Motherhood & Words

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me between my Motherhood & Words retreat at Faith’s Lodge and AWP in Seattle. But like always, both events left me inspired to write and teach and write some more.

The retreat was incredible despite the ice/snow storm that loomed on the forecast for our travel day. I encouraged everyone to leave early and we all beat the storm. And everyone seemed to appreciate the extra time to settle in before I went into teacher mode and began doling out writing prompts.

It snowed all night that first night, and by morning the lodge was engulfed by fourteen additional inches of blowing, drifting snow. Bring it on. We were cozy inside, sweatered in front of glowing fireplaces. It was lovely.

In past years I have been completely drained—elated, but drained—after three days of intense teaching. But this year, I was simply elated. I realized on the drive home that part of the reason I wasn’t as exhausted as usual was because I didn’t have to push as hard to get my students to go deep, to write toward vulnerability, toward that beating heart of their pieces. They now go there willingly on their own (or at least they seem willing).  And the results are really stunning. They all produced incredible writing, which will hopefully be out in the world and ready for me to share with you soon.

AWP was exciting and busy, as always. But I wasn’t ready to leave my girls after just getting home from the retreat. So the day I left for Seattle, I went to the co-op for fresh mangoes and chocolates, which I left on the dining room table with a note. And I stuck post-it notes to their bunk bed, just letting them know I love them. (D got a note and chocolate, too, lest you think he was being ignored.) Still, it was hard to go.

On the plane I switched into AWP mode, reading and rereading and editing my presentations. And then I was in Seattle at my friend Bonnie’s house, and we were talking writing and life as easily as we always do when we’re together.

Thursday morning I was up at 5:00 (damn time change) doing a little more prep, and then Bonnie and I were off to the convention center for our first panel, “What Was Is: Present Tense in Creative Nonfiction.” Oh this panel, people. I loved this panel. I was the moderator, and I really wanted us to be in conversation with each other rather than each of us reading a paper. And it worked! You can read a short recap on Brevity’s blog. I’m very grateful to Hope Edelman, Marybeth Holleman, Bonnie Rough and Ryan Van Meter for their wisdom and careful preparation. These writers rock!

That day I went from one presentation to another, sneaking in a quick lunch before my other panel, “Breaking Silences: Women’s Memoir as an Act of Rebellion,” which was also amazing. Holy kitkats, what a crowd. The packed room overflowed with women writers (and three brave men). The walls seemed to vibrate with hope and power and a little bit of f-you. You can read a recap of that fabulous panel here. And you’ll definitely want to check out the writing of my co-panelists Rosemary Daniell, Connie May Fowler, Janice Gary, and Anna March. They blew me away.

I spent the next days going to panels and meeting old writer friends for lunch and drinks and dinners. Then I had a reading Saturday night and spent Sunday kicking around with my cousin and his wife before heading home to my darlings, who are, indeed, darling and very cuddly.

I’m grateful for two great trips, but I’m happy to once again be home, ensconced in my tiny office. How is writing going? Talk to me, people.

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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. Marilyn bousquin on March 4, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    Writing spills forth thanks to your encouragement and fierce belief in my story, dear friend. You made my AWP ; >.

    • Kate on March 5, 2014 at 8:38 am

      Oh Marilyn, thank you! Right back at you, my dear. Cannot wait to read your manuscript.

  2. Janine Kovac on March 5, 2014 at 1:30 am

    So, it appears that you have learned how to hone your super powers to exert the minimum amount of energy necessary to extract maximum depth and tears! Seriously, though–I, too, felt elated not drained. All last year I channeled the depth of feeling I felt at Faith’s Lodge but this year (so far) I can feel me channeling the clarity of focus that allowed me to find the depth.

    And writing is going well! I read the piece I honed at Faith’s L for LTYM on Sunday. I’ll let you know how it went as soon as I find out!

    • Kate on March 5, 2014 at 8:39 am

      Oh Janine, I love that you’re channeling clarity. Beautiful. And if you don’t make LTYM I’m going to puke.

  3. Andrea on March 5, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Sounds so exciting and inspiring (and a little tiring)! Writing? Oh writing. I’ve been floundering a bit since finishing my MFA…hoping it’s just a little period of much-needed senescence and not a permanent condition.

    • Kate on March 5, 2014 at 12:57 pm

      It’s definitely not a permanent condition, Andrea. You just needed a little break, and then you’ll be back at it!

  4. Autumn on March 29, 2014 at 10:35 am


    This recap is wonderful. I can imagine you in the thick of the conference, flittering about, absorbing the words of other inspiring writers and teachers, like yourself, dining and drinking with laughter and joy surrounding you and your friends. The recap of the retreat gives me goose-bumps for July!

    As for my writing, it’s happening–not daily, but I’m showing up and cracking myself wide open. I think I would’ve enjoyed that “Breaking Silences:…” session. I’m feeling a little rebellious inside these days! My mantra these days is, “I’m going to write for me, and only me.” It’s the only way I can overcome the fear of my past truths, and it’s so liberating!

    • Kate on April 8, 2014 at 5:37 am

      Oh Autumn, I love to hear you’re feeling rebellious inside! That you’re showing up and cracking yourself open. Yeehaw!! Cannot wait to see you in July!!