- Welcome readers to another entry on Voices behind the words: An interview series with writers. It’s the beginning of a new month which means another guest joins me on this series. I’m going to try my best to be concise in this interview excerpt. This time around I spoke with Carol J Forrester of Writing and Works and I asked her about the pros and cons about blogging on WordPress, her rankings on the blogging experience, and what she wants her readers to obtain from reading her work. In addition, she gave an interesting perspective on creative writing in schools and left a blurb from a newspaper article (at the bottom of the page) that explained the negligence in motivating students who would like to partake in learning and practicing poetry. All in all, in terms of information, this is the 2nd most densely packed interviews I’ve done. It’s quite long but I perceive that as a testament to my improvement in conducting these interviews. Check out her blog at Writing and Works, on WordPress and on Twitter @caroljforrester if you have one. That’s all I have to say. Leave a comment if you feel the need too, PEACE.
Q: What is your writing process like, do you hand write or type a draft? Or do you think of a theme and immediately start typing?
Carol : So I do a little of everything really. I have a notepad that I always carry around with me that I hand write snippets of stories, poems, blog posts in, and then I also sit down to write pieces from scratch on the computer. I type a lot faster than I write by hand so I prefer writing on the computer most of the while, but I have written chapters for my book out in longhand previously. All in all, it depends on what it is I’m writing. My novel requires a lot of drafting and planning so that’s always been a mix of handwritten and typed, and I go back over that again and again.
I mostly type my short stories and poems from the start. I also redraft these a few times before anyone see them. Long gone are the days when I would post a first draft to my blog. Normally what I do is start off with a line or a word, free-write the first paragraph of so, go back and read what I’ve written aloud, tweaking here or there, and then add the next couple of paragraphs before repeating the process over again.
Q. Rank the following from highest to lowest of importance when it comes to growing your blog on WordPress: likes, a captivating theme, commenting on others work, replying to comments on your page, uploading content frequently, placing categories on a post before posting. Give a brief explanation as to why you numbered them as such.
- Uploading Content Frequently
- Commenting On Others Work
- A Captivating Theme
- Placing Categories On Work
- Replying to Comments On Your Page
I’ve found the best way of growing my traffic comes from a mix of uploading content frequently and commenting on other blogs. A good percentage of bloggers will give a cursory visit in response to a comment but uploading content regularly is the most important thing you can do. However, over saturating your blog can have a negative impact. Posting every fifteen minutes will leave people unsubscribing as you bombard their feeds with content, and it will also leave you exhausted.
It is also important to make sure that your blog looks the part and most of that is basic stuff. Theme colours should complement your work without blinding a reader or giving them a migraine, and your posts should be well put together and reasonably typo free.
Q. Can you talk about a time or experience that caused you to immerse yourself into writing consistently especially poetry? Also what did that particular experience mean to you?
Carol: Haha! Consistency, now that’s something I would love with my writing. To be honest, writing is part of my everyday life. Even if I’m not putting something down on paper then I’m thinking it over in my head.
Poetry is how I deal with most things that happen to me. Family illness, that death of a friend, romantic ups and down, all of it gets chucked into my poetry. For instance, I picked up an old notepad today and found a poem I’d drafted about talking with my grandmother. In it I talk about not having a boyfriend and the idea of getting married at twenty-one being ridiculous. The funny part? I got engaged at twenty-one. Reading old poetry tends to show my snapshots of my own life and writing it helps me work out, not only how I feel about certain situations, but why certain situations made me feel that way. It is both therapy and breathing
Q4. What do you perceive as the biggest pros and cons within the poetry community or blogging in general on WordPress?
Carol: The biggest pro would be how huge and supportive it is. You find bloggers who will champion your work and cheer you on to write more. I was even told recently that my about page was a little intimidating which I’m taking to be a good thing. I wouldn’t have thought I could actually make anything out of my poetry if it wasn’t for this blog.
The biggest con is a little harder to explain because I don’t want to discourage anyone from writing poetry and posting it on the internet. However, it would have to be how quick people are to praise work just because they want that person to follow them back or like the work on their blog. It actually keeps me from commenting on some blogger’s work because the comments are already filled with people singing their praised and I don’t want to be the only one saying ‘actually, I think you might have been able to do this better here, here, and here’. Being critical is not a bad thing as long as you’re constructive and often I wish that blogger would be more critical with the work that they read. It’s not just about the traffic when it comes to writing blogs, it’s about honing your craft.
Q5. What are your favorite book genres? Who are your favorite author?
Carol: Fantasy fiction is my favourite genre and a few of my favourite authors are Sarah J Mass, Helen Lowe, David Daglish, Derek Landy and Stephen Aryan. There are masses more authors that I love but off the top of my head those are the writes whose books I would snatch up in an instant.
