The Power of Mothers: An Interview with the Malahat Review

I have a piece published in the literary journal that I’ve hungered for, for so long. The Malahat Review is a quarterly literary journal that features contemporary writers in Canada, both fiction, prose and poetry. I submitted the piece for one of their contests and was shortlisted. I did not win, but their editor, Iain Higgins, a professor in University of Victoria and as well as a prominent writer that I highly respect, emailed me and asked for permission to submit the piece to their Board of Directors to be considered for publication. Unhesitating, I said yes.

“Writing for me, is an exorcism. A surgical excision of trauma, pain and struggle – an unchaining of sorts.”

After a few months, he then emailed me back saying that it was approved, and I will never stop thanking him for advocating for me in that way. We spent a lot of time editing the piece. He was very considerate in taking to account the authenticity and integrity of the piece, seeing as it was non-fiction and was probably the hardest, most emotional thing I have ever written. During the editing process, I admit I tried my best to not let it get to me. I have always treated my work as something seperate from myself. Once it’s out on paper, it’s exhausted – used up. Vomited out, as Osamu Dazai would say. Writing for me, is an exorcism. A surgical excision of trauma, pain and struggle – an unchaining of sorts. That’s why I don’t edit. Both because I’m lazy as fuck, and because I don’t revisiting.

However, the cost of becoming published is reliving, not only for perfection (or as close to it as possible, at least) but for clarity, as Iain emphasized – you don’t want your message to get lost in minor mistakes especially when you’re sharing a message as important as trauma. So as difficult as it was, I took my son out for walks and once he was asleep, I hunkered down to a nearby coffee shop and began the long, drawn-out torture of editing, following in Iain’s footsteps as I did so. I have never worked with an editor who valued and respected artistic integrity as much as Iain did (as well as Andrew Burashko and Daniel MacIvor for Art of Time: Who Is We? But more on that later), and I am really blessed to have had the opportunity to work with truly artistic people this year.

The entire process was difficult, but I knew it was important now that I’m a mother. I need to understand the kind of mother that I had needed when I was a child, so that I could hopefully understand what kind of mother my so/n needs in the future, so that I can understand when I’m not listening, when I’m not giving as I should.

Here is a link to the interview I did with Malahat Review, entitled: “The Power of Mothers: Kathy Mak in Conversation with Ellise Ramos”. I really enjoyed this interview. She asked me a lot of questions that seemed like she was really interested in the piece, in my story as a writer and as a person.

It seems so perfect, the way everything is going right now, while I watch a movie in the basement with my husband, my fingers typing on my laptop, struggling to write this post that has been long overdue, wrapped in fuzzy blankets, the corner of my eye trained on the baby monitor as I watch my son sleep soundly in his crib.

Perhaps moments like these can go on forever, when written down.

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