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Brittany Writes a Book

britmirandacropEditor’s note: Brittany and I have been friends for more than a decade. Our friendship started through this very blog and then transitioned to the holy grail of IRL. I’ve read enough of Brittany’s writing over the years to know that I love her work. So when I saw that she’d self-published a narrative chapbook of poetry, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Brittany graciously fulfilled my request for a signed edition and mailed it to me post-haste.

It’s always an interesting experience, reading the work of a friend. I’m a writer and editor by trade and have worked in the professional world of words for nearly 30 years. As a creativity coach, I enthusiastically applaud every passionate, whole-hearted foray into creative work—but that doesn’t mean I admire the work itself. As many of my creative friends will attest, I’m unable to say, “Wow, this is brilliant,” when I’m not of that opinion. I’m preternaturally allergic to even little white lies of artful affirmation. I don’t want to give or receive disingenuous compliments about creative work. With that nugget of context, here’s what I wrote to Brittany after receiving Courtesan


“Brittany, your book arrived on Monday (or was it Tuesday?) and after a ridiculous work day that capped off a 55-client-hour work week, I crawled into bed with it. Granted, I was a little punchy on account of chronic fatigue, but in the dozen pages I read that night, I laughed out loud and—I know this is going to sound like I’m blowing smoke up your poopchute but it’s the truth—I wept with happiness. Some of these poems are So. Damn. Good. At one point I had to explain to Liam (11 years old, who still sleeps with me when he’s home and my man isn’t) why I was making such a racket (‘persnickety douchebaggery’ set me off). I’m bursting with pride for you, Brittany. I truly am.”

Courtesan is an anthem to the contemplative divorcée. This slim volume will delight you, hit you in all the right spots, and leave you wanting a bit more—just as an experienced courtesan should do. These poems confront you with the pain and loneliness of being married to a person who (you are ultimately forced to concede) will never be able to love you in the ways you most want to be loved, even if one day he does stop screaming and throwing shit and raving like the asshole he is. (Apparently you’ll also find a dose of catharsis between the lines.) Despite what hurts, Courtesan is also a tale of hope—and finding oneself, and love, again. Highly recommended.


It’s amazing how much can change in 11 years. In the spring of 2008, Miranda discovered my blog Re-Writing Motherhood and plucked me from total obscurity to ask me to become a Studio Mothers contributor. The Studio Mothers blog was still in its infancy, as was my life as a (theoretically) stay-at-home-mom and full-time novelist. That time marks one of the most prolific creative periods of my life. But considering that I’m *still* working on the novel I started that year, it’s clear that creativity waxes and wanes, too. Now in 2019, I’m in another creative period. In addition to the 900 craft projects I have going on, I recently self-published a poetry chapbook titled Courtesan.

Courtesan is a diary told through poetry. It’s an eye-opening, no-holds-barred exploration of social and sexual re-awakening post-divorce. This is the book I never had any intention of writing. Generally speaking, I’m fun-loving, free-spirited, and unabashedly whimsical. Dark, brooding, erotic stories that would cause my southern Baptist relatives to have a collective pearl-clutching stroke were never part of my repertoire. But as I state in the book, there comes a point when the last thread of I-would-nevers snaps, and you become someone who would.

I became someone who would when I got divorced in 2015, after 13 years of marriage, eight of which I’d spent as a stay-at-home mom. There is a reason stay-at-home moms don’t just up and get divorced and abruptly go from full-time mom, to full-time working/part-time mom. It is traumatic on every level, and something I don’t think you can ever be prepared for. I was completely unprepared for the cold, hard smack of reality that awaited me.

And I did this alone. I was in Upstate New York, which was a 14-hour drive from my family in North Carolina, and across the country from my mom in Idaho. Not that my family was supportive. No one could understand why I was willing to give up such a seemingly comfortable life to go back to work and become a part-time parent. They acted like I had selfishly decided on a whim that getting divorced, re-entering the workforce after a 10-year absence, and parenting my children only half time would be a fun thing to do.

