The Blog Tour is here! Thanks to Mary Craig for inviting me on this little adventure. Writing can be an isolating endeavor and this is a nice way around that. I met Mary during one of the most pivotal times in my life. I had gone to the Writers at Work Conference in Alta, Utah–knowing very little about the conference, not knowing a soul there. It was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. I made some incredible friends, learned a lot about writing and craft and launched a serious professional rather than academic approach to my writing career. In keeping with the new professional approach to writing, I realized that writing conferences were an important part of my growth (I was just YESTERDAY talking to a friend I made in Alta about this), and a few weekends ago I went to the Creative Non-Fiction Conference in Pittsburgh. I ran into Mary, and she invited me to take part in this tour. I’ll briefly answer a few questions about writing, and then introduce you to two of my favorite writers (one I met in Alta), via their blogs.
What are you working on?
I am working on a collection of poems in second person and a separate collection of essays/hybrid works.
How does your work differ from other work of its genre?
I hate this question. HATE it–I feel it invites me to take a stick and bash the work of those who have come before me. My work is different because it’s mine–my voice is different, my experience of the world is unique–as each of ours is. But I’m not convinced that the world will stop turning without my work, or that I identified a hole in the market that had to be filled. I’m an odd, eccentric, humorous person and my writing is likely all of those things as well. I hope you read my writing and it takes your breath away, wakes you for a moment from whatever slumber we all keep falling into, allows you to look at the world through a slightly different lens, if for a short while–as all great art aims to do. I am continually reading things that do all of this for me, by writers I admire.
Why do you write what you do?
I write to understand what I’m reading and experiencing, and I write to quiet this voice in my head (a voice that sounds suspiciously like my ex-husband’s) that says, if they really knew you…. I write to expose myself and tell that voice to shut the hell up. I try to take risks in my writing, take leaps into experiences that make me uncomfortable or terrified and I make an effort to share my work with the people I think will like it the least. Overcoming shame requires overcoming hatred of self, and that only happens when we acknowledge, on the page and aloud, the things we have been taught not to say.
How does your writing process work?
I have periods when I can’t write–and they really used to stress me out. I would panic and wonder if I’d ever write anything worthwhile again. The periods usually last a couple of weeks, and everything I write during this time (because I force myself to write for at least a few minutes four or five times a week) tends to be crap–forced journal-entry type stuff, annotations of what I’m reading, notes on what I want to write but can’t–that sort of thing. But I’ve learned that the dormant periods give way to writing magic. And then I’m balancing a notebook on my center console and writing in traffic and being woken by poems at 4 am for a week or two. Those are the best times in my writing life, but in order for them to arrive, they have to be seduced into existence by reading widely and cooking and holding long conversations with people with interesting experiences far outside my own. I can’t force that energy, but I have to be ready to drop everything and grab it when it comes.
And now my favorite part–introducing two women I admire. I met Cynthia Dewi Oka at VONA in the summer of 2013. She is one of the most generous and talented poets I’ve ever met. I often say (behind her back–don’t want to be too mushy) that when all of our voices die out, Cynthia’s will be the voice that remains. Read her blog, get her book.
Born and raised in Bali, Indonesia, Cynthia migrated to Canada with her family at the age of 10 and lived in Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories, for 17 years prior to making her residence in New Jersey, USA. Her poems have appeared in publications across Canada and the US, including Kweli Journal, 580 Split, Briarpatch Magazine, Borderline Poetry, Zocalo Poets, Generations Literary Journal, Boxcar Poetry Review, Ozone Park Journal, JMWW Magazine, Terrain.org and Fifth Wednesday (forthcoming). Her essays have been published in Studies in Political Economy, Briarpatch Magazine and Leftturn: the Global Intifada. She is a contributor to Stay Solid! A Radical Handbook for Youth (AK Press, 2013) and Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing from the VONA Voices Writers’ Workshop (Thread Makes Blanket, 2014). Cynthia is a proud alumna and member of the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) writing community (www.voicesatvona.org) and a 2014 poet-in-residence at the Vermont Studio Center. nomad of salt and hard water, published in 2012 by Dinah Press, is her first book of poems.
I met Kate Gale in Alta, at the same conference I met Mary at. Kate is who I want to be when I grow up. She is so solidly kick ass and professional at the things she does that she doesn’t have to act like a dude to be taken seriously. That’s the shit. Maybe if you’re not a woman trying to get things done that won’t make sense. But it’s a big, big deal.
Dr. KATE GALE is Managing Editor of Red Hen Press, Editor of the Los Angeles Review and President of the American Composers Forum, LA. She teaches in the Low Residency MFA program at the University of Nebraska in Poetry, Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction. She serves on the boards of A Room of Her Own Foundation, Kore Press and Poetry Society of America. She is author of five books of poetry and six librettos including Rio de Sangre, a libretto for an opera with composer Don Davis which had its world premiere October 2010 at the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee. Her current projects a libretto based on The Inner Circle by T. C. Boyle, based on Dr. Kinsey’s life with composer Daniel Felsenfeld which is in production in 2014 by the American Opera Projects and a song cycle with composer Mark Abel. Her newest book is The Goldilocks Zone from the University of Nebraska Press in January 2014, and her forthcoming book Echo Light is from Red Mountain Press fall of 2014. It won the Red Mountain Press Editor Choice Award.