October 8, 2015

J is for Jeffrey


Photography by Mary Allison Tierney

Jeffrey, my son, is the reason I have three six-year-olds. He is not one of them. Born prematurely, he did not survive. But what did is my brief memory of him as well as the family my husband and I created after his passing.

I wrote an essay about all of that. A long meandering piece that I submitted to the Write On Mamas anthology Mamas Write. And then I took Kate Hopper’s online writing workshop with other anthology contributors to fine tune our submitted essays. Through one of her exercise prompts, a piece about the night of Jeffrey’s birth and death surfaced and became the work I submitted instead of the lengthy essay I initially wrote.

I had spent a lot of time writing my first piece. But it didn’t flow. It had too many storylines. Kate’s class and the work that resulted from it was an inspiration. I discovered that I write better, or I should say, found the time to write better, with a deadline and some subtle guidance.

Working with the small online group was beneficial; not only was Kate critiquing my writing, seven other writers were as well. Comments were always supportive and constructive and shed a different light on how I might approach my craft. And, I was getting to read and comment on the work of my colleagues, whose writing talents I admire. The fate of that long essay that had too many storylines? I’m working with Kate again, one on one this time, to get it to flow.

Teri Stevens’ essay There Was a Before appears in Mamas Write.


  1. Teri, I am so pleased to are writing your essay with Kate. She is wonderful and I am hoping to work with her too later this year. I LOVE your essay now in Mamas Write. It is beautiful and powerful. Thanks. And I love that you call your son Jeffrey.

    • Teri Stevens says:

      Thanks Claire, I am looking forward to working with her and so appreciate your kind words about the essay. Jeffrey was my cousins name.

  2. Sue LeBreton says:

    Teri: I am excited to read your essay. I too took Kate’s class and it is cliche but it changed my life to be able to write about the painful parts of motherhood and share that with others. I have stayed in contact with one woman from my online class and we share our writing back and forth still. I look forward to seeing where your long piece goes as well.

    • Teri Stevens says:

      Thanks Sue, I hope you enjoy the piece. It was cathartic to write about such a painful experience, so I’m sure it has been for you too. I hope to make something out of the long piece and look forward to sharing it.

  3. OH Teri. I remember when you wrote the piece in the class. Every time I read it, I get chills. It’s a beautiful essay and I am so happy that it’s in anthology. (To me, that was the whole point–to take our writing to the next level. You certainly did that with yours!)

    • Teri Stevens says:

      Thank you Janine, that means a lot. And yes, it was the whole point, to take our writing to the next level. I’m looking forward to doing more of that!

  4. Paula Chapman says:

    Beautiful piece Teri.

  5. Hello Cousin Teri!
    I just wanted to stop by and congratulate all of you Write on Mama’s on your book…. What an accomplishment! And what I journey for all of you. Much love,

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