Conversations Archive, Mama's Writing

Mama’s Writing | Kelli Stevens Kane

Mama’s Writing is Raising Mothers’ monthly interview series, curated by Deesha Philyaw.

How has writing influenced your parenting? 

“Show don’t tell” is good writing advice that also works for parenting. Writing gave me ways to show persistence, how not to take rejection personally, and that there are nerdy ways to be adventurous.

Who are your writer-mama heroes? 

Aside from you, Deesha, some of my writer-mama heroes are Lucille Clifton, Toi Derricotte, Aracelis Girmay, Yona Harvey, Amanda Johnston, Robin Coste Lewis, Toni Morrison, Marilyn Nelson, Sharon Olds, Khadijah Queen, Adriana E. Ramírez, Patricia Smith, and Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie.

What surprised you about motherhood? 

Realizing that each of us has been the beneficiary of enough mothering, from someone, to survive.

What’s your least favorite thing about being a mother? 

It was the sleep deprivation.

What are three words your kid would use to describe you? 

My guesses were respectful-of-privacy, curious, and strict, but my daughter said fun, reliable/consistent, and thorough. I love that! 

How has motherhood shaped your relationship with the world? 

Moving up a branch in the family tree gave me more perspective, which led to more empathy for all parents and children. Motherhood really is a marathon, and no one’s finest hour can last for decades, so I feel less judgmental now.

How has parenting bolstered (or hindered) your creativity? 

I found myself in a marathon of having to get smarter on the fly to stay a step ahead of this brilliant child, so after a ten-year break from writing, all the extra brain power and creativity she gave me was mine all mine! MOO HA HA!

Kelli Stevens Kane is a poet, playwright, and oral historian. She’s the author of Hallelujah Science (Spuyten Duyvil, 2020). She’s a Cave Canem Fellow who has also studied at VONA, Hurston/Wright, and Callaloo. She’s an August Wilson Center Fellow, and a recipient of Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh grants from The Pittsburgh Foundation. Kane’s poems have appeared in North American Review, Little Patuxent Review, Under a Warm Green Linden, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Split This Rock. She’s read her poetry and oral history and performed her one-woman show, Big George, nationally. For more information, visit

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Filed under: Conversations Archive, Mama's Writing


Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, and the 2020 LA Times Book Prize: The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies focuses on Black women, sex, and the Black church, and is being adapted for television by HBO Max with Tessa Thompson executive producing. Deesha is also a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow.