COLUMBIA, S.C. -- By reading many women's magazines, it appears that mothers are most concerned with how much TV their children watch, what kinds of snacks to offer or potty-training techniques.
But University of South Carolina English professor Amy Hudock knew there was something missing.
The single mother of a 2-year-old daughter thought many mothers set aside their creative spirit while undertaking the challenge of raising children.
Hudock is editor-in-chief of Literary Mama, an online magazine for women that explores the complexities of motherhood through poetry, essay or fiction.
The roots of the magazine developed last summer in a San Francisco Bay writing group for women founded by Hudock.
She had been in a tenure track job at Marshall University, where she coordinated the women's studies program, when she became pregnant with daughter Sarah.
She said she had problems getting the maternity leave she wanted and felt her impending motherhood made her "problematic" in academia.
Hudock left the academic world to be a full-time mother. She moved to California with her family and set up a writing group consisting of other mothers who were writers. The group posted stories online and expanded by word of mouth to writers across the country.
That's when Hudock decided to do an anthology. She looked to print a book of the writings but was rejected by publishers. Some told her there was no need, as similar anthologies already were in print. Other publishers told Hudock simply that "mothers don't read."
So the North Carolina native created www.LiteraryMama.com, which offers a different view on motherhood not discussed by mainstream magazines.
"It grew up as a desire to publish work that wasn't getting published," she said. "The glossy magazines aren't publishing what is really happening within motherhood. They rely on experts and how-to articles, and the first-person narrative pieces are very formulaic."
"One of the things we pride ourselves on in Literary Mama is trying to break the formula through writing that maybe does or does not have a happy ending, where there's not maybe that moment of realization. Sometimes the pieces are just sketches, just capturing a moment," Hudock said.
Many of the pieces on the site are deeply personal. Hudock writes in her column about the struggles of breast-feeding between classes and having to leave her daughter with a day care provider while she teaches other people's children.
Another woman writes about tripping and dropping her 4-week-old baby and the depression and guilt that sets in despite the baby's recovery.
Mainstream magazines don't include such honest and complex stories and tend to underestimate mothers, said Andrea Buchanan, the magazine's managing editor and a writer living in Philadelphia.
"We decided there was not enough out there and we should be creating the type of magazine we want to read ourselves," said Buchanan, who has two children, 5-year-old Emi and 19-month-old Nate.
The site has low overhead and is run by volunteers.
Sixteen editors from across the country select submissions of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, literary criticism, book reviews and profiles about mother writers.
Subscriptions to the site are free. Although they sell a few items such as T-shirts, mugs and baby bibs, Hudock estimates the products have brought in only about $80 so far.
Hudock eventually would like to put ads on the site to begin paying the writers. She also hopes to publish a collection of pieces in an anthology after the site has been up for a year or two.