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.
special episode: Writing motherhood & miscarriage
(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.