Interview With Christopher Leo Couch


Hey everyone. I’m thrilled to share with you an interview on a wonderful writer, teacher, and blogger this first week of July. His name is Christopher Leo Couch of Clcouch123. Please check-out his blog, he’s a fascinating, kind, and learned writer.


Christopher Leo Couch
Christoper Leo Couch
  1. Please Tell Us About Yourself.

My name is Christopher Leo Couch. Christopher because my mother liked the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and Leo because it’s my father’s first name and his father’s and so on back. My last name is Couch because centuries ago, members of my clan made cushions for medieval furniture, furniture otherwise made of only hard stone and brick.

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky; much of my family is from and in the Southern USA.  My immediate family moved to Pittsburgh when I was young, then to Cincinnati. I moved back to Pennsylvania to work. I live in Mechanicsburg, a small town (borough) near Harrisburg (the state capital).

I grew up with four siblings, three brothers and my sister. I am the middle child. As such, I had to be an older child or a younger child, depending on the nature of the situation. The nature of the situation was rarely made clear to me. I never knew which child I was supposed to be and when. As a child, I had a busy imagination. I enjoyed stories and writing them. I made little worlds out of my train set and other toys such as models of spaceships or Lincoln Logs.


2. What Type of Profession Did You End Up Going Into?

I went into teaching, which became the substance of my work. I taught college while in college. Later, I taught my way through Graduate School and teaching paid the bills. I discovered I had great concerns for the accomplishments and growth of my students. In my initial studies and since, I developed a learner-centered approach to teaching that has evolved by experience and further training.

As an educator, I’ve worked in schools and churches. I’ve worked with all ages of students. I find it appealing to teach a range of all ages. I enjoy working  with babies, children, youth, and adults. I have degrees in Communications, and English, and I’ve studied religion. I’ve also, taught both public speaking and writing.

I am Christian though probably a lousy evangelist. I enjoy meeting those from other religious traditions and learning about their faith. I spend time with agnostics and atheists as well. I can articulate my faith well and I’m a devotee of the apologist C. S. Lewis; however, I believe if we’re all going to last in this world, we’re going to have to respect each other first. Rather than attempting to talk someone into my way of thinking and believing, I prefer to listen and respond. Then, I’m able to learn and relate to where others are in their spiritual beliefs.


” . . .I believe if we’re going to last in this world, we’re going to have to respect each other first. Rather than attempting to talk someone into my way of thinking and believing, I prefer to listen and respond. Then, I’m able to learn and relate to where others are in their spiritual beliefs.” – Christopher Leo Couch


3. When Did You Begin Writing and Blogging?

About a year ago, I had heart surgery. My recovery was slow and I couldn’t do much of anything. One activity I could do was write, so journaling became a daily practice. My spiritual director (once) had recommended I keep a blog. Why he suggested this, I’m not sure. I had already found WordPress, but I began to write on my blog more often after his suggestion. I enrolled in Blogging University (the WordPress offered courses). I also participated in a WordPress poetry writing class. I built a basic blog, giving myself enough options so that I could write blog posts, read the blog posts of others, and respond to other WordPress blogger’s comments.

I haven’t done much in a sophisticated fashion with my blog concerning graphics and other technical aspects, but I’ve been posting and corresponding daily for several months now and am learning as I go.


4. What Does Writing Poetry Mean to You? Why Do You Write?

Poetry is an impulse for me. I write poetry because I have to. It’s the reason I write, I think. Poetry is the way I meet the world. Maybe someone else somewhere, said this more profoundly, but for me this is how I can explain it. I write poetry to explore, as I imagine many do with this form. Poetry can be an exercise—a way to play with words—which is fine. I play that way. Usually, there’s more at work behind the poetry, even in the playful parts. I write to speak, to say something to the world, and to engage the world.


“Poetry is an impulse for me. I write poetry because I have to. It’s the reason I write . . .I write poetry to to explore, as I imagine many do with this form. Poetry can be an exercise -a way to play with words . . . I write to speak, to say something to the world, and to engage the world.” – Christopher Leo Couch.


5. Where Do You Find Your Inspiration to Write? Do You Find There Is a Time of Day You Most Like to Write?

Many things inspire me to write such as current events, a moment of beauty, and the concerns of myself and other people. I’m inspired to write when words come to mind or heart which I cannot let go of.

