Scarlett Peterson–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

Both, actually. I work everywhere in that I keep a journal with me at all times. I don’t set aside a certain hour a day, and I don’t find any one place more productive than the next.

What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?

I try to hand-write first because I find blank word documents intimidating. Seeing my own handwriting is not as jarring, and I find that typing it all up helps me to revise quickly and efficiently anyway.

What is your routine for writing?

I keep a daily poetry journal. My first year of grad school I took a workshop with Cecilia Woloch, and she assigned the daily poetry journal as a means to get us writing more often, and it stuck with me. Since I began sort of forcing myself to write something every day I’ve become more accustomed to looking at everything through a poetic lens.

How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?

I began writing in high school, very casually. Oddly enough, I tried to write every day back then too, but it was more of a hybrid of fiction and nonfiction then. I followed a twitter called Write One Leaf, which may still be around, and wrote whatever came to mind. I didn’t begin to see writing as a career until I was nearly out of college. I’d planned to study abroad the summer before graduation when I ran out of money and wound up staying and taking summer classes instead; I wound up in my first poetry workshop then, and I applied for my MFA in the Fall of 2015. I’m currently half-way done with the three year MFA at Georgia College, and I’m so glad that my life didn’t go quite as planned that Summer.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?

I write for people who have experienced trauma, and I write for myself. Ideally my audience is anyone who feels something when they read my writing.

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

I find inspiration everywhere, it’s just channeling it into good writing that’s difficult. When I’m stuck, I free write until I find what I need to say. I teach my comp students to do the same thing, and I think it works for any type of writing.

What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?

I love to cook and bake, and I love makeup. I freelance a little, but mostly I just do photoshoots and weddings for friends.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

My favorite part of the creative process is probably the final round of revision, which is odd, because you can’t always tell that you’re in the final round until you’re finished. I love having a finished product.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Don’t let rejection stop you. Keep writing, and above all else keep reading. One of the first things I heard in grad school was to read every book that was mentioned by a professor, and I think that’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

 

Check out Scarlett‘s work in Volume 4, Issue 1.

Valerie Ruberto–Interview

1) My creative space is a park near my house. The entrance to the park isn’t very clear so not a lot of people go there. It has a steep hill and nothing else, but there’s a wooden picnic bench that I sit on when I write. I can see the whole park and the road is in the distance, so it makes me feel like I’m removed from the world around me, but still close enough to it for me to experience it if I want to. I write the first draft of my poems here, then I edit and proofread them in my house or my dorm room.

2) I usually write my first drafts by hand in a small notebook. I usually use pen because I believe that you should never edit your first draft while you write it. If I use pencil then I’m always tempted to go back and erase parts that I think could be better. I like to get in touch with nature while I write and using my laptop usually distracts me from that. But after the first draft is done, I type the poem onto a Google Drive document and edit it on there.

3) My writing process tends to be really long because I’m a perfectionist. Usually a year goes by between when I write the first draft of a poem and when I send it out to be published. After I write the first draft, I always leave the poem alone for at least a month before I start to edit it. This way, I’m looking at it with fresh eyes and hopefully a new perspective. I try to leave at least a month in between each time that I proofread it so I’m constantly seeing my poem in new ways. But since I can be such a perfectionist with my poems, doing this process can take a really long time.

4) Technically I started writing when I was 8. In my 3rd grade class, we had to do an assignment where we each carried around a notebook with us for two weeks and wrote down things that inspired us to write poems. Then we each wrote ten poems and created our own little poetry books. I carried that notebook around even after the project was done, and I’ve been writing poetry ever since then. I only started learning how to write actual poetry when I was a freshman in high school, though. I started submitting my poems to be published in literary magazines when I was a sophomore, and I got my first publication the summer after my junior year.

5) Audience is a tricky subject for my poetry. I try really hard to not think about the audience while I write. I just write what I think sounds good, and I see which literary magazines seem to agree. I hope that, whoever my audience may be, they are inspired by the poetry I create and enjoy reading it.

