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Saturday, October 29, 2011

a new name, a new look

For almost five years, I have been blogging here under the name “Mother Words.” I have also taught classes, led retreats, coordinated an annual reading, and mentored other women writers under that name.

It’s time for a change.

It’s been a hellish year in which I lost ten pounds and gained ten pounds (inevitable, I guess). But it’s also been a year of clarification and, dare I say, empowerment.

I began teaching my class for mothers in June 2006 because I wanted to create a place when writing by women about motherhood would be taken seriously as art, where it would be critiqued and nurtured. I began blogging about writing and motherhood to extend the reach of my classes, to broaden the discussion around motherhood literature, and promote some of the wonderful motherhood literature that is currently being written and published.

Along the way, I discovered writing that changed me, that made me not only a better mother, but a better person. It takes courage to write the truth of our daily lives, and I’m grateful to all the mothers who are crafting their lives into art, who are making the path easier or perhaps less lonely for another mother down the line. 

When we encounter a challenge, we are forced to take stock and evaluate the importance of our work. And here it is: I believe in my work. I am committed to helping mothers find a way to the page, deepen their sense of craft, and touch the lives of others with their words. I am committed to promoting motherhood literature and advocating for writers whose work is continually marginalized and discarded. I am committed to helping develop a sense of community—virtual and in-person—where we can write the stories we need to write.

I am excited to announce my new brand: Motherhood & Words™.

I hope that this new name encompasses my renewed passion and my broader focus. Historically, I have spent most of my time promoting memoirs and essays that use motherhood as a lens through which to understand the world. I want to expand the discussion and encompass more poets and fiction writers whose subject may not be motherhood, but whose writing is, perhaps, informed by motherhood. And always I am fascinated by the joys and challenges of getting words on the page in the midst of motherhood.

Please join me at I’m grateful for your readership, your friendship, and your support. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

hitting a wall

I’ve hit a wall. The early mornings, the rushing, the gazillion things on my to do list that I never have time to get to are taking their toll. I said to Donny this morning, “Can’t we just move to Barcelona?” This has actually become a joke between us—I’ve asked it a hundred times over the last year when stress threatens to get the better of me.

I know that moving to Barcelona wouldn’t solve all our problems, but it would provide a distraction from them, no?

And really, I don’t want to move—not yet anyway. There is a lot going on, yes. But so much of it is really wonderful. The reading last week was fabulous. I’m so grateful to Jill Christman and Sonya Huber for flying into town for the event. And I’m grateful to all of you who made it down to Open Book. Sonya read a hilarious piece titled “Breast is Best” and Jill read her equally hilarious “Weaning Ella.” I was sandwiched in between with a more serious section from my memoir. (If you missed the reading you can listen online. It will be the 100th podcast on Mom Enough. I’ll post a link when it’s live in a couple of weeks.)

Another good thing: Teaching. I love Tuesday mornings, when I don’t have to rush straight to the office. Instead, I have an hour to sit and write before spending two delightful hours with a truly inspiring group of mother writers. What could be better?

But over the last month and a half as I tried to juggle full-time work with family and my writing career, I realized that it’s not motherhood and writing that are difficult to manage (as it sometimes seemed in the past); it is full-time work and writing that are at odds. Even if I get up at 5 am, as I’ve been doing most weekdays, I have so much other work do to during that hour that I never get to my own writing.

Wait. I’ve just looked at what I’ve written, and I’m shaking my head. WTH? “Stop complaining, Ms. Hopper. You’re lucky to have a job. Pull yourself together.”

Alright. Okay. I’m done. I promise. I’ll recalibrate and be back soon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I love my class at the Loft, which started last week. What an amazing group of women! I love teaching online, but there is nothing like being in a physical space with a group of mother writers. I leave class elated and inspired. Thank you, ladies!

Also, I wanted to let you know that the Parenting Express 2012 short story (memoir) contest guidelines are posted. Submissions open November 30, and there are a ton of prizes for the winner and runners-up. Parenting Express is an online monthly journal based out of Australia. Submit. Submit. Submit.

I'm still getting up by 5 am, but so far these mornings have been full of class prep and grant writing. Still, I'm working on it.

