Maureen Mcdole Founder of Keep St. Pete Lit

In one word Describe yourself.


Do you have a favorite word or phrase?


Who is your favorite author?

Marion Zimmer Bradley “Mists of Avalon”. “A Gift From the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh is my go to.

What is favorite thing about St. Pete?

it’s  home, it’s beautiful, and we have a really strong art scene as well as a strong spirit of collaboration. Let’s see, I am 42 and a lot of people of my age my generation are really starting to make things happen here.

On your Instagram you say “I am constantly on the lookout for examples of beauty and truth.” Do you have any examples of your own?

I live in Roser Park right now and I live in a building built in 1933 and there are old street lights. It has made me slow down to almost feel like I am living in the past. If you take time to be in the silence and be in nature there is magic everywhere.

In your mission, for keep st. Pete lit  it says “We envision an arts-centric urban area that celebrates the literary past and fosters the literary future of St. Petersburg.” Can you go into depth in what that means to you?

I am poet and I was on the poetry scene which wasn’t very big at the time from 2006 for about 7 years. I realized that unless I knew someone specifically doing an open mic I didn’t really know about it.

There was not a larger literary dialogue going on in the city and as a reader and writer I felt very strongly you can’t have a strong art community without a strong literary component.

I mean I go to New York city every summer just to go to the book stores and I just really wanted our organization to be based in St. Petersburg, but  I wanted it to have an international appeal.

You started Summerfolk Press in 2006 which debuted your first poetry book “exploring my options” was there a reason behind publishing your own book and how long did it take to start Summer Folk Press?

I started Summerfolk press with my Ex husband and it was basically to keep creative control. I had heard of several people that had books published and they didn’t like the cover art and after putting in all that energy to create a book to not have that the actual visual representation reflecting your vision was just not my vibe at all.

Plus my husband was graphic designer and an artist. He laid out and did all the cover art for the book in house. It was more of an experiment to see if we could pull it off. We actually published two of my books and published a third. A book of short stories by a local author at the time Mark Haber. He now runs Brazos bookstore in Houston his book of short stories is actually being translated into Spanish right now with a famous south american publishing company. So, it was great to give his book life.

There are a lot of upfront costs in publishing but you get the majority of the profit from your book you have it on hand, and you don’t have to order it from the publisher.

I am somebody who is not really into red tape.

Your first book Exploring My Options was that something you were working on or did it just evolve out of a collection of poetry?

It evolved into a book. Some of the poems may come across as juvenile, but at the time I felt strongly that they deserved a voice. You grow as a person you grow as a writer I just felt everyone of those poems belonged in the book at that time but they were poems I had written throughout my 20’s.

The second book was really a concentrated decision to be a poet, and really reflected my life at the time.

The third book is constantly in the works. I need to just sit down and do it  I am not crazy about editing and I need to find someone to help me design it, and I think I have found that person. So, maybe when it gets quiet over the summer.

In your poem ‘What If’ from Exploring My Options. You speak about the imbalance of equality between men and women. As a female what challenges have you faced in your career as an poet, author, speaker, business woman, an organizer?

I am not encountering a lot of that as a business person I think in the non-profit world most non-profits are run by women and most foundations are run by men.

So, there is a hierarchy already in place from where the money comes from where there all these women running all these organizations of service and all the people who are controlling the money are men. You go to a grant meeting and every person who is there running these non-profits are women.

That is one thing I have noticed as a business person.

As far as the poetry world the only time I have ever really felt that issue are sometimes at spoken word events they can be very masculine which isn’t bad, I love men, but I have had times when I am reading my poetry and some has jumped in right after me or not respected the space.

Actually I don’t know if its my energy? I am very aware of the space I occupy so I haven’t really encountered a lot of sexism. I choose to surround myself with people who are enlightened. If I do encounter that I call it out right away, like, ‘you really did just talk to me like that you think that is okay really? Like really?’

I have pretty healthy respect for men I grew up with uncles who… didn’t have boundaries lets just say that.

They had very strong personalities so I learned at an early age how to stand up for myself I have been fortunate I haven’t been a victim of a violent crime, most women I know have.

I am raising a daughter so I am very aware.  I let her walk in to a 7/11 by herself yesterday and it made me really nervous, but I don’t want her to be scared.

Under the current political administration do you believe that women are going to face new challenges?

Oh yeah! Basically the current political administration wants to strip away everything that I think makes this country “great” to use that term, but I also think this a wonderful opportunity to rise into our power.

I don’t think we would have elected or allowed someone like this to come into power if we weren’t all wounded and living in our power. He tapped right into whatever fears this country had and laziness. Only half the population showed up to vote that is laziness not using our constitutional rights as citizens. So, I am angry he got elected but I think it is our fault in a lot of ways.

I don’t think it is my fault because I did go out an vote and I heavily spoke my mind about how I feel, but there is a lot of people who allowed him to get into office.

I hope that the divine feminine rises up and takes their power back because we hold up half the world.

The number one way I believe we do hold ourselves down is how we treat each other. We are trained to do that I have a poem about that called “Hey Ladies” we hold each other down.

