Author Q&A: Terri Hawkes, Co-Editor, Performing Motherhood: Artistic, Activist and Everyday Enactments (Demeter Press)
Why did you edit the Performing Motherhood anthology, what was your goal for the book and why these specific topics?
Performing Motherhood was a true team effort with my co-editors Amber Kinser and Kryn Freehling-Burton, our terrific cohort of contributors, and the hard working Demeter Press family. My background is as a professional writer, director and actor; I am also the mother of teenage twins. Currently I am pursuing a PhD at York University, focusing on women working in the arts. Kryn, who teaches at Oregon State University, was in Toronto for a MIRCI (Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement) conference and heard me present a paper on mothers working in theatre. I wrote the essay in a “maternal theories” class taught by Demeter Press publisher, Dr. Andrea O’Reilly, and had used that opportunity to interview colleagues – actors who had become mothers – and question them about how becoming a mother had affected their work opportunities in the theatre. Kryn approached me about my work, and at a subsequent conference, aligned with East Tennessee State University professor Amber Kinser to pitch the idea of this book to Andrea. Andrea then asked us all to co-edit. An editing team was born!
From the beginning, Amber, Kryn and I were interested in the intersection between performance and the maternal. By this I mean we wanted to showcase a large cast of mothers who perform motherhood in their everyday lives, mothers who perform in the arts, mothers who creatively battle impediments to mother-work, and mother-artists who use their mothering as the muse through whom they explore the sorrowful, joyful and triumphant experiences of mothers. We wanted to show that the work of mothering is inextricably interwoven with our creative work, whether that creativity is in the domestic or private spheres, and whether it emerges in artistic, activist, or everyday enactments. We initially chose the topics based on a loose idea of representations of these themes, but ultimately, the chapters chose us. We received a substantial number of worthy submissions for this anthology, but ultimately it became clear as to which ones suited our themes and our desire to present mothers with agency. In the process, we were inspired by topics that hadn’t been on our radar — unique experiences of mothering that we hadn’t read about elsewhere. We were also reminded of the vast artistic connections between performance and the maternal in diverse arenas – from the sexualization in our childrens’ dance practices to musical activist opportunities for mothers in the Appalachians, to Canadian-Punjabi cultural performances of mothering, to online photography and blogging about motherhood, to poetry making around queer and trans performances of mothering. And while the artist arenas expanded and diversified, so did our feminist lens; we were pleased to include contributors who spoke about different performances of mothering from perspectives which examined race, culture, sexual orientation, gender, age, and ability. Our goal was to include it all: to create one big feminist party of rockin’ performances of mothering, and to gift this to a diverse and engaged audience of artists, academics, activists, mothers and mother-lovers!
What makes a good anthology great?
My subjective response to this is that, to be great, an anthology, like any story, needs the key ingredients of thoroughly drawn characters, an intriguing setting, an energetic plot, conflict, strong voices, thought provoking themes; ideally it will engage and emotionally affect its audience. An anthology has the blessing – and challenge – of bringing many contributors to the cast. Each contributors’ chapter has a story to tell, an audience to engage, a message to relay. As a whole, the group of stories has the opportunity to tell a larger story, to flesh out a more diverse cast of characters, to examine a greater group of themes, to leave the audience with a deeper understanding of the rainbow of issues, and ultimately, to leave the reader with the sense of possibility for their own stories of creation and agency. Ideally, the experience will also leave the writers feeling satisfied, and the readers feeling entertained!
I guess this question around challenges in bringing a book to market might lead one to address the typical tests of combining mother-work with professional work: the late night Skype meetings, deadlines through parental death and elder care responsibilities, juggling of graduations and conference calls, and occasional efforts to tend to our primary relationships — those types of challenges? Yet in addition to that, publishing has its own set of challenges. In our case, Demeter Press, a fiercely vigilant press in defending the importance of maternal studies, lost some funding at the eleventh hour. However, Andrea O’Reilly, with the support of the Demeter team, a loyal readership and audience, and like-minded activists, ignited a campaign protesting this loss, and simultaneously procured an alternative form of funding which has allowed the press to survive. Yes – motherhood does matter!!
What would you like the reader to take away after reading Performing Motherhood?
Amber, Kryn, Andrea and I have always hoped that our work, and that of our contributors would help create awareness of the challenges, hopes, and possibilities of feminist mothering, or empowered mothering, or whatever term most suits you. Ultimately, we seek to support mothers – community mothers, foster mothers, adoptive mothers, LGBTQ mothers, mothers from visible minorities, mothers with disabilities, older mothers, younger mothers, single mothers, academic mothers, activist mothers, artist mothers and more. And although our stories are located in North America, in spirit, we support mothers globally. We celebrate these mothers, we sing their stories, we fuel their activism, we applaud their creativity, we fight for their agency, we enlarge the circle of engaged citizens who acknowledge and support and champion the complex journeys for mothers around the world.
What advice do you have for other mother writers?
Write five minutes a day. I’ve never taken that advice, but I hear it works. Some writers I know put locks on their doors while they work; which doesn’t really help if you have toddlers scratching at the door. Child care helps, if you can swing it, and not everyone can. This leads to the need for rethinking child care as a necessity, rather than a luxury. Ideally, writing should get the same kind of access to child care than any other priority responsibility would get. Meanwhile, an option might be to depend on the kindness of extended relatives? Or good friends? Or engaging your children in your projects? Others I know, who are in partnerships, ask their partner to take the morning parenting shift while they prioritize writing in the morning hours. Personally, I wasn’t entirely successful with any of the preceding. I used a hybrid of these tactics, and yet, oddly, I still needed to enroll in graduate school to rediscover a schedule that forced me to write. Deadlines. That’s what I needed. My father has always said: “Deadlines are your friend.”
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