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.