Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Kaylee's Ghost

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro’s novel, Miriam The Medium (Simon & Schuster), was nominated for the Harold U. Ribelow Award. Kaylee’s Ghost, her second novel, was an Indie finalist. She’s published essays in NYT (Lives) and Newsweek, and in many anthologies. Her short stories, poetry, and essays have appeared or are many literary magazines such as The Alembic, Amoskeag, California Quarterly (CQ), The Cape Rock, The Coe Review, Compass Rose, Controlled Burn, Front Range Review, The Griffin, Harpur Palate, Inkwell Magazine, The Iowa Review, Los Angeles Review, The MacGuffin, Memoir Journal, Moment, Negative Capability, Pearl, Pembroke, Pennsylvania English, Peregrine, Ragged Sky Press, Rio Grande Review, RiverSedge, Schuylkill Valley Journal Of the Arts, The South Carolina Review, Stand, Studio One, and Thema. Her essay, Eulogy for My Mother won the Branden Memorial Literary Award from Negative Capability. Spry Journal nominated one of her poems for Best or the Net, 2019. She teaches writing at UCLA Extension. https://rochellejshapiro.com @rjshapiro

The Interview

1. Who introduced you to poetry?

Mother Goose. Nursery rhymes were printed on the linoleum of my first bedroom. I’d hop, reciting the rhymes, from Simple Simon to Little Miss Muffet to that rakish Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son who stole a pig and away he run, reciting the rhymes. Being the youngest of two sisters, one five, the other eight years older than I, and living in an increasingly dangerous neighbourhood, I was alone in my room a lot. Rhyme kept me company.

2. What is your daily writing routine?

I carry a small notebook around with me, jotting down thoughts, sensory images, bits of dialogue, descriptions of people, places, and things. Each night I type all my notes and keep them in a file I call Epic. (A hyperbole, for sure). I date the entries and refer to them when needed. And I read like a poet—taking notes in margins about structure and transitions and whatever else strikes me.

3. What motivates you to write?

The ticking and tocking away of the moments of my life. When I’ve written, it feels as if I’ve really lived those moments and can share them with others. Life feels empty without writing.

4. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I admire so many writers that I could fill a book with a list of them. I’ve recently found Australian poets like Ali Whitelock and Anne Casey who I admire–Whitelock for her carefully honed raw emotion and Casey for her harkening back to the classics in musicality and themes. Terrence Hayes’ for his ability to use this august form to cry out against racism. Li-Young Lee’s early work, particularly his collection, The City in Which I love You, that is like the Song of Songs. I could and should go on and on.

5. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

I’d tell them to read. Read widely and read well. The novelist / teacher, Sue Miller said,
“If only my students would read a few good books a year, they wouldn’t needs so
many writing classes.”

6. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I am doing a lot of flash fiction, poetry, and essays. But my constant writing project is a poetry collection called “A Poem Must Be Your Mother.” It weaves all the feelings I have about poetry writing and trying to integrate the mother of my early childhood who took gracious care of me with the mother of my teens who began to compete like a jealous sister, to the mother who ruined her brain with drinking. It is my obsession and it’s based on my belief that the fire of your writing comes from writing what you can’t forget.

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