Tag Archives: Vanessa Shields

Look At Her – Vanessa Shields, a Gutsy Poetic Crusader

With each poem I write, I am less afraid – Vanessa Shields*

Call her a poetic crusader: a woman waving a feminist flag with a capital C for “Courage” and “Conviction ” pressed against her breast. In her new book Look at Her, Windsor poet/editor Vanessa Shields belts out poem after poem after poem of raw emotion focusing on four major themes: Body, Motherhood, Family, and Power.

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Windsor poet/editor Vanessa Shields is currently on tour with her second poetry collection, LOOK AT HER (Black Moss Press, 2016). Photo by Eveline Csomor

Intimate, almost always expressed in the first person point of view, her second poetry collection exposes private details that should or shouldn’t be shared depending on where you sit on the comfort scale. Liberal-minded readers will love it. “Don’t be afraid to have an opinion.” Conservative thinkers may turn away and insist they’d sooner not read: “My vagina is not a haystack/Yet I can feel a needle in her centre.”

Her powerful writing reminds me of feminist songwriter Helen Reddy’s 1972 billboard chart hit “I Am Woman” where the refrain roars, emphasizing a woman’s importance in being wise, strong and invincible. She’s all that and more…

And yet, Shields admits to a woman’s vulnerability as hinted in her words “my teenage self a sloppy poem under his nose”, “bruised buildings oozing too much feeling” and “she hopes the bruises don’t show through.” 

For me, her strongest writing evolves around the memories of family. In ‘Kitchen Dancing’, she writes, “My aunt scoops me up in her long strong arms and spins me/around like I’m a table cloth in the washing machine.” In the same poem, “he’d never use/a broom in that kitchen not when he could be sweeping her/sweeping us into his quiet devotion.”

Her writing style is very much her own. As she writes ‘In The Silence’, the last poem of the book: “I am muddy water pounding over rocks/searching for land….I won’t be afraid.”

Tomorrow (Friday, October 14, 2016), Vanessa Shields stops in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada as part of her current book tour.

REV_FINAL_SARNIA_POSTER_MAIN

Vanessa Shields joins local poets for a special reading, Friday, October 14 at the Blackwater Coffee Co. in Sarnia, Ontario.

Curious about this energetic poet/editor? Pull up a chair for this enlightening conversation with Shields following her return from Ottawa.

Congratulations Vanessa!  Your second poetry collection  Look At Her published by Black Moss Press is like a sequel to your first collection I Am That Woman. Please describe your new book in a few sentences.

Thank you! Yes, many of the poems in Look At Her are responsorial to the poems in I Am That Woman. What I believe is at the heart of Look At Her is a conversation in poetry between my different experiences of ‘self’ as well as a conversation between myself and the people around me. I want to challenge myself, and readers to look within, and to look around and be honest about how we feel about ourselves and the world, how we treat ourselves and each other, and, essentially, how we communicate with ourselves and each other. A raw honesty is at the heart of this collection.

i-am-that-woman-by-vanessa-shields

Vanessa Shields’ first poetry collection I Am That Woman (Black Moss Press, 2013) ‘turned the themes of femininity and motherhood upside down.’

Both books are gutsy, written mainly from a first person point of view, and address some of the grittier aspects of being a woman in today’s society. I noticed your second book has less swearing but you’ve turned up the heat with more sexual references, and have pushed deeper into such issues as divorce, dysfunctional relationships, and power struggles. What lessons, if any, would you like the readers to walk away with?

Good question. One lesson, for sure, is that we are always learning and growing as human beings. The effect of our learning (in ‘life lesson’ form) is that our relationships, our beliefs, our abilities to love and be loved shift and, potentially, change. I think it’s my job as a poet to pay attention to how we treat ourselves, and each other, and to write about how I push through my own challenges. One lesson I’m constantly working on is being brave – as a writer that means having an opinion. Of course, we all have opinions, but it takes a certain something to put those opinions out of your head and onto paper for others to read, receive and respond to. On one level, there are lessons about parenting, sex, relationships, spirituality, family and forgiveness, but beneath that, I think the lessons have to do with the underlying goal of humanity – to love, to be able to love and be loved. No matter how I think through any human experiences, it always results in something related to love.

What is your favourite poem in the collection and why do you like it so much?

