DeMisty D. Bellinger and her twin girls
One of the best parts about the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference was meeting so many lovely writers. Dr. DeMisty D. Bellinger was just one of those people. Today she shares resources for parents who write.
DeMisty D. Bellinger has an MFA in creative writing from Southampton College and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her creative work has appeared in many places, including Muscle and Blood and Prairie Wolf Press. Her essay “Researching for the Fiction Writer: Research Exercise for Beginning Fiction Students” can be found in the book Teaching Creative Writing: Practical Approaches, edited by Elaine Walker. DeMisty teaches college English and lives in Wisconsin, her home state, with her husband and twin daughters. Sometimes, you can find her at blogging.
Of course, there’s no single description of a writing parent, but I’d argue that most of us keep odd hours and have shared spaces. In spite of our efforts in setting aside time and making room for writing (which is often a corner of the living room, or at a kitchen table), that cherished time and place is often interrupted. Kids and partners—even the well-meaning partners—encroach on writing so much so that we find it almost impossible to have a routine. And because many of us don’t know many parents who are writers, we may not have anyone to turn to for help or advice about how to get the writing done and still be a good mother, father, or caregiver. Wouldn’t it be nice, too, if we were granted money for childcare to allot us the time to write?
None of these are new ideas. In a 1999 interview with The Progressive, Tillie Olsen admits arriving at work early to take advantage of the use of the electric typewriter. She said getting there was “very difficult” because she had to get her kids ready for school on mornings like the one she “described in ‘I Stand Here Ironing’.” Like Olsen, most of us will find a way to satisfy our need to write, if only for minutes out of day. And now computers are ubiquitous enough that even the most financially challenged of us has access to one.
But consider what Olsen accomplished when she was granted the Stegner Fellowship: she wrote and published a book! Prior to that, she wrote and published only a few, short pieces. I’m not saying that we can all be Stegner fellows, but that there are opportunities for writing parents, including advice and sympathetic ears. What follows are links to articles, blogs, and opportunities for writing parents.
In the article “A Working Mother's Guide to Writing a Novel,” Mary McNamara offers some great advice for writing moms, such as sacrificing other loves and hobbies in order to write. I’m sure writing dads can use this, too.
Blogs and Workshops
Kate Hopper describes herself as a “mama and writer and teacher” on her blog Motherhood &Words. The blog is a mix of book reviews of “motherhood literature,” author interviews, and post on her experiences in parenting, writing, and teaching. The author of Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers, Hopper also holds classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and online. You can find information about upcoming classes and writing retreats she leads for mothers on her website.
Mother Writer Mentor is a blog which offers “practical help for writing moms.” The mentors are YA novelist Jessica Powers and poet Tania Pryputniewicz. Their posts cover topics from mothering to writing advice, and besides the blog, the two offer workshops in fiction and poetry.
Dad Who Writes is Gabriel M. Clarke’s blog on writing, reading, family, children, and fatherhood. Since he writes YA books, he reviews YA books which is wonderful for both parents and other YA writers. He doesn’t offer any workshops or mentoring, but it is nice to know there are other fathers out there toiling away at the keyboard.
Literary Mama has the tagline, “Reading for the maternally inclined,” but much of the work they accept is so good that many non-mothers will want to read it, too! The online journal publishes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction by mothers, and for special issues, they accept work from papas and children. As for the style of the writing they accept, the editors say they want “revelation so stark that it hurts . . . superior craft” and “ambiguity, complexity, depth, thoughtfulness, delicacy, humor, irreverence, lyricism, sincerity; the elegant and the raw.” Believe me, these aren’t all feel-good pieces!
Stealing Time is a new quarterly literary magazine. Parents “from traditional monogamous heterosexual families to single parents, queer parents, transgendered parents and parents of transgendered children, blended families, grandparents” may submit poetry, fiction, memoir and essay, and book reviews of parent centered work. Also, they offer payment!
Sustainable Arts Foundation offers awards of $6,000 for both visual artists and creative writers in the spring and the fall. They also offer awards of smaller amounts for parents who show promise. Applicants must have a child under the age of eighteen. Sustainable Arts Foundation also had a fellowship for a four week residency along with a stipend at the Vermont Studio Center. The deadline for 2012 was in October 2011.
Pen Parentis is an organization that offers resources to writing parents. Every year, one fiction writer with at least one child under ten years of age is awarded a Pen Parentis Writing Fellow. The winner receives one year of promotion, a $1,000 prize, a public reading, and the opportunity to hobnob with literary stars.