Monday, November 14, 2011

Interview with Author Michael Sortomme

Michael Sortomme
Michael Sortomme is an author, artist and retired teacher of metaphysics, the occult arts and Active Indigenous Shamanism. Educated in anthropology and modern literature, she has journeyed in pursuit of truth that she translates into vivid paintings and equally compelling stories. A Reincarnationist, her prodigious past-life memory has motivated passions in Genetic Genealogy, Herstory and the Levant. The Pacific Northwest is home—the Oregon wine country—her piece of heaven. You may contact her through her main website.

What motivated you to start writing?
Lost in grief, I plunged head-first into poetry, prose and free writing after my baby sister died. The surrender changed me, opened me to words in a new way, using them to vent anger, sort through despair.

What is the primary source of inspiration for you?
My major inspirational subjects are the rise and fall of ancient and current civilizations, reincarnation, creative self-empowerment, the need for social justice, the human genome and evolution in all of its forms.

Do you write when the muse strikes, or do you follow a writing schedule?
When I saw myself as a starving, ill-fated poet, I waited for the Universe to hit me over the head with revelation and inspiration. But lesson plans, lectures and speeches broke me of that habit, to my benefit. It’s all about the schedule now, else I am lured away from the job at hand far too easily.

Please describe your process.
My body learned to listen to the demands of creative process, applying flow and trust to words as well as multi-media art. The process was almost sexual at first; it lured me to be better and bolder, taught me to pay attention. When a subject or happening stimulated my body, my brain learned to ignite and ideas sparked, words flew, paintings were visualized. When I combined the right mix of stimulation and a schedule, magick began to happen. I have always depended on my passion to keep me motivated.
     It’s not mysterious in reality, if a schedule is properly kept, writing at least one “keeper” page per day, a year goes by and you have a book. The challenge is to stay plugged-in and focused, inspired to give it every last drop of energy available. Flexibility helps, regarding what constitutes a full work day—it takes the sting out of a seven day work week. When dealing with a painful or cathartic subject, I give myself permission to stop and regroup whenever the need arises. Sometimes I go back to it, sometimes not. Short but consistent work-blocks keep me from burning out and getting lost in my own dramas. Illustrating my books helps the process stay fresh; no time is ever wasted, including staring out a window. No embarrassment or waste of energy exists; I am free to take mental license in order to expand space and time—my meaning of a bard.
    I live large in my office—the hub of my world—always a legend in the making. I embrace my work as worthy, use expletives at forces that try to lead me astray and, the struggle of all time: I try NOT to be a people-pleaser! My keyboard is well dusted—a tea cup on my right and pens on my left, a line of painted miniature horses and fairies face me—ready for action on my terms.

What have you done to promote yourself as a writer?
Website creation, social networking, befriending other authors wherever and whenever possible, entering awards, whatever I can do without making myself a total pest and an enemy of all. A creative person cannot hide, only if one wants a life as a miserably lonely, forgotten outcast. I don’t dig the whole Sylvia Plath thing; I want my words to heal, inspire, reinvigorate, so I navigate promotional land mines daily.

What's left to do?
So much to do—there’s never enough time! I am frazzled at present, getting two titles to market in a year. After a few months in the studio painting and another month or so working on our enormous family tree, I’ll be ready to hit the keyboard with a non-fiction occult overview for 2013. You never know until the very moment you sit down to write what’s going to come out—if you are not paid up front, that is. What needs and wants to be written will, as obtuse as that sounds. Another mystery featuring Emancipation’s hero, Sophie St. Cloud, might surface at any time though; the world needs more bad-ass women, in my worldview.