Brittany_bouquetI sunk into a horrible depression, a depression deeper and more pervasive than the depression I had already felt in the last year of my marriage, a nasty black pit I couldn’t seem to dig myself out of. For the first time in my life, I experienced panic attacks and constant anxiety. I’d always been an introverted loner, and suddenly, I couldn’t be alone anymore. I would beg my friends to let me come over and sit huddled on their couches, just to hear the noise in their households and feel like I belonged somewhere again. I cried constantly. My relationship with my children suffered. They were angry that I’d left them. My relationship with my ex further deteriorated. My family was as unsympathetic and unsupportive as it was possible to be. And overnight I became a third wheel among my married friends. Suddenly, I had not very much in common with them anymore.

I liken it to throwing a grenade on my entire life and watching it blow up around me. And into this stew of existentialist crisis, I thought it was a good idea to jump headlong into dating again.

Fresh from a bad marriage, I lived in a fantasy land where post-divorce dating was like an island of misfit toys. Divorcées would arrive broken and battered, having seen better days as a result of living with the wrong partners, and there they would magically find a more suitable person and live happily ever after. But my little fantasy couldn’t have been further from reality. Dating post-divorce is an, as yet, unexplored layer of Dantean hell and I realized that for most men, I was merely a commodity. Interchangeable with every woman out there. The transactional aspect of these relationships left me feeling very much like a courtesan, or more colloquially, a whore.

Brittany_mermaidI wasn’t sure how to process any of this, but I started a diary and wrote down snippets, dialogue, things people said to me that angered or inspired me, and all the observations I made, to process it, make sense of it, and ultimately learn from it. I pulled the diary out periodically to add to it, but was mostly preoccupied with other things, like paying the bills and buying groceries.

The worst part of that period was the complete lack of creative spark inside me. For the longest time, I was barely functioning. And when my creativity started to trickle back, it only came in fits and starts. I knew for my own sanity, I needed a creative outlet, so I took a painting class. And a jewelry-making class. I started to dabble at doll-making and embroidery again in my spare time. My friends knew I was their go-to girl if they saw something on pinterest they wanted to try and we started having semi-regular craft nights. I felt better when I was crafting, so I crafted. I felt better when I was painting, so I painted. I wasn’t able to write anything for the longest time, but eventually, poems started forming in my head again. I wrote them down on whatever piece of paper was handy. If they were good, I stashed them away and saved them. They were shoved inside books and drawers, and sometimes fished out of the dryer lint tray.

Fast-forward three years. My life was entirely altered. In the past, I’d thought of myself as a writer, and only a writer. But during my post-divorce journey, I became an artist, too. And after three years, I was more artist than writer.

Brittany_carI bought myself a little green bungalow and painted the walls bold turquoise and coral and purple. I painted the furniture and decorated the walls with my artwork. The dining room table was always covered in hot glue, paint smears, and glitter from the numerous projects I had in progress. I was always creating something, and as a result, I was happier than I had ever been at any other time in my life. My happiness changed the trajectory of my relationships and three years post-divorce, I was living with the man who would become my husband. In clearing away my clutter to make space for him in my house, I started to rediscover the writing and poetry I had been stashing in all manner of strange spots for three years. He encouraged me to do something with them, rather than re-stashing them somewhere new. But what was I going to do with a bunch of mostly unhappy autobiographical poems about my days as a single divorcée?

Brittany_bouquet2One day as I was driving (a time when great ideas seem to arise), and it occurred to me that if I collected all those poems and added the love poems I’d started writing more recently, I had a story there. I imagined calling it Courtesan, as a nod to my former single life and the way dating had made me feel. I mulled the idea in the back of my mind for some time. It continued to grow on me.

This winter I put it all together and self-published my chapbook. People ask me why I didn’t go the traditional publishing route. I self-published because I figured my “weird little book” didn’t have mass appeal. I wasn’t really sure how you’d market a diary that was poetry. And I thought it would only appeal to women of a certain age who’d experienced a traumatic mid-life divorce. Plus, to be brutally honest, I wasn’t particularly confident in my writing. I liked my writing. I had written it for myself, but I wasn’t sure at all if it would resonate with anyone else and I didn’t want to alter it in any way.

