Friday Surprise

Hana just told me – Andrea – on FB that she entered the Midnight Oil poetry contest and that’s just great.
Some time ago, back in October, Amy who holds the contest, wrote to me because only so few poets had sent poems to her for her contest – only I didn’t have any poems that Amy hadn’t seen so I couldn’t submit any.
Instead I paid for some possible entries so I could offer free entries to poets who sent poems to our blog including one very special poet who once wrote an incredible poem on Poetic Asides.
And the poets sent their poems to Amy, she extended her deadline, she got some more poems and Amy was happy.
That was when I realized that I had two poems written here in November that Amy hadn’t seen.
I submitted them yesterday.
So here we go!

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Friday surprise: Advice From a Good Midwestern Girl

If you take a gander at the picture of me on the “About Us” page, the first thing that does not come to mind is “Ah, a Good Midwestern Girl.” If you know me personally, the idea of me as a GMG probably makes you giggle uncontrollably. But  I am, at heart, a nice Nebraskan woman.   I cannot pass up a really good steak. My spell check is configured to automatically replace “towards” with “toward,” because I’ve given up on the idea that I’m ever going to type “toward” of my own volition. And I always make my own Thanksgiving stuffing – from scratch, thank you.

Which is why I was stunned by what I read in this interesting and in-depth article about what editors of lit magazines want (on The Review Review).

Lynne Barrett’s article is full of good advice for people hoping to find recognition and publication in literary journals.  She mentions practical stuff like keeping good records of where you’ve sent work out and making sure you indicate when submissions are simultaneous. But most of this (rather substantial) article’s advice amounted to this:

BE POLITE.

That’s it: be polite. It’s really sad that grown up artists – writers, painters, actors – have to be told to use the same rules that govern polite society when they approach someone about displaying/publishing/supporting their work.

The Reception

Being polite is in the interest of both the artist and the purveyor of artistic work.  In the same way that it’s not just nice but practical to give your mechanic a  plate of homemade cookies for New Years, it’s not just rude but stupid to send a nasty-gram to an editor who rejects a favorite story. That same editor might have loved your second-favorite story, but not if you’ve gone off the rails at her once. And an editor who will identify you to other editors as One Big Headache will not help you create a professional reputation.

 Let’s look at a less obvious example. Most editors have a clear and transparent submission policy; the results of that policy are usually apparent in the publication itself. So it’s easy to find out if the journal in question does not publish genre fiction, or is primarily interested in travel writing, or only publishes poetry in the style of Mary Oliver. If you send in a submission, without checking the publication’s style or requirements, you are essentially indicating that what the editor/manager/publisher of the magazine wants is not important to you. Is that really the message that’s going to get your work accepted?

An analogy: I had an attractive friend who tried on-line dating. In her profile, she stated explicitly that she would not date men who didn’t share the basic tenets of her faith. She wasn’t looking for a high income level, movie star looks, anything like that. Just a decent person around her age who shared some of her basic life views. The number of dates she went on where the person eventually mentioned that they totally disagreed with her faith was astounding – we stopped counting. And what was worse: most of the people told her they’d looked at her picture and contacted her because she was “cute” ; they told her that they didn’t care what she’d written.

Good Manners

That’s not very polite, is it? And it’s equally impolite to send an editor whatever we feel like without stopping to find out if it’s something they’d spend their time reading. If we expect respectful treatment for our work, we need to treat those who might support it respectfully as well. I’m saddened by how often  fellow artists haven’t looked at the art work carried by a gallery they’d like to show their work in or haven’t read a sample issue of the publicatin in which they hope their work will appear.

This may seem unfair; after all, buying sample magazines is expensive and tickets to indie film festivals add up. But there are work-arounds. Many publications provide PDFs of  previously published stories; lots of indie film festivals archive of clips of prior years’ winners online. More importantly, not being polite also costs you: time unpublished, time dealing with boomeranging artworks that could be used as creative time,  time, energy and money for resubmissions.

