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.
Rachael Ikins has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize & CNY Book Award multiple times and won the 2018 Independent Book Award for Just Two Girls. She featured at the Tyler Gallery 2016, Rivers End Bookstore 2017, ArtRage gallery 2018, Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, Aaduna fundraiser 2017 Auburn, NY, Syracuse Poster Project 2015, and Palace Poetry, Syracuse. Her work is included in the 2019 anthologies Gone Dogs and We Will Not Be Silenced the latter Book Authority’s #2 pick for the top 100 Best New Poetry Books for 2019. She has 7 chapbooks, a full length poetry collection and a novel. She is a graduate of Syracuse University and Associate Editor of Clare Songbirds Publishing House. She lives in a small house with her animal family surrounded by nature and is never without a book in hand.
Associate Editor Clare Songbirds Publishing House, Auburn NY
2018 Independent Book Award winner (poetry)
2013, 2018, 2019 CNY Book Award nominee
2016, 2018 Pushcart nominee
@poetreeinmoshun on Instagram
@writerraebeth on Tumblr
@nestl493 on Twitter
Above all, practice kindness
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
I started writing poetry in second grade when I was 7. I still know that silly poem by heart that I’d written for Halloween. And it was about cats. Some things never change, although I write about more than cats now. As far as inspiration I suppose it was hearing it—I speak several languages— poetry is its own language. My first grade teacher had us copy poems to learn penmanship from the chalk board. My father used to have me read psalms from the Bible at bed time as I learned to read more. I think I was just born a poet. Only one period of my life was I unable to write and that was caused by serious adverse reaction to medications. It was a bleak time.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I have already mentioned my dad and my first grade teacher. The most significant person was my 8th grade English teacher. A poet and author herself, she presented the unit on poetry ( met with groans esp. from the boys) by having us go out into the community to find poems in magazines and periodicals and cut them out. To create a notebook of poems. She had us each get a copy of two seminal poetry books, Poetry USA and Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle and we were assigned poems and practiced. We performed for a small crowd one afternoon in the school library. It made a huge difference to be taught by someone who was passionate about poetry. No English teacher for the rest of my school years ever came close. We are still friends. She is in her 80s now and still writing in multiple genres, attending workshops and publishing.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I’m not sure what this question refers to. Older in history poets or older people I knew who liked or wrote poetry. My father was given, as were all soldiers, The Pocket Book of Poetry. Soldiers would carry it under their helmets. My dad still had his copy, and we used to read from that little book. So I was aware of the masters as a kid, but had not known an actual adult poet until I was 14.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I tend to work in the mornings. I browse markets using social media a lot, too. If I find something interesting I will match up the pieces I want to submit and then revise and polish. As far as new work, again, it tends to be written mornings. I was riding my bike yesterday morning, and a poem started up in my head. This has always been a way I write.
Other days something will happen, something that has been subconsciously simmering will say “It’s time!” Whatever else I had planned that day will take back seat to the need to write, and I may write for 5 hours straight.
Walking or riding and letting my mind roam. Once the body is craving relief, all extraneous clutter- thought goes away and clears space for something new to appear. I just listen for it.
5. What motivates you to write?
A feeling of not having achieved some mysterious rubicon yet. I have won a lot of prizes and as well published quite a lot of books with three publishers in multiple genres, and yet I am just driven. I also have to say, I think I can’t help it. Writing is like breathing to me. “Write or die.” I would also like to make a significant amount of money at my craft/passion to make a dent in my monthly budget. Would I like to support myself at it? For sure, but I don’t know if that will ever happen. I have intense focus and ability to pursue something no matter who detracts from it. That has done well for me, too. Because in spite of teacher support, my family never took my writing seriously until the past decade.
6. What is your work ethic?
My work ethic has always been work hard and help one another. We are all in this together. Contests aside, we are not competitors though some act that way. Help someone else. Don’t trample someone with your ambition. Pay it forward. Honesty. Write honestly.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Oh, that is an easy one. I first tried to read Tolkien to myself as an 8 year old. Was a tad daunting. Instead I read all of Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books. The classics. Read Tolkien again in my 20s and was hooked. Both these authors made a mark on me somehow, scarred my heart and brain because decades later after writing nothing but poetry since age 14, in my 40s I wrote a series of children’s stories and the initial chapters of what became the first book in the Tales from the Edge of the Woods series, Totems. My understanding of fantasy and my choice of magical characters and so on was sparked by those great authors. My children’s stories stayed in a box until about a year ago, through 7 moves. I showed them to a publisher last year and we worked on edits. A Piglet for David will be coming from Clare Songbirds Publishing House later this year, the first in a series of young reader chapter books.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire and why?