Since I published Courtesan, I have been shocked to my core by the feedback I’ve received. Women who are single, and never been married, have written to tell me how much they related to and enjoyed it. I don’t know whether to feel pleased or saddened that so many women can relate to so much darkness and despair.

Brittany_wandsI think that in most stories, and Courtesan is no exception, the main narrative is that a woman’s life turns around when she experiences true love. But the story functions on two levels. While on the surface, Courtesan is the story of the darkest time of my life and how I fell in love with my husband, there’s also the secret story hidden in the pages, about my love of the creative process, how it brought me back to life, gave me purpose, and fueled the creation of the diary in the first place. Ultimately, I rediscovered myself through the act of creation. And I continue to be amazed at what I can do, and how much joy I get from the doing.


See more of Brittany’s artistic projects at her current blog.
Order Courtesan at amazon



Kelly: What Shall You Do?

This little scrap of spelling list has been floating around the house for months. I find it here and there, and for some reason, I’ve just never thrown it away. Today I was thinking about everything that I have on my plate on right now, and when I came home, I saw this on the floor in the bedroom. Shall.

Sometimes things get so crazy that we lose track of all the things we said we shall do. The kids get sick (Olivia). You get sick (me). The cat goes on the lam again (Tink). You become over-committed, oftentimes because of things you cannot control (me, work). You stay sick because you’re over-committed (me, still). You follow through on obligations you make because you committed that you shall do them (me, participating in the Halifax Arts Festival even though I was still sick). You work one very demanding full-time job, one part-time job and try to manage a creative business, for a reason (you, um, I, want the part-time job to become the full-time job so you can have more time with your family and more time for creativity). So you keep going.  What shall you do to pull all this together?

Today, I shall try to remember that all things will fall into place where they shall, in their due time, as the Man above plans. And I shall be thankful that I got to get away for a brief 24 hours to reunite with my sorority sisters Saturday (45 of us), antibiotics and cough drops in hand (and a few beers to help battle the germs). And I shall decide that those custom orders can wait just a little while longer, and that will be okay. And I shall decide that I’ll get to my blog when I get to my blog, which obviously hasn’t been very often lately. And I shall sit on the couch and cuddle with my girls while watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and then lie in the bed and snuggle with DH while watching Antiques Roadshow. And I shall try not to worry about all those things I’ve been losing track of. And I shall decide that everything will be just fine. What shall you do today?

[cross-posted from Artful Happiness…pictures from the reunion there :-)]

Kelly: What Does Authenticity Mean?

Well, the fog I described last week is lifting, but I continue to be a scattered-brained mess! 🙂 My house looks like a tornado hit, and as I sit here in my little office, I’m surrounded by fake dollar bills (the play kind, just so you Feds know, I’m not creating dollar bills here), an atlas, Ebay and Etsy receipts, three cameras, my new deposit slips, stamp and fancy checkbook for my business checking account, scribbled notes written while trying to find a hotel for our trip up to North Georgia later this week (thus the atlas mentioned earlier…who knew we’d be visiting Aunt Livy the same four days as a huge gospel fest AND softball tournament in the same area?), a few shells, baby lotion, kids shampoo, a large comb, innumerable blankets, quilts and scarves the girls have pulled out of their room to play with, and um, a reindeer that poops jelly beans. And that’s all just in my little 5’ x 5’ office nook! And that doesn’t include the “normal” office stuff that’s supposed to be here! The rest of my house is currently in a similar state. Oh well.

I made this necklace a couple weeks ago while my friend Dana was over for a play date. It’s now in my Etsy store here. That big piece of jade up front used to be in a different piece that I’ve had laying around for a while, so I reworked it for summer. Dana just finished Florence, and we were celebrating. Who is Florence, you ask? Florence is a mannequin Dana collaged from head to toe with all sorts of fabulous stuff. Took her two years! Serious dedication there! My only suggestion was that she change out Florence’s boring brown wig for a hot pink one. That was my contribution, and we both feel it was the finishing touch. Sorry, no pictures of Florence to share with you because Dana is thinking about starting a blog, and when I suggested that maybe it could be Florence’s blog, Dana’s face lit up. So I’m hoping she’ll follow through with that, and THEN Dana will share pictures of Florence with you.