Another good question! There are many poems that really come to a different ‘life’ when I perform them. I often write knowing that I’ll get to read the work out loud to an audience, and that affects the theme and energy of the piece. So with ‘performance’ in mind, I really love ‘Doggy Style’ and ‘The First Time I Watched Porn’. Likely the poems that are more edgy and envelope pushing are the ones that have a good performance power to them. I also really love ‘If I Listen’ and ‘Not The Only Woman’. They hold the heart of ‘me’ in them. It’s hard to choose just one! Each of them is special to me.

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Look at Her by Vanessa Shields continues to push the boundaries.

How does your work differ from others in the same genre?

Well, as this book is shared and I get feedback from other writers, I find that they compare me to writers they’ve read that makes them feel the way my poems make them feel. Recently, I’ve been compared to Sharon Olds and Molly Peacock. I hadn’t heard of these poets before (I don’t like to admit it, but there you have it!), and wouldn’t you know, the day after I heard about Sharon Olds, there she was in my inbox in a newsletter that Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner send out called Lenny Letter. Olds wrote an incredible poem about breasts. I immediately went online to purchase books by both Olds and Peacock. I do think that we write from the same feminist place. But the truth is, I often feel like my work is just different enough that it’s not really like any other poetry.

I read a lot of poetry, and I don’t often find work that feels like mine. Not sure what that means…but when I get compared to writers, I always do research and read to see if there is a similarity. I think there is with Susan Olds, for sure. Eve Ensler, maybe too. I think, though, that I’m just at the beginning of this poetic frontier where I’m less afraid to write about how I feel about ‘big’ things…and that shows up in Look At Her. I’m certainly not the first poet to write about sex and body parts. I won’t be the last, but I do hope that there’s something about my work that stands out, and compels people to read poetry, and provokes them to talk about the themes/subjects I write about.

Sometimes it feels that writers must push the boundaries to be noticed. We can’t all be ax murders, former junkies, prostitutes, bank robbers, forensic scientists or even trans-genders. No disrespect, of course, but is there still room for poets who fall through those cracks and live what may be considered boring, stable lives or those who are more introverted and less flamboyant? What advice would you have for those who have a quieter voice?

A writer must write her truth. I think that my words, and often my performance of those words, affect people in a way that causes them to put me in the ‘push the boundaries’ list of writers. But I don’t really feel that way about my work. I think my aim is to jar or rattle the soul. For some people, hearing (talking about) sex does this. For others, it’s themes of war or rape. I believe with all my heart that everyone is creative. That each of us lives a life that is sharable and teachable through some form of creative expression. I don’t believe that life is ever ‘boring or stable’. I think that’s story we tell ourselves. I am extremely introverted much of the time. That is where these poems are born. I am quiet and pensive and often times, very shy. I’ve just learned and lived through the practice of writing how to express myself as a poet. Flamboyant? Perhaps, but that’s all part of performance for me. In the end, it’s a reader and the words. If she hears my literal voice as she reads, great, but mostly I don’t think that’s the case. The words and the meanings standalone like a line-up. The reader brings her own beliefs and life experience to the words and reacts. This is why I write – to reach people on deep levels.

I guess; I’m not sure that writers consciously write to push boundaries to be noticed. It’s not that simple. Maybe I’m naïve? I think that writers, if they are writing their truth, just write – and the results show up in reader responses that say ‘this writer pushes boundaries’ – but not to be noticed as a writer (the person) but as the words to provoke or make a point or cause change or chaos or whatever the message(s) entail.

Describe your writing process.

Consistently inconsistent. Hurried, yet calm. Disciplined, mostly. I write at various times during the day and night. Sometimes I have up to 2 hours of writing time, while mostly I have chunks of 30-45 minutes. I write poetry by hand on paper first. I carry notebooks everywhere I go so I always have something to write on. I love to type on keyboards that are clackety – I have one with my desktop computer in my office. I also write ‘out and about’ – in restaurants, bookstores, cafes, bars. I can write anywhere, it doesn’t matter if there’s plenty of noise or none. When I’m writing poetry, the first drafts, it can happen anywhere. When I’m working on my novel (or longer forms of writing), I do like to have a bit of quiet. Sometimes I write to music, but nothing with words or else I sing along! When it comes time for editing and revising, however, I find I need quiet. I like to edit at my home either at my dining room table or in my office (if it’s clean!). A messy office begs for me to clean it, and that’s totally distracting! I write every day. And everything counts – emails, hand-written letters, poetry, ideas, etc. I can say with pride that I’ve put in my 10,000 hours of writing practice and I feel confident calling myself a professional writer/expert! Writers write, and I get that, and I live that.