When did you discover your unique voice? How long did the process take?
Language was second nature for me, reading, writing and speaking before I could understand the meaning of the word vocabulary. My parents were artists and my mother had been, for periods of time, a serious poet. Paper and pencils, drawing boards and rulers found me, props for classes taught to invisible audiences. My head thought out-of-the-box from the beginning.
    Outer-world success frightened me; several career choices further confused my way. People, including professors, complained my writing was embarrassingly autobiographical, they doubted anyone would ever relate. Withering for a time after college, I abandoned written words for a spiritual career. Several decades later, as a teacher too busy to keep up with her own concepts, I was forced to return to writing, producing several volumes of guidebooks for in-house use. Since retiring from private practice and teaching, I have rediscovered my passion for words. Putting other people’s work aside allowed me to confront my demons head-on, make priorities and follow through with rough choices, by and for myself, my sanity and success. That’s when I became a real writer.

The Emancipation
of Giles Corey
What do you consider your greatest achievement as a writer?
Thus far, The Emancipation of Giles Corey, my first historical novel, is my crown. It won the Indie Excellence Award for Best Historical Fiction of 2011, Honourable Mention for the Hoffer Award and finalist for the Montaigne Medal.

What's the most recent book you read?
Fires in the Dark by Louise Doughty

Who are the writers you admire most?
The trailblazing women that have moulded literature in all forms and genres in the last century are my heroes; my limited list would never do them justice. Fiction, spirituality, feminist culture, social action, anthropology and the natural sciences, fine art or good read—all important, all valuable, all changing and fine-tuning the art as we know it.

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Meade
Ruth Benedict
Patricia Monaghan
Geraldine Brooks
Alice Munro
Rita Mae Brown
Anne Rice
Zusanna Budapest
Dalia Sofer
Tatiana de Rosnay
Anita Diamant
Gertrude Stein
Louise Erdrich
Gloria Steinem
Alice Hoffman
Kathryn Stockett
Marija Gimbutus
Susan Vreeland
Erica Jong
Alice Walker
Stephanie Kallos
Barbara G. Walker
Sue Monk Kid
Sarah Waters
Shirley Maclaine

What's your best piece of advice for novice writers?
1.    Be authentic. Write what you know to be true and what you feel is right. It makes no difference whether you write fiction or non, write from a place of experience.
2.    Risk disapproval. Regardless of how talented you are, not everybody will embrace the work you produce. Accept that fact and let it set you free. Write what you need to communicate, what you are driven to expose. Those who are inspired by your concepts will find you.
3.    Don’t be shy! Artists of all disciplines must believe in the work that is being created to have a successful outcome. It takes a strong ego to propel one into the spotlight; even a pale glimmer needs work and follow through to interest an audience. However, building one’s ego up enough to put a work of art on the chopping block of public opinion can lead to extremes: arrogance and its complement, low self-esteem. Temper your methods to avoid overt aggressiveness, but be strong enough to make a positive impression.
4.    Have a day job. Admit it, being an accepted published author takes time, energy, determination, luck, money, connections, Karma, and most probably, lots of gifts of expensive dark chocolate sprinkled throughout the publishing world on a regular basis. Not everybody has the magickal combination to get noticed, but everybody needs to pay the rent. Be smart, get a job and pay your bills, including college loans. Eating, drinking, having proper supplies and a working lamp are necessary ingredients for this work; wrap your head around the concept early, it will make your life more productive and a hell of a lot more secure. Poverty is over rated!

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I would like to thank Betty Dobson for the opportunity to share my thoughts, hopes and experiences with her blog audience. Her invitation to appear in written form for InkSpotter Publishing was generous and the support for my work is greatly appreciated.
     The new world of publishing appears, to the untrained eye, open, accessible, affordable—yours for the taking. For those of us in the publishing trenches, the pitfalls of today’s industry are apparent and it’s tough out there for everybody—maybe not for Stephen King, but he’s a rare success story. No matter how stubborn, jaded, irritatingly isolationist and grizzled a creative person may be, to be truly successful one must reach out and be accepted on some level by others. Understanding, support and greater-world encouragement for the creative process must be had for the artistic temperament to produce consistently. Without it, it is far too emotionally paralyzing to be chronically misunderstood and rejected. An artist needs an audience, one that is hopeful.
    The world is ripe for talent, new and old—there's room for all genres and personalities as long as quality rules. We need a talent driven market instead of a celebrity showcase. The hard part is convincing large publishing houses, distributors and the people who still buy books that the world is much richer with diversity and subsequent choice. Large conglomerates are dictating intellectual future in streamlined catalogues. Have creative people devoted their lives for naught, unique ideas replaced by episodic reruns? It is my hope that independent thinkers and the small presses that print their work will flourish like never before because of the support of people unafraid to use their voices. Let us keep a growing library of ideas in circulation, not settle for a top five hundred playlist of someone else's choosing.

