Craft Talk with Sarah Johnson LaBarbera, Social Media 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 Sarah Johnson LaBarbera, Social Media Editor. She told me her love of LM readers, the joy she finds in the lightness of A. A. Milne, and some of her favorite LM pieces.
1. Tell us about yourself and your position at Literary Mama.
My background is in English and journalism, but I’ve worked for years now in marketing and communications. I feel like I’ve always lived life fondly adjacent to the creative writing world, and being the social media editor for Literary Mama is the perfect cross-section. We’ve joked that in some ways I’m “an island” on staff because I work on the opposite end of production from most of the team, but I get the unique experience of touching each finished piece of writing as we send it out to the Literary Mama audience. And our audience is a great community to work with, so responsive and thoughtful. We started a Facebook group since I joined, Lit Mamas, where our readers and writers share opportunities, make recommendations, and swap stories. It’s a joy facilitating a community of women who truly desire to connect.
2. Is there a passage, sentence, or line of a poem that you absolutely adore? Why is it so good?
I’m an ardent fan of A. A. Milne. He writes with this exquisite lightness and absurd clarity that makes his Pooh stories so dear, and in his novels and plays it allows him to slip in unexpectedly raw scenes. His novel Two People about the complicated marriage of Reginald and Sylvia is rife with them:
Darling, am I supposed to know the reputation of all the people you introduce me to?’
He burst out indignantly, ‘I didn’t—I mean it was—You know quite well that isn’t the point.’
‘I only asked, darling.’
Even in his anger he saw the cleverness of her question and felt proud of her; and furious with her for being so clever, and for not losing her temper.
‘There’s a difference,’ he explained carefully, as if to a child, ‘between going in a crowd to a woman’s house and going out alone at night with that woman’s husband.’
She said nothing. She put her hand back to the tray, poured herself out a little lemonade, and drank it.
‘Darling,’ cried Reginald, in sudden terror at the way irrevocable words kept leaving him, ‘you know I don’t—I mean it’s nothing—it’s not—it would be an insult to you to suggest such a thing.
Milne creates this messy, scrambling overlap between Reginald’s internal and external processing while Sylvia’s words and actions are left unadorned. Amidst Reginald’s disastrous dialogue, the narrative line “Even in his anger…” is such an honest and straightforward moment that it feels almost too obvious, yet that duality of emotion is so relatable that it feels nearly as if there’s no other way to put it. And then, after Reginald condescends to Sylvia “as if to a child,” I am silent along with Sylvia as she carefully pours her lemonade; even if Reginald cannot read her, in that moment she is transparent. Within a few sparse lines, we can relate intensely to both characters through entirely separate modes.
3. What type of writing grabs your attention?
I gravitate to the Literary Mama pieces that unfurl vivid, expansive moments within tight, compact spaces—poems like “Feast of the Mommy-Shamers” or “Matter.” This is coming from my mar/comm side, but I love those glorious, contained lines that provide the perfect snapshot into a piece. Not for soundbites and click-bait, but because the writing gets to be its own ambassador. And as a mother, I’m always drawn to those pieces that ring this bell of recognition in me, whether it’s issue pieces like “Exhaustion and Rest” or prompt responses from readers like Jessica Chapman or Lolita Pierce (now on the LM team!). In writing, and especially in motherhood, I think we’re all looking for that reflection and solidarity.
Read something you liked? Let us know in the comments!