Today, I am Interviewing Kelly Fineman, poet and CYBILS’ panelist for round one in poetry. Last year her poem ‘Sea Jelly’ was published in National Geographic’s Book of Animal Poetry, a CYBIL’s poetry finalist.
Your Reading Life
MsMac: What books are on your night stand?
KF: Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart
See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles
The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig (re-read)
Feng Shui Your Life by Jayme Barrett
MsMac: Where’s your favorite reading spot?
KF: On the cheetah print chaise lounge in my living room, or on the leather sofa in my sweetheart’s living room, or on the deck at my house or the patio at his. But I love to read, and can read anywhere.
Your Writing Life
MsMac: What does a day of work look like for you? What is your favorite time of day to write?
KF: I am working hard to create habits so that I have a “typical” day of work, but it varies by day. Most days of the week, I start by reviewing emails and social media, then move into a before-lunch work session. At least three days a week, I have afternoon work sessions as well. On Tuesdays, I meet my friend and writing partner, Angela De Groot, at a local Panera’s for shared writing time, which is always inspirational and fun. My favorite time of day to write is probably the morning, although I am not an early starter.
MsMac: Writing the first draft or revising? Which is your favorite?
KF: Ooh – tough question. Writing the first draft is so satisfying, because it’s creating something out of nothing, but revising is also satisfying because it polishes what’s there, pares off the extraneous stuff, and adds in what’s missing. Both can be frustrating and triumphant, but I think the pleasure in getting something “right” means that revision wins out for me by a whisker.
MsMac: What does your writing space look like?
KF: I am in the midst of straddling two living spaces just now. At my house, I write sitting at my dining room table, because the area gets lots of natural light and has lovely views out the back sliding doors and front picture window.
At my sweetheart’s house, I sometimes write in his current office, which has the benefit of a water fountain located just outside the window, which makes a lovely, soothing noise as I work, and sometimes in the living room, which has a gorgeous view of the back yard.
MsMac: What is your current project?
KF: I have just finished up revisions on a young adult poetry collection, and am working on a new collection of poems for middle graders.
MsMac: Ooh, yound adult poetry, sounds interesting. What might readers find you doing when you’re not writing?
KF: They might find me meditating or doing tai chi, or reading (of course!), or baking or cooking.
MsMac: How has writing poetry informed you as a person?
KF: Talk about a tough question! I can’t tell you for sure whether writing poetry makes me more aware of phrases, incidents or images that inspire new work, or vice versa, but I do know that I find inspiration all around me on a pretty regular basis.
MsMac: Why is poetry important?
KF: I could probably write you a dissertation on this one. It’s important for children – and should be used far more widely in schools than it is – because the poetic devices used, whether it be rhyme or metre or alliteration or assonance or just the concrete imagery and excellent, specific word choice that is commonplace in poetry, help kids to process information in different ways. Rhyming, metrical poetry is processed in the same section of the brain as music, which allows some kids to process or memorize the information contained more easily.
Poetry is important in general, though, because it allows people to process information free from the boundaries of precise logic, although precise language is usually involved. It allows a reader to experience an emotion or action vicariously, and through a far different lens than is available in other forms of writing. Startling juxtapositions are not only allowed, but encouraged, and the use of rich metaphor opens up interesting and unexpected associations.
Just for Fun
MsMac: Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
MsMac: Coffee or tea?
KF: Also yes! (But I drink far more tea than coffee, though I have both most days.)
MsMac: Dance: funky chicken or the tango?
KF: Well, I can DO the funky chicken, so I’ll go with that.
MsMac: Favorite Quote
KF: Asking me for a favorite anything is useless, really, because I stink at picking favorite anythings. Here’s one that I like a lot, from Neil Gaiman’s poem (now a picture book), “Instructions”: “Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story.” From “Instructions”, by Neil Gaiman: “Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story.”
Check back tomorrow when I share her poem, ‘Sea Jelly.’