So, I interviewed Kathy Soper the other day. For those not in the know, she is the editor of Segullah. She’s got seven kids (yep, she’s an angel), and she has managed to keep us all on task at Segullah (She’s an organized angel)! Here was our conversation.
Okay. I’m Kathy, soon to be thirty-five years old. Happy to be LDS, happy to be married to Reed Soper, happy even to be living in Utah. But I do miss the trees–though not the humidity–of Maryland, my childhood homeland. And I admit I like Salt Lake valley better than her much-maligned sister. I had a rocky start with Provo culture when I arrived in ’89, but I ended up marrying my home teacher, so it all ended well. I have a BA in English, and I’m interested in pursuing an MFA in creative non-fiction someday, when I’m no longer inundated with sippy cups and diapers. I have seven kids; the oldest just turned 13 and the youngest is almost a year old.
How does a woman with seven kids manage to be editor of a literary journal?
I ignore my kids a lot. Seriously. Of course, it’s all relative–I think I ignore them a normal, healthy amount. But in my early years of motherhood I was a total cruise director, so it’s taken me a while to be comfortable with any ignoring.
What spurred the change?
Crashing after 10 years of trying to be a model LDS mom. Over those years I had heard hundreds of ideas for raising a super-spiritual family, and I felt duty-bound to do them all. At once. After my sixth child was born, I was burned out. Literally. I was trailing ashes wherever I went. Then I began writing. I wrote my first piece in 2003, Shaulee’s Door. The writing was very therapeutic, a way to work through and understand a series of life-changing experiences. It was incredibly demanding, yet rewarding. I don’t think there’s anything more interesting than plumbing daily life for its meaning, finding connections, making discoveries.
Why did you decide to start a journal?
I like to think big. There weren’t many steps between writing my first essay and launching the journal. I got a little writing group going with some very talented friends, and before much of anything happened, we were expanding our plans and creating a publication.
But there are so many other independent LDS-based publications. Why add another?
There’s no other forum like this one. We’re unabashedly loyal to the Church, its leadership, and its established doctrines and standards. Yet we’re not afraid to ask tough questions and look at complex issues. Some of the heavy topics we’ve addressed are homosexuality, sexual abuse, infertility, and death of a child–each of these pieces has been solidly faith-promoting. Our upcoming issue includes hope-filled stories about abortion and mental illness. This is not your typical Relief Society fodder. But it helps to build the kingdom in a rich, exciting way.
By cracking the “Sunday mask” that many of us wear when we discuss spiritual things. As LDS we take great stock in a black-and-white realm of universal truths. Yet we live those truths in complex lives full of struggles, emotions, questions. When we’re open with each other about the ups and downs of our lives, we can encourage and comfort each other, and we can celebrate the joys of mortality, as well as eternity.
How would you describe Segullah in 10 words or less?
Insightful and inspiring. Probing, yet positive. Artistic but accessible. (Do I get bonus points for alliteration?)
And how about you?
Kathy Soper in 10 words or less. Oh, that’s a lot harder. Hmm. Recovering guilt hog, fledgling Christian, unconventional wife/mother, internet addict…
How are you unconventional?
I’m not big on domestic arts. If I never had to cook another meal out of duty, I’d be ecstatic. I only bathe my toddlers when absolutely necessary. I only garden at gunpoint. I dust maybe twice a year. I deeply admire women who dig homemaking, but I’d much rather be writing a book. Also, I’m a big goof. I managed to squelch my goofiness for several years, but now its back with a vengeance. Ten years ago I played Primary CDs for my kids, now I’m more likely to join them in a lip synch of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
I’ll bet they love it.
Yeah, they’re pretty much doomed to be goofs too. It’s a family thing. I once told my kids that I married their father because we were both weird in the same way. About half of our dialogue consists of quotes from TV commercials, films, and song lyrics. The mid-eighties is our specialty. It’s gotten worse the longer we’ve been married. I fear that by the time we’re sixty, we’ll be incapable of normal speech altogether.
So how does he feel about your writing projects?
He’s supportive. He knows how much happier I am when I have something to work on other than potty-training. But he’d be happier if I could type and scratch his back at the same time.
What have you been working on lately?
Writing a solid essay takes a lot of time and sweat, so my collection of works is small, but steadily growing. I’ve done some pieces for Segullah. I blog as Queen Serene on wordpress.com. I’ve just finished editing (and contributing to) a book titled Gifts, a collection of personal stories written by mothers of children with Down syndrome (my baby, Thomas, has DS). I’ve also begun a solo book project. And with the Segullah staff members, I’m working on an anthology of personal essays and poetry about the early years of motherhood.
Thanks for the chat. Readers, feel free to ask questions of your own!