Motherhood & Words

I spent the last few days at Faith’s Lodge, leading my winter Motherhood & Words retreat. As always, it was a weekend filled with words—some funny, some difficult to speak aloud. As always, it was inspiring to sit in a circle of amazing women and talk and laugh and cry and share delicious meals and glasses of wine. As always, it confirmed for me that I’m doing the work I need to be doing. As always, I returned home exhausted.

This morning, after the girls and Donny had left for the day, I turned to my Headspace app, knowing I needed some grounding. And then twenty minutes later, feeling quieter inside, I made myself another cappuccino (decaf), and sat down at my desk to catch up on things. That’s when I noticed the letter that had arrived over the weekend from a friend and former student.

I slit open the envelope to find a postcard. On its front is a photograph of a pile of fishing nets in brilliant pinks and blood reds and soft purples. In the top right corner, there is a woman’s hand, only her four fingers visible, pressing into the pile of nets. I stared at it for a long time, lost in those rich colors all spilling into each other, wondering at the woman whose hand is there, just barely visible. And then I turned it over to read my friend’s lovely note inquiring about my health and detailing where she is at with her reading and writing. I smiled as I read, grateful for these communications that continue to connect us long after she was my student and I was her teacher.

I turned it over again and stared at those brilliant fishing nets a little longer and then I read her note again, stopping at this line: “I miss finding your voice in my inbox.”

I had actually started a blog post two weeks ago, and then tried to revisit it last week, but my dad had fallen, and though he is okay—luckily, amazingly—there was still a short hospital stay and appointments and worries. And then prep for my retreat and the retreat itself. On the horizon this week are: a large editing project, catch-up for the online class I’m teaching right now, logistics to attend to for my annual Motherhood & Words reading (April 16th—mark your calendars!), and Zoë’s eight birthday (how can she be 8 already?).

But as I held my friend’s beautiful postcard in my hand, mesmerized by the those brilliant colors on one side and her gentle words on the other, I realized that this week before I do anything else, I need to spend time on my own writing, need to nurture my voice the way I nurture my students’ voices. So before I get to any of those other things today, I’m going dip back into my novel and give myself the space that I’m so dedicated in carving out for others. Thank you, S, for the reminder I didn’t know I needed.

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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. Nancy Schatz Alton on February 29, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Oh, Kate, this is lovely. I’m so glad your dad is OK. Hearing your news reminds me how we are all a net for each other, even if we are loosely connected. How hearing of your dad reminds me of how my brother learned from him and admires him, how we met and talking and connected, how I saw your post today and just reading the headline reminded me that it’s OK that my own memoir is in it’s dormant period before I pick it up (I have at least ten years to finish it). All this, all this, and that image of the net, an image I keep coming back to in my own life right now. Sending love to you.

    • Kate on February 29, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Oh Nancy, thank you for this. I love how you put it: “we are all a net for each other.” Lovely. And it IS okay that your letting your memoir rest for now. We need those breaks in order to come back energized and see the material with fresh eyes. Sending love right back at you!

  2. Sue on February 29, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    There is magic in this letter writing and the sharing of our voices, in whatever manner moves us at the time. Happy you are diving back in to your own writing-sometimes we all need a nudge. I bet the retreat was amazing.

    • Kate on February 29, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      I wish you could have been there, Sue! Another time! And yes, we all need a nudge now and again.

  3. Sara on February 29, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Ah, so good to see you here 🙂 And you’ve inspired me. It is late, but I am going to sit down and write on the prompt that I shared with my newly formed online writing group the other day and haven’t gotten to yet.

    And someday I will be at your retreat. (And if I’m lucky Sue will be at the same one.)

    • Kate on March 1, 2016 at 8:45 am

      Sara, thank you!! And yes, you and Sue together at a retreat. It would be amazing! Good for you for sitting down to write last night! xox

  4. Marilyn Bousquin on March 2, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    Such a beautiful reminder that connection is to ourselves and to others has the power to lead us back to the page. Beautiful post, Kate. Love, M

    • Kate on March 9, 2016 at 1:15 pm

      Thank you, Marilyn! xoxox K

  5. Nina on March 4, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    I love to see your words in any form. I hope you got some pages done though. I know how it can feel to work on everyone’s stuff but yours.

    • Kate on March 9, 2016 at 1:15 pm

      Thanks, Nina! And yes, I did!

  6. Lisa Witz on April 14, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    I love that the visual on the postcard really caught your eye, and allowed you to pause for a moment. Its amazing how we live such a busy, overstimulated lifestyle that rushes us by sensorial things like the colorful fishing nets. So glad you got to “see” them and take time to write! I love, too, that you keep it real, reminding us of the deliberate effort it takes to write.

    • Kate on April 14, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      Thank you, Lisa! It can be so challenging to be open to letting those tiny beautiful things in. But it’s worth it when I can manage it!