Mama’s Writing is Raising Mothers’ monthly interview series, curated by Deesha Philyaw.
How has motherhood shaped your priorities?
Motherhood reshaped my priorities professionally. I have a good day job as a writer. Before becoming a mother, I thought I’d keep climbing the career ladder. Now, it’s not important for me to have a leadership role or a fancy title. There are other things I want more in life than to become a director, manage a team, and be constantly available for work. The only team I have interest in managing is my family. My greatest aspirations deal with my passions outside of my job: nurturing my creative writing by making the time to write, to learn, and work towards a book or books and learning how to be the best mother for my children so I can raise two decent humans.
Another thing motherhood reshaped for me was timeline obsession. Yes, I want to publish a book. But I’m no longer focused on a book by 40, 45. Telling stories has been something I loved since I was a child. Having a toddler and a pre-teen means the time I get now to sit down and write is more precious, and I needed to get back to appreciating the act of writing.
What’s the worst motherhood advice you’ve ever gotten?
I’m sure I’ve been given bad motherhood advice, especially when my daughter was a baby, but I probably blocked it out because it didn’t serve me. I’ve been lucky to be part of multiple mothering communities, friends who became mothers, the mother friends I’ve made through my children, and a tight-knit online community I’ve been part of since I was pregnant, and they’ve all helped in the moments I’ve needed support.
How does engaging with your children creatively influence your own creative process?
I’d been working on a story set in the future and was having a hard time imagining future tech and language. When my daughter and I take walks, she likes to ask imaginative questions like, “What would you do if?” or “Would you rather?” One day, one of those questions led her to talk about this idea of this sort of sci-fi future and things she’d do or have as an adult and some of her ideas I couldn’t wrap my mind around. Like, how the heck did she come up with that? I kept thinking, “That’s pretty cool, but is it possible?” And my son, he’s too little right now for deep conversations, but his imaginative play, how he can look at a couple of blocks and see a flying robot with a jetpack – they both help me see possibility.
Also, outside of writing, I’m a maker. I love crafting. My daughter and I began doing art recreations of paintings in NYC museums together. She’d pick out the paintings, be the model, and I’d help with staging the photo. I’d been feeling guilty (guilt comes up a lot for me) about not being able to write during the first half of the pandemic but working with my daughter on that project got me out of my own way. Activating another part of my creativity with her over the summer lit a fire under me again and got me out of the writing funk I’d been in.
Knowing that your children will read your work at some point, how does that impact your candor when writing?
I hold nothing back in my writing but I’m also not a parenting writer, so I won’t write about them too much in non-fiction. I much prefer to write fictional forms of my children in stories, and I’d love for my kids to read them and see how inspired I am by them. I want them to read my work, but my work can be dark and often deals with heavy subject matter, so maybe when they’re older. Though my nine-year-old read part of a novella I’m working on because I had paper copies on the table for editing, and she asked a lot of questions that felt like critique from a beta reader.
What three words describe you as a mother?
creative, empathetic, supportive
What three words describe you as a writer?
honest, dark, beauty-seeker
Who are your writer-mama heroes?
How I would love to sit down and have a discussion with Lucille Clifton and Toni Morrison about writing and motherhood. Lucille had six children and wrote beautiful poetry with all of those children running around. And the amazing Toni Morrison, I’d ask her so many things, but first how she could coach me into waking up at 4 a.m. to write. I’ve tried and sleep always wins.
I have many living, contemporary writer mama heroes. Deesha, you’re one of them. It’s your determination and how you stay true to the stories you write. I think that’s what I’m most drawn to, writer mamas who are truth tellers in their writing, in their sharing of self, in their sharing about parenting. Tyrese Coleman shows me the importance of making time for your writing without guilt. Kate Maruyama is the biggest cheerleader, mentor, and support to so many writers, including myself. I don’t know how she has time in the day to teach, write, parent, and mentor writers. Jenn Givhan is a poet/fiction writer who writes magical stories; I’m inspired by how prolific she is and how she shares her passion for writing with her daughter. There are many more I could name. Again, I’m lucky to have many writer mama heroes in my life who push me, who teach me, who have writing dates with me, who are constantly in conversation about how to return to the page while changing diapers or remote schooling or helping their children navigate young adulthood.
LaToya Jordan is a fiction writer, poet, and occasional essayist and journalist. Her writing has appeared in Anomaly, Literary Mama, Mom Egg Review, Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, and more. She is the author of a poetry chapbook Thick-Skinned Sugar (Finishing Line Press). Her essay “The Zig Zag Mother,” appears in My Caesarean: Twenty-One Mothers on the C-Section Experience and After (The Experiment) and another essay, “After Striking a Fixed Object,” published by The Manifest-Station, was listed as “notable” in Best American Essays 2016. Her flash fiction piece was chosen as a spotlight story in Best Small Fictions 2021. LaToya received an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her two amazing kids and her English teacher husband. Follow her on Twitter @latoyadjordan.
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