Why Mamas Write

MomsCover_v3.inddOutside of a few high-profile writers such as Anne Lamott, women who write explicitly about being a mother risk being seen as lightweight by the literary establishment. Not real writers.

The anthology Mamas Write: 29 Tales of Truth, Wit and Grit turns this assumption on its head. You won’t find cliché advice on how to become a writer or cute essays on potty training. Nothing unserious here. What you will find are real stories about the messy business of being both a writer and a parent.

The anthology, which sprung from a monthly writer’s group called the Write on Mamas, was created to give its members a safe place to write their stories. Contributor Lorrie Goldin describes the grit required of both occupations, saying, “… if you want to birth a baby or a bestseller, you can’t escape the pangs of labor.”

Many of the essays disclose aspects of mothering not often shared in the popular media—what it feels like to raise a transgender child who isn’t comfortable being the girl everyone expects. Or the sense of accomplishment when a child born with a rare genetic disorder is able to weather the potential meltdown of losing his ski on the lift to continue skiing with his family. Or the unpredictability of parenting a middle-schooler with a mood disorder who leaves for school in crazy outfits but is slowly finding her way.

One of the most difficult stories comes from Janine Kovac, founding member of Write on Mamas, who describes the many mornings she spent in intensive care, 92 to be exact, caring for twin sons born months premature. It is in the company of other writers that she found the courage to get past the stock phrases she told friends and family and go deeper, to the place where, “Remembering feels like sticking needles under my fingernails.” Kovac’s babies survived their hospitalization, and it was through the community of other writers that she was able to release the pain of those days spent in the ICU.

Teri Stevens, who also gave birth to a premature baby, tells a different ending. She was in her 24th week, her husband out of town, when she felt a pain that went on for four days. Her doctor found nothing wrong and wrote it off to fibroids. When the pain didn’t subside, she called 911, was taken to the emergency and gave birth immediately. Moments later her doctor arrived with the sad news. Nothing could be done. Her baby’s lungs were too undeveloped. Another week and the baby might have survived.

Along with sadness, there is a healthy dose of humor in this collection.

Pamela Alma Weymouth writes about the desire to correct a childhood that wasn’t well, perfect. “If your daddy leaves you at the age of three in the hands of a mother whose love is as predictable as the hurricanes in New Orleans, you make deals with yourself and your future children: You will have a TV family like the one on Family Ties.” Nice idea but it didn’t pan out. She finds herself divorced with two young children and seriously downsized: “You stare at your cell phone trying to figure out who to call. Everyone on your list of ‘favorites’ is married with children, which means they are changing diapers, running baths, cooking dinner or having scheduled sex.” The happy ending comes when she is finally asked out on a date, but ends up declining because by then she’s figured out that she’s the one she’s been waiting for.

In another hilarious essay, Joanne Hartman writes about having to curb her daughter’s reading obsession—termed “The Reading Thing”—when her daughter announces during the middle of a play date, “I’m going to go read.” Hartman throws down her New Yorker and springs into action, delivering an on-the-spot list of the dos and don’ts of reading etiquette.

There is much to take away from this engaging and honest anthology. Not least is the fact that being a mother doesn’t disqualify one from being a writer or a feminist. But what most unites the stories here is truth. These writers are telling it. And it’s worth the listen.



Leslie Absher’s work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Fiction Writer’s Review and Skirt! Magazine. She and her partner are mamas to four happy cats.




  1. Thanks for writing this! The anthology sounds interesting.
    I sometimes think my novel, The Stud Book, about the choice to make more humans, gets overlooked as a book about women & babies, maybe perceived as a “biological clock” book. Really, I hope it reads as an environmental literature and raises questions. And, I hope it’s funny. Check it out! Thanks. Here’s the cinematic trailer…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abrBjpkGuME

    • Thanks for your reading the review, Monica. The trailer for your book is intriging indeed. So is the idea that created families are as real and important as biologocal ones. Thanks for sharing your link!

    • Thanks for your reading the review, Monica. The trailer for your book is intriguing indeed. So is the idea that created families are as real and important as biologocal ones. Thanks for sharing!

  2. It is an honor to be a part of this group of authentic voices. Thank you for the review!

    • It was my pleasure to review this book. As a non-fiction writer and reader, autheniticity is everything to me. When it’s there, I’m totally drawn in. When it’s missing, well, I don’t usually finish that book. But this book, I finished:)

  3. What a great, serious review on a topic that is often treated with frivolity or platitudes. It makes me want to read the book!

  4. Thank you so much Leslie for such a nice review! You are a smart and insightful writer and I’m not just saying that cause of the praise!

    Thanks for taking the time and pointing out that indeed motherhood and writing are just as damned hard and un-pretty as making wars and writing about “manly” accomplishments. Gratitude.

    • Thanks for the praise, Pamela. And you’re right, the anthology points out that motherhood is plenty un-pretty and real. Plus, it tends to be a whole lot more constructive than those other “manly” pursuits you mentioned!

  5. Hurray for writing about mothering being taken seriously! And no diaper ads!
    I look forward to owning, reading and sharing this book. I edited a collection of
    writing about the creative lives of mothers titled “An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women
    Give Motherhood a Voice”. The book includes writing and art by women who do many
    things, including mother and addresses the yearning that brews in all of us, accentuated
    by the demands of parenting. Leslie, I really appreciate your review. Thank you for giving your time to this book. Here is a link to the sales page for my book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/An-Anthology-Babes-Women-Motherhood/dp/0988904101/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400101724&sr=8-1&keywords=an+anthology+of+babes

    xo Suzi

    • Your book looks facinating. I’m always in awe of art makers who mother. How do they do all that? My mother was a painter and I saw her continue to make art regardless of what else was on her plate. It was as important as other aspects of her life. And that was a good thing. As for me, I’m busy enough with just the art making part! Thanks for sharing and commenting on the review. Glad you enjoyed it.

  6. Paula Chapman says:

    Thanks for the great write up. An amazing group of women!

  7. It was an honor to review this book. Thanks for commenting!

  8. I tend not to leave a bunch of comments, but i did a few searching and wound up here Why Mamas Write.
    And I actually do have a couple of questions for you if it’s allright.
    Is it simply me or does it look like some of these responses appear like they are
    coming from brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are
    writing on other social sites, I’d like to keep up with anything new you have to post.
    Could you make a list of all of your shared pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

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