Motherhood & Words

mother words reading — a recap

I want to thank everyone who came out on Thursday night to the 3rd Annual Mother Words reading. There were about a hundred people there, and it was so incredible to look out at and see all those familiar—and unfamiliar—faces. If you weren’t able to make this year, don’t worry. I will inundate you with details as the “who” and “when” become clear for next year’s reading.

The Loft, for those of you who don’t know, is situated in the Open Book, a wonderful space with a lovely auditorium—wood floors, brick walls and warm lighting. I can’t imagine a better place for a reading, and I’m grateful to the Loft for allowing us to use it. And, as I said in my opening comments on Thursday night, I am also very grateful to the Loft for taking a chance on me in 2006, when they first approved my Mother Words class. As many of you know, I developed Mother Words to create a place where women could come and have their writing about motherhood supported and critiqued and taken seriously as art. And it’s really from that class that this blog and the annual Mother Words reading were born. So I feel I owe a great debt to the Loft Literary Center.

After a warm welcome on Thursday from Jocelyn Hale, the executive director of the Loft, I introduced the reading and kicked it off with a section from Ready for Air. I went back and forth that afternoon, trying to decide whether I should read a chapter from the book or read a more recent and more intense essay. In the end, I went with the excerpt from the book, and I’m glad I did. People laughed, and I’d rather look up and see smiling faces than faces that are totally freaked out. (There will be a time for this essay, though; I promise you.)

Kate St. Vincent Vogl read second, and she read from the beginning of Lost and Found: A Memoir of Mothers, beginning with the phone call she received from her birth mother late one night, a few months after her mother died of cancer. Vicki Forman read third, and she read a section late in This Lovely Life, the heartbreaking and also very funny scene in which she and her husband are searching for a gravesite for Ellie’s ashes. Kate and Vicki were wonderful, and I felt honored to share the stage with them. And it was amazing to finally meet Vicki in person!

One of the questions asked during the Q & A had to do with humor and how Vicki and I both used humor in situations of crisis. I think it’s true that when you are in the midst of crisis, sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh. But as a writer, it’s also our jobs to give the reader a break sometimes. Vicki said that if you are working with particularly intense material, you need to be on the lookout for situations/moment/scenes that will bring levity to your writing.
I’m curious how other mother-writers incorporate humor into their writing. Does it come naturally or do you feel you have to craft it?

Here are a couple of photos from the night:

Thanks, again, to everyone who was there and to everyone who wished they could be there!!

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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. Ines on September 28, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Oh the place looks beautiful. The picture are too. Thank you.
    From someone who wishes she were there….(maybe, maybe next time this could be recorded?)

  2. Mary on September 28, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Sounds like it was a great evening — I too wish I could have been there!

  3. cath c on September 28, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    lovely, congratulations on a wonderful event!

    as to humor in writing a tough scene emotionally…i think it comes naturally for me. when things are getting so tough that i need a break is how humor happens. in life, it's the same.

  4. Leightongirl on September 28, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Fabulous! Thank you so much for inviting us, and for posting this, and for the pictures. It was an amazing evening and I feel so honored to have been there. Remember, writers: always say yes.

  5. Elizabeth on September 28, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Humor is what sustains me and it's difficult not to write with humor. At least for me. I guess I have an innate sense of the absurd. And as it pertains to tragedy, I've always loved what Mark Twain said: that behind all humor is tragedy.

  6. Carrie Pomeroy on September 28, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    I'm so glad you got such a great turnout. You look lovely in the photo. Wow–what a great thing for literary mama writing in our community. And I imagine it will just get bigger.

    I so wanted to come, but I had to face facts when we didn't leave Bridger's dodgeball class until 6:35 that evening. I'll look forward to next year. Wish I could have teleported to Open Book that night.

  7. The Blue Suitcase on September 29, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I wish I could have been there! I'm always worried that I don't offer the reader levity in the right places–or enough places, period. So for me, humor-in-the-heavy has to be crafted.

  8. Caroline on September 29, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Sounds like such a wonderful evening! I wish I could have been there.

  9. evf on September 29, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    What a wonderful event!

  10. kate hopper on September 30, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Thanks all, especially to Vicki, for coming all the way from California!!

    And thank you to everyone for chiming in about humor in your writing. I love the Twain quotation, Elizabeth. I hadn't remembered that he said that!

  11. Sunny on October 1, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    What a fabulous evening! So glad I could be a part of it. It was great to hear you read from your book! It was also wonderful to meet and hear from Kate St. Vincent Vogl and Vicki Forman. You put on a fabulous event!

    Thanks for all you're doing to build this community of "Mothers who write" and have stories to tell.


  12. Andria on October 2, 2009 at 12:20 am

    I really, really wish I could have been there. It sounds wonderful! Kate, you always make great things happen!

  13. Brenda on October 5, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    I don't intentionally place humor, but I do feel that it's more effective for me in my daily life – to lighten my own load. I feel I have more perspective because of the very difficult experiences I've already had. So I can laugh at tough circumstances a little more. Play is now my way of life – for my child and for me. And as my mother always says, if we couldn't laugh, we'd cry.
    Thanks for the opportunity to express.

  14. on October 6, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Wish I could have been there…was so sorry to have missed it.

  15. kate hopper on October 7, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Brenda, I think it's so true that sometimes we must laugh. And it makes so much sense that this is the inclincation behind humor in writing.

    Thanks, all, for sharing your thoughts on this.