Writing Mothers Support Each Other Through Generations
Harriet Beecher Stowe did it all. More than 150 years ago, she raised seven kids through periods of poverty, illness, and bouts of depression and still found time to nurture her creative spirit, publishing the all-time bestseller "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
Stowe is a big inspiration and role model for Katherine Hauswirth of Deep River, who describes herself as a writing mother.
And Hauswirth is herself an inspiration and role model for contemporary writing moms who can use some support and suggestions for mastering the great juggling act of parenting, working, and all the related etceteras-and still find that sacred time and space to pursue their writing passion.
Hauswirth has just published a terrific book for "stuck" and aspiring writers titled "Harriet's Voice: A Writing Mother's Journey."
A truly novel concept, each chapter of the book begins with Beecher's original words, followed by a related personal essay by Hauswirth on her own experience as a writing mother, and concludes with a writing exercise designed to guide and encourage the reader in her own writing journey.
Particularly inspiring and refreshing is that the author practices what she preaches and never pretends that she's super woman or that it's easy to achieve balance-constant tweaking and forgiveness (of oneself) is required.
A wife, and mother of an 8-year-old son, Hauswirth worked for many years as a psychiatric nurse practitioner and is currently a medical writer for Infusion Communications in Haddam. She also makes time to pursue her love of writing creative nonfiction and poetry. Author of "Things My Mother Told Me: Reflections on Parenthood" (2001), her essays have appeared in a number of national publications.
Hauswirth started a blog in 2009 to interact with other writing moms with the idea that she'd ultimately write this book. She also did an informal survey-"Voices of Modern Mothers: Art in the Balance"-discovering that 80 percent of the women surveyed wanted more time to pursue their creativity and yet believed they had to choose art or motherhood and couldn't possibly do both well.
"I had to consciously make decisions to let things go-my housekeeping, primarily," Hauswirth says about her own writing journey. "It's difficult, a very hard juggling act. It requires constant strategizing. I feel, in one way, we have more opportunities in this day and age [than Harriet did], but on the other hand, our standards are higher-trying to be a great mom and a great wife and have a perfect, clean house…"
Hauswirth says one of the goals of the book is "to help readers examine their priorities and do whatever they can to line-up their lives with those priorities.
"You can't have it both ways and say, 'I really want to be a writer, but I don't have time to write,'" she points out.
There are lots of tips in the book for finding time and space to write, setting realistic goals, and avoiding looking at writing and parenting from an all or nothing perspective - and realizing one's children can provide lots of rich material.
"Gavin has given me so many ideas, there's nothing like the fresh perspective of a child-from silly things and anecdotes to serious, profound moments," Hauswirth says.
The writing exercises are not so much about structure and form, they're tools to get women writing.
"There are plenty of books that give you writing prompts," Hauswirth says. 'It's a spring day, you're out walking, tell us about the trees.' The exercises are to get women to really think about writing. And I'm hoping women feel supported and when they read their own words back, it reinforces this new campaign that's underway by taking on the book to take the next step and make it a more serious part of their lives that they can enjoy without always feeling guilty."
So, why add helping other women writers to her already very challenging balancing act?
"I come from a helping profession and psychiatry [background] and I'm always tuned into peoples' feeling and motives," Hauswirth answers. "Women in similar situations seem so grateful to have someone reinforcing the message, and that give me a lot, too."
Hauswirth includes a quote in "Harriet's Voice" from one of her favorite poets, Mary Oliver, which is really the book's core message:
"The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave it neither power nor time."
"Harriet's Voice: A Writing Mother's Journey" (self-published) is available online at www.offthebookshelf.com. The e-book is $10 and the softcover copy is $15). You can read Hauswirth's blog at www.harrietsvoice.com.
E-mail Amy Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org.