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Melissa Hart

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Five Tips for How to Write About Your Mom and Still Share a Mother’s Day Brunch

A university journalism teacher and author of a mother-daughter memoir says it’s possible to write fiction, poetry, and non-fiction about Mom and still share a Mother’s Day brunch.

Eugene, OR, May 04, 2011 --( “Writers should tell the truth about their mother and their relationship with her, even if it’s difficult, but be sure to present her as a complex character rather than as one-dimensional,” says Melissa Hart, University of Oregon journalism teacher and author of the mother-daughter memoir Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood. “They need to examine her motivations, and while they’re at it, make sure that they don’t present themselves as perfect in their writing. No mother is all bad or all good, and neither is a narrator.”

Hart offers the following tips for writing about one's mother:

Writers shouldn't assume their mother will be angry because they've written about her. She may be flattered and appreciative. She may even, as Hart’s mother did, accompany her author-offspring on the book tour.

Writers can certainly ask their mom if she’d like to read the piece before it's published. While this isn’t mandatory, it can save hurt feelings before the work appears in print.

If writers feel they’ve got an important story to tell, but find themselves balking at the idea of penning memoir about their mother, they might consider turning the piece into fiction. That way, they’re free to disguise distinguishing characteristics. Some editors may even encourage, or require, writers to use a pseudonym.

If writers do opt to write memoir about their mother, they should know they're in good company. Ruth Reichl (Not Becoming My Mother and Other Things She Taught Me), Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle), Mary Karr (Lit), and hundreds of other authors have boldly penned provocative non-fiction about their moms.

Writers need to understand the consequences of their published work. Their mother could disown them. They might find themselves having the best discussion of their life with her, inspired by fair and honest writing. Or, as Hart’s mom does now, their mother could begin publishing humorous essays about them.

Melissa Hart’s coming-of-age memoir Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood (Seal Press, 2009) tells the story of a mother and young daughter separated in 1980s Southern California by an aggrieved father and a prejudiced court system. Kirkus Reviews says, "The book is filled with detailed conversations and particulars of dress, mannerisms and facial expressions that give it the feeling of a novel. A quirky narrative of artfully reconstructed memories." For more information, and to view the book trailer and excerpts, please visit

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