When talking about Florence and her potential blog, Dana and I got on the subject of authenticity, which seems to be the biggest buzz word in blogging. We talked about what we think that means. What the heck does that mean anyway? Dana is a psychology instructor, and though we are very dear friends, we have very different approaches on life. Dana, God bless her, is a mega-analyzer. And I’m really, um, not. I’ll analyze temporarily, but then I’m over it; the old “it is what it is” motto I live by. Experience it, learn from it, move on. And while I certainly touch on my personal life here, I try my darndest not to dwell on issues I may be struggling with. Hashing out my problems, insecurities, fears, what have you, in a public forum is just not how I process things. Other people do, and if that works for them, I think that’s great! But just because someone chooses not to hash out those things on a blog, does that mean she is not being authentic? I certainly do not think so, and it’s that line of thinking that really bugs me about authenticity talk.

Lori mentioned something similar on her blog a while back, and she has the exact same outlook on life that I do (one of the many reasons I love you Lori!). No one’s life is perfect. Bad things happen to everyone, regardless of whether you are a stay at home mom or working mom, regardless of your income or lack thereof, regardless of your marital status, regardless of where you live and whether you have a river in your backyard or not, regardless of what you choose to share and choose not to share. Bad stuff just happens. That’s just life. The one thing that we all have in common is that we all have the choice regarding how we react to that bad stuff. We all have the choice of whether or not to choose happiness or dwell on the negative. 99 times out of 100, I choose to be happy. Am I Pollyanna-ish enough to think that I’m, therefore, going to be happy every single second of every single day? Heck no! I have my moments. But when I’m not in a happy place, I typically choose not to share that with the world. That’s what works for me. That is the “authentic” me, take ‘er or leave ‘er. And I eat lots of chocolate and lick batter directly out of the brownie batter bowl.

[cross-posted from Artful Happiness]

Your blog post here

Blogging mamas! A quick note to sound the horn for cross-posts. Do you have something tasty in your archives that merits a fresh posting here at Studio Mothers? I’m sure that many of you have written with frequency on the topics of motherhood and creativity (and those topics need not be intertwined within the same post). Our audience grows every day, and sharing your personal blogs is a gift to everyone. You don’t need to be an ongoing Studio Mothers contributor, either.

If you don’t have a WordPress account, or you don’t want to fuss with yet another content management system, I’m happy to grab your posts myself and post them here. If you have something in mind, send a link — or better yet, a list of links! — to Alternatively, if you’re already a Studio Mothers contributor, you can post your piece to the WordPress CMS and let me know that it’s ready. Don’t forget to include a link back to your personal blog!

Cathy: Moms Who Blog

crosspost from musings in mayhem

Moms Who Blog: It sounds like a support group for mother’s who can’t help themselves from blogging, a twelve-step program.

But it’s a growing population of those of us who need to tell our stories, lament the woes and record the triumphs of our day in and day out, a way to be creative when we feel we have no mental space for thinking more deeply in order to write our great american novels or capture the image of our masterpieces, like in the days before we had children and we still had brains capable of more than routine tasks and singing Old MacDonald for the 300,000th time, or reading Tikki-Tikki-Tembo until we are blue in the face.

It seems from where I sit anyway, that there are more of us in the blogosphere than most, and fathers too, recording the amazing and most common thing humanity shares, the raising of our children.

Some of us are special needs moms, some are moms of teens, tweens or small children, some moms of blended families, some young moms, some who waited until later in life, and some of us are all of the above. And yes, I am talking about me in that last group. 🙂

We share a lot, with each other and of ourselves with the world at large. I think, besides the outlet for creativity, we do so to say, like the Whos on Horton’s dustpeck, We are here! We are here! We are here! To say, we matter, I am doing something with my life, and it’s important. We do it to say, I am not alone, are you out there, can you hear me? I want to hear your story, too!