6) A lot of my inspiration comes from the stories of others. When I hear about people’s life experiences or see interesting stories on the news, it inspires me to put myself in that person’s shoes and try to write a poem from their perspective. So whenever I’m experiencing writer’s block, I just think of interesting books I’ve read, or TV shows I’ve seen, or stories from the news, and use those as a starting point to build a poem out of.

7) I’m currently majoring in psychology at Tufts University. Psychology is my passion and I recently started a business called Brain Tiger Supplements where I sell natural supplements that I’ve created to improve a person’s psychological health. Most of my time goes into that and school, so I don’t have much time for anything else.

8) My favorite part of the creative process is when I begin editing a first draft after not having read it for a month or two. It’s always so interesting to try to figure out what was going through my head when I wrote the poem, and I love mixing together my new ideas for it with what I had already written the first time. It’s so cool to see how a poem starts as one thing and morphs into an entirely new piece of writing.

9) My advice for aspiring writers is to not be too hard on yourself. I’m my own worst critic. I’ll write a poem and think it’s the most awful thing I’ve ever written, but then I’ll take a chance and send it to magazines for publication not expecting them to actually want to publish it, but then they’ll surprise me saying that they love the poem. Poetry is so subjective and some people may love what you write and others may hate it. But the most important thing is to not get too caught up in the negative responses you receive. Just because some people think a poem is terrible doesn’t mean that everyone will.

 

Check out Valerie’s work in Volume 4, Issue 1.

Wilda Morris–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

I write sitting on a bench in the wetlands, a museum, or a Mexican park; at an outside table at the Morton Arboretum; on a pew in an Italian church, or a stump in the woods; standing in front of a painting at the Art Institute; and riding the commuter train into Chicago. I do a lot of my writing at Panera (alone or with friends), where I can fill my mug with Hazelnut coffee as often as I wish, and I don’t hear my landline phone ring.

What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?

Inspiration seems to flow most readily though pencils into spiral notebooks. I prefer pencils to pens because I lose good pens, and the disposable ones bad for the environment. Most of my editing is done on the computer. I often make changes as I type the first draft.

What is your routine for writing?

I wish I had one.

How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?

I wrote poetry when I was young. Having had great instruction in English at Iowa City High School, I passed a placement test which fulfilled the English requirement at American U. I made the mistake of not taking any English classes, and not writing poetry. When I was first married, I published a few poems, but while we were raising five active children, I didn’t make time for writing. Two things contributed to my becoming a serious poet. One was that my oldest grandchild had a painful, degenerative genetic disease and died shortly before her seventh birthday. I needed some way to express my feelings. The happy coincidence was that I was asked to volunteer as a curriculum counselor at the Green Lake Conference Center for about three weeks each summer for a number of years. The program director wanted me to attend conferences while I was there, including the writer’s conference. Those conferences helped me to hone my skills in poetry.

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

I find the inspiration to write in many places: a painting or sculpture, a news event, a childhood memory, poetry by others. Flipping through the pages of a family photo album can also spark a poem or two. Perhaps my most dependable source of inspiration when I feel blocked is a book of good poetry; I find a poem to respond to, or a line to write from.

What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?

My favorite activity, besides spending time with family members, is travel. I also like to walk in the woods or wetlands, on the beach or the river walk. I take continuing education classes at The Newberry Library in Chicago—and use what I learn there (or what I read for class)—as inspiration for poems. I teach an adult Sunday School class, and sometimes write a poem inspired by what we discuss there.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I prefer the writing to submitting and keeping records, but that is probably true of all poets (a secretary and filing clerk would make my life easier!). The best time is when the poem takes charge and leads me in an unexpected direction. That is one reason I experiment with different forms. The rules often take me somewhere I had not intended to go, and would not have gone had I been writing free verse.

