Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
A Conversation with Christine Redman-Waldeyer

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Part 1 of Literary Mama's series of interviews with editors and publishers of women-focused journals and books.

Christine Redman-Waldeyer launched Adanna, a print journal for women and about women, in January 2011. The word adanna is of Nigerian origin and means “her father’s daughter.” Redman-Waldeyer says this name speaks to the mission of the journal: to bring attention to the fact that, historically, women have fought for equality only to find that equality means freedom to act like men, not freedom to create a unique and separate outlet for expression. With Adanna, Redman-Waldeyer hopes to create such a literary space.

Redman-Waldeyer is a poet and Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Passaic County Community College in New Jersey. She has published three poetry collections, Frame by Frame, Gravel, and Eve Asks (all with Muse-Pie Press) and has appeared in Schuylkill Valley Journal, The Texas Review, Verse Wisconsin, and others.

Carol Smallwood: What inspired you to start a literary journal for women?

Christine Redman-Waldeyer: After I had my third child in 2008, I found myself cut off from writing groups and retreats, which had, in many cases, consisted largely of women. In particular, I missed going to a regular weekend getaway founded by the poets Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Laura Boss. Those retreats helped my writing life but also connected me to other women writers. I wanted to find a way to reconnect — but from home. I explored the idea of beginning a print journal and reached out to Diane Lockwood, a New Jersey poet who founded an annual reading for women. She agreed to be Adanna’s first guest editor. Since launching in 2011, I have met writers and editors from across the nation and even across the world.

CS: What is your vision for the journal?

CRW: Before starting Adanna, I’d been asked to help with a number of online journals. While Adanna does feature poetry online, I had — and still have — my heart set on print. I feel it’s important to make that investment in the writers. To me, print says: Your work means something. Maybe that’s an outdated thought, but when writers get together to read their work, I am thrilled to hand them a book, a published, printed version. It is a celebration. So print is part of my vision. Another part is including men. While there are a number of women’s literary journals out there, few include male writers. I’m reminded of dinner parties where the wives collect in one room and husbands in another. I want to create a space where women and men can talk about women’s issues together.

CS: What obstacles did you face in getting the journal started?

CRW: I was lucky in that I did not face any real difficulties. As a college professor I had advised over journals in the past and knew what logistics were necessary to get it started. It was just a matter of doing it. Once I made it public, I was committed. And once I asked Diane Lockward to be Adanna’s first guest editor, I knew there was no turning back.

CS: How much time does it take to edit the journal and how do you balance that with motherhood?

CRW: I balance a lot with motherhood; it’s a natural part of my life. When my first two children were born I was in graduate school and teaching part time. Now I teach full time and have decided to do a second doctorate in educational leadership. I push myself but I also have had a very supportive family. I make time for the journal. Each issue takes about two months after the submission period closes to go to layout and then to print. It’s manageable because with nearly every issue, I have had guest editors and editorial help. This is a great way for writers and editors to get involved without making a long-term commitment. I also learn from the other editors.

CS: What do you look for in submissions to Adanna?

I look for topics that challenge the reader to better understand women’s experiences from the everyday to the dramatic. If the topic is engaging, authoritative, and informative, but the writing needs work, I am often willing to help the author edit and revise. Topics on motherhood and marriage are on my radar because it’s my here-and-now, but I also want to hear about women’s growth into femininity, their earliest memories and recognition of that role. Of course, I also look for writers who have done their homework — read and followed our submission guidelines.

CS: What are you writing and editing now, besides Adanna?

CRW: I am co-writing a book for Arcadia Publishing about the riots that occurred in Asbury Park, New Jersey during 1970. I grew up listening to stories about that time; most of my family was born and raised in Monmouth County, New Jersey. I am also co-editing [with Carol Smallwood] a collection of essays called Writing After Retirement: Tips by Successful Retired Writers (Scarecrow Press). Through Adanna, I have met many writers who either began their writing careers after retirement or refined their focus after retirement so I look forward to reading and sharing the work of writers who have successfully taken that plunge.

CS: What writers have influenced you the most?

CRW: I always felt most connected to Linda Pastan’s poetry. She visits themes such as motherhood that are real and understandable to me. As a child I was caught up with the Nancy Drew series which I think helped me create an outlet for adventure: girls could do what boys could do in those books. In college, the metaphysical poets baffled me but I connected with Shakespeare’s comedies. I like to find meaning in the everyday events of our lives, even if in an episode of Seinfeld.

CS: What classes have helped you most as a writer?

CRW: My publisher, R.G. Rader, founder of Muse-Pie Press, has helped me the most with editing my work. He taught me to keep my voice while revising my work. In a sense I’ve been in class with him over the last five or six years. I’ve also learned a lot from Dr. Laura Winters who oversaw my creative dissertation at Drew University. She always asked, “What is the author demanding from the reader?” She made me realize that spending time with literature is important. The more you revisit a work, the more you are enlightened.

CS: What advice would you give other writers?

CRW: Write because you love it, don’t be led by your ego. It is hard once you go public with your writing; rejection letters are more common than acceptance letters in the beginning. Attend readings and workshops. Even if you are published, you can always learn from other writers.

Carol Smallwood co-edited Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching which is listed as “Best Books for Writers” by Poets & Writers Magazine; Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing; Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity, and Other Realms, which received a Pushcart nomination. Women, Work, and the Web: How the Web Creates Entrepreneurial Opportunities and Encourages Women’s Studies is forthcoming from Scarecrow Press.

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Thank you, Carol and Christine, for this thoughtful interview. I am fascinated to learn how other mother-writers balance their passions and love what Christine has to say about creating a space where female and male voices are heard together. I look forward to learning more about Adanna.
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