What are you currently working on?

I’m touring my new book so a lot of time is spent on promotions, marketing and travel. I wasn’t writing anything new for a few months, but now, I’m finding poetry is flowing through me again. I’m working on a collection of poetry about my Metis ancestry and my family’s ancestry in general. I am planning on getting back to my YA novel for what I hope is the last re-write. I’m super excited (giddy!) about working on this again. I think I might do NaNoWriMo again this year to help motivate me to write with discipline every day. I’m also working with Windsor’ Poet Laureate and my publisher, Marty Gervais, and 6 other local poets, on an anthology of poetry about Windsor’s history. I’m reading and choosing poetry for the next two Windsor Review volumes. I’m working on a panel presentation for the League of Canadian Poets Feminist Caucus…and now that I think about it, I need to write another blog for the League…Oh my. There is no shortage of writing work to be done!

What are your future plans?

Hmm. Well, in 3 -5 years, my dream is to open Gertrude’s Literary Café. A space for creative writing, book launches, reading series, storytelling series, reading…with delicious coffees/teas and fresh pastries. I have no idea how to life this dream to life, but it’s there and very real in my mind. Before that, I’d like to see what happens with my YA novel(s). It’d be incredible to get an agent and a book(s) deal. It would be great to continue to get my poetry published…but in the end, I want roots in a space so I can do all the things I love to do in one location – and invite everyone to share the space with me!

In addition to writing non-fiction and completing a young adult novel, you are a former editor for Black Moss Press and the current poetry editor for the Environmental issue of The Windsor Review. Based on your experience, what advice (or secrets) would you share with a new poet in search of a publisher?

I wish there was a secret! I’d have to say, write with confidence. Submit with patience. Keep writing. Keep reading. Before you submit to a literary magazine, read what they’ve already published to see if your work fits. This goes for sending out full manuscripts as well. There are many great publishers I love, but I know that my writing doesn’t fit their publishing style. I have to accept that. Use Facebook groups and the Internet to find out where to send your work. There are literally thousands of contests and submission calls. Don’t be afraid to reach out to local writers for information about writing. I’ve learned about many amazing contests/publishers by simply asking writers for guidance. And the biggie – you must have someone else read your work before you submit a manuscript. Hire an editor. Revise. Read your work out loud. Then submit. When you get rejected – keep the rejection. File it. Start a collection. I keep mine and the stacks keep me humble and motivated…cry if you have to cry when you really wanted to get that poem published. I feel you. But…don’t give up. Wipe your face. Blow your nose. And get back to work.

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Vanessa Shields’ Selfie – “I Won’t be afraid”

It appears that the role of the writer has changed. Not only must writers create strong poems but they must also be experienced marketers. You have mastered that skill. How important are marketing skills for a writer? Can a writer still succeed in this highly competitive environment without touring, attending readings, blogging, and interacting on social media?  Why or why not?

This is a loaded question. I ask myself this question sooo often. In short, yes. A writer can survive without being a force of marketing/social media madness. The way the writer can survive is through her work. If the work is strong and resonates, readers will buy the book. It happens all the time. In the beginning, the power is in the words, the story. If a writer’s work becomes successful then she will likely have to do readings, plug-in and show up off the pages…but it is possible for the work to stand-alone.

However, I think that many of us enjoy the sharing part. The readings, the travel, the blogging, the interviews – whatever we can get to talk about our work and share it. There is so much great writing in the world. Sometimes, we get impatient and lose confidence in the time it takes for people to read our work. And, if want to be read a lot, sell loads of books, win awards, we simply must put ourselves out there – or work with our publishers to get us out there. I think you have to ask yourself what you want out of the industry. If you want to be known, be read, make noise – then you have to get out there and try to make it happen. I say try because although I market myself, promote myself, submit to contests/etc…I haven’t reached my own ‘pinnacle’ of ‘this-is-what-it-means-for-me-to-be-successful’.