Almost all Barrett’s advice  – from how to respond to an acceptance letter to what to do about simultaneous submissions – comes down to being a courteous person. Don’t do to an editor/gallery manager /producer-director what you wouldn’t want someone to do to you. It’s really that simple.

Sunday Surprise

My good old virtual friend Jacqueline Cardenas is suddenly here.
She posted such a wonderful comment on Poetic Bloomings

(“Poetry is a way to unite“)

and I replied this:

“Jacque, do you remember your poems on Poetic Asides back in 2009? Your poem with a couple who spend their honeymoon in Spain, in a hotel room, in a bed and this husband’s beard grows and grows – and the woman suddenly wonders: “I never knew I married Taliban?”
That is my favorite poem from Poetic Asides 2009.
Sharing humor means the world for me and your way of thinking opens up my mind again and again.”
Now Jacque, I also posted a free submission to you for http://www.thewritehelper.com so now, Jacque, you run along with all the other great poets!

Friday surprise: we connect with Cara Holman

I first “met” Cara Holman on the poetry blog Poetic Asides. Robert Brewer, the editor, posts regular prompts (every Wednesday, for those of you who would enjoy a regular source of inspiration, not to mention interaction with the interesting and supportive community that hangs out there) as well as periodic challenges/ contests. When I first read one of Cara’s poems, I was stunned. I hadn’t read haiku since I was in grade school, and her poem was a revelation: the sense of the first two lines launching the reader into space, and then the third line gently landing at the poem’s end. I realized that I had missed something important about the form, and when started looking at other haiku online, gosh, Cara’s name kept appearing, as the author of one beautiful poem after another. So naturally, with a new blog that gave us an excuse to interview her, I jumped at the chance. I know after reading her interview, you’ll want to sample more of her poems, so in addition to some of the journals we discuss in the interview, head on over to her blog, Prose Posies, to read more. [ina @ IOB]

IOB: Cara, for people who haven’t yet met you, can you introduce yourself and your work?

CH: After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2006, I was looking for a way to reclaim my life when I discovered a stack of flyers in my oncologist’s waiting area, announcing the formation of a writing group for women cancer survivors. It seemed very serendipitous. Never mind that I had not written a word, besides journaling, since college. Never mind that my undergraduate degree was in mathematics, and I did graduate work in computer engineering. And never mind that I had no idea what I wanted to write about. I just knew that this was something I had to try. Our facilitator guided us into writing gently, with prompts that were sometimes visual, sometimes a word or phrase, or sometimes guided imagery. And somehow, in that very nurturing environment, the words just flowed. Every session began with us reading poetry, round robin, from one of the Garrison Keillor anthologies, and soon, I found myself writing poetry, in addition to narrative prose. I stayed with that group for almost four years. Sometime in 2009, I was poking around online looking for sharing sites, when I discovered Poetic Asides. It’s been a wonderfully supportive community for poets, and I can’t say how grateful I am to have discovered it. Around the same time, I also tapped into the online haiku community, and am now totally hooked on haiku, senryu, haibun, rengay, and the occasional tanka. This is where I focus most of my writing efforts these days, but I still try to keep my hand in prose poetry and creative nonfiction as well.

IOB: Is there a poem that you’d be willing to share with us here?

CH:  I wrote [this] back in August of 2010 for a poetry sharing site called Big Tent Poetry.

Pineapple Summer by Cara Holman

The secret of pineapple upside-down cake
is that the pineapples have to start at the bottom
in order to end up on top. Eventually.
Life can be like this. Or not.
Some things start at the bottom
and stay at the bottom. Like fish.
Some start on top and fall. Like Humpty Dumpty.
Others just drift. Like milkweeds on the breeze.
Or summer days, which slide one into the next,
smooth as corn silk.

IOB: This is beautiful; thank you for sharing it with us. What inspired you to start writing poetry?

CH: I received my first poetry book as a gift from my cousins, when I was 5 years old—I still have that book, in fact, although it is a bit worse for the wear. It was the Big Golden Book of Poetry, and I delighted in the poems of Rachel Field, Robert Louis Stevenson, Hilaire Belloc, Lewis Carroll, and others.