The camaraderie of small groups where we write together, and critique each other respectfully, is nurturing and fulfilling.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Read, read, read. Write in different genres and forms. Consider spending time writing rhymed and metered poems before you write a lot of free verse. It gives you practice in cadence and musicality. When I first tried writing sonnets, the results were terrible. I decided to read sonnets (and only sonnets) every day for several weeks. That got the meter of the sonnet in my head. My next attempts didn’t read like Shakespeare, but they were not unmitigated disasters, either.

I strongly advise aspiring writers to find or create a small group composed of people you trust and respect, people who will give you honest feedback and encouragement, and applaud your successes (and not be jealous), and for whom you can do the same. You can write together or meet regularly to critique and encourage each other.

 

Check out Wilda’s work in Volume 3, Issue 2, and Volume 4, Issue 1.

Sean J. Mahoney–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

I work primarily at home. That said though I always have a pen and some sort of scratch paper with me so that I can make notes or jot ideas down cuz let’s face it – none of us have any control over when an idea knocks or makes itself known. And I at least wouldn’t leave such delicate matters to memory alone. Memory is a flawed and temperamental beast at best. Why else do you suppose the phrase ‘If memory serves…” is so commonplace.

What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?

Funny. I’ve been reading a lot about Kenneth Patchen lately in researching a piece I’m working on for Wordgathering.com. His picture poems! I would enjoy…I think…incorporating more construction paper and paint and calligraphy. But until that actually happens I type or write by hand using a Uni-ball Roller Micro 0.5mm in black.

What is your routine for writing?

I think perhaps that the majority of us who aspire to be full-time making-a-living-by-writing writers, the only routine is consistency. That is, trying to carve out some time each day to write, to make things up and commit them to paper. And coffee. So wait. I didn’t answer the question. I don’t have a routine. I write when I can, or when I can’t sleep, which happens occasionally.

How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?

Probably 8 or 9 years old. That’s the earliest I can remember making up stories for school assignments; about being a cheetah, about being invisible. Then there was nothing until after high school. That’s when I began journaling. And I was doing that every day. But I didn’t begin sending stuff out until about five years ago. Like right after being diagnosed with MS. Shit gets real after that.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?

In terms of poetry? Anyone who will listen? At least for now. Big people are notoriously finicky when it comes to their Lit diets.  I’ve written some stuff for my niece and nephew, and I have an itchy inclination to maybe point those stories towards the YA markets, but they’re not quite ready for that just yet.

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

Things that actually happen. Real world events. Some of the stuff going on politically right now is so ridiculous and outrageous that if you actually read it in a book you may throw up a little bit in your mouth. Yet each day the news cycle churns out the chum and the actual real good things that are indeed happening get cast aside because they’re not considered crazy enough. That’s disappointing.

What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?

Oh I like movies. And food. SoCal is a foodie paradise. God I used to love playing basketball but I don’t really run that well anymore. I like to garden, to grow things. Tomatoes especially. And kale and hot peppers and pomegranates.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

Hmmm – hitting send when a piece is completed. Getting it to its editor or respective site.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Don’t be afraid of rejection. All writers have experienced rejection. Don’t fear the reaper. Don’t look back. Don’t fall on me. Don’t let’s start. Don’t stop believin’.

Don’t you forget about me.

You know I bet there’s a song in there somewhere.

 

Check out Sean’s work in Volume 4, Issue 1.

 

Steven R. Jakobi–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public places, etc.

I live on a 15-acre property in a rural part of New York state. I spend a lot of time in the woods and it is during my forays that I jot down ideas in a small notebook. I have a small office (my wife calls it a “man cave,” although we both spend a lot of time in there) and I like to go there late at night when everyone is asleep.

What kind of materials do you use?

My motto is: “happiness is a handful of sharp pencils.” I prefer wooden pencils and a legal pad. Then I use Word for transcribing and storing the hand-written work.

What is your routine for writing?

