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.
IN-PERSON episode: JANET GARCIA-HALLETT
(October 12, 2023) Janet Garcia-Hallett is a criminal justice professor at the University of New Haven’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences. As an Afro-Latina mother, Janet has a personal interest in mothers’ experiences before, during, and after incarceration; her non-fiction book, Invisible Mothers: Unseen Yet Hypervisible after Incarceration is based on interviews she conducted throughout New York City with formerly incarcerated mothers of color. Her book shares mothers’ stories and explores how mothers of color navigate motherhood post-incarceration. Janet has 3 children ages 7, 4, and 2, and she describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as Versatile, Determine, Badass.
special episode: postpartum psychosis
(March 28, 2023) A panel conversation to illuminate and complicate the issue of postpartum psychosis and depression. Panelists: Chaya Bhuvaneswar, a psychiatrist and author of White Dancing Elephants, who has treated postpartum patients in-hospital, including at a forensic psych ward for women awaiting trial for harming their children. Sharline Chiang, a writer, editor, book coach, publicist, and journalist who wrote, among many other articles, Don’t Call It Baby Blues HYPHEN, the only existing online magazine article on Asian American survivors of postpartum depression. Kathryn Gahl, author of The Yellow Toothbrush, a look at anxiety, depression, OCD, and paranoid thinking through the eyes of a mother whose daughter is experiencing a prison sentence after committing filicide.
(March 14, 2023) Elizabeth Nunez emigrated from Trinidad to the US at age 19. Winner of an American Book Award, an Independent Publishers Award, a PEN Josephine Miles Award, and a Hurston Wright Legacy Award, she is the author of a memoir and ten novels, four of which were selected as New York Times Editors Choice. She is the co-founder with John Oliver Killens of the National Black Writers Conference and executive producer of the series Black Writers in America. She has served on the jury for national and international literary prizes/awards, and is a Distinguished Professor at Hunter College, CUNY. She has one son, age 46, and two granddaughters ages 15 and 22, and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: LIFE-AFFIRMING ESSENTIAL.
(February 21, 2023) Samantha Silva is an author, playwright, and screenwriter based in Idaho. She’s sold film projects to Paramount, Universal, and New Line Cinema, and she is the author of Mr. Dickens and His Carol (Flatiron Books, 2017), and Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft (Flatiron Books, 2021). Sam wrote and directed the award- winning short script, THE BIG BURN, which premiered at the Sun Valley Film Festival in 2017 and adapted Mr. Dickens and His Carol for Seattle Repertory Theater in 2022. Sam has 3 children, ages 28, 26, and 22, and describes writer-motherhood in three words as NECESSITY OF INVENTION.
(February 14, 2023) Rebecca Makkai’s last novel, THE GREAT BELIEVERS, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; it was the winner of the ALA Carnegie Medal, the Stonewall Book Award, the Clark Prize, and the LA Times Book Prize; and it was one of the New York Times’ Ten Best Books of 2018. Her other books are the novels THE BORROWER and THE HUNDRED-YEAR HOUSE, and the collection MUSIC FOR WARTIME—four stories from which appeared in The Best American Short Stories. A 2022 Guggenheim Fellow, Rebecca is on the MFA faculties of Sierra Nevada University and Northwestern University, and is Artistic Director of StoryStudio Chicago. Her new novel is I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU (February, 2023). Rebecca has 2 kids ages 12 and 15 and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as galvanizing, conflicting, temporary.
artress bethany white
(February 9, 2023) Artress Bethany White, associate professor of English at East Stroudsburg University, is a poet, essayist, and literary critic. She is the recipient of the Trio Award for her poetry collection My Afmerica: poems and the essay collection, Survivor’s Guilt: Essays on Race and American Identity, which received a 2022 Next Generation Finalist Indie Book Award and is listed as a CLMP social justice read. Her research interests include American slave archives and contemporary African American prose and poetics. She has four children ranging in age from 14 to 26, and describes writer-motherhood in three words as Determined, Fierce, Improvisational.
lisa czarina michaud
(January 31, 2023) Lisa Czarina Michaud is an American novelist of Italian-Mexican origins whose work is inspired by her life experiences. She attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington before stumbling through adulthood in Los Angeles. In 2009, she followed in the footsteps of her jazz-singing grandmother and moved to France where she currently resides. Her first novel Slanted and Disenchanted explores complex relationships between mother and daughter, sexual tension in friendships, the confusion of adulting…and the soundtracks that get us through it all. Lisa has one son age 7. She describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: take it easy.
