Poem-a-Day as Practice

IMG_1646By Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

I am not a morning pages poet, nor am I a write everyday poet. To write every day, or close to every day, is something I have to work at, and by work I mean, it takes trickery. It takes a challenge like Poem-A-Day that happens every April for National Poetry Month. If you’ve never heard of this event, it’s similar to National Novel Writing Month—commonly known as NaNoWriMo—in September but without the cute name. For the month of April, in celebration of NPM, poets around the country and even the world, challenge themselves to write one new poem a day for 30 days. To help, many websites and journals give daily writing prompts. Many are free and some take a subscription. But here’s the thing, you don’t have to wait for April to challenge yourself, and to be honest, I have never successfully accomplished writing 30 poems in 30 days in April, and to be even more honest, I’ve only tried once, maybe twice.

In fact, the only times I’ve successfully written everyday for an extended amount of time have been when I’ve gone away for a writing residency. It’s actually incredibly easy to write everyday when you have vacated your home for 25 days and have no responsibilities to speak of beyond keeping yourself and your space tidy and writing. Being a writer in residence means you have been put up for 2-4 weeks in a beautiful local with a comfy bed to sleep in and a quiet desk to write at both most likely with views of a forest, or prairie, or ocean-side bluff. Your meals are taken care. Your email has been set with an automated response: “I am currently away on a writing retreat until ____. I will be checking and replying to emails periodically. Your patience is appreciated.” Your bills were paid and squared away before you left. All your deadlines were met. Children are being cared for (I don’t have children). Pets are being fed. And someone is enjoying your car while you’re gone. When you are a writer in residence, there is nothing to do but take long walks, sit in the bath, pick flowers, read, eat, and oh, yes, write.

The very first writing residency I attended was at Ragdale Foundation in North Shore Chicago. For 25 days my only responsibility was writing a first draft of a novel. I had a warm, quaint cottage room over looking a red brick courtyard and nothing but time. I thought, Well, shit. I better write something. And write I did. A novel written in letters, I gave myself the assignment to write at least three new letters a day. (This was another trick I gave myself, since letters aren’t much longer than a poem.) As days increased so did my output, and by the final day I had a complete first draft. It was magical.

Since then, there have been times when I think, Well, I’ll just make my own residency at home, but it’s not so simple. Jobs, friends, family, laundry, dishes, bills, oil changes, and all the other everyday obligations get in the way of regular pages, so what do you do?

One friend suggested I try “The Grind,” a by invitation email group that asks members to write a new piece of work a day for one month. A form of accountability, the administrator places poets and writers into email groups of about 10 people. The only expectation is members send one new piece a day to the group. No one is expected to read. No one is expected to comment. All members are expected to do is write and send. I know a couple of poets who have had major success with The Grind, which if you participated for 3 months, has the potential to help you produce at least 90 new pieces. These pieces are mostly likely raw, scraps even, and some may only be one sentence, but still, it’s material to play with.

I hated The Grind. I have come to realize that I don’t like joining any group or organization that increases the amount of emails flooding my inbox. Remember that instant reply message set in my email? I live for setting that instant reply! But I did like the idea of being beholden to another person, so what I did was invite one friend to join me in a 20-day challenge. For 20 days, we were to write new pages and send our new work to the other person with the same stipulations, no one was expected to read or comment. And that worked for a while, until I realized that the other person was only a crutch. I could do a 20-day challenge on my own.

Whenever I feel a need to start producing more material, I open a new document, title it “20 Day Challenge” with the date and begin. I mark the top of each page with the day and the date before writing a new poem: Day 5 February 14, 2018. The challenge can start whenever you like and doesn’t have to coincide with any day or date, but at first, you may consider beginning on the first of the month, the first day of the season, or if you are into the phases of moon, with a new moon. The new moon is a good time to set intentions such as to write everyday, and if that’s of interest to you, the next new moon is March 17, 2018.

