Interview with Sarah Whiley: Writer, Blogger, Teacher, & Future Author #interview #nonfiction #amwriting #nonfiction


Welcome to another writer/blogger interview. Today I’m interviewing the wonderful, talented, and gorgeous Sarah Whiley who I have come to know through the prompt website MindLoveMisery`s Menagerie (MLMM). Sarah`s personal blog is called: By Sarah. You can also look for her to do the Saturday Mix prompt on MLMM. Here`s the link to last week`s prompt: Same Same but Different December 30.


Sarah Whiley Interview Pic 1
Credit: Sarah Whiley

1. Sarah, Please Tell Us About Yourself? What Are Your Writing and Blogging Goals? What Do You Hope to Accomplish by Writing? 


My name is Sarah Whiley and I live in north-east Victoria, in Australia. My blog is: ‘By Sarah. I’m a primary school teacher of 17 years and have taught all ages from 5 to 12 years old. I have always loved writing since I could pick up a pencil and create. I am passionate about instilling this same love of writing in my students.

In order to do that, it is important that I see myself as a writer – as an author in my own right. This is what I am hoping to accomplish by writing and blogging. I am so fortunate to live where I do. They don’t call Australia the “lucky country” for nothing!


2. Tell Us About Where You Live and What You Love About It?


I’m originally a city girl from Canberra, and later, Melbourne. I have enjoyed the spoils of both cities’ such as the cosmopolitan cafes and restaurants, nightlife, and their unique cultures.

When I met my husband and moved to the country! I love the wide- open spaces, the varying landscapes and the bush. I am now an avid bushwalker and spend most weekends out and about, communing with nature.


“I am a primary school teacher of 17 years and have taught all ages from 5 to 12 years old. I have always loved writing since I could pick up a pencil and create. I am passionate about instilling this same love of writing in my students. In order to do that, it is important that I see myself as a writer – as an author in my own right.” – By Sarah Whiley 


Sarah Whiley Pic 2
Sarah Whiley

 


3. When Did You Begin Writing and Blogging and Why? What Does Writing Mean to You? 


My journey with blogging began five years ago, after a series of personal setbacks and issues. I commenced blogging primarily, as a cathartic experience to help me work through my thoughts and feelings. Once I no longer ‘needed’ my blog, I had a small break, however always felt something was ‘missing.’

After attending professional development for helping me teach writing, I realized, the hole that blogging and writing had left in my life!

I started my blog, ‘By Sarah,’ to explore my own creative writing, to explore myself, and my talent for writing. I have, particularly, enjoyed writing short stories and poetry. An unexpected bonus to continued blogging has been the great friendships I’ve gained in the WordPress community; I have established so many along the way.


4. Where Do You Find Your Inspiration and Motivation to Continue Writing and Blogging? Why Is It Vital for you to Keep on Writing? 


I have some seeds of ideas stashed away in my writer’s notebook. I tend to work on these pieces over a long period of time. For other ideas, I rely on a range of prompts. I feel it’s important to write regularly in order to develop my skills and continue to write and maintain it as a habit. Also, I experience a great degree of stress relief from writing.

Moreover, as a teacher, it is easy to get stuck in a cycle of hyper-vigilance and not to give yourself enough ‘down time’. I find a variety of prompts extremely helpful for motivating and inspiring writing for myself and in my teaching.

As well, I have a schedule of sorts and I endeavor to write every day aside from Wednesdays (which is my ‘well-being-do-nothing’ night!


 

Sarah Whiley Group Pic 3
Credit: Sarah Wiley

 


“For other ideas, I rely on a range of prompts. I feel it is important to write regularly in order to develop my skills and continue to write and maintain it as a habit. Also, I experience a great degree of stress relief from writing.” – Sarah Whiley


5. What Are Your Writing and Blogging Habits? Do You Prefer Writing a Certain Time of Day? 


I set aside time each day to write. Usually, I can be found on the couch with a dog or two keeping me company, along with some background noise from the TV (I am one of these people who can’t concentrate when it’s quiet). I enjoy writing poetry most. I have a knack for rhyme and rhythm and find it easy to whip up a poem.

