Mama's Writing

Cleyvis Natera | Mama’s Writing

Mama’s Writing is Raising Mothers’ monthly interview series, curated by Starr Davis.

What recent writing accomplishment(s) are you most proud of? Was this accomplishment shared and supported by your children?

After toiling to publish my first novel for many years (from first sentence to publication, it was a fifteen year journey), I sold my second novel, The Grand Paloma Resort, as a proposal this past summer! It’s truly incredible and wonderful as I didn’t even know it was possible to sell a book before it was finished. When I told my children I sold my second book, their first suggestion was that I get on TIKTOK. I think that means they’re proud!

Tell about a time mom-guilt emerged (or emerges) in the midst of your writing process.

I don’t have much mom-guilt when it comes to my writing. I worked a full time job the entire time I was writing my first novel and that largely meant waking up at four and five AM just to get some pages down before my family woke up and I had to snap into mommy-mode. These days, I often travel to writing retreats and events to both create and market my book and it’s astonishing how little guilt I feel. When I’m at home, I’m 100% in and I know that taking time to focus on my writing makes me a better mother. 

If you could go back and give yourself advice before becoming a mom, what would it be?

I was a reluctant mother. For most of my twenties, I was sure that motherhood wasn’t in the cards for me. I had a hard time imagining a life as a mother that wasn’t rooted on expectations of self-sacrifice. The truth, for me, turned out to be so complicated. Being a mother is difficult and challenging but it’s also the most beautiful experience of my life. I had largely given up on my writing before having kids and I can honestly say that it is because of my children that I found the strength and courage to get back into writing. If I could go back to a younger self, I’d tell her to start earlier so I could have a lot more kids and write many more books! 

What topics, artistic channels, or forms have become present that were not there before in your writing since becoming a parent?

One of the topics that has become present in my writing that wasn’t there before motherhood is the idea of documenting the effects of intergenerational trauma. Sexual violence (and at times, incidents of domestic violence) have been a reality in my life and also for several generations of women in my family. As a young woman, I was wary of writing about the effects that violence has on both the younger generations of women and men of my family. I was tired of reading stories about Black and Brown women suffering. As a parent, it’s important that we consider how to help our children become aware of the incidence of violence in our communities, so that we may keep them safe from predators, and I hope that if done carefully, we can empower the younger generations to become agents of change in protecting those most vulnerable in our communities. I also think writing about the truth of our experience also helps those who may be living those experiences as realities know there is a way through and out of what may be painful present lives.

Do you ever find yourself dealing with censorship as a mom-writer? 

My eleven-year old son has been asking when he’ll be able to read my debut novel, Neruda on the Park. I explained that the novel is for adults so he’ll be able to read it once he is an adult but I suspect he’ll get to it much earlier than the boundary we’ve established as a society between childhood and adulthood. The novel is most concerned with ideas of home, gentrification, and what it means for a mother and daughter who love each other fiercely to truly see each other for the first time. I hope that once the children are old enough to understand the intention of the novel, that I’ll be able to engage with them in conversations surrounding why I care about the issues addressed in the book. I can’t wait for those conversations. 

How has parenting bolstered or inhibited your creativity?

Parenting hasn’t had much of an impact on my creativity. I think the changes I have felt have more to do with motivation and inspiration, where I am bound to be more persistent than I was in the past. What’s interesting for me is that I often feel bursting with ideas and motivated to get to work, but because of life and the hectic nature of parenting, it often takes effort for me to find the time to write. I’ve learned to be patient with myself – I know it is unlikely I will ever be able to work uninterrupted again. But I also remind myself that while I can rewrite the past and imagine I had more freedom than I do now, the truth is I worked full-time for the entire time I was writing my debut and way before that, I had myriad obligations before my children came along. I’m very thankful their presence in my life keeps me motivated and focused. 

How have other mother figures you have encountered in your community influenced your parenting? Your writing?

