Riding Shotgun--from view of the Driver's Seat. An interview with editor/author/poet Kathryn Kysar
J. Gordon
1/17/2010 8:13:59 PM

Two Marches ago, Night Times reviewed author Kathryn Kysar’s Riding Shotgun [Borealist Books], a collection of essays and stories of Motherhood like none we’d ever seen. Over the next couple years, and through a series of haphazard email correspondences that always seemed to be lost in the netherworld before arriving in our respective inboxes, some questions developed, not about the book any longer (that’s been quite successful), but about the experience of putting a collection like this together. We thought we’d take advantage of our email friend and ask what authors, editors, and future authors/editors might want to know:

NT: First off, what's your own writing background? Did you go the academic route through graduate school?
KK: I did indeed go the academic route. At college, I promptly became an English major when I found out I could get college credit for laying in bed and reading novels. I then went to graduate school in Kansas, where I got my M.F.A. in poetry.

What first compelled you to collect these stories of motherhood?
KK: I originally proposed a book about mothering--being a mother--to Borealis Press. Ann Regan, their magnificent Editor-in-Chief, volleyed back the idea of women authors writing about their mothers. I took up the challenge and worked closely with Ann through the whole process. I wanted to create a collage of essays that wove together a new picture of mothers in the 20th century. My main goal was to make the stories honest, intimate, and real.

Did you know right away who you wanted to include?
KK: The anthology's broad portrayal of mother/daughter relationships comes from its diverse collection of writers, some young and emerging, some well known and experienced. Their unique perspectives are generated from their generational identities, their ethnicity and sexual orientation, and their geographic experience. I hope this blend of voices creates a vibrant text.

Did you invite the writers directly to write something for you, or were they giving permission for already published pieces you'd found earlier?
KK: All the pieces in Riding Shotgun are original and were written especially for this collection at my request.

Did you regularly connect with any (or all) of these writers on a personal basis? Are some friends?
KK: Yes! A few were already friends, but most of the authors were acquaintances. I became closer to many of the authors by working with them on these intimate stories, then by doing readings together around the Midwest. You can learn a lot about someone in a four hour car ride! I have great admiration for them all and treasure their advice as writers and friends.

I've heard that putting anthologies together can be a nightmare of fees and permissions. What was your experience? What advice would you give the hopeful editor with this goal?
KK: As none of the pieces for this book were reprinted, I did not have to deal with permissions; however, I did have the burden of editing, and then proofreading and proofreading the manuscript. That was my least favorite part of the process.

Did Riding Shotgun fulfill your goals and dreams for it? Was the outcome everything you'd envisioned? (Both the book itself, and its success)
KK: The book was very successful as a hardcover in the Midwest, and we have our fingers crossed for a paperback edition. Every time a woman comes up to me at a reading and says the book helped her grieve the loss of her mother, every time someone thanks me for voicing their experience, I feel we succeeded in digging more deeply into the truth around the institution of motherhood .

Tell us about your own current writing projects.
KK: I am just finishing my second book of poetry. Many of the poems are about being a mother, many of them historical in nature. The poems do echo Riding Shotgun in interesting ways. I have a few ideas for anthology projects floating around, but at the moment, I am focusing on my own poetry.

Kathryn Kysar is the author of a book of poetry Dark Lake (Loonfeather, 2002) and the editor of a collection of essays, Riding Shotgun: Women Writing About Their Mothers (Borealis, 2008). Her poems have been heard on A Writer's Almanac and published in many literary magazines including Great River Review, Midland Review, Mizna, Painted Bride Quarterly, and The Talking Stick. A winner of the Lake Superior Writer's and SASE poetry contests, Kysar has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Minnesota State Arts Board, Norcroft, The Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, and Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts.


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