I’m happy to have Joanne Hartman, Mary Hill, and Janine Kovac, the editors of Mamas Write: 29 Tales of Truth, Wit and Grit, here for the final post of anthology week. Mamas Write is an anthology that grew out of the Write On Mamas, an amazing group of (mostly) women writers in the Bay Area. I first connected with them in 2012 when I was on tour for Use Your Words (though I previously knew Joanne through Literary Mama and Mary as one of my stellar students).
Over the years, I’ve led in person and online workshops for the group and I also worked with them on Mamas Write, so this anthology is dear to my heart. I’ll quote a little of what I wrote in the foreword, which echoes what Suzi and Kasia said in their interviews earlier this week:
This anthology not only celebrates why and how and what these mothers are getting down on the page; it celebrates community, the ways in which we support each other as writers and as parents. In “The Next Prompt,” the final piece in this book, Janine Kovac writes, “I know that if I can’t share these feelings here—with these mothers who graciously share their stories with me—then […] I will never write truthfully about anything.”
These writers have taken a leap—to write their truth, and to share that truth with each other, to share it with you. This collection is ultimately about the power inherent not only in writing, but in sharing our stories. It’s about creating a space—virtual or in person—where we all feel safe enough to be vulnerable, to write what we’ve been too scared to write.
KH: Thanks for being here, Write On Mamas. Tell me a little bit about how you conceived of this anthology. Why did you feel there was a need for it? What made you take the leap?
WOM: Our anthology is a collection of stories written by members of our writing group, the Write On Mamas. The idea for the anthology came from the recognition that while we were a group with varied writing experience (from journalers to published authors) and varied writing interests (fiction, memoir, poetry, etc.) we all possessed a strong desire to write regardless of the barriers that parenting flung in our direction. From that spark, that drive, the initial question that shaped this anthology emerged: “Why do you write?”
The project, from start to finish, was an inclusive one. We are proud that every member who adhered to the submission and editing deadlines is included in this volume. We enlisted the developmental editing help of Kate who guided us in shaping our words into focused stories through her Motherhood & Words class and with individual editing. We were thrilled to see these polished pieces emerge from our rough drafts.
KH: It was so fun to see them change and grow over through the process!
Can you talk about the way the book is structured? Did the pieces you receive dictate the content of the book, or did you specifically seek out essays to address different topics that come up when women write about motherhood?
WOM: As we included all essays that were submitted we had less control over the content or sub-themes of the pieces. But that only made it more fun! Structuring the anthology was like putting together a puzzle. We sat for hours in our favorite café, discussing placement and thinking carefully about the emotional journey the reader would take. We aimed to place humorous or lighter pieces after a group of more challenging ones, shorter pieces after long ones.
KH: What pieces in the anthology particularly resonate with you? Why?
WOM: With three editors, not surprisingly we all had different pieces that resonated deeply with us. For example, the pieces that dealt with loss and challenging times especially resonated with Mary and Joanne liked the humorous pieces that made her laugh.
KH: Was there anything that was particularly challenging or surprising that you encountered as you compiled and published your anthology?
WOM: We had no idea what we were getting into. How hard could it be to collect the pieces, send back a few edits, put them in order and send them off to the copy editor? We met every Friday morning at Bittersweet Café in Oakland, CA and poured over each of the submissions, crafted emails to authors with suggested edits, reviewed copy-editing, and wrote the appendices. It was a lot of work, but we loved working together and look back on our chocolate zucchini bread and hot cocoa days with fondness. Writing is so often solitary, but we found that editing as a team was a collaborative and bonding experience.
KH: What advice would you give to women who are just starting to explore motherhood as a subject matter in their writing?
WOM: It sounds cliché, but keep writing. Jot down the little things as you go about your day and file or type them up later. Take ten minutes to scribble down that moment you don’t want to forget. Enroll in a class – we are all big fans of Kate’s Motherhood & Words classes and retreats – to help you dive deeper and find the story emerging from your writing. And Write On Mamas has a national membership, so check us out!
KH: Aw, shucks, thank you! And thanks for taking the time to chat with me here at Motherhood & Words.
Thank you to all the editors whose anthologies were featured this week. Here’s to continuing to create the space for all our stories!
Leave a comment below by June 24th for a chance to win a copy of Mamas Write.