However, I will read just about any genre that is in front of me. The most important rule of learning how to write, is reading whatever you can get your hands on. Even the bad books will teach you something
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers who love poetry but don’t know how to start? I have some days where I can’t of something to write so, do you believe in writer’s block?
Just start writing. There is a reason why there are so many types of poetry and that’s because writes never stop exploring. As I said before, reading is the most important part of learning to write so go out and find anthologies both old and new. Read poems written down and listen to poets who perform their work. This year I took part in my first Poetry Slam and it showed me a new side of poetry that I hadn’t really experienced before. I thought I knew what Spoken Word was but it turns out I wasn’t as knowledgeable as I thought.
Write and read because when writes block hits, and trust me it’s a real thing, the only way through it is to put pen to paper and force the words out, no matter how awful they may be.
No one starts off good.
We all get better as we go on.
Some of us become fantastic.
It takes a ton of work and failure to get there though.
Q: How would describe the current state of poetry and should schools emphasize creative writing and poetry in English curriculum’s?
Carol: I read a news article the other day that made me want to weep. (included at the bottom) As someone who rarely uses form when writing poetry because I feel like it focuses too much on forcing poetry into rules and boundaries, I was reminded that often poetry is presented is schools as this lofty genre that only the elite can find their way into. Schools should be showing poetry and creative writing for what it is, an expression of self that can help someone find who they are and show what they are feeling in moments when it seems like the world might be falling. Poets such as Sarah Kay are amazing ambassadors for this type of poetry and the work they do in schools is priceless. No one should ever feel like ‘they can’t write poetry’ just because they haven’t been exposed to a side of poetry that connects with them
Q: Which style of poetry do you like to write the most, and which one do you perceive as your strength out of all of them (Free verse, narrative, haiku)?
Carol: Free verse is the form that I tend to write in most and it’s the only I find easiest to work with. I do love fixed form as well though, it provides a challenge from time to time and can be a great way to force yourself into reassessing how you’re going to say something in order to say it better. That’s why it’s so important to explore different types of poetry because it can show you techniques that you wouldn’t have found otherwise and you just might end up finding a new favourite style.
Q: When someone finishes reading your work, what would you want them to take away from it?
Carol: I think most of all I want them to understand. A lot of what I do these days is writing poems that are designed to show people how my brain works and hopefully help them think about people in a slightly more open way. I deal with anxiety on a daily basis, my mother does as well but almost no one would know that about her because she doesn’t talk about it. Some days it’s crippling and often people don’t understand. They can’t see why it’s something that would literally make getting up and leaving the house a problem. When I’m writing poems about that, I want them to connect with that emotion inside me and I want them to feel what I’m feeling. Writing is unique in its ability to place you in someone else’s skin.
Q: When you’re writing, what would one find you doing? What other things do you enjoy doing besides writing?
Carol: When I’m writing? Most likely I’ll be hunched over my laptop in my office/library. Yes, I built myself a library, abet a small one. I’m almost always surrounded by books when I write and I don’t like a lot of noise so I tuck myself away somewhere quiet.
When I’m not writing? I took up Judo over a year ago and I’m currently working towards my orange belt. I competed for the first time this year and had four fights, two of which I won. Unfortunately, this didn’t get me far enough to compete for a medal but I was proud of my achievement for a first competition.
I also like growing fruit trees and adding to my herb garden as well. The decking outside is full of plant pots that burst into life come summer and fill the garden with lots of fragrances. I mostly like plants that have a use which is why I like herbs and fruit trees. The historical use of herbs in medicine fascinates me which is perhaps why I like growing them. They also have a slightly witchy element to them which appeals to the side of me that loves fantasy fiction.
Q: Would you ever considering publishing your writing, and if you have how was the reception and reviews? Are you familiar with any publishing literary sites that you’ve been looking into publishing with?
Carol: I self-published a collection of poetry and flash fiction a few years ago and it got mixed reviews. It taught me that I’m not cut out for self-publication, my editing isn’t strong enough and I don’t understand enough about the industry to feel confident giving it another go. You can no longer buy that collection and I think that’s for the best.
I’ve had a short story published by The Ink Pantry called A Visit From The Fortune Teller, two poems included in a collection published by Dverse Poets called Chiaroscuro, and a couple of other little pieces published here and there. I’m actually prouder of these smaller pieces than the self-published collection because I honestly feel like they were more polished.
My current aim is to try and traditionally publish a collection of poetry at some point this year or next and start sending off my novel to agents by the end of 2018, the start of 2019. My work has improved immensely over the last three years and it’s now just a matter of putting myself out there with my writing.
Q: If you could describe your writing with one sentence how would it go?
Carol: A photo album filled with life and fantasy where more often than not the lines start to blur between the two.