April 1, 2019
by Kate
0 comments

1st Annual Motherhood & Words® Writing Conference & 13th Annual Motherhood & Words® Reading 


For over a decade I have been hosting my annual Motherhood & Words reading featuring awesome mother writers, and for the last few years I’ve been thinking about expanding that reading into something else, something bigger. Well, it’s happening. I’m thrilled to announce that registration for the FIRST annual Motherhood & Words Writing Conference and the 13th Annual Reading are now open!

This is going to be an amazing day focused on craft and building community! The conference includes sessions on finding the meaning in your storiescreating strong characterssettling on the structure to hold your story, and juggling the working writing mothering life. Lunch break-out session will cover crafting the nonfiction book proposal, creative publishing, and creative collaboration and the science of sharing.

Saturday, April 27th – ModernWell, Minneapolis

Conference: 9:30-4:30

Reading: 7:00-9:00 pm

Featured presenters are Anika FajardoShannon GibneyApril GibsonJanine KovacKate St. Vincent VoglErin O. White, and Wise Ink co-founders, Dara Beevas and Amy Quale.

And Anika FajardoApril Gibson and Janine Kovac will be the readers for the 13th Annual Motherhood Reading. Join us for this amazing day!

Tickets are limited so click here to register today! * There are also a limited number of low-income and scholarship tickets available. Please call ModernWell at (763) 999-7920 for more information.

Sponsored by Love & Drishti.

September 18, 2018
by Kate
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Women’s memoir class kicking off next week!

We all have stories inside us. Whether we tell those stories is another question. It takes courage to write your truths. Join a group of amazing women and learn how to write the stories you need to write and deepen your understanding of craft. Class will be held in the beautiful conference room at ModernWell.

When: Tuesdays, 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. September 25th – November 13th

Where: ModernWell, 2909 South Wayzata Blvd, Minneapolis

Click here for more information or to register.

I’m happy to answer any questions, too!

April 26, 2018
by Kate
2 Comments

12th Annual Motherhood & Words Reading (plus a giveaway)

It’s time to celebrate motherhood literature and the complex realities of women’s lives at the 12th Annual Motherhood & Words Reading!

This year, I’m thrilled to welcome authors Kaethe SchwehnSophfronia Scott and Erin O. White.  The reading this year is part of the Loft’s “To Be Honest” spring programming, and is sponsored by MomEnough and my favorite co-working space, ModernWell. (Scroll down for more on MomEnough and ModernWell and to enter to win a pair of tickets to Women & Words with Dr. Wendy Suzuki on May 10th at ModernWell.)

A little about the featured readers:

Kaethe Schwehn is the author of a post-apocalyptic novel, The Rending and the Nest, and Tailings: A Memoir, which won the 2015 Minnesota Book Award for Creative Nonfiction.  Her chapbook of poems, Tanka & Me, was selected for the Mineral Point Chapbook Series. Kaethe has been the recipient of an Academy of American Poets prize, a Minnesota Arts Board grant, and a Loft Mentor Series award. She teaches at St. Olaf College and lives in Northfield, Minnesota. For more about her work, visit www.kaetheschwehn.com.

Sophfronia Scott lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut where she continues to fight a losing battle against the weeds in her flowerbeds. She holds a BA in English from Harvard and an MFA in fiction and creative nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her latest novel is Unforgivable Love. She’s also recently published a spiritual memoir, This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World, co-written with her son Tain, and an essay collection, Love’s Long Line. Sophfronia teaches creative writing at Regis University’s Mile High MFA and Bay Path University’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Her website is www.Sophfronia.com.

Erin O. White’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the New York Times, Creative Nonfiction, the Kenyon ReviewPortland Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the author of Given Up for You: A Memoir (University of Wisconsin Press, 2018) and lives in western Massachusetts with her family. For more about her work, visit www.erinwhite.net.

Please join us on Saturday, April 28th for a lively reading and conversation, followed by a reception and book signing.

