On Writing Motherhood

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I’ve been kind quiet the last few months. Figured I should check in and share a little bit about what’s been going on. Nothing crazy, just focused on writing. I’ve been writing my third novel and pushing hard to finish this month.

It’s real work, writing and telling stories, digging into why we do, who we love, what we want, all while keeping the reader lured into turning the pages. Add juggling motherhood, running a household and working my journo thing to that and you’ve got Life As We Know It staring right in the face.


I’ve been thinking a lot about how motherhood — versions of that first and fundamental relationship — has played out in my fiction writing. My debut novel, Earth’s Waters, is coming-of-age story about a young woman named Lily living in Barbados who is slowly drowning in paradise. She lives with Mother, an exacting old woman who is really her maternal grandmother. (Lily’s true mother ran off and left her when she was baby.) Mother works long days as hawker, selling fruits, vegetables and other goods in an open-air market and shares laughs with everyone except Lily. Instead she offers her only derision and directives. But Lily follows all of her orders, dutifully, trying extra hard to not allow Mother’s contempt for her really sink in.

Basically, that old woman is mean. And without spoiling what happens in the book, I’ll just say that Mother’s prickly edges never really soften. (Here’s an except from the book.)

It was fascinating and heartbreaking to write about this mother-daughter relationship, mainly because I wasn’t drawing on anything personal. I wasn’t even close to being a mother at the time. Thankfully, my relationship with my own mother is a stark opposite to what Lily suffers through.

My Mum is quite remarkable, actually. She’s incredibly loving and warm and endlessly supportive of me. We laugh a lot. We talk a lot. She’s special and spectacular. I guess that’s where the intrigue lies for me as a writer. Trying to walk in the shoes of someone who doesn’t have a mothering mother. It’s like visiting Mars for me. So foreign and strange.

In this latest novel, there’s another rocky mom-daughter relationship, but there’s a solid reason for that fracture.

I just keep coming back to mothers and daughters and the layers of stuff between them. I remember as a teenager, reading about Drew Barrymore’s strained relationship with her mother. It still makes me sad thinking about her and other like her, moving through this life with a living mother with whom they have no relationship (or a contentious one, at best).

Great topic as Mother’s Day draws near, Blades! But it’s been on my mind; thought I’d share.

Anyway, that’s where I am these days: in the woods (literally!) writing away. Of course, you can catch me when I come up for air — and to feed the wild turkeys — on Twitter or on MMM’s FB page. I hope to be finished with the manuscript by month’s end and back to the regularly scheduled programming at MMM … although, I will be working on a book proposal then. Sigh. I’ll be around!




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