Tips for writing a poem-a-day:

  1. Try writing at the same time everyday. I write after lunch once I’ve had some experiences in my day to reflect on. As I mentioned before, I’m not a morning pages writer because I find it difficult to write before I have fed my mind inspiration, but midday seems to work.
  2. Don’t expect the poem to be in fact a poem. At this point you are creating raw material. Be ok with building a shapeless mound of clay. Later, you can go back and see if you can sculpt it into art, but for now, let it be whatever it is that comes out of you.
  3. Try sitting for ten minutes, and see what comes out. 10 minutes is all you need!
  4. If you miss a day, still write the day and date on a blank page, and maybe make a note about what you did that day. For example, just the other day I wrote: “Day 9: February 18, 2018. Went to Brunch for T’s birthday.” Sometimes I will go back and write something for that day, but most of the time I don’t.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up for missing a day or two. It’s your challenge, make of it what you will.
  6. Get a buddy if you need a buddy, but also know you can do it alone.
  7. Inspiration for writing a poem-a-day:
    1. take a walk and see where your mind wonders. When you get back, write down all your random thoughts.
    2. Take time to read a new poem, a new chapter in a novel, or even a page in novel and write a response to what you read. Try stealing a favorite line by making it the title of your poem and see what happens.
    3. Visit an art exhibit and write a response to a piece in the exhibit
    4. Ask a friend to send you a photo from their own library of photos and write a poem from the photo. (It’s helpful if you know your friend is a good photographer.)
    5. Journal out all your feelings and thoughts. Spill on to the page, and then take pieces from your journal for a collage poem.
    6. Notice what you notice. I heard this advice from movie director, Miguel Arteta when he did a talk for junior high kids at 826LA. He said to be a writer, you only have to notice what you notice. As you go through your day, pay attention to what catches your eye: the way your coworker left out the creamer, a character in your favorite TV show that seems to be unfairly treated, a funny misspelling on a street sign, the misplaced baby shoe sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. Whatever it is, write it at the top of your page, and see what comes.

After you’ve done a 20-day challenge, be sure to look back at what you’ve created. You will mostly likely be pleasantly surprised to find the beginnings of a poem or two.

Let Xochitl get you started in your practice with her class, Spanner, Slammer, Socket: Building a Poet’s Toolbox, or get a coaching package in poetry. which starts April 2nd, opening National Poetry Month




Passion in the Picture: Ekphrastic Poetry


by Adrian Ernesto Cepeda

When I walked into Francesca Lia Block’s Antioch University seminar, The Importance of Social Media for the Contemporary Writer, I had no idea my life would be changed and inspired. Francesca highlighted the growing trend of the most successful writers linking to their fans, followers and other writers by using social media as a tool to express their creative message. I know if it wasn’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t have been introduced to the writers, poets and artists I now call my friends. Francesca reemphasized my belief that the point of a writer is to connect with an audience. She said it best, “Don’t just journal, you are here to write, get your voice out in the world.” Not only did she open my eyes specifically to the world wide web that was reverberating all around me, but she helped me focus and I realized how much the internet was the essential ingredient to all my creative writing endeavors.

Douglas Adams once said: “Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.” My whole life I’d been learning if you, as a writer, write down what you see, fear and love from your own universe, you will make the reader want to live inside your mind, your vision and your own creative voice. It was like a lightbulb exploded and I realized that if you’re a writer looking for ideas on what to write, go on Pinterest or Tumblr and write an ekphrastic poem, a poem reflecting what you see and feel from a photo or work of art. I discovered that my main source of inspiration was the internet footprint I was creating daily around me. We are unique and no one has the same online presence; harness that distinctive spark that inspiration is everywhere online for your creativity…that is your power as a writer.

The World Wide Web is much more than watching videos, spreading chatroom chisme, and surfing the internet. I follow the lead of poets like Nayyirah Waheed who’s Instagram and Tumblr posts shows how a poet can reflect an online presence creatively while inspiring their audiences. I have also discovered many poets like A. Van Jordan and Gary Jackson who have published collections about their pop culture passions. Jordan’s book The Cineaste merges his love of cinema with his gift of verse and Jackson’s Missing You Metropolis combines Gary’s affection for graphic novels and comic books with his talented poetic voice.

