I have been asked to participate in the 2014 Blog Tour by Judy Kleinberg, who is a wonderful writer and artist from Bellingham, Washington. It has been fun to follow the trail of so many diverse writers and glimpse their writing processes. Here are my answers to the four questions:
What am I working on?
I am currently working on two main projects. The first is creating a collection of poems for a chapbook publication.
The second is writing about my family’s experience living at Burrows Island Lighthouse in the 1950’s. I only have one tangible memory of living there, so most of the information is being gathered from interviews with my father. It has been a very rewarding project, in that I have gathered an unknown piece of my own history and I hope in some small way, I will be able to document a moment in the maritime history of Burrows Island Lighthouse.
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
For the lighthouse writings, content is the primary thing that sets it apart. Very few people alive today have had the experience of living at a lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest, and I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to be one of them.
As far as my poetry goes, I still consider myself a beginning poet, and my work is evolving as my writing and understanding of writing improves.
My educational background includes a Master’s degree in School Counseling, which has served me well as a writer. What I learned in my counseling program was to listen, pay attention to details, be empathetic, and to find the incongruence in story. I use these same skills every single time I write a poem.
Additionally, I had the honor to hear the story of every child, parent, and educator who walked through my door for help. I quickly understood that few of us get to tell our story, and that even fewer people listen to our story. My poems tend to start with a personal story in search of a larger universal theme.
The other fun thing I am doing this summer is collaborating with my son to add music to my poetry readings. I send him an audio recording of me reading a poem, and he composes background music. This is our first attempt to create art together and I am thrilled he is interested!
Why do I write what I do?
I write for the joy of understanding my world a little better.
I write to be understood.
I write because it is the only way I know how to get beyond the surface of daily living and find what really matters.
I write to leave some tangible evidence I existed.
I write because it has saved me more than once.
How does my writing process work?
I am indeed a “walking around” poet as Judy Kleinberg mentioned. I am most inspired when I walk, and I try to walk daily. It is there that images and lines pop into my brain. Sometimes it happens at random times like when listening to music or washing dishes, but not as often. It is walking that most often fires my brain to think in different ways.
Whenever ideas or lines appear in my thoughts, I quickly write them down on anything I might have available to me, which could be the gas receipt in the car or an envelope on the counter or a napkin at dinner. Recently I started using an audio recording app on my phone, so when I am walking and some brilliant line presents itself, I can get it recorded, otherwise I may lose it by the time I get back home.
I typically work in the mornings with a really good cup of coffee at an old blue desk, where I have a view of the Puget Sound. I then save the rest of the day for reading, household chores, socializing and playing.
I have tried to write every day in a journal but I am not very disciplined about it. I also prefer to write on the computer. However, I do send handwritten letters and notes to my family and friends.
Another part of my writing practice, that I enjoy as much as writing, is reading books about writing. By pure luck, I read “How To Write” by Richard Rhodes, when I first began writing. He said two things that made a huge impression on me. The first was that writers are people who write and the second was a gem he got from Conrad Knickerbocker, which was: Rhodes, you apply ass to chair. It was the advice I needed to begin.
Next up on the blog tour:
Jeff Vande Zande. Jeff is an English Professor at Delta College in Michigan and is best known for his novel American Poet (Bottom Dog Press, 2012), which is a brilliant novel I recommend to all my writing friends. In addition to fiction he writes poetry and screenplays.
Cathy Warner. Cathy writes essays, short fiction and poetry, and is the author of Burnt Offerings, (eLectio Publishing 2014). A former pastor, she is certified as an Amherst Writers and Artists workshop leader and holds an MFA in Creative Writing.