INTERVIEW: Lisa Haselton Interviews Author Jen Payne

Welcome, Readers. My special guest today is poet/author/photographer Jennifer Payne. She’s sharing a bit about her new collection of poems, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. (Click Here to read the full interview!)


What do you enjoy most about writing poems?
Many of my poems show up as whispers of ideas. Maybe one line or two that reveal themselves…suddenly, from out of nowhere. That’s the most exciting part—that magic! Then…what comes next? where will that whisper lead me? To your question, what I enjoy most is allowing the poem to show up and become what it needs to become, allowing myself to be open to the creative spirit so I can tell the story.

Can you give us a little insight into a few of your poems – perhaps a couple of your favorites?
One of my favorite poems in the new book is called “Microcosm.” It’s about two separate encounters, one with a spider on my desk, and one with a fish by a pond—and me, wondering what they might be thinking about as we crossed paths. You know, in that same way you wonder about the lives of people in the lit-up rooms of houses you drive by at night?

Microcosm
The spider had a curious look —
not curious as in odd,
but curious, inquisitive, intrigued.
I saw him from the corner of my eye
watching me, then rummaging
through a pile of paper,
back again for a second look,
peering as if to say Who Are YOU?
(or WHAT I suppose)
Perhaps the same look of WHAT?
the fish had as it soared over the pond
yesterday afternoon…
Who are YOU? to the osprey,
and WHEN did I learn to fly?

Another favorite is “I Am Just the World.” It was one of those poems that just showed up, as I was saying before. I was walking on my favorite trail in the woods, and heard the something crawling. I followed the sound and found a spotted turtle making its way through the fall leaves. Spotted turtles are listed as a species of concern/endangered, so this was a very special sighting. And poignant.

I Am Just the World
Pay no attention.
I’m just here
beneath these trees,
their forgotten leaves
warm from the sun.
Never mind
my slow traverse,
I’ll step aside for you.
Make myself small
so you forget
I am light and love,
the god to which you pray,
the universe upon my back,
everything.

I think some people take offense that I anthropomorphize the creatures I meet in the woods – give them personalities and narratives. But, it’s not like I think they are skipping around in the forest singing and such. I use personification to get the reader to think outside of themselves, to consider the other creatures with whom we share this planet. We’re all connected…that is, ultimately, the theme of Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, and of a lot of my other writing.

What form are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
I write mostly free form poetry. It’s simply how my muse speaks to me right now. However, I have been working with a group of local poets, the Guilford Poets Guild, for the past few years. Very often they write in specific forms— a sonnet, a villanelle, haiku. I’ve been thinking I’d like to challenge myself to look to form a little more in my work. That could be fun!

What type of project are you working on next?
For the near future, I’ve been thinking about publishing a short story I wrote called “Water Under the Bridge.” It’s an epistolary novella told through a series of emails. And then another book of poetry, but that won’t be for several years.

When did you first consider yourself a writer / poet?
I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember — grade school creative writing, high school newspaper, college journalism, freelance writing, zine publishing. For the past 25 years, I’ve been the wearer of all hats – editor, copy writer, marketing wordsmith – as the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design business in Branford, Connecticut.

I maintain a regular blog, Random Acts of Writing (www.randomactsofwriting.net) on which I write essays, travelogues, book reviews, flash fiction, and poetry.

I have written poetry for much of my life, but have gravitated to that form almost exclusively for the past three or four years.

How do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for not-yet-published poets?
Just write. That’s my advice. It’s very easy to get caught up in the “business” of writing – editing, researching, preparing, submitting (and waiting), then doing that all over again for the next poem. I call it “hoop jumping.”

Better to just make time to do the writing, perfect your craft, connect with other writers. Just write.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I do my best writing at 3:00 a.m. I love the quiet of the early hours of the morning, before anyone else is awake. There are no distractions – none of the bells and dings and buzzing of our social technologies. Just sweet dark quiet…and coffee.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Honestly? I wanted to be Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie. I loved her little bottle house! Wouldn’t that be a great place to write? Plus, she had magical powers. What could be better than that?