The old trotted out line that it takes a village to raise a child is very true, and one of those reasons is to keep the mother who is caring for her kids from feelings of desperate isolation. It may be the mother who is running from work to home and racing to the store for dinner in between, who is lacking a serious connection with her friends she used to see all the time or stay up all night talking on the phone. It may be the mother who is going mental thinking the last time she had a conversation that didn’t involve diapers and their contents in graphic detail was she can’t remember when. It may be the mother who seems to have moments of sheer joy at the developmental milestone her child just sailed past, who wants to call out, Hey! Did you see that?! It may be the mother who found a moment of quiet and beauty with her child that cracked her open like an egg to the wonders of the universe.

Some people, even in this day and age, still have their coffee klatches and playdates, some of us don’t. In the twenty-first century, we have our blogs. Our neighborhood is the whole world and whoever happens to click in and say hello, I see you, and that sounds just like me! Sometimes readers click in, and if you use a tracker on your blog, you can see them and know you’ve been visited from Brazil, Ireland, Russian, Japan, or across the the US or even from the next town. I feel validated when I see my tracker or when people, I still haven’t met but who feel like friends comment. I feel like what I’m doing matters. That sometimes talking about the tougher stuff helps someone else, or sharing a joy lifts someone’s spirit. But mostly I feel like the fact that I am parenting matters. That I’m not doing it in a void. That doing what I can for my kids is the best thing I can do.

I’ll just write the great american novel later. When I’ve had some more sleep.

Another mother writer’s NaNoWriMo win

Stephanie Stambaugh, a blogger and writer living in Colorado, is a friend of Studio Mothers via Twitter. I had noted that Stephanie — also a mother of two — successfully completed NaNoWriMo, and I asked her how she pulled off that feat. Stephanie recently posted a blog-post response, which you may enjoy: Finally, My Post-NaNoWriMo Debriefing. Stephanie’s process actually involved her oldest child, and was facilitated by the younger one. I love the concept of working with your children around, rather than working around your children, as in, circumventing an obstracle. The more we can blend creativity and motherhood the more likely we are to feel “whole”; less compartmentalized. This strategy wouldn’t quite translate to parenting toddlers, but at least it gives the mothers of little ones something to look forward to.

An excerpt from Stephanie’s post:

Over the course of the writing month and over the past few weeks I have been asked by numerous people, “How’d you do it? How did you find time to write a novel?” First, It would be easy enough to answer those questions by simply saying I made time to write it because that’s what writers do, they give up their ideas of being in the so called “real world” to sit and hold words in their mind’s eye and in the palm of their hands for hours on end. That’s our job and so that’s what I did, to a point.

What I actually did was give myself permission to do what I wanted to do instead of sabotaging myself by that nagging voice that plagues all writers. You know what it says? It screams out daily at you too, right? It says, ”What’s the point? I’ve got better things to do, don’t I? Besides, it’ll never be published anyway.” Now I am not saying that voice wasn’t lurking out there just outside my door, waiting for me to invite it in. What I am saying is that I nodded my head to its shrill little demanding attitude and then told it politely to go to hell. I made a conscience choice not to let the dirty bugger into my office on November 1st and now that it is December 14th it won’t ever show its sick little face here again if it knows what’s good for it.

But there was also three other things that helped me “do it.” The first was that I had the greatest motivation any writer can have and that motivation was from my teenage son who did NaNoWriMo right along with me. I did not have to force him to do it as I am lucky enough to have given birth to not just one but two kiddos who have a wonderful passion for stories. But when my oldest said he wanted to do NaNoWriMo with me, it gave me more backbone than I knew I had because I stood a little taller and prouder just by his commitment to do it.

Secondly, I could not have done it without the support of my youngest child who kept busy for hours writing his own comic books and playing quietly until his brother and I were finished writing for the day. Then right along with him was my husband who actually didn’t knock on my office door for once. I think he saw that determined look in my eye and actually liked it or maybe he just feared it too like the way the dirty little nagging voice of doubt feared it.

Read the full post here. Congratulations on your accomplishment, Stephanie! We look forward to hearing more from you in future.

Studio Mothers on the town

A roundup of recent mentions of Studio Mothers on the interwebs!

