Why do you write?
Writing is a solace in my life. Writing a poem is like solving a riddle or putting together a puzzle. Writing is whistling in the wind, hoping someone out there hears my little tune. I also write for my father who died in 2007 and always showed me the beauty of life while acknowledging the sorrow too. He never lied and the best poems and novels don’t either.
What books do you read?
Books are Gods to me and I worship Them. My parents always encouraged my reading. I received Hamish Meets Bumpy Mackenzie by Frances Bowen on my 6th birthday and still have my original copy. When I was 12, my father allowed and encouraged me to read Jerzy Kosinski’s brutal The Painted Bird. Then we discussed it because my dad was a child of World War II himself in occupied Czechoslovakia. I love fiction, poetry, memoirs. The Chronicles of Narnia saved my life as a child during some bleak times. I walked into the wardrobe with Lucy and into another world. Bless you forever, C.S. Lewis. I also have to give a shout-out to The Little Locksmith by Katherine Butler Hathaway; it’s one of the best accounts of living an interior, creative life that I’ve ever read. Read it.
What inspires you?
The world around me inspires me constantly. My own life inspires me – the adage that the more specific your writing becomes the more universal it will be is absolutely true. The past inspires me because my late father was someone who loved to reminisce, loved to visit memories as if they were villages with welcoming lights always on in the little houses. To remember was an actual activity, done with great joy.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?
When I was 9 I spontaneously wrote a poem after hearing friends of my parents talk about their daughter who had been killed in a car crash. People seemed to look at me differently after they read that poem (alas, it’s been lost although my mother saved it for years). I wrote poems in high school and dreamed about being a writer. Then I got a job, an apartment and started slogging through life, forgetting about my writing. In 1998, I took a class at the local college that was actually a Writer’s Group and I kept signing up for it the next four years. Professor Laura Anschicks was the wonderful person who “taught” (nurtured, guided, mentored, loved) the class; I owe her a lot. It’s only been in the last year that I started submitting in an organized fashion and making an effort at getting involved in community and various other poetry projects. It’s been amazing!
How do you deal with rejection?
Rejection is unavoidable and it will not kill you. Just move on from it. When my work gets rejected, I have to examine it objectively. Sometimes the poem should never have seen the light of day. Sometimes – many times – it needs more work and I’m glad for the chance to do that. Sometimes the publication simply isn’t right for what I sent. Sometimes they just don’t want it, they have other stuff they like better. And sometimes editors are goddamn crazy to have passed up my wondrous poem(s) and I feel really sorry for them.
Who are some writers you admire?
There are so many! Novel-wise Joyce Carol Oates and Larry McMurtry always top my list. Donna Tartt wrote the perfect book in my opinion, The Secret History. A few favorite poets are Jane Kenyon, Sharon Olds, Mark Doty, Raymond Carver. In the last year I’ve gotten acquainted with other poets and writers and would like to express great respect and thanks to a few: Caroline Skanne of Hedgerow: A Journal of Small Poems, Sarah Frances Moran of Yellow Chair Review, Reuben Woolley of I Am Not A Silent Poet and Melanie Villines of Silver Birch Press. They are poets and writers who are engaged right now in creative endeavors that support and help others. Submit your work to them; they are lovely people.
Is writing the only artistic medium you do?
I would love to paint or sculpt but can’t so I volunteer at an Art Gallery called Water Street Studios. My husband, Rob Whitworth, is a guitarist and has been in the local underground metal scene in Chicago for decades so I have exposure to that kind of creativity. But getting back to the question – I just write.
What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?
1) Stop obsessing about that relationship and that idiot who is never going to care for you as deeply as you care for him. You will meet your One Great Love later in life and it will be wonderful.
2) ART IS LIFE and life is short; create as much as you can, girly.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Laboring over a poem can make it better but it can also make the piece forced and, well, laborious. Know the difference. Believe in yourself! Writing is solitary and it can be beneficial to find a community of writers to join for support and feedback. Not everyone, however, may be supportive or happy about your work/success. If a community doesn’t suit you, tries to put you in your place, or is counter-productive to your art, find another.
What is your writing process?
An idea pops/forms in my head. I think about it for some time, depending on how insistently it calls out, organizing the words and images in my head. I write the poem (almost always on the computer; I’m a typing fiend, 80+ WPM, pretty good, right?). I absolutely love that poem and feel amazing. I wait a little bit and read it again. I absolutely hate that poem and feel despair. Then I start revising which I usually do pretty quickly. Some poems have come to me like dictation from another galaxy and some have been stubborn and difficult. How I arrive at the dictated ones is always a beautiful mystery and it reinforces my absolute belief in magic.