October 2013 marked Literary Mama’s ten year anniversary! On Wednesdays for the next few months we’ll celebrate this milestone with editors and columnists, both past and present. They’ll share what being a part of Literary Mama has meant to them, what they hope for the future of the magazine, and how Literary Mama has shaped their writing, their mothering, and their lives.
Kate Haas– Creative Nonfiction Editor
It was the late summer of 2006, and stay-at-home parenthood’s holiest grail was almost mine. My older son would enter school full time in just a few weeks. My younger would start preschool. After six years of day-in-day-out mothering, I was looking at four mornings a week, all to myself. Hallelujah!
That was when I got the email from Shari MacDonald, then Creative Nonfiction editor at Literary Mama. She was looking for an assistant, she said, someone to help read and evaluate submissions. She had read a couple of my essays in Brain, Child, noticed that we lived in the same town, and wondered if I might be interested. No, it didn’t pay. Yes, it would take up my hotly anticipated free time. Maybe a lot of it. So what did I think?
There’s probably a long, compound German word that describes my reaction: terribly flattered and deeply apprehensive. But motherhood had taught me that things don’t happen when the timing is convenient. And sometimes – most times – you just have to seize the moment. So that’s what I did.
I knew something about editing from my years as a high school English teacher. But working with Shari, on pieces by women writing about experiences like mine – and those wildly dissimilar, taught me far more. I learned the art of the judicious cut, the subtle word alteration, the way an entire story can suddenly sing with just a few changes. I learned to write kind, encouraging rejection letters, and I shared the delight of authors I helped publish for the very first time.
But I learned something else as well, something that I didn’t expect. I’d been so looking forward to solitude while my kids were in school, that it never occurred to me how much I would relish the collegial aspect of Literary Mama, how satisfying it would be to work toward a common goal with such smart, funny, creative women.
A year after that initial email, Shari asked me to become a co-editor, and I’ve been here ever since. My boys have grown older and independent over the last eight years, giving me time to write and publish my own essays, and to work as a freelance editor. But being part of Literary Mama has always felt like my anchor. It’s here that I’ve learned more about the art of writing than anywhere else. And it’s here that I get to edit the kind of writing I truly love, to work with authors whose stories move and inspire me. Even after all this time, I’m still excited to open each new submission in the Creative Nonfiction inbox, never knowing exactly what I’m going to discover, but aware that it could be something wonderful.
Thank you for all that, Literary Mama. Happy anniversary!