Currently, I most like to write in the early evening and revise in the afternoon the next day. I often enjoy writing first thing in the morning, when my mind is new and I encounter the world in an open way (or as open as the day and I are going to get).


6. What Are Your Most Current Writing Poetry Projects? Any Hopeful Projects You Are Working On?

I’m working on composing a series of psalms. I’m not the first person to express psalms in a new way. I’m not sure how I began working on this project. A psalm, simply put, is a song to God. Perhaps, I was writing out a prayer and thought there might be something lyrical about it. At any rate, I continue working on writing a series if psalms.

It’s also been a dream of mine to study and train for an MFA in Creative Writing. I’ve applied to various programs, though have not worked out a method to afford taking courses in a Creative Writing Program, which is why it’s a dream. But I do have an active, waking dream to lead a creative writing class.

While recovering from my surgery (I must have had more time than I recall), I drafted  a verse novel for a young-adult audience. I have great fondness for the genre and have been delighted to teach it, study it, and simply read it. I’ve written works, often in dramatic voice, for groups and special events; I’d be glad to continue writing works such as this.

I’d love to publish my work, of course. I have mentioned in my blog a dream of mine, to have a collection of my poems published in hardback form. I want my poetry to be a book as the kind of works I look for in bookstores and come upon as treasures abstracted from the mortal—or divine—aspects of earth.


“I want my poetry to be a book just as the kind of works I look for in bookstores and come upon as treasures abstracted from the mortal — or divine — aspects of earth.” – Christopher Leo Couch


7. Have You Published Written Works or Are You Planning to Publish Works of Writing in the Future?

I published numerous works while in graduate school and in my scholarly life. Most of my work, even poetry, has been published in journals. My favorite of these works is an article about ancient riddles and their use in The Hobbit.

For the last church in which I worked, I wrote a devotional series and for a Lenten observance. I wrote The Way of the Cross—a kind of liturgical writing which has been composed over centuries. If you go to the The Trinity Camp Hill Website, you’ll find my Way of the Cross and the entire experience rendered on line.


8. Can You Briefly Describe the Process You Went Through to Publish or Are Going Through to Have Your Writing Published?

I imagine if I seriously wanted to publish widely, I would need to have a literary agent, if not an advanced (terminal) degree. What I often do, is send my writing to a group which might be interested in printing it. Sometimes I’ve been commissioned to write certain pieces. Sometimes sending your writing to interested parties works and sometimes it doesn’t.

On a side note, I’ve heard there maybe a new planet discovered in our solar system. If so, it’s going to need a name. I posted a poem about my choice of Minerva (Roman god of wisdom), which many of you (thank you) like as well. I also sent my suggestion to NASA. Maybe, they will like my name choice as well?


“Most of my work, even poetry, has been published in journals. My favorite of these works is an article about ancient riddles and their use in The Hobbit.” – Christopher Leo Couch


9. What is Your Writing Process Like?

I’ve described something of my writing process above; I write. It’s not usually so hard, because I know I’ll write stuff that I won’t keep. But I’m still writing. The computer is especially (truly, really) helpful with my writing. I can draft, move things around, and create new saved versions and files. It’s so easy now with the a computer. Sometimes, I wonder how I made it through my Master’s Degree using a typewriter. (A mechanical word-calculating device networked to nothing but the typist).

I usually write in response to something—even if it’s only in wondering why or how. Sometimes, I write something and then put it away. (Again, wonderful computer)  I have many pieces of writing saved and stored on my computer (without proper back-up, I’m sure). At times, writing is difficult, because I am writing about something difficult. The recent death of my close friend is hard to write about. Sometimes writing is more straightforward and other times, writing is like playing. The act of writing is a chore (physically speaking) but I’m fine with it’s physical demands.


10. Do You Prefer Certain Areas of Writing or Reading Styles or Genres?

I read poetry, young-adult literature, and regular mysteries. Sometimes I read varied genres for fun and sometimes for work. For work, I read about pedagogy and religion. My favorite mystery works are by Aaron Elkins who sometimes writes with his wife Charlotte Elkins. Charlotte also writes on her own. My sister and I share mystery titles and our reviews of the books we both read. But, young-adult literature crosses pleasure and work, as does poetry.


