Oyster River Pages: What are you currently working on?
Minna Dubin: This piece is excerpted from a manuscript I’m working on getting published, currently titled, “Mom Lists: A No-Bullshit Journey Through Pregnancy & Early Parenthood.” I’m currently working on the introduction. Because the entire book is made up of these lists, the introduction feels really important. It’s the one place I have to say what I want to say without having to adhere to the list format or a list theme. I feel all this pressure, like, “What do I need the reader to know!?” And also, I don’t want to explain myself or the book too much. I want the work to stand on its own.
ORP: What advice would you give someone who has never been published?
MD: Submit, submit submit! I used to feel really intimidated by the writers around me and all the publishing they were doing. I built up a them/me binary in my head that translated to “real writers” (them) and fake writer (me). This was pretty damaging and, also, I think, really common. Writing is one of those tough careers where you feel like a phony without publishing, which isn’t right. All you have to do to be a writer is write. Once I started submitting, I started publishing, which is definitely a high. Of course I also get a ton of rejections as well (you should see my rejections folder on my email!). But that’s part of the submitting game. I feel like those rejections are badges of honor. I think I wasn’t submitting much in my twenties and early thirties because I didn’t even know how one goes about submitting. So I guess my advice would be to ask the people you know who are submitting where they hear about submissions and where they like to submit to.
ORP: Who are your biggest influences?
MD: Dorothy Allison, Toni Morrison, June Jordan, Marge Piercy, Judy Blume, Eve Ensler, Ralph Ellison, Kim Chernin, and so many others. I was really transformed by writing that talked about things that weren’t talked about—race, sex, abuse—and also by writers who had the power to write conversationally and not flowery, but the writing was still absolutely beautiful. I’ve always wanted to write how I speak. I often read my writing aloud when editing. It feels really important that it sounds like me. So reading writers who wrote like that, whose work moved me, was very empowering for me to know that I could be a writer as I am.
ORP: What does becoming a “better” writer or artist look like to you? How do you define success?
MD: Becoming a better artist for me is about continuing to write, to write more, and to work that muscle. To read more. To connect with other artists and be involved with the arts. I write more when I am inspired. Writing is such a solo act, and I’ve always been one of those people who have to trick myself to write (like working out, I never want to do it, but I’m so glad I did after), so having writing groups or artist friends and community really helps push me to work on my projects. I think success is a moving target. My goal has always been to publish a book. Now that I’m getting close to doing that, I’m starting to see that I just have to keep resetting my goal to the next thing that excites me.
ORP: If you could tell your younger creative self anything, what would it be?
MD: To follow my creative whims. Nothing is outside the realm of possibility.
Minna Dubin is a writer, performer, and educator. She is the founder of #MomLists, a Bay Area literary public art project. Her work has been featured in Parents, MUTHA Magazine, Huffington Post, and various literary magazines. When not chasing her toddler in circles around the dining room table, she is eating chocolate in the bathroom while texting. You can follow her work on Instagram: @momlists and on Facebook: Facebook.com/momlists, and read her moving essay, “Passing Down Passing,” in our current issue.