Thursday, January 17, 2008


Women as Writers: Take What's Useful...

A few months ago, I seemed to keep running into the same theme concerning women as writers: that once women start families, the vast majority of them stop writing.

I read it in Alice Walker: A Life, where she recalls one encounter with a woman she upset with her assertion that having more than one child hampers a woman's full creativity (I'm paraphrasing). Ms. Walker, of course, only had one child. The woman who reacted was bothered by the assumption, prompting her to write a letter to the author, who in turn told the woman that she should take what is useful and ignore the rest.

On one hand, I often say that same thing: take what is useful and ignore the rest. On the other hand, it does nag at me when I continue to run into the idea that women aren't allowed their full creativity when children come on the scene. When men become fathers, no one expects them to stop writing, but for women, who most often are the primary caregivers (whether they work outside of the home or not), unless she's a bestselling author, she can be expected to put her writing on the back burner.

If you've always been a writer, this can be akin to setting your dreams on the back burner, on a low fire and watching it slowly die.

Yes, it can be more difficult to find time to write when you have children, but if writing is truly your passion, what you were called to do, then it shouldn't matter if you have one child or five or ten. We all find time for what we truly value, whether it's reading, exercising or scrapbooking.

Of course, this may hit closer to home if you're a mother, but whether you have children or not, take what's useful: you're a writer, and ignore the rest: the idea that women always have to sacrifice the best of themselves.

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Monday, September 17, 2007


Spotlight on Paula Schmitt & Mom Writer’s Literary Magazine

I had a chance to pose a few questions to Paula Schmitt, Founder and CEO of Mom Writer’s Literary Magazine. For readers who are unfamiliar with Paula and her magazine, read on…she’s an inspiring business woman, a successful author, and a super busy mom…

Paula Schmitt, award-winning author of Living in a Locker Room: A Mom’s Tale of Survival in a Houseful of Boys (2005), has been published in hundreds of publications. She has appeared on numerous radio talk shows and in print publications such as American Baby, Family Circle, Parenting, All You, Real Simple, Adoption Today, Adopting for Tomorrow magazine, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Herald, The Burlington Free Press and many others. She is the Founder and CEO of Mom Writer’s Productions, LLC, Founder and President of award-winning Mom Writer’s Literary magazine (2005) – “A literary magazine for mom writers who have something to say”, and Founder, Host and Executive Producer of her radio talk show, Mom Writer’s Talk Radio which launched November of 2005.

When she isn’t writing, editing, or taxiing her children to their sport events, she prefers to spend quality time in central Vermont with her husband and five children. To read more of her columns visit and for some much needed adult conversation email her at

WOW: Welcome to WOW! Paula, we’re thrilled you’ve decided to chat with us about Mom Writer’s Literary Magazine. Would you share with us how MWLM came to exist and, more importantly, how you kept up the momentum to reach the two-year milestone as well as move into the print realm?

Paula: Mom Writer’s Literary Magazine had been a dream of mine for years before it launched. I wanted to create a place where mom writers could go to submit their writing, get published and let their voices be heard. As a mother of five, I knew firsthand that there was something for every mother to say whether it was funny, complex, penetrating and raw, I knew motherhood was literary. So, June of 2005, MWLM was born as an online literary magazine for moms and the response over the past two years was overwhelming, in a good way! Many of our readers were asking how they could get a print subscription to the magazine and, well, it took off from there and here we are today.

WOW: You’re a living example that dreams do come true! And with this particular dream, you couldn’t have maintained it all alone. I’ve read all the bios for your staff members. Each mom represents a different city and region, literally. That’s great for a magazine’s voice! Plus, in your first print edition, Samantha Gianulis writes, “We want our magazine to speak in all voices, listen in all languages and write from one that unites us all.” This is a beautiful goal. I wonder, though, how do you keep track of so many staff writers and so many voices?

Paula: First of all I want to say that I am truly blessed to work with such a terrific and amazing staff. The mom writers who are a part of the MWLM team are just an awesome group of moms. And yes, we are literally spread out across the map! We are lucky that this has worked perfectly for us. We talk to each other just about every day which helps to keep us connected and organized and I must add that my Editor-in-Chief, Samantha Gianulis is my right hand angel :) And a wonderful friend.

WOW: If only all professional teams could have it so good, the working world would be a far less stressful place. Of course, moms know how to work well together through crazy times! Could you tell us about the Mom Writers Publishing Cooperative and how it empowers mom writers?

Paula: The Mom Writer’s Publishing Cooperative is a powerful group of 24 mom writers who give each other encouragement and support as writers. The founder, Nancy Cleary is super to work with and is warm and caring and has become a dear friend of mine. MWPC gives its members a community of peers in like situations where the writers can experiment with their ideas without any risk of rejection. I’m very happy to have found a publisher who was able to share my vision while providing her expertise through the publishing process.

WOW: The MWPC sounds extraordinarily supportive. Speaking of extraordinary, would you share an extraordinary memory of any article, interview, or any particular piece in your magazine that will forever stick in your mind or heart?