Welcome 2012—let the drama continue—write on,
my companeros!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Anthology Author: Julene Tripp Weaver

Julene Tripp Weaver
Julene Tripp Weaver lives in Seattle where she has a counselling practice. Her first full-size poetry book, No Father Can Save Her, was published this year by Plain View Press. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from the City University of New York and a Masters in Counseling. Her first chapbook, Case Walking: An AIDS Case Manager Wails Her Blues, has a selection of her poems written during her 18 years working in HIV services. She is widely published in journals and anthologies. She does wordplay on Twitter @trippweavepoet and has a website where you can read more of her writing.

What motivated you to start writing?

As a young teen I wanted to write poetry. Now I understand my desire to write was from my grief. My father had a long slow illness, and he died from Hodgkin’s cancer when I was almost 12. Left with an unstable mother, who I never related to, I had to make sense of the world. Writing was a way to save myself.

My books have to do with the aftermath of grief, one personal, the other from a major epidemic that has transformed our world. In both I sought a way to understand, to come to peace, to leave a legacy.

My poetry book, No Father Can Save Her (Plain View Press, 2011) is biographical, mostly narrative poems about coming of age after my father’s death. This book has been in process since I started writing. In this biographical poetry book, I’ve explored issues of sexuality through the time of the sexual revolution.

My first chapbook, Case Walking: An AIDS Case Manager Wails Her Blues (Finishing Line Press, 2007) is dedicated to all who have died from AIDS and all who continue to survive. In this book from my work in an urban AIDS Service Organization I’ve documented lives of the bereft with elegies and used the writing as a way to address the secondary trauma one experiences doing social work.

I wasn’t exposed to poetry as a child, but I believed I could write. At 15 I signed up for an evening poetry class at a local college. My uncle had to drive me, and he did not approve. I went prepared with a poem, but I was young and intimidated by a room full of poets; I never went back. Perhaps if my uncle had been supportive, or if I weren't so dependent on him to commute, I might have continued. But the timing wasn’t right.

Most of my early writing was in journals. Later in my teens my uncle read my diary, a violation that stopped me from writing for years. It took me till I was in my mid-20s living in NYC to start writing again. I joined a poetry critique group, volunteered at a writing program, and joined the Feminist Writers Guild. This involvement inspired me to go back to school for my undergraduate in Creative Writing at the City University of New York. My main school was Hunter College, which I picked because Audre Lorde taught there, and I could take a course at Brooklyn College with Joan Larkin.

What is the primary source of inspiration for you?

Wait a Minute, I Have
to Take Off My Bra
·         Reading other poets and hearing them read their own work.
·         Internal emotions stirring inside me.
·         A yearning to understand more about a situation or my past or my present state.
·         A deep desire to honor the dead. My poem in the anthology, Wait a Minute, I Have to TakeOff My Bra, is to honor Negesti, a poet who was a warm and welcoming person. She supported and encouraged many writers.
·         A desire to make a difference in the world.
·         A desire to leave a legacy for myself and others.

Do you write when the muse strikes, or do you follow a writing schedule?

I write in my journal. I do not keep a regular schedule.

Writing waxes and wanes; I’ve gone through long periods where I’ve not focused on writing and long periods where I’ve been obsessed to write. Now that I’ve had the good fortune to have two books accepted and published, I’ve discovered when I’m promoting a book it is difficult to focus on writing.

