I first met Lita Kurth in 2014 at Flash Fiction Forum, a monthly submission-based literary series in San Jose that she co-founded and curates with fellow writer Tania Martin. Lita is a Renaissance woman: writer, teacher, community organizer, activist, parent. Her work has been published in Fjords Review, Brain,Child, Main Street Rag, Tikkun, NewVerseNews, Blast Furnace, ellipsis…literature and art, Compose, Redux, Raven Chronicles, Tattoo Highway, Composite Arts, Verbatim Poetry, the Santa Clara Review, Gyroscope Review, Vermont Literary Review, DNA, and others. She contributes to Tikkun.org/tikkundaily, TheReviewReview.net, and classism.org.
Anyone who knows her knows how successful she is at bringing people together. It is thanks to her and Tania that Play On Words got to perform at Anne and Mark's Art Party last year--a wonderful event. When I knew I wanted to start interviewing writers with children, she was an obvious choice. A million thanks to her for taking time out of her busy day to answer some questions!
How many children do you have? How old are they?
I have one daughter, Lilyanne, who is eighteen and a freshman in college, away from home, this year.
How many hats do you wear in your household? I.e. how many gigs do you have?
Cleaner, cooker, shopper, maker and planner of holidays, gardener, sender of cards and packages, noticer of things that need repair, clutterer, cat entertainer—and designated political activist. I actually spend a ton of time on political stuff: meetings, writing, info sharing and belong to several organizations dedicated to issues like housing, wage theft, progressive candidates, etc. Any leftover time is spent co-running Flash Fiction Forum, teaching writing workshops in my house and online (I also teach part-time at De Anza College), encouraging other writers and trying to attend as many local literary events as possible. And reading! When something has to give, it’s usually sleep and then my sanity.
How long have you been a writer?
Maybe since my haiku in fourth grade, but definitely since winning fourth prize (and $15 and a plaque!) in an essay contest sponsored by the Rex Rod and Gun Club on the weighty topic: who needs conservation? My brilliant idea was to write it as a poem. Luckily, I only remember one line: “Have you ever seen a forest God has made in all His grace?” I can only imagine what the other entries were like.
Tell me about your relationship to writing before you had children.
I worked full-time and more than full-time as a community college writing teacher before having my daughter. I wrote my first (unpublished) novel in 15-minute increments before running off to teach the first of four daily classes at two or three institutions. Summers I was usually unemployed, but having the entire day was also not good for me as a writer.
When I had my daughter, I actually was able to cut down to part-time work and be a part-time mom. That worked well for me on the whole although middle-class parenthood has metastasized into way more than a full-time job.
How did you expect parenthood to impact your writing? Did it?
I assumed I’d get virtually nothing written the first year; I wanted to commit myself to motherhood. I was an old mother, however, so I already had a career I liked (even if I had too much of it) and I had a backlog of old writing to work on when I had time. Plus, I enjoyed very much writing about my daughter and motherhood. I published a few things including an essay called “Momnipotence” in Brain Child.
Have you shared your writing with your children? If not, do you plan to someday?
Quite a bit of it. I often ask my daughter and husband to listen to any flash fiction or other work I’m going to perform. They are both excellent editors. I haven’t shared writing about my lowest lows or majorly adult content, however. But I sometimes wonder if my daughter will at all be interested in having my journals one day (assuming the Library of Congress does not contact me about acquiring them).
Is there a poem, short story, novel or play that you return to when you are stuck in your writing?
I wish there were! I read psycho-spiritual books regularly which helps sometimes. I read essays by other writers which helps a lot. I recommend John Steinbeck’s two journals, one he wrote while writingThe Grapes of Wrath and the other while writing East of Eden. I took over responsibility for a Facebook group (not that there’s anything to manage, really) I enjoyed called Paper Our Walls With Rejection Slips II where we faithfully report our failures and rejections in an atmosphere of encouragement and sometimes outrage.
How has your approach to the artistic process changed since becoming a parent? (If it has?)
Parenthood enhanced my community connections and those connections with fellow parents grew into the core of my writing community! Those people and a few others from other segments of my life grew into a web that is both personal and artistic-- and vital to my sense of being part of the South Bay writers’ and artists’ community, a community I am so proud of.
What piece of culture are you obsessed with right now?
Recently, I’ve been obsessed with the way political trauma has expressed itself in the arts (and also the way much of it is not yet finding expression). At this very moment, I’ve been writing a series of extremely unorthodox Lenten reflections and I’m obsessed with the role of women in the Easter story; I’m also obsessed with the deplorable sinking of employee rights and rise of income inequality, the way so many communities are left to struggle, suffer, meet impossible demands, and then get punished. Those thorny human problems concern me greatly and often make their way into my work.
Do you have any projects or publications you’d like to tell me about? Or goals for future projects/publications?
I’m trying to send out my finished but not published novel, The Rosa Luxemburg Exotic Dance Collective. I so deeply hate the process of approaching agents and writing query letters that sometimes I can’t make myself do it though I feel my novel is exactly right for this political moment. I’ve begun yet another novel that’s more personal and deals with the interpersonal struggles that arise in spiritual and political communities as well as the end of a marriage. And I always have a million small projects cooking!
Thanks, Julia, for connecting our communities through your blog.
Thank you, Lita!
Are you a writer who is also a parent? I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to contact me and I'll follow up with some interview questions.