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Day 20 Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway: Lisa Harper

Caroline Grant from Literary Mama (who was our guest the other day) introduced me to Lisa Harper. And I’m so glad she did! I’m always happy to meet another writer mama. Please help me welcome her!

Lisa Catherine Harper is the author of A Double Life, Discovering Motherhood and a professor in the MFA program at the University of San Francisco. Her writing has appeared in books, online and in print, in places including San Francisco Chronicle, Poetry Foundation, Huffington Post, Babble, Glimmer Train, Literary Mama, Offsprung, Gastronomica, and Mama, PhD.  She holds a BA from Princeton University and an MA and PhD from University of California, Davis. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, and their two children. You can find her online at http://www.LisaCatherineHarper.com.

A Double Life, Discovering Motherhood is the winner of the 2010 River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize. Publishers Weekly has called the book, which merges personal narrative with research “universal, moving, and relevant.” Following the intimate story of Harper’s first pregnancy, from conception to her daughter’s first word, A Double Life looks at how the biological facts of motherhood give rise to life-altering emotional and psychological changes. It shows us how motherhood transforms the female body, hijacks a woman’s mind, and splits her life in two, creating an identity both brand new and as old as time. It charts the passage from individual to incubator, from pregnancy, labor, and nursing to language acquisition, from coupledom to the complex reality of family life. Harper’s carefully researched story reminds us that motherhood’s central joys are also its most essential transformations.


1. How has writing (either just the act of writing or writing this book or both) impacted your self-confidence?

Writing  A Double Life cemented my confidence in my voice as well as my commitment to writing fact-based, lyrical narratives. I wrote fiction before I pursued my PhD, and A Double Life engages every aspect of my writing life: the rigor of research, the necessity of narrative, the experimental flight of lyric. It took me a long time to find a home for this book, but since publication I’ve been especially gratified that reviewers and readers have responded with great enthusiasm to the very aspects of the book that made some early editors nervous. Now I feel much more confident in my sensibility, my style, and my point of view. I have a greater sense of who I am as a writer and how I want to enter the conversation. Whatever my next long project, this sensibility will remain central to my writing. Knowing that has given me tremendous confidence and the momentum to keep going.

2. What are three words that describe your creative book-writing process?

Investigate. Narrate. Lyric.

3. What good has your book created in the world?

A Double Life is helping to change the conversation we have about motherhood–away from the sensational and voyeuristic and toward something more essential. It has also helped readers–including fathers and the childless–to understand in a profound and intimate way the radical transformations that women go through when they become mothers. It’s not just nine months of pregnancy and then–boom–you have a baby. Motherhood is a profound, gradual, life-altering process that is at once a great joy and a great challenge.

My book tells this story to mothers (expectant, new, veteran) in a way that allows them to understand, share, welcome, and celebrate these changes.When they read, they recognize parts of their own story. The book helps them to feel less alone; it helps them to understand how the biological gives rise to the emotional and psychological; it helps explain the why and how; and it has absolutely helped their friends and partners understand what the big deal is in the first place. (I’ve even had email from childless, adult readers who have gifted the book to their mothers as a way of saying “thank you! Now I get it!”)

• • •

Another question we’ve been asking our authors for you: how has writing impacted your self-confidence?

But you will have to say more than just the three words to get to 50-200 words.

Answer in the comments in 50-200 words (no less and no more to qualify to win one of today’s books). Please read the complete rules at least once!

Thanks for participating in the Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway! Please bring give the giveaway a shout-out on Twitter today. :)

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  • Heidi Smith Luedtke May 20, 2011, 11:15 am

    Writing has increased my self-confidence by making me more aware of what I have to contribute to others. As a college professor, I knew I had a lot to teach my students, but my students were limited to people who were enrolled in my courses or engaged in my ongoing research. As a writer, I have a seemingly infinite audience, and realize I will never know who and how many people learn something and live differently because of what I shared. It’s humbling and confidence-boosting.

  • Jen Henderson May 20, 2011, 12:19 pm

    This is a great question, Christina.