I also remember reading John Ciardi’s You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You, Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, and a big green poetry anthology we owned, whose name I unfortunately don’t remember. My 3rd grade teacher had us memorize poetry for recitation, and also copy out poetry for handwriting practice. So poetry was always a constant force in my life. In high school, we had a wonderful poetry unit in AP Lit where we read a tremendous amount of classic poetry, and I encountered The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock for the first time. It wasn’t until I joined the writing group, though, that I actually tried my hand at writing any myself.

IOB: I recently read a post by Tien Ansari  on the blog Write Anything” in which she says

I’ve pointed out before that the medium is part of the message, and the form is part of the content; if we didn’t believe that, we wouldn’t write poetry in the first place. The same argument applies to writing formal poetry: You use a form when the form is an appropriate part of the message.

You specialize in Japanese forms (including haiku and haibun) – what is it about these forms that attracts you? How do these forms help you to write, or to communicate ideas, or do they provide you with something completely different?

CH: You know, I think I was initially attracted to haiku because the 17 syllable count was very precise and mathematical. However, I was soon to discover that syllables are rarely counted anymore in contemporary haiku. Still, there is something very clean and precise about haiku: a haiku generally consists of two images juxtaposed in a certain way. While I’ve certainly read some very “poetic” haiku, haiku poets, in general, tend to avoid overly flowery language. Instead, they focus on capturing images or feelings, without overtly expressing them, while still leaving something to the reader’s imagination. It fascinates me how in 6-12 words, so many different possibilities can be generated, and yet how each can still faithfully reflect the poet’s voice. I also admire the brevity inherent in the Japanese forms, and enjoy the challenge of keeping the prose and poetry crisp.

IOB: How do you combine your working life with your writer’s life?

CH: Well, sometimes I don’t, very well! However, being a mother for almost 27 years has honed my time management skills and self-discipline. I am learning to juggle all the components of my life (home, work, volunteering, and writing, which is not my profession, but rather, a hobby). Submission deadlines for haiku journals tend to fall quarterly, and at the end of a month, and those times can be very hectic, especially when lots in going on in my life, as it is now. I have had to cut back on some of my writing and other commitments. My family is always my highest priority, so I adjust other aspects of my life accordingly. I’m very excited to not only be attending, but also to be a presenter at, a local haiku retreat next month, which means that there’s lots of non-writing things I need to get under control before then, so I can go with a clear mind.

IOB: Sometimes I see what I think are glimpses of your life or the lives of those around you in your work – how does real life influence your work? Do you have any advice for poets and writers on how to balance reality and creation in one’s writing?

CH: I think everyone’s got to find their own way, but for me, my direction was suggested by the way I got into writing in the first place: for its therapeutic value. I almost exclusively write from my own life, and observations of the world around me. I of course tweak details of my writing for privacy—my own, and others—but everything I write has intrinsic truth and I try to focus on publishing only those things that I think others will find relatable. Most of my haiku, for instance, focus on the natural world around me, my cancer journey, dealing with my parents’ deaths, and raising kids. The more universal the theme, it seems, the more feedback I get on my writing, and the more dialog it generates. The other upside of writing from reality is that everything I do becomes fodder for my writing, so I am always thinking of what to write next while I am at the grocery store, the gym, driving around, and even at home washing dishes and doing laundry. I carry index cards with me everywhere I go so I can jot down ideas when they occur to me, and I get some of my best ideas at night as I am falling asleep and have released my conscious mind, or first thing in the morning, before I have to start my day.

IOB: A lot of readers, having read the poem you’ve shared with us, are going to want to see more of your work – where should they look ?

CH: I discovered early on that tracking submissions and publications is often more work than writing them in the first place! Thus, I trained myself to become very organized about tracking my publications. On my blog [Prose Posies], I keep a comprehensive list of all my publications, organized by type (Anthologies, Haibun, Poetry, Haiku, Rengay, and Tanka). These categories can all be accessed from the top level page of my blog, and contain live links for my online writings.

IOB: Can you direct readers to other places on the web where your work is available?