I admire J. K. Rowling though I am not a Harry Potter fan. Like her, I have known horrible poverty. You just do the work, period. And if you become successful, you do good with it. I also have always admired poet Marge Piercy. Since her book The Moon is Always Female in the ‘80s with its erotic poems connected to the natural world and also cat poetry Marge has seemed to appear along the journey just when I needed an example to follow. I have also been at work on straight fiction, a lesbian adventure/ romance for awhile. I have never been fond of reading explicit sexual descriptions. It bores me. Do it, don’t discuss it lol.
I had to write a love scene and had no idea how to do so. One thing about love scenes is it is easy for them to be unimaginative.
I was in a bookstore and found an anthology Best Lesbian Erotica, not sure of the year. Looking through the table of contents I saw Marge Piercy had a short story in it. So I bought it, read her story and the rest of them, then faced off one night, sweating, in front of my computer and wrote the scene. A few years later my story “The Horse Rescuer” was accepted for publication, and I was paid probably the most for one piece I’ve been so far.
In 2014 I noticed Marge on FaceBook so I private-messaged her, one of those “You don’t know me but…” expressions of gratitude for her presence in my literary life. She responded and suggested I submit to her June Poetry Intensive. She chooses 12 students for a week long workshop every year. I finally got to meet my hero.
I like Mary Oliver’s poetry, too, but Marge is the one who has always been there in some sort of magical way. There are really too many authors for me to list.
9. Why do you write as opposed to doing anything else?
I can’t not write. And when a poem in particular or a scene if we’re talking prose, starts coming together in my mind, I have to stop whatever else I’m doing. It’s like going into labor I guess. You can’t tell the baby you’ve changed your mind, stay in there.
10. What would you say to someone who asks “How do you become a writer.”
You write. The best way to become a writer is to read everything you can get your hands on. Then you write. Maybe you start out emulating a style of someone you like to read. Keep writing and eventually your own voice will be heard. Writing is the most labor-intensive, long-term gamble of a profession going. You can theoretically spend, for example, 5 years writing a novel, another several seeking an agent and publisher if you want to go the path of the big 5 publishers, and yet you can spend a whole decade of your life on that one project and it may never be accepted. Or sell. Know that up front. Study. Go to workshops. Find a writing group. Read at open mics. And if/ when you reach a point where you have something to submit, read the specs the publisher lists as to how to submit to their publication. It shows respect. Many a writer has been summarily rejected for not submitting the way the publisher requested. Be tough. Opinions are completely subjective. Being rejected by a publication is meaningless. Editors are human beings. We all have different tastes. Don’t take it to heart. If you are lucky enough to get a note of feedback along with the rejection, learn from that. Read books about writing.
It’s hard. Be aware. Being a writer is not for the faint of heart. If you are serious about it you will pursue it no matter what. We only pass this way one time. So if you really want to do this, do it.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
Right now I am in the midst of launching my mixed-genre memoir, Eating the Sun. It is the love story of my husband and me. Organized by seasons of the year, the garden is the vehicle that takes the reader on the journey. Each section starts with narrative and then has poetry related to it, and finally recipes created by us from garden ingredients we grew. I use my artwork often in my books when publishers allow it.
This book has pen and inks, photography and cover art by me. I have a second manuscript submitted to a publisher. It is all poetry titled Confessions of a Poetry Whore. Another poetry manuscript to be sent this fall is titled Riding in Cars with Dogs. It will be the companion book to my previously published For Kate: a Love Story in Four Parts written after the death of my beloved cat, Katie. Since grief is a universal experience and so is love, no matter what shape the beloveds, this book is accessible to anyone who has lost someone.
The second fantasy book of the Tales of the Woodland series, Beach Wrack has been written and edited professionally and is in the queue with a mid-level publisher. Book 3, Through the Hedgerow is half written.
All four or five of the young reader chapter books are written as well. A Piglet for David will be Book 1. These also have my artwork as illustrations. My work is contained in 5 upcoming anthologies, and I am eagerly awaiting copies. All releasing this summer and fall. Both writing and artwork.
Last but not least, I am at work on a thriller/horror genre novel. Haven.