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Yes. Don’t fight with your craft. Let it be. Let it do what it wants to do. I see a lot of angst-ridden memes about writers. Quotes that talk about the suffering we must endure, the anguish of writer’s block, the agony of rejection letters. Forget all of that and Just Write. Here’s a great quote to think about from writer Alan Moore…

“To me, all creativity is magic. Ideas start out in the empty void of your head – and they end up as a material thing, like a book you can hold in your hand. That is the magical process. It’s an alchemical thing. Yes, we do get the gold out of it but that’s not the most important thing. It’s the work itself.” ― Alan Moore

(Hey! So, maybe I have magical powers after all.)

Thanks for being here today, Jen.
Thank you, Lisa, for this chance to talk with you and your readers about writing and my new book!


This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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GUEST BLOG POST: Finding Inspiration

Today, I’m a guest blogger on CMash Reads, sharing my thoughts on… FINDING INSPIRATION When I told a friend last spring that I was writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month, she asked me how I found the inspiration for 30 poems. “It’s like rummaging around in a junk drawer,” I told her.… Continue reading GUEST BLOG POST: Finding Inspiration

INTERVIEW: Bookworm Interviews Author Jen Payne

BOOKWORM is participating in another blog book tour courtesy of WOW (Women on Writing). Today’s guest is Jennifer A. Payne, author of Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. Today I’m posting an interview, Q and A style, that I conducted with Ms. Payne so that you can read her thoughts about her calling, her choice of direction for her writing, and her thoughts about mindfulness. I’m also posting a review of her most recent work “Evidence”. Enjoy. (Click Here to read the interview and book review!)


How long have you been writing/ what made you decide to write?

I don’t know if I had a choice, really. Writing is how I’ve always communicated with the world. My earliest memory is writing letters to my Dad when he was away on business trips when I was young.In grade school, I used to write short stories, but I also had a dozen pen pals I kept in touch with regularly. I wrote for my high school newspaper, and studied journalism at UMass. My first job was writing press releases and advertising copy, before I started my own business doing the same. I published a zine in the early 90s, and graduated to blog writing about 10 years ago.

I’ve been writing all my life!


What made you take this direction for your writing/this work?

I think those early days of communicating real-life stories and experiences to my Dad and pen pals have kept me pretty firmly rooted in non-fiction writing. You can see that on my blog Random Acts of Writing (http://randomactsofwriting.net). Over the years, it has hosted everything from my food writing, travel journals and book reviews, to photo essays, social commentary and poetry.In the past couple of years, I’ve been writing more poetry, mainly because that is how my muse has been talking to me. But also, I was invited to join a local poetry group, the Guilford Poets Guild, and they have inspired and encouraged me a lot!

Both of my books, LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness (2014) and the new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind are direct results of my work on the blog. LOOK UP! includes essays, poetry, a collection of quotations by philosophers, naturalists, and famous writers, plus 100 of my original color photos. It’s a journal, really, that narrates my own journey from working 24/7 to reconnecting with our natural world, finding balance and mindfulness in the simple act of going outside. Evidence of Flossing is a follow-up to that concept. It features 73 of my poems and 80 original and vintage photos that continue a conversation about our divine connection to nature, and how important it is to find our way back to that.


What is it about mindfulness that interests/fascinates you?

By day, I run my own graphic design and marketing business. By night (really in the pre-dawn hours of the day), I do my creative work. My brain and I work at a very frenetic pace – as you can imagine – but somewhere in all of that, there has to be some downtime. Some quiet. Some peace.

I tried traditional methods of meditation – sitting on pillows, candles, oms, guided groups, recorded sessions. But nothing really “stuck.” I remember one group meditation…there were 10 of us in a small, candlelit room. We did some breathing exercises, and then the facilitator guided us on a meditation…down a path, into the treetops, up into the sky. I spent the whole meditation frantically running to catch up, because I couldn’t breathe right, couldn’t visualize right…couldn’t get out of my own way!

