Writer Mother Monster is a conversation series devoted to dismantling the myth of having it all and offering writer-moms solidarity, support, and advice as we make space for creative endeavors. Each episode is streamed live on Facebook and YouTube, then archived right here as a video, audio podcast, and transcript.
(July 22, 2021) Margaret Adams writes short fiction, creative nonfiction, and essays. She was a Best American Essays 2019 Notable, the winner of the Blue Mesa Review 2018 Nonfiction Contest, and the winner of the Pacifica Literary Review 2017 Fiction Contest, and she’s a fiction editor for JMWW. Originally from Maine, she currently lives on the AZ/NM border in the Navajo Nation where she works as a family nurse practitioner.
(July 8, 2021) Rachel Yoder is the author of Nightbitch (Doubleday), which has been optioned for film with Amy Adams set to star. She is a graduate of the Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program, holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Arizona, and is a founding editor of draft: the journal of process. Rachel grew up in a Mennonite community in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Ohio and now lives in Iowa City with her husband and son.
special episode: motherhood & mental health
(July 1, 2021) With Alicia Elliott, author of the thought-provoking essay collection A Mind Spread Out on the Ground; Liz Harmer, author of a memoir about wrestling with bipolar disorder, her hospitalization as a teenager, and postpartum depression; and Meg Leonard, a poet with a new collection, book of lullabies, that grapples with mental illness and new motherhood.
(June 10, 2021) Kate Baer is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and poet based on the East Coast. She has been featured in publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue.com, Entertainment Weekly, & Literary Hub. Her first book, What Kind Of Woman, is out now with HarperCollins. “In these confident and fearless poems, Baer suggests that the deepest and most vulnerable love is found in life’s imperfections.” (Publisher’s Weekly)
(June 3, 2021) Kendra DeColo is the author of three poetry collections; most recently I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers From the World (BOA Editions, 2021). She reaffirms the action of mothering as heroic, brutal, and hardcore, interrogating patriarchal narratives about childbirth, postpartum healing, and motherhood through the lens of pop culture and the political zeitgeist. Kendra lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she has a 5-year-old daughter and a baby on the way in August. She describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: “Adjusting Previous Expectations”
(May 27, 2021) Tananarive Due teaches Black Horror and Afrofuturism at UCLA and is an executive producer on Shudder’s documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. A leading voice in black speculative fiction for more than 20 years, Due has won an American Book Award, an NAACP Image Award, and a British Fantasy Award, and her writing has been included in best-of-the-year anthologies. Her books include Ghost Summer: Stories, My Soul to Keep, and The Good House. She and her late mother, civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due, co-authored Freedom in the Family: a Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights. She has a 17-year-old son and 35-year-old stepdaughter and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as “every single day.”
lan samantha chang
“A lot of my younger students write stories about middle-aged characters who are angsty and bored, and I’m thinking, ‘No, that’s not what it’s been like for me.’ It’s been one crazy thing after another!”
(May 13, 2021) Lan Samantha Chang, Director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is the author of Hunger; Inheritance; All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost; and The Family Chao (W.W. Norton, 2022). She has a 13-year-old daughter and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as “Need more time.” In this episode, Sam talks about growing up one of the only Chinese kids in Wisconsin, offers advice for applying to residencies, and explains her method for writing while raising a family and holding down a demanding career. And, she talks about a real dog in an imaginary book.
“For many of us, the range of what we’re raised to want is really small. Personal satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, is low on the totem pole.”
(May 6, 2021) Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award in fiction and won The Story Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Her children are 17 and 22, and she describes writer-motherhood as “intense, complex, evolving.” In this episode, Deesha talks about starting her writing career when her daughter was 2, what she learned from sending fan mail to other writers, revisiting an abandoned novel, and how she ended her award-winning collection with a sigh.
“There’s a moment when you realize you’ve lost the previous version of your child; the little one they were. That continually happens in parenthood.”