As well, I have been challenging myself to explore other types of writing and short stories to extend my skills. I don’t write in the mornings as I am in a rush for time once I wake up. I rush out the door to teach school, but I write after dinner, sometime between 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. at night. I find Tuesdays and Thursdays to be my busiest and most productive days.


6. What Are Your Most Current Writing or Blogging Projects? Do You Have Projects Outside of Your Blog Involving Writing? Do You Plan on Publishing Any Writing in the Future? 


Currently, I am undertaking Sammi Cox’s  ‘A Month of Mini Writing Challenges’ and have am the new host for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s ‘Saturday Mix’. Outside of my
blog, I keep a writer’s notebook and am busy maintaining a Class Dojo Story (similar to a blog) for my classroom.

I will soon be published as a feature writer in Linda J. Wolff’s upcoming eBook. Linda runs a fantastic Urban Poetry site and I was the winner of her Fibonacci poetry competition earlier this year. At the end of the year, I plan to convert my blog posts for 2017 into a self-published collection for family, friends, and anyone else interested.


Toa Hefitaba Sarah
Credit: Toa Hefitba via UnSplash

“I will soon be published as a feature writer in Linda J. Wolff’s upcoming eBook. Linda runs a fantastic Urban Poetry site and I was the winner of her Fibonacci poetry competition earlier this year. At the end of the year, I plan to convert my blog posts for 2017 into a self-published collection for family, friends, and anyone else interested.” – Sarah Whiley


7. Can you Briefly Describe Your Writing Process? What Do You Think Will Be Your Process of Self-Publishing Your Writing? 


Being a teacher, I find the writing process natural and not something I have to think too hard about. Storytelling and explaining my ideas is something I innately do. Upon analysis of my writing, though, I definitely follow six-traits in my writing process including ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.

After I am happy with a final piece, I often bounce it off my husband or my mum, seeking their feedback. They are a tremendous help to me and improve the end result of my stories and poems and their overall flow. When I self-publish at the end of the year, I am investigating the use of the ‘Blook-Up Service.‘ (As Sarah gave me these answers super-quick back at the end of August or September, please ask her about the progress of her book and her published poem!!).


8. Do You Prefer Certain Areas of Writing and Reading Genres? And Do You Have Any Helpful Advice for Other Writers and Bloggers Starting Out? 


Well, I’m definitely drawn to the dark, somewhat macabre styles of writing. My pieces often take a dark turn or have a twist at the end. I am not a fan of science-fiction or fantasy, at all, but I prefer supernatural, horror, thriller, crime, mystery, drama, historical, and biographical works.

My advice for new bloggers is:

  • Write what you know. Capturing a small moment in time can sometimes produce the best piece of writing! Also, go with the flow….literally! Don’t overthink it. Go with your ‘stream-of-consciousness’ and see where it leads.
  • Find like-minded people. Better to have fewer blog followers and likes, and better to have more feedback from those few who ‘get’ you and your writing, those who appreciate your efforts! Quality not quantity as they say.

Sarah Whiley Hiking 4
Credit: Sarah Whiley and Her Beautiful Photography!!

Find like-minded people. Better to have fewer blog followers and likes, and better to have more feedback from those few who ‘get’ you and your writing, those who appreciate your efforts! Quality not quantity as they say.” Sarah Whiley


9. Is There Anything Else You Would Like To Share With Us About Writing Or Yourself? 


My experiences growing up in a large family and my relationships with my siblings have certainly shaped many of my ideas and stories! I am the eldest of six children (No, we are not Catholic!). My mum just wanted another son and kept trying until she got one! It’s ironic how she wanted four boys…she ended up with four girls! Despite the large age gaps between some of us, we are reasonably close and hang out together and, at times, travel together.