CH: Online journals that I have been published in include The Heron’s Nest, A Hundred Gourds [note from ina: one of my personal favorite online journals], contemporary haibun online (cho), Daily Haiku, Haibun Today, Notes from the Gean (which is sadly now defunct, but the archives still exist), Four and Twenty, Sketchbook, Prune Juice, and Multiverses. Links to the actual issues can be found on my blog pages. I also have a dedicated page on The Haiku Foundation’s Haiku Registry.

IOB:  What do you have planned by way of future poetic projects?

CH: I periodically assess the journals I read and submit to, and make adjustments accordingly. This year, I finally felt brave enough to submit to cho, Daily Haiku, Haibun Today, Acorn, and Modern Haiku. I’m pleased to have work appearing (or that will appear) in all of them. I also periodically re-adjust my writing focus. I started writing rengay and renku (collaborative verse) last year, and this is going to be a big part of what I focus on this year. Also, haibun. I have (literally) hundreds of short pieces that I wrote while in writing group, that I want to come back to with fresh eyes, and see if I can’t adapt some of them to haibun. And of course putting together my first haiku chapbook someday has long been a dream of mine.

In addition to actually writing, as I’ve become more involved with the haiku community, I have looked for ways to give something back. This year, I took on the role of maintaining the Haiku Oregon blog and also created a Facebook page for it. I plan to make the Seabeck Haiku Retreat an annual event, and look forward to attending my 2nd Haiku North America conference next year. There is always something new on the horizon…

Thank you, Ina and Andrea, for allowing me to be interviewed for your blog, and for your thoughtful and probing questions.

IOB: Cara, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat virtually with u s- it’s a pleasure to introduce others to your work.

Friday surprise: connecting with Pearl Ketover Prilik

IOB would like to introduce you to the multi-talented Pearl Ketover Prilik: author, poet, and editor of two international poetry collections.

PKP: I always see things on a multiplicity of levels: my point of view, what I imagine is “the other’s” point of view, what perhaps is some objective reality and how all of this fits into some grand scheme of things.  So that being angry at another human being is virtually (no pun intended) impossible. In fact during some eight hundred (I mean literally!) hours on analysis  I was often chided for not “exploring my anger.” I believe most strongly that anger is an understandable but completely nonproductive emotion – in personal relationships as well as in large global conflicts such as war – which inevitably at some point lead to peace with between the poles of which lie a trail of senseless death.  There are few exceptions to my inability to anger ;those involve the red outrage of which I am fully capable combined with an urge bordering on compulsion to speak up and take action when someone commits a grave injustice against an innocent, or I am called to action when there is an imbalance of power or extreme unkindness.  Perhaps, because I truly believe that all is connected somehow, I cannot tolerate as a potential part of myself such ugliness and must do whatever I can in my power to stop its course or at the very least to strongly bear witness.

IOB: Beyond The Dark Room, An International Collection of Transformative Poetry. One review contains this  description: “This book could be your gateway through healing to hope.” How is that?

PKP: The simple answer is that I believe that poetry is a window into the unconscious. Since I was a child I have found writing to be tremendously cathartic and organizational when dealing with stress and in working through intrapsychic issues.  As a practicing clinician, I often found that poetry was a medium which permitted articulation of certain felt understandings and explorations and have both written poems to patients and encouraged them to write on their own.  There is a freeing quality in the rhythm of poetry, in the ability to express experience in a multiplicity of layers that is quite simply lacking in everyday, linear language.  The poems in Beyond the Dark Room describe the various stages in the journey from trauma through empowerment and ultimately to a place of either transformation as the subtitle implies, transcendence or in many cases to acceptance of circumstances which cannot be altered but where perspective can be radically transformed.  I believe that poetry is not so much an ‘art form’ although undoubtedly it is, but is also a variation of communication using a deeper level of thinking and allowing for the articulation and the ultimate so-called working through of difficult issues.

