Patricia Wellingham-Jones is a former psychology researcher and nurse, also a writer and editor, published widely in journals, anthologies and Internet magazines, including HazMat Review, Ibbetson Street, Edgz and Wicked Alice.She has a special interest in healing writing and leads the “Telling Our Stories” writing group at EnloeCancer Center. Her poetry column appears monthly in the Palo Cedro East Valley Times. She writes for the review department of Recovering the Self: a journal of hope and healing. Among her ten chapbooks are Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.
IS: What motivated you to start writing?
PWJ: I’ve written all my life, from age 10 when I couldn’t find any more horse stories in the library and wrote my own. In my professional life, I wrote articles, essays, scientific and academic papers on a variety of subjects, including my own research in health and handwriting. Twenty years ago, in the throes of severe pain and eventual cervical spine surgery, that life collapsed but opened the gate for creative writing. Since then I’ve written poetry, short fiction, essays and articles; now I also write book and movie reviews for the healing journal Recovering the Self.
IS: What is the primary source of inspiration for you?
PWJ: When the creative juices started bubbling, I told myself I’d write poems to capture the happenings around me, strictly for my own pleasure and to hold the memories of small as well as large events. That still holds true; what I see going on around me is mostly what I write about.
IS: Do you write when the muse strikes, or do you follow a writing schedule?
PWJ: I write only when something demands to be written, which means lots of fallow spells, too. Not very convenient when she wants to be heard in the middle of the night, of course.
IS: Please describe your process.
PWJ: I’m intrigued to learn that I can write directly on the keyboard for articles, essays, even short stories. But poems demand a more physical approach—mind to fingers to pen to paper. That tactile sense seems necessary. So I keep a notebook with me most of the time, just in case a poem springs into view. Probably most creative writers carry one tucked away in purse or pocket.
IS: What have you done to promote yourself as a writer?
PWJ: In earlier years, I was quite active. Had a publishing house for 23 years, produced my own niche market books in health and handwriting then, later, poetry for myself and selected others. I had a website (no longer), did readings and talks, ran workshops/seminars, sent work out for contests and publication (thousands of poems eventually were published; some continue to be), the whole gamut a working writer does to become known.
IS: What's left to do?
PWJ: Not much in the writing world, truthfully. I’ve done more than I ever dreamed and seem to have lost the drive to keep pushing forward. Health issues are part of that, losing my husband a few years ago plays a role. I don’t seem to have as much to say as I used to, though the pen does like to keep moving.
IS: When did you discover your unique voice? How long did the process take?
PWJ: Everybody has his/her own voice, as you know, and mine was apparent in the nonfiction writing I did originally. The creative side took awhile to become established because I’d never had any writing classes and had to learn some technique before the voice became confident. Still, within a year I suspect that voice was clear. Like it or not.
IS: What do you consider your greatest achievement as a writer?
|Don't Turn Away|
PWJ: Just being able to do it. To get the thoughts in my head out on paper the way I want them to be, unlike drawing or painting, which was frustrating because the image on paper was never what I saw in my head. As for must useful—and I do like to have my words be useful—probably Don’t Turn Away: Poems about breast cancer is the chapbook that fits the bill; it has resonated with many, many women and had three printings to date. My primary interest these days is healing writing, which reflects my background as R.N. and psychologist, no doubt. I lead a healing writing group at our regional cancer center, do that review column I mentioned earlier, and have done talks, workshops and readings along those lines for several years. I like harnessing the healing aspects of writing with the creative joy that comes along with it.
IS: What's the most recent book you read?
PWJ: I just finished for the second time Lake of Sorrows, about the bog country of Ireland, by Erin Hart, and, even better, next week I go there with her and a few other people to explore the region she writes about.
IS: Who are the writers you admire most?
PWJ: There are too many to mention, especially if I included novels among the poems(I’m a mystery buff). I like stories, realistic not abstract writing, and read eclectically. Not sure it matters what or who you read, you learn from all of it, and grow if you let yourself.
IS: What's your best piece of advice for novice writers?
PWJ: Write, write, write. Revise, revise, revise. Read, read, read. Keep doing it, don’t get discouraged, learn craft as you go, keep writing. Do it for the joy of the writing, not with thoughts of becoming rich and/or famous.
IS: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
PWJ: Thank you for inviting my thoughts. It’s a great pleasure to be invited and to organize my thinking along these lines. Although any major career in writing seems to be ebbing, the joy of putting my words on paper remains. I hope and expect this will be a lifetime endeavor.