Also, I LOVE to travel. Whether it be exploring local gems, interstate expeditions or overseas adventures. I am curious and interested in the world around me. I soak up information and facts like a sponge (you never know when they’ll come in handy for a trivia night!) I enjoy nothing more than experiencing new things. I adore the outdoors and take every chance (money permitting of course!) to jump on a plane and go somewhere different.

As well, I love New Zealand and have holidayed there four times now – with plans to go back! I have also traveled to the US (including Hawaii), England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and Indonesia. All of these factors have helped develop my writing.


10. Can You Briefly Tell Us About Some of Your Favorite Blogs? What Do You Like Most About Them? 


Gosh, it’s hard to name a few. There are a lot of my WordPress friends whose work I truly respect and enjoy. But, if I have to narrow it down, I would have to say:

  • Jane Dougherty Writes – Jane has a wonderful turn of phrase and is able to use colorful words to create great imagery in her poems and stories.
  • God’s Chair – Jael Sook is an engaging and diverse poet and writer and I thoroughly enjoy her work, anticipating each post she makes.
  • RedStuffDan – Dan is an incredibly artistic photographer. His subjects include Bordeaux vineyards, local village life, architecture, doors, mirrored
    images and digital photography as art.

11. Can You Please Share With Us a Few Links from Your Blogs:

TASI

By Sarah Whiley

*Inspired by “Whiskey In the Jar” Music Prompt

*****

 

Tasi Sarah
Credit: Sarah Whiley

 

*****

My summer holiday in Hobart, Tasmania had not begun quite as I had expected. A thunderstorm, a severely delayed flight, and an inaccessible hostel topped off with some bitterly cold weather that I had most definitely not packed for. Finding myself with a few hours to spare, I decided that a stroll around the CBD to orient myself was in order.

The gathering, dark clouds had other ideas.

I had no sooner ventured out onto the streets when the skies opened and a torrential downpour began. Cursing, I sought cover under the awnings of the few shops that had them.

And that’s when I saw it from across the street. ‘Lark Distillery’.

I have never been a whiskey drinker, but I could not resist the pull of the plume of smoke coming from the chimney, nor the cozy 1800’s building that housed it. I ran across to the front door and pushed it open.

Immediately, a warm, yeasty aroma hit me. Unsurprisingly, I was the only patron. The young man behind the ba took in my sodden, street-urchin appearance, and without a trace of disdain, offered me a tasting.

‘But I don’t really drink whisky,’ I protested. ‘Can I just stay in here until the rain passes?’

‘Sure,’ he replied. ‘But why not have a little taste, just to pass the time?’

He took a glass and bottle from the shelf behind him and sang a few lyrics of the Metallica song, ‘There’s whisky in the jar oh.’ He winked, and with that, I took a seat at the bar.  I felt somewhat lonely amongst the long row of empty bar stools. Clearly, they were used to a greater custom.

‘So what would you like to try?’ he asked.

‘I’m in your hands,’ I admitted. ‘What would you recommend?’

‘Let’s start with the single malt. It’s a classic,’ he advised.

He poured a sample into the glass. The glug-glug and almost syrupy quality of the liquid was mesmerising.

‘This whisky is double distilled in locally crafted copper-pot stills and aged in small, 100 litre oak casks. We store our spirits for 5-8 years in smaller barrels for faster maturation,’ he explained.

I took a sip and promptly spluttered. He laughed.

‘Try throwing it back in one go,’ he suggested.

So I did.

After the initial burning sensation and urge to cough, the most amazingly delicious warmth spread from my belly to my brow.

‘Mmmm,’ I approved. ‘Nice. Smooth.’

‘Well if you like that, you’ll love the cask strength. It’s got the same smoothness but is more full bodied due to a higher percentage of Tasmanian malt. It bursts across the palate with hints of maple syrup and sweet notes of highland peat.’

‘Right,’ I said, not having a clue what that meant. Irrespectively, I nudged my glass forward and said, ‘Hit me.’

And I threw that back too.

