Thursday, September 29, 2011
Q & A With Expert: Interview with Poet KAREN GREENE
Okay, let’s get right to this because I’ve waited awhile to bring her on. Enjoy our chat and, as always, feel free to leave a comment, ask a question or share your own experiences.
CHYNNA: Karen, welcome to ‘The Gift’. I’m so happy to have you here today. For those out there not familiar with your work, can you please share some of your background with us.
KAREN: No formal background. I took a couple of creative writing classes in high school and college, but I don’t hold an MFA in Creative Writing, or anything fancy like that. I’m just addicted to writing.
CHYNNA: Me too. =) I believe in my heart we don’t need to go to University to have the passion and talent to write. We’re born with it, right? ;) Have you always had this passion for writing? What’s your earliest writing memory?
KAREN: I would say yes, writing has always been a passion, though not the only one. I used to dance and ice skate. I am also quite enthralled with photography, painting (which I’m not very good at but I can make a killer multi-media collage!) and I love to bake. I tend to take a basic recipe and totally skew it and make it my own. It makes me giggle when people say, “You have to measure everything in baking.” Good grief! I usually guess! I baked my first cake from scratch without a recipe when I was five. I just threw in all the things (plus a few extras) that I saw my mom put in a bowl and concocted a banana turquoise cake-y thing. Yes…I said turquoise. I added blue and green food colouring to my cake. My mother wouldn’t go near it, but my father said it tasted great!
Basically anything that has me creating makes me happy. I remember first really getting the writing itch at about age 12 (though reading some of my early writing makes me giggle maniacally now) and I just kept writing after that.
CHYNNA: LOVED the story about your baking. TOO funny. I’ve always loved baking too. It’s one of the things I did (besides writing, of course) to work through stress. Weird, huh? Now I know poetry is your favored genre but do you write in others? If so, which ones? Do you have other favorites?
KAREN: I’ve written a few short stories, some essays and I’ve started at least three novels. Not sure if I’ll ever get around to finishing the novels – I don’t have that desire…to write “the great American (or Canadian) novel”…I’ve just always wanted to write poetry, any other writing I get to do is just extra, like icing on an already amazing cake. (I’m noticing a theme here…I may have to go bake a cake…be right back).
CHYNNA: [::waiting…waiting…waiting:: Geez. I hope she remembers that I can’t eat chocolate. HA!] You’re hilarious! Tell us about your phenomenal poetry collection, “Three Thousand Doors”. How did this beautiful project come to be? Did you write poems just for this book or did you delve into your treasure chest?
A little of both. There are some pieces in the book that are 10 – 20 years old so that would certainly qualify as treasure chest delving. There are also several pieces that are much more recent.
I really just wanted to tell a story through my writing - about life, love, pain, happiness, appreciation, chance encounters, the world, and the elements. I strive to take the good, bad and ugly – all those emotions that swirl within - and turn them into something tangible for the reader. When someone tells me how much they relate to a piece or how I’ve expressed their exact feelings…that is the BEST thing. It makes my heart happy.
CHYNNA: Aww…well I can tell you that you definitely took me with you on all of those emotions and experiences and more. It is phenomenal. For those who haven’t tried writing poetry, is the process different from other genres? Tell us similarities/differences you’ve found.
KAREN: Well, for me, writing poetry is about taking an emotion, a moment, nature and putting it into a form that the reader can feel. Like a living, breathing entity it’s about painting a picture with those words and evoking an audible response from the heart. That’s not to say that other forms of writing don’t do the same thing – I love a book or story that makes me laugh, or cry, shocks me – but in longer formats (the novel, the short story) the writer has to consider dialogue and background, etc. it’s much more detailed description than the quick snippet description that poetry requires. Fiction is also “safer.” Where the novel may have tidbits of the author mixed in, the reader usually doesn’t know how much is from the author’s life, and how much is made up, glorified or refashioned. In poetry, it is often the writer’s soul on the page, which can make it a bit terrifying. I liken it to publishing a journal; a diary… allowing the world to see your soul. That can be a very scary thing. There is a huge vulnerability in it.
CHYNNA: I never thought about it like that but you’re right. In my fiction work, I always mix elements of my own life into my characters but it is ‘safer’ than the memoir, right? What an awesome analogy, thank you. Let’s talk more about the powerful emotions you elicit with your poetry. Where does your inspiration come from for your poems?