I’ve learned to respect the energy flow, learned to make room for writing when it comes. To write requires living in a space that accepts and honors imperfection. Much like dreams where if you acknowledge what comes more will unfold. It is important to welcome the words when they arrive, because that will evoke more words. Since it is impossible to get what is in our minds onto the page, because our minds travel so much faster, we must take what comes and then work to improve it.

Please describe your process.

I love William Stafford’s writing about writing. In one book he describes his process: waking early, lying on the couch, and in that semi awake space he picks a string from the air and follows it. I start writing this way. Follow what is in front of me to where it leads. Or start internally and bring it out like a tread on a needle. Reading books about the writing process is inspiring: books by William Stafford, Richard Hugo, Charles Simic, Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird. Years ago I read Peter Elbow and Natalie Goldberg’s books.

I’ve worked with movement and writing through Continuum Movement, one of the early bodywork practices. Emilie Conrad, the founder, runs a writing and movement group with writer Rebecca Mark; it was called Poetry in Motion for years, now it’s called Writing the Waves. My first Continuum Movement intensive was in 1988; in 1996 I experienced my first Poetry in Motion. It was there the first seed of my first book, Case Walking, started. This work creates a cauldron of writing energy.

Soon after this workshop I started running classes I called Muse to Write. A Tombow brush stroke marker is used, it has a near brush stroke at its point. As our writing comes through our nervous system every mark on a page carries our imprint. This work is hand-to-page exploration that allows art to evolve from basic marks into images into words from our very cells. It is ancient.

Group writing is amazing, it is a way to witness and be witnessed, a place to hear your words read out loud, expressed from different angles and different places in the body. When we read back, we sound not only the words but the marks and lines on the page.

I’ve come to learn the work I’ve taught falls into the realm of Transformative Language Arts, a course of study developed by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg at Goddard College. It brings writing to people who may never go the route of the professional writer but who do it for purposes such as healing or self-knowledge. There are many reasons people write.

I’ve taken many classes. In Seattle we have the Richard Hugo House, a rich resource for writers. Teachers like Deborah Woodard or Elizabeth Austen provide assignments to read writers and write. With Deborah I’ve worked with the writings of Gertrude Stein, Allen Ginsberg, Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson. Elizabeth Austen did a three-year monthly series where we read and responded to a new book each month. I also did Elizabeth’s revision class and a title class.

Getting words to the page is a first step. If you want to publish then revising is important to capture and keep the reader’s attention. We must make our words sing, so I’ve sought out writers to form peer critique groups. Doing a combination of classes, readings, attending poetry events, fostering continual improvement is my process.

What have you done to promote yourself as a writer?

As a writer it is important to learn the business of writing. This includes sending your work out to journals and anthologies, starting a mailing list to develop a following, crafting groups of poems into manuscripts.

A list of internet resources I’ve joined:

·         Women’s Poetry Listserv: WOMPO
·         Facebook: Julene Tripp Weaver (Link:
·         Twitter: @trippweavepoet
·         Poetry Speaks, where one of my poems is available on MP3
·         Goodreads author page
·         Website:
·         Listed on Poets and Writers
·         She Writes webpage
·         Wiki listing through Wompo to advertise availability for readings
·         Blog Talk Radio (have done an interview/reading for each book)
·         Featured on a variety of blogs

I post notices on Facebook and Twitter when I am published. Attend and read at open mikes, schedule feature readings. Network with local poets. Make MP3s of my poems using music and sound effects.

What's left to do?

·         Continue writing.
·         Develop new obsessions to feed my writing.
·         Form my next book.
·         Expand into new forms.
·         Develop my fiction writing.
·         Do a broader public reading circuit.

When did you discover your unique voice? How long did the process take?

Voice changes through time—it is a growth process. My voice as a teen trying to write was small. I became an outraged voice for feminism in my 20s. I became a confessional-exposing-secrets voice, which is in my book No Father Can Save Her. I’ve been a voice for the oppressed and for those who suffer, as in my book Case Walking. The voices brew and churn and circulate. I wait and watch and listen to what voice comes. We change. I don’t believe we have one voice; I believe we have many.

What do you consider your greatest achievement as a writer?

