Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Virtual Blog Tour

This is a day later than it should have been, but unforeseen circumstances kept that from happening. Anyway, I was invited to join a "virtual blog tour" by my poet friend Bruce Niedt. Here's how it works: a fellow poet or artist invites you to participate, then you acknowledge them on your blog, answer four questions about your creative process, and refer your readers to three other poets or creative artists and their blogs. Those artists, in turn, do the same and each one refers their readers to three others, etc. It's a great way to get traffic to your blog and also introduce others to creative folks you think are worthy of attention. I've known Bruce for many years and currently, he is a member of the Quick and Dirty Poets, the Burlington County, NJ poetry group that I co-founded with Rachel Bunting, Andrea Jazwiecki and Anna Evans back in 2003 in Rachel's kitchen. Bruce is an extremely diverse poet who challenges himself all the time. In fact, every crazy, ambitious mashup of styles he tries is quite often a keeper. So here's a little more about Bruce:

Bruce W. Niedt is a "beneficent bureaucrat" from southern NJ whose poetry has appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Writers Digest, Writers Journal, The Lyric, Lucid Rhythms, US 1 Worksheets, Spitball, Chantarelle's Notebook, and Edison Literary Review. His awards include the ByLine Short Fiction and Poetry Prize, first prize for poetry at the Philadelphia Writers Conference, and two nominations each for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He has workshopped with Jane Hirshfield, Marge Piercy, Molly Peacock, and Stephen Dunn, and is looking forward to working with Billy Collins in January 2015. His latest chapbook is Twenty-four by Fourteen, a collection of sonnets and other short poems, published by Maverick Duck Press. His blog is http://bniedt.blogspot.com/

Ok then, now here are the questions I'm supposed to answer:

1. What am I currently working on?

I am slowly putting together a full length manuscript that I hope to send around either this year or next year. I am also contemplating a 16th chapbook of poems. More than likely, it will be another themed effort. I've also decided to slowly work my way back into writing fiction, which is something I haven't done in roughly twenty years. 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don't think my work is particularly unique, and I'm notoriously critical of my own work, and myself, for that matter. I think what makes me a bit different is that I like to be pushed outside of my comfort zone. I like being challenged. (However, formal metrical poetry is not my bag...baby.) As for content, it's not terrible unique, either. I write about dark things, dark places, strained relationships, lost people...and then sometimes, I soften up a bit. I generally stick with free verse, but I have written some non-rhyming, formal poetry. I don't think my work fits in with the MFA crowd or any particular traditional style. I write to connect and most of the time, I think I manage to do that.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

The short answer is that I write because I must. I write because if I don't, I'd probably lose my mind. There's a sense of catharsis in doing what I do. I've known for a very long time that I'm a writer, that I'm a creative person. I was writing at 9. I acted in school plays in grade school. I had vocal training. The writing, however, is what I've always come back to...the one thing that express what I could never say. I don't think I could ever stop writing. There isn't a job I've had in the past that has defined me more than my writing. The other reason is the hope that anything I write makes a personal connection with someone who reads it. 

4. How does my writing/creating process work?

I guess you can say that my muse shows up when she feels like showing up. I never like to force myself to write. It's just a recipe for disaster. I've gone through some wicked dry spells, but I always manage to claw my way out...and the catalyst is almost always a challenge of some sort, like National Poetry Month's Poem-A-Day Challenge. This year, I wrote 67 poems. I try not to limit where the ideas come from. They could come from a tv show or a movie. They could be inspired by a song, a news headline, someone I know or want to know...anywhere, really. I don't have a special mug or anything like that. However, I definitely prefer to write in silence and usually alone. I don't like letting anyone see anything I'm in the middle of writing. 

Finally, here are the three poets I chose to do the tour. Taylor Emily Copeland is a poet and editor I've known for several years and respect a lot. I really like her confessional style, as it's easily relatable and often quite powerful. I've known Amber Decker on a professional level for many years, but recently have gotten to know her personally, as well. Amber is one of my favorite poets. Her style is raw, honest and heartbreaking. Shannon McKeehen is a newer poet friend who I got to know through my friend Kayla Williams. I've published her at Chantarelle's Notebook and have featured her there, as well. Much like Amber, there's a lovely honesty in Shannon's work, but a softness, as well. I always enjoy reading her. 

Taylor Emily Copeland is a poet from Eastern Pennsylvania. Her poems have appeared in Hobo Camp Review, Thick With Conviction, Chantarelle's Notebook, Drown In My Own Fears, The Active Voice and others. In 2010, she was nominated twice for Best of the Net and also was nominated for Best of the Web. She loves the band Paramore, reads obsessively, likes pink things, drinks too much coffee, drives aimlessly and falls in love too easily. She is unashamed of all of it. Her blog is http://taylorcopeland.blogspot.com/

Shannon Ranee McKeehen is a poet, nerd, teacher, and trouble-maker from Ohio. She received her MFA from Mills College in Oakland, California in 2010, and her chapbook, Barbra in Shadow, was available the following year. Barbra is a feminist re-imagining of the femme fatale from 1940's film noir. Currently, Ms. McKeehen is working on her doctorate in Rhetoric and Composition at Kent State University. She continues to write poetry while juggling academics. You can find out more by visiting her website and blog at www.shannonmckeehen.com.

Amber Decker is a poet from West Virginia who has been published extensively in both print and online venues. She is a lover of horses, hooded sweatshirts, dark chocolate, fantasy novels, werewolf movies and red wine. She also spends a ridiculous amount of time at the gym working on her anger management issues. Her latest collection of poems, The Girl Who Left You, is forthcoming from Six Ft Swells Press. Amber's blog is http://roughverse.wordpress.com/