Exploring the art of prose


Tag: Expressive Writing

Author’s Note

“An essay about adoptee narratives in fiction!” Yes, that was the essay I wanted to write. I was revising my novel about a mom navigating identity, both as an adoptee and as a caregiver, and it was a topic I wanted to explore. I had the piece all planned out, was working with a mentor in my MFA program, and even had interviews scheduled with some amazing authors.

Just as I dove into my research, my family went into crisis. I didn’t write for months. I didn’t sleep for months. And I was pretty sure I was going to have to drop out of school.

But in very dark times, creating art can save you. I began to look into my new diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, a chronic condition related to caregiving—a series of traumas I wasn’t going to magically stop experiencing. Traumatic experiences that didn’t have a sense of finality and loss, but instead the potential for finality and loss. Fear had become a pervasive constant in my life, accompanied by guilt and shame and too many emotions to hold inside.

The more research I did, the more I realized writing was the only path forward. It was the key to forgiving myself, to loving my child more holistically, and to becoming a person who might not just withstand these hard experiences but grow and evolve through them. With a little nudge from my mentor, I began to write this essay, “The Novel, The Map.”

Is it hyperbolic to say that creating art can save you? I don’t think so, not anymore. As I researched and wrote, as I shared my drafts with generous beta readers, I slept a little better. I smiled a little more. I kissed my husband and read a good book and met a friend for coffee. I panicked a little less. I was still afraid, of course. Some things never stop scaring you. But I healed, too. I also finished my MFA, a personal triumph amidst a roller coaster of a year.

I’m so grateful I didn’t write that essay about adoptee narratives in fiction. (Though I still want to!) I’m so proud of myself for following what felt true and necessary into my own darkness. This essay is about expressive writing and why it matters, especially for parents. Especially for hurting parents. Especially for parents so filled with love and fear and pain they could burst into a thousand pieces. It’s not hyperbolic to say that storytelling stitches us back together again.


HANNAH GRIECO is a writer in Washington, DC. She edits novels and prose collections for Alan Squire Publishing, where her anthology Already Gone published in 2023. Her own work can be read in The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, The Rumpus, Brevity, Poet Lore, Fairy Tale Review, Passages North, and more. Find her online @writesloud.