It seems the best ideas come to me in the playground. That’s where, pushing my one-year-old on the swings, I met another new mother with whom I started a conversation that inspired me to publish my first book, Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood. Within just ten minutes, we’d talked about our post-baby identity crisis, our shockingly diminished ambition and our diminished and distressed sex life.
If you’d told me in my pre-baby days the playground would become not only my main networking site, but also a source of inspiration, I would have laughed in your face.
But I’ve had so many great ideas and friends evolve from conversations in the park. And it was there that my idea for writing classes for mothers took shape.
I’d recently published the anthology and was getting dozens of emails a day from mothers who wanted to write their own stories, mothers who wanted to know if there would be a sequel to which they could contribute, or a magazine that I might be starting. I had always resisted teaching, focusing instead on my own writing career. But I suddenly realized that getting a group of moms together to talk about motherhood and writing, my two passions, might just be a great idea.
In my first class, held at a Vancouver coffee shop, eight women showed up, all relatively new moms, all raw and emotional. That first night, each woman talked about her major struggle with motherhood and why it was important to her to turn those struggles into words. We talked about our marital stress, the transformation in our ambition, our identities, our friendships. It was like therapy, with some writing thrown in. There were tears and laughter and I couldn’t believe the quality of writing that came out of spontaneous assignments. Many went on to be published in small local parenting magazines and in bigger publications like the Globe and Mail and Today’s Parent.
I now teach exclusively online and have started to focus on helping moms start their own blogs. Most moms who find The Momoir Project are either eager to record their stories as a keepsake for the future or they want to get published. And these days, having a blog is a prerequisite to getting published and starting any kind of writing career.
The problem is that in the last five years, there’s been an explosion of mom blogs out there. I’ve heard that the number of mom blogs in North America is 4 million. So how exactly do you not feel intimidated by that? How do you believe in your writing ability, and in the value of your own story, if it’s so crowded out there?
Well, most of those 4 million blogs aren’t that compelling and aren’t well written. There are many gems and part of my class is to help direct moms to the good blogs, the inspiring and though-provoking blogs so they can get started building their own ideas and dreams and building their own online community. With the support of a class like mine, and the women that come with it, it’s not overwhelming or intimidating to get started. It’s easy and fun.
At the moment, I have 12 mothers in my How to Write A Mom Blog class. There are moms from Phoenix, Santa Cruz, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver, all with different experiences and stories. Some have come with blogs already started. Some are just thinking about it. After one session, we are already a tight-knit group, fascinated with each other and eagerly anticipating reading the next batch of stories.
There is magic in writing down your day-to-day experiences. Any memoir writer will tell you that there is something in the act of recording your story that forces you to ask yourself questions you may not otherwise have seen. Writing – especially with a good editor – helps you unpeel the layers of emotion to see the source of things. It’s a powerful journey.
If you’re interested in taking that journey, check out The Momoir Project’s classes for this fall. Registration is already underway.