Poems & Essays

17 Aug

Announcing MAW Poetry Boot Camp

General/Column No Response

What is Poetry Boot Camp?

An online Boot Camp for those interested in refining their poetry through extensive one-on-one coaching by an editor of MAW. Our camp also offers the opportunity for peer review and discussion with other poets through our camp’s FB group. And, if you’re looking for writing support once camp is over, you can join a poetry critique group with other camp participants.

The boot camp runs for two weeks beginning Monday, October 7, 2019. Tuition is $105 (Proceeds in part are used to support MAW’s mission to pay its contributors). Space is limited to fifteen participants per workshop. Our Boot Camps fill up quickly. Register here on Submittable.

What will you get out of boot camp?

The workshop will provide: 1) An outline of reading materials on the elements of poetry; 2) Sample teaching poems with annotated comments; 3) An opportunity for brainstorming on your poetry topic; 4) A general critique of your three poems for content and craft through back and forth discussion sessions with your mentor; 5) Specific line-by-line edits including explanatory comments and suggestions; 6) The opportunity to ask editors questions about writing and the publication process through live FB chats; and 7) The opportunity to have your poems considered for publication by MAW.

Boot Camp Instructors:

Sarah Clayville is a Creative Writing and 11th grade English teacher as well as freelance editor and writing mentor. Her fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Central PA Magazine, StoryChord, and other journals. Her areas of expertise are short and flash fiction. She is a poetry and essays editor for Mothers Always Write.

Michelle Riddell has earned her B.A. and M.A. in English from Wayne State University in Detroit. She has written for Ford Motor Company, MSX International, The Cornerstone, MomSense Magazine and Hello, Darling. She is a two-time recipient of the Albion College Cathy L. Young award for French poetry, and has written a novel. She is a poetry and essays editor for Mothers Always Write.

Alexandra Umlas is the author of the poetry collection At the Table of the Unknown (Moon Tide Press). She serves as a reader for Palette Poetry and on the board of directors of Tebot Bach, a non-profit literary organization. She holds an MFA in Poetry from CSU Long Beach and an M.Ed. In Cross-Cultural Education. www.alexandraumlas.com

Julianne Palumbo has worked as an attorney, a writer, an editor, and a writing coach. Her poems, short stories, and essays have been published in Ibettson Street Press, YARN, The MacGuffin, Kindred Magazine, Poetry East, The Manifest Station, Literary Mama, Motherwell, and others, and she has been a columnist for Literary Mama. Julianne’s work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and for Best of the Net. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks, Into Your Light (Flutter Press, 2013), Announcing the Thaw (Finishing Line Press, 2014), and 50/50 (Unsolicited Press, 2018). She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Mothers Always Write.

Read what participants in our previous workshops had to say:

“I think every Writer, whether aspiring or established, could have benefitted from this Boot Camp. I appreciated our Mentor’s feedback, as well as what was given to me by my co-horts. The idea of having a deadline, articles to read, and a private Facebook page to share on, really brought this whole Boot Camp to life. I kept saying that I felt as though I had enrolled in a University-level class. Michelle [my Mentor] didn’t just push me to do my best, she provided an array of suggestions. Thank you so much MAW Editors for pulling this together!!”

Susan Goldstein

“The MAW Boot Camp helped provide a workable timeline on writing an essay and taking it from draft to finished product. If you are looking for a way to jumpstart your literary essay writing, this workshop offers the tools, resources and editorial help to guide you through the process. Top notch editorial feedback helps take your writing to the next level. I highly recommend working with Juli and the other editors at MAW.”

Rudri Patel

“I have been participating in a 10-day literary boot camp put on by the editors of MOTHERS ALWAYS WRITE. This magazine is not just a wonderful venue for mother-writers to share their stories, it’s also a loving, supportive community of writers. A family of sorts. I made so many new, wonderful writerly-friends, learned copious amounts of writerly-stuff, and had absolutely amazing (did I mention I’m addicted to alliteration? lol) mentoring from Julianne Palumbo. And, thanks to Juli’s suggestions of where to submit, my essay has been accepted for publication in MANIFEST STATION, an brilliant online literary magazine. I would never have tried to submit to this magazine before. But this workshop, and the support of my mentor gave me the courage to try.”

Leslie Wibberley

“Boot Camp was just what I needed to help motivate me to write. I enjoyed the small group feeling and enthusiasm from the other members. It was helpful to receive feedback both from my mentor and other group members. I feel as if I have made some new connections to other writers.”

Cheryl Maguire

“My editor pushed me without being pushy. She offered thoughtful, probing comments that made me dig deeper into what my essay was really about, and offered encouragement every step of the way (and sometimes receiving permission not to rush the result is as important as anything else!).”

Robin Flanigan

“The MAW Boot Camp was by far the best value writing experience I’ve participated in during my five years as a freelance writer. It’s affordable and accessible, and provided a much needed burst of inspiration. The detailed level of feedback from engaged and excellent editors, along with a supportive and encouraging community of fellow writers, make it a hugely worthwhile investment for writers at any stage of their career.”