(January 10, 2023) Caroline Hagood is an Assistant Professor of Literature, Writing and Publishing and Director of Undergraduate Writing at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. She is the author of the poetry books, Lunatic Speaks and Making Maxine’s Baby, the book-length essay, Ways of Looking at a Woman, the novel, Ghosts of America, a book-length essay Weird Girls, and her novel Filthy Creation is forthcoming in March 2023. Her work has appeared in publications including Creative Nonfiction, LitHub, the Kenyon Review, Hanging Loose, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, Salon, and Elle. Caroline lives in Brooklyn and has two kids ages 6 and 9. She describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: hybrid effing monster.
(December 1, 2022) Anna Hogeland is a psychotherapist in private practice, with an MSW from Smith College School of Social Work and an MFA from UC Irvine. She lives in Vermont. Her essays have appeared in LitHub, Gloss, Big Issue, and elsewhere. The Long Answer, sold in 8 countries to date, is her first novel.
(November 10, 2022) Yexandra “Yex” Diaz is a multi-disciplinary artist whose oeuvre is her sobering expression of what it is to exist in a world of resistance, resilience, and revolution during a new era of renaissance rooted in healing. Chicago born and New Haven raised, the polarizing reality of oppression juxtaposed alongside privilege inspires Yex, an Oral Narrator, to employ the art of spoken word as a vehicle for messages that raise awareness around social and environmental injustices. Yex’s style uplifts afro-indigenous culture while evoking radical spiritualism to rewrite the dangerous single narratives which plague stigmatized peoples.
sarah m jasat
(November 3, 2022) Sarah M Jasat grew up believing her family was very strange but later discovered she was Indian. She lives in Leicester, UK, and writes short fiction about the strangeness of family. She dreams about writing a novel for older children if only she could get her own children to go to sleep.
(October 27, 2022) Lindsay Lerman is the author of two experimental novels, I’m From Nowhere (2019) and What Are You (2022). She is also a translator. She has a Ph.D. in philosophy and sometimes teaches philosophy and creative writing. Her essays and short stories have been published in LA Review of Books, New York Tyrant, Entropy, and elsewhere. She is working on her third novel and a screenplay. She has a nine-year-old daughter, and describes writer motherhood in three words as TOO MUCH LOVE.
(October 20, 2022) Toni McLellan is a marketing writer by day and a round-the-clock phrase-gatherer. For two decades, she’s written for major magazines and brands, including a stint as an outdoor family travel writer. She’s also published essays with Outside, KitchenAid, and Fort Collins Magazine. In 2022, Toni started New-to-me Phrases, a weekly newsletter dedicated to curiosity, language, and humor. She lives in a quaint town northwest of Chicago with her husband, their three neurodiverse & queer adult kids, three parrots, a fish named Al Carpone, and a pink axolotl named Mimi.
Caroline s. Leavitt
(October 13, 2022) Caroline Leavitt is the NYT Bestselling author of 13 novels, including With or Without You and Cruel Beautiful World. She is also the cofounder of A Mighty Blaze, a blogger/columnist for Psychology Today, and a book critic for People Magazine. A New York Foundation of the Arts Fellow, she was long-listed for the Maine Readers Prize, and was a Sundance Screenwriting Lab finalist.
