Motherhood & Words

AWP Re-cap

I knew that February was going to be a whirlwind, and it was. But it was also a month that energized and inspired my writing and teaching. Between my Motherhood & Words retreat (Thank you, ladies, for your wonderful writing, your bravery, and your laughter!), and AWP (less than a week later), I’m ready to, as my new Rumpus mug says, “write like a motherf*&ker.”

If you haven’t been to AWP, be warned—it’s mayhem (especially at the hotel bar on Friday afternoon.) There were over 10,000 people there this year, which made the bar (and the elevator) extremely crowded.

But in addition to being overwhelmingly packed, AWP is also invigorating, inspiring, and just plain fun. I divided my time between reconnecting with friends, meeting new friends (and meeting friends in person who I previously only knew online), attending panels, and sleeping, though unfortunately I woke up at 5 a.m. every morning even though I was traveling without the small person who usually wakes me with a jab to my stomach with her foot.

I loved the panel about writing for both adult and children with Julie Schumacher, Sheila O’Connor, Geoff Herbach, and Margaret MacMullan, in which they discussed the joys (sales, learning to plot!) and challenges (people don’t take you as seriously) of writing for children and young adults. I also loved the Q & A panel facilitated by Barrie Jean Borich with Cheryl Strayed, Bonnie J. Rough, Ira Sukrungruang, and Ryan Van Meter. They talked about debuts of their first nonfiction books. (Stay tuned for more about Cheryl Strayed’s forthcoming memoir, Wild. She’ll be visiting the Twin Cities in April.)

I also had a blast on the panel “Barefoot, Pregnant and at the Writer’s Desk: Managing Motherhood and the Writing Life,” which was pulled together by the lovely Kate St. Vincent Vogl. What an honor to sit on a panel with Kate, Hope Edelman, Jill McCorkle, and Katy Read. The room was packed, which, after spending years promoting and teaching motherhood literature, was so incredibly gratifying for me. You can read a recap of our panel by Betsy Andrews Etchart on Brevity’s blog.

The energy in Chicago is still with me, even after two birthday parties (kid and family parties for little Z), a full week of work, and some kind of stomach flu that laid me out yesterday. Still, I’m ready to embrace the unseasonably warm weather and then write like a mother(f*&ker).

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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.