Mar 21, 2011

New Writing Workshop, May 13-15

Only two seats are left in the Intro to Creative Nonfiction writing workshop in Santa Monica. Please contact me soon if you'd like one of them!

The workshop will run from 3 p.m. Friday afternoon, May 13, through dinner on Sunday, May 15, and will be held at the historic Georgian Hotel--just steps from the Santa Monica Pier and beach. Our guest speaker on Sunday will be Mim Eichler Rivas, author of more than a dozen nonfiction books, including Beautiful Jim Key and The Pursuit of Happyness. Cost is $450 and writers of all levels are welcome.

More detailed information can be found here.

If you're interested, please email me at for registration forms. Hope to see you in May--


Mar 17, 2011

Motherless Daughters' Guides: Please Share Your Ideas

In the 17 years since Motherless Daughters was first published I've heard from thousands of readers who've written in to share their individual stories. Among the many common experiences we share, one tends to surface frequently: without a mother, many of us feel we lack much of the basic information women need and that women with mothers naturally possess and we don't know who or how to ask.

I think of a woman I met back in the early 1990s, whose story appears in the first edition of Motherless Daughters, who told me about stealing an etiquette book from her local library when she was about eleven and reading it cover-to-cover when she got home because she was so hungry for information about how to be a woman, and so afraid of doing the wrong things, after her mother died when she was nine. All these years that story has stuck with me and it's no less poignant or heartbreaking now than it was eighteen years ago. I thought of it again the other night as I was explaining the elusive rules about thank-you notes to my thirteen-year-old daughter. If I weren't here to tell her, how would she know when to send them or what to write? Would she even know she was supposed to send thank-you notes at all?

Motherless Daughters was meant to be an overview book that identified and explained a phenomenon rather than a self-help book or how-to manual. But lately I've been wondering if, in addition, motherless girls and women would also benefit from short, very practical guidebooks to navigating some of the situations and life events that mothers typically teach daughters how to manage or actually steer them through. And of course, plenty of women with mothers don't get what they feel they need from them, so these guides might be helpful for them, too.

At the very bottom of this page I've made a list of the subjects that come up most in reader mail, and for which motherless women often feel in need of guidance or advice. Would you be willing to take a look and let me know which would be or would have been most useful for you? Please scroll all the way down to find the poll and to vote. This will give me an idea of which one(s) to start with or if this is even a good idea. (The titles listed in the polls are only placeholders at the moment to convey the main ideas; hopefully I'll come up with better ones later, or please suggest one or more that you like.) And please feel free to suggest guides that aren't on the list, or comments about the idea in general in the comments section below.

Would you buy any of these guides for yourself? For someone you know? Would you like to see several bundled together in a set? How would you like the information to be presented? Or do you feel that Motherless Daughters and Motherless Mothers have already covered this material sufficiently for you?

Very much looking forward to your thoughts,

Mar 8, 2011

Call for Stories

Have you or anyone you know ever found yourself feeling as if you're living from one crisis to another? Does this describe your childhood, or maybe your adult years? When interviewing women for Motherless Daughters and Motherless Mothers, I was surprised and disheartened to discover how often mother loss was only one in a series of adverse events for many women, and that they felt they'd been shaped for better and for worse by periodic crises which they had no way to anticipate and therefore no way to prepare.

I've been thinking about this for a long time, because this was very much my story after my mother died. For the next 23 years I had a deeply kind and well-meaning father who also drank heavily and was prone to intermittent breakdowns related to the alcohol and the toll it took on his health. The pattern of leapfrogging from one difficult event to another, and feeling that my life could only be enjoyed in between his exclamation points, came to characterize my adult life. After he died six years ago it took a long time for me to release the feeling that the next crisis was somewhere around the next corner, just waiting to erupt.

I imagine this must be the case for many of us with loved ones who suffer from addictions, chronic health problems, mental illness, eating disorders, or just garden-variety difficult behavior. (And very possibly other conditions. Please feel free to chime in.) Also, those of us who have protracted strings of just really bad luck.

My belief is that children raised in these kind of environments (as many motherless daughters are) get wired in a very specific way that in part determines their behavior patterns in adulthood, and also that adults who encounter such situations later in life (through marriage, parenthood, or other relationships) have to develop their own strategies to find fulfillment in between the episodes. And yet I've also met many women who have been able to transcend this and live happy, fulfilling lives not just in spite of, but sometimes because of, the exclamation points pushed into their paths.

I'm wondering if this might be a worthy topic for a future book. What do you think? And if this sounds familiar to anyone, and you'd be willing to share your story, please email me at for more details. Confidentiality and anonymity assured.

Many thanks,

Mar 3, 2011


What's the accurate label for people who use Twitter. Twitterers? Twitterites? Twittereans? Tweeters?

Or maybe just Those Who Tweet?

Nonetheless, I feel oddly compelled to invite everyone who visits here to also sign up for my ramblings and recommendations over there. Not that you need more ramblings or recommendations filling up your day--god knows all our days are full enough already--but occasionally one of mine might interest you and make you want to share it with your friends.