Poets like Francesca Lia Block, Nayyirah Waheed, A. Van Jordan and Gary Jackson have inspired me to connect with my love of vintage black and white photographs and classic film stills and create my own style of ekphrastic poetry. I wake up every morning and log into my Tumblr account and scroll through my dashboard and usually a photograph or film still will grab my creative intention and I stop, open up a word file and let the visual inspiration spark a new poem. Although I’ve written poems inspired by paintings, like one I’ve had published this year at Ekphrastic California inspired by The Blue Boy, (1770) by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) oil on canvas on display at The Huntington Gallery in San Marino, California and often write poems inspired by color photographs found on Facebook and Instagram, there is something about trying to write a poem from a black and white photograph. As a poet, it’s more of a challenge. There are no colors, so we as poets, need to dig deep inside while trying to connect with the photograph and conjure up an interpretation that satisfies the creative curiosity of the reader.

I’ve written and had poems published inspired by photographs of Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and Jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. I have to admit, one of my favorites poems, “Take Me to the Aquarium and Make Out with Me in the Jellyfish Room” was inspired by Dmitrijs Belokons black and white photo of an elderly couple kissing at an aquarium was published in a collection called Getting Old. It was only the silhouette of this couple, as I poet, I had to fill in the lines and create a portrait, bringing their ageless passion to life on the page. Most of the times, poems like this “Take Me to the Aquarium” flow out from my fingers and magically becomes verse.

But it takes dedication to search, scrolling through my dashboard and being open to every picture that appears in my feed. I have a philosophy that I follow when I am online:

When inspiration calls, you must accept the charges.

When I’m Tumblr, it’s to work and I have to be ready to write when the right photograph speaks to me. There’s a connection that wants to be made and most times the images connect with something I need to explore on the page. Bringing color to these images with my poems, is never easy but I love challenging myself, trying to expand my writing voice reflecting verses from these vintage photographs.

Bringing these images into focus with my poetry is a passion I’ve discovered online and one I am excited to share with other poets. I know I’m not the only writer who goes online to seek inspiration for their writing voice. As a poet, I always heed the words of Poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera who said, “Do not wait for a poem; a poem is too fast for you. Do not wait for the poem, run with the poem and then write the poem. And of course immerse yourself in a sea of books and poems. You want to be in that parade, that’s what you have to do.”

My course Your Voice Inside the Picture: Ekphrastic Poetry is for writers are eager to explore the art of writing poetry by using Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr as your spark of visual inspiration. If you are visually inspired by photographs and artworks, then my class is for you. We will learn the craft of ekphrastic poetry, taking those images and reflecting our impressions on the page as poetry.

I wouldn’t be teaching Internet your Senses and Tumblr Towards Creativity without Francesca Lia Block’s inspiration. Thank You to Francesca for making me realize I needed to embrace technology, connect with my writing audience, harness my creative energies, and share my knowledge of using the internet to inspire poetry.

Adrian’s class Your Voice Inside the Picture: Ekphrastic Poetry begins Monday, September 10. Sign up here!

Adrian Ernesto Cepeda is the author of the forthcoming full-length poetry collection Flashbacks & Verses… Becoming Attractions from Unsolicited Press and the poetry chapbook So Many Flowers, So Little Time from Red Mare Press. His poetry has been featured in The Yellow Chair Review, Frontier Poetry, poeticdiversity, The Wild Word, The Fem, Rigorous, and Lunch Ticket’s Special Issue: Celebrating 20 Years of Antioch University Los Angeles MFA in Creative Writing.

To date, Adrian has over one hundred and twenty five poems published in over a hundred different publications.  One of his poems was named the winner of Subterranean Blue Poetry’s 2016 “The Children of Orpheus” Anthology Contest and two of his poems “Buzz Me” and “Estranged Fruit” were nominated for Best of the Net in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Adrian also had one of his poems “Longing for Our Airport Reconnections” featured in Shinpei Takeda’s Poems of Arrival for the Inscription Installation Exhibit at the New Americans Museum in San Diego, California.

