Becoming a mother has inspired scores of women to take pen to paper, so when we received an e-mail recently from an online literary journal seeking submissions, we had to learn more. We reached out to editor-in-chief Julianne Palumbo to learn more about her own writing, the decision to launch Mothers Always Write, and what types of submissions she is seeking. Welcome Julianne!
-----Interview by Renee Roberson
WOW: Mothers Always Write sounds like a great concept for an online literary magazine. Can you give us little background information on how it got started?
Julianne: Thanks so much, Renee, for your interest in Mothers Always Write. I started Mothers Always Write because, as a mother-writer, myself, I believe there’s a need for more places to publish mother writing. There are some beautiful sites/journals out there that publish mother writing, but there are many more mothers who want to share their writing. I can tell my hunch was correct by the huge response our new journal has received.
The onset of blogging has spurned many mothers to find their writing voices. Mother writing can be a source of support to moms who can sometimes find parenting to be an isolating venture. As a mother writer, I produce countless poems and essays about my experiences raising my children. I write to understand them, to document them, and to share them. Reading about parenting experiences can also be a source of connection between moms.
The goal of MAW is to be a journal that creates a feeling of community with our writers and between our writers. We welcome new submissions from our already published writers. We try to turn around pieces in a month on average so as to be respectful of their own publishing goals. We also provide specific feedback on pieces where the writers ask us to (and even sometimes when they don’t) and aim to be accessible through email to our writers to answer any questions and to help them along in the process. We also work to promote the pieces along with our writers. As a mother writer, I found that both motherhood and writing can be isolating. You write, you submit, you wait to receive an answer, and then you receive a form letter. No feedback. I crave community with other writers, and at MAW we hope to be able to provide that community. We even have some ideas for how we are going to offer community between writers who have been published in our journal.
WOW: Tell us about yourself. How did you decide to make the switch from a career in law to creative writing?
Julianne: I was a writer since I can remember, writing poetry and stories when I was very young. After studying creative writing and journalism at Boston College, my life took a detour from my creative side, and I went to law school for practical reasons. I practiced law for 17 years (part-time for many of those years), before the call to be home with my children became too strong to resist any longer. I could finally afford to do so, so I retired from law and took up writing and stay at home mothering. I had done a lot of writing and speaking as a lawyer, mostly business and legal articles. I found that writing terse, and it took a while once I retired before I could feel the well of creativity return.
I wrote mostly YA stuff, verse novels at first. Then, I tried everything else—short stories, essays, and poetry. I have published two poetry chapbooks—both about mothering and just finished my third. I couple my own writing with editing the magazine. I also love to mentor teens and to coach them in writing. I think writing is a great outlet for reaching teens and for helping them to know themselves. I am presenting a workshop at the Dare to Dream Conference in Rhode Island May and am really excited about being able to use writing to help teens find themselves.
WOW: Who else works with you to read the submissions?
Julianne: Shortly after I founded the magazine, I was so fortunate to hear from a mother poet, Krystal Sital, who expressed interest in editing with me. She had come across the site and liked the idea. Krystal holds an MFA from Hunter College in Creative Nonfiction where she was a Hertog Fellow, was awarded the Memoir Prize and the Audre Lorde Award. Krystal has a wonderful eye for poetry, and I value her input tremendously. She has two little girls, so it is fun to remember through her those years of mothering young children. I am so impressed how she can get so much done! My three are mostly grown now, two in college (one of them graduating and engaged) and my youngest a junior in high school.
WOW: Who is your target audience?
Julianne: MAW’s target audience is mothers who enjoy literature about motherhood. We try to keep the content varied and relatable so that the poetry and essay can offer appeal to moms of children from infant to empty nest. We publish poems and essays in each of three categories: Infancy, middle grade/teens, and empty nest/adult children. We also receive some wonderful pieces from father writers and are thrilled to publish those too. What’s been so much fun is to receive submissions and notes from women all over the world, to read about their mothering and to know that, while the geography may be different, the parenting experiences are so much the same.
WOW: How often do you plan to publish Mothers Always Write?
Julianne: Mothers Always Write is released monthly. We add about nine new pieces around the third week of the month. But, hopefully beginning next month, our parenting blog will enable us to post new content more often than that.
WOW: What types of submissions are you seeking?
Julianne: We are seeking poems, essays, and blog posts. The poems we like are non-rhyming, up to 25 or so lines and tend to contain strong imagery and deep insight about parenting. For essays, we accept two categories: micro non-fiction (less than 300 words) and longer essays (less than 2,000 words). Both should be personal essays, narratives that represent true accounts of parenting from a mother’s (or father’s) point of view. The essays we like tend to contain a strong narrative, are rich in imagery and detail, and offer insight into some experience of parenting. Blog posts can be more informal, still about mothering and still with universal appeal. We accept only unpublished posts, meaning that they haven’t appeared anywhere online or in print.
WOW: What advice would you give writers who are considering submitting to MAW?
Julianne: To writers who are considering submitting to MAW, we would suggest that they please read our current and past issues online (Feb and March) and our writers’ guidelines. For poetry, we tend to like relatable poetry with lots of figurative language. For essays, often it works to focus on a specific happening or a visual observation and then draw us into your story from there.
WOW: Are you a paying market?
Julianne: We are not as of yet a paying market, but we do offer exposure to our writers. We actively promote our writers on our social media and ask our writers to do the same. We hope to nominate this year for the Pushcart and for other prizes.
Visit Mothers Always Write at: http://mothersalwayswrite.com