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.
Caroline Grant– Editor-in-Chief
I was a year into motherhood when my sister told me about a writing group for mothers that met in Berkeley, just down the street from the tiny cottage apartment I’d rented as a single graduate student. It wasn’t a long drive from the new home I was making in San Francisco with my husband and our baby, but I felt like I’d need a time machine to get back there.
I was starting to write about my new life as a mom, but keeping the work all to myself. As a grad student, I had always written to make sense of the books I read and the films I watched; as a writing teacher, I had extolled the virtues of writing groups and reading one’s work aloud. That all slipped away when I left my academic career behind to parent full-time, and for a long time I was so busy and distracted by my new baby, I didn’t even miss it.
But eventually I began to realize that while as a mother I was never alone, I was lonely. I wasn’t above playground conversations about sippy cups and sleep deprivation—I initiated my share of them—but the playground community developed briefly and then dissipated like the fog as the strollers retreated, each to their own homes, leaving my son and me on our own, again.
And I missed work. I missed discussing books and movies. (I missed books and movies!) I missed the community that developed in the classroom each semester, the welcome ebb and flow of intense interaction with students and colleagues and then solitary writing at my desk. I missed exchanges with my students about their tricky paragraphs, seeing the light in their eyes when they caught a complicated idea with their words.
I finally got up the nerve to drive out to Berkeley one morning with my son and a messy first draft of an essay stuffed next to the board books and plastic snack tubs in his diaper bag. By this time, the writing group had launched Literary Mama and my sister invited me to share her position editing the Literary Reflections section. The group met in a kindergarten classroom (the irony didn’t escape me) and I entered nervous as a kid on the first day of school. The women circled metal folding chairs and discussed each piece of writing in turn as the kids wove in and out around our legs, playing in the piles of crayons and Lincoln Logs set out for their distraction, offering us cups of imaginary tea, climbing onto our laps for a snack or a cuddle.
Despite the interruptions, my writing got closer attention than it ever did in graduate school. I was energized by the feedback, eager to race home and incorporate the suggestions I received. Working with the mother-writers in the group and those who sent essays to Literary Mama returned me to my favorite part of teaching: helping writers bridge the gap between the ideas in their heads and the words on the page. We worked together, alternately paring away and polishing, until the essays shined.
That was 9 years ago. In the intervening years, I contributed a regular movie column to LM, wrote several profiles, and became friends with writers around the world, including those who became the coeditors and contributors to my two anthologies. As I’ve moved up the masthead, I don’t work as closely with writers submitting their work; instead, I correspond with the community of Literary Mama’s diverse and immensely talented section editors, participating in editorial conversations about submissions and shaping each week’s new work.
For almost as long as I’ve been a mother, Literary Mama has given me a context for understanding my motherhood and a platform to share my discoveries. The world I entered when I walked into that kindergarten classroom has become my writing home: as vital, supportive, and essential as the home I make with my family.