Friday, April 29, 2011

Interview Friday with SFC Education Writer Alice Knisley Matthias

Alice Knisley Matthias, Educational Writer of SFC, lives in the New York metropolitan area with her husband, children and floppy eared mixed breed dog. She holds a BA in Theater and a Master's degree in Elementary Education. Alice is the author of a newspaper food column and children's fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

VS: I want to thank you Alice for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. I know being a parent and writer can be hard and I find myself asking if I'm giving my three children enough attention throughout the day. I am sure you have been in my shoes from time to time. So to start here is the first question…

How many children do you have and what are their ages?

Alice: I have two children who are nine and four years old.

VS: As a mom, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Alice: I try and find where I can mesh my writing and my family time as much as I can.  For example, I may read something in the newspaper and talk to my children about it so that we can learn something new and then I will roll it into something to write about. 

VS: When did you start writing and what inspired you to write?

Alice: When I got my Master’s degree in Elementary Education one of the required courses was basically researching and putting together the first chapters of a thesis.  But it wasn’t a requirement to finish it.  I did a ton of work for the course and I wanted to complete the thesis. I asked the new head of the Education department if I could finish it and I did. 

The inspiration to write comes from reading good work by other writers.  There is that feeling of reading a description of something that resonates with you that helps you with your craft.  Reading good writing makes your own skills better.

VS: Now you are also a member of the SFC Team. Can you share with us a little about what you do?

Alice: I am delighted to write about topics for SFC as the Education Writer.  As a parent, I am always reading about education in newspapers and magazines and watching news programs.

VS: What is a typical writing day like for you and is your family supportive of your writing?

Alice: Right now my youngest is in preschool and my older child is in third grade.  The preschool is a half-day program so I try to work on writing during that time. I always have ideas of what I want to write about and one thought may lead to another idea that takes me in a different direction.  I am always ripping articles out of the newspaper in the morning to use for research.
Nothing is more thrilling for me than to have my children excited about something I have accomplished with my writing.

VS: What was the first thing you ever had published? What do you mostly write?

Alice: The first piece I consider to be published was my Master’s thesis.  After all the work I did seeing my name in gold letters on the leather binding seemed like the real finish line.  When I wanted to get into writing children’s literature the first piece that I had published was a poem in SFC.  To see my words paired with a beautiful illustration was a great feeling. 
I enjoy writing nonfiction and poetry.  I love the “song” in rhyme.

VS: Can you share with us why you love writing and working with children’s lit?

Alice: Children’s literature is just such a magical genre to be a part of.  I loved to read as a child and a favorite book of mine was “The Secret Garden.”  I had this image in my mind of what the garden looked like and the scent of the flowers.  That’s what I love about literature.  In fiction writing each reader will have a mental image of a setting and the personalities of the characters.  That is the reason why I usually can’t watch a movie that has been made based on a book I enjoyed.  If the interpretation of the characters and setting are different it changes my perspective.  For children, good nonfiction should be able to hold the interest of an adult reader as well.

VS: What do you enjoy most about writing? What is most difficult about writing?

Alice: The part of writing that I enjoy the most is editing something over and over again until I have that moment of satisfaction when I feel “yes, that’s it.” 
The most difficult part of writing, for me, is clearing my head and focusing on one thing at a time.

VS: What is the best writing advice you ever received?

Alice: The best piece of advice about writing is to let something “cool.”  You can’t be objective about your own work in the heat of the moment.  Even if you think you have just finished a Pulitzer Prize winning piece you need to sleep on it.  Something can leap out at you in a new reading of your work the next morning. Good and bad.

VS: Tell us about your writing space?

Alice: I don’t have a laptop because I want to have one place where I am committed to work.  When I am there I am focused and when I walk away I am done. My computer is located in front of a window where I look out onto an old stone fieldhouse and a park across the street. I love to garden so I enjoy being able to watch the seasons pass and the view is constantly changing.  I keep some sort of flower on my desk at all times.  At the moment I have a glass vase with a cutting from the purple lilac tree that began to bloom yesterday.

VS: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Alice: I am working on many different things.  I have an idea for a children’s book that was inspired by my older child’s interest in birds. 

VS: What would we be surprised to learn about you?

Alice: I don’t text and I rarely use my cell phone. I communicate by e-mail and personal conversation.

VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?

Alice: For me, personally, a good read will always be a tangible newspaper, magazine or book in my hands. 

VS: It has been great having you here today Alice. And for those stopping by, you can always learn more about the SFC Team at and all the many things we have going on. 


  1. It's very tough for working house wives to do writing work. But it's all about commitment and dedication. The most important thing for women is manage their time. Having kids it's not a big problem. But the most important thing is how you manage your time.

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