    I’m not sure I think that writing itself has impacted my self-confidence. I’ve always been a writer and known it, since I was very little. But the reception my writing has received in the world–whether it be a rejection or a publication–has, for good or bad, been what affects self-confidence most. Perhaps as a child, my confidence increased alongside my ability to capture on the page what I felt inside; it certainly worked that way with journaling. Now, as an adult, I think what I feel most about my writing is not self-confidence but continued validation–internal and external– that I’m on the right path as a writer. Then again, perhaps validation and self-confidence are the same thing? 🙂

  • Lara May 20, 2011, 3:20 pm

    I often feel like an outsider, an observer in life. But writing – seeing my words in print and hearing how they have affected readers makes me feel like a part of the ongoing dialogue. And that has boosted my self-confidence tremendously. I sense that what I have to say is worth saying. And when I write from my core passions, the impact on readers is even greater. It’s a fun journey, this whole writing thing. It’s an act of discovery that feels like it’s pulling me together into a more whole person. Talk about confidence-giving!

    I love Lisa’s story and how she risked writing her book her way and is getting confirmation that she was right. Way to go, Lisa!

  • Voca May 20, 2011, 3:21 pm

    Self-confidence, ideally, should be irrelevant. But none of us is that pure, I suspect. My writer’s self-confidence soars when I sell a piece and wavers if I have periods of no feedback of any kind from anyone. I feel I ought to be able to write without a care to public feedback, yet it is for my public that I write. This paradox is one all of us writers face. I suppose experience and success ultimately mitigate the tension between the two, but I don’t know yet, if that will prove true. Meanwhile, succeeding or failing, I write on (and with or without confidence).

  • BJ Pramann May 20, 2011, 3:58 pm

    Writing afirms my role as a creator. Birthing afirms my desires as a writer. I’ve created life sucessfully so I should be able to create worlds, identities and solutions successfully shouldn’t I? I think so. One very essential key I’ve found in the venture of sharing your words with others is being able to define  yourself in words on paper. If you can do that you can do anything.  

  • Steffanie May 20, 2011, 4:52 pm

     The greatest challenge of motherhood for me has been trying to balance it with the other part of me, the one that wants to live and express herself as an independent being. And My writing is a manifestation of this. My self-confidence is directly impacted by how well I can manage to juggle these two parts of myself. Yes, the success of my writing is important. It validates what I already know to be true, that I can be a good writer when all of the pieces fall into place at the right time. But more importantly, when I can integrate writing and motherhood into a whole and authentic life that flows, that is when I feel the most self-confident.

  • Malia Jacobson May 20, 2011, 5:11 pm

    Wow, this book looks fascinating. How has writing impacted my self-confidence–great question. I’m really not sure. Getting published is a great confidence-booster, to be sure. But at the same time, the more I learn about writing, the more I realize that I don’t know. So I’m more confident in some ways, and less confident in others. Ultimately, writing and publishing my work has helped me realize that I can do things, even ones that seem scary. And I do have confidence in my ability to learn and seek out answers to the things I don’t know.

  • Christin Geall May 20, 2011, 5:37 pm

     Joan Didion once said, ‘I’ve already lost touch with a couple people I used to be.’ Haven’t we all? Writing nonfiction raises the great questions: Who was I then? And, what did that feel like, and how have I changed? Writing personal essays or memoir becomes an exercise in self-confidence. It’s worked to bolster mine, and that of my students. To be heard: is there anything a young woman wants more?

  • Laura Ackerman May 20, 2011, 6:31 pm

    As a child, I was extremely insecure and awkward.  When I wrote I could be the confident heroine.  My writing in school was rewarded with praise from my teachers, which added to my confidence.   Now, as a grown up, just starting out my professional writing career, I depend on that past praise to boost my confidence in my current writing.  I know I can write, and the process itself gives me the confidence to continue on, to pursue my goal, my dream of being published someday.