When: Saturday, 4/28 – 7 p.m.

Where: The Loft Literary Center, Open Book
1011 Washington Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55415

To reserve your ticket, click here. Pay-what-you-can tickets available at the door if there is still space. Bring your friends!

Thank you to MomEnough and ModernWell for making this possible!

On their MomEnough podcast, Marti & Erin Erickson explore the many facets of motherhood in today’s world – from confronting the daily joys and struggles of helping kids grow up well, to balancing work and family, to considering the big questions of how society views and values mothers and mothering. The 12th Annual Motherhood & Words Reading will be a MomEnough podcast again this year. (Also, check out MomEnough and register for their annual Night Out for ME! I’ll be there!)

ModernWell is the brain child of local author and wellness advocate Julie Burton. ModernWell is a co-operative work, writing, and wellness space in Minneapolis. Whether you want to meet a friend, colleague, or client for a cup of coffee or tea; schedule a board meeting; listen to an inspiring speaker; or simply want to get out of your house or office to work on the novel you’ve always wanted to write, read the book that has been on your nightstand for months, or take a yoga class, ModernWell is your go-to oasis. ModernWell is a haven for women who want to work, create, explore, and renew. I now spend most days working there and I love it. Leave a comment below if you want to win a pair of tickets to Women & Words with Dr. Wendy Suzuki on May 10th. I will pick a winner on Friday, May 4th.

I hope to see you Saturday night at Motherhood & Words!

January 8, 2018
by Kate
25 Comments

Writing again in 2018!

For me, 2017 was not a writing year. Certainly the state of our country was a huge distraction, and it took me too long to realize that I could not check my news feeds first thing in the morning. It was also a busy year work-wise, so my creative time was limited. And the creative time I did have I spent learning how to play the bass guitar. I’m still taking lessons and I still have lots to learn, but it no longer consumes as much headspace as it did while I was trying to master the basics. Which is all to say that I’m back to writing.

One of the things I realized, though, that in order to meet my 2018 writing goals (and I have a long list of them, including blogging again regularly), I need to work outside of my house more often. I love my tiny office, love working on the couch with sweet Aguita at my feet, but I need to be around other creative people (and away from small household tasks that “just take a minute”).

So last week I joined ModernWell, the new co-working space for women in Minneapolis. I was already scheduled to teach an 8-week women’s memoir class there beginning at the end of January—Join me! You can learn more about it here!—but when I visited the space, I fell in love with it. And after my first day working there, I couldn’t wait to go back. My goal is to be very deliberate about spending time on my own creative work while I’m there.

I will also be moderating a panel at ModernWell’s kick-off literary event, which is from 1 – 7 p.m on January 28th. And I have a pair of tickets to give away here!

 

If you’re interested in being entered in the drawing, leave a comment below. I’ll draw a winner on January 15th.

And tell me about your own writing! How are you feeling about your creative work? What are your goals for 2018?

June 25, 2017
by Kate
2 Comments

holding onto hope

The other night, after meeting some writing friends out for drinks, I biked home along the river. It had rained earlier, but the sun was now out and so were the people. I biked over the Stone Arch Bridge, which draws people from all over the city—visitors and residents alike—because it’s a perfect place to watch the Mississippi cascade over the damns. I kept smiling and saying hello and people kept smiling and saying hello back as I wound my way through the crowds. There were more smiling people along West River Parkway. Two young women in hijab having a picnic waved as I biked by and I yelled back a loud hello! The light was stunning, and as I pumped the pedals up and down I was so grateful for all of these people from different backgrounds out together on this beautiful night. I was grateful to be alive. But I couldn’t keep my tears at bay. I’d been weeping for days, and as I biked up the hill toward home, I just let them go.

Some of you may remember me posting about our friends, John and Tessie Sylvester, a few years ago. Donny and John played soccer together for the MN Thunder for many years. He and Tessie spent their adult lives giving back, spreading love and joy wherever they went. In 2011, John was diagnosed with ALS. In the face of this devastating disease, John and Tessie stayed strong and positive, focusing on what they did have: their two dear boys, Gus (6) and Freddy (5)—their joy and sunshine.

