Mothering Through the Darkness: A Call for Submissions and a Writing Contest

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Stephanie and I began thinking about the topic for our next anthology as soon as we finished gathering submissions for My Other Ex. We had a lot of ideas, but nothing felt like a topic that we urgently wanted to tackle.

That is, until one of our contributors, Alexandra Rosas, describing her experience with Postpartum Progress and its Climb Out of the Darkness event, suggested postpartum depression. She had been inspired by the stories of the survivors that she met and thought that so many women could benefit from hearing them. As someone who went through my own postpartum struggles, I was immediately drawn to this idea, as was Stephanie.

Today we’re thrilled to tell you about our next anthology, a call for submissions, and our first writing contest, in partnership and in support of Postpartum Progress.

MOTHERING THROUGH THE DARKNESS: Stories of Postpartum Struggle

Approximately 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression after having a baby. Many more may experience depression during pregnancy, postpartum anxiety, OCD, and other mood disorders. Postpartum depression is in fact the most common pregnancy-related complication, more widespread than gestational diabetes, preterm labor, or pre-eclampsia. Yet confusion and misinformation about postpartum depression and anxiety — from their symptoms to timelines to prevalence to treatment — are still widespread. Myths surrounding mothers’ mental health challenges can have devastating effects on women’s well-being as well as their identities as mothers, too often leading to shame and inadequate treatment. Although postpartum and antepartum depression and anxiety are temporary when treated, untreated mood disorders can lead to long-term consequences for both a mother and her child. A mother can feel very alone, ashamed, and hopeless. And keep silent.

Mothering Through the Darkness: Stories of Postpartum Struggles will be a unique anthology with the goal of breaking that silence.

With this collection of essays, we will try to dispel these myths and focus on the diversity of women’s experiences, through the voices of mothers themselves.

We are also thrilled to be partnering with Katherine Stone and Postpartum Progress on this project. Postpartum Progress is a national 501c3 nonprofit organization that is laser-focused on maternal mental health. The organization has three key focus areas: raising awareness, fighting stigma and providing peer support for pregnant and new mothers. Postpartum Progress’ award-winning blog is the most widely read blog in the world on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, with more than 1.1 million page views each year.

10% of the profits from the sales of this book will go toward Postpartum Progress and its mission of supporting maternal mental health.  Click here to find out more about Postpartum Progress’s work in raising awareness and supporting mothers.

Call for Submissions: Mothering Through the Darkness

The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost

The HerStories Project is seeking unpublished, first-person essays from mothers about their experiences with postpartum depression, anxiety, or other mental health struggles during or after pregnancy.* We’re looking for well-crafted, true accounts that explore and examine aspects of this experience.

Submissions must feature a strong and compelling narrative. We’re looking for well-written prose, rich detail, and a strong, distinctive voice. (For more about what we’re looking for, here is an article that I wrote about personal essay writing with a few more suggestions.)

Guidelines: Previously unpublished and between 1,500 and 3,000 words. Please also submit a short bio of 50-100 words, including previously publications. To submit, see the link at the bottom of this page.

Deadline: January 1, 2015 *recently extended from December 1st

* One of the first questions that we got in talking to women that we knew about this project is whether a woman needs to have been formally diagnosed by a medical professional with postpartum depression or another postpartum mood disorder to submit. The answer is no! Postpartum mood disorders are vastly under-identified and under-treated. Many, many new mothers have symptoms that are not fully addressed or explained. 

The symptoms of postpartum depression include: loss of appetite, insomnia, intense irritability and anger, fatigue, loss of joy, mood swings, feelings of guilt and shame. Read more from Postpartum Progress about what PPD feels like, in understandable terms, and see if any of these symptoms matched your own experience. 

The Writing Contest

Your submission to Mothering Through the Darkness will be simultaneously entered into the first HerStories Project Writing Contest.  (see details below) The HerStories Project will award $500 to one submission for Best Essay and $100 to two runners-up. All three essays will be published in the book, and each winner will receive a paperback copy.

