Mothering Is Great Material, Writing Teacher Says 

Author encourages moms to write.

Who says diaper-changing, toy-shopping, playdate supervision, Band-aid application, and the relentless blare of Disney soundtracks and video-game beeps are barriers blocking your path to creative expression? Not Lisa Garrigues. In Writing Motherhood: Tapping Into Your Creativity as a Mother and Writer, the UC Berkeley grad and longtime writing teacher helps moms navigate — and chart — their journeys through what she calls "a foreign country ... with its own language, customs, rituals, and taboos."

As she will demonstrate during a workshop at Mrs. Dalloway's (2904 College Ave., Berkeley) on May 10 — just in time for Mother's Day — Garrigues has devised exercises aimed especially at aspiring writers who are immersed in the parenting whirl but who "tend to be snowblinded by the blank page." As an icebreaker, she suggests picking out "a word or phrase that jumpstarts your writing: "bedtime, recount a parent-teacher conference, mothering your mother." Busy? But of course! But "you only need fifteen minutes" to write two pages, as instructed in Garrigues' book; that's "the time it takes to walk your dog or hard-boil an egg. I encourage my readers to take their notebooks wherever they go because you never know when you can snatch fifteen minutes to write: in the car, in the laundry room, in the dentist's office. Even so, some days you will succeed in writing nothing more than a grocery list. That's okay. Just don't let writing become another chore on your list. You write because you want — or need — to write, not because you have to." She's drawn much comfort from her own writing as her own two kids grew up. "As I left behind diapers and strollers, I had more time and energy to focus on myself. I also found myself confronting the realities of sickness and death — with my parents, my family, my friends. I don't know if I agree with the old adage, 'the bigger the children, the bigger the problems,' but I do know that as our children grow up and we grow older, the issues we face become more complicated. Increasingly, we need a safe place to contemplate these questions."

What better place than on the page? Many of the moms who take the author's classes, she says, "feel for the first time in their lives not just that they can write, but that they have something worth writing about. ... As we raise our children, we come back again and again to our own childhood, remembering the first day we went to kindergarten or sleepaway camp, our first boyfriend, the day we left home for college. ... Motherhood has a way of bringing us back to the bare bones of our past." 11 a.m.


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