Writing Openly About An Open Marriage: An Interview with debut Memoir Writer Melissa Mathewson
An Applegate Valley resident and faculty member at Southern Oregon University, Melissa Mathewson recently released Tracing The Desire, a tell-all collection of essays that amount to a memoir about her decision.
At 6 pm Saturday, September 28 at The Shiny Barn (724 Yale Creek Road, Jacksonville) she is hosting a release party, and will read from the book at Bloomsbury Books (290 E. Main St., Ashland) at 7 pm Thursday, October 3.
Rogue Valley Messenger: Writing a memoir is, obviously, very personal. Did you recall any conversations with yourself – or anyone else – before deciding to share these intimate moments of your life?
Melissa Mathewson: I don’t hesitate in writing intimate moments as long as I believe that I’ve written something beautiful and in an artful way. The power of great writing (and storytelling) is its ability to reveal something new to the reader. Some new understanding. Some new insight. I think the most compelling writing is the writing that reveals a particular truth, even if that truth and story is intimate and deeply personal. My interest as a writer is to connect with the reader and most often, the point of connection occurs when I produce work that reveals the self in a vulnerable way and in that revelation, I hope a reader can feel transformed or changed in some way.
RVM: Were there any reservations – and how have those concerns played out (or not)?
MM: I was aware that writing about open marriage might make some people uncomfortable as it is still considered unconventional and unfortunately, there is stigma attached to that type of relationship model, though I think that is starting to change. I had no reservations about publishing the book. I think the book tells a story that readers will resonate with.
RVM: How did you connect with Split Lip, the publishing house?
MM: I knew of Split Lip Press through the literary community and when they had an open submission period, I submitted my manuscript. They are an excellent independent press publishing important books from great authors. I encourage everyone to take a look at their catalogue!
RVM: What are you teaching?
MM: This academic year, I will be teaching media literacy, multi-media writing, social media, environmental journalism, and interpersonal communication. I have a one-year appointment in the Communication Department filling in for a faculty member on sabbatical. After this year, I don’t know where or what I’ll be doing! Hopefully, still teaching!
RVM: Are you worried students might look at you differently knowing something more intimate about you?
MM: No, I am not worried. I think students will be inspired by a professor who has written a book about important subjects like marriage, family, love, etc. In my experience teaching writing and what I always encourage my students to do is to reveal the truths that are most important to them. The more honest we can be in our writing, the more we have the ability to meaningfully connect with each other and create stronger communities centered on empathy.
RVM: Any next books in mind?
MM: Yes, I’ve been writing in pieces and fragments over the last year on various subjects related to beauty, the erotic in nature, gender, and the intimate rural self. I am not sure what form it will take yet—but perhaps another fragmented, hybrid essay collection.