I do most of my writing in the winter because I spend my time outdoors when weather permits. I scribble ideas on paper and write in my head. Sometimes I have to interrupt what I’m doing and sit down to write but, generally, most of it is already worked out in my mind. I don’t like routine and I don’t set a specific time aside every day for writing.

How long have you been writing? When did you start?

I spent most of my professional life as a biology professor. As such, I have done a lot of scientific/non-fiction writing, starting with my dissertation. In the 1990s I lived in Massachusetts, and I started writing a regular nature-oriented column in a regional newspaper. I put creative writing aside for a number of years, but in the back of my mind I had this idea that wanted to write a book of short nature stories for the non-scientist. Key to that was the concept that the stories had to be no more than 3-8 pages long and non-technical, so as to keep the interest of the reader. I hope to have accomplished that in my two self-published books, Giorgio the ‘Possum and Other Stories from Nature, and Birds, Bats, Bugs, Beaver, Bacteria: Lessons from Nature. I came to poetry late in life and have been writing poems for only a few years. I find poetry to be very liberating compared to other forms of expression because it allows me to use imagery and language that are not always suitable for other types of writing.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?

I have always enjoyed writing in a simple, straightforward manner, so that anyone reading any of my work wouldn’t have to sit and scratch their head about the meaning of my work. In poetry, I admire the writings of Wendell Berry, Robert Frost, and Carl Sandburg, among many others. In fiction, my characters struggle with the imperfect human experience that we all face at one time or another. In my non-fiction writings, I hope to target an educated and curious, but not necessarily scientifically savvy, audience that is interested in the natural world and its protection and preservation.

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

I like to share with people. More often than not, the same thoughts and feelings that bubble to the surface of my consciousness are also the same ones that occur to others. We are social animals and the one thing that we MAY be able to do better than other life forms is the capacity for a variety of ways to communicate. Let’s share with one another: paint, sculpt, play music, write!

When I encounter a creative block, I don’t fight it. It usually works itself out subconsciously if I am patient.

What other things you do besides writing?

I like to garden and recently became a master gardener to help people with planting problems. I also do other volunteer work: meals-on-wheels, and have done several tours of work after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and, most recently in Louisiana and Texas. I love to read and try my hand at photography. For sport, I play racquetball.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I am always amazed when an idea comes to my head that I can work into a story or a poem. I have written many short stories that no publisher has been interested in, but I love them because their characters are always people who have some sort of problem or conflict to work through. They are people who are dear to me.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Every one of us is a story teller and writer. Sit down, take out a piece of paper and a sharp pencil J and write. Write for yourself and you will also write for others. There may be a few writers who were born with the talent to pen something extraordinary, but even those are not always understood or are sought after in their lifetime. For most of us, it is a leap of faith to write. So, be bold, be adventurous, be creative, and be happy.

 

Check out Steven’s work in Volume 4, Issue 1.

Susan P. Blevins–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

I write at home the majority of the time, but since I always have a notebook with me (a Moleskine, of course!) in my purse at all times, if I find myself in a cafe with the urge to write something, I write!  And I have a large notebook by my bed, because irritatingly enough, it seems that one of my most creative times is that magical time between wakefulness and falling asleep.  How many times have I been dropping off to sleep and had to turn on the light to jot down an “important” writing thought that popped into my head!  I also have a notepad in my car and in the kitchen.  My work place is littered with bits of paper!  My cat is definitely part of my work space, either with her tail draped across the computer keys, on the chair next to me, or on my lap.

What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?

I would have to say that I am very comfortable writing on my laptop.  I trained as a typist (oh horror!) so feel totally comfortable with a keyboard in front of me.  Before the computer I had a portable typewriter and was quite at home using it.  I write by hand when I am in a particularly quiet moment, late at night perhaps, when I want to write poetry.  Then I like the quietness of the pen and paper approach.

What is your routine for writing?

