Jennifer Givhan


In a field where a hot air balloon waits tethered,
children balancing umbrellas and wearing party hats

plant birthday bouquets; the swollen bulbs
pushing open the soil where they grow

smell of clay and fingerpaint. Even the sky
celebrates in reverse, hanging like pigtails from a jungle gym.

Not many daffodils or crickets are lucky enough to become fossils,
but here every Btu of heat remains inside the balloon.

How tempting, rather than later,
drifting away now.IMG_0100

An Editor Advised Me to Stop Writing Mother Bird Poems

But I didn’t let that stop me…

My poem, published in Rattle: Poetry for the 21st Century.

Thank you for reading.




Painting by Elizabeth Adele Healey

Writing the Difficult

This September-October, renowned sex-blogger Lauren Marie Fleming (Queerie Bradshaw) and I will be teaching the online interactive writing workshop “Writing the Difficult,” which will Writing-What-Hurts-Hemingway-Quotedelve into the world of writing about complex, controversial topics. From sex to grief, this class will teach writers how to dig deeper and write better. Designed for writers of all levels who want to take their work to the next level, this class encourages students to trust, tell, and share their stories. We will focus on prose-writing (fiction, creative non-fiction, essay/article, and any hybrid).

Until July 31st, the class is discounted to $200 from the original $300, and if you use the coupon code “Jenn,” you (and any friends/students/colleagues with whom you share this information) will also receive an additional $50 off!! Space is limited, so sign up HERE today!

Thank you, and I hope to see you in workshop!

“child, i tell you now it was not / the animal blood i was hiding from, / it was the poet in her, the poet and / the terrible stories she could tell” (“telling our stories,” Lucille Clifton) ♥

Join us at http://creativitysquared.com/ to tell your own terrible stories…


Have you met Dini Karasik?

dini karasik

“Writing is one way of finding my place in the world, of exploring my fragmented identity. But I also see it as an opportunity to challenge perceptions about otherness. My family does not resemble the stereotypes of Latinos I see in popular culture.”

Allow me to introduce you to Dini Karasik, Mexican-American mother, writer, lawyer, and my dear amiga. Here, she shares her experience of finally deciding to hunker down and *work* at her first love–writing.

Interview with Dini on Mother Writers.

The Next Big Thing: In the Time of Jubilee

Jenn and crabapple blossomsOne of my good writer friends Natasha Deón, whom I interviewed for my blog last month (which you can check out here), invited me and four of her favorite writer friends to participate in a Goodreads event called, THE NEXT BIG THING. Basically, it’s a way to promote books for up and coming writers and our blogs.

As you know, I don’t have a book out yet, but anything I can do to promote writers and work toward my goal of promoting my own book (which WILL be published… I have faith! I’m wishing on stars that it’ll even end up on Oprah’s newly Reborn Book Club!), I figure I should be doing.

So what I’ve been asked to do is answer ten prewritten interview questions then tag five of my own favorite professional writer friends inviting them to do the same, thus creating a literary chain letter. Here are my responses to THE 10 INTERVIEW QUESTIONS:

What is your working title of your book (or story)?


Where did the idea for the book come from?

Reborn Doll

Reborn Doll

The idea came from Reborns. From Wikipedia: “A reborn doll is a manufactured vinyl doll that has been transformed to resemble a human baby with as much realism as possible. The process of creating a reborn doll is referred to as reborning and the doll artists are referred to as reborners. Reborn dolls are also known as living dolls or unliving dolls.

While I was researching issues of infertility and childlessness during my Master’s program at Cal State Fullerton, I watched a documentary from the UK on women who collect these dolls. Oftentimes, they are older women whose children and grandchildren have left home or passed away. These dolls are custom-made, and the artists who create them often advertise that they can recreate a replica of a child from a photograph. The women carry these dolls around as if they are real babies, strolling them around the park in prams, strapping them in car seats, etc. And the husbands often participate, for their wives’ sakes. The whole concept was incredibly interesting to me, and I wondered, what would happen psychologically if a woman really couldn’t tell the difference between this Reborn and her “real” child. In other words, what if this Reborn was real…

The other major inspiration came from the character Dorotea La Cuarraca, from Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo, which I read as a part of a class I’d created on Latina Pedro_PáramoMotherhood:

“I never had a son… And it was all the fault of one bad dream. I had two: one of them I call the ‘good dream,’ and the other the ‘bad dream.’