I get frustrated A LOT. I cry about what’s not happening all the time. I have to calm myself down when I see that what feels like ‘everyone else but me’ is getting her work in the places I wish mine would be. It’s a dangerous place, this ‘why not me’ zone. You have to figure out what ‘success’ means to you. Based on that, you move forward and see if you can be the definition you have in your head and heart. I’ve had much success. I’ve felt the heat of a fiery, passionate reading where I’m floating afterwards. I’ve had many incredible conversations with readers that burst my heart. But I haven’t been reviewed by the Globe & Mail. I can’t seem to get Quill & Quire to notice me. I haven’t received a big-money grant….all of these things are part of my ‘success’ definition.

I’m constantly having to re-align and re-define what ‘success’ means because I’m very hard on myself and my work. And I compare my writing to everyone else’s. I want the success that others have – at least that’s what I’m telling myself. Again, the danger is that in doing so, I lose the beauty and love that is happening with my work. I am getting it out there. I am touring it. I am reading and selling books. Why do I make all of this joy not ‘count’ because the Globe & Mail hasn’t written a review? Sheesh. I wish I had an answer…but I don’t! Except…to make everything ‘count’.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

I think…yes. Think about what you love to do. Do that. A little every day. See what happens. And…if you read my book(s)…please take the time to go on Goodreads or Amazon and rate me or write a review or do both! This counts – for my heart, and for me to feel ‘successful’! Even if you didn’t like it. Everyone counts!

Thanks Vanessa for sharing your views today! I love your enthusiasm, your generous words of encouragement!

For future tour dates, readings and insights follow Shields on her blog.

Additional information about Vanessa Shields’ books is posted on the Black Moss Press website.

*from “Acknowledgements” published in the book Look At Her (Black Moss Press, 2016) page 105. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © Vanessa Shields, 2016

DISCLOSURE: Vanessa Shields was my editor for my first poetry collection Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014). While I have maintained my objectivity in this blog post to the best of my ability (I even purchased my own review copy.),  I highly recommend that readers form their own opinions about the poet and her books. Better yet.  Attend one of her readings and meet her in person. 

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.

 

Bluewater Reading Series Moves Forward With Events in April and May

Sarnia’s Bluewater Reading Series is gearing up for another great year.  As temperatures dip and nip fingertips, howling winds play havoc on icy and snow covered roads. Venturing outdoors can be a challenge; travelling great distances to participate in an out-of-town reading seems like such a gamble.

Speaking in front of a full audience: emcee Lynn Tait (Sarnia), fiction writer Diana Koch (Sarnia), Poet Laureate of Brantford John B. Lee (Port Dover), author of Laughing Through a Second Pregnancy Vanessa Shields (Windsor) and poet Grace Vermeer (Sarnia

Last November, speaking in front of a full audience: emcee Lynn Tait (Sarnia), fiction writer Diana Koch (Sarnia), Poet Laureate of Brantford John B. Lee (Port Dover), author of Laughing Through a Second Pregnancy Vanessa Shields (Windsor) and poet Grace Vermeer (Sarnia

However, despite the temptation to escape to a warmer climate or to hibernate in a snowbank, plans are indeed moving forward for the committee’s next two offerings: a special April is National Poetry Month event scheduled for Saturday, April 11, 2015 and a fiction/poetry reading set for Saturday, May 9, 2015. Both literary events will be held during the afternoon at John’s Restaurant on the outskirts of Sarnia, Ontario.

According to committee member and prolific Canadian poet James Deahl, “seven out of town guests have already agreed to participate in this spring’s program; five of whom have never visited or read in this area of Ontario before. We are working on posters and media releases. A formal announcement will be made soon.”

To date, the Bluewater Reading Series committee has already organized three successful readings. Previous out-town guest readers (in alphabetical order) included: Allan Briesmaster, Clara Blackwood, Andreas Gripp, John B. Lee, Carol Malyon, Vanessa Shields, and John Wing Jr.

Selected work by Port Dover poet/editor John B. Lee

Selected work by Port Dover poet/editor John B. Lee

If you missed the November 2014 event, below are some of the highlights. Photos courtesy: Lorraine Kraayenbrink Photography. Additional details about the autumn event can be found here.

Prolific award-winning poet John B. Lee reads his poem “Jimi Hendrix in the Company of Cows”.

Prolific award-winning poet John B. Lee reads his poem “Jimi Hendrix in the Company of Cows”.