Well, I wish it were different!  Even when I have a whole day stretching out in front of me for writing, between one thing and another (like clearing my inbox and answering emails, and perhaps baking a pie), I usually end up writing seriously about 4 p.m.  I keep going as long as I need to to feel satisfied.  I am still struggling to understand why I procrastinate.  I love writing, it makes me happy, people seem to enjoy my writing, so why do I put off starting?  I don’t know if it’s fear of failure, fear of success, fear of commitment to the particular piece of writing I’m working on.  One day I hope to overcome this and just plod away steadily, disciplining myself to write about 500 words a day.  I always feel I never have enough alone time.

How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?

I have written ever since I was a child.  I still have my early diaries, more often than not expressing my anxiety about the meaning of life, and WHAT/WHO IS GOD?!  Then I progressed to journals to absorb my inner condition.  In the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, when I was living in Rome, Italy, I had a weekly column in an international newspaper.  I wrote mostly about food, travel, restaurant reviews, with lots of personal anecdotes.  I was teaching aerobics at the same time, so I was very busy indeed. A weekly publication schedule is very demanding, but I loved it more than I can say.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?

I don’t think I write for an audience.  I write for me.  I always read out loud what I have written, because I want to sense the music of my words.  My thought is that if I like something, then perhaps others will also, but it’s not important to my creative process at all.  Writing for me is the best anti-neurosis tool. (Any creative activity is anti-neurosis!)  If I don’t write I can feel myself becoming more and more neurotic!  However, of late, I have been nurturing the hope that my writing can bring light, love, inspiration, comfort, meaning to some lives.  If my writing can touch just one heart, then I shall not have written and lived in vain.  We can create a ripple effect.

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

Well mercifully, I rarely feel blocked.  I keep a file in my computer, called “Ideas,” and I have 45 pages so far of things I want to write about.  My notes could be single words that inspire me, or phrases, or a thought I heard someone express, or a conversation I overheard.  I write them ALL down, and then when I need inspiration, I go to my Ideas file.  Mostly though I am overwhelmed daily by things I want to write about!

What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?

I paint, I play piano, I definitely exercise at least three times a week, I garden, and I read.  I guess I could say that my three major passions are reading, gardening, and classical music.  My idea of utter bliss it to be home, in silence, and read for several hours during the day without feeling guilty!  There are not enough hours in the day for reading AND writing!  I’m not painting at this moment because all my energies are going into my writing.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I think I would have to say the completion of a piece of writing. When I have not written for just a few days, I begin to feel quite ill.  Something moves around in me and builds up tension until I sit down and write it out.  And then, OMG, it is like giving birth!  I feel light, I feel “justified,” I feel relieved, for a few days.  And then it starts up all over again.  Writing is definitely my means of fighting the neurosis that all creative people experience.  And when I am swept up on the wings of the creative impulse, then time ceases and the world recedes, and I go into what I would call kyros as opposed to chronos.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Probably the same that all writers give!  If you feel the urge to write, then JUST WRITE!  And above all, don’t worry about creating the perfect text with the first draft.  Get down those reeling thoughts in whatever order they come.  You can sort them out later and discipline them into some sort of sequence.  But you don’t want to lose the muscularity of expressing your thoughts spontaneously.  And never, NEVER listen to nay-sayers!  Share your writing with friends who are tried and true, AND NOT JEALOUS of your talent.  So hone your perception of people, and trust yourself.

Writing is a gift that we can share with others eventually, but that we share with ourselves first of all.

You should not take rejections personally, or be downcast or deterred.  Selection for publication is a very personal one, and truly, one editor’s meat could be another editor’s poison!  In order to achieve 53 acceptances last year I submitted 305 times.  As Winston Churchill said, “We shall never give up/surrender”!!

 

Check out Susan’s work in Volume 4, Issue 1 and Volume 4, Issue 2.