(April 29, 2021) Sadie Hoagland is the author of Strange Children and American Grief in Four Stages and has two children, ages 6 and 2. She describes writer motherhood in three words as “exhausting, hilarious, real.” In this episode, Sadie talks about multigenerational motherhood, why ambivalence is underrated, her changing relationship with darkness, and the language of trauma. And, she reads an excerpt of her book–from a ghost’s perspective.
“I was raised with the expectation that I would excel in a career and have time left over for kids, rather than the reverse, because the people who raised me didn’t know I was a girl.”
(April 24, 2021) Stephanie Burt is a poet, literary critic, professor, and transgender activist who the New York Times called “one of the most influential poetry critics of her generation.” She has two children, ages 11 and 15 and describes writer-motherhood in three words as “busy, conflicted, resourceful.” In this episode, Stephanie talks about claiming motherhood, finding kinship with Mr. Spock, the horror of The Giving Tree, the misery of octopus motherhood, role-playing games, X-Men, and more.
“Writing was a way of imposing myself, of making a world that was hostile and wanted to render me invisible or dead acknowledge me and deal with me.”
(April 22, 2021) Kim McLarin is a journalist, playwright, novelist, memoirist, literary critic, essayist, and co-author of a memoir by Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz. She has two children, ages 21 and 23, and describes writer motherhood in three words as “contradictory, depleting, enriching.” In this episode, Kim talks about writing to change the world, navigating the expectations of white-middle-class motherhood, why writing seems less urgent now than in her youth, and why she “didn’t expect to be loved by America.”
“Black women have had to come up with strategies for the survival of their children, families, and communities. It’s a toolkit passed down through the collective memory of Black mothers.”
(April 15, 2021) Riché J. Daniel Barnes, a socio-cultural anthropologist who studies Black families, is the author of Raising the Race: Black Career Women Redefine Marriage, Motherhood, and Community. She has a 20-year-old daughter and twin 18-year-old sons, and she describes writer-motherhood in three words as: “Supporter. Creative. Industrious.” In this episode, Riché talks about raising kids while pursuing a PhD, redefining “family time,” and Black Strategic Mothering. And, she reveals the talent she performs at her family talent show!
special episode: Writing motherhood & miscarriage
“When I read literature and stories, I want to be confronted with the truth, especially around pregnancy and birth and infant loss and women’s bodies.”
(March 31, 2021) This special episode is devoted to an issue so many women struggle with, and so few people discuss. Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang, co-editors of What God Is Honored Here: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss by and for Native Women and Women of Color, talk about why it’s important to give voice to this common pain.
“The first days of motherhood, it feels like you’re running a marathon that you’d never signed up for, you never trained for, you don’t have the right shoes.”
(March 25, 2021) Jennifer Chen is a freelance journalist who has written for the New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, and Bust on subjects ranging from emotional labor to pro wrestling. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and twin 5-year-old daughters, and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: “longest shortest time.” In this episode, Jennifer shares how to bathe twin newborns, how she deals with internet trolls, and why she writes about miscarriage. And, Jennifer talks about using her platform to raise awareness for the Stop Asian Hate Movement.
“The book that I started in 1985 just came out in 2020, if that gives anybody courage to keep on going.”
(March 11, 2021) Rosanna Warren has been publishing “poems of riveting, compassionate darkness and social conscience for nearly 40 years” (LA Review of Books) and is the recipient of awards from the Academy of American Poets, The American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, and many others. She describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: “frazzled, passionate, surprised.” In this episode, Rosanna talks about writing lines like knife stabs, growing up as the daughter of famous authors, putting poems in a compost heap, and why her girlhood was like Halloween.
“Just because other people figured out how to use hangers doesn’t mean I’m ever gonna figure it out. I mean, there’s certain things I just don’t want to spend my time doing.”
(March 3, 2021) Meagan McGovern, who recently went viral in braids and a Target prairie dress, writes about homeschooling, social justice, and the odd quirks of American life. She lives on a farm in Washington state and just finished a memoir about growing up on the run with a mother who was a con artist. She describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: “Everything is copy.” In this episode, Meagan talks about going viral, why she bought her son a farm, and why pandemic homeschooling isn’t real homeschooling. Plus, she pitches the perfect pandemic Zoom dress.
beth ann fennelly
“My daughter comes home smelling like another woman’s perfume. I had this sense of betrayal.”