SHIN YU PAI
(October 6, 2022) Shin Yu Pai is a poet, essayist, and visual artist. She is the author of several books of poetry, including VIRGA (Empty Bowl, 2021), and served as the fourth poet laureate of the city of Redmond. In 2014, Shin Yu was nominated for a Stranger Genius Award in Literature. She is the creator and host of The Blue Suit, a podcast on Asian American stories, for KUOW, Seattle’s NPR affiliate. She lives with her husband and 9-year-old son in the Pacific Northwest and describes writer-motherhood in three words as interrelated, elusive, empowering.
special episode: WRITING MOTHERHOOD AND SEX
(May 26, 2022) This is a special episode on writing motherhood and sex with Tracey Livesay, Cat Sebastian, and Julie Tieu. Tracey Livesay’s latest release, Like Lovers Do, was named one of the 100 Best Fiction Books of 2020 by Kirkus Reviews and one of the Top 10 Romances of 2020 by Entertainment Weekly. Cat Sebastian has written sixteen queer historical romances and her books have received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist. Julie Tieu is a Chinese American contemporary romance author based in the Los Angeles area. Her debut novel, The Donut Trap, is loosely inspired by the years she spent working at her family’s donut shop.
(May 19, 2022) Elana Bell is the author of Mother Country (BOA Editions in 2020), poems about fertility, motherhood, and mental illness. She is also the founder of the Mother-Artist Salon, a virtual community dedicated to supporting mothers in their artistic practice. Elana’s debut collection of poetry, Eyes, Stones (LSU Press 2012), was selected by Fanny Howe as the winner of the 2011 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, and brings her complex heritage as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors to consider the difficult question of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
special episode: POETS WRITING MOTHERHOOD
(May 5, 2022) This is a special episode on poets writing motherhood with Emily Pérez and Nancy Reddy, co-editors of The Long Devotion: Poets Writing Motherhood (UGA, 2022). bell hooks said: “No woman has ever written enough.” This truth demands that we make space for the essential writing of mothers, too. Motherhood is an experience central to all our lives, and The Long Devotion: Poets Writing Motherhood features work from queer mothers, single mothers, adoptive and foster mothers, women whose experiences with motherhood include infertility and loss and childlessness and abortion, and more.
(April 21, 2022) Lian Dolan is a writer and podcaster. She is the author of three best-selling novels, The Sweeney Sisters, Helen of Pasadena and Elizabeth the First Wife. Her latest book, Lost and Found in Paris, was published in April 2022 and is a Southern California Indie Bestseller. Lian has written regular columns for Pasadena Magazine, O Magazine and Working Mother Magazine and is the creator, producer, and host of Satellite Sisters, the award-winning podcast she created with her four real sisters. In 2017, Lian was given the Podcast Pioneer Award by Women in Podcasting. She lives in Pasadena, California with her husband and has two adult sons. Lian describes writer-motherhood in three words as Controlled Compartmentalized Chaos.
(April 14, 2022) Chaya Bhuvaneswar is a practicing physician, writer and PEN American award finalist for her debut collection WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS: STORIES, which was also selected as a Kirkus Reviews Best Debut Fiction and Best Short Story Collection. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, Narrative Magazine, Tin House, Electric Literature, Kenyon Review, The Millions, Joyland, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Awl, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from MacDowell, Squaw Valley/ Community of Writers and Sewanee Writers Workshop. Chaya has 2 kids, age 9 and 12 and describes writer-motherhood as Arduous, irrational and fun.
(April 7, 2022) Mireya S. Vela is a Mexican-American creative nonfiction writer, storyteller, and artist. Vestiges of Courage is her work of collected essays. In her work, Mireya addresses the needs of immigrant Mexican families and the disparities they face every day. She tackles issues of inequity and how ingrained societal systems support the (ongoing) injustice that contributes to continuing poverty and abuse. She is also a visual artist. Mireya lives in Los Angeles, has two children, a 27-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter, and describes writer-motherhood in three words as OMG, WTF, LMAO.
special episode: writing, motherhood & gender identity
(March 31, 2022) This is a special episode on Writing, Mothering & Gender Identity with Stephanie Burt, Jennifer Chen, and Toni McLellan. We talked about writing and mothering nonbinary and trans children, and writing and mothering as trans and nonbinary mothers. It’s no accident that we held this conversation on International Transgender Day of Visibility, even as LGBTQ+ rights are being attacked throughout the US, from child welfare investigations targeting families of transgender children in Texas to the Florida Senate passing the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill to a bill that sought to repeal New Hampshire’s ban on “conversion therapy” for minors.