About that same time, I had started taking regular walks in the woods. There is a nature preserve near my house, and I can do a nice, easy 2-mile walk in a space that feels very far away from everything. I remember this one day very clearly. I’d been walking for about 20 minutes with lots of busy thoughts in my head. But then it was suddenly quiet. All I heard were my footsteps on the pine needle path. I wasn’t aware of my thoughts or my body, just the sound of footsteps, like a heartbeat, and breathing.

It was brief and wonderful.

I think of it now as my “ah-ha, so this is meditation” moment.problems, inspirations for my writing, connections to some mystery I wouldn’t have had time for if I wasn’t allowing myself to disconnect from busy and reconnect with nature. It’s that simple…and that complicated, I suppose. Perhaps that’s what so fascinating about it, and why I write about it. The difficult part of mindfulness is getting there—stepping away from our busy-ness, allowing ourselves that time to reconnect. But once we do, it’s really quite simple. It’s really quite amazing.


Use this space to give yourself a shameless plug?

I was at a workshop last week, and the hostess came over to me and pointed to a copy of my book on her coffee table. “I keep your book here,” she said. “In a place of honor. That way I can pick it up and read something from it whenever I want. Which is often. I just love it.”

She’s not alone. People seem to really connect with these books, with the writing and the photos. I think it’s because they talk about our collective concerns about our society in a way that is heartfelt and thoughtful. They’re smart books that you can skim for meaning, or dive into for a deeper understanding as they apply to your own philosophy and spirituality, your own experience. But they are both easy reads – you can read an essay, read one poem, open to a page and meditate on a photo or quote. They allow the reader to take that moment of mindfulness, to stop and consider…maybe…a better way to move about in this world? I hope.

This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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GUEST BLOG POST: Everything is Connected

Today, I’m a guest blogger on Create Write Now, sharing my thoughts on…

EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” — John Muir

In a dream once, I saw the fabric of the Universe. It was clearly laid out in fine strands of translucent white dots, as if one were standing inside a room full of beaded curtains.

In the first few moments after waking, I understood clearly that everything is connected: how, if I touched one of the rows of white dots, that touch would reverberate along the whole system of dots; if I breathed or sang or wept, that too would make waves along those strands.

My understanding of all of that was as fleeting as my ability to still my mind, as transient as my understanding of god. And yet, the image of those dots has remained for me a divine illustration of how it is.

Everything is connected.

Some of our basic tenets as humans remind us of that: “for every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction,” and “as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Remember the Golden Rule? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” What if that applies to everything?

It is not such a foreign concept. We know that everything around us is made up of atoms. That there is no real separation between you, me, this book, my cat. John Muir wrote about it that summer day in 1869: “One fancies a heart like our own must be beating in every crystal and cell.” Carl Sagan called it starstuff. “It’s an astonishing thing,” he said, “we’re so tied to the rest of the cosmos.”

My new book, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, is a book about starstuff. It’s a collection of poems that speak to the common heart that beats in you and in me, in the woods and on the streets, across oceans and around this planet.

Part social commentary, part lament, the poems are, at their heart, love poems to the something greater within all of us. Their investigation of the human condition and its folly — politics, religion, development, technology, consumerism — is juxtaposed to a series of poems about our natural world and the possibility of divine connection. Together, they ask the reader to deeply consider the effects of our actions and how they influence everything else in the Universe.

>>CLICK HERE to read the whole post.


This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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BOOK REVIEW: Nicole Pyles Reviews Evidence of Flossing

“I was so impressed with this book. It conveyed a beauty and yet sadness at the same time. I could sense the spiritual struggle within the poetry and a reflection of the world around (and the masks society often puts forward). This book is definitely a conversation piece and I can’t wait to share it with others.” — Nicole Pyles, World of My Imagination

>> Click Here to read the full review!