We think there is only so much room at the top, because we have been taught that.

There is plenty of room, for everybody.

What do you think the biggest barrier is to female leadership?

I have a friend that works for a local company and they make sexual comments such as “oh if you had gone down on him maybe he would play with us” she just tolerates it as a boys will be boys mentality.

I don’t think enough women stand up for themselves and I don’t think enough men treat women with respect. There are definitely learned behaviors of what is acceptable and not acceptable. I think women in a lot of ways are programmed to be passive.

Our voices are silenced very young and when we do speak out, there is the white women, but there is also the angry black women.

Black women feel if they express their opinion at all they are angry that is what is shown in the media and there is the angry black man who will hurt you there are systematic stereotypes that keep people down.

I think that is why it is so important to get quiet within yourself and really figure out where your truth is and act from that in a place of integrity everyday.

We are wounded; Trump is one of the most wounded people on the planet or he wouldn’t be doing the horrible things that he is doing. He wouldn’t think it is okay to sign into law just horrific things that are taking away peoples rights unless you are a  deeply wounded person, because it is not about religion with him he doesn’t care.

He just wants power.

1A) Maureen should I take a number? Haha.

What do you mean? (followed by laughter as Maureen remembers older poems  written)

1B) This poem from exploring my options struck a chord in me. With all societal pressures telling you to live a certain way the path of individuality can be difficult. What advice would you give to poets authors and speakers of the world?

My motto is what Katharine Hepburn says “if you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.”

I think you need to figure out what is your truth, which is what you are doing right now this important to you.

I think you need to figure out where you will best serve your gifts. I think we all come here with certain gifts to share and it is very important to dig deep and figure out what  it is you want to spend your time doing. People will resonate with that integrity and genuineness and you can’t grow something unless you are really invested in it. It is a lot of work to till the soil and wait while the seeds sprouts.

A seed totally destroys itself to become a new thing, it is hard work.

Especially if you don’t come from a lot of money or if you are pioneering something. It is especially lonely if you are really driven.

A lot of people just kind of go with the status quo they don’t want to think too much they don’t want to be challenged too much, they want to go work their job.

Some of it is from necessity, some people need to work two or three jobs because they have multiple kids I was fortunate enough that for whatever reason I had this iron clad will. I was going to do what I needed to do and my circumstances surrounding me enabled me to do that. It has been lonely, it has been challenging.

It is still challenging.

I am single parent, I have had help. I have wonderful community around me that believe in the vision believe in what I am doing.

You are the five people you surround yourself with. Make sure you are hanging out with those people who reflect where you want to go or who you want to be in your life.  The majority of my life has been spent being in crappy relationships just because that was my learned behavior I have wasted a lot of time…I wouldn’t say wasted because I learned a lot in everything ,but I had spent a lot of time being in wrapped up in people who had no desire to help themselves.

Did you imagine you would be where you are now after your first book published?

I thought I would have a publishing company I thought that would be really cool. I didn’t know if I thought I would have a book store.

I actually was in NY city about 2 years ago and I was taking all these pictures of different book stores and someone asked are you opening up a book store?

As soon as I came back Mitzi Gordon at Blue Garden Center said hey we have a space do you want to open a book store and I said sure it would be fun ! We have a book store here at the Morean Arts Center and where we have people donating books [etc…]

Did you ever second guess yourself along the way?

Oh yeah, but it kind of feels like a lifetime ago. Yeah I kept my influences, I read a lot and I didn’t allow the voices in me that would fill me with doubt I just kind of did it I do a lot of things out sheer curiosity just kind of like “OKAY”.

We are  currently working on a sixteen day literary festival and I am just going to try it I am going to see. I don’t have expectations, I don’t think it needs to prove anything, I am just going to get a bunch of these different organizations together and we are going to do this literary fest. Like the book store I said “Hey” let’s just try it it might not work so I just let my curiosity lead and that leaves open space for beginners mind and all the different things.

Second book I was a little more seasoned that one took a little more will than the first one but I would do it all over again.

In your second book published by summerfolk press in 2011 longing for the deep the cover looks like a Koi fish, which I understand symbolize good fortune, success, prosperity, longevity, courage, ambition, perseverance. Is that what you were trying to convey and if so could you explain what the challenges you were facing at the time.

I am one of those people whenever I have a problem or a challenge I go down to the abyss I go down to the very bottom of whatever it is to explore it to the deepest farthest reaches.

I don’t like to skim the surface of anything relationships there is no point to it if we are just going to be shallow, but when you are younger that wasn’t an easy road to take when you are a teenager wanting to talk about deep philosophical things and everybody wanted to be on drugs or watch the television.

No one wanted to go deep, even now it’s hard finding people that really want to go deep with you, but I see as I am going to go down to the very depths and I am going to hit bottom but you can come back.

Instead of just skimming the surface.

I want to get to the marrow of the stuff. I didn’t really think about the koi fish but it just appealed to me with the concept of the deep end.

Me: Yeah it takes strength to go there.

Yeah people don’t live there I only have maybe two friends in my 42 years maybe one or two that can go there with me without judging or saying you are too much that can really exist there with me.

