While revising the last draft of my novel, I realized how dreadfully parched I was for good reading. I’d missed reading during the years of business-building; reacquainted myself with the household stock while I nursed; then, in the frenzy of deadlines vs. mobile small person, realized the only words I’d get were the ones I was creating. Good writers, however, are good readers, and as soon as I started wondering if my words had already been strung together in similar ways, I realized I really, profoundly missed good reading.
I’m happy to say that Andi Buchanan’s two recent contributions to the literary world helped kick-start my return to Readerland. It’s a Boy pulled me in sufficiently that when Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined arrived in the mail, I attacked it, too. Featuring the best of the e-zine Literary Mama, the anthology, edited by LM editor-in-chief Amy Hudock along with LM managing editor Andi, covers seven major aspects of motherhood: Creative Acts; Mothers Raising Women, Defining Mothering; Mothers Raising Men, Exploring Mothering; Sex, Fertility, and the Body; Mothers, Fathers, Parents; Surviving Illness and Loss; and Healing the Past to Live in the Present.
What I enjoyed most about the anthology was its diversity – not just in terms of subject matter, as with It’s a Boy, but also in terms of form. Poetry and short fiction share space with personal essays, and the mix is a real treat. Fiction is my personal love, my choice in self-expression, so I was naturally drawn to those stories – yet they were so profound that it was often difficult to separate fiction from essay. These authors don’t shy from difficult subjects; grown children deal with dysfunctional parents, parents with dysfunctional children, and would-be parents with dysfunctional bodies. And yet, each story deals with people trying to create function from dysfunction.
The key to successful writing is to help people understand other people, and the stories and poetry in the Literary Mama anthology do that – no small feat, because all mothers are some of the most critical, judgmental people alive. We raise our eyebrows and sometimes our voices when we see another mother make a decision we would not make, without stopping to remember she is not us, that her circumstances are not ours. Most importantly, we fail to remember that parenting is not finite. Making choices about our children is not the same as making choices about our jobs or our homes or other aspects of our lives; choices where children are concerned have virtually no constraints, and thus can hardly ever be rational.
Literary Mama, then, serves up a good portion of reality garnished with the humility that comes with compassion: in the end, even if you disagree with another mother’s choices, at least you can understand how she came to make them.
Read the Literary Mama intro here. (You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.)
Link to Andi’s blog, Mother Shock, here. Be sure to read some great Q&As Andi has posted about mothering, writing, and reading.