Mother Writer Interview with Michelle Otero

Performing “Mother Lode” as part of Hembras de Pluma 2015, photo credit: Alan Mitchell

Performing “Mother Lode” as part of Hembras de Pluma 2015, photo credit: Alan Mitchell

I’m so excited to share this conversation with fierce Latina poet/playwright/actor/activist extraordinaire Michelle Otero, who discusses her experiences as a writer and stepmother of two.

But I wish someone would have handed me The House on Mango Street or Bless Me, Última and said, “Your people write books too.” … We hold mothers to very high standards. My mom taught elementary school, raised five of us, cooked, and kept the house spotless. I hate cleaning the bathroom. I enjoy cooking, but the pressure of generating a new meal for kids who don’t like vegetables has sucked any pleasure I might derive from that experience. –Otero

Read the full interview here.

Thank you!

Love,

Jenn

Mother Writer Interview with Stefanie Freele

Stefanie Freele and child (2)“I just never ever considered the possibility that motherhood would be in my destiny, that I could be the guide for a small vulnerable human through this big world. I had declared myself as a writer a few years back and that was all the title I needed.”

Summer break is upon us Mother Writers, and I’ve talked to Stefanie Freele for some much needed inspiration and solidarity.

Check out my interview with Stefanie and share your own stories with us!

Love,

Jenn

Interview with Rachel McKibbens

Rachel McKibbens Some truth from poet, activist, playwright and badass mama-writer Rachel McKibbens.

“As a Chicana mother, I want to tell the story of myself and my ancestors in ways that guide my children towards the kind of self-love I never had permission to know when I was young.”

Read my interview with Rachel at Mother Writers.

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 blossoms

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

My novel is *IN THE TIME OF JUBILEE*

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.

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?

*SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK* (Matthew Quick)

*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 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!).”

“Givhan’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!

Love,

Jenn

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!

Love,

Jenn

 

Conversation with Kelly Davio, managing editor of The Los Angeles Review


In this exciting interview with writer/editor/teacher Kelly Davio, Mother Writers has begun exploring  alternate voices and experiences… and I’m thrilled to add Kelly’s insights to the forum of successful women writers who (may or may not be) moms!

Read what Kelly has to say about the effect of childlessness on a woman’s writing and whether or not mother writers should submit mother-bird poems to literary magazines.

New interviews on their way… Next up, Tim and Megan Green, editors of Rattle, discuss how parenting affects their writing/editing relationship.

Thanks for reading and sharing!

Love,

Jenn

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