Caveat: I am not a fan of karaoke, comma splices, Jersey Shore, and most politicians (with the possible exceptions of Barbara Boxer and Rudy Giuliani at very select times during his first term as mayor of New York) and my Tweets sometimes reflect that. It might be good to know this in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises later.

If you're wondering what my gripe is with Jersey Shore, it's that I already went to high school with all those people in 1982 so I know what they're going to say pretty much all of the time.

Yes, I was surprised by how little has changed in 29 years, too.

Anyway, I'm @hopeedelman. See you here and there.

Mar 1, 2011

Parentless Parents by Allison Gilbert

Anyone who's lost a parent knows how that hole in the family grows even larger after a child is born. Now it's not just a parent who's missing from the equation, it's a grandparent as well.

What about when of both your parents are gone before your children come along? That's the topic of Allison Gilbert's new book, Parentless Parents, a careful and documented examination of the particular issues these parents face.

Gilbert, who mI've known since 2005 when she was working on her collection of interviews with adult orphans, Always Too Soon, was kind enough to take time out of her book-promotion schedule to answer a few questions about Parentless Parents for readers of 455-Girls:

455G: You lost your mother at age 25--before you married and had your children-- and your father when you were 31 and your son was eighteen months old. What were those intervening years like for you?

AG: I had feared becoming a parentless parent long before I ever became one. Once my mother died, I clung to my father. I knew all too well he was my final parent. Because of that, and after the birth of my son, he and I became the closest we'd ever been. I involved him as often as I could -- in everything I did as an expectant mother and later, as a new mom. My dad came with me and my husband when I had ultrasounds. My father jumped at the chance to come with us to get Jake's first haircut. And, then, just like that, he developed a cough and was dead a few weeks later. My father had lung cancer and hadn't smoked in 20 years.

455G: Many women who come to this blog felt emotionally parentless after their mothers died, even if their fathers are still living. Will your book speak to them as well?

AG: In many ways, even though my father was an enormous comfort to me after my mother died, I felt at times like I was already a parentless parent. My dad was loving, but he couldn't remember all the details I really needed to know as a new mom. He couldn't remember when I started eating solid foods, or how old I was when I first slept through the night. My mom would have likely remembered though, and that's why parenting without her hurt so much, even though I had my dad.

My father also wasn't a very patient man, and he certainly wouldn't have been willing to hear me drone on and on about cribs, strollers, and color choices for our son's nursery. That kind of inexhaustible interest in my life -- even the smallest, most inconsequential tidbits -- ended for the most part when my mother passed away, and could never be fully replaced.

Ultimately, because our moms were so often the ones who listened most attentively when we were young, and because our mothers stereotypically made most of the decisions regarding our care, the pain of mother loss can feel especially sharp, sometimes just as intense as being a parentless parent.

455G: One of the biggest challenges of being parentless is being able to ask for and accept help as a new mother. I remember poring through books for advice after my first daughter was born because I felt embarrassed to go to my friends with basic questions. What practical suggestions do you have for parentless parents who are, so to speak, setting sail alone?

AG: I don't think I was ever embarrassed to ask for help; I just wasn't willing to accept all the help that was around me. In my mind, nobody could measure up to the kind of grandma I imagined my mother would have been, so I pushed nearly everyone close to me away. In particular, I resented that my mother-in-law was just so willing (and capable!) of swooping in and taking over. Ultimately, I realized that all the anger I was clinging to, all that sadness, was hurting me more than anyone else. Gradually I began to get comfortable not only with accepting help -- but also being absolutely grateful for it. This represented nothing less than a sea change in my thinking, and the process has been enormously freeing.

Emotionally, I understood that my husband and I were both very lucky to have his parents. They are active and engaged and completely loving. And as a matter of simple physical practicality, by learning to embrace help, the enormous pressure I felt being a mom without my mom began to lift. Looking back, it seems that many of the burdens that come along with new motherhood are easier to handle once you accept that no amount anger and self-pity can bring a mother back.

455G: Support groups have been enormously helpful for many motherless women because they find comfort in the presence of others who understand. You've helped to start several Parentless Parents groups. Can you tell us a little bit about what they offer?

Sure! Parentless Parents support groups are now forming all over the country. They’re developing in several states including California; Oregon; New York; Washington, DC; and Florida. The groups are run by parentless parents, and are a way for parentless parents to meet and exchange ideas, tips, and resources. These groups actually tend to be a lot of fun, because there's instant camaraderie and connection.

There is also a growing and active Parentless Parents Group page on Facebook. Parents from all over the country (and the world) are coming together to discuss the specific challenges of being a parentless parent. I think the in-person support groups and the Parentless Parents Facebook page are so helpful because sometimes strangers understand you better than your own family and closest friends do. There's no need to explain yourself. We all "get" it. And that's incredibly validating.

You can find a complete list of Parentless Parents chapters on If a chapter doesn't exist where you live, feel free to start your own! You can find Parentless Parents on Facebook by clicking here and watch the book's trailer here.