“Sometimes, I wonder how I made it through my Master’s Degree using a typewriter. (A mechanical word-calculating device networked to nothing but the typist).” – Christopher Leo Couch


11. Do You Have Any Helpful Advice for Other Writers?

Write! Don’t wait. Write. Share. Get reader response and write more!

When sharing your writing before revising (and after, since writing is an organic process and not artificially linear), choose those whose opinions about your writing, you generally respect. These opinions do not have to be from folks who are writers.

If you would like to know how to increase your vocabulary when writing — read. You can read anything. I suggest reading writing you like. Rosema from the blog: A Reading Writer writes about wonderful books to read along with meaningful poetry. Please check-out her blog in the link above.


12. Is There Anything Else You Would Like to Share With Which Is Pertinent to Writing or Yourself?

I’d like to thank you, Amanda, for arranging this interview. I’d also like to thank everyone who reads my work. I’d like to thank those with whom I interact with online, because your work invites response.Thank you! Don’t let writing be a mystery which stultifies.  Writing is a mystery—but the good kind. When it’s fair and correct, give credit where credit’s due. Identify sources and inspirations.


“Don’t let writing be a mystery which stultifies. Writing is a mystery –but the good kind. When it’s fair and correct, give credit where credit’s due. Identify sources and inspirations.” – Christopher Leo Couch


  1. Can You Share With Us a Few Links From Your Blog With Some of Your Favorite or Most Loved Pieces? 

The first poem is playfulGrandmama used two words in “Collecting Words,” which I especially like. I use these two-words here:

“Pie Outside Can’t Hide”

By Christopher Leo Couch

Crimp pie crust,

Not too hard, ‘cause,’

Dust to dust.

Enjoy the crimp,

With elf and imp.

Like will-o-the-wisp,

When fall is crisp.

We bake our wares,

To cool on stairs.

Steam sprite-rises,

No surprises.

Wafting dessert:

Magic food alert!


My second poem is more soberly reflective:

“Failing Night”

By Christopher Leo Couch

 Just after five,

I have not been asleep.

Pain shoots through,

My leg, a single line,

Of nerve.

As if a wire was pushed,

Through inside.

Then something threw,

A supernatural switch,

And a low current of too-

Warm electric sting,

Without cessation.

Courses through tired,

Muscle.

Having surrendered the,

Day’s labors into,

Aspiration’s night of,

Negligent awareness.

Barely keeping guard,

Letting go of awake,

To turn into dream.

In hope to re-knit and,

Repair stretched.

Measures in the body,

And the mind.

It’s a cycle that’s supposed,

To work.

Why then is pain,

Ruining what I’ve made?

Not fair.

I want to rest then rise,

With normal consciousness,

Beneath the skin.


More of Christopher’s poetry can be found on his blog here.

Thank you so much Christopher for doing this interview for me. I enjoyed learning about you, your past, and your future aspirations. I wish the best for you in life, completing your MFA in Creative Writing, your psalms, and a hardcover book of poetry.


Thanks for reading this bi-weekly interview series. I have another fantastic interview lined up in the next couple of weeks. If you wished to be interviewed on writing and/or blogging, please reach me on my contact page on the top of my blog.


©Mandibelle16. (2016) All Rights Reserved.

 

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Part 2: Never Again – Returning to The Chateau


Read Part 1 here: Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers – Never Again

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Part 2: Never Again – Returning to The Chateau

Jolene was back at Chateau Blanc to visit her Auntie Cathy after five-years abroad. Cathy worked as an event planner at the Chateau helping with Weddings, Fundraiser, (etc.). Jolene had always thought of Chateau Blanc as magical and mysterious castle as a young girl. She was thirty-five now with a daughter of her own,  fourteen-year-old Kasia. For Jolene and Kasia, the Chateau held a sentimental appeal they associated with Aunt Cathy.

Jolene had faded out of her life in Nice, France, living with her Aunt Cathy at the Chateau when she wasn’t travelling as a model. Jolene had thought it would be safer to start a new life with Kasia in Canada. The move took Jolene and Kasia away from their beloved Aunt Cathy. But it also helped Jolene cut off all ties to her ex-boyfriend Scott who had become a great bother to Jolene.