IOB: Several authors contributed to Beyond the Dark Room.Please tell us about the poets. [IOB full disclosure: ina Roy is one of the poets whose work is included in this volume]

PKP: The poets who contributed to the Beyond the Dark Room are perhaps a grouping of the most dedicated, talented and, quite frankly, delightful human beings I have encountered.  For a complete listing of all the poets involved please visit Beyond the Dark Room’s page:

Beyond the Dark Room on Facebook

There is also a biography of each poet at the end of the book. There is a great deal of diversity in terms of where people live, from the country-side in Australia, to Canada, back across the “pond” to the UK, back to various points in the United States.Despite the diversity, there is a  unifying commonality of  poetic vision, a sense that we are all somehow ‘connected’ on what I like to call this “blue marble,” and that somehow we met at a poetry site and decide that this project was one in which we had a deep personal interest.

IOB: What was your role, Pearl, in conceiving, organizing, and publishing this collection?

PKP: I am the principal administrator of a the Facebook group/page for poets.  This group came together initially as a social group comprised of poets who knew each other from Robert Brewer’s  “original”  (before the latest updates) Poetic Asides blog which I often refer to as “The Street.”   We had become familiar with one another’s work through various challenges and many of us had been writing and commenting on each other’s works on a more or less daily basis for years.  Last year one of the members floated the idea of perhaps writing a collection “someday.” Frankly, in my ‘other life-time’ as a teacher of English responsible for perhaps 150 students’ writing on a daily basis, putting together an anthology of poems with some forty adult poets didn’t seem an insurmountable challenge.  I simply selected out a heaping handful of popular prompts from the Poetic Asides blog and we voted on ten which became the ten chapters of that book. I had to get permission from Robert to use the prompts which apparently were “owned” by Writers’ Digest.  I went as high as the new editor and suggested the idea of an anthology.  Robert was then able to get permission for us to use ten prompts.  Poets simply self-selected those that they thought were their best examples of these prompts that had been shared on the blog.  I wrote an introduction, asked Robert if he would write a Foreword, and kept following up with him tracking him down in his extraordinarily busy life. Many of the poets are wonderful photographers and we chose from a collection of submitted photographs using Survey Monkey which one of the participating poets set up and tracked to select an especially beautiful photograph for our cover. One of the other poets Michele Brenton’s husband Andrew is a printer/publisher and agreed to print the book and off we went, in what felt like a collective effort that mirrored my philosophy of all being connected very satisfyingly.

The second project, recently published, was a bit different.  I floated the idea of a collection perhaps about abuse or trauma and the incredibly capacity that human beings seem to have for moving “beyond” such assaults to their sensibilities.  (I am always awed and have the deepest respect as a human being and a therapist for the ability that some individuals have for not only surviving but thriving beyond trauma and all sorts of life challenges.  A small but vocal minority of poets took an immediate dislike to the project and at times it seemed to me!  Of course, all of this was sorted out with a wonderful open, vigorous dialogue and led to the twenty (twenty-one including myself) poets that decided to participate in the latest anthology.  I created a separate page for communication and voting on various stages and off we went.

Since I was interested in the interplay between the therapeutic value of the potential collection and the entertainment/educational value, I used some of my understanding and observation about ten typical stages that individuals most often pass through after trauma– and it was these ten passages (Stunned, Anger, Fear, Shock, Depression, Empowerment, Calm, Trust, Confidence, and Love/Happiness/Fulfillment/Peace of Mind) that became the chapters.  I wrote the introduction and solicited someone who was primarily involved with trauma to write the Foreword from a professional list-serve of psychoanalysts.  I was absolutely delighted when Dr. Nurit Nora Israeli responded and we are both still reeling from the synchronicities in our experience, perhaps most notably the fact that Dr. Israeli was involved in a workshop involving loss and moving “Beyond”  and is a poet in her own right using some of the very same words in her own poetry.  Our group included some staggeringly talented photographers who submitted photographs for our cover upon which we voted in almost one voice for a view from inside a dark room onto a beautiful flower garden taken by Jane Penland Hoover [IOB: more of Jane’s work can be found at her blog] that seemed painted to describe this collection.  Another of the poets, Laura Hegfield [IOB: more about Laura here], who herself is a beacon of inspiration in living her own personal challenges with grace, altruism, and sparkling beauty suggested some noted writers who might want to take a look at the book – they did and returned some wonder-full reviews – a portion of which you quoted as part of one of your questions.