·         Having two books chosen and published by editors who believed in my writing.
·         Having great cover art on both of my books. Case Walking has a photo that I found in NYC at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. In No Father Can Save Her the artwork is a perfect match for the poems, and there is a photo of my Dad and me inside the cover.
·         Having a circle of friends who love my work. The new famous is having 15 fans, and I easily have 15 wonderful fans.
·         Having a poem from Case Walking featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writers Almanac and having it published in his newest Good Poems American Places volume.

What's the most recent book you read?

Jeremy Halinen’s book of poetry released this year, What Other Choice, and Judy Allen’s first novel, also released this year, Looking Through Water.

Who are the writers you admire most?

There are so many. Some of my strongest inspiration came from poets I read when I was deeply immersed in the feminist movement in New York City in the 1980s: June Jordan, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Judy Grahn, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Pat Parker, Lucille Clifton, Joan Larkin, Sharon Olds, Faye Kicknosway, and Wanda Coleman.

It’s hard to name people because someone is always left out, but others include: Eileen Miles, Jan Beatty, Penelope Scambly Schott, Lana Hechtman Ayers, Patricia Smith, Camille T. Dungy, Elizabeth Austen, Pat Fargnoli, Belle Waring, Dorianne Laux, Eloise Klein Healy, Deborah Woodard, Tory Dent, Tim Seibles, Afaa Michael Weaver, Reginald Shephard, Major Jackson, Brooks Haxton, Tom Gunn, Philip Levine, Jericho Brown, Terrance Hayes, Mark Strand, Michael Ryan, William Stafford, Russell Edison, Marie-Elizabeth Mali, and her husband Taylor Mali.

As for fiction my favorite writer is Tom Spanbauer; I’ve immersed in his Dangerous Writers groups. I’m a huge fan of Kate Braverman, Raymond Carver, Mary Robison, and Ellen Douglas.

I also have been reading the series “The Art of…” on the craft of writing published by Graywolf Press.

What's your best piece of advice for novice writers?

Go to the page, become fluid. Then edit, edit, edit. Find writers you trust to give you honest feedback. Find writers who are supportive to work with. Work your poems or stories till they are honed. Read them out loud! Record them to hear yourself read them. Try reading them in different voice tones, edit as you read, see what your rhythm is. Immerse yourself in the poetry world. Meet other poets, be a sharing, collaborative connector.

No Father Can Save Her
Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Please visit my website; under the Links dropdown you’ll see a page “Julene’s Poems” with links to my online published poetry.

My two books are available on Amazon. I’d love to hear from you, and I have review copies available for No Father Can Save Her.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

InkSpotter Publishing releases new breast-themed anthology

Robert R. Sanders adds his photo-
graphic vision to the breast anthology
InkSpotter Publishing is proud to announce to release of its latest anthology, Wait a Minute, I Have to Take Off My Bra.

Our anthology celebrates the most female of body parts, the breasts, and features a stunning photographic cover by Robert R. Sanders. From light-hearted memories of the first buds of puberty to heart wrenching accounts of breast cancer, these stories and poems run the gamut of experiences and emotions.

Currently available through CreateSpace and Amazon Wait a Minute, I Have to Take Off My Bra will soon be available to multiple brick ’n mortar and online stores.

A portion of all profits will be donated to the Breast Cancer Society of Canada.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Anthology Author: Christina Pacosz

Christina Pacosz
Christina Pacosz was born and raised in Detroit by working-class Polish-American parents. Her poetry/writing has appeared in literary magazines and online journals for almost half a century. A poet-in-the-schools and a North Carolina Visiting Artist, she has published several books of poetry, including Greatest Hits, 1975-2001 (Pudding House, 2002), a by-invitation-only series. Her chapbook, Notes from the Red Zone, originally published by Seal Press in 1983, was selected as the inaugural winner of the ReBound Series by Seven Kitchens Press in 2009. Seven Kitchens will feature her chapbook How to Measure the Darkness as the initial offering in their Summer 2012 Series. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

Her poem "For a Small Girl Staring" appears in InkSpotter Publishing's upcoming breast-themed anthology Wait a Minute, I Have to Take Off My Bra.