KAREN: That’s a great question. I sometimes wonder the same thing! Sometimes when I go back to read what I’ve written, I am completely stunned by it. There is a moment where I think to myself, “Wow! I wrote that?” I feel pretty blessed to be able to express myself through words.
My inspiration comes from a lot of different things. Emotions: happiness, anger, sadness, love. People: strangers on the street (those who walk by in vegetable suits or talk to themselves or share their far-out theories). Children (their wild abandon and energy) and my friends. I am inspired by nature: weather, trees, bodies of water, animals. Inspiration comes from a variety of places. I just try to remain ready for my muse. I really never know when she’s going to strike but I want to be prepared. This is why I always have a pen and notebook with me.
CHYNNA: I should really start carrying my notebook with me. I often experience things then have nothing to write it down for later. (And a serious LOL about ‘people in vegetable suits'!) A few of my favorites from ‘Three Thousand Doors’ are ‘For Jane’, ‘Panic Attack’, ‘Forgive. Forget’, and ‘Broken Family Tree’. I related to all of these on such a personal level. What are some of your favorites from the book and why?
“Faust” “Gravestone” “Lying Fallow” “Forgive. Forget.” “The Last Picture” “Knife Wounds” - I love these because they jumped out at me, at a time when I didn’t realize that I was holding in a lot of anger…they burst onto my page and surprised me…but they were OH SO cathartic!
“Refrain” “Wild Grass” “Balloon” “Phoenix” “Fresh Pavement” “Forgiveness” – These are some of the pieces that serve to remind me of my strength, my capacity to change and adapt. Writing pieces like these re-fuels me on darker days when I feel like I am swimming through the muck of the every day mundane and they help to reassert that I am a shining, creative being. Truly, I am happiest when I’m creating…I don’t like to feel forced or caged…writing allows me to spread my wings.
CHYNNA: I know what you mean, Karen. I’m happiest when I’m creating as well. These are all just beautiful. Do you have any advice for our poets-in-waiting out there?
KAREN: 1. Write it ALL down. Keep everything! You never know, a piece you think totally blows probably has a gem in it. Salvage it. Take that gem and turn it into something new.
2. Join a critique group. It’s amazing how much you can learn from your fellow poets.
3. Get feedback. Take constructive criticism with a grain of salt. Use it but use it as it’s comfortable for YOU! Apply the things you learn to your writing.
4. Follow Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides…in November and April he does a Poem A Day challenge, providing daily prompts which help to get those creative flavours popping!
5. Don’t be afraid. Share your work with family, friends and colleagues…soon, you’ll be ready to share it with the world.
CHYNNA: Amazing advice. And I think I may even sign up for Robert Lee Brewer’s blog/challenge. I wonder what I can allow to flow when I give myself the chance. Where can we find more of you and your work on the World Wide Web? Do you have any upcoming events?
KAREN: I don’t have any scheduled signings or events at the moment, but that could change at any time ;).
I can be found online at: http://karenegreene.com/
and my blog The Absinthe Road: http://absintheroad.blogspot.com/
Copies of Three Thousand Doors can be purchased through Laughing Cactus Press – or by contacting me directly at email@example.com (direct contact is the best and easiest way to get a signed copy – purchases are billed through PayPal.)
CHYNNA: Fantastic! I hope our followers check you out. This has been so much fun. Before I let you go for today, I love asking our guests to share any of their pearls of wisdom with us. I’d love to hear yours. =)
KAREN: Wisdom, huh? I guess I would reiterate what I said above…Don’t be afraid. Creativity is sometimes the thing that gets me through a really rough day…having that release, that therapy.
I believe everyone is creative in some way, it’s sometimes simply a matter of channeling that energy and finding your corner of creativity. Find your passion and follow it. It doesn’t matter if it’s something you just do for yourself or you decide to share with the world. Sometimes it’s enough just to have that outlet.
Didn’t I tell you Karen was amazing? We’re going to have to get her to come back very soon. Thank you Karen for joining us on ‘The Gift’ today. I loved and appreciated your insight as well as your awesome pearls of wisdom. I strongly encourage all of you to check out Karen’s book and go ‘meet’ her on Facebook and Twitter. She’s fun, funny and so sweet. I’m hoping we can share a poem or two from Karen’s book on our next ‘Chynna’s Writing Pearls’ (if she lets us!). Be sure to check in next Sunday.