I can say without braggadocio that I am extraordinarily proud to be part of this wonderful collection and that it has been one of the joys of my life to be able to collect, organize, and synthesize the poems of this talented and essentially kind group of poets into an anthology that will be dedicated toward bringing hope and light to the dark corners of others.

IOB: Is it possible to see an excerpt of the book somewhere?

PKP: [here is a link to the book] Beyond The Dark Room edited by  Pearl Ketover Prilik

It is difficult to excerpt poetry – except for the introduction and/or foreword which would seem self-serving and not particularly descriptive of the extraordinary talent and individual voices of the collected poems.  As far as where the book can be acquired, it is easily accessible on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in the US and the UK.  As part of our agreement as a collective of writers we again chose a charity to receive all of our royalties directly.  In the case of Beyond the Dark Room, An International Collection of Transformative Poems  all royalties are being donated to Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).  This organization was voted upon and chosen by an overwhelming majority as they have a mental health branch as well as medical services offered worldwide.   It is our hope that Beyond The Dark Room… will serve as agent of healing for those in need.

IOB:  In addition to an editor, you are a poet in your own right. You share many of your poems on your blog, Imagine; where else can  readers find your poems and writings?

PKP:  I have recently been published in several online and print publications.  I suppose that it would make some sense, since I am now comfortable with the ins and outs of independent publishing to collect my poems and publish them in a collection of their own – I’m not quite sure that I’d know how to work unilaterally without taking a vote on how the cover would look or goodness knows accepting any royalties that came my way.  Of course, I‘m only joking, but seriously, poetry began as a distraction, I had always written as a way of personally marking an occasion or event with my family, friends and/or patient,s and then as a way of decompressing while thinking about my “real” writing as a would-be novelist.  How delightful, to discover that I – while I have been searching for the “real writer” within – may have always been what I am only discovering that perhaps I am: a poet all the while.

IOB: You’re an author of a number of non-fiction works in your capacity as a therapist. How is your writing process different when you write professional non-fiction work from when you write poetry?

PKP: I believe I anticipated your question and so I’ll just continue.  Professional writing  is clean and easy:decide what I want to write, or accept the assignment offered, outline, research, check research, interview, add anecdotes, as I would teach children:

  1. decide what you’re going to tell them
  2. tell them
  3. tell them what you told them.

 Poetry, unlike other writing such as short stories and those novels simply comes from someplace else; I’m not quite sure where it is coming from, but most times what I write (and I mean no grandiosity here because there are no claims to quality)most of what I write comes to me immediately and is, if edited at all, edited as I go – I more often feel than I am “transcribing” the writing of someone else – in fact if I should forget to save something – what I was writing is often gone as a dream. I claim no ownership of the poetry I write, for I do not know from where it comes.  It holds no stress, because of this lack of ego involvement – instead it contains limitless surprise and relief of stress.   This is the kind of non-personally directed poetry I’m writing nowadays – greatly stream of consciousness – whose stream I am not certain – but definitely filtered through my own consciousness.

IOB: Would you share one of your poems with us?

I recently had this poem published in a wonderful print literary magazine titled “scissors and spackle.” I’m not quite sure where the poem came from and why it is one of my favorites but it is. I hope you enjoy it as well:

Girls in Plum Sweaters

what can girls in plum sweaters
be expected to know of loss
as they pass the shovel among friends
unorated letters on pretty stationary drift
in the wind – as earth hard-hits the coffin
inside sweatered pruning friend on white satin
outside they, fresh as dropped stitches
from a single skein of yarn
creating a forever hole
in matching plum sweaters,
dirt under fingernails
cold wind in their fresh washed hair

IOB: Where do you see your writing heading in the future? How can we help you achieve your goals?