Award-winning fiction writer Diana Koch reads from her new manuscript

Award-winning fiction writer Diana Koch reads from her new manuscript

Vanessa Shields shares a story from her book Laughing Through a Second Pregnancy (Black Moss Press)

Vanessa Shields shares a story from her book Laughing Through a Second Pregnancy (Black Moss Press)

Sarnia poet Grace Vermeer shares some of her award-winning poems.

Sarnia poet Grace Vermeer shares some of her award-winning poems.

Selected work by Windsor writer/editor Vanessa Shields

Selected work by Windsor writer/editor Vanessa Shields

Follow this blog for future updates on the Bluewater Reading Series and other literary events, reviews and profiles.

For upcoming January, February, and March activities in southwestern Ontario, Canada, check out the events  page on this blog.

 

JOHN B. LEE AND VANESSA SHIELDS! COMING TO SARNIA THIS WEEKEND!

Window Fishing…Burning my Father….Laughing Through a Second Pregnancy…I Am That Woman. The poster says it all…If you’re in the Sarnia area this Saturday, November 8, check out the next offering in the Bluewater Reading Series. Admission is free. Open to the Public! More info here.

Saturday, November 8 in Sarnia

Saturday, November 8 in Sarnia

What Do The Words ‘Beatlemania’ and ‘Second Pregnancy’ Have In Common?

 If you guessed that ‘Beatlemania’ and ‘Second Pregnancy’ will be spotlighted in an upcoming literary event in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, then you are absolutely right!!!  Check out the media release that just crossed  my desk….

AWARD-WINNING POET JOHN B. LEE TO PRESENT NEW BOOK ON BEATLEMANIA

Window Fishing: the night we caught Beatlemania (Hidden Brook Press) selected and compiled by John B. Lee.

Window Fishing: the night we caught Beatlemania (Hidden Brook Press) selected and edited by John B. Lee.

John B. Lee, the Poet Laureate of Brantford and one of Canada’s most prolific poets will travel to Sarnia to join three other award-winning writers for this fall’s Bluewater Reading Series event Saturday, November 8 from 3 to 5 p.m. at John’s Restaurant “Famous Room”, 1643 London Line. His reading will focus on two new books Window Fishing: the night we caught Beatlemania (Hidden Brook Press), a commemorative anthology on this British rock band’s invasion into North America and Burning My Father (Black Moss Press), a poetic reflection on Lee’s life as a farmer’s son.

Burning My Father (Black Moss Press, 2014) by John B. Lee

Burning My Father (Black Moss Press, 2014), a poetic reflection on John B. Lee’s life as a farmer’s son.

Lee will be joined by three other readers: League of Canadian Poets member and former Black Moss Press editor Vanessa Shields (Windsor, Ontario), and local award-winning writers Diana Koch and Grace Vermeer. Shields and Vermeer will be reading in Sarnia for the first time.

“We are excited about the calibre of authors reading for this free public event,” said Venera Fazio, committee spokesperson for the Series. “Not only will we be featuring professional out-of-town writers with emerging local talent but the afternoon will offer a varied program of fiction, poetry, memoir and humour.”

Lee, who is also the Poet Laureate of Norfolk County, is the author of seventy plus published books.  His work has appeared internationally in over 500 magazines, literary journals and anthologies.  A two-time recipient of the CBC Literary Award for poetry, he has won over eighty prestigious literary awards for his work.

Laughing Through a Second Pregnancy: a memoir (Black Moss Press, 2011) by Vanessa Shields

Laughing Through a Second Pregnancy: a memoir (Black Moss Press, 2011) by Vanessa Shields

Shields is a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada and will be reading from her humourous memoir Laughing Through a Second Pregnancy as well as her new poetry collection I Am That Woman. Both books were published by Black Moss Press. She is also the anthology editor of Whisky Sour City, a Windsor-themed anthology. She has received two Judge’s Choice Awards for her poetry from The Ontario Poetry Society (of which she is also a member). Her most recent interviews with writer/astronaut Chris Hadfield have her feeling out-of-this-world in her writing life!

“Local writers Koch and Vermeer may be fresh new voices,” said Fazio, “but they are already being recognized by various literary organizations.”

Koch won first place in the Ten Stories High Short Story Contest (Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association). She will be reading from her recently completed manuscript The Button Girl: a historical fiction/coming of age story that is set in World War II, Germany.