This bloke knows what he’s talking about, I thought. It was amazing. My palate was dancing and my whole body was alive. The rain outside had faded away, and I felt all toasty and warm and happy.

‘How much alcohol is in this?’ I demanded.

‘58%’ he replied, with a twinkle in his eye, as if he knew that I was feeling tipsy already. ‘How ’bout we mix it up a little? Wanna try some gin?’

‘Gin?’ I replied with enthusiasm. Now we were speaking my language! ‘Oh yes please! Definitely’.

Again, I pushed my glass forward.

‘Now, here at Lark, we do a gin each season,’ he explained, ‘that way we can capitalise on the unique flavours available at different times of the year. This one is our summer release.’ He poured a more than generous sample.

This time, before I drank, I lifted the glass to my nose. The aromas were incredible. Bold and beautifully sweet, I inhaled a balance of citrus and rosewater with undertones of juniper and coriander. It made me think of the warmth of the summer sun. It was almost as if I could feel it on my skin.

I drank and closed my eyes with satisfaction.

‘That was good.‘ I could hear my voice starting to lilt and slur with the effects of the high alcohol content. I sat with the gin in my hand and sipped from the glass again and again. As if wanting to savour it but devour it at the same time, until every drop was gone. I couldn’t wait to see what was next.

‘This is slainte,’ he declared. ‘This is very, very special. It was developed by one of our owners in response to the strong demand for a unique Australian whisky liqueur. Slainte is the marriage of our single malt whisky and a distilled spirit of herbs and spices. The two are carefully combined to give a complexity of character, spiciness and sweetness, while maintaining the overtones of the whisky.’

I could listen to this guy talk all day! I thought. Such passion for the product.

My head was swirling, and I though I still didn’t fully understand what this whisky was all about, I had decided I liked it. Very much. I slid my glass towards him.

‘Now, Tasi,’ he began, as he pulled out a new bottle from behind the counter, ‘Tasi is something different altogether.’

‘What is it?’ I asked, my curiosity getting the better of me.

‘Tasi is a unique herbal liqueur derived from a single native Tasmanian berry.’

‘I know about the Tasi berry!’ I interjected, surprisingly myself. ‘It’s actually called a Myrtus berry isn’t it?’

‘Yes, that’s right. It’s unique to Tasmania. So this really is something you can’t find anywhere else,’ he was speaking almost reverently. ‘Pass me your glass.’

Unlike any of the other tastings, he first scooped up some ice cubes and placed then delicately in the bottom of my glass.  Intrigued, I leant forward as he carefully poured. Tasi was a glorious deep yellow in colour and looked like liquid gold, flowing over iridescent rocks.

I will never forget that first mouthful. It was as if the liqueur curled around every inch of my teeth and gums. It stuck to my tongue and was like treacle down my throat. That liquid gold coated every surface it touched within my body and I felt like royalty. I smacked my lips approvingly and even moaned out loud. I appreciated every last golden drop and licked the ice cubes once my glass was drained.

He smiled.

He knew.

It was THAT good.

I bought three bottles and thanked him for his time, his advice and his expertise. The bottles clinked as I pulled the door open and reentered the world outside.

I did not notice if it was still raining.

And I did not care.

****

Sarah 2017©


12. Here Are Some More of Sarah’s Link’s to Explore!

Some of her favorite Short pieces:

Some of Sarah’s Poetry:


Thank you so much to Sarah for filling out the interview questions and providing such honest and thoughtful answers. I’m so sorry it took so long to put the interview together. This last past year has been crazy. Make sure to check out Sarah’s Blog: By Sarah.


I should have another interview out in the next couple of weeks, with no promises. If you would like to be interviewed and are a writer or blogger or if you blog for a cause, please reach out to me through my Contact Page. If you’re a regular, you’ll notice I’m playing around with my blog to update my theme. The Contact Page info also needs to be updated eventually.

Have a fantastic week!


©Mandibelle16. (2018) All Rights Reserved.