John died a week ago Friday and he will be missed by so many people, most of all his wife and sons. In a cruel twist, just days before his death, Tessie underwent test after test because of some questionable results from a routine check-up. And then the unthinkable happened: just hours after John took his last breath, her doctor called and confirmed that Tessie has cancer and it’s not good.

Tessie has adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that forms in mucus-secreting glands. It’s unclear what the primary source of the cancer is, but it has spread to Tessie’s liver and lymph nodes. Because of this, surgery is not an option for Tessie.

Tessie is terrified by the thought of leaving her sons without their daddy and mommy. She is only 36 years old and she is going to do everything she can to fight this cancer. She will start chemotherapy on Tuesday.

Tessie is self-insured and now a single parent. She will not be able to work during treatment. If you can, please donate to Tessie’s GoFundMe site and please spread the word. Tessie is one of the kindest people I know, and she needs us!

 

As I biked home the other night, I stopped to take these photos. The light and the warmth of everyone else out that night filled me with hope. I’m holding onto that hope now, for Tessie and her boys. Please help if you can.

May 4, 2017
by Kate
16 Comments

Patience! (and other directives from Concussionville)

Tamp down your fear and don’t speed your daughter those many hours from the soccer tournament to the ER (you will end up waiting for over two hours to be seen anyway).

Don’t listen to the nurse you call on the drive, the one who tells you not to feed your daughter before she’s been seen by the doctor. It will be 11 p.m. before you get home. She will be starving and angry.

Clear your plate of work and don’t feel guilty when you have to postpone meetings and then postpone them again. Work shmurk.

Embrace the return to crafts and Legos and Play-Do. Didn’t you say they were growing up too fast?

Remember that though you are parenting as intensely as if you had a toddler, you really don’t, and you can leave her alone to go take a long shower. Do this every day.

Call on your own mother, who will come over and read aloud for hours at a time.

Don’t take anything your daughter says personally—unless it’s super sweet, and then bask in it, congratulating yourself on being such an incredible mother. (Don’t worry. This won’t go to your head. The feeling will last only a moment.)

Remind her that the emotional rollercoaster she’s on is just part of the concussion. She won’t be this way forever.

Make sure your other daughter doesn’t feel ignored. Bribe her and set up play dates and keep telling her how amazing she is.

Pick up your bass guitar every day, even if you have to sneak it onto the porch to practice. When you are alone in the house, amp that shit up and rock out. It will do you a world of good.

Be a fierce advocate, but back off when she insists she can communicate her needs to her teachers on her own. (Life lesson?Check.)

Download Audible. (30-day free trial!) She can listen to her English books on her phone. And since family movie nights are out, download Harry Potter and make a huge bowl of popcorn.

Do her physical therapy exercises with her. Because they are hard and probably good for you too.

And in two weeks or four weeks or six weeks—remember: patience!—when she finally steps onto the soccer field again, try not to cringe every time a ball or a defender or a shadow comes close to her.

March 17, 2017
by Kate
0 comments

11th Annual Motherhood & Words Reading

In An Abbreviated Life, Ariel Leve writes, “We tell our stories to be heard. Sometimes those stories free us. Sometimes they free others. When they are not told, they free no one.”

In celebration of writing our truths and being heard, I want to invite you all to the 11th Annual Motherhood & Words reading on Thursday, March 23rd.

For the past decade I have dedicated myself to helping people, primarily women and primarily mothers, write the stories they need to write. I launched the Motherhood & Words reading in 2007 as a way to highlight the amazing writing out there by women about motherhood.

You need not be a mother to attend, of course. This reading is about community and about bringing people together to celebrate the complex realities of women’s lives.