Adrian is an LA Poet and graduate of MFA program at Antioch University in Los Angeles where he lives with his wife and their cat Woody Gold. You can connect with Adrian on his website: http://www.adrianernestocepeda.com/


How to Kick Miss Nibs to the Curb and Finally Own Your Sentences


by Kate Maruyama

GRAMMAR! Grammarian. Correct grammar. Poor grammar. Good grammar. Eeek! For many these words are terrifying and I’ve got a pretty good idea why.

I’ve taught writing to all ages, from grade school to graduate school, undergraduate students or grownups who just want to write.

One constant I’ve encountered in all varieties of writers is a nasty residue I like to call the Ms. Nibs factor. It seems like all of my students, no matter their background, have been at one time or another in their life– most likely in their grammar school or in high school–smacked down for their writing in one way or another. English teachers in primary school tend to function on a rules and correction formula which is not the right formula for creative writing. And, unfortunately, as we’ve all had English teachers, no matter how good we get at creative writing, we carry that “I’m doing it wrong” Ms. Nibs hangover from our past. This sometimes rears its ugly head when we are sitting down to write. It prevents many students I know from writing at all.

We carry with us every criticism we’ve received on our writing and very often, every red mark we’ve seen on a paper. When we get notes from editors, it stings in the same way.

And somehow, when the word “grammar” comes up, it lands in the Miss Nibs category, and can lead to mini nervous breakdowns.

The truth is grammar is just the mechanics of how sentences are put together. It’s the terminology for each word you use and why you use it. And it’s essential for a writer’s toolbox.  The way to rid yourself of that baffled Miss Nibs feeling is to take hold of this toolbox and start wielding your verbs more mightily, owning your modifying clauses and discovering the music and the function of your sentences.

Once you have already written a draft (no one should get in the way of that creative process, especially not Miss Nibs,) it is time to go back into your prose and make sure each word is doing what it is meant to do and is chosen for maximum impact. Having a firm handle on how all these details work makes that final polish solid. Before you hand your work over to an editor, a beta reader, a potential agent, you have the tools to see that beyond creativity, story, and character, your writing is clear and powerful and has fully embraced the parameters of the language. And in doing this you have served your story well.

Kate Maruyama’s course, Grammar Redux: Comprehensive Tools for Writers begins on January 15th.

Kate Maruyama’s novel HARROWGATE was published by 47North. Her short work has appeared in Arcadia, Stoneboat, Whistling Shade and on Salon, Duende, The Rumpus among other journals as well as in two anthologies: Winter Horror Days and Phantasma: Stories. She teaches in the BA and MFA programs for Antioch University Los Angeles as well as for Writing Workshops Los Angeles and the inspiration2publication program. She writes, teaches, cooks and eats in Los Angeles where she lives with her family.



Mining Neighborhood Treasures for Writing


Blog post Julie Graham

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

Here’s what I know about the little town I’ve lived in for the last 20 years, a small village by the Santa Monica Bay that basks in its relative isolation from the thrumming street life of Venice and Santa Monica. I know these factoids by osmosis, just from living here, talking with friends who have lived here all their life, reading the local paper, and walking the neighborhood:

  1. In the 1920’s an exclusive group of rich and powerful men built a ranch in a canyon below Sunset Boulevard and called it, and themselves, the Uplifters Club. The name was a play on words, since they supported the arts by promoting and uplifting artistic endeavors, but also because they drank heavily (uplifting drinks to their mouths) during the prohibition era in speakeasies hidden around the ranch.
  2. In a mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Thelma Todd, a famous and beloved actress, was murdered in1935. The mystery of who killed her and why has never been solved.
  3. A meditation center and shrine surrounded by a lush garden sits on a spring-fed lake at the edge of town. On the edge of the lake sits a windmill which has been converted into a chapel.
  4. In the mountains above my town sit the ruins of what was to be Hitler’s North American compound, had Germany won. It’s now a hiking destination and a graffiti artist’s dreamscape.
  5. A new street mall designed by a local developer is set to open next year, with nods to historical buildings of yesteryear.
  6. A small Italian restaurant next to the local Starbucks has a Hookah club after hours, members only.
  7. A champion Muay Thai boxer teaches and trains in a local martial arts studio. He’s the only man in the world who has ever won World Boxing titles with only one arm. He goes by the nickname “The One Armed Bandit.”

