Welcome to our new Literary Mama blog series: Craft Talks. In this bi-monthly post, we’ll have a mini-interview with our own editors about craft, what they look for in submissions, and all things writing.
Today, I talked with Susan Bruns Rowe, Profiles Editor at Literary Mama. She told me about Tony Doerr, Sarah Manguso, the intrinsic worth of personal stories, and weaving deep appreciation into profile writing.
1. Tell us about yourself and your position at Literary Mama.
I am a writer and creative writing teacher based in Boise, Idaho. I grew up on a farm in southern Idaho, and, with the exception of two years abroad at graduate school, I have lived in Idaho all my life. Six years ago I gave up a career as a marketing executive to pursue writing full-time. I have two adult children, and I continue to be fascinated and confounded by the parenting issues that arise with them. I received my MFA in creative nonfiction, but I like to move between genres. I have written short stories and poems, and I’m currently working on a memoir about growing up on a small family farm in Idaho’s high desert. At Literary Mama, I serve as co-editor of the Profiles department. We work with writers who interview other writers, and it’s always fascinating to learn more about the writing life and process this way. I almost always find the interviews enlightening and hopeful!
2. Is there a passage, sentence, or line of a poem that you absolutely adore? Why is it so good?
Because I’m currently at work on a memoir, I’m especially attached to quotes and passages about memory and life story. Here’s one from the magnificent Tony Doerr:
Every hour . . . all over the globe, an infinite number of memories disappear, whole glowing atlases dragged into graves.
And a similar one from Sarah Manguso:
The catalog of emotion that disappears when someone dies, and the degree to which we rely on a few people to record something of what life meant to them, is almost too much to bear.
These quotes speak to the power of individual life stories—their deep, intrinsic worth. They are a reminder to me to persist in writing my own life story and to support others in their quest to write theirs.
3. What do you look for in submissions? What type of writing grabs your attention?
In Profiles, writers pitch to interview other writers, so I am curious, “Why this particular author?” Sometimes the profile writer has a personal connection with the author. But sometimes it’s because the writer is a huge fan of the author’s work. So I look for questions that show both insight into and a deep appreciation for the author’s work, questions that understand how difficult it is to write well. That’s what leads to a satisfying interview.
The Profiles Department seeks profiles of writers who are mothers, writers who write about motherhood (who may or may not be mothers themselves), and writers who have something to say to or about mothers and motherhood.
Read something you liked? Let us know in the comments!