I hope you’ll join me to listen to and meet these amazing writers:

Judy Batalion was born in Montreal and worked as an art historian and comedian in London before settling in New York City, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She was a columnist for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog and her essays about parenting, relationships, mental health, art and culture have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vogue, Salon, Cosmo, Tablet, the Forward, GOOD, and many other publications. Her first book, White Walls: A Memoir about Motherhood, Daughterhood, and the Mess In Between, was published by NAL/Penguin.

Shannon Gibney is a writer, educator, activist, and the author of See No Color (Carolrhoda Lab, 2015), a young adult novel that won the 2016 Minnesota Book Award in Young Peoples’ Literature. Gibney is faculty in English at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, where she teaches critical and creative writing, journalism, and African Diasporic topics. A Bush Artist and McKnight Writing Fellow, her next novel, Dream Country, is about more than five generations of an African descended family, crisscrossing the Atlantic both voluntarily and involuntarily (Dutton, 2018).

Susan Ito is the author of The Mouse Room. She co-edited the literary anthology A Ghost At Heart’s Edge: Stories & Poems of Adoption. She has been a columnist and editor at Literary Mama, and her work has appeared in Growing Up Asian American, Choice, Hip Mama, Catapult, The Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere.  She has performed her solo show, The Ice Cream Gene, around the US. She is a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, and is on the faculty of the MFA Programs at Mills College and Bay Path University. She is working on a theatrical adaption of Untold, stories of reproductive stigma. She is founder of the Asian American Women Writers Workshop and maintains a literary blog, ReadingWritingLiving, where she writes about creativity, family, wellness, and work/life balance.

When: Thursday, March 23rd – 7 pm

Where: The Loft Literary Center – Open Book
1011 Washington Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55415

This year the reading is sponsored by Pacifier, an urban kid and baby boutique; Park Nicollet Women’s Center, a new concept in women’s health; Corazon, a gift & clothing store with shops in Minneapolis and St. Paul; and The Loft Literary Center.

Free and open to the pubic. Bring your friends, enjoy snacks, wine, and fellowship, and be wowed by these amazing writers.

January 3, 2017
by Kate
14 Comments

taking stock & looking forward

The end of 2016 was difficult for me (as I know it was for many people). I was distracted (and scared) by politics, I was caught up in the general busyness of the season, and I was not writing (or even reading much). As I thought about the closing year, the things that stood out for me were all negative: the election; my step-brother’s death; the staggering number of celebrity deaths. It seemed the list went on and on.

But then I thought about all the positives from 2016: lots of time with loved ones; my daughters, who are growing into such wonderful young women and who continue to amaze me with their generosity of spirit; my marriage, which is strong and loving; my improved health beginning last spring (something I do not take lightly); my dear friends and family; my ability to run again; a growing editing business; my teaching and students, who are doing amazing work; and last, but not least, my bass guitar. (I’m still taking lessons, just had my bass “set-up,” and am practicing for an hour most days. I’m a little addicted, actually. More on that in another post.)

Taking stock of all the positives from last year has helped me shift my attitude. That is not to say I’m not still terrified by the state of the union and world or that I plan to be complacent about any of it. I will petition and protest and speak out for human rights, for equality, for the environment, for education, for compassion and understanding. But I know that I also need to take care of myself by doing the things that make me feel more balanced: getting plenty of sleep; feeding my body with healthful foods and drinks; getting lots of exercise; and reading and writing, daily.

As I’ve learned many times (yet apparently need to learn again), I’m not myself if I’m not writing. I used to be very strict with myself about not logging onto any social media or news sites until after I’d done my writing, but I’ve gotten lazy about that. And it’s almost impossible for me to write after social media splinters my attention. So I’m going to reinstate my ban on social media (and news and petitions) until after I’ve done my own writing. I’ve also realized that I need more than an hour a day to really dive into my work. When I’m on deadline with an essay (which hasn’t happened in a while), I hunker down on the couch with my computer and books until I find my way through the mess of words. I miss doing that (and maybe I miss short creative nonfiction, too; again, another post).