What do these factoids about my town have in common? Any one of them could be become a travel essay.  The truth is, any fun fact — large or small — about your own hometown can make fascinating reading; the possibilities for travel writing are endless.

As a travel writer, this is how I look at any place I go, even if it’s just around the corner. What would I want people to know if I had to write about this place, or this person. What’s unique to the story? Recently, for instance, I wondered why there are different types of trees planted on each block in the neighborhood?  What’s the city planning history behind this section of my town? And why is my street the only one in the town with a Japanese name?

I’ve lived in many urban areas that have infinite places of interest to write about and I’ve lived small bedroom communities too. Although it seemed at the time that there was nothing exciting about those humble suburban towns, in hindsight through the lens of travel narrative, I can now think of a dozen ideas that would make great reading. There are stories everywhere we look — journeying miles across oceans to find them is not necessary.

Seeing your neighborhood, town or city through the eyes of a travel writer is an incredible way to connect to your town.  Writing it into a travel essay connects your hometown, and a bit of yourself, to the rest of the world.

Learn more about writing your own place in Julie’s class, Crafting Your Hood: Travel Writing from Your Own Backyard

Julie Graham has written award-winning articles on Halloween in Obidos, Portugal, theater costuming in Berkley, California and izakaya-hopping in Tokyo.  Her work has appeared in Pilot Getaways, including destination vacation pieces on Sundance, Utah and St. Helena, Carmel and San Diego, California. Although trained as a news journalist, her penchant is for literary travel essays and memoir.  She earned her degree in Communications and Journalism from Mills College and her Masters in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles.  Julie has two teenaged kids and a dog named Jasper; all of them drive her crazy, but when she travels, she misses them fiercely.

Release Your Imagination!


by Jacquie Nichols

The clouds are gathering, dark gray masses obstructing the moonlight. The days are dwindling to only scant hours of natural light. The year approaches its close and the breezes begin to bite at your skin, demanding coverage. The answer, some may say, is to cuddle up in your fluffiest jammies, draw the curtains against the cold, and binge watch your favorite shows on Netflix till the weather breaks and the sun shines again. I say, that’s for the obedient folks who live complacent lives only to repeat the next day the same as the last. Now, for those who are willing, I propose a challenge. Forget the monotony of the so-called normal life, drag yourself away from the plastic lives of reality stars and embrace the unknown. Reach out and grab hold of it until you can claim it as your own. Take a class that will forever change you into the person you will become, the person that has gained more knowledge than the one on the couch and revels in the wonder of what may come next.

Learn how to write the stories that celebrate the darkness. Release your imagination and run the streets with the zombies, unravel the mystery of the specter in the basement, destroy the serial killer at the circus—or let him triumph and kill them all! The possibilities abound, it’s all up to you. Do you watch the same plot twists replay with different faces all winter, or do you learn the secrets behind building suspense on the page and making your reader cringe while gripping your story in their fists, pleading for it to end but unable to put it down? You tell me, has the couch already begun to mold to your backside? If you’re ready to deny your furniture the warmth of your flesh, click the link below:


Frightening Bursts of Creativity with Jacquie Nichols


If horror isn’t your bag, that’s not a problem. We have options here for all. If non-fiction is your preference, check out a class on travel writing:


Crafting Your Hood: Travel Writing From Your Own Backyard with Julie Graham


Or document your everyday with:


Mommie Brain: Document Your Parenting Journey with Rachel Schinderman


Maybe it’s poetry that’s coursing through your veins, searching for an escape. If so, try this one on for size:


The Phases of Military Deployment and the Poetry Within with John Holt


And if none of those tickle your fancy, yet you still want to expand your knowledge and heighten your craft, this one may just fit the bill:


How to Make Your Novel More Cinematic for the Reader with John Reedburg


Come on! Click one! I dare ya!

