She’s been in several anthologies and has co-edited a poetry collection in tribute to the life and achievements of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, when there are nine (available widely: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Bookshop.org, and via the publisher’s site, Moon Tide Press.
A memoir-in-verse, Tangled by Blood, is forthcoming (March 2023). This is a full-length collection, but delivered in a narrative format of three parts with a shifting point of view.
Do you have a writing routine? Where and when do you write?
I’m a fairly systematic and disciplined human, but I try not to overstructure my writing habit. I find I’m more creative in the early morning, so I usually wake around four and spend an hour or two in my self-care and reflection routine. This includes gentle yoga, stretching, reading, journaling, morning prayers, puppies, and sitting in silence. After, I eat a hearty breakfast. Eggs. Every day. No matter. And then I cook a big breakfast for my sons and walk my Newfoundlands.
By the time I settle in for writing, it’s around seven in the morning and I sit at my desk, I pull a Tarot card, I light a fig candle and some sage. I always write longhand first and then transfer to my computer. This early writing is generative and creative. I explore forms and song and methods and moods.
I usually revise or edit after lunch. Since I like to work on multiple projects at once, I’ll have the pieces in need of revision already printed. This allows me to sit in a different space in the house. If weather permits, I’ll sit outside. Here, in editing, I markup my work with a variety of highlighters and colored pens, reworking and reorganizing essays, poems, collections, manuscripts.
After a bit, I work on the business side of writing, creating curriculum for my workshops and classes, penning scripts for the radio show I co-host, writing queries or proposals, you know, the un-fun stuff.
I take a ton of breaks. I pause a lot in between everything to color or stretch or rest. It all depends on how my body is holding up and, if I’m working through something difficult to write about, I’ll take more frequent breaks to help me emotionally process and not re-trigger any trauma.
Do you have any patterns or rituals associated with your writing time?
Well, after answering the previous question, I feel I’m quite superstitious. I’m also intentional and spiritual. So, humbly, yes. Every part of my life feels a bit of a ritual. Perhaps because everything feels so sacred. One thing I do is light a fig candle and burn sage before I write. I’ve done this whenever I can, including when I journal. Writing is an opportunity for me to get to know me, for me to discover something new that I failed to acknowledge or notice. The space before and after I write is critical. That includes my heart-space, my mental-space, my living space.
What do you do when you hit a wall with your writing?
To be honest, I’ve not hit a wall with writing. My body fails me and I’m unable to write. I’ve a cervical spine injury so my hands don’t always cooperate. I end up writing in my head—working through dialogue or structure—and when I’m able to arrive at the page, I can’t wait.
I use prompts. I color. I sketch. I listen to lyrics and pull a phrase and write from that. Everything seems to inform my writing. And my writing ends up informing everything else.
Do you plan your book in advance (plotting and outlining) or are you a “discovery writer” (AKA “writing into the dark”)? Or are you somewhere in between?
Both. Once I’ve an idea, say, several poems that feel in conversation with one another or a story that I know could expand from 20 to 200 pages, I’ll plot, but not with a traditional outline. I was a flightplanner in the military and an elite athlete later – so I worked towards goals and concepts through mapping and charting my progress. Think: Road map or a chart to track fitness results.
Even after I’ve organized a plan, I regard it like a landmark, something to follow or offer direction, yet still allowing the writing to lead me. Someone once said that they like to “follow their words down the page,” and I admit, that’s my joy, the surprise and discovery in the process.
What’s the last book you read that made you go “wow!”?
Patricia McNair’s Responsible Adults. The incredible gift Patricia brings is how authentic and nonfiction her stories behave. Her characters carry flaws that are specific and universal, damaged and triumphant. I finished this book six or seven months ago and I’m still thinking about it. It echoes of family, community, dysfunction. You know, the good stuff. The human condition.
What book or author do you find yourself recommending and why?
Anthony Doerr. Line by line, every line. He’s a poet. He’s brilliant. It takes me a long time to read Doerr’s work because I linger and sit with sections for seasons.
Okay. Honestly? It takes me a long time to read everything. I’m a very slow, meticulous reader.
What’s on your To Be Read pile?
The question should be, what’s not on my TBR pile? I have so many books that I’m hungry to read and as I said, I’m a slow reader. I’m also quite the book snob.
Here’s my short list (fiction):
- Dead-End Memories by Banana Yoshimoto
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
- A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride
- Sing. Unburied. Sing by Jesmyn Ward
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- Evidence of V by Sheila O’Conner
On my short list (nonfiction):
- Know My Name by Chanel Miller
- The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clementine Wamariya
- The Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso
- The T-Shirts I Love by Haruki Murakami
On my short list (poetry):
- Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
- The Undressing by Li-Young Lee
- Women in the Waiting Room by Kirun Kaper
I’m too embarrassed to share all my self-help books on my list, but SARK is always there.
What advice do you have for readers?
Read. Read translations and writers from other cultures. Read books that are different than the life you’re living. Read the ancients, the classics. Read slow and struggle with each word. Look things up that you don’t understand. Take notes along the way. Read every day. It’s an honor, a privilege, an opportunity.
What author, past or present, would you wish to have a long conversation with? Why?
Do you have early memories of reading or writing you’d like to share?
The first book that I remember escaping into was And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I grew up in an abusive home, so Christie’s ability to pull me into another land hooked me. After that book, I gobbled every Christie book from the school library.
What books and/or authors have most influenced you as an author?
Every book I’ve ever read has influenced me as a writer and poet in some capacity. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea, And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou, The Essential Rumi by Rumi, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, Night by Elie Wiesel, and My Life as a Foreign Country by Brian Turner. Well, to name a few.
What do you most enjoy about being a writer? What do least enjoy about being a writer?
I love figuring myself out. I love the surprises and twists. I love researching odd and unusual facts. I love learning. I love when things unexpectedly link. I’ve not found anything that I don’t enjoy surrounding writing other than I’ve not enough time to read all I’d love to read and to write about all I’d love to sort through.
What would you tell a new writer?
Find joy in your writing. Stay playful and magical and full of truth and love. Read. Read. Read. Write about everything. And never ever forget that your voice matters.