I’m a freelancer, so I should be able to set aside out a whole day (or at least four hours) for my own writing, but somehow I don’t do that. It’s true that I’m busy and my work days are short, but my goal for this year is to carve out a large chunk of time for my own writing each week. Somehow I know this will help me stay grounded as I move into this uncertain new year.

What will help you stay balanced in this new year?

November 14, 2016
by Kate
17 Comments

What now? – A case for compassion

This morning the house is quiet and I’m sitting in my tiny office. I love my office. There are books lining my desk, stacked on the floor beside me, above me in the cabinet. This is the place where I put words on the page, where I log into my email to immerse myself in the moving writing of my students. I feel safe here surrounded by all these words I love.

But then I look out into the back yard—at the Maple tree with a few dozen yellow leaves still clinging to its mostly barren branches, at the gray sky, which seems to be pressing down on me—and safety feels elusive.

I went to bed on the early side election night, unable to watch any longer. I didn’t sleep well, but I couldn’t bring myself to check the results in the middle of the night. In the morning, Donny reached for his phone. Though we had feared what the outcome would be, we were shocked. Shocked and devastated.

When we told the girls, they couldn’t believe it either. Zoë was scared. “What will happen?” she asked. “Will we be okay? Will we still live in this house?” I assured her we would be okay, but I didn’t really feel that way.

That afternoon I had to give a lecture to 300 undergrads about reflection and backstory in creative nonfiction, and for a moment I thought, “How can I talk about that today? Who cares?”

But of course I care, deeply. I care because I believe that writing and reading poems and stories and essays in which we are reflecting, examining our experiences, questioning our assumptions, and making connections can change lives—our own lives and our readers’ lives. That is what I told the students that afternoon, and it helped me get into the right headspace—to move beyond shock and despair to a place where I could ask, “What can I do? How can I make a difference?”

But then I began to hear about the hate, began to see the ways ignorant and hate-filled people have been emboldened. I began to read posts about friends afraid to go out in public, friends who wondered which white people were allies and which white people wanted them to get the f**k out, no matter that this is their home.

 

On Friday, I went to my book group, a group that I’ve been going to once a month for almost 18 years now, a group that has been meeting for more than twice that long. We were reading Warsan Shire’s Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth. Have you read her? If not, you must.

These lines from her four-part prose poem “Conversations About Home (at the Deportation Center)” feel particularly timely:

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”

“Look at all these borders, foaming at the mouth with bodies broken and desperate. I’m the colour of hot sun on the face, my mother’s remains were never buried. I spent days and nights in the stomach of the truck; I did not come out the same. Sometimes it feels like someone else is wearing my body.”

“I hear them say go home, I hear them say fucking immigrants, fucking refugees. Are they really this arrogant? […] All I can say is, I was once like you, the apathy, the pity, the ungrateful placement and now my home is the mouth of a shark, now my home is the barrel of a gun.”

 

Last fall, I interviewed the wonderful Dinty W. Moore for the Los Angeles Review of Books, and I asked him about compassion and its role in the writing life. This is what he said:

“Much of my early writing was about my family, but it wasn’t simply my job to tell people from my point of view why a legacy of alcoholism, depression, and suicide was so difficult. Instead, I had to try to imagine myself inside those people. Why did they act as they did? What were the realities of their lives? I needed to empathize. From a human standpoint that’s a good thing to do because it allows you to forgive and to forgive is a powerful action. From a writer’s standpoint, it’s a good thing because it makes the story deeper and more honest. It’s not just my story. I will never know entirely what my parents were thinking, but I can certainly try to imagine how various early tragedies — they were both orphaned young — created the unhappiness that permeated their marriage and their lives. That unhappiness affected me, of course, but that’s just the barest surface of the story. The deeper story has to do with who we are as human beings and how we get where we’re going.”

For me the key is in the word “imagine.” When we really stop and imagine what someone else might have been experiencing and thinking and feeling—what might have been motivating them—empathy bubbles to the surface. When we truly put ourselves in someone else’s shoes (through reading, through real dialogue, by being curious, by having an open mind), we are not only more compassionate people, we are better people.