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Saturday Mix: Poem – Villanelle – “Dog of the House” #amwriting #saturdaymix #dVerse #poetry 


Thanks to Teresa of MindLoveMisery’s Menagerie for hosting last Saturday’s Mix prompt based on ‘sounds‘ in certain locations. I’ll be combing it with #dVerse prompt on using a Villanelle style of poetry thanks to Frank Hubeny at Poet’s pub for hosting that. 

—— 

Credit: Edith Hill

——-

Quiet before the bustling crowds come out, 

An awkward silence, distant noise undefined; 

Then there is barking, a chorus sings, shouts —

Dog owners fumbling, sidewalks to new route —

Down verdant trails, nature whispers sublime, 

Many dogs scrambling, playing, all about,

The new dogs can’t win, woof triumphant shouts.  

Man’s best friend loves parks, rabbits smell divine.  

Aromas, squirrel chirps, bird tweets, still mouses. 

Mouse souvenir of pride for mom, on her couch; 

As Dad showers above, Mom’s scent resides, 

Flowers, citrus, sprayed here and there in spouts. 

Dad’s Dior cologne sprayed so thickly it clouds, 

Sneezing many times, scent too strong, despised

Mom’s heels click, goodbye kisses resounding

Leaning love, licking smacking kisses now, 

Mom’s laughter sprinkled, Dad’s chuckles confide,  

He loves me, she loves me; for this is my home. 

From a sick dog on the city streets found, 

Home protector, sonorous barks resound. 

——–

©Mandibelle16. (2017) All Rights Reserved 

Photo Challenge: Fiction – Alice and the Tea Cup #amwriting #fiction #photochallenge 


Thanks to NEKNEERAJ from MindLoveMisery’s Menagerie for hosting this week’s photo Challenge. 

——-

Credit: Source Unknown

——-

Wonderland had been a delight for Alice. It always was, but she expected that when she returned to the real world, she would come back as herself — her correct size.  

Instead, Alice stepped through the looking glass as her regular 5’7″ height and found herself the size of one her mothers miniature ornamental figurines. Moreover, when she had taken a few steps she found herself falling from a tremedous height before making a great splash in what she discovered was a tepid cup of green tea. 

She didn’t recognize the face of the sullen man who was drinking from her mother’s rose china teacups. His hands surrounded the cup Alice was in and he hadn’t even realized when she landed in his tea, sloshing it all over his hands. 

Alice was soaked and feeling warm, the tea wasn’t as tepid as she thought. The man sighed and she heard her mother’s booming voice talking to the man about some cause she was recruiting donations for.

She screamed shrilly as the man lifted the cup to his mouth, struggling in the water and flailing her tiny arms. The man didn’t see Alice and as she continued screaming, the cup moved closer to the man’s mouth. As tea surrounded Alice covering her head, she had no choice but to bite the man’s lip. She sunk her teeth into his flesh, biting as viciously as she could with her minature teeth. 

The man gasped, suddenly in pain. Blood dripped from his lip where Alice had bit him. The tea and teacup flew out of his hand in surprise and Alice was flung out into the living room landing beside her mother on the couch. 

Her mother gazed at Alice with wide blue eyes before gently stroking Alice’s soaking body with her pinky finger. 

“Alice?” she asked, before fainting on the couch. 

——

©Mandibelle16. (2017) All Rights Reserved. 

Flash Fiction for the Aspiring Writer: Oscar #amwriting #flashfiction #fiction #pets


Thanks to Priceless Joy for hosting FFftAW.

——-

Credit: Shivangi Singh

——-

“What made you think we were going to fit your couch in our condo?” Eve asked Grant. 

“Well Eve, I can explain.” 

“I told you before, your couch will not fit through the front door. It won’t fit in the elevator either.” 

Grant sighed and rubbed his eyes, ” It’s just, he’s been through everything with me. I could never leave him behind. He’s my lucky charm and I’ll curse my favourite sport’s teams if I leave him.” 