Sandy Coomer–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

A few years ago, we expanded our kitchen to include a sitting area. We added lots of windows to two walls and the ceiling was elevated. I loved the light in that area, and the large free space above me. I decided to use one half of that sitting area for my “art studio.” I don’t use an easel, but work on a large bar-high art table instead. I put that table in the corner, added some storage cabinets, and voila, the perfect place to create! (And I’m very near the fridge and coffee maker – an added bonus!)

What kind of materials do you use? What mediums do you work in?

Recently I’ve started to work on cradled Gesso board and Clay board more than canvas. I love the harder surface, and the way I can better manipulate the paint. Plus, I’m finishing a lot of my work with epoxy resin, and I need the sturdier surface for that. I use acrylic paints, Golden heavy body. I also create mixed media art, using paint, pastels, ink, paper, and various embellishments to create an inspirational scene and message. I love hiding words in my art—leaving little secrets that require careful examination to find. Words like believe, blessing, dream, seek, love, dare, brave, and happiness. Also, I love birds. It’s not unusual for me to add a bird somewhere in the art.

What is your routine for art? Do you always sketch first?

I’m probably the most anti-routine person ever! I follow the muse, and most of the time I work backwards. I know in my head what I want to do and then I figure out how to make that happen. This means I have a lot of mess ups, but every mess up is a great chance to learn something. I’ve been working in the morning lately, immediately after waking, which is a switch for me. I used to work only in the afternoons. In many ways, I’m always thinking about art, and because I also write poetry, I’m always thinking about words. Any interesting color combination, design, texture, landscape, phrase, conversation, etc. is likely to become one of my many post-it-noted inspirational ideas for future use.

How long have you been making art? When did you start making art?

Selling art—about 3 years ago. Making art—forever. I used to draw as a child. When I had kids of my own, I was heavily into creating intricate pages for their scrapbooks. Then I started drawing birds with ink and using watercolor to paint them. Mixed media was my next addiction, and the basis for my first exhibit and art show. I love creating original covers for hard-back journals, and I sell a lot of those in art and craft shows. Lately, I’ve started exploring acrylic pour paintings and abstract landscape paintings. Obviously I find it hard to stick to one thing.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you make art for?

A lot of my mixed media art is geared toward children. The journals are for anyone who writes, draws, or keeps a diary. I make art for anyone who enjoys the creative nature of color and design.

What inspires you to create? If you are blocked, what do you do?

Nature inspires me. Language inspires me. Life inspires me. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all the many things I want to create that it makes me anxious to think I won’t have time to do them all. I am a detail-oriented person, and I notice everything, and so many things lead to new ideas. I rarely feel blocked, but if I do, I like to go to Pinterest on my computer and search for interesting color combinations or a new technique for some random thing. Usually 10 minutes is enough to get me going again.

What other things do you do besides art? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?

I write poetry. I’m the author of 3 poetry chapbooks and the founding editor of an online poetry journal called Rockvale Review. I’m a poetry mentor with the AWP Writer to Writer Mentorship Program. I’m also an endurance athlete and an Ironman. I just competed in the World Championship race for the 70.3 Half Ironman distance in Chattanooga, TN after qualifying for the race last year. My new goal is to complete a 50 mile trail race, hopefully in 2018.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

Probably the idea phase. I love to think up a dozen things I want to create, jot down some notes and color ideas, and plan how I’m going to do them. Even right now, I’m looking at four rough sketches of landscapes complete with color notes that I want to create in the next couple of months. I also really like holding a finished piece of art in my hands, one I’m really proud of. That makes me indescribably happy!

What is your advice to aspiring artists?

Don’t follow the rules. I’ve never done anything the conventional way, and I like it that way. But I realize I might be a stubborn person for thinking like that, so let me say this instead: Don’t follow all the rules. Be free enough to take chances, to dare to color out of the lines. Believe in yourself enough to create the way you are made to create—from your own heart and the unique way you see and experience things. And put your art out in the world. You may be amazed at how many people respond positively to your creativity, and how your gifts might inspire, move, even heal someone else.

 

Check out Sandy’s work in Volume 4, Issue 1.