Tarra Stevenson Writes Novel
Stevenson shows off her “author pose” in her office.
By Caroline P.
April 23, 2019
After years of teaching, having a baby, and watching her students pursue creative work, Tarra Stevenson went back to school and received her MFA in fiction writing. During her graduate program, she was able to write both a screenplay and a novel and is now in the process of rewriting and looking towards publishing her book entitled Mother Tongue.
The book explores the role of women in American society, specifically as voiceless characters in their stories. Stevenson has always been drawn to feminist literature, part of why she elects to teach at an all-girls school.
“I think that women’s bodies are political, and I think they are always political,” Stevenson said. “So I think by association […] women’s stories are political.”
In Mother Tongue, Stevenson creates a world in which women’s tongues have been cut out. The cut out tongues becomes a metaphor for Stevenson to analyze silent forms of language and communication. Her inspiration comes from politics and the state of women’s current voicelessness, as well as from the students at Westridge.
The topic can often be emotional for Stevenson, as she notes that it is important to recognize “that there are places in the world where women don’t have the opportunities like we have here.” She is “dreading, but also anticipating a world where women don’t have a voice.”
Though writing is one of Stevenson’s passions, her work on Mother Tongue has taken much time and energy and has not been without its struggles.
“The hardest part of writing a book is writing,” Stevenson said. “I think people automatically think that you are an English teacher, that you love writing, but I think writing is the hardest part of my day, and time to write, I think that’s a real challenge.”
Writing is full of challenges, but it also allows Stevenson to think through difficult topics and process new concepts of language. Sitting down to write allows space and time to fully understand new things, which she believes makes her a better teacher, mother, writer and friend.
Stevenson credits receiving critical feedback and reading other books as some of the most important parts of her writing process. Being engaged in outside literature allows her to think critically and creatively about her own work in a very productive way. It also allows for inspiration, Margaret Atwood and Aimee Bender being two of them. Many of the names in her book are inspired by women writers who have influenced her. Stevenson also drew from scenes in her life. Westridge even makes an appearance through the pseudonym “Eastridge.”
Stevenson has begun the process of sending her book to agents, is deep into feedback and editing, and hopes to release it to the public sometime in the near future.