Craft Talk with Andrea Lani, Senior Editor and Literary Reflections Editor
Welcome to 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 Andrea Lani, Senior Editor and Literary Reflections Editor. She told me about the delight of being an LM editor, Terry Tempest Williams, and the excitement of the unexpected.
1. Tell us about yourself and your position at Literary Mama.
I’m mom to three teenage boys—the oldest of whom is about to turn 20! I have a master’s degree in creative writing from the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine and a bachelor’s degree in human ecology, and I’m a Maine Master Naturalist and a member of the Maine Master Naturalist Program’s board of directors. My writing generally focuses on motherhood and the natural world, and my first book, a memoir about hiking the Colorado Trail with my family, will be coming out from Bison books in about a year and a half. I worked in the environmental field for many years and currently spend part of the year proofreading bills for the Maine Legislature. At Literary Mama, I’m co-editor of the Literary Reflections department. I love working with writers to polish their essays and prepare them for publication, and I love the many ways people have explored how writing and reading have influenced their motherhood experience, and vice versa. I’m also a senior editor, and it’s a delight and an honor to review the pieces that come out of every department and work behind the scenes with such a talented team to bring each issue to readers.
2. Is there a passage, sentence, or line of a poem that you absolutely adore? Why is it so good?
There’s a place in the book Leap by Terry Tempest William where she writes of a panic attack,
it was like having your blood replaced by ants.
Writing it here, it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s stuck with me for years–the visceral rightness of the description. Anyone who has had even a moment of anxiety can relate to this sensation. I think of this line every time I want to convey a feeling—either physical or emotional (or both, like panic). I’ve never come up with anything nearly so apt, but I haven’t given up trying.
3. What do you look for in submissions? What type of writing grabs your attention?
It’s interesting, because while the Literary Reflections department has such a specific focus—the intersection of literature and motherhood—the universe of ways writers can approach it is enormous. I’m always amazed and delighted when a writer takes that theme in an unexpected direction. So, the first thing I look for is a fresh angle. While we all know how hard it is to write while mothering, that alone is not enough to build an essay. The other key is in our department name—reflection. It’s really important in that writers think deeply about whatever element of literature they’re writing about—whether it’s their teenage diary, their children’s first words, their grandmother’s notebooks, a favorite poet, a play—and how that aspect of literature intertwines with their motherhood experience. I also like to see fully fleshed out essays that use the elements of fiction writing—setting a scene, building characters, vivid description, figurative language, dialogue—rather than the more chatty, expository type writing you see in a lot of websites or blogs. That being said, both my co-editor and I are happy to work with a writer on a piece that might have challenges in the structure or the writing itself, as long as there’s a kernel of new and interesting idea and a strong indication the writer can dig in and dig deep to flesh out the piece.
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