Eve laughed, “Leaving ‘him‘ will curse your sport’s teams, huh? Do your buddies outside, below the patio think so? They’re the ones who’re having to get your couch or ‘him‘ to the third floor balcony?” 

“Errr. . .well, they know about Oscar,” Grant mumbled. 

“Oscar?” 

“Well, Eve it’s not my couch we’ve been moving, it’s my pet elephant. He’s gotten so big now, we had to haul him up through the patio door.”

Eve’s mouth gaped, “We’re talking about the proverbial elephant in the room, your couch right? I don’t see it up here.” 

“Look behind you,” Grant muttered. Oscar the half-grown elephant trumpeted happily squealing behind Eve.

 Grant’s fiancée squealed for a different reason. 

——

©Mandibelle16. (2017) All Rights Reserved. 

Flash Fiction for the Aspiring Writer: The Funkey Monkey in The Funky Munky #amwriting #flashfiction #magic


Thank you to Priceless Joy for hosting FFftAW. 

——–

TJ. Paris

——

The Funky Munky was a magic shop owned by Velma. She lived in the first apartment, above her shop. 

Curtis walked into Velma’s shop one night, he was hallucinating and ill. “Please help me,” he begged, “I think I’ve been poisoned and I’m going to die.”

Velma felt his forehead: “You’ve come to the right place. You’ve been poisoned and I can help you for a favour in return.” 

“Anything.” 

Velma began to add liquids to a glass. She handed the ‘potion’ to Curtis who downed it and passed-out; he awoke the next morning on a couch.

“Do you feel better?” Velma asked him.

“Yeah, I feel fantastic. What did you give me?” Curtis said.

“A Funky Monkey,” Vera said smiling.”It contained Banana Liquor, White Rum, Malibu Rum, Pineapple Juice, and magic dust.” 

 “It was a drink, not a potion?” 

” You were poisoned Curtis. The drink was magical and removed the poison from your body, hydrated you, and made you sleep deeply.” Velma said.

“It’s my favourite alcoholic drink, Curtis. I became ill because I drank too many of them once. Your favour to me was taking away my repulsion for my favourite drink. However, a Funky Monkey will now make you ill if you even smell one.” 

Curtis had no words but Velma had pity on him and snapping her fingers, sent him home to his own bed where he would remember nothing. 

——-

©Mandibelle16. (2016) All Rights Reserved.

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.

 

Maydays: Flash Fiction – Lost Keys #Maydays


img_1203


 

Thanks to C.L. Kaley of new2writing for today’s #Mayday prompt: a little lost.


Key
http://www.pamelamoskie.com

 

“Where are my keys?” Jeremy muttered. “I can’t find my keys. They were hanging on the key rack and now they’re not there?”

His friend Jake shrugged. “It happens man. I lose my keys all the time.”

Jeremy scowled at Jake, “Why aren’t you helping me search? They’re on a blue key chain with a skull. There’s ten keys on there and many of them from work. We won’t be going to that concert soon if I can’t find my keys because my car key is on that ring.”

Jake appeared bored but dutifully began searching for Jeremy’s keys. After ten minutes he gave up and sitting on Jeremy’s couch, flicked on the TV, turning it to a hockey game in progress.

“What’s the big deal with your keys?” Jake said to Jeremy. Jeremy looked at Jake irately.

“It’s expensive to replace them all and I haven’t got a lot of extra cash laying around right now.”

“No one does, bad times mean no jobs in the oil field.”

“I don’t work in oil Jake. That’s you. I work in an office downtown and I have keys to the whole office. Even the places where most people aren’t allowed to go. I need my keys.” Jeremy shouted.

“We’re going to miss the concert,” Jake said. “We should take a cab and look for your keys later. ” Jeremy rolled his eyes at Jake’s obtuseness.

“I have to lock my condo up Jake. I can’t leave it open.”

