What recent writing accomplishment(s) are you most proud of? Was this accomplishment shared and supported by your children?
My 2-year-old was born on the day that my collection of poems Plantains and Our Becoming was sent off to auction by my agents. Looking back on that moment now feels so cosmic. This book of poetry feels directly intertwined with my story of motherhood. When I think of myself as a writer, I always also think of myself as a mother and it is so grounding to view my work from that lens. I always want my accomplishments to be a part of who I also am as a mother. I want my children to see me as an individual and to know that I lived a full life and did not allow the one-dimensionalizing of the patriarchy’s gaze upon women to flatten me not for one second. If I can accomplish that through daily action, that is what I will be most proud of. Plantains & Our Becoming has yet to win an award but to me, having a healthy toddler and mama whilst having successfully published a collection of poetry feels like the only win I truly need. The rest is just the cherry on top.
Tell about a time mom-guilt emerged (or emerges) in the midst of your writing process.
I reject mom guilt lol. I just don’t believe that mothers should feel guilty for taking time for themselves. In fact, not enough of us take time, many mothers I know should take more time for themselves. I am a really great mom when I am rested, recalibrated, and have taken time to do other things that I love outside of motherhood. I write and mother my best when I am rejuvenated and for both things, I need to constantly pour into myself.
If you could go back and give yourself advice before becoming a mom, what would it be?
Do not be afraid of failure. I think before I became a mom, I had a lot of anxiety that maybe I didn’t have the mother gene. Or that I wouldn’t be a good mom. That I would be an anxious mom. But what I have learned is that what makes a great mom is what makes a great human. Are you making sure to check in on yourself and regulate your emotions? How do you respond to something that angers you? How do you ground yourself when you are triggered? How do you empathize with yourself and your child and others? How do you get some peace back in your home when the toddler is having a difficult moment? How do you show up for your community? How do you remember to always lead with love in your most vulnerable moments? Because ultimately how you treat others is a reflection of how you treat yourself and your child.
What topics, artistic channels, or forms have become present that were not there before in your writing since becoming a parent?
Motherhood has definitely brought many different characters into my writing. I am currently writing a novel that explores motherhood through the lens of five generations of women. And through the characters I have been able to unravel so many of the hidden stories in my own family.
Do you ever find yourself dealing with censorship as a mom-writer? Explain your thoughts on your children becoming acquainted with your work.
I don’t believe in censoring anything I write. Obviously I write what is appropriate for the genre but if I’m writing for adults then we are going to discuss grown folks business. There are topics that we have been made to believe children should not learn about especially when it pertains to social justice issues. But that is a lie. It’s impossible for anyone to be apolitical. And even the children need to know what they are up against and that they are human beings worthy of all human rights just as any adult. And when I write things for the children, I am careful to not reduce their autonomy. They deserve the same freedom of expression as anyone. They are also way smarter than we want to believe. So it is important to nurture their genius and not try to dumb them down.
How has parenting bolstered or inhibited your creativity?
Parenting has made me more creative especially because it has made me more fun. Children are light. And when we listen to the youth we evolve. When we suppress their evolution, we fail our future. They remind us that if we cannot dream, we will perish. If we cannot dance, we will be consumed by quicksand. If we cannot express, we will drown in our humanity. They remind us that joy is imperative. They remind us of why we love. They will be our savior, not the other way around.
Was there a noticeable shift in your writing before and after parenthood? If yes, how so?
The first few months after giving birth were shaky. My brain was not my brain and that was really scary. I had a hard time getting back into my creative self. It took me almost a year to find my voice again within my work. I feel as though, Now that my baby is a toddler, the fogginess has settled and I have been able to come back to myself in a more centered and divine way. And it has made the art of writing for me even more profound and of paramount importance to my identity and purpose as an artist.
How has the internet influenced you as both a writer and parent?
As a chronic-googler LOL I am definitely an information lover. I’m always curious to read and use the internet to help me become a better writer and parent. I love looking up writing prompts, or researching for my next story, or even looking up advice on different parenting techniques.
How have other mother figures you have encountered in your community influenced your parenting? Your writing?
It is so inspiring and affirming seeing other mama writers do it all. Maybe not all at once! But, they definitely do it all and do it well!
How do you balance motherhood/parenting and finding the space to write?
I am grateful that I get to stay home with my child so it makes it much easier to sneak in time to write. Early mornings and nap-time is my sacred writing time.
Who are your writer-mama heroes?
There are so many! My top five would be Toni Morrison, June Jordan, Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, and Toni Cade Bambara.
Melania Luisa Marte is a writer, poet, and musician from New York living between the Dominican Republic and Texas. Her viral poem “Afro-Latina” was featured by Instagram on their IG TV for National Poetry Month and has garnered over nine million views. Her work has also been featured by Ain’t I Latina, AfroPunk, The Root, Teen Vogue, Telemundo, Remezcla, PopSugar, and elsewhere. Plantains and Our Becoming is her debut.