  1. Kate at Simply Mother blogged about the article on time management that I posted last week. Kate credits the find to Tara, The Organic Sister, who tweeted about our post. Thanks to both Kate and Tara! These are two bloggers that you don’t want to miss. Seriously.
  2. Christine McCombe at Spaces Between blogged about Alison Wells’s post on 5 ways to be a writer when you’re not writing. Christine’s blog is another lovely find.
  3. Alison’s post was also mentioned by our friend Liz Massey at Write Livelihood, in the context of a terrific roundup of writing and editing links. Thanks, Liz!
  4. And this is very cool…Studio Mothers has been featured in an academic paper about blogging! The author is Cathy Coley’s niece. She also posted us on Tumblr. Thanks for including us, Libby!

New friends = lots more blog reading to catch up on! 🙂

Help a writer out: No Haikus

Our friend Debra Bellon, a writer and filmmaker who lives in Toulouse, has a two-year-old son and a brand-new baby girl. Debra has been creatively percolating during the past couple of years, as many of us do while we’re otherwise occupied caring for little ones. To that end, Debra just launched a new blog site for her poetry: No Haikus. Debra says, “I’m going to see if I can write a poem a day, with each poem using a word from the last, if that makes any sense.” She has asked for support and encouragement from the Studio Mothers community — so please visit Debra’s blog from time to time. You know how having an audience helps to keep us honest and committed!

Félicitations, Debra! We much look forward to seeing more of your work.

More from the creative mama interwebs

The latest installment of cool creative mom blogs and websites worth a visit!

Creative Mums: An Australian site providing networking, support, and business resources to creative mothers.

Maternal Spark: Inspiration and support for creative mamas of all types.

She Writes: An extensive network and forum for writers.

On Balancing Life and Writing

10-bannerOK, so many of this blog’s readers are too busy with NaNoWriMo to do much blog surfing — or anything else besides keeping chaos at bay while trying to bang out the daily word count. This month, the word “balance” is probably not in your vocabulary. That said, if you can find a minute or two between carpools or diaper changes — or while on your lunch break at the office — it’s worth your time to check out the collection of pieces on balancing life and writing featured this month at WOW, Women On Writing. As is often the case, the useful nuggets in this content can be applied to most any creative pursuit.

Here’s a tasty sound bite from Christina Katz: “Who says you have to choose between writing and family? You don’t! If I can do it, so can you!” Definitely read WOW’s terrific interview with Christina Katz, aka the Writer Mama.

Enjoy — and then, get back to work!

Wearing away the edges of illusion

wishstudio banner 3WishStudio is at it again with this beautiful, personal post on motherhood and creativity — with dreamy photographs by the author, Christina Rosalie Sbarro. I post an excerpt here, but do go read the entire post.

Before my sons, my life was full of busyness, and creativity was often pushed to the margins as my days became filled with commuting, commitments, consumption. I worried a lot about how things appeared, and about security and control. Living with two small boys has gradually worn away the edges of these illusions. I am learning that there is no such thing as control (the very fact that they are in my life at all proves this) or security for that matter. My sons teach me, with their buoyant little boy hearts, that the only moment we have is now.

This is the only one.

I used to squander my time. I pushed my creative self to the side because there was always time to go back and pick up the dropped stitches, staying up until 3am to pursue an illusive story. If I worked long hours at my job and felt drained, I could refill on the weekends with slow-start mornings and evenings listening to jazz in cafes or people watching in town. Because I had so much time, I often missed the value of each moment. I easily spent entire nights watching crappy television shows because there would always be another night; but more often than not these distractions became habits, and writing happened much less than it happens now.

Don’t miss Christina’s evocative work here, either. A treat. And if WishStudio isn’t on your regular blog itinerary, be sure to add this inspiring resource.

Creative Construction is now Studio Mothers!

I admit that I never really cared for the name Creative Construction. I think it was the alliteration that appealed to me as I struggled to find a WordPress name that was available. Last year, I purchased the domain name, knowing that I eventually wanted to migrate the blog to that URL. Turns out that the migration wasn’t difficult at all — and now we have a name that better describes who we are. I’m thrilled. Celebrate!

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