I published a short story called “All My Wrongs” on Literary Mama’s website ten years ago. The story was originally called, “Daughter,” and I wrote it before I had daughters.
The idea came to me in response to a prompt for a craft class at Sarah Lawrence in 2006, but I pulled the story back out again to revise it in 2012 when my new baby was two months old. On its publication date, she was one, crawling around with a shock of blond hair and two little front teeth—much too close to the way I’d described the daughter in my story. I would like to push that likeness away. It’s fiction. Fiction.
After the story came out, a friend of mine nicely shared Literary Mama’s post on his Facebook page and said he was looking forward to reading it. He said, “Here’s Sara, a new mom, writing about motherhood.” He had recently become a new dad. He was surprised, though, after reading it. “Great story! I really liked it. What gave you the idea to write about a mother so much older? With such an older child like that? It surprised me. No swaddler-age stories?”
I explained that I’d written this before having kids.
I actually don’t think I would have the stomach to write it now that I’m a mother. In the story, a mother runs into her teenage daughter after years apart and reflects on the mistakes she’s made over the years which led to their estrangement. The story explores what are now some of my deepest fears—that I might fail to reach my daughters, that I might lose them. That they might drift away from me. That they will lose their way or lose themselves.
Reflecting on this piece now makes me wonder if there are topics, even in fiction, that just feel too raw for me to explore. I have become so raw myself as I live to protect my kids. I don’t want to conjure dark scenarios that are too closely tied to our own lives for fear that I might have the power, somehow, to bring them into reality. I haven’t really articulated this before now—these thoughts have been lurking beneath my consciousness. Will my reluctance hold me back as a fiction writer? Is it our job to let our minds explore freely, recklessly, without bounds? Motherhood has made me more alert and careful in my life in general—and, I suppose, now as a writer as well. Do other mothers feel this way?
I am just so grateful for Literary Mama for providing this venue for me to explore my feelings before and after experiencing the trials of motherhood.
Working with former editor, Kristina Riggle, was an incredibly positive experience. She asked such thoughtful questions to deepen the story, drawing out the conflict between mother and daughter and expanding moments that would help the reader to connect more to the characters. She pushed me to make this story a better version of itself.
And recently, I loved getting a chance to contribute to the March edition of the “Mama and…” series, reflecting on motherhood and running. Happy Anniversary to Literary Mama! In these pages, I have found a community. I am in awe of what I’ve read here, the honesty and the beauty.
Sara Weiss has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She has written for Literary Mama, Lilith, Mutha Magazine, Bustle, Brain Child, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, Five on the Fifth, Underwater New York and elsewhere. She is also a college writing consultant, teacher and yoga instructor. She lives in the Hudson Valley, NY with her husband and two daughters. You can find her on Twitter @SaraWeissWriter and at linktr.ee/SaraWeissWriter.