Being part of a legacy of working mothers in my own family has had the biggest influence on my life. I grew up with women who always made a living outside of the home. Yet, there are times when I feel the subtle and not so subtle judgment of others – especially as people often ask me, quite shocked and surprised, how I manage to do all I do. Who takes care of my children? Those same people often ask shortly after making statements about my productivity. Mind you, these are all people who know I’m married and that my husband is supportive of my work. The truth is that there are still so many gendered expectations when it comes to parenting. Sometimes, those closest to us, who are unable (or unwilling) to demand their work be taken as seriously as that of their partners, feel resentment when some of us are able to live a life where the writing doesn’t have to last. I also suspect that some of the people who ask how I’m doing it are genuinely interested in the answer because they’d like to find more balance between writing and parenting. I’m grateful for the women in my life who encourage me to let go of mommy-guilt and ignore the haters. They know who they are. And if you – yes, you, out there, reading this article – want some real life tips, slip into my DMs on IG. I have a lot of advice on how to do it.

How do you balance motherhood/parenting and finding the space to write?

I don’t think it’s truly possible to balance motherhood and writing. They are both soul-nourishing but all-consuming. My trick is to be as present as I possibly can when I’m with my children and likewise, to be fully invested when I set up time to write. I’ve discovered that I do my best writing when I’m away from my family and the obligations of my home. Part of balancing that knowledge is having a partner who supports me. I go away to writing residencies often and can produce in a matter of days what at home would take me months to achieve. 

I’ve accepted that as my children get older, they will likely want to spend less time with me. I consider these years of their childhood, since they’re only nine and eleven years old, to be the time when I can establish how important they are to me and so more often than not, parenting and motherhood does take center stage in my life. But that doesn’t mean I don’t prioritize my work. For example, when I’m working from home, they often come down to my office and interrupt me, and I have learned to set boundaries. They must understand that as important as they are to me, so is the work I do and they have to show my work respect. It’s a work in progress but they’ve come such a long way. Achieving my dream of publishing a novel and becoming a full-time writer came later in my life and so one of the things I hope my children will remember about the many times I was away or missed important things due to my work is that achieving a dream is as much about your love as it is about discipline and persistence. One day, I hope they look back at their childhood and remember the times when I wasn’t there I was working, and that work was in service of my calling. I hope when it comes time for them to fight hard for their dreams, they remember  it may not be easy, but it is possible.

Who are your writer-mama heroes?

My biggest writer-mama heroes also happen to be my favorite writers. Toni Morrison and Julia Alvarez wrote some of the most critically important books during the times when they mothered young children. They are both a source of inspiration and a reminder that motherhood and great writing aren’t mutually-exclusive.

Cleyvis Natera (she/her) is an award-winning novelist, essayist, and critic. Her debut novel, Neruda on the Park, was awarded a Silver Medal by the International Latino Book Awards for Best First Book of Fiction in 2023. Natera is the recipient of the 2024 Voices Rising Fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center. This prestigious award was established in honor of groundbreaking women writers of color such as Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Zora Neale Hurston. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, TIME, Gagosian Quarterly, The Kenyon Review, Aster(ix) and Kweli Journal. Natera has been supported through awards, fellowships and artist residencies by PEN America, Hermitage Artist Retreat, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, among others. She teaches fiction at Barnard College of Columbia University and Antioch University’s Low-Residency M.F.A. program. Natera’s second novel, The Grand Paloma Resort, is forthcoming in 2025.

Filed under: Mama's Writing


Sherisa de Groot (she/her) is a writer, community builder, and founder of Raising Mothers, literary membership community Literary Liberation, and pens A Home Within Myself. With a focus on intersectionality and social justice, de Groot’s writing explores the nuances of motherhood and the experiences of BIPOC mothers and marginalized genders. Through her work, she aims to amplify the voices of those who have been historically silenced and create a more equitable world for all. Her work has been featured in a variety of publications, including Kindred by Parents, Refinery 29, Mutha Magazine, and Oldster Magazine and she was a contributor to the book ‘100 Diverse Voices on Parenthood’ by A Kid’s Company About.