To cover the costs of sponsoring the contest, we are asking for a $10 reading fee. If this fee presents a financial hardship that would otherwise prevent you from submitting an essay, we will waive this fee and this will not affect the status of your entry.

To submit, see the link at the bottom of this page.

Judges: The essays will be judged by the editors of the HerStories Project, as well as several talented writers whose lives as mothers or as clinicians have been affected by postpartum depression and anxiety. These judges will include Lisa Belkin, Kate Hopper, Katrina Alcorn, Julia Fierro, Dr. Jessica Zucker, and Lindsey Mead. Essays will be judged on their emotional power, originality, and quality of their prose.

Judge bios:

Katrina Alcorn is the author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink. She is a writer and a design consultant. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and documentary filmmaking from UC Berkeley and blogs at WorkingMomsBreak.com.

Lisa Belkin is the Senior National Correspondent for Yahoo News. Previously she has held staff positions at the New York Times and The Huffington Post. She is the author of three books and the editor of two anthologies.

Julia Fierro is the founder of The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she recently published her first novel, Cutting Teeth, an Oprah Pick of the Week.

Kate Hopper is the author of Ready for Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood and Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers. Kate holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Minnesota and has been the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, and a Sustainable Arts Grant. She teaches classes and holds retreats for mother writers.

Lindsey Mead is a corporate headhunter with an MBA from Harvard who also writes for her popular blog, A Design So Vast. Her work has been featured in numerous anthologies.

Jessica Zucker, PhD is a psychologist specializing in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health. A consultant to PBS’ This Emotional Life and the Every Mother Counts campaign with Christy Turlington, she has been a contributor to NPR and is currently writing her first book for Routledge on maternal attachment.

*************

To submit your essay to the editors of The HerStories Project, please visit here:
submit

If you are entering the HerStories Project Writing Contest, please click here to pay the $10 reading fee. If you would like the fee to be waived, please mention this in your submission.

(Note: If you are submitting  only to be considered for publication in the book  — not to the contest — after you click the “Submit” button, please select “Mothering Through the Darkness: Stories of Postpartum Struggle.” If you are submitting to the contest — as well as to the book — please select the “HerStories Project Writing Contest.”)

44 comments

  1. Elaine A. says:

    I believe this will be life-changing for so many to read. Postpartum affected my own life and a book of stories in which I could have said, “Oh yes, me too. Now I feel less alone,” would have been wonderful.

  2. Tricia says:

    I missed the last call for submissions and was so sad. I felt I had such a story to tell for that one and might never get that chance again. But this topic? Oh do I have a story to tell again. Thank you so much for picking this topic – not because I have a story but because we all do and we all need to share.
    Tricia recently posted…To my girl on her third, first day of schoolMy Profile

  3. I’m always on the lookout for a worthy writing project and I have to say this is an excellent one. My experiences with postpartum mental health issues occurred back in the 1980s and 1990s before there was much written about it. Thank you for tackling this extremely important issue.

  4. alexandra says:

    So excited for this. This, will be the chance to tell our stories, in the non clinical sense. And in doing this, we will provide community, understanding, and the thing we need the most: HOPE.

    THANK YOU!!

  5. I’m so excited about this opportunity. I have a story that’s only been told to a select few people. The shame and guilt I carried for so many years about the kind of mother I believed I was prevented me from sharing it. It’s time to spread it far and wide. Thank you for presenting this platform, for myself and untold other women.
    Kelly Roberts recently posted…Suicide is a HomonymMy Profile

  6. Alison says:

    I look forward to this. As a writer and a person who has dealt with postpartum depression, psychosis and PTSD, I would love to share my story and also read others. This will be a fun task because I love writing, but also a time for reflection and growth.

