For each issue of Literary Mama, Literary Reflections shares a writing prompt, inviting our readers to respond. Our editors provide feedback on the responses we receive, and we post our favorites on the blog. This month’s writing prompt is inspired by Karen Morash’s essay Dear Virginia.
The opening scene in Karen Morash’s essay is, in fact, a scene—a script in which Morash as “MUMMY” and her youngest daughter as “YOUNGEST” act out a recurring motif in Morash’s life. MUMMY is desperately trying to get some work done on a Sunday afternoon by hiding outside in the hammock with a book. But YOUNGEST is determined to get MUMMY’s attention. YOUNGEST begins singing some rather obnoxious lyrics from an animated movie, until MUMMY, outmaneuvered, is forced to pack it in.
Morash writes with great insight, humor, and, yes, frustration about the balancing act she manages as a mother, an academic writing her dissertation, and a playwright. Because she is all of these things, the spaces she inhabits and the time she has are never fully given over to one role. Describing her work area in her home in rural England, she writes:
The bookshelves that surround me have works of philosophy, performance theory, playscripts (including my own), and Goodnight Moon. The computer I write on . . . contains the evidence of my life: thousands of hours of research, notes, and musings, drafts of creative work, educational apps, the kids’ school projects, and family photographs. It is a messy space for a messy narrative in which I am academic/artist/parent.
Morash’s essay takes a clever form: She alternates between scripted scenes, bits of academic research, and letters to Virginia Woolf to demonstrate her collective identities. She admits she would never want to identify as only one of her roles. “But it does mean,” she writes, “that I never feel fully academic, fully an artist, fully a parent.”
Do you have multiple identities—like Morash does? Can you think of a time or situation when your roles had to exist collectively—that is, when it was impossible to separate being a mom from being a (fill in the blank)? Please tell us about your experience. Did it change your perspective in any way?
Read Morash’s essay and submit a 500-word response to this writing prompt by December 7, 2018, for feedback from our editors. Email it to LMreflections (at) literarymama (dot) com and note “November Prompt” in your subject line. Please do not attach the essay but paste the response in the body of the email.