Look at my kids! Look at them!

LoLa Lorenze, my youngest.

Recently, I had a poem accepted at Literary Mama, “reading for the maternally inclined.”  I learned about this site at last year’s AWP in Denver, when I attended a Mommy Poet panel.   Literary Mama rocks.  The mommy writers there inspire me, plus they have some really great writing prompts, and not just for moms.   

I consider myself a creative nonfiction writer, but since starting the MFA program, I’ve realized that I can write poetry!  That is to say, decent poetry.  I wrote bad poetry all through high school and most of undergrad.  I had a few published in obscure, cheap journals.  I had a submissions system and everything, with little index cards.  These poems were bad, people.  Can I share one with you, just for a giggle?  OK, here goes: 

I wish for rain

in a bottle;

the last in a barren world.

Clear, blue torrents

to lean on

fighting to overcome

the feeling

my fingers

wearily clench

the cool, long neck.

Then upward and

downward, the

bottle is empty-

my lips wet.

Melodramatic, yes?  But the reason I bring this all up is because one of my nonfiction professors suggested I send some nonfiction in to Literary Mama.  And I’m going to, but I also realized I haven’t written much about my kids.  I’ve written a couple of poems about them, and an essay on pregnancy.  I’ve written about my childhood, in many fashions, but I rarely bring my kids into the mix, and I’m not sure why.  One trap I fall into, I think, is that every time I do try to write about my kids, my mother guilt comes in and takes over.  It tells me I’m a terrible mother, and no one wants to hear about a woman who thinks she’s a terrible mother but maybe actually isn’t.  Then I start to argue with myself.  Am I a terrible mother?  Of course.  No way.  Maybe it’s these conflicting feelings about mothering that stop me. 

I wonder if that’s something I just need to write through.  Every mom probably thinks she’s a terrible mother, right?  So maybe I write that essay to get it out of my head, then rummage through it for anything new or interesting about that angle.  And there might not be anything, but it feels like that’s something that I need to work through in my head.  It’s one of those ideas that I need to write through, I think.  We’ve been talking about “nap work” and “writing work” in workshop lately.  Does this piece need thinking time or writing time, etc. 

Another reason I haven’t begun to write much about my kids is probably that I’m a pretty new writer.  I’ve always written, like the amazing above poem and little sketches of my life that I thought I might someday use for…something.  I’ve only just learned what an essay is, and I’ve only begun to develop the thinking skills needed to deconstruct the writing process.  I think that once I get a little more practice in me I’ll feel more comfortable and able to write well about my children.  Plus, if I don’t make it there before I graduate, I’ll leave grad school feeling like I have a lot to do, instead of feeling like I’m done.  Next, I have to worry about exactly what and how much I write about them, since my oldest child, in first grade, can now read at a third grade level (Hush! I’m allowed to brag!).  That’s a different topic altogether.


  • JaimeRWood says:

    Congrats on your publication, Tanya! That’s awesome! And I hope I get to read some of your nonfiction about your kiddos. They are super cute, but more importantly they are a huge part of your life, which is why they should get at least a little space on your page.

  • tanya.debuff says:

    Thanks Jaime! I’m amassing some ideas for sure. Reading Literary Mama definitely reminds me that I can and should write about them.

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