  • kathleen pooler May 20, 2011, 6:37 pm

    Writing gives voice to my deepest feelings, my passions, my truths. It helps me to clarify who I am ,what I am experiencing and what I want to say. If I am confused or angry or fearful, I can gain focus and direction from my written word, like finding my way through a tangled web.It helps me dig through the layers of defense I may have built up and get to the heart of the matter, forcing me to be honest with myself. In the end, it validates who I am and ,therefore, does increase my self-confidence. Thanks for a thought-provoking discussion,Christina and Lisa!

  • Tania Dakka May 20, 2011, 8:08 pm

    My writing was always personal as I didn’t think I had anything to say worth listening to. It was quite an ego slap to find out that Examiner.com wasn’t considered a real writing gig after I began with them. Yet, people that read always encouraged me to do more. On to freelance attempts and novel attempts I went. Reading the words I wrote made me feel like I had found a home; a place where I can be free and confident to be who I want to be. Because of my writing, I found more confidence in meeting people. When I see a mom sitting at the play area who looks like she is just as frustrated as I once was, I don’t hesitate to offer some priceless advice that I have received. Or a cashier at the store who looks like they enjoy reading might end up with my blog address before I leave the store. These are things that have been spurred on because of writing.  Long story long, it has greatly increased my self-confidence and I haven’t even been published yet. 

  • Shanti Perez May 20, 2011, 8:44 pm

     Writing has made a huge difference in my self-confidence. From the time I was a child and combatted the constant put-downs that I wasn’t good enough to do anything, I still received compliments from teachers and peers about my ability to describe scenes and cause a reader to feel as if they were ‘right there’. I never gave up on this and now use writing as a tool to learn. Combined with research, I write short essays in order to inspire myself and others.

  • Pattie May 20, 2011, 9:36 pm

     Self-confidence is a tricky thing. Success in
    having something recognized, whether it’s a blog post with a lot of comments,
    or a piece I’ve written accepted for publication, is fantastic. But being
    ignored, or rejected, beats my self-confidence to a pulp. In my regular
    everyday life I can handle rejections better than I can with something I’ve taken time and pains and heart to write. In some ways, writing has brought me
    back around to how I used to feel in junior high: vulnerable, exposed, allowing
    others’ opinions of me to influence how I felt about myself.

  • Pam Maynard May 20, 2011, 9:38 pm

    The act of putting words into a form that brings joy or knowledge to other people boosts my self-confidence.  When I am writing a story and read it out loud to my son, I know it must be good if he keeps asking me what is going to happen next.   When I write a blog post that receives positive comments, it makes me want to blog even more.  When I find that my words on paper are being read by people all over the world, it makes me feel like I can do anything.

  • Mar Junge May 20, 2011, 9:43 pm

    Fiction writing made me more self confident because it took courage to show my work to my novelist teacher and share it with the class. Once I realized that I had potential, I felt nothing could stop me from doing whatever in life I wanted to do. Nonfiction writing makes me more self confident because it provides financial security. I know I can always make money writing. Plus I can proudly call myself a writer by profession. Marketing writing gives me confidence because it proves to my clients that I understand their challenges and the needs of their audience. Writing ad and web content gives me confidence because it’s much harder to write 50 words than 500.    

  • Sarah Joyce Bryant May 20, 2011, 9:58 pm

    Writing has allowed me to explore and share things that I wouldn’t normally do in a face to face conversation. Because of this, I have connected with others on a more genuine and honest level which has definitely been a boost to my self-confidence as a writer and a person.  

  • Rebecca Cherba May 21, 2011, 5:49 am

    This question is double-edged for me, because writing can raise my self-esteem one day and lower it the next. Probably this comes from my not having a regular disciplined schedule (tough to do these days when my family may be moving to another city in the next month or two). However, with that said, I’ve grown by leaps and bounds as a writer over the past year, feeling like the prospect of finishing the novel that has sat unfinished for almost a decade is actually achievable. Once I finally make that milestone, I’ll be able to say what writing has done for my self-confidence, with actual confidence. 

  • Lisa May 23, 2011, 3:45 pm

     Thank you, Lara! The conversation has been so important to me, too.