Ignoring Jeremy, Jake took out his phone to call a cab despite what Jeremy had said. He started to dial the cab number when he felt something hard and uncomfortable under his left leg. He dug between the couch cushions and found Jeremy’s keys.

“Hey look what I found Jeremy.” Jake said triumphantly.

Jeremy was stunned.”You mean, you were sitting on my keys the whole time you were on the couch?”

Jeremy attacked Jake, playfully punching him in the nose.

“You idiot you had my keys under your leg,” Jeremy said laughing and shaking his head at Jake.


©Mandibelle16. (2016) All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Poem: “Words”


Thanks to the Daily Post for yesterday’s and today’s word prompts Refresh and Voice.

—–

The right words to write, don’t happen each day,

When you only want to lie on the couch and let,

Each and every word in your head drift away.

It’s not as if what you write has to be set.

—-

That the lines all have to be one length.

That all lines have to be the correct amount of syllables.

Some days there is no power in your writing voice –no strength,

And your rhyme isn’t on, rhythm too is dribble.

—-

I write and half-way through I feel a need for a refresh.

Wipe the page clean, type something later when life makes sense.

It isn’t as if life is especially pressing,

It’s only that right now — I don’t make sense.

—–

Maybe life needs to feel refreshing again,

Maybe, your spirit needs to feel alive,

Before you can say exactly, what you mean to gain,

By writing these words down, and to let them thrive.

——

We need only find our writing voice in the everyday world,

Searching for a place we can be heard.

I don’t know why but my thoughts are awhirl,

I’m still searching for the right words.

—–

©Mandibelle16. (2016) All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Unexpected Guests


Prompt: You walk into your home to find a couple you don’t know sitting in your living room, eating a slice of cake. Tell us what happens next.

——-

“Oh, hello.” I jump back surprised. There is a chubby woman with wavy brown hair and blue glasses sitting on the couch. “Not to be rude, but how did you get in the house, no one else is home?” 

“The dog let us in” says the women. Us, I suddenly notice the black-haired man beside her. He has light blue eyes and olive skin, a dazzling combination. The women’s eyes are greenish brown and they narrow at me slightly as I look at her boyfriend. He smiles and nods at me not at all perturbed I find him attractive and not perturbed his girlfriend is jealous.

“The dog’s dead” I say smartly. “She has been dead a year and a half. So, how did you get into the house? Who are you guys even?”

“Oh, I’m Michelle and this is my partner Marcus. We’ve been together three years,” she adds as Marcus looks me up and down. 

Michelle leans into Marcus and kisses his cheek softly. She twirls his hair at the back of his head and Marcus leans his head away from her. He pats Michelle’s arm and tries to remove her hands.

” Eat your cake, dear” he orders Michelle. Marcus looks at me and smiles widely his gaze resting on my chest. I don’t have much of a chest, this pervert must be desperate.

Then I notice, they’re both eating cake. Huge pieces of soft chocolate cake and chocolate icing with chocolates on top. My favourite cake from my twenty-seventh Birthday. I haven’t been able to find this kind of cake since I finished the last slice in July three years ago. 

“Your eating my family’s cake,” I cried “My favourite cake. Where did you find it?” 

“Oh this cake?” Michelle purs taking a bite and licking her lips trying to make herself look sexy to Marcus. ” The cake was in the fridge. We didn’t think you’d mind if we ate two pieces.”

Michelle looked at Marcus and encouraged him to eat his cake. They whispered something between them. Marcus was saying something about being able to eat his cake when he likes. I ahemed.

” You need to leave, both of you. You’re not invited here. And it was rude of you to assume you could eat my family’s cake. I don’t mind sharing but you could have atleast asked. Not to mention, that crap about the dog letting you in…” My face is a bit red and I’m tired. I want this couple to leave and soon.

But Marcus brings on the charm:”I’m so sorry Miss?” I ignore him. ” We’ve been travelling along time in the car and Michelle needed to use the washroom. We shouldn’t have touched the cake but we were so hungry from a long day driving. I wouldn’t have done it if I knew you lived here.” Marcus pauses and looks at me blue eyes staring me down. I gag.