Let us practice compassion. Let us read widely. Let us embrace voices that help open our minds, not close them down. Let us use our words for good.

I BELIEVE in the power of words to bring us together. I’m not going to give up on that. Who is with me?

 

(You can read more about Warsan Shire and her collaboration with Beyoncé on Lemonade here, and you can read her stunning poem “What They Did Yesterday Afternoon” here.)

September 26, 2016
by Kate
3 Comments

Channeling Spencer

I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandpa lately. I wrote about him a number of times here, and I just went back and read through some of my old posts, each one reminding me what an extraordinary person he was. (Some of my favorites are here and here and here, though there are many more).

My grandpa always hoped that one of his granddaughters would fall in love with golf—his sport, his passion. That didn’t happen—for any of us—but he didn’t stop trying. He wanted to make sure that we had the fundamentals down in case we ever—Maybe? Someday?—did fall in love with the game. So when he lived with my mom and step-dad in their Mendota Heights house (and when Donny and I were caretakers for Mimi and living a mile away in Sunfish Lake), I’d often pick him up and we’d head to the Inver Wood range. He’d buy a large bucket of balls, pull his golf cap down a little lower on his forehead, flip the seat down on his walker, and we’d set up camp.

I had a pretty good swing despite my playing very little actual golf, but it was never a perfect swing, and that’s where Grandpa came in. He would remind me to square my hips, to keep my left elbow in, to shift my grip just a centimeter to the right, to swing with the back of my left hand, to close the face of the club, to swing through the ball. I can still hear him: “Keep your head down, dammit.” He would often end up exasperated with me, and I would end up exasperated with him. Yet I loved to go to the range with him. I loved how he could see what I was doing wrong (and occasionally what I was doing right). If I were to watch someone swing a golf club, all I would see is someone swinging a golf club. But not Grandpa. Golf was his language and he spoke it beautifully.

Two weeks ago I started taking bass guitar lessons. Perhaps you remember that Donny surprised me with an electric bass guitar for Mother’s Day. And then my friends got me a gift card for six lessons to Twin Town for my birthday. The summer was hectic so I decided to wait until fall for the lessons. But that meant that I developed a few bad habits over the summer.

During my first lesson, my teacher made notes of all the things I need to remember: finger numbering, to keep my fingers down (so freaking hard for me), pull into the next string, etc. etc. (Don’t even get me started on the notes! Jeez.) I try to remember it all, but last week at my lesson, my elbow started doing this crazy waggling thing and my index finger wouldn’t stay down and I got flustered. Though my teacher didn’t swear at me, he might have wanted to. I feel exactly like I felt all those years ago at the driving range—so many tiny details to remember, none of them intuitive.

But then I think of Grandpa, who in addition to being an amazing golfer and golf teacher, never gave up. He was always open to learning new things. After my grandma died in June of 1999, part of my thought he’d fade away. They’d been married 67 years after all. Instead, he taught himself to cook. He invented “The Gadet” so he could practice his swing inside during the long Minnesota winter, he read voraciously, he met the other geezers down at the Par 3 for mornings of cribbage. He was always an optimist, and he always knew there was something else he could learn.

I remember him saying about golf that it has to feel like second nature. “You have to practice these things enough so that they feel natural.”

So every day I sit down with my bass, flip on my amp, and practice. I watch videos of my teacher, I try to remember all those little details. Last week it was a blues progression, this week Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up.” My fingers are freaking killing me and I’m often frustrated.

But isn’t that how writing used to feel, as well? For so long when I sat down to write, I felt like I was bungling everything. Because there was so much to consider, so much to remember. And now, not so much. It’s still often difficult, but character and scene and knowing when to dip into backstory or reflection—all of that is more intuitive. It’s become second nature. So maybe there is hope for me and my bass. I know Spencer would think so.