Due to the amazing success of my first giveaway, I’m doing another! (Leave a comment with your email addy – I’ll pick a winner on Mon. Jun. 1st).
I’m starting this trend with my friend Anni, a poet. I explained this earlier, but I’ll say it again: I don’t like poetry. Anni, however, is winning me over. Her writing is vivid, clear, and enjoyable. (I occassionally grab her book and read a verse or two, just because).
I put together a little questionairre composed of some of my questions and some of yours. I could go on some more, but today is about Anni. I met her a couple of years ago when she spoke as a member of a panel of published authors addressing the pre-pubbed crowed. I’ve participated in Women Writing for (a) Change – Up North, which Anni organizes/runs. Here’s some more about her:
I am 56 years old and was born and raised in Cincinnati, where I live now, splitting my time between Cincinnati and Traverse City, MI. My “day job” career was in marketing and I worked for a Fortune 100 company for 24 years, while raising my two children, now 22 and 24. I am now working as a market researcher/focus group moderator (I love people and finding out what they think!). My hobbies are writing (duh!), knitting prayer shawls (a ministry through my church), spending time with family and friends and walking my dogs, Erin, a Welsh Corgi and Sophie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Why did you start writing?
I started writing in school. It just came naturally. I won an essay contest in high school and always got A’s in English, so I was positively reinforced. I also enjoyed it. I began writing poetry after my parents died in 2001 and 2002. I needed an outlet for my feelings, so the first poetry was very personal and cathartic. I then began reading modern poetry and discovered that most published poets are what I’d call “observational poets” – their poetry is a commentary on the world. I slowly shifted my focus through practice and my poems started to be “small stories” commenting on the world and things that I saw and felt about life.
How did you select your genre?
I feel that poetry selected me. I started writing one poem and loved it. Then another and another. Poetry allows me to express myself very compactly. There is a challenge in honing a poem down to the fewest words. I don’t know if I have the stamina to write anything longer than a short story…though I do have an idea for a series of mysteries set in Northern Michigan…if I ever retire again.
What is your writing day like?
I try to set aside time for writing several times a week. Sometimes, I am more successful than other times! I clear the decks and tell myself that everything else can wait. I like to write alone, though I do well in group settings, like workshops, too. I often do some reading (poetry, the newspaper) to stimulate my imagination. I also use writing prompts from books and from my writing classes. Yesterday, I happened to look at my purse and thought…”purses would be a good topic for a poem…hhmm”…”My Life in Purses” was the result. It’s not ready for prime time yet, but has the guts of a good poem. I just have to find a good ending for it. It’s about how purses contain our lives.
How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)
Because poems are short (relatively speaking), I don’t outline. I tend to get down a first draft while I’m in purely creative mode (NO EDITING ALLOWED)….then I go back an hone the poem. Sometimes the whole first stanza will go, because it was just a way to get into the poem. Stanza’s may change places. Phrases are replaced with others. Words are cut out.
What’s the most surprising thing a poem has “told you”?
Poetry has told me that I can be funny. That I can communicate philosophical ideas. That I can even be eloquent. I was surprised by all of those things…pleasantly so.
Do you have a list of poems that you’re saving for future use?
I keep a notebook with me all the time. Phrases come to me. Poem titles come to me. Sometimes entire stanzas. I jot them down for future use…and they usually get incorporated into a poem or become poems of their own.
What does your work space/office look like?
I have an office in the basement, but, honestly, I usually write in the kitchen because I feel more comfortable there. I write in silence to improve concentration. The radio and TV distract me.
What is your go-to snack when writing?
Chocolate. It inspires me. Chocolate is the all-purpose snack, so far as I am concerned. I am a self-professed Choc-a-holic. Oh, and Diet Coke. I’m a Diet Coke addict….always a fountain D.C., preferably from McDonald’s.
If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
My favorite novel, hands down, is the Secret Life of Bees. I like the fact that it celebrates the divine feminine, that it is a coming of age story with terrific character development and that it is about the value of every human being. I have read it, re-read it and listened to it on CD!
In poetry, I would recommend anything by Jane Kenyon, Billy Collins or Ted Kooser. Their poetry is eminently understandable, using plain English – elegant phrasing and wit – to express their ideas. Their poetry is not “edgy” – which usually means to me that I have trouble understanding it.
If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?
I love Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, a writer and former addict who found her Higher Power in recovery. She is so fallible, so eloquent, so funny. She coined the term “shitty first draft” for the first regurgitation of one’s ideas. I’m a big fan of the “shitty first draft” – meaning “just get it down on paper and you can edit later.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I want to encourage fledgling writers to “Just Do It.” The more you write, the better you will get, even if you never take instruction. If you want to write and do write, you are a writer. People think they need to be “published” to be a writer. No! It is deeper than that. Being a writer is about loving the craft, enjoying the process and the outcome. Some writers, I know, don’t enjoy the process, but like the outcome. But I do like everything about it!
My book, Unfinished, 2007, Woven Word Books, is available from www.amazon.com for $16.
With her permission, here is a sample of Anni’s work:
Call Me a Writer
It seems I love most everything about writing.
I love the rainbow of pencils in Easter eggs colors, the kind you sharpen in those buzzing electric thingamajigs and the mechanical ones that you click to advance the lead.
I love when it is time to buy a new journal. Sometimes I’m feeling flush and I buy whatever appeals. Perhaps, one in a rich brown leather, embossed in gold leaf. Other times, when money seems tight, it’s a simple black moleskin or even a composition book or steno pad.
I love seeing words appear on the page, although I regret that I didn’t pay better attention to penmanship class in the second grade and I envy those whose hand looks like calligraphy. I’m lucky when I can read my own writing!
I love exploring my hard drive for poems I’ve forgotten about. Some are gems just as they are and others are diamonds in the rough or fledgling plants, needing weeding, sun and nitrogen.
I love writing letters– thank you notes, even. I love writing poems and essays and trying short stories, though I am not very good at them.
I love learning new words or refreshing myself on the meanings of those that are more familiar. I could play for hours in the Dictionary program of my computer.
I love carving out time in my day to write, knowing that everything else can wait while I play with words the way a musician juggles notes or an artist toys with line and hue.
I love getting down that shitty first draft and I love editing, ruthlessly honing my writing, cutting words and paragraphs to make it really tight.
Okay, it seems that I just love being a writer. Call me one any time you like.
I am the mole who furrowed highways
in your carpeted lawn this March.
You cursed my labors and connived
to murder me, to take me from my young.
Metal spikes appeared in my pathway—
deathtraps. I worked around them.
You waited for me, angst in your brow,
a shotgun laid across your knees.
Meantime, I frolicked with Badger and Toad by the river, a picnic with treacle sandwiches.