As Jolene crossed the path which lead to the Chateau, she was caught off guard by a feeling of desiring to hold Kasia’s hand. Jolene knew her head-strong teenager would never agree to be that close to her Mom; never mind, holding her Mom’s hand. Waves lapped up against the edge of the path and Jolene knew at times it stormed and the waves slammed harshly against the walkway, taking away anyone who was foolish enough to cross.

Kasia dragged her feet behind Jolene and Jolene told Kasia: “Come on now ma belle, tres vite! We don’t want to spend too long on this pathway. The sea could become rough.” Kasia laughed at Jolene’s worry and shrugged when Jolene gave her an admonishing look.

“It’s fine Mom,” Kasia said. “The sea has been calm today. It’s not going to start storming in the time it takes us to cross to Chateau Blanc. I was wondering. . . why do we live so far from Aunt Cathy now? We used to see her all the time when I was a kid?” Jolene sighed.

“I keep telling you Kasia. It started when I obtained career changing, modelling jobs in North America. I wanted to earn my degree in Fashion in Toronto, where I had been given a full scholarship. Then, I started designing clothes with your Aunt Judy whom I met in school. Our business grew. You should know, you work in one of our main stores of  La Petite Mademoiselle in Ottawa. You already know this ma belle. What are you really asking?” Kasia looked down at her feet. They had crossed the pathway and the Chateau was a short distance before them.

“I don’t understand why we left Auntie Cathy. She’s the only family we have besides an odd cousin or two. You’ve never even told me who my Dad is and I’m pretty sure he’s from here. I think that’s why we left. Not only for your modelling career and your education.” Jolene paused and tried to redirect her conversation with Kasia.

“You could be a model Kasia, if you like. Simon my agent, was saying how modelling would suit your love to travel well, before we left New York yesterday. You’re 5’10,” beautiful, you have slight curves, and are outgoing.When we get back to Ottawa, I’ll arrange a meeting with Simon. Maybe, we can even model together?” Jolene mentioned casually. Kasia’s face crinkled and she gave her Mom an ‘are you serious’ look when Jolene said they could model together.

“I know I could model Mom. Boys tell me I’m gorgeous all the time and the girls hate me for how much I look like one of those models in Seventeen. That’s why almost all my friends are boys except for Janelle who is a petite model. But I’m not sure I want to go the same way you have gone with modelling. I think I want to write or be an artist of some kind. And yes, I want to travel everywhere.”

“Well, that’s fine Kasia. But you could make serious money for school and travelling if you you model. It’s a great start for a young girl such as yourself.” Jolene added. Kasia looked at Jolene and a small smile passed her lips.

“Okay Mom, that sounds like something I’d like to try. So where is Aunt Cathy? I thought she said she’d meet us in front of the Chateau. I bought her some tulips from the market as we passed by a flower stall in Nice. I think they might wilt if we don’t see Auntie soon.”

“My thoughtful girl.” Jolene said messing up Kasia’s long dark hair with a head rub.

——

“Oh, I can’t believe it, Jolene! Is this my sweet Kasia? You’re almost all grown up ma belle. I hardly recognize you from the seven-year-old girl I last saw playing with her Barbies in my sitting room.” Kasia blushed and presented Aunt Cathy with the tulips she bought her.

“Oh, tres beaux!” Kasia blushed and was pleased with Auntie’s compliment.” Merci beacoup! I love tulips in the spring. And these are such a pretty shade of pink. How are you darling girl and how is your Mother?” Cathy said looking Kasia and Jolene over with pride. It was clear she missed them a lot over the past five-years.

“We’re doing fantastic Auntie,” Kasia said beaming.”Mom models a bit but mainly she runs her chain of clothing stores La Petite Mademoiselle, with my Aunt Judy, her close friend. It’s a clothing store with beautiful classic clothing for all body types, size double-zero to twenty-two.” Kasia added.

“I was at a private school and had a nanny up until grade nine, but I’m turning fifteen soon. Mom told me I can get a tutor and travel with her during high school. Mom also told me while we were walking here across the pathway, that I could model to make some money for University and travelling across Europe in four-years.” Cathy smiled down at Kasia and gave Jolene a questioning look after some of the things Kasia said.

