On Writing Through Parenthood: an Interview with Katie Reilly
by Writing Workshops Staff
A month ago
For every parent, the journey is filled with an array of emotions – from moments of sheer joy to the times of profound introspection. Katie Reilly, a celebrated freelance journalist and attorney, has been there and experienced it all. With bylines in the New York Times Magazine, HuffPost, and Elle Magazine, Katie has demonstrated a unique flair for converging the intricate threads of women's health, mental health, and the multitudes of parenthood.
In her upcoming workshop, Writing Through Parenthood, Katie ventures to guide aspiring writers through this intricate maze. The program unfolds over a span of three weeks, commencing with introductions and discussions around goals and reservations, moving onto the practical nuances of writing a pitch and finding the perfect home for your story, and finally culminating in striking the perfect balance in your essay.
But this isn't just about writing; it's about finding and honing your voice. It's about drawing from personal experiences, be they bitter or sweet, and getting those experiences on the page in a manner that resonates universally with readers. Whether you're aiming to craft personal essays that touch the soul, opinion pieces that stimulate thought, or reported essays that inform and educate, Katie's seminar offers the tools and insights to make your story stand out.
With an opportunity for every participant to receive personalized feedback on their drafts and learn the ins and outs of pitching their stories to the right publication, this workshop promises not just learning but personal growth.
Katie's own journey, both as a parent and a writer, has culminated in this workshop, making it a treasure trove of insights, practical skills, and heartfelt guidance. Every facet of this seminar, from the choice of essays to the structure of the course, is a testament to her dedication to helping writers navigate the complex, rewarding world of writing about parenthood.
Here is our interview with Katie:
WW: Parenthood is deeply personal and often overwhelming. What inspired you to use writing as an outlet for these experiences, and how do you hope your course will help others find clarity or catharsis through their words?
KR: I've journaled my whole life so writing has always been a way for me to process what is going on in my life. Turning my parenting ideas into essays has helped me explore a specific topic, through research and self reflection, and get more clarity and awareness. I hope that writing about parenting does the same for students in this course.
WW: Writing about personal experiences, especially as intimate as parenthood, can often blur the lines between the private and the public. How do you decide what to share and what to hold back, and what advice do you have for writers struggling with this balance?
KR: I think that is one of the bigger ongoing struggles for anyone who writes about themselves. I always write whatever comes to mind on the page for the first drafts and I advise other writers to do the same. You can always edit anything out later that you're not comfortable with, but I think it can hurt the writing process if you edit yourself early on.
WW: Parenthood varies greatly across cultures, socio-economic statuses, and individual challenges. How does the workshop cater to these diverse experiences, ensuring inclusivity and a wide representation of stories?
KR: The basic idea behind the class is that there is not one parenting experience and that all parenting experiences are welcome. I'll also try to provide diverse experiences through the reading as well.
WW: Your professional journey is quite diverse, spanning journalism to law. How has your unique background influenced your perspective on parenting, and how has it shaped the content of this workshop?
KR: Yes, people always seem to be surprised when I share that I once was a corporate lawyer. ;)
This is a really good question and I'm not sure if I have a fully formed answer to it. I think I'm much happier now as a journalist, which affects the general energy that I bring into the world, particularly to my kids everyday. I'm not sure how it's specifically shaped the content of the workshop, but my legal background is just a part of me and probably affects -- for better or worse! -- most parts of my life and how I approach it.
WW: The course is structured over three weeks, with each week having a distinct theme. How did you decide on this layout, and why do you believe this structure will benefit the participants most effectively?
KR: I often find that three weeks is a sweet spot for students -- not too long, but also long enough that they learn something and hopefully leave with an essay that they're proud of.
WW: The course mentions exploring various types of essays – personal, opinion and reported. Why do you think it's important for budding writers to understand and experiment with these different styles when writing about parenthood?
KR: I think writing different types of essays or experimenting wtih that is just adding more tools to your toolbox. Roxane Gay is one of my favorite writers, and I often think about how she started writing fiction, but has since written personal and opinion essays about a diverse range of topics. We don't have to be boxed into a certain type of writing and it's fun (and helpful in my opinion) to experiment and see what works best for you.
WW: As a writer who frequently discusses women's health, mental health, and parenting, what challenges have you faced in conveying these topics to a broad audience, and how does this workshop address those challenges for new writers?
KR: I think the challenge for all of these topics is that often society isn't open to listening. When I think of topics like grief or miscarriage that I've written about, those are issues that we are gradually becoming more open to, but that is certainly a work in progress. I think this workshop addresses those challenges by creating a nurturing environment for students to write about these important issues and feel supported as they are all important and worthy topics.
WW: What impact do you believe personal essays on parenthood have on readers? Are there any specific reactions or feedback you've received that reaffirmed your belief in the power of these narratives?
KR: I think personal essays on any topic have a massive impact on readers. They tug at our empathy and enable us to put ourselves in someone else's shoes. I'm always moved by the people who email me after they've read one of my essays to share their story and explain the impact that it had on them. (I never read the comments to my essays though to avoid any unnecessary negative comments. Too many trolls online. ;)
WW: By the end of this three-week seminar, what is the one key lesson or takeaway you hope every participant will hold dear, whether they're seasoned writers or parents just starting to put pen to paper?
KR: Your ideas matter. I think it's universal that many writers wonder Is this a good idea? Will anyone care? and ultimately if you care enough about a topic, that alone is a good enough reason to write and to fight to have it published, if that's something that you're interested in.
You can learn more about Katie's upcoming Writing Through Parenthood class and enroll if you're interested. We would be honored to write with you this year!
Instructor Katie Reilly is a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area in California. Katie's writing generally focuses on women's health, mental health and parenting. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Elle Magazine, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, USA Today and HuffPost, among other publications. Learn more at Katie's website.