PKP: I think it is the height of lunacy that I have not edited the two novels that I have completed. Both of these books, through my nonfiction connections have been read by major NYC publishing house editors with kind helpful comments even though they passed.  I was thrilled by their readings and their encouraging words and then SET THEM ASIDE!  My writing goals, the epitome of this chapter of my life would be to get my novels edited and published.  I think that this wonderful blog could be helpful to me and I am certain to others by providing a forum where partners could cheer each other on and provide a framework and focus for their daily personal goals such as the healthy competiveness of the NaNoWriMo challenges.  I am not suggesting the I would need anyone to read my work or I them, but the simple fact that I was in a sense “responsible” for editing a set number of pages of words a day and that I was not alone in this endeavor would be extraordinarily motivating.

I want to thank you Andrea, and Ina, for this opportunity. and for this wonderful blog which has the potentiality of being a major resource for so many writers.  I wish you everything that you hope to achieve and I already know that you have and will continue to bring as much joy to others as you have brought to me.

Friday Surprise: connecting with Regina Swint

For our inaugural interview, we’ve had the privilege of interviewing the talented Regina Swint. A creative writer since childhood, Regina hails from beautiful Rome, GA, and is an alumnus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Colorado Technical University. Swint is currently serving in the U.S. Army. Her book, The Other Side of 30,  has received praise from many reviewers, including:

IOB (that would be In Our Books, aka Andrea and ina) jumped at the  chance to ask Regina about her book, her interests and how writing happens in the midst of real life in the military. – Editor [ina]

IOB: Regina, for people who haven’t “met” you yet on the internet (yet!), can you tell us about your background as a person and as a writer?

RS: I’m from a large extended family with a lot of creative people.  I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was very young.  I grew up writing in diaries and journals, and I took many writing courses in college.  My undergraduate degree is in English Literature.  I’m currently serving in the U.S. Army, stationed in New York.  I hope to retire from the Army in about 2 years, so that I can pursue my writing career a little more.  Although I have published one book of fiction, and it is enjoying moderate success, I am still relatively new to the business of writing and publishing.  I’m learning a lot from many of the writing groups and forums that are out there.

IOB: What inspired you to start writing?

RS:  I wanted to be a writer because my uncle Harvey was a great poet in my eyes, and I wanted to move people the way he did.  Also, when I was growing up, my grandmother used to tell a lot of great bedtime stories, many of which I was sure she made up, or that were passed down to her by word of mouth.  I wanted to one day capture some of her stories on paper.

IOB: What  genres of fiction do you  enjoy reading?

RS: I mostly like literary fiction and women’s fiction, but I also enjoy reading an occasional mystery.

IOB: Please tell us about your writing successes.

RS: I don’t believe that I’m in a place yet to call myself a successful writer, but I’m trying to stay the course.  When I published my first book, The Other Side of 30, in 2010, I was very pleased.  The story was about three years in the making, and another seven years or so to finally get up the nerve to self-publish.  I received a lot of encouragement from friends and family, many of whom I met on the Internet, via blogging.  Others were old friends from high school and college, some of whom helped me to get my book into the university bookstore for sale on campus.  That’s a great big deal for an unknown and self-published author.

I’m now in the process of learning the publishing business, and I’m planning to re-release The Other Side of 30 as a 2nd edition by Christmas.  I’d like to think of it as a new and improved version, with a new cover and tighter editing.  I’m also putting together a special book project with multiple contributors, which will be sold for charity.  The book will be called Up from Here.  Ideally, that book will be released around the holidays, too, and it will serve to launch my publishing house, New Renaissance Ink, LLC.  More about my projects and special projects can be founds at my websites, Write on Time, and New Renaissance Ink.

IOB: The Other Side of 30 has some themes that many of us can relate to: the unexpected places we find (and don’t find) love, how to understand what we want in our lives as we move through adulthood, and what we’re willing to do to get what we want. How did Sebrina Cooper’s story come to you and how was it influenced by things you’ve experienced?

RS: Sebrina is composite of many people, with some personality traits and quirks similar to my own.  Her story came about as a writing experiment that just developed into a longer piece of work.  One of my writing professors used to encourage us to write from the perspective of someone else, and to write without judging the character.  I tried to write Sebrina as a person with many flaws, but with many good qualities, too; and I hope that there was some balance.

