Writing transports you to places you’ve never seen before. Here’s an inexpensive adventure anyone can take without leaving home.
Cobalt, Ontario, home of the Spring Pulse Poetry Festival. Watch for a future blog on this topic.
This is how it works. You start here, spend some time on my blog and then you may travel backwards to the Monday, June 30 blog of my writing colleague Marianne Jones. She’s invited several writers to chat about their writing processes and has also provided recommended links for additional blog hopping.
Then next Monday, July 14 you can travel forward and visit the blog sites of three more of my writing friends. Scroll down for my recommendations but before you do, below are the four questions that Marianne asked me about my writing process, followed by my answers:
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?
Professionally, I am working on three main projects:
1) The promotion of my first trade book Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014).This is ongoing but the main push will occur in the fall when people are starting to attend readings again.
RIP: Another tree gone.
2) A new collection of poems dedicated to the dying ash trees. More editing and polishing of the work will begin later this summer.
3) A progress report for the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) is due in a few weeks. Thanks to an OAC Writer’s Reserve grant, I have almost completed new research and poetry drafts based on my interest in crafts and rural living.
Personally, I am also concentrating on balance. For me, writing is an obsession just like competing in sports is an obsession for some individuals. So I am seeking ways to balance my literary life with my summer love for gardening, being outdoors with nature, and meditating. I love to read and I’ve long abandoned (unfortunately due to time restrictions) my interest in the arts and crafts: painting, sketching, knitting, sewing, etc. There is also a need to find balance between my private spiritual being and the public demands of a published writer. Many writers struggle with that: the need to find time to write when hours are consumed with promotion such as blogging/touring/attending readings/etc. especially when a new book is launched.
HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
For the past 11 years, I’ve been focusing on poetry, a genre which isn’t always understood or appreciated by the general public. I must admit, at one time, I was one of those writers and readers who ignored this genre and so I can appreciate the reservations people have. However, since reading Margaret Atwood’s novels The Edible Woman and Surfacing in high school and university English classes, I’ve always had a fascination for metaphors. It took a local writer’s group to convince me that I should explore poetry. I’m glad I listened.
As for how my work differs, I’ve been told that readers recognize my style and yet, I feel I don’t have a specific style. I do know I love to experiment with words focusing mainly on free verse but I’ve also written more formal poetry such as haiku, sonnets, the glosa and even concrete poetry. I often push myself to think outside the box (which sometimes makes my poems obscure) but I’m also drawn to image and storytelling, resulting in more narrative work.
Published by Black Moss Press
In Tarnished Trophies, my recently released book published by Black Moss Press, I wrestle with the athletic soul. Nothing is black and white. There are shades of grey and although it’s a ‘sports themed’ book, my aim was to have readers reflect on their own experiences with competition beyond the athletic world. I draw attention to the ‘non-athlete’ and the “perceived loser”, creating images and stories for those spectators on the fringes of our world.
WHY DO YOU WRITE THE WAY YOU DO?
As a new member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, I continue to examine the work of other professional poets and to imitate and experiment with various styles. I also have a marketing and public relations background, so I naturally mold and shape my work according to the needs of the contest, magazine or anthology I am submitting to. That’s the commercial side of my thinking.
However, due to my interest in art and photography in my early years and as a former public relations specialist with The Winnipeg Art Gallery, I continue to value the need for creative expression which isn’t always popular with the public. As I grow older (and often less wiser), I am learning to trust my inner instincts more and am less concerned about the opinions of others. The words of American author/professor Leo Buscaglia resonates with me: “You are the only you … You are the best you. You will always be the second best anyone else.”
HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?
Owl Sketch courtesy of James C. Hill
I am a night owl with my best writing completed on my computer at my desk during that twilight zone between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. My writing preference is to freefall which means starting the poem with a title, a line, an image or an idea and then allowing the words to flow without actually thinking about it. This may sound crazy but it is during these quiet moments that the muse or some unknown force takes over. As long as I don’t question or analyze what is happening, then the results can be quite magical. Rewrites and/or editing are more structured and usually takes place that same night or several days or weeks later. Spelling and/or clarity of meaning is only reviewed once a first draft is created. Some poems are also shared with other poets in a workshop setting so that the lines and verses can be further improved.
Although, I do not pre-plan my poems ahead of time, I am driven by deadlines and challenges. Every evening, I will create a list of things to do for the following day. Sometimes I follow it. Sometimes I ignore it but either way it acts as a map for setting priorities.
Because I am not a morning person, I usually answer e-mails and check social networking or promotional work during that time. If I have to, I can write on demand, but the results are never as strong as when I freefall and allow the words to just appear. I almost never write with music in the background nor do I like to write poetry long hand unless I have to.
Next week – Monday, July 14 – stop by and visit the blogs of three more writers. I’m looking forward to hearing their answers too.
Phyllis Humby is an award-winning crime writer and columnist. Although her passion is writing suspense novels, her short stories, often scheming, twisted, or spooky, appear in anthologies and journals in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. Phyllis’s blog: The Write Break phyllishumby.blogspot.com
Penn Kemp Photo by Gavin Stairs
Activist poet/playwright Penn Kemp, London Ontario’s inaugural Poet Laureate, has published 25 books of poetry/drama, ten CDs and videopoetry. She hosts Gathering Voices on CHRW Radio. Penn’s blog: http://pennkemp.wordpress.com/
Vanessa Shields Photo courtesy Nick Shields
Vanessa Shields’s first book, Laughing Through A Second Pregnancy – A Memoir, was published in 2011 to rave reviews. In April 2013, Shields edited a poetry anthology entitled, Whisky Sour City and in January 2014, her first book of poetry, I Am That Woman, was launched. All three books were published by Black Moss Press. Her poetry, short stories and photography have also been published in various literary magazines. Vanessa’s blog: http://vanessashields.com/