3 Simple DON’Ts when Querying Agents

Lightning Bottle

by Lilly Barels

I’ve heard the odds of getting a literary agent are like winning the lottery. Or being struck by lightning. But I’m here to say it can be done. With a lot of work and dedication, it is possible. (Side note: The day my agent called to offer representation is an experience I wouldn’t trade for any winning ticket.)

The purpose of a well-written query letter is to interest an agent so much that she requests your manuscript for review. Consider a query to be the 30 seconds you get in a round of speed dating: Introduce yourself, pitch the manuscript, and be respectful. A query letter is your single chance at impressing the agent so much that she loses sleep over waiting for your manuscript.

If you read examples of successful query letters, they all have a few traits in common. A query showcases the writer’s knowledge of the types of projects the agent represents. It also describes the writer’s manuscript in a succinct and intriguing way. Finally, the letter describes the writer in a brief, relevant bio.

Now, just like speed dating, there are definite No-No’s when it comes to writing a successful query letter. Consider the following don’ts before you begin drafting:

  1. Sending an unfinished manuscript: Do not query until you’ve drafted, revised, and reworked your manuscript to be the very best version of itself possible. Many think they should start the query process while they’re completing the manuscript because finding the right agent can often take a long time. However, this is misguided. Querying a partial manuscript is a mistake because the agent assumes you’ve completed the project. So when she requests it, the agent expects to receive the full manuscript in a timely manner—not in six months when you finally finish.
  2.  Groveling: Please do not beg, brown-nose, or suck up. An agent expects you to be confident, courteous, and professional. The query is your opportunity to display your skill as a writer as well as the type of client you’ll be when you’re signed. I’ve heard of aspiring writers sending flowers and boxes of chocolates to potential agents. Spend the extra time on drafting an impressive letter because you’re a skilled writer, not because you have extra money to spend on gifts.
  3. Sharing TMI: Be specific and concise with your bio. Leave out anything that doesn’t directly apply to the manuscript or your writing career.  Do not make up publishing credits.  Do not discuss your dog.  Keep it relevant and to the point. Another mistake aspiring authors make is including information in the bio that has nothing to do with the legitimacy of being a writer. Provide a list of publishing credits and writing awards. The literary agent doesn’t need to know about accolades not associated with your writing career, unless you can creatively tie them in with the reason for writing the proposed manuscript.

For more advice, tips, and resources, check out Lilly’s upcoming class:

Art of the Query Letter: How to Woo an Agent from the Slush Pile

So, you wrote a book and now it’s waiting to be on bookshelves. If you aren’t planning to self-publish and the owner of Penguin Random House isn’t your cousin, then you probably need a literary agent. Join me for this 2-week crash course that’ll get you down and dirty with the elusive query letter. We’ll use real examples that worked–including mine! And create a plan of action for taking your query into the world of literary agent slush piles. 
(P.S. if you aren’t sure what the heck a slush pile is, I’ll be sure to explain that too).

More about Lilly Barels:

 A decade after receiving her BS in neuroscience from UCLA and being named Valedictorian, Lilly decided to pursue her true passion for writing and received her MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles in 2014. She resides on Oahu as a full-time mother of two sandy children and a part-time writer of three novels. Lilly enjoys being an active member of the SCBWI and incorporates avocado into every possible meal. She is represented by Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency. Connect with Lilly on Twitter @lillybarels

“Mom!!You WROTE About Me??” Question of Boundaries and Ethics for Mothers Writing


by Rachel Schinderman

I had a writing teacher who once said, “Write as if your parents are dead.” The meaning was not to censor yourself and to write freely despite thinking your parents may see it, which could be embarrassing. Others have said, “if you didn’t want to be written about you should have been nicer.” As a writer who has written extensively about motherhood, and therefore my children, I think about this differently. Now, I won’t imagine my children not being here, but I must take them into account. And being “nicer” isn’t really appropriate for someone going through what is often called the terrible twos or are referred to a as threenager.  In fact it is developmentally appropriate for them to not be nicer. Or at least that is what the parenting books tell me.

