The Winner Is...

Mother Writer! would like to say, "Happy 1st Birthday, She Writes!" We've put on our best spangles and stars just for you. I am nervous right now because I've only just put my daughters down for a nap and I promised to announce the winner to the first ever Mother Writing Contest at 3 pm EST. In order to do that there will be very little preemptive banter on my part, which I'm sure you will appreciate since you are here to find out one thing--who won? Just let me say this, every single essay we received was insightful, touching, and oh, boy, could we relate! It was not an easy decision on anybody's part. One judge even said she wished she could choose them all. I feel honored to have read your thoughts and to have shared in your life, if even for a moment. Thank you each for bringing your words, and offering your time and insight into mother writerhood. I would also like to invite each of you to post your submission on your blog with a link in the comments below. Many have asked to read all the entries. Nicelle Davis has also generously offered to post any and all submissions on her blog The Bees Knees. Please contact Nicelle for more information. Now, what you came for. The runner-up is Debby Carroll. Here is a taste of her essay: "At some point, I had to stop having kids. I mean, sure, I guess I could have continued, but it seemed imprudent to keep procreating in order to have more people to talk to! I have three daughters. With any more, the shoe bill alone would have been a killer!" And the winner is... Diana Duke! Mother, Writer, and Everything in Between By Diana Duke We settled down to dinner, finally, after endless trips to the fridge and counter and pantry. I was exhausted, and starving. What had I eaten for lunch? The uneaten crusts of peanut butter and jelly. Or was that cinnamon toast? Is it possible I haven’t eaten since breakfast? Then, just as my jambalaya was about to hit my mouth: “I need a knife.” I stared at my five-year-old son for a moment, the food so near and yet so far, my body seizing against another delay. But he continued pleasantly, “Don’t worry. I’ll get it.” And there he went, up on his little legs to the silverware drawer, back to his seat with a butter knife. I forgot my food—again—as I watched him cut his watermelon into boy-sized bites. That’s what it means to be a mother writer. Let me back up: while I was pregnant with my first child, I was in a MFA program in creative writing. For a creative nonfiction class, I wrote an essay paralleling the growth of my son with the growth of my fiction. Ideas forming inside, growing, changing, just as my baby was growing inside of me. I gave birth to fiction, I gave birth to my son. Then all hell broke loose. It had been so easy to notice the parallels when I had all the time in the world to sit quietly and think, process and ponder, shower and shave. Whether struggling to get my son to nap or fighting postpartum depression or trying to workshop when I could only think of sleep, my common refrain became, “what the heck was I thinking? This—all of this—is absolutely impossible!” Writing, mothering. Two tireless, often thankless professions. I still grow ideas, pushing them out with the pain and tears of labor, only to watch them writhe needy on the floor while I do laundry or fix breakfast or play cars. I give birth every day, little bits of fiction that I collect like the scattered puzzle pieces I forever find underfoot. But there was something I didn’t know when I first made that connection. Those babies, they grow. Until I became a mother, I failed to comprehend what it would be like to someday watch my son—once my helpless baby boy—walk to a drawer, get an utensil, cut food himself. A little person all his own. Those bits of fiction I’m collecting, they will someday walk too. Not perfectly, not even entirely finished, but they will someday form their own whole being and walk out of my grasp and hopefully into the welcoming arms of others. Being a mother writer, I can let my two professions merge into enlightenment. As a writer, I experience this process of birth, development, and independence over and over again, but only as a mother do I realize the possibility and promise that lies ahead. Congratulations, Diana! I hope you will love shouting to the world with your very own Mother Writer! messenger bag. Thank you everyone for participating, judging and support. Mother Writer! and She Writes are so lucky to have you!

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  • Ashlei Austgen

    Congratulations Diana and Debby! Wonderful words. Sorry for being late to the party - family vacation adding a whole other dimension to my Mother Writer! persona. Can't wait to read more entries.

  • As another of the judges, I second Rebecca's sentiment that it was hard to choose. Everyone who contributed honored Mother Writer! and She Writes with their writing and creativity in a way that I find beautiful and deep. Thank you to everyone who entered, congrats to Diana and Debby, and undying gratitude to Victoria for midwiving Mother Writer! in the first place. You are all why I'm still writing, I swear! xoDeborah

  • Siobhan Fallon

    Beautiful, Diana. I have a toddler and it made me tear up a bit-- they transform so quickly. Good for you for capturing that moment so perfectly and sharing it with the rest of us.

  • Amy Dryansky

    Fabulous, inspiring work by woman with a lot on their hands and even more on their minds! Congratulations, Diana and Debby. Diana, I love the connection you draw between mothering and artistic possibility (and frustration). Very similar to what I'm trying to do at Pokey Mama. All best & keep writing!

  • Lisa Rivero

    Congratulations to both Diana and Debby! Diana, now that my son just finished his first year of college, I can tell you that you are spot on. Those bits of writing do grow up in time. They grow independent and leave home, and make room for more.

    Your son is lucky to have a writing mom. :)

  • Rebecca Rasmussen

    Congrats, Debby. Great, great work!

  • Debby Carroll

    My very first writing win! Thanks! Okay, it's no Pulitzer and I'm the runner up (notice I didn't say "just" the runner up 'cause I am as excited as I would have been if I'd come in first) but, you know what? This feels good. And I read the winning essay and loved it, too, so it's shaping up to be one lovely afternoon. I can't wait to read the other essays. I'm not near a She Writes meetup today so I'm happy to be celebrating the birthday with a present, just the same!

  • Love it, Diana, woohoo!! Keep up the great work! Can't wait to see your bag. :)

  • Lovely essay, Diana! I love the reminder that everything's in flux-- our children, our writing, ourselves-- always growing, changing, maturing. Congratulations!

  • Susan Bearman

    Congratulations, Diana and Debby (she said grudgingly jealously graciously). Diana, your essay was lovely. And judging is hard. Thanks to Victoria and the judges for the time and effort (she said honestly).

  • Rebecca Rasmussen

    I just wanted to echo Victoria in saying that there were so many wonderful entries and I wish everyone could get their due;oh wait, they can. Give your essays to Nicelle to post. I am thinking of posting a handful on my blog, too. Anyway, contests are hard. I've entered them for fun, for real, for whatever state of mind comes in between, and always I felt a little deflated if I didn't win. Now that I have been a judge I realize just how hard it is to pick the winning entry and just how many truly deserving stories web around it. Amazing work, ladies. Congrats to Diana and Debbie!

  • Lanita Andrews

    Congrats Ladies! I can't wait to read all of the submissions. Though I'm jealous - I still don't have a mother writer messenger bag =)

  • Judith van Praag

    Wonderful conceit Diane! You caught that moment of realization that the writing you do/ have done over the years is maturing, coming together as a whole.