” Kasia had a nanny? Where were you?”Cathy asked Jolene. Jolene sighed, hesitating:

” I was going to fashion school in Toronto and modelling across North America. It’s difficult being a single Mom, trying to fulfill your dreams, and take care of a child. It was more stable for Kasia to be at home when she was younger with a trusted Nanny.I have never been gone longer than four-days and Kasia always came with me on modelling and business trips during her long school breaks, such as in Summer. It was a great deal of work starting up my own clothing brand/store and growing it to the success  La Petite Mademoiselle has now. We have stores across Canada and in the US.” Jolene said defensively.

“I just wish you’d let me have been with you and Kasia, Jolene. You two are my only family. I would have loved to look after Kasia while you were in school and travelling for work. I could have worked from home. You never asked me what I wanted before you left and I hardly heard from you.” Aunt Cathy said with anger.”You sent me a picture here and there on your phone. You never talked to me online or ever phoned me. I’m hurt Jolene.” Auntie Cathy wiped a stray tear from her kindly blue eyes.

“I’m sorry Auntie. I just thought — I didn’t think. But I had to get away from Scott and Katrina. I had to leave because Scott kept contacting me. I left and I didn’t look back. I’m sorry for that Auntie. But Kasia and I are back now. We’re going to try to open up a few branches of my clothing store in France. We’re going to see what the consumer market is like here. If you want, after we’re done working here, you can come with us back home to Ottawa.”Jolene offered happily. She had missed her Auntie Cathy more than she realized.

“I have lots of money now Auntie. You can do anything you want with your retirement. Why not travel with Kasia and I? Live with us in Ottawa or have your own place if you like.”  Cathy couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“I would love that so much Jolene. Thank you for the invitation. Event planning is hard on a  woman in her late sixties. I have a pension and money I’ve saved, but it’s nice to know I have so many more options for my retirement. I can spend my time with Kasia and you.”

——-

“Who’s Scott?” Kasia piped into the conversation. “Is Scott my Dad? If he was the reason you left here, he had to have been my Dad.” Jolene and Cathy’s faces both went pale and they looked at each other uneasily.

“Oh, he’s no one dear. Just an old boyfriend.” Jolene said feeling stupid for mentioning Scott’s name.

” You never date now. He must have been important.” Kasia said slyly.

“He’s your father, Kasia,” Cathy said in one breath. “Oops,” Cathy said, “That slipped out.” Turning to Jolene Cathy said: “Kasia is fourteen now, she has the right to know, anyway.”

“That wasn’t your decision to make Aunt Cathy. I’m Kasia’s mother, not you!” Jolene stormed off to walk off her anger in the hallways of the Chateau. Kasia looked at her Aunt aglow with expectation and curiosity.

“Please tell me who my father is?” Kasia begged her Auntie.” Tell me the story of how my parents met? Why didn’t my father want me Auntie?”

Cathy sighed and adjusted her hair a bit nervously.”I shouldn’t,” Cathy said. “Your Mom is already so angry with me.”

“Please!” Kasia asked, “Mom always changes the subject and won’t tell me anything about my Dad. I  don’t even know if he’s alive or dead.”

Cathy sighed and motioning for Kasia to sit down next to her on an antique love seat, she held Kasia’s young hands in her wrinkled ones, and told Kasia about the relationship between Scott Jeune and Kasia’s mother, Jolene.

“Scott and your mother went to highschool together. Jolene always had an infatuation with Scott since junior high school.Jolene went through an awkward phase before she turned fifteen. Ever since that age, your mother  was known as a classic beauty. She always reminded everyone of Grace Kelly. You have inherited her beauty, Kasia.” Cathy exclaimed.

“Jolene was wild in high school. Your Grandma couldn’t keep track of her comings and goings, before your Grandma died in a car accident. Jolene was extremely popular with all the boys and made all the girls jealous of her. She had a busy social life, and a new boy every couple of weeks. When Scott asked her out, Jolene was overjoyed. Their first date was the only time I’d ever seen her primp and beautify herself so much to go on a date….

Stay tuned for part 3 coming soon!

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©Mandibelle16. All Rights Reserved.