(March 3, 2022) Poet Jessica Pierce is the author of Consider the Body, Winged, and has been published in numerous magazines, including Nimrod International Journal selected her as a finalist for the 2020 and 2021 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. She was also a finalist in poetry prizes from CALYX Journal, the New Ohio Review, and MVICW, where she also earned a fellowship. Jessica earned her master’s in education from Harvard and works in a large public school district in Oregon to create anti-racist alternatives to exclusionary discipline. She has two children and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: fuck the patriarchy.
(February 17, 2022) Hilda Raz has been a director, award judge, and contributor in this country’s most prestigious poetry journals and contests. She has published 14 books as a poet, nonfiction writer, and editor, including the poetry collections include What Happens (2009), All Odd and Splendid (2008), Trans (2001), and Divine Honors (1997). Her current projects include a book of poems, List and Story and a nonfiction book about transitions. She was editor of the literary journal Prairie Schooner and served as president of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. She lives in Placitas, New Mexico, where she works as the series editor for poetry at the University of New Mexico Press. She has two children in their fifties and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as flexible, brave, collaborative.
(February 10, 2022) Alena Dillon is the author of Mercy House, a Library Journal Best Book of 2020, which has been optioned as a television series produced by Amy Schumer, The Happiest Girl in the World, a Good Morning America pick, My Body Is A Big Fat Temple, a memoir of pregnancy and early parenting, and Eyes Turned Skyward, a novel forthcoming Fall 2022. Her work has appeared in publications including The Daily Beast, LitHub, River Teeth, Slice Magazine, The Rumpus, and Bustle. She teaches creative writing and lives on the north shore of Boston where she has a 3-year-old son and a baby due in June. She describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as fierce, tender, marathon.
(December 16, 2021) Crystal Maldonado is a young adult author with a lot of feelings. Her debut novel, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, was a Cosmopolitan Best New Book and a POPSUGAR Best New YA Novel. Her next novel, No Filter and Other Lies, explores teenage life in the social media age—and the lies we tell to ourselves and others. By day, Crystal is a social media manager working in higher ed, and by night, a writer who loves Beyoncé, shopping, spending too much time on her phone, and being extra. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and 2.5-year-old daughter and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as chaotic, emotional, sparkly.
anna v. q. ross
(December 4, 2021) Anna V. Q. Ross’s most recent book—Flutter, Kick—won the 2020 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award and is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in 2022. She is the author of 3 previous poetry collections: Figuring, If a Storm, and Hawk Weather and her work has received fellowships from organizations including the Fulbright Foundation. She is poetry editor for Salamander, teaches at Emerson College, and lives with her family in Dorchester, MA, where she runs the performance series Unearthed Song & Poetry and raises chickens. She has two kids ages 11 and 14 and describes writer-motherhood in three words as Fractured. Brilliant. Sleepless.
(November 11, 2021) Sara Hosey is the author of Home Is Where the Hurt Is: Media Depictions of Wives and Mothers, which looks at representations of the domestic in popular culture, as well as 2 young adult novels: Iphigenia Murphy and Imagining Elsewhere. She has a Ph.D. in American Literature and is a professor of English, Creative Writing, and Women and Gender Studies at a New York area community college. Sara has an 11-year old and a 9-year old and she and her partner are certified foster parents; they recently had a 4-year old foster daughter staying with them. Sara describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: Fun. Flow Finite.
(November 4, 2021) Sheba Karim is the author of the YA novels Skunk Girl, That Thing We Call a Heart, which made several Best Book lists including Bank Street and Kirkus, and Mariam Sharma Hits the Road, which was named a NPR Best Book of the Year, and The Marvelous Mirza Girls (May 2021). Her fiction and essays have been featured in 580 Split, Asia Literary Review, Femina, India Today, Literary Hub, Off Assignment, Shenandoah, South Asian Review, The Rumpus, Time Out Delhi and in several anthologies in the United States and India. She has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University. Sheba has 2 kids, ages 4 and 7, and describes writer-motherhood in three words as Submission, isolation, wonder.