Lastly, don't forget about the 5th Annual Mother Words reading at Open Book next week:

Thursday, October 13 - 7 p.m.

A reading and reception with the wonderful and talented Jill Christman and Sonya Huber! Join us!

Monday, September 26, 2011

new schedule

Well, I made it through the first week of full-time work last week, but by Friday afternoon, I was exhausted (and had officially developed a head cold). I really like the work (and my coworkers are lovely), but I did feel that pull back to my desk (when will I get any writing done?) and to the River Road (when will I walk?) and to my girls, my girls, my girls. The last has been the hardest. At 2:15 each day, I stare at my clock, knowing that Stella is walking back to my mom's house from the bus stop, chattering away about her day. That is one of my favorite parts of my day--Stella in reporting mode, talking a mile a minute about everything that happened at school. I miss it!

I think Stella misses that time, as well. On Wednesday last week, she screamed, "I hate your new job! You wear make-up now and you don't even look like my mom!" I nearly burst into tears. Later I asked her what I usually look like, and she said, "You wear sweatpants." Oh yes. Did I mention that I miss my sweatpants, as well? 

I know (hope) it will get easier, even as I add my fall class to the mix this week. But I'm determined to get up at 5 a.m. to build a little writing and exercise time into the week. What do you think? Possible?

Friday, September 16, 2011

my memoir dress

Well, I started my full-time job yesterday—thank you for all your good wishes—and I think I’ll really like the job. My co-workers are lovely and interesting, and the work is important. But wow, I haven’t had a 40-hour week desk job for over ten years, and it’s an adjustment. By 3:30 I was missing my girls, wondering how their days had gone, desperate to fold them in my arms. By 9:30 I had to put down the final Hunger Games novel (just 20 pages from the end of the book) because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. But I’ll get used to it, no?

Today the office is closed, so I’m working from home (or rather the coffee shop), and I thought I’d take a break to post some wonderful poems by my friend and fellow writer, Marge Barrett. Marge has a new chapbook called My Memoir Dress, which is just out from Finishing Line Press. Marge is such a talented writer of both prose and poetry, and these poems in particular speak to me as a mother. Marge is able to capture the beauty in the moments in life that many of us overlook. Her poetry is full of lyricism and grace—it’s the kind of poetry that makes me want to stop and savor each word. Marge has given me permission to post two of her poems here, so without further ado:

Wild Flowers

Bloodroot blossoms when my daughter is born.
Along the rushing river banks, shoots push
through hard winter earth. Pulled by spring sun,
the blue-green lobed leaves open wide, breathe.

In a steamy old hospital room, the midwife listens,
counts loudly, heartbeat’s dropping, dropping.
I push, push, push my beautiful bloody baby out.
Hush. Dim the lights. Her eyes, huge blue, study us.

Bloodroot blossoms when my second daughter is born.
Basal leaves again uncurl in the woods
under the web of stick-branched trees.

In the birthing room of a new hospital,
the doctor counters, no stirrups, deep vein thrombosis;
don’t want her throwing a clot to the heart.
This baby comes fast, looks out, alert.

Bloodroot blossoms when my girls are born.
Pure white stars, golden orange centers.

© 2011 Marge Barrett, reprinted with permission of the poet


Leaving London’s Gatwick airport,
I tell them to spend the last change,
buy something sweet, maybe artsy,
why not touristy.

My son disappears,
with a calling card
designed by a machine:
his name, our address, and

He’s fascinated by tricks,
sleight of hand, coins, cards.
He saves money for supplies
at the magic and costume store.

This, after building go-carts,
balsa boats and airplanes,
yoyos (rocking the baby, around the world),
chemistry sets, rockets,
rags on the piano, drums and guitar,
the computer.

My freckled-faced, red-haired son
wands the card over my head,
draws it out of his sleeve,
once again taking me away.

