Motherhood & Words

Thank you to all the mother writers who submitted essays as part of the Use Your Words virtual book tour.

And congratulations to the finalists!! I’m so grateful for your words. One essay celebrated the birth of a third child, a son. One described the bittersweet and terrifying preparation of leaving the NICU with oxygen tanks and medical equipment in tow. In one essay, a mother came to terms with letting go of her son the day before he left for college. In another, a mother learned to slow down and really listen as she waited for her son to communicate with her. One mother held her feverish daughter and thought of her other baby who died. One mother wrote of the extraordinary bond she witnesses between her twin daughters. Another wrote about her mother, who started a cake fight with her and a friend when they were teenagers. Another described the way she uses her body to create a safe haven for her daughter, just as her mother had done for her. These essays celebrate children and families. They are about love and longing, sadness, grief, and those small moments of imaginable joy we experience with our children.

It was such a difficult decision to choose a winner. I sat on the plane on the way back from New York, laptop open on my legs, reading and rereading each of the pieces, reading them in a different order, and in the same order again. Putting them aside and rereading them later in the evening.

In the end, I chose two runners-up and one winner.

The runners-up are….

Kati Harr for her character sketches. She submitted through Rachel Turiel’s wonderful 6512 and Growing. I love Kati’s detail, and how I feel as if I know (and can see) her adorable son and his yolky smile in these paragraphs. Wonderful writing, Kati!

And Heather Chaet for the motherhood model piece she submitted through Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s fabulous Ivy League Insecurities. I love how Heather’s experience with her mother (and the love with which her mother cared for her) is mirrored in her own mothering. Lovely, Heather!

And the winner is Sara Barry for her essay about cooking peaches, which she submitted to Heather King’s amazing Extraordinary Ordinary. As Sara stands in front of bubbling pots of peaches, she is taken back four years, to the time she made peach jam when her infant son was in the other room. It is a piece about loss and normalcy, and about wanting to recapture moments that are out of reach. Thank you, Sara, for your beautiful writing and for sharing your short time with Henry with us. Read Sara’s essay on Literary Mama’s blog!

Thank you to everyone for participating, for writing your lives and sharing your words with me. Your words make a difference in the world!

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Sara on June 8, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Kate, thank you. I am enjoying the book and appreciated having a little extra inspiration to sit down and put words on paper. I

    • Kate on June 12, 2012 at 9:26 am

      Congratulations, again, Sara! I look forward to talking/skyping with you!!