kristie robin johnson
(October 8, 2021) Kristie Robin Johnson is an educator, essayist, and poet from Augusta, GA. She is the current Chair of the Department of Humanities at Georgia Military College’s Augusta campus where she is an Assistant Professor of English. A graduate of the MFA Creative Writing program at Georgia College and State University, Kristie’s writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has received other awards and recognition including the 2020 Porter Fleming Prize for Nonfiction and the 2021 Page Prize for Nonfiction. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines, journals, and anthologies. Her first book, High Cotton, was released in 2020 by Raised Voice Press and has been recognized as the finalist in the memoir category for 2021 Georgia Author of the Year. Kristie has two sons, ages 14 and 21, and she describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as “inspiring, exhausting, LOVE.”
(October 8, 2021) Ramona Ausubel is the author of two novels and two story collections. Her most recent book, Awayland, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection, a Finalist for the California Book Award, Colorado Book Award and long-listed for the Story Prize. She is also the author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, No One is Here Except All of Us and A Guide to Being Born. She is the recipient of the PEN/USA Fiction Award, the Cabell First Novelist Award and was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Award. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Tin House, One Story, Ploughshares and many other journals and she teaches in the MFA programs at the Institute of American Indian Arts and Colorado State University. Ramona lives in Colorado where she has two children, ages 7 and 10, and describes writer-motherhood in three words as “effort plus magic.”
(September 30, 2021) Tara Laskowski’s debut suspense novel One Night Gone won the Agatha Award, Macavity Award, and the Anthony Award, and her second novel, The Mother Next Door, was published in October 2021. She is also the author of two short story collections and was the longtime editor of the online flash fiction journal SmokeLong Quarterly. A graduate of Susquehanna University and George Mason University, Tara lives in Virginia, where she has a nine-year-old son and describes writer-motherhood in three (and a half?) words as “learning to be efficient.”
(September 8, 2021) Diksha Basu is an actor and the author of the novels Destination Wedding and The Windfall, which is under adaptation for a television series by Shonali Bose. ELLE magazine said The Windfall broke stereotypes of exoticism surrounding India while The Wire called it a “shrewd and unstintingly funny story about the neuroses of New Delhi’s 1%.” Originally from New Delhi, India, Diksha holds a BA in Economics from Cornell University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and divides her time between New York City and Mumbai.
kelly sue deconnick
(September 2, 2021) Kelly Sue DeConnick is the force behind Carol Danvers’ reinvention as Captain Marvel and is the first female writer of an ongoing Avengers title in AVENGERS ASSEMBLE. In 2013, Kelly Sue debuted on the independent scene with the mythological Western PRETTY DEADLY, followed by the sci-fi kidney-punch BITCH PLANET. She began writing for DC Comics with the ongoing series AQUAMAN in 2018 and develops TV with her husband and partner, Matt Fraction, as Milkfed Criminal Masterminds. Kelly Sue has two children ages 11 and 13 and describes writer-motherhood in three words as Personal, Hilarious, Clarifying.
(August 26, 2021) Author of seven books, Leslie Lehr explores the duality of today’s women to navigate a new path between sexy and sacred. Salma Hayek is developing her critically acclaimed new memoir, A Boob’s Life, into a comedy series for HBO Max. Leslie’s personal essays have appeared in the New York Times Modern Love column and others, she wrote the original screenplays for the indie romantic thriller, Heartless, and the comedy-drama, Club Divorce, and has worked in film production. A breast cancer survivor, she is “Chemo Chick” on Sickofpink.com. Leslie has two daughter, ages 29 and 32, and describes writer-motherhood in three words as: True Identity Theft.
(August 5, 2021) Dorothy Allison’s novel Bastard Out of Carolina was a finalist for the National Book Award, became an award-winning movie, and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. She was an award-winning editor for numerous early feminist and lesbian & gay journals and her many publications include The Women Who Hate Me, Trash, and Cavedweller, which became a NY Times Notable book of the year and was adapted for the stage and screen. Dorothy lives in Northern California with her partner Alix and her son, Wolf Michael, and describes writer-motherhood in 3 words as: Exhausted, Stubborn, Exhilarated.
(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.