(February 25, 2021) Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi, has published 3 books of poetry and a book of essays, Great With Child: Letters to a Young Mother. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi, and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as, “monstrous, magical, mind-bending.” In this episode, Beth Ann talks about how reading about vomit led her down the poetry path, bartering haikus for hamburgers, and why society’s romanticized representation of mothers is damaging. Plus, she shares what makes motherhood more dramatic than Greek myth.
“Every Facebook moms’ group has a provocateur.”
(February 18, 2021) Kristin Bair is the author of three novels, most recently Agatha Arch Is Afraid of Everything, and writes about China, bears, adoption, and off-the-plot expats. She lives north of Boston with her husband and two kids and describes writer-motherhood in three words as “Are they asleep?” In this episode, Kristin talks about surviving COVID, the time a famous male poet stomped on her poetry, and why a teenager’s brain is like a snow globe. Plus, she shares what happened when she was locked in a cabinet with a pride of lions.
“My mom would tell me about a patient who lacerated his liver on the escalator because he didn’t tie his shoes.”
(February 11, 2021) Lori L. Tharps is a journalist, podcast host, and author of a novel and 3 nonfiction books, including Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families. She has 3 kids and describes motherhood in 3 words as: “inspiring and exhausting.” In this episode, Lori talks about how her children’s different skin tones prompted her latest book, why she buys her kids only dark blue clothes, and how her mother gave her “the talk” by describing a badger’s persistent erection.
“When I was in labor, I was judging the Barnes and Noble First Book Award.”
(February 2, 2021) Ann Hood is the New York Times best-selling author of 14 novels, 4 memoirs, numerous other books, and possibly hundreds of essays. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, with her husband and is the mother of Sam (27), Annabelle (16), and Grace, who passed away at age 5. In this episode, Ann talks finding a narrative in grief. She also shares stories from her modeling days and her time as a flight attendant, and explains why she describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as “best thing ever.” Find out what a blind fortune teller once told Ann–and if her prophesy came true.
“The person who made Candy Land should be killed.”
(January 28, 2021) Rachel Zucker is the author of 10 books, including, most recently, SoundMachine. She lives in Maine where she is the mother of three boys ages 21, 20, and 13, and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as “attachment, attachment, attachment.” In this episode, she explains why she identifies with Rip Van Winkle, what it’s like to go through a divorce in the midst of a pandemic, and why she thinks the maker of Candy Land should be killed.
“I loved being pregnant in Arkansas.”
(January 18, 2021) Elle Nash is the author of the novel Animals Eat Each Other (Dzanc Books), hailed by Publishers Weekly as a “complex, impressive exploration of obsession and desire.” She lives in Colorado with her husband and 3.5-year old daughter, and she describes writer-motherhood in three words as “boundary-building, productive.” In this episode, Elle talked about witchcraft, being pregnant in Arkansas, transgressive fiction, magic, mountains–and more! Find out if Elle can do magic, what she sacrifices for art, and why she doesn’t want to peak until she’s 60.
“Labias to the wall, ladies!”
(January 14, 2021) Lyz Lenz is the author of Belabored and God Land and her essay “All the Angry Women” was included in the anthology Not that Bad edited by Roxane Gay. She lives in Iowa with 2 kids and 2 cats and describes writing-motherhood in 3 words as “creative and chaotic.” In this episode, Lyz shares the story of how President Biden once (sarcastically) called her “a real sweetheart,” why she no longer matches her socks, and why men get mad at her. Find out why Lyz was kicked out of an online mommies group–and discover the origin of WMM’s new motto: “Labias to the wall, ladies!”
creating community for writer-moms with Scribente maternum
“I’m for women being just a little bit selfish.”