IOS: How do you combine your working life with your writer’s life?

RS: My daily work life takes up most of my time, and I don’t spend as much time writing as I would like.  I usually only get to read and write for pleasure on the weekends.

IOB: How do you manage to keep up conversations with writers who write in different genres, and may be of different ages and nationalities?

RS: I’m fortunate that I can reach out to other writers via the Internet, and that there are so many forums available on many sites, including blogs, and sites like She Writes and Facebook.  It is possible that because of my military background and lots of exposure to people of different cultures, nationalities, and age groups, that I’m able to communicate comfortably with other writers as people, and without regard to where they are from or what they write.  In my experience, the other writers are very gracious and always willing to offer feedback and share their insight.  Because I don’t speak any other languages, I find myself very fortunate, because the writers who are of different nationalities have been kind enough to communicate with me in English.

IOS: When sitting out in Afghanistan, what did you read or  write?

RS: When I was in Afghanistan, I wrote a lot of random thoughts, but nothing very formal.  It was mostly just notes and emails to family and friends back home in the States.

IOB [Andrea]: I guess that many readers, including many readers new to your work, would be interested to read about your time in Afghanistan – well, me for a start. Have you considered writing about your time in Afghanistan?

RS: I have considered writing about my experiences in Afghanistan, but I have not developed anything yet.  Many of the thoughts and memories are very fresh, and I’m sure it would be very difficult to share any more than I have already shared in my notes, blogs, letters, or essays.  If I write extensively about my experience, I will want to do justice to the story I plan to tell, and to do justice to my comrades who have had experiences there, too.  Their feelings are very important to me.

IOS: What you would tell other writers about the pros and cons of self-publishing?

RS: There are many pros and cons to self-publishing.  I think one of the greatest pros would be that there is a nearly-instant gratification to seeing your work published and available to the world.  Self-publishing also means that you have a lot of, if not all of the creative control of the work.  Everything is done according to what you like, when you like and how you like.  And there is also some flexibility in the pricing for self-published authors.

I also think there are many cons to self-publishing.  Probably the greatest con is that the ability to self-publish can lead many writers to do too much too soon.  While it is very exciting to publish, distribute, and sell on your own terms, it can be exhausting to try and cover so many details without any help or guidance.  I think self-publishing requires a lot of energy, and should be considered carefully before one makes the decision to self-publish or to use a print-on-demand (POD) service.  There are so many options and services out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, and even to be taken advantage of by some less than honorable service providers.

It’s tempting to rush through it, but rushing can lead to making mistakes and delivering a product that’s not as good as it could be.  As a self-pubbed author, you have to even harder to ensure that you’re providing a high quality product, because self-published books tend to have a reputation for low quality with poor editing and poor development.  I think the best thing to do when considering self-publishing is to be careful and do plenty of research.  Ask questions and learn from the experience of as many others as you can before making a decision.

IOB  [Andrea]: You are a hard-working woman, and I admire you for your fresh and direct style, your energy.  Have you any advice you’d like to share?

Thank you very much.  Yes, my days get very long, sometimes, and I find myself wishing there was more time to just write and relax.  As for advice, I try to share this same advice whenever someone asks me about writing.  Just read as much as possible.  Read, read, read!  Read books, not just magazines or sports articles, or something on the Internet.  The more you read, the better and stronger your writing skills will become.  When you write, try to write honestly and without inhibition.  Take time to develop your writing voice and practice using it.  Write because you enjoy it.  Write for love of the craft.

IOB: About your work: What links or what reviews would you like us to refer to?

RS:  I’ve received some very kind reviews of The Other Side of 30 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and from a few bloggers.  Here are a couple of links:

IOB: How can we help you to move forward with your writing?

RS: Allowing me to participate in this interview has been very helpful, and I appreciate your kindness.  I would appreciate any support that you can offer, including sharing my work with others, and helping me to generate as much buzz as possible about me and my work.  Word of mouth is a great way to spread the word.  Thanks, so much, for inviting me to this interview.

IOB: Regina, thank you so much for sharing your time, thoughts, and writing with us!