Interview with M.M. Wittle: Author of Creative Nonfiction Book Three Decades and I'm Gone

Thursday, February 05, 2015
I met M.M. Wittle at the 2013 Gettysburg Review Conference for Writers where she led me on a walking tour through historical Gettysburg and told me stories about her "boo" Abe Lincoln. Since then, I have been delighted by her witty and inspiring facebook status updates, but her writing talent extends beyond social media banter. In January 2015, she published Three Decades and I'm Gone, a creative nonfiction book "that uses pictures, prose, and poetry to discuss how the author spent thirty years living within the stage of grief after losing her parents before the age of eighteen." It is with great delight that I introduce to you M.M. Wittle.  

Meet M.M. Wittle: M.M. Wittle is a literacy coach by day, and adjunct professor by night, and a writer on alternating Tuesdays (Wittle had to cut down from writing on days ending in “Y”). M.M. Wittle has been published in every genre. The play, Ghost Lights, will premier in Philadelphia this spring. Wittle’s recent book, Three Decades and I’m Gone published by Creeping Lotus Press, is available now. Follow M.M. Wittle on Facebook. For more information about the author, check out the podcasts from Creeping Lotus Press and other interviews with the author.

WOW!: When did you start writing Three Decades and I’m Gone, and what was your writing process like?

M.M.: I started working on the poetry for Three Decades in late 2012. The initial concept was going to be a chapbook of poetry about the loss of my parents. Then I went to therapy and found out the depression I suffered from wasn’t chemical but one of the stages of grief. From there, the prose came out within a few weeks. The pictures came because there was no other way I could describe the loss of my parents. The pictures said nothing and everything.

Because this was creative nonfiction and something I really always tried to write around, it was difficult at first to go back to those moments and write about them. Using poetry made it easier because I could focus on an image instead of the whole situation. I used flash fiction for the prose because I wanted the narration to be quick. I didn’t want to spend too much time in those places and less than a thousand words was a nice way to stop myself.

Once I was able to see my grief for what it was, it made it easier to write about and I gained enough distance on the subject to start being able to revise it.

Also, having that bat coming into the apartment really helped bring the book into focus.

How did you learn about your publisher, Creeping Lotus Press? Did you submit to other publishers? Did you have the help of an agent?

M.M.: Ha! How did I find out about Creeping Lotus Press? A writer friend sent me an email about Creeping Lotus Press with the words, “Do This” in the subject line. Creeping Lotus Press was looking for writers to host readings and I followed my friend’s advice and contacted them. I sent them some of my poems and they seemed interested in having me host a reading. They also wanted to interview me for their podcast The Creeper (see link above).

Then I sent the manuscript of Three Decades out and it got rejected. It was more difficult than other rejections because this was my life and it was rejected. I talked to the editor about this and he asked to see the manuscript. Then they accepted the manuscript and the real fun began.

I don’t have an agent (looks around with big, hopeful eyes) but I’m open to having one.

What has the book promotion/marketing process been like?

M.M.: The book came out in January so I am in the beginning of the promotion process. I am hesitant to go all balls to the wall with promotion because this is my life. However, this story is important. My day job is working in Camden as a literacy coach. I interact with a lot of students who are dealing with what I’ve been through and, sometimes, even worse. I want to lead by example and show them a person can be dealt some rough stuff and come out not being a drug addict or a drunk.

On a lighter note, I’m totally having a dance party in April to celebrate the book’s publication. This book, this life of mine, all need to be celebrated. You’re all invited.

What has been the most challenging aspect of writing and publishing this book?

The most challenging part of writing was I couldn’t lie. This is creative nonfiction and I have to write the truth, as I know it.

With publishing…I feel like the editing has been the worst. I hate formatting (and thankfully the editor handled that) and sometimes when I look at the same thing over and over again, I miss mistakes. Also, I kept changing words (looks guilty…hopes my editors skip that last line).

What has been most rewarding?

M.M.: My father always wanted to be a writer. He had a red photo book of rejection letters that to this day, I really have no idea what happened to them. He did not have enough time on earth to be a writer who publishes. This year, my father is coming up on his 30th death anniversary (it’s today, February 5).

I am so thrilled I have written a book about him (and my mom…let’s not forget her…feels like I’m getting the side eye from my mom in Heaven). It is pure coincidence the book is called three decades and this is his third decade of being gone.

Are you working on any new writing projects now? If so, can you tell us about them?

M.M.: I have a play I’m writing called Ghost Lights that will be up on stage in Philadelphia in May. My flash fiction piece, Soul Stone, came out this winter( Other than that, I haven’t had any new projects coming on the horizon. I think next I’d like to work on a poetry chapbook.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your book or your writing in general?

M.M.: For me this book is really about my truth. I left out a lot of people’s names because I really wanted this story to be mine. They have their story and they are free to write it.

Someone once said to me she was sorry I was dealt such a shitty hand in life. I never understood my life to be shitty until that moment.

I still don’t think it’s shitty. It’s mine and it’s been a blessed life.

Click here to purchase Three Decades and I'm Gone by M.M. Wittle. 

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor.


Margo Dill said...

I read the description of your book, your life, and I can see why people say it's been shitty. But I always admire anyone who can face those life events, write about them, and share with others to help everyone. Thank you also for sharing about your publisher. They look great!

Angela Mackintosh said...

M.M., my mother's death anniversary is this March and it'll be exactly three decades. This one is particularly tough for me because I'll be the same age as when she passed away…and when I was younger I thought I'd never live to see this age. But time (and therapy and writing!) have really changed the way I view things. It's wonderful that you're helping students who are going through similar situations and rough stuff. I bet your book was therapeutic to write too, and I'm sure it'll help others. Thank you for sharing your story!

Unknown said...

My mother's death anniversary is in March as well. March 4th. And I remember when I came to the age my father lived to and it was very strange. But also it was very rewarding to know I can and will continue and so will he (because of me). Take care.

Unknown said...

My mother's death anniversary is in March as well. March 4th. And I remember when I came to the age my father lived to and it was very strange. But also it was very rewarding to know I can and will continue and so will he (because of me). Take care.

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