This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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GUEST BLOG POST: Blogging as a Creative Tool

Today, I’m a guest blogger on Words, Crazy Words, sharing my thoughts on…

BLOGGING AS A CREATIVE TOOL

One of the most inspiring art exhibits I’ve seen in recent years was called “Suddenly This Overview.” On display at the Guggenheim in New York, it featured 250 small sculptures by artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss. The sculptures were made of a pale gray, unfired clay, and were presented individually on white pedestals around the curving spiral ramp of the museum. Clean, Times New Roman captions explained Pythagoras Marveling at His Theorem, Jesus Walks on Water, the Fish Are Amazed, and (my favorite) Mr. Spock Looks at His Home Planet Vulcanus and Is a Bit Sad That He Can’t Have Any Feelings.

At the time, I was in the middle of a blogging challenge to write a poem a day for the month of April – National Poetry Month. A friend asked what it felt like to write a blog post every day, and I couldn’t help but think of the Fischli/Weiss exhibit.

In an interview with Artspace, Weiss explained “The intention was to accumulate various important and unimportant events in the history of mankind and of the planet — moments in the fields of technology, fairy tales, civilization, film, sports, commerce, education, sex, biblical history, nature, and entertainment.”

That’s a sweeping, broad source of inspiration for them—and for us! (Aren’t those the very things WE write about, think about, create about?)

One of the Fischli/Weiss sculptures was a plain block of clay entitled Without Words. Their starting point, perhaps—a blank page of clay onto which they were challenged to put their thoughts and ideas. It’s that place we all start when we first listen to our own inspirations—what will we create today?

Blogging is like that block of clay. It gives us a place to start and a medium to shape into whatever our Muse suggests — a poem a day, for example. A book review. A photo essay. Random musings about mankind and the planet.

A blog can no more sit idle than that block of clay. It’s very nature is to be used, shaped, molded. To be a vessel for our creative efforts is its raison d’être.

All we need to do is show up…and shape it.

>>CLICK HERE to read the whole post.

This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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GUEST BLOG POST: The Importance of Retreat

Today, I’m a guest blogger on Lauren Scharhag’s blog, sharing my thoughts on…

THE IMPORTANCE OF RETREAT

BUG OUT! That’s what they called it on the TV show M*A*S*H. The enemy is getting closer, someone yells “Bug Out!” and everyone, everywhere packs up everything and bolts!

I use the same word, often, when it’s time to get away for a while. BUG OUT! You know that feeling, right? You’ve been working really hard, your To Do list hasn’t gotten any shorter, you can’t seem to get enough sleep, and coffee just isn’t working its usual magic.

It’s time to Retreat! Regroup! Withdraw! Escape!

I don’t think the battlefront vocabulary is all that off-base. We live in a world of battles — time, technology, schedules, workloads, deadlines. If you’re a creative type, somewhere in all of that you must also make room for the Muse who feeds your soul. And if your Muse is anything like mine, she lets you know when she’s hungry for more attention!

In the Scientific American article “Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime,” (https://tinyurl.com/j7v6kyj) writer Ferris Jabr details study after study that confirm the importance of taking time off. He concludes that “Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life.”

But we can’t all be like author Elizabeth Gilbert —a little overwhelmed, take a year off and travel the world to Eat Pray Love our way back to our creative selves. Not everyone has that luxury.

But here’s what I’ve learned about downtime…

IF…I give myself just a half hour to meditate or take a nap or walk in the woods? My Muse breathes.

IF…I give myself a day off, like a Sunday-Sabbath-resting day off? Then my Muse dances.

And IF…I am so lucky as to be able to take a true retreat — a suitcase, off-the-grid, away-from-things retreat — my Muse will pack up her stuff and come along with me. We’ll see things with fresh eyes, we’ll come up with new ideas, and we’ll start speaking to each other again.

CLICK HERE to read the whole post.

This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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