I Am That Woman (Black Moss Press, 2013) a collection of poems by Vanessa Shields

I Am That Woman (Black Moss Press, 2013) a collection of poems by Vanessa Shields

Vermeer is the winner of numerous Ontario Poetry Society awards plus the Monica Ladell & Juror’s Choice Awards from the Scarborough Arts Big Art Book 2014. She will read a selection of new and previously published work.

The Bluewater Reading Series is a new literary offering organized by Sarnia writers: James Deahl, Venero Fazio, Debbie Okun Hill, Norma West Linder, and Lynn Tait. The organizers acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and The League of Canadian Poets. The emcee for the November 8 event will be Sarnia’s award-winning poet/photographer Lynn Tait.

CCFA_RGB_colour_fThe League of Canadian Poets new_logo_2

SPOTLIGHT READERS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER

Diana Koch

Diana Koch

Diana Koch is a retired educator who lives on the beautiful shore of Lake Huron. She graduated from the University of Western Ontario and also holds a Master of Education degree from the University of Windsor. Since childhood she has dreamed of becoming a writer and now spends many pleasurable hours writing short stories, essays and poetry. Her efforts have been rewarded with the winning of a first prize for one of her stories and by the publication of some of her work. She has recently completed her first novel, a historical fiction/coming of age story set in WWII, Germany.

 

John B. Lee

John B. Lee

John B. Lee, Poet Laureate of the city of Brantford and Poet Laureate of Norfolk County is the author of seventy plus published books. His work has appeared internationally in over 500 magazines, literary journals and anthologies.  Two time recipient of the CBC Literary Award for poetry, he has won over eighty prestigious literary awards for his work. The most recent of his titles include Burning My Father, (Black Moss Press, 2014); In This We Hear the Light (poems by John B. Lee with photographs of Cuba by Tai Grove) (Hidden Brook Press, 2014); the anthology Window Fishing: the night we caught Beatlemania, (Hidden Brook Press, 2014), and forthcoming in 2015/2016 Alice Munro a Souwesto Celebration (a special issue of Windsor Review dedicated to Nobel Laureate Alice Munro co-edited by J.R. (Tim) Struthers and John B. Lee); The Beauty of Being Elsewhere (the travel poems of John B. Lee) (Hidden Brook Press, 2015); and The Full Measure (Black Moss Press, 2016).  He lives in a lake house in Port Dover overlooking Longpoint Bay on the south coast of Lake Erie where he works full time as an author.

 

Vanessa Shields (Photo Credit: Katie Hawkins)

Vanessa Shields (Photo Credit: Katie Hawkins)

Vanessa Shields has made her home, her family and her work life flourish in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. She discovered her passion for writing at a very young age by keeping a journal. Her first book, Laughing Through A Second Pregnancy – A Memoir, was published by Black Moss Press in 2011 to rave reviews. In April 2013, Shields edited a poetry anthology entitled, Whisky Sour City (Black Moss Press). I Am That Woman, her first book of poetry, was published in January 2014, also by Black Moss Press. Her poetry, short stories and photography have been published in various literary magazines. She mentors other writers, guest speaks and teaches creative writing. She also does Poetry On Demand, on-the-spot poetry that helps make poetry fun and accessible for all.

 

Grace Vermeer

Grace Vermeer

Eleven years ago, Grace Vermeer crossed the Bluewater Bridge to take a Creative Writing class at St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Michigan.  She hadn’t planned on writing poetry and credits Professor Cliff Johnson for fostering her love of poetry and encouraging her early efforts which won the Eleanor B. Mathews Award.  She attended Western where her poetry won the Lillian Kroll Prize in Creative Writing.  Recently her poems appeared in Scarborough Arts Big Art Book 2014 where she was awarded the Monica Ladell Prize.  She lives in Sarnia with her husband Peter and feels lucky to be part of Sarnia’s After Hours Poets.

 

 

 

 

Today is the Day! Three More Bloggers Join the Blog Tour!

Just a reminder that these three bloggers will be sharing their writing process today, July 14, 2014.

Just a reminder that these three bloggers will be sharing their writing process today, July 14, 2014.

Check out their blogs later this morning once they are awake and have had their coffee and breakfast. 🙂

Phyllis Humby

Penn Kemp

Vanessa Shields

Also check each blog for a list of next week’s featured bloggers on the Writing Process blog tour!

All Aboard! Hop on the My Writing Process – Blog Tour

 

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.

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.

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

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

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

Phyllis Humby

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 Courtesy Gavin Stairs

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 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/