Ruth Dawkins

Read More

16 Aug

A Quiet Pocket of Space

In Mother Words Blog No Response

My daughter was three months old when we bought the chair from Babies R Us. My in-laws had given us a wooden rocker that was beautiful but hurt my back, and jammed on the thick, wall-to-wall carpet. For twelve weeks I couldn’t find a place to soothe my baby at night. I’d schlep from my bed to the downstairs couch and eventually back to the wooden rocker in search of a comfortable place to pacify her cries, satisfy her hunger, and be one with her again, like when she was cushioned inside my womb. 

A co-worker once told me that those nighttime feeds, though exhausting, could hold a sense of peace. “It’s just you and the baby,” she’d said. But she must have had the right chair. A sanctuary to revel in stillness.

“This one,” I said to my husband the afternoon we went shopping, our daughter dozing in her stroller. I could picture myself sitting in it at one a.m., three a.m., five a.m. It was ivory-colored and cushiony, and glided like a Mississippi River boat over the smoothest waters.  Even the ottoman glided. With this chair, my girl and I would take the sweetest nighttime rides.

Though the chair careened with fluidity in the store, at home it didn’t go anywhere. It kept my sleepless daughter and I stationed in the nursery each night for a two-to-three-hour marathon of rocking, nursing, bouncing, and praying for sleep. Yet the moment her body hit the crib mattress, crying ensued. Her white pajamas, the ones with the tiny blue cherries would glow in the darkness as I stood over her crib. My knees buckled, my sense of inertia unsteady, like I was going overboard. 

Things worsened when my husband and I bought a new home, and the moving process began. Our house was a playground of boxes, and my hands were darkened with newspaper soot from individually wrapping single drinking glasses and mugs. 

“Did you pack anything today?” my husband asked, exhausted from dealing with lawyers and realtors.

My eyes bulged with exhaustion. “She won’t let me!” I’d protest. “She screams the second I put her down. I can’t pack with one hand.” 

Our daughter mirrored our frustrations. She was a stray violet caught in an unexpected patch of shade, absorbing our depleted energies. Six months old and she was as flustered as her parents.

Then one afternoon in December, mere days before the move, I entered the nursery, my daughter astride my hip. There were three major pieces of furniture left—the crib, a dresser, and the chair. 

For three hours, we rocked into stillness. I transcended into a meditative state while my daughter slept, soundly, for the first time in weeks. Specks of dust, kicked up from all the packing, orbited a cone of sunlight cutting through the vinyl blinds. The day darkened. Degree by degree, our bodies settled into the chair’s expanse.

The early weeks in our new home were filled with the creaks, groans, and shadows of an unfamiliar place. This further disrupted our daughter’s rhythm. For twelve-hour periods, I was in and out of her room like a pin ball caught in the machine’s labyrinth. My whole body sagged. Nighttime became one giant mirage. I saw a mouse run behind the crib, a green laser beam dart across the floor. 

“I just need to lay down!” I screamed at my husband, the red, digital numbers on the clock blasted my brain. 2:24 a.m.

“I don’t want to roll on her in my sleep.”

“Fine, I’ll just spend the next two hours rocking her then.”

The slamming door echoed through the hallway. My daughter and I returned to the chair to dwell in the ruptures of a promised peace. 

But the fog lifted as she grew, and the chair remained in the corner of my daughter’s new lavender bedroom, serving as a post-nap refuge. Each day, until she turned three, I’d pull her from her bed, and we’d convene in the chair. My daughter would curl into my lap as if she were trying to fit inside a conch shell. I’d stroke her hair and we’d have nonsensical conversations. This sometimes lasted forty-five minutes after her nap time, an extended respite that wouldn’t have been possible without the chair.

And as my belly grew into a giant orb, and we all prepared to start over again, the chair migrated to our son’s room. On his second night home, as his cries signaled in the middle of the night, I lifted him from the bassinet.  Instead of retreating to bed, we slipped across the hallway into the nursery and into the chair where he nursed and settled and slept and the world waited.

I remembered my co-worker’s words. Just you and the baby. Me, the baby, and the chair.

The chair where both my babies posed, twelve times a year, for a photo with circular stickers fastened on their chests branding their ages. The chair, where I put myself in time outs when the chaos threatened to crack me in two. The chair, an ebb from the constant flow, a quiet pocket of space. 

My kids, now five and two, have found a new purpose for the chair. At bedtime, they sit, pressed together as my daughter helps her brother navigate the pages of a cardboard toddler book. I rest on the ottoman in front of them, supervising, watching them in awe. They take turns leaning forward, offering their foreheads for a kiss. When the go back, the force of their little bodies causes the chair to smack against the wall. They pause and check my reaction. I smile, because I don’t even mind.

Katie Greulich is a mother, wife, and writer living in New Jersey. Her work has appeared previously Mothers Always Write, Mamalode and on other sites. Along with her personal essays, she is currently writing her first novel.