(January 12, 2021) This special episode explores how to create community around motherhood and writing with the co-founders of Scribente Maternum, a community of writers that explores our emotions as mothers, provides space to recharge, facilitates connections with other writers, and inspires personal and collective action. Featuring Rachel Berg Scherer, Carla du Pree, Caytie Pohlen-LaClare, and Elizabeth Doerr.
“Motherhood turns you into a milk cow.”
(January 7, 2021) Melanie Conroy-Goldman is the author of The Likely World and a Professor of Creative Writing at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She volunteers at a maximum security men’s prison and lives in Ithaca, New York, with her husband, daughter and step-daughters. Melanie describes writer-motherhood in three words as: “richly entangled identities.” In this episode, she talks about balancing addiction and motherhood, the urgent need for childcare, and crossing boundaries in writing from life. Find out why she threw Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle across the room.
“I was surprised at the depth of my anxiety.”
(December 17, 2020) Katie Gutierrez is the author of More Than You’ll Ever Know, forthcoming from William Morrow in 2022. She lives in San Antonio, TX, with her husband and two children, ages 2.5 years and 3.5 months and describes writer-motherhood in three words as “never enough time.” In this episode, Katie shares that she signed her book contract while breastfeeding. She talks about exploring desire, challenging the messages about motherhood she’d internalized, and rethinking what she considers “writing.”
“There’s only so much pie, you know?”
(December 7, 2020) Daria Polatin is a playwright, TV writer-producer and author who is developing a TV limited series based on her novel Devil in Ohio for Netflix. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 11-week-old son and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: “stunning, shifting, softening.” In this episode, Daria talks about what it’s like to maintain a fast-paced career in television with a newborn at home…in a pandemic. And, find out why she didn’t tell her colleagues she was pregnant until the last second.
“Dolly Parton and Obama are really good grownups.”
(November 19, 2020) Katie Peterson is the author of four collections of poetry and directs the MFA program in Creative Writing at UC Davis. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter, and she describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: “always play first.” In this episode, Katie talks about how having a daughter has awakened her to her own animal nature, her generation’s ambivalence about family, finding poems on walks, what it means to be a grownup. Plus, she just SAYS poetry like: “The truth is its own difficult animal that needs to be cajoled and sometimes restrained.”
“Getting cancer made me a better writer.”
(November 12, 2020) Tzynya Pinchback is the author of the book of poetry How to Make Pink Confetti and was a finalist for 2020 Poet Laureate of Plymouth, Massachusetts. She lives in Massachusetts, has a 23-year-old daughter, and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: “primal. theater. sanctuary.” In this episode, Tzynya shares how her poetry has evolved throughout her battle with cancer, how her role as a mother shifted when helping her daughter through trauma, and how she has had to reset her expectations for herself again and again.
“I’m interested in my own desire.”
(October 28, 2020) Liz Harmer is the author of The Amateurs and Strange Loops, forthcoming in 2022. She’s a Canadian living in California with her children who are 13, 11, and 8, and describes motherhood in 3 words as “challenge and delight.” Liz came to our interview straight from the ER, and there’s probably a lesson in there about how mothers feel the need to be superwomen, pushing ourselves to exhaustion. She also talks about transgression, mental health, and the evolution of desire.
“It’s a powerful desire to become.”
(October 22, 2020) Blair Hurley is the author of the novel, The Devoted, and lives in Canada with her husband and 7-month-old daughter. Blair shares her joy in new motherhood and her eagerness to see how this shift in her identity will play out in her writing. She explores the difference between sentiment and sentimentality in writing, why we pass judgement on transgressive women characters, and writing on a thin edge between tenderness and viciousness.
“Growing a person in my guts. That’s bananas.”
(October 15, 2020) Amy Shearn is the author of the novels Unseen City, The Mermaid of Brooklyn, and How Far Is the Ocean From Here and lives in Brooklyn with her children ages 9 and 11. In this episode, Amy talks about giving up on perfection, how divorce has impacted her writing, practicing stoicism, and how “bananas” it is “to grow a person in your guts.” Find out how a woman at a playground inspired Amy’s second book.