There is very little I could say about myself that I would censor. I am pretty much an open book (hence being a memoir writer), but by writing about motherhood I am writing about my children and this can be sticky.

When my children were babies, I had a newspaper column where I explored our day to day lives and challenges. My son could not give me permission to write about him, obviously.  Those columns were not just about sleep challenges (they were there and then some) or ear infections (had those too), but were more about our daily struggles in the aftermath of a birth trauma where my son almost died the day he was born. To me, this very personal and intimate tale was mine to tell. This was my story of how motherhood was unfolding in a different manner than I expected. But did my son have any say in this? Did his brother when he arrived four years later premature and we added another layer of challenges?

And so I stopped my column. To be honest it was mostly that I was overwhelmed with parenting, not for any privacy or ethics concerns, but even without the column I found that I still wrote about motherhood and my children. I needed to. And so I told our stories in shows like Expressing Motherhood.

Writing for me is an outlet.  A way to explore what is going on my life, in the world.  It guides and focuses me.  Ona Gritz explores this idea beautifully in her New York Times piece “Finding Myself on the Page.” But is it fair for me to share my story when it involves someone else, especially when that someone else is the person I am supposed to protect above all else?  Now that he is older, 11, my son has asked me not to publish certain stories ones he may find too revealing and I have listened and done as he asked. But now that he is older, he also revels in the celebrity aspect of being written about. He thinks he is famous if he can find his name in a Google search.  I haven’t the heart to tell him mommy isn’t that well known and therefore anything I write won’t make him famous.  He will have to do that on his own.  And he is up for that challenge.

I explored this issue in my column, “Debating the Benefits of Sharing Our Kids” and revealed that I was written about as a child.  My mother, Eileen Douglas, wrote a children’s book called Rachel and the Upside Down Heart, about our lives after my father died when I was only four.  What I discovered in writing that column is what I hope my sons will also discover, that I felt great value in having someone write down my story.  It elevated what was happening to us.  It made me feel like it, and therefore I, mattered.  And what could be more motherly than helping your children find value in their stories?

As I wrote in my column:

But I found strength in writing. And I found strength in having this document, this book that my mother created. I had beautiful illustrations depicting my childhood. I had words that captured a specific, though difficult time in my life. This was a time I may otherwise have shut away never to have remembered.

So now as I look for ways to remember these early years with my child, in addition to taking numerous photos and videos, I write.

In doing so, we as mother/writers must also be aware of our children, and write not as if our parents are dead but as if our children will read it one day.

Rachel Zients Schinderman is a writer, teacher, and mother living in Los Angeles. As a teacher, she is the creator of the writing groups for moms, Mommie Brain  (www.mommiebrain.com), which was featured in Daily Candy.  As a writer she has had her work appear in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, The Nervous Breakdown, The Manifest Station, The LA Times Magazine to name a few and had an ongoing column about parenting in The Santa Monica Daily Press also called Mommie Brain. As a mom she has two sons, ages 7 and 11. Learn more at rachelschinderman.journoportfolio.com or http://www.mommiebrain.com to read some of her work. She is also a regular performer in the hit show Expressing Motherhood and has placed twice in LA Parent’s Moms Who Write Contest.  She has a Masters in Professional Writing from The University of Southern California and a Teaching Certificate from Antioch University, but more than all of that, she is excited by other people’s stories and helping them discover them.  


Rachel’s class, Mommie Brain: Documenting Your Parenting Journey provides real tools for writing on motherhood. Begins April 2, 2018.