Interview by Tessa Wild, The Writer's Center
Tessa Wild: Why did you decide to write A Woman of a Certain Age?
Mary K. O’Melveny: Being one myself, I have been writing for some time about issues that affect women as they age, including their “visibility” and place in the world. While the book includes “personal” stories about the writer, I believe the issues and topics are experienced far more broadly by women of many ages. (And men can relate as well!)
TW: How did your time at TWC impact your writing? Did it impact your career in any way?
MO: I have taken several poetry workshops at TWC and found them helpful in allowing me to improve my skills as a writer.
TW: What kind of impact are you hoping your book of poetry will have on the world?
MO: As noted above, age-related issues affect or will affect everyone. I hope my take on personal stories as well as more “worldly” events will add to the dialogue about how we can make our world kinder and understand that we all share things in common, such as our reaction to losing parents, illness, feeling validated, coping with a rapidly changing universe. Some poems in the book, however, are also meditations on the state of the world in which we are all struggling to survive, regardless of age.
TW: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
MO: I think there are three answers to this questions: (1) Deciding when a poem is “done” and ready to be read/heard by others. (2) Being willing to “take chances.” Not trying to wrap everything up at the end of the poem. (I am a retired lawyer so my legal writing always required “conclusions,” a habit that is hard to break.) (3) Finally, accepting “rejections” and continuing on with a clear heart.
TW: Did publishing your first book change your writing process?
MO: It felt very validating (see the last part of my answer above).
TW: What are you working on now?
MO: I am working on a new book titled “Merging Star Hypotheses.” It is a mix of personal and political poetic responses to our troublesome times. I am always inspired/outraged by something in the news.
TW: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
MO: Write every day. The world is filled with poetry prompts. Also, try to find a supportive writer’s group that is both “safe” and able to give constructive feedback.
TW: Is there anything else you'd like to share?
MO: I live part of the time in Washington DC and part of the time in a country home near Woodstock, NY. The contrast between these two places could not be starker -- so my “place” at any moment often informs the topics I decide to write about. My Woodstock-based/inspired poems are a lot more about the natural world. The DC-based ones often focus more on whether that world will survive.
Mary K. O’Melveny's poems have been published in various print and online journals as well as blog sites such as “Writing in a Woman’s Voice” and “The New Verse News.” Her poem “Cease Fire” won the 2017 Raynes Poetry Competition sponsored by Jewish Currents Magazine. Her poem “A Short Bibliography of Secrets” (included in her book) was a finalist in the 2018 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest as well as a finalist for the 2017 Pangaea Prize sponsored by The Poet’s Billow.
Learn more about A Woman of a Certain Age and order a copy here: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/a-woman-of-a-certain-age-by-mary-k-omelveny/