The first one made me dream I had a son to begin with. And as long as I lived, I always believed it was true. I could feel him in my arms, my sweet baby, with his little mouth and eyes and hands. For a long, long time I could feel his eyelids, the beatings of his heart, on my fingertips. Why wouldn’t I think this was true? I carried him with me everywhere, wrapped in my rebozo, and then one day I lost him.

In heaven they told me they’d made a mistake. That they’d given me a mother’s heart but the womb of a whore.

That was the other dream I had.”

What genre does your book fall under?

Literary Fiction

America FerreraWhich actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Here’s the problem—most of the mainstream youngish Latina actresses I know of come from the Disney Channel (i.e., Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez)!

The first person I thought of to play my protagonist Bianca was America Ferrera (loved her in Ugly Betty!!). She is a great actress, and her work with women’s issues inspires me. (See her part in the documentary Half the Sky). And hey, America had her start on a Disney Channel movie, too!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

*IN THE TIME OF JUBILEE* explores the idea of family through the experiences of 20-year-old Mexican-American Bianca Vogelsang, who arrives home one day with a doll in her arms—a doll she believes is Jubilee, the baby she was unable to carry to term.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m represented by the Carol Mann Literary Agency.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I was super proud of the first draft of my novel because I wrote the entire thing in less than ONE MONTH for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The story has been in my mind for years. The original idea came for it when I was writing my first poetry manuscript in my Master’s program at CSUF. At the time, I knew I wanted to write a novel eventually but was intimidated. I had about twenty false starts, where I’d write an opening, usually a paragraph or two, but never move on from there. Then, in 2011, I started thinking more and more about the idea. On a road trip back to Cali from New Mexico where I now live, I was talking the idea through with my husband and began to get excited about it. Then, I heard about this thing called NaNoWriMo in November. It’s a challenge to write an entire novel (at least 60k words) in ONE MONTH! I thought, oh man, can I do that??? Oct 31st, I still wasn’t sure if I could, but I’d made a commitment to myself that I would. November 1st came, and I took off. At the end of the month, I had written 75k words—a complete first draft of the novel. Much of it came from the ideas laid out in the poetry manuscript. I always knew I wanted to write a novel, but I never knew for sure that I could do it. And then I did it. There was such a sense of accomplishment in that.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?


*BELOVED* (Toni Morison)

Toward the Tower, Remedios Varo

Toward the Tower, Remedios Varo

*SO FAR FROM GOD* (Ana Castillo)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My family, surrealist writers and artists (especially the Mexican women surrealist painters Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington, and Remedios Varo), and poetry.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Here are two comments about my novel from editors for major publishing houses:

“Bianca’s troubling story is so authentically rendered on the page, and I love the lyrical power of Givhan’s prose. She is a real talent and a bright star on the contemporary literary horizon.”

“I think the concept behind this book is so cool (and creepy!).”

And another from my agent:

“Gbutterfly rockivhan’s complex treatment of reality, delusion, and imagination presents an entirely fresh perspective that allows readers to view the world through her characters’ eyes in rich, captivating detail.”

* * *

Thank you for reading!



* * *

Now, check out some of my favorite literary ladies…

LaurenMarieFlemingHeadshotA sex writer with a law degree, Lauren Marie Fleming (also known as Queerie Bradshaw to most of the Internet) loves to put both sides of her brain to use. Once out of law school, she started Creativity Squared, LLC, a digital media publishing and consulting company. Along with running websites of her own, Lauren consults with bloggers, artists, writers and other right-brain types to help turn their creative ideas into functioning, practical, sustainable products, services or events. Lauren particularly loves helping women, queers, people of color and other members of minority groups find, and most importantly amplify, their voice online and find ways to make a profit by doing what they love. As a long-time blogger, Lauren is also Editor-in-chief of QueerieBradshaw.com, a site for frisky feminists and politiqueers. Started as a blog for Curve Magazine and now run as an independent site, Queerie Bradshaw promotes sex-positive feminism, healthy body images, racial equality and queer rhetoric through honest, hilarious and (hopefully) insightful personal stories from Lauren and other contributing writers. The site also offers an array of information about sex, sexuality, gender and gender identity and hosts the popular Queerie Me sex and relationship advice column. Lauren’s favorite part about life is meeting new people, so she encourages people to engage with her here or on Twitter. To learn more about L.M. Fleming, visit her personal website.

