they love about my work. I follow these clues.
For new readers, here’s why I’m committing to writing affirmations, about the creative process, during the next 366 days.

People who love our work give us clues about what to write more of. Today I was in the gym and saw a writing acquaintance who I hadn’t seen in several months. Many years ago, we had been in the same prompt writing group started by one of my writing teachers, Marjorie Hudson. I loved her writing. In her writing, she mostly drew on her multifaceted experiences being a neonatal nurse for over thirty years. She didn’t consider herself a writer and despite our urging, in the end, decided to write mostly for her family.

She asked me what I was working on and I told her I was polishing a collection of short fiction and sending out more of my poetry. She said, “And you are writing a memoir, too, right?” I really haven’t written any creative non-fiction in some time. Then she said, “Have you done anything with that piece, ‘She Saved Me Once and I Tried to Save Her Twice’?” I was shocked that she remembered the name of this short piece, written now over five years ago, that I brought to class and read. It was the beginning of the story of how my mother saved my life and how I tried to save her life twice. A look of surprise crossed my face and I said something like, “I can’t believe you remember that.” And she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Of course I do; it was earth-shattering, honest, and unforgettable.” She held my gaze for a few moments. Wow! I told her that I had explored snippets of my mother and daughter journey in a brief essay I wrote for the book A Letter to My Mom that was published last year. I periodically think about writing that memoir, but it often goes on the back burner.

Different projects need different rhythms and complex levels of investment from us. So, I probably am not going to drop all my other projects to take up this one right now. But, on the other hand, I found her feedback to be so valuable and affirming. I also miss writing creative nonfiction now that I am not writing a monthly column anymore. And, people loved my columns. Sometimes I think we as writers are not always the best judges of what we should work on. It’s good to get direct feedback from people who enjoy our work. That can lead us in new directions, or back to cherished but languishing projects.

 

Have you received feedback from an enthusiastic reader that made you reconsider a past project or even writing into another genre?

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Themes about mothering and specifically the relationship between mothers and daughters tend to find their way into my creative work. Several of the stories, in the short story collection I am polishing, deeply explore the continuum of mothering relationships (e.g. biological moms, grandmothers, godmothers, aunties, etc.).

In my recent non-fiction work, I celebrate the courageous spirit of my mother in the just released A Letter to My Mom.

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In fiction, I love reading about mothering relationships that are a bit off balance, unusual or difficult. There are some mother characters that have stayed with me long after I put the book down.

I’m thinking of the complex figure of ‘Elphaba’ in Gregory Maguire’s brilliant retelling of the Wicked Witch of Oz story in Wicked. Elphaba didn’t want to be a mother and for most of the book denies that she is responsible for Liir, a young boy. She is an absent, wayward and troubled mother. Although the second book, Son of a Witch, confirms that Liir is indeed Elphaba’s son, I appreciate how Maguire challenges ideas about the ability to mother as innate and easy.

In Beauty, Sheri Tepper’s stunning mythic novel, the main character Beauty is half fairy and half human and is the important player in an elaborate effort to save humankind (although she does not know this at the beginning of the novel).

Beauty is on a quest to find her mother (a fairy) who abandoned her when she was a baby. The novel begins in the 15th century and her journey propels Beauty through multiple time periods including the 20th century. Through Beauty’s quest, Tepper is able to have Beauty experience and shape key ‘fairy tales’ including Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White. When Beauty finally finds her mother, she must confront her mother’s divided sympathies. This book takes up questions of loyalty, love and abandonment.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver tackles the question of: How do different people view an unusual event in nature? Is it a disaster? Is it a miracle? Is it a sign of life out of balance? Kingsolver explores these questions through the prisms of class, region, science, love, loyalty and family.

Kingsolver’s main character, Dellarobia Turnbow, is someone who has been let down in many parts of her life. She got pregnant young, married the wrong guy, is tolerated by her in-laws, doesn’t like church and is constantly overwhelmed as a housewife and mother. The novel opens as she is about to take a drastic step to escape her unfulfilled life when she comes face to face with an experience that will shape and redefine her in unimaginable ways. This book provides some of the best descriptions of the physical and emotional labor of raising small children and how that often allows little time for self-introspection. I also love how trust and rapport develop between Dellarobia and her mother-in-law, Hester, who begins as an unsympathetic character.

Do mother figures and/or themes about mothering show up in your creative work? If so, how? What are some of your favorite mother figures in fiction?

 

I just received my beautiful copy of A Letter to My Mom! It is a tribute to the women who shape us into the people we become.

My love letter to my courageous mother is next to letters from Suze Orman, Dr. Phil McGraw, Melissa Rivers, Lisa Ling, Dr. Jennifer Arnold and many other amazing sons and daughters. In this third installment of the A Letter to My series…(following A Letter to My Dog and A Letter to My Cat), over sixty contributors share letters that chronicle the love, gratitude, silliness, fun and even conflict that define mother and child relationships. I am honored to be part of this collection.

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My writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson (author of Accidental Birds in the Carolinas) encourages students to ‘find their territory’, to explore the kinds of unique themes and challenges that only they can write about.

The relationship with my mother is definitely my territory. In 2013, I started exploring a snippet of my mother’s life which involved a great act of courage that changed the course of our lives. Since that time, I have continued thinking about the intersection of my life and hers. I am constantly surveying that rich and fertile ground. My mother is no longer living, so writing about her is one way that I can keep her memory alive.

When I saw the call for ‘A Letter to My Mom’, I decided to submit my very personal story. The editor and creator of the A Letter to My series, Lisa Erspamer and her team were amazing. They treated my narrative (and I assume all the others), with great care, respect and unabashed enthusiasm.

A Letter to My Mom is so inspiring and the layout of the book is beautiful. Each entry is accompanied by photos. It’s a great gift for Mother’s Day.

Join us on Twitter and spread gratitude to moms around the world ‪#‎ALetterToMyMom

Also, check out a GREAT contest to thank readers: A Mother’s Day Spa Giveaway! You can win a $250 spa day to spend with your mom!

Want to write your own love letter to your mom? You can! They are looking for letters to post on the blog.

Find out more about the book here.


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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