What is your home club?
I began Last Stanza Poetry Association in Elwood in 2011. We meet the second and fourth Friday of each month in the Elwood hospital.
Grass Lake, Michigan
How long have you been writing poetry?
My friends in the second grade compiled my first collection, made of construction paper and tied with yarn. I think my parents still have that somewhere. The girls wanted one more poem for some reason, and I hurriedly wrote a really dumb (even for a seven-year-old) one on peanut butter and jelly. The humiliation of seeing that silly thing “in print” stuck with me for a long time. I didn’t publish again for many, many years. At least eight.
Do you remember what first turned you on to poetry?
The poems in the Watty Piper books, I'm quite sure. I have no creative writers in my family that I'm aware of, so I'd always felt like an alien sitting around as a kid writing poems and stories.
Story poems with a touch of nostalgia and humor.
To rhyme or not to rhyme?
Both. I love rhyme, but I don’t like when it rules word choices or suppresses meaning. And I love rhyme that is corrupted in some way—I’m not opposed to throwing in a made-up word or two.
Steven Roberts, Patrick Kalahar, Dr. Seuss, Richard Griffin, Sarah E. Morin, Vincent Schrader, Judy Young, David Allen . . .
What line or phrase from a poem gets stuck in your head?
When I was about nine I memorized and then recited Joyce Kilmer’s Trees in front of a gym full of kids and parents. Lines from that poem floated through my childhood. It somersaulted with me down hills, swam on the sunlight of the lake as I waded, blew through my braids as I swung on swings and sped along on my banana-seat bicycle. “Poems are made by fools like me” felt like an appropriate thing to say at nine. I had a hard time imagining a grown-up man writing that, though. His Blue Valentine has a wonderful passage: Her eyes, Monsignore / Are so blue that they put lovely little blue reflections / On everything that she looks at / Such as a wall / Or the moon / Or my heart.
What are your favorite subjects to write about?
Animals pop up very often. The Three Little Withdrawn Pigs, Natural Science Lessons for the Gullible, Red Dog Among the Pines, Interview with My Dog, The Cartoon Cat Retirement Home and many others feature animals. And I’m attracted to writing about the past, but not in a faithfully historical vein. We Do Not Have a Dinosaur, for example, is set during the Great Depression. And my Dead Letter Society sits down with postal workers in Ireland during World War I.
I have a book-stuffed office in my home, which is a giant brick schoolhouse built in 1894. I have a relatively-old PC on my crowded desk. Loads of post-it notes are scattered around the monitor. Fairly often I’m forced (forced, I tell you!) to write with a cat in my lap, or even my terrier. I need a blanket on my lap and a space heater when it’s cold. I have a laptop computer in the bedroom, but for some reason I write better in my office. I like to get creative in the late afternoon and night, after my work is done for the day. I do write occasionally in the morning, but with the press of a day’s worth of work facing me, I can’t relax fully into a novel or poem.
What do you find most challenging about writing poetry? What are your particular writing skills?
I think it’s hard to not get all excited about a poem and call it done as soon as the last word is typed and the file saved. The real art of the poem comes with editing and tweaking. Finding exactly the right word for the emotion or color, mood or scent. A skill? Maybe whimsy or unusual imagery. Why write something that’s been written a million times before? The challenge is to find a way to write that is something no one else on the planet could possibly think of, but that is also very relatable.
Your day job?
My husband and I are used & rare booksellers. We had a bookshop in Michigan where we’re both from, and then near the campus of Ohio University for many years. We moved to Elwood in 2000 and now sell books via the internet. We live and work from our schoolhouse, feeling semi-retired and yet overworked at the same time.
Music. I play the bells/xylophone/auxiliary percussion in a community band. I am a mediocre pianist. I love digging around in flea markets and antique shops for old books, sheet music and odd figurines.
Any family members/pets you want to mention?
Patrick, my husband of twenty-six years, is also a poet. We have a Jack Russell terrier, Weegee, who stars in my Tails Magazine humor column quite often (she is a poet and novelist, as well). And we have seven cats. When we had our shop in Ohio we fostered cats for the local shelter, finding new homes for over fifty felines. Fostering and bookselling inspired my series of bookshop novels.
Do you have any chapbooks or websites you would like to plug?
I’ve published a collection of poetry, One Mile North of Normal and Other Poems, and I have two novels: Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats, and its sequel, The Find of a Lifetime. Both of the novels also have poetry in them. I’m working on a third novel now, an unusual fantasy for teens set in central Indiana. My blog can be found here: http://booksellingandwritingwithweegee.blogspot.com/