Paula: In our winter 2006 online issue we had the pleasure of interviewing best selling author Jodi Picoult. In part of Jodi’s interview our MWLM editor asked her about her new novel Nineteen Minutes and how she was affected by her research for this book which deals with a school shooting and its aftermath and how personal did this book become for her as the mother of three children. Jodi’s reply was that it was a very hard book to write as a mom. She knew, practically, that the next school shooter might be next door…or even in one’s own home. But that didn’t make it any easier to face the fact. Part of the research she did was with survivors of a school shooting in Minnesota. She said she was so shaken by some of their comments about their parents’ solicitousness after the shooting. Instead of falling into that sort of comfort, the kids were antagonistic. They wanted to know where their parents had been a month, a week, a day earlier – why they hadn’t been involved in their lives back then as well. This interview with Jodi will forever be in my heart. She is an incredibly talented writer with such a gift. I was lucky enough to meet Jodi Picoult this past spring at the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. She is an extremely warm and friendly person and mom writer.

WOW: That whole experience would shake anyone. Thanks for sharing it with us. As we near the end of our time, is there anything you would like readers and freelancers to know about your site and print magazine that they might not already know?

Paula: Well I would like to mention to our readers and freelancers that we have added a visual art section in our Writer’s Guidelines. We are looking for artwork in the form of photographs, sketches and graphic art to feature within our pages. We are interested in artwork which conveys a unique perspective on motherhood so please send in your visual art and we will respond to you within a few days.

Paula, thank you so for taking the time to answer our curious questions. We look forward to seeing what you have in store for us in your third year. We'll be sure to check back with you to see where you’re going.

We send a toast, a cheer, and a "Happy Two-Year Anniversary" to Mom Writer’s Literary Magazine! Kudos to you, your staff, and your fans for keeping such a fine publication alive and thriving!

Sue & Team WOW!

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Monday, July 16, 2007


Mom Writer, Interrupted

One of the leading challenges for mom writers revolves around interruptions. Whether a mom has one child, two, three, or more, every writing moment inside her home can feel like a stolen moment in time. I’m talking mainly about any of the unexpected interruptions: the kids’ arguments over an object, food, or a game. But I’m also referring to the moments when someone enters the sacred writing space to say “I’m going to go get a snack. Do you want something, Mom?”

Mom sighs and shakes her head, “What was I going to type next?”

Only writers can empathize with the need for privacy to focus on that hard-to-write article or the hard-to-capture character. Somehow, perhaps through Murphy’s Law, our best writing moments are those that get interrupted. Maybe it has nothing to do with this at all and more with feeling tossed around between everyone’s needs. Multi-tasking is one thing, but the need to focus at certain times is completely different.

Novelist Judith Krantz once revealed that she places a sign on her door that says: “DO NOT COME IN. DO NOT KNOCK. DO NOT SAY HELLO. DO NOT SAY ‘I’M LEAVING.’ DO NOT SAY ANYTHING UNLESS THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE. . . . Also, telephone’s off!”

I’ve felt like this before--don’t interrupt me except in cases of natural disaster! Many writers come up with their own devices and signs--pleas for respect. But for the littlest kids, this can create a trying situation. Plus, in our world today, using the TV is considered taboo to help. Well, I disagree.

Certain channels do provide quality TV that can expose children of varying ages to new subjects. For example, when my children were younger, but too old for Sesame Street and similar shows, I’d give them paper, pencils, and let them watch a Mark Kistler drawing program on PBS. They’d learn how to draw using their imaginations and Kistler’s skill sets. They’d end up with a work of art to display. They’d also end up with a huge smile on their faces.

As my kids grew older, they watched Bill Nye the Science Guy working out some special science experiments; they learned about animals in the jungles and zoos; they watched the Kratt Brothers and their leaping lemur explore different creatures, and various other educational programs. Another quality TV show for older preteen children is Myth Busters on Discovery Channel, or (for the dog lovers) the Dog Whisperer on the same channel.

In our society, a stigma is still attached to letting our children watch television while we accomplish tasks, as if we’re rotting their brains. But TV actually provides educational material and fascinating tidbits of information. We need only look for it.

Having said this, I should say I don’t let my kids watch TV all day long or even half a day. But when I know I’m working on a writing project that’s difficult, and one that requires focus, I plan ahead. There’s nothing wrong with using the TV to entertain our kids during tough moments. There’s nothing wrong with stealing moments in time that we need, especially when it’s only for an hour or two in a day. We deserve quality time to write, and our kids deserve quality time, too.

Of course, we can’t always plan ahead. So in the last few months I’ve given myself a huge challenge: I allow my kids into my writing space from time to time to practice “blocking out all their noises and voices.” It helps me extend beyond my comfort zone. I can’t do it successfully all the time, but I envy people who can.

Can you block out everyone? Or do you prefer a quiet space for certain writing projects? Friday is our open Blog day. Speak Out! Tell us how you steal time. We’d love to know. The more we share, the more easily we can all cope. Sharing also provides writers with inspiration.

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