Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Shaindel Beers

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.

Shaindel Beers

is author of the poetry collections A Brief History of Time (Salt Publishing, 2009), The Children’s War and Other Poems (Salt, 2013), and Secure Your Own Mask (White Pine Press, 2018). Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is currently an instructor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, in eastern Oregon’s high desert, and serves as poetry editor of Contrary

Yiu can buy a signed copy of her latest book directly from her:  http://shaindelbeers.com  You can also purchase her books on Amazon, B&N, etc.

The Interview

When and why did you start writing poetry?

I think that most writers probably start as kids because everyone finds their art that helps them process things. Some people paint, some people dance, some people write. Poetry was the least structured and most free, so I think it chose me. My first poem I wrote, not for an assignment, was at about age ten when my cousin shot my dog. I was really distraught, and that was the way I channeled it. It was a poem with the refrain “And the cold wind blows.”

Who introduced you to poetry?

I read the regular “kids’ poetry” we all find in our elementary school readers, but I think my greatest discovery was finding my mom’s college textbooks of The Victorian Era Poets , and a volume of Byron, Keats, and Shelley. Those are what I would consider my first poetry idols, and I’m forever indebted to the Romantics, especially.

How are you “indebted”?

I learned to really value nature and nature imagery in my poetry. The egalitarian bent of their works spoke to me, and the view of the poet as the spokesman for the Everyman. I think we can look at a lot of poets who influenced us and see the wisdom of the Romantics in that. Who hasn’t gone hiking or seen a breathtaking spot in nature and thought of Wordsworth?

What is your daily writing routine?

I actually don’t have one. I do try to write whenever my students are writing. So, if I’m teaching poetry and give students a poetry prompt, I write with them. If I’m teaching fiction and give them a fiction prompt, I write with them. Otherwise, I just write whenever I can, especially if I have an idea that feels like I must get it down on paper.

What motivates you to write?

I think Robert Frost put it best when he said, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” Sometimes you just feel something, and poetry is the only way to channel that.

How do the writers you read when you were young influence your work today?

I think they gave me an intellectual curiosity, especially about nature. They taught me to look at the world closely, to notice a single lady bug on a Queen Anne’s Lace to listen to the sound of a river rushing around a bend and burbling over rocks. They taught me how to really see the world.

Which writers gave you this “intellectual curiosity”?

You can look at the beginning of William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence,” and it’s all there:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

Or any of the details in Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”:

Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.—

I don’t think you can read those poems and not want to go out and explore nature on your own…

Whom of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

There are so many. Jenn Givhan’s work continues to blow me away. I’ve read all of her poetry, but I have to admit I haven’t read her fiction yet. I have her novel, Trinity Sight, on its way to me now and can’t wait to read it. I love her blending of her Latinx culture and myth, her personal life. It’s so powerful. I can’t wait to see what she does with sci-fi.

I continue to be amazed by Kelly Sundberg and Alice Anderson, who both wrote memoirs that were, for me, in some ways life-changing. Kelly’s honest, complex treatment of an abusive marriage was so powerful, and the beauty of language that Alice wrote in her memoir will always stay with me. I think it’s easy to feel like you have a “big story” and forget about the beauty of language, but each word in Alice’s memoir was like the finest brush stroke on a painting.

Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I still enjoy other arts. I sing with a local chorale, and I’m learning to do fiber arts with loom knitting. I think it’s unfair to assume that artists don’t work in various media. Writing is among the easiest arts for anyone to try because you don’t really need any “tools,” like you do with visual arts or instrumental music, but I do think we should all take part in as many artistic endeavours as we can to discover what we enjoy and what we feel drawn to.

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

I really feel like there is only one piece of advice. You have to read. Read everything in your chosen genre that you can get your hands on, and then read everything in your non-fiction interests, whatever those may be because those are your passions, and they’ll find their way into your work, so you’ll want to know everything about them you can. If your interest is nature — read nature books, science journals, etc. If your interest is history, read history and biographies. That’s the only way you can do a deep dive into your work.

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

I recently took Kathy Fish’s Fast Flash Workshop, which was AMAZING, so I’ve been working on sending out those short stories. I tend to switch back and forth between genres. Since the big push to get my third (poetry) book out there and spend time promoting it, I wanted to switch gears and work on fiction for a while. I’ve been working with an editor on one piece, and she’s had such insightful questions for me. I hope to really hone this particular story into something special and can’t wait to see what it becomes!

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