Read More

21 Jun

Review of Unreasonable Doubts

General/Column No Response

Writers are always told to “write about what you know,” and Reyna Marder Gentin takes this well-known piece of advice to heart in her intriguing novel Unreasonable Doubts. Relying on her knowledge from the years she spent as an appellate attorney representing criminal defendants, Gentin crafts a masterful tale.  She uses her expertise and experience to create a compelling character, Liana, a petite 30-year old attorney who must make some difficult decisions about truth and lies, guilt and innocence, justice and injustice. 

Liana begins her career as an idealistic attorney in the Public Defender’s Office in New York City after graduating from an Ivy League law school.  

She believes that the criminal justice system works – that the guilty go to jail and the innocent go free. She sees herself as “Atticus Finch, fighting the uphill battle for the accused, losing most of the time but still feeling good about herself and her choices.”  

But as the story progresses, something changes. After representing defendants accused of horrific crimes, she begins to question herself and her career choice. She ponders the question that people often ask her,  “Is it just about doing your job, or do you hold on to a belief that the next guy who walks through the door might be someone who really deserves you?”

Her supervisor Gerry tells her that the job “requires heart” and that she must “treat each client as an individual, with hopes and dreams, deserving of our energy and skill and passion, no matter what he may or may not have done to land himself in our care.”  Liana is chagrinned and disheartened. Gerry’s accusation that she wasn’t pro-defendant enough influences her to approach her next case differently and dangerously.

Her next client is a 26-year-old strikingly handsome man named Danny Shea, who has been convicted of rape in the first degree and is serving a sentence of 15 years. Even in the mug shot, he appears good-looking and Liana notices “his long wavy hair falling over his eyes, high cheek bones, and strong jaw.”         

As she prepares her case, she wonders if Shea is finally the long-awaited innocent client — the one who is worth fighting for. Gentin skillfully takes the reader with Liana who comes ever closer to threatening situations as she flirts with danger and searches for answers on a journey for justice.

Gentin’s skill as a writer is evident as she connects her legal acumen with her storytelling talent, giving insight into the life of a public defender and guiding the reader through the legal process as the intriguing tale unfolds. Expertly woven into the story are Gentin’s compelling characters, including Jakob, Liana’s steady boyfriend who is ready for marriage, and Phyllis who is Liana’s mother.

Like any loving mother, Phyllis checks in with Liana and wants to know how her daughter is doing. Liana shares that Jakob loves his demanding job at a prestigious corporate law firm but she wishes they had more time to spend together even though she is not yet ready to tie the knot. Liana also shares that she and her boss don’t see eye to eye when it comes to defending clients but she says nothing to her mother about Danny Shea and the rules she’s broken in the attorney-client relationship. 

“The real question,” Phyllis tells Liana, “is not whether your boyfriend is happy with you or your boss is happy with you but whether you are happy with yourself….. if you are in a good place, everything else will follow.”

But Liana is not in a good place because in both her personal and professional lives, she feels adrift.  She loves Jakob but is not sure about their future together. Early in her career, her idealism influenced her to work on cases with energy and passion. Now her skepticism and motivational difficulties affect her approach to work. In the past, she had been “scrupulously careful to keep all her contacts with her clients professional,” but now she has let her guard down with Danny Shea. 

Gentin keeps the reader wondering what will happen next as she masterfully leads the reader through the fast-paced legal drama. A series of twists and turns in both her personal and professional lives force Liana to figure out who she is and to make difficult choices about justice, faith and love.  

About the author of our book review: The mother of six grown children, Lori R. Drake is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Mothers Always Write, San Diego Woman, the Gaithersburg Gazette in Maryland and the Daily Reflector in North Carolina as well as other publications. She has received four Honorable Mentions in the Writer’s Digest National Writing Competition.  The founder and former Headmistress of Roseleaf Academy, the only girls’ school in eastern North Carolina, Lori is working on a book about her innovative school that has since closed.  She currently teaches communications classes at her local community college. 

REYNA MARDER GENTIN grew up in Great Neck, New York. She attended college and law school at Yale. For many years, she practiced as an appellate attorney representing criminal defendants who could not afford private counsel. Reyna studies at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and her fiction and personal essays have been published in print and online. She lives with her family in Scarsdale, New York. To learn more, please visit reynamardergentin.com.

Read More

17 Jun

On Leaving My Child With A Fully Capable, Perfectly Lovely Professional Childcare Provider

General/Column 2 Responses

I leave my child with a stranger
and deny what my heart wants to shout.
My hands shake as they exchange her.

Giving notes how to feed and to change her
and a diaper bag packed full of doubt,
I leave my child with a stranger.

I pray this won’t somehow derange her:
the care of my child hired out.
My hands shake as they exchange her.

I drive and envision each danger.
My car wants to stop and reroute.
I leave my child with a stranger.

I fear this will one day estrange her.
How I fight not to cry and to pout.
My hands shake as they exchange her.

The workdays pass in a strange blur.
The money I earn goes right out.
I leave my child with a stranger.
My hands shake as they exchange her.



Ingrid Anders is a freelance-writing wife, mother, and stepmother residing in Northern Virginia. Her most recent works have appeared in Eunoia Review, Odyssa Magazine, and right here in Mothers Always Write. She hosts multiple writing programs at the Washington DC Public Library and writes children’s books as a member of SCBWI.

Read More