tanaya_winderTanaya Winder is a poet, writer, artist, and educator from the Southern Ute, Duckwater Shoshone, and Pyramid Lake Paiute Nations. A winner of the 2010 A Room Of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando prize in poetry, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cutthroat magazine, Adobe Walls, Superstition Review,  Drunkenboat and Kweli among others. Her poems from her manuscript “Love in a Time of Blood Quantum” were produced and performed by the Poetic Theater Productions Presents Company in NYC. Tanaya has taught writing courses at Stanford University, UC-Boulder, and the University of New Mexico. She has a BA in English from Stanford University and a MFA in creative writing from UNM.  She is a co-founder and editor-in-chief of As/Us: A Space for Women of the World. Tanaya guest lectures and teaches creative writing workshops at high schools and universities internationally.

DSC_finalKelly Davio is a poet and teacher in the Seattle area. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (Whidbey Writers’ Workshop), and she works as an instructor of English as a Second Language. She currently serves as Managing Editor for The Los Angeles Review , and Associate Poetry Editor for Fifth Wednesday Journal Her poetry has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize, and her debut collection, Burn This House, is available from Red Hen Press.

lisa hase jacksonLisa Hase-Jackson is a poet, writer, past NaNoWriMo winner, Editor of 200 New Mexico Poems (an official NM Centennial Project) and Creativity Coach. A 2007 graduate of Kansas State University’s Masters in English program, Lisa currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she teaches at Central New Mexico Community College, UNM Continuing Education, Soutwest Learning Center, and faciliates workshops and classes through SouthWest Writers. She continues to build her coaching practice and writes and edits every day. In her spare time, Lisa facilitates the Friday Poets Group with fellow mother poets and knits various sized squares.

frances badgettFrances Badgett attended the Squaw Valley Community of Writers (1999, 2000, 2001), the 2000 Zoetrope Short-Story Workshop in Belize, and the 2000 Key West Writers’ Workshop with Robert Stone. Her publications include three biographical essays in the Dictionary of Southern Writers (St. James Press, 1999) and a short story in Contrary Magazine. She is the fiction editor of Contrary (www.contrarymagazine.com), a contributing editor to Hunger Mountain, and a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books. She holds a BA from Hollins University and a Masters Degree from Vermont College. She’s currently completing the final draft of Pale Mother, her novel set in Germany during World War II. She’s also nearly finished with Cascadia, a contemporary novel set in the Northwest. Another historical novel, Little Pigeons, is expected to be completed after Cascadia. She grew up in Lexington, Virginia, and now lives in Bellingham, Washington.

Natashia Deón, Mother Writer with Attitude and Inspiration

Natashia DeónPhoto Credit Casey Curry

Natashia Deón
Photo Credit Casey Curry

“In the words of Cheryl Strayed, “Write like a mother f’er,” and embrace your struggle as a badge of honor… You are as unique as those who have earned the highest star in battle—a life saver—and you should never let anyone shame you out of what’s meant to be celebrated.”

If you haven’t already, you should meet my good writer friend Natashia Deón. She and I were PEN EV’ers together in 2010, and she’s been doing some amazing things since then, such as creating a reading series in the Los Angeles area called Dirty Laundry Lit that’s catching some major attention. Besides being an amazing writer, community organizer, and practicing lawyer, she’s a momma of two! This lady does it all. I caught up with her this week to find out how she does it and what advice she has for other mother writers. Read on and be inspired (and check out the links to her work such as “Black Barbie” in The Rumpus for even more inspiration).

Interview with Natashia.


Thanks for reading!




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