Sunday, November 27, 2005

Being a Writer: Part II

7. If you met a young or new writer, is there any advice you would give her?
First, I’d say, Write. No matter where or what. Letters, journals, email, chat rooms. And read everything you can get your hands on from poetry and novels to newspapers and magazines. Second, believe in yourself and what you have to say. Every voice is unique and worth hearing. Third, be careful with whom you share your work. Try to be sure of your reader’s reliability as a safe reader. There are too many critics jealous of creators and hence undermine their work. Fourth, when you find safe and close readers, listen to their response. As it is important for the writer to have a developed voice, it is equally important for her to be open to solid criticism.

8. Every job has its ups and downs, things that are the best and worst of doing that job. What is, for you personally, the very best thing about what you do? The very worst?
The best thing about writing poetry is writing poetry: the imaginative journey and play with language. Once I realized that not every poem has to be “the best,” I started to have fun. The worst thing about writing poetry? If one chooses to publish, rejections can devastate a poet. My rule of thumb is to keep a number of poems circulating to journals so that rejection becomes part of acceptance. A very sort of Zen approach.

9. Was there a moment in your life when you knew for certain this was exactly what you wanted to do? If so, was it some pivotal person or event that you can tell our readers about?
My desire to write poetry has wavered between devotion and abandonment. But, as I mentioned somewhere above, my eighth grade teacher first hooked me on poetry. In later years Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Allison compelled me to want to write.

10. How do you think your writing, in general, impacts on today’s woman? Or does it? What about tomorrow’s woman?
I am committed to writing from my body, telling the shifting truths about sexuality and abuse from a female perspective. I’ve written several poems about going through puberty, a topic often ignored in poetry. I’m enchanted by the poetic power of words like “labia” and ‘vagina” and think it’s important for them to be heard aloud in poetry’s hallowed and respected domain. At readings, women my age and younger say that it’s empowering to hear work that addresses the female body in joy and grief.

11. Do you believe being a woman affects how you write? Explain.
Definitely. You can tell from my role models and my concerns with the female body that my voice is shaped by being female.

12. Have there been women in your life who challenged or altered the way you view(ed) yourself? Your work? Your world?
Oh, yes. You know my literary models—Woolf and Allison. Women from very different times and locations who share a love for writing from the body and depicting the woman-centered life. Other influences include my best friend’s mother, who was an unconventional thinker in a small, rural Southern town in the sixties. She taught me that reading and tolerance were key to a fuller life. Another woman with a strong impact was a colleague who showed me that the love for women awakens us to our potential as thinkers, creators, spiritualists and professionals.

13. If there were no boundaries of time, money, distance or anything else and you could spend one hour with any woman at all, whom would you choose and why?
I would choose to spend the time with Dorothy Allison. In her essays, novels, and poetry, she reflects knowledge, wit, wisdom, and understanding for the human condition plus she’s from the rural South and knows the deep ambivalence of such tangled roots of love and violence.

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