IS: What motivated you to start writing?

CP: My mother wrote down my stories [when I was] a child and my father told me stories, so I was impressed with the power of words early on. My mother wrote letters to the editor protesting nuclear war, so that was another influence about speaking up in writing for a cause.

IS: What is the primary source of inspiration for you?

CP: My intersection as a human with the natural world, especially as it is destroyed and diminished.

“Learning to love the sewer stench” is how I put it in a poem.

IS: Do you write when the muse strikes, or do you follow a writing schedule?

CP: When I was writing several books of prose -– only published in bits and pieces -- I kept a schedule. I write in a journal almost daily. All work begins in that fermented compost. I am reluctant to enter into any lengthy prose effort unless I am certain of publication. I can't know when something might work into a poem, so I approach journaling with a sense of wonder as often as possible.

IS: Please describe your process.

CP: The journal first and then, depending on if anything is ripe or ready for the next step, I begin a series of rough drafts, initially in the journal then eventually into the computer. Sometimes work begins in a dream but my health has impacted REM sleep, to my sorrow.

IS: What have you done to promote yourself as a writer?

CP: Just about everything possible over the decades –- readings, conferences, interviews on TV, radio, and in print. News articles featuring me and my efforts, particularly when I was working as a North Carolina Visiting Artist and in South Carolina as a poet-in-the-schools. But I have always known that good press is important. Unfortunately, I wanted to be a journalist at a time when women only covered the society page.

I send out promos now to an e-mail list and to my Facebook friends. I will turn 65 in mid-October. I have been writing almost 60 years. When my chapbook Notes from the Red Zone (originally published by Seal Press in 1983 as a part of their anti-nuclear series) was selected by Ron Mohring of Seven Kitchens Press as the inaugural winner of the Rebound Award in 2008 and published in 2009, it received scant reviews. That's always been a problem for my writing. I haven't ever really had any mentors in high places. Or they've only been there briefly.

My journals and all my published works are available at the University of Michigan, Bentley Collection in Ann Arbor, Michigan and online.

IS: What's left to do?

CP: "Die" immediately came to mind as I read this question, though I don't have any plans, but I have been told I am the kind of poet for the ages discovered and appreciated more after I die. (Smile.) I have unpublished work, poetry and prose, I would really like to see in print. There is a Polish greeting for a birthday celebrant, Sto lat, a wish for him or her to live to be a hundred. That's certainly a goal.

IS: When did you discover your unique voice? How long did the process take?

CP: My voice was there early on, already evident in high school. I won National Scholastic honorable mentions for my poetry and I was feature editor of my high school paper as well. I graduated in 1964 from Cass Technical High School in Detroit. I had a public education impossible to attain now. I went silent running while getting my BS degree, though.

IS: What do you consider your greatest achievement as a writer?

CP: Somehow I have managed to keep my poetry in particular out there in the public eye against all the odds.

And my work as a writer will be there for researchers if there are any when I am gone.

IS: What's the most recent book you read?

CP: Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.

IS: Who are the writers you admire most?

CP: Edwidge Danticat, Stephen Vincent Benet, W.B. Yeats, Margaret Atwood (I studied with her two summers in the early 80s at Centrum in Washington state), Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer, Wislawa Szymborska, Blaga Dimitrova, May Sarton, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Riche, Marge Piercy, and several others over the decades.

Sophocles is at the top of any list of my favorite writers. On certain days I maintain that no other books needed writing after Antigone, but then I calm down.

IS: What's your best piece of advice for novice writers?

CP: Spend your time wisely. Read omnivorously. Avoid MFA programs. Don't expect everything to land in your lap at once. Be prepared when it doesn't to earn your living in other ways. Don't fall into the trap of drinking too much. Your muse doesn't need it.

IS: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

CP: The old adage: When there's time, there's no money, when there's money, there's no time, a poet's lament.

And Yeats' statement: In dreams begin responsibility.