© 2011 Marge Barrett, reprinted with permission of the poet

Thank you, Marge, for letting me share your wonderful words here. People, check out Marge’s writing. And have a wonderful weekend. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A recap of that thing called life (and some birthday wishes for my daughter)

I obviously haven’t posted in a while, and I apologize, but I’ve barely been keeping my head above water. I’ve been involved in a job search, a final edit of Use Your Words before it moves to copyediting, prepping for and participating in the 2nd Annual Minnesota Blogger Conference (which was this past Saturday and which was fabulous—even better than last year. I was blown away by the wonderful writing by the people in my session. Go, writers!) Saturday night, we were out in Blaine at the National Sports Center watching D play in the MN History Soccer Game. (He’s still got it, by the way—scored his team’s only goal. From the stands it seemed as though his whole body was smiling.) And then Sunday, we held Stella’s 8-year-old kid party (with a gaggle of 7- and 8-year-old girls running around our house and yard), then spent Sunday evening at the benefit concert for our friend John Sylvester (our friend who is fighting the diagnosis of ALS).

Monday morning I woke up desperate for a day to regroup. Instead, everything is full speed ahead. I accepted a temporary full-time position (starting this Thursday!) in a social service agency that serves the Latino community in the Twin Cities. It’s a wonderful organization, and I’m excited to gain new skills and polish my very rusty Spanish. (I sputtered and turned bright red in the interview when we switched to Spanish. I looked like a complete idiot. That they still offered me the position is incredible.)

So I’m excited about the job, but it will change the whole feel of our lives. No more Zoë days. No more games of Sorry with Stella in the afternoons. No more mornings at the coffee shop writing. No more multi-step dinners during the week. (Hello, crock pot.) But still, it’s a good move for me and my family. (Someday I’ll be able to break down the things that led to this…) For now, I just have to trust that I will figure out a way to fit in my writing and some exercise.

This is all a long excuse for why I haven’t posted in almost two weeks. What do you think?

And now it’s Tuesday September 13th, and my Stella is eight years old today. Usually on her birthday, I revisit that day, eight years ago, when I was vomiting and burning up from the magnesium sulfate, when I was just hoping that she would come out of me and be able to breathe on her own. Last night I wondered whether this year would bring the same flood of memories, and I doubted that it would. Stella is so grown up—so healthy and tall—so far removed from that three-pound preemie she was when she was born. But this morning, like clockwork, I thought, oh, this is when I began vomiting, this is when D arrived from his red-flight from Seattle, this is when, this is when. And I am tugged back in time by the current of details, seared into my memories of the day I became a mother.

I know there are women in similar situations right now—in their hospital beds, praying that their babies will stay inside them a few days (or hours) longer. I’m thinking of those women and families today as I celebrate all that my daughter has become: strong and determined, empathetic and caring, athletic and so very graceful. I love you, Stella. Happy Birthday! I’m wishing you a year filled with laughter and play, adventure, new interests and friendships. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

reading woolf

It’s been a melancholic week, even with the serious basement cleaning that D and I accomplished last weekend. (I’m still on my mission to de-clutter.) Stella started back to school on Monday, and she is thrilled to be a second-grader. Thrilled. She comes home full of stories about her day and her new classmates, and I love this. But I can’t help that tug of emotion: She’s growing up too fast! There is nothing we can do to slow the onward march of time! I have also been missing my grandpa a lot this week. At the beginning of each school year, we would figure out which day would be my grandpa day, the day I would take him for errands, get groceries for him, or later, just visit him and make him lunch. This year, Wednesday is the day I have alone with Zoë, and it would have been my new grandpa day, and all day I felt heavy and disoriented knowing that those days are no longer a part of my life.

It doesn’t help, perhaps, that I’m reading Virginia Woolf’s The Death of the Moth and Other Essays. As I make my way through the collection of essays, I keep thinking of my need to make connections, to share experience. But it seems so futile sometimes. Or maybe it’s just that it’s so much work—it takes so much effort—to continue to move forward, stay open to new experiences in the face of the challenges that life provides. Does it sound like a need some kind of renewal? I do.

My goal for the weekend is to sneak away a few times and sit outside, reading Woolf. Her prose. Oh her prose. I love this:

The rooks too were keeping one of their annual festivities; soaring round the tree tops until it looked as if a vast net with thousands of black knots in it had been cast up into the air; which, after a few moments sank slowly down upon the trees until every twig seemed to have a knot at the end of it.

What’s not to love about that?

I’m wishing you all a lovely, relaxing long holiday weekend.