Welcome to our newest blog series: Where Are They Now?
In this series, our editors interview past Literary Mama contributors to see what they’ve accomplished since publishing in LM and talk about their writing journeys.
Marianne Lonsdale started writing for Literary Mama in 2012 and has interviewed 11 authors for the Profiles section to date. This month, Senior Editor Christina Consolino corresponded with Marianne over email to find out more about her journey to Literary Mama, the joy she finds in interviews, and her balance of fiction and personal essays.
Christina Consolino: How did you get started writing for Literary Mama?
Marianne Lonsdale: I’d gone to a friend’s birthday party and wandered into the kitchen in search of wine and started talking with a guest, Joanne Hartman. We had kids the same age and the conversation flowed. Joanne explained that she was the Profiles Editor for Literary Mama. I was a wannabe writer and had been scribbling away, mostly in secret, for several years, rarely mentioning my writing to anyone. Days before the birthday party, I’d joined a weekly writers’ group facilitated by Linda Watanabe McFerrin, an Oakland author and teacher. All of us were intimidated and mystified by how to get published. So our assignment that week was to write a pitch for any type of publication—newspaper, magazine, website. I wasn’t published anywhere because I never submitted anything. I was awed that Joanne was a real writer and editor. I was too shy to even mention my writing to her.
When I got home from the party, I looked at the Literary Mama submission guidelines which included Joanne’s email address, and I composed a pitch to profile writer Jessica O’Dwyer. Jessica was a friend with a published memoir about her experiences adopting her daughter in Guatemala.
Joanne accepted my pitch within 24 hours. That profile was published in November 2012.
CC: What impact has developing profiles had on your writing?
ML: The work with Literary Mama boosted my confidence and provides great writing credits. After that first interview, sometimes Literary Mama would approach me to ask if I’d profile a particular author. The interviews give me access to some fascinating women. And like any piece of writing, I have to carefully think about what to include, what to leave out, and what is the beginning, the middle, and the end. The editing by Literary Mama is excellent and collaborative. I’d never worked with editors before and have come to love that part of the process, which always ups the quality of the piece. I am grateful for the opportunities Literary Mama provides. I always mention Literary Mama in my writing bio.
CC: What else do you write?
ML: I write fiction and personal essays. I’m looking for an agent for my first novel, Finding Nora, a story set in Oakland in 1991 about love and friendship during the AIDs epidemic. Women made up approximately 30% of AIDs cases, but their stories remain largely untold.
I hope to start another novel soon but am not settled on a story, and so I’ve been developing several personal essays. And I’ve surprised myself by taking two poetry classes in the last year, which exercise a new set of creative muscles. I’m also taking this time between projects to submit to online and print publications. It’s tough to find enough time to both write and submit.
More of my work can be seen at mariannelonsdale.com.
CC: Are you part of a writers’ group?
ML: In March 2020, when shelter in place began, I joined a Zoom writing group with three women, all moms. I met these three women years ago through a San Francisco Bay Area group, Write On Mamas. I am a cofounder of that group. We’ve gone quiet in the last year or so, but over a ten-year period, the group thrived. We held monthly writing salons with wonderful speakers and panel discussions, held readings, including several at San Francisco’s renowned Litquake Festival, and published two anthologies. We still have an active online discussion group. I’m proud of all the work we’ve done, and the relationships we developed are very dear to me, including the connection with my virtual writing group.
We meet weekday mornings on Zoom at 6:15 a.m. and touch base for about 15 minutes and then stay on and write for another 60 to 90 minutes, depending on schedules. I had doubts about whether this would be a useful or needed group, but it’s a lifeline for my writing and for my connecting with other writers and mothers.
CC: Anything else you’d like to share?
ML: Joanne Hartman, from the birthday party, joined Write On Mamas, and since that first meeting, we’ve carpooled to many events together, met up for coffee, and endlessly talk books and writing. Joanne has edited and helped me find my way with my novel and many essays. And we still love a chat while sharing a bottle of red wine.