I am very deep I am always taking in everything what is the bigger meaning of everything what is the bigger picture of everything trying to see the patterns trying to see the magic that is just the way I am wired.

How did you become a circle in a square world?

(Laughter) That’s awesome, I love that you are referencing my poetry. I think I was just born that way I come from a huge Irish, catholic, alcoholic fisherman family descended from a carnival.

Truly they are locals who are all 6FT tall and above with booming voices and fierce individuals. Possibly a lot them are narcissist and I was deeply unhappy and I was trying to make myself feel better this lead me on a philosophical and spiritual search in my 20’s also lead me to poetry  I guess I just wanted to be healthy and I wanted to feel good without numbing myself with drugs and alcohol. Which was the example I was given everywhere I didn’t want that for myself just being that person in my family put me in a different category.

It prepared me to start a literary organization and come against well maybe not come against, but help find the finacials find the donors find the money find the support. I grew up in the punk rock scene so the do it yourself ETHOS is really strong and in my family to.

I saw how you could get an idea and you could make things happen with card board and duct tape and it brings in a lot more creativity and I would rather do it that way in the beginning than having 50k to do something because then you tend to over do it  and you don’t use your imagination as much. So, I like the way this organization has grown KEEP ST PETE LIT with out huge funding “yet” now we are big enough now that the money is starting to come.

In vast and varied as an ocean you speak about what is it that makes a woman a woman. What do you think it is to be woman?

I have this theory that men should be sensitive, but masculine. Women should be strong but feminine that brings in all other things though.

I don’t know I think that are just the women. I am attracted to women. Women that really hold their power, but they’re also in touch with the divine feminine.

I like men that can talk about their  feelings and cry sometime, but they are also like Rob Roy Macgregor   namm26    there is also that masculine side there is just a certain energy to the masculine, but you can have that in different genders too.

I think that you if identify with more with the masculine elements it is important have the balance of the sensitive which would be the feminine elements.

If you identify with the feminine elements it is important still to be strong cause I think that both sides of the ying and the yang are important and when one is out of balance whole the world suffers, because they are both necessary to bring about life like literally. So, if you are lacking in one and overly powerful in the other you are going to be out of balance and the whole world will suffer.

Yang  masculine energy is very important to make things happen action stuff like that but the ying feminine energy is the receiving and the giving and it is very important to have both.

I think if you are in balance with yourself you are able to do both you are able to be in the world doing things for your community but you also take the quiet time for introspection. 

Alan Watts a philosopher asked a bunch of students if money was not a problem what would you do?  Most students would say be a Writer or live an outdoors life etc..but you can’t make any money in that. In your poem the great cosmic joke hoping heaven is not a materialistic society. Why didn’t you follow the money?

Honestly money has been a challenge for me to understand how it works. As English major I could have been a teacher, but I knew I didn’t have the energy levels for that I work best from home and then come out and have little one on one interviews with people but my energy gets drained if I was in an work environment with a lot of dynamics and personalities.

I don’t think I knew how to chase the money to be really honest just with this organization I am learning how fundraising works you get people to invest in what you’re doing they love your mission it actually is more about following your bliss than you realize.

So, I am already primed to be somebody to attract a lot of money but with all the programming with what money is about  I had to get through all of that. Come to back to who I already was so there was nothing there as no job that appealed to me that offered enough money.

I like my freedom I like being creative and I some how found a way to do it I live really simply I enjoy life immensely just from a cup of tea.

I feel rich, I am rich!

My mission is to find value beyond money where I find value is in people, experiences and community What do you value beyond money?

A lot of what you said creativity, collaboration, making my community a better place  and sharing my gifts.

I love inspiring people to be them best selves.

I value my child, my daughter is an artist I want her to feel comfortable being herself in whatever form that is.

I value quiet immensely I need a couple hours a day.

I love giving out books I think that people are missing out not reading I mean it is priceless sitting down and getting into a book you are traveling you are learning you are experiencing someone else’s life.

Slowing down I am all about encouraging people to read because there is nothing else like it and I know because I was a lifelong reader I would read six books at a time,  but then I got caught up in the social media world right around the time I was founding this organization and I wasn’t reading.

I was a writer and I have a history of reading six books at a time you know I have read so much so I still considered myself worthy of starting a literary organization but I wasn’t reading actively.

Then we started a book club and I am actively reading again and picking up books right after it and  I know what the impact it  has not having it your life and I know the value of reading because I was away from it for a couple years.

There is nothing else like it people are missing out on a beautiful magical part of life not reading.

Everyone, Maureen McDole!

What can I say! I am grateful an inspired all at the same time. To see someone who follows their heart and living with purpose is motivation in itself for me and everyone else to continue on their journey no matter if you are just starting in the middle or even maybe starting to see all your work coming together. I think Maureen would say if you are acting with genuine intention and integrity it will take time, but you will get there.


1 comment on “Maureen Mcdole Founder of Keep St. Pete Lit

  1. Patricia Joy Cerro

    Wow! That was quite an interview and Maureen McDole is a treasure of St Pete! May her light always shine brightly for St Petersberg.


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