October 2013 marks Literary Mama’s ten year anniversary! On Wednesdays for the next few months we’ll celebrate this milestone with editors and columnists, both past and present. They’ll share what being a part of Literary Mama has meant to them, what they hope for the future of the magazine, and how Literary Mama has shaped their writing, their mothering, and their lives.
Literary Mama: An Origin Story
By Amy Hudock
An origin story is an account or back-story revealing how a character or team gained their superpowers and/or the circumstances under which they became superheroes.
A woman sat in her beautiful, empty, echoing house in the Berkeley hills, a baby tugging at her breast. Books piled high around her, she couldn’t find one that made the sound she was hearing. The sound was different from any other she had heard before. Lonely. Sad. Full of longing. But she didn’t know what to make of it. So, she went out and joined mothers’ groups, hoping to harmonize with others, to share the music. But all she found was discordant notes.
So, she posted a new note: “Mother writing group starting.” Other mothers responded, and a writing group was formed. Each came for her own reasons, and, like Batman, many had suffered loss. One had lost a baby, and now she had her first living baby in her arms. One had dropped her baby, and, even though the baby was fine now, she was fighting her way out of deep guilt and paralyzing depression. One was trying to care for both young children and an aging mother at the same time, and she was turning into the invisible woman, fading from view. One was trying to find peace within a divided marriage, struggling to find common ground. All had left behind important careers. All were mourning the people they once were.
They had new important jobs to do, but they couldn’t do them, stuck as they were. Something had to change. They had to change, no longer be who they were, become something else. Someone else. They entered the writing room as Superman entered a phone booth.
However, they didn’t put on capes or masks to forge their new identities. Instead, they stripped off masks. They wrote big, bold stories that told of their lives, truths often hidden, that felt shameful to share. They were brave, and they risked hurting themselves and others to face what mothers often hide. They practiced and read and wrote and rewrote and edited and shared – and went beyond venting to crafting.
One day, they realized that if they wanted to read and write better stories about motherhood, other mothers might want to, too. They went online, shared their work, and found others like them. Hundreds. Thousands. Soon, they were all connected through flashes of electricity and wires that ran around the world. And their voices, all different, all unique, found a place to be heard. They challenged the genre, the publishing industry, and the web itself. Like Wonder Woman, they wrapped their golden lasso around writing about motherhood until it told the truth. They found their superpower.
That is how Literary Mama became a team, and that team, though the individual people may change, continues. The Literary Mama continues to offer a place where mothers can read, write, and think about the particular institution of motherhood, with style, with craft, with forethought, and with afterthought. The website remains a virtual headquarters for mother writing superheroes everywhere. And although some mothers may forget that they have superpowers within them, Literary Mama serves as a constant reminder that the written word can be the most powerful one of all.