  7. Books such as this should be a must for mothers experiencing perinatal mental illness to read to ensure they know they are not alone. This is a wonderful topic and one I very much look forward to contributing to with my own personal experience. Such a truly important area upon which to focus… thank-you. xx

  8. What a beautiful idea for a book. I had a horrible experience with my first child. So horrible in fact I thought I would never be ready to have a second. I always felt that those who saw me in my postpartum state were either disappointed in me or thought I was crazy.

    I was disappointed in me and thought I was crazy.

    I look forward to that wonderful feeling of putting all that down on paper, for the very first time.
    Leila Boukarim recently posted…Even before Google, my mother knewMy Profile

  9. anice says:

    just wondering – do the entries have to be from women? My husband experienced post-partum depression and although my mom is a NICU social worker, until this happened, I didn’t realize that PPD could happen to men. I think he might have a powerful story to tell, too… I realize this might not be the place, but I do think we have to spread the word that PPD can and does happen to any new parent – birth mom, dad, even adoptive parents.

    thanks for letting me know what you think and thanks for this project!

  10. Beth says:

    I find that talking about this brings up a lot of pain and regret for me. I believe that this will help me push forward. Instead of keeping it all in, I can share my story in detail and hope that it might get published and help out someone else. One of the greatest things for me was to realize that I wasn’t the only one. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity. Even if I do not get published, it might relieve some weight from my conscious to just get out out there.

  11. Alison too says:

    Would you accept a piece not written in the first person? I’m thinking about writing about my female relative who had PPD. thanks A

  12. I wish I’d had this book after my third child was born. I thought I was a pro at mothering until PPD knocked me down a few notches. I’m looking forward to submitting and reading about other women’s experiences. We are all in good company!

  13. Beka says:

    Wonderful 🙂 Thank you so much for putting this together. I’m going to make it a point to enter, and I really look forward to reading the book. Something like this, with women sharing their stories with other women, is so inspiring 🙂

    Happy writing all!
    Beka recently posted…Sunday Sample – IlhanMy Profile

  14. Carly says:

    Thank you for extending the deadline! Now I will have time to finally sit down and write about my experience with PPD, PPA and prenatal anxiety.
    I think this will help me finally put the whole experience behind me. If it helps other women then fantastic!

  15. Nora Sullivan says:

    I am in the beginning stages of collecting stories Similiar to mine for a very important book on voices of domestic violence victims. The title is WHY women of domestic violence don’t call for help.
    You would be surprised at the hundreds of reasons especially due to a government with a broken system. Victims are re victimized, shamed, bullied and investigated EVEN when the abuser is put behind bars for his crimes. I am very interested in any and all help. As a single mother of two who has to do this to help others. Victims already are shamed into feeling alone and “crazy”. I have been working with the Susan B anthony project and have many women willing to share the story of the black hole they endured. I really need this grant to help me take the time to get this done urgently. The violence I endured to the point my life was in danger can not be for nothing. I am writing this to you quickly and can provide an excerpt of my short story book within weeks. There are millions of broken women who will benefit from this as well as advocacy groups and the broken government system. These stories will also help people who want to support women who have been secluded from friends, families. I know things happen for a reason and I know I can help others and that is the reason I was beaten and victimized for so long. I was afraid to call for help. With good reason. Please advise what my next step will be to submit my application in a timely manner. Thank you for any consideration. The grant money will assist in getting a proper laptop as I’ve been attempting to do these stories on an iPhone 4. My abuser left me penny less and had seized every engine in my cars. I’m working to bring myself back up by my bootstraps but I need just a little more help. I want to help with this growing epidemic. Thanks again,
    Nora Sullivan
    860-459-2694
    Nmsully73@icloud.com

  16. Nora Sullivan says:

    Please read comment 27 on nov 28,2014. I believe it is in the wrong area. I would like to submit my idea to apply for grant/ assistance. Thank you and sorry for confusion. I was unable to locate a contact section that worked.

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