” How did you get in really, did I leave the back door open?” 

Marcus looks away from me a second then smiles. ” Well I have a few skills, um picking locks. Your lock was easy to pick and the trees in the front yard hid me as I tried to get the door open. Like I said, if I knew you lived here I would have chosen a different house. You are so pretty when you pout.”

Michelle stares daggers at Marcus and then me. “What about me Marcus? Don’t I turn you on. Haven’t I been your girl for three years and put up with all your garbage.”

” Of course you are pretty Michelle. You know I think you’re beautiful in the girl-next-door kind of way.” 

Michelle frowned and Marcus patted her leg trying to appear affectionate. He put his arm around Michelle briefly,and kissed her cheek as she had done to him earlier.

“Look enough” I say firmly, “I don’t know you and you’re in my home. I’m trying to be nice but your making it hard. Leave or I will call the police. But eat your cake; don’t waste it. It’s my favourite kind.” 

Marcus grins at me and winks. Michelle is looking at the wall an indignant expression on her face. 

“You used to say I was hot” she accused Marcus. “You said how lucky you were to have me and that I was a gorgeouse girl. Now you can’t take your eyes off the tramp who lives here and she doesn’t even like you.” Marcus sighed and started to eat his cake slowly.

” I’d eat faster Lady,” I say to Michelle. She gives me the filthiest look and shovels in the cake murmuring about how good it is and how my figure type shouldn’t have chocolate cake. She remarks how I’d probably end up fatter then her if I don’t watch my figure. 

” A minute on the lips forever on the hips” she goads me.

” Are you serious, your cake is done now get your ass out of thr house,” I say.

Michelle looks at Marcus who is carefully eating his chocolate cake.”This is really good,” he tells me, ” Sit down and have some cake with me. You will enjoy it so much, as much as you will enjoy my company.” Marcus licks the chocolate off his teeth and smiles at me that certain way again. I thought he was handsome at first but now I’m thinking he’s creepy.”Don’t listen to Michelle, you are stunning.Your body is lush. Michelle is upset because she is pudgy. She put on a little weight lately raiding people’s desserts…”

I didn’t know what to say. Michelle looked like she was going to explode. I was about to tell her what Marcus said was not true and tell her she had a good figure. But I looked at her as she stood and saw the rolls on her stomach and her wide hips. I wasn’t a small women by any means but Michelle was large everywhere but her pretty face. Even still, why would she stay with such a jerk?

And why would a good looking man choose to be with Michelle? Maybe three years ago she wasn’t fat at all. Maybe Marcus’ criticism of her made her want to over eat so much so she gained a lot of weight. I felt torn between feeling sorry for Michelle, being grossed out by Marcus, and wanting them both to go bug someone else. 

” I can’t help putting on a little weight Marcus” Michelle murmurs, “I have a thyroid problem and we have to go back to my doctor so I can figure out what to do about it so I won’t be fat anymore. We are never home long enough for me to make a follow-up appointment to my doctor to find out if I need surgery or to get a prescription for my thyroid. We are always going some place you have to go and I never have the energy to go to a gym because I’m worn out from driving.Let’s go Marcus, she doesn’t love you like I do. She doesn’t want you. She won’t take care of you as I do. Let’s go home so I can be skinny for you again.”

Marcus finishes his cake while Michelle triesto soothe him. He doesn’t listen to Michelle. I looked to see the rest of the cake on the coffee table. Half of it was gone. I sighed and looked at Michelle.

” You shouldn’t follow him around. Marcus doesn’t love you as you love him Michelle. You should drive home now, wherever home is, and talk to a doctor about your thyroid. You probably only need to take pills because your thyroid isn’t swollen but you should get your thyroid checked-out before it becomes worse. Ditch this loser, he doesn’t appreciate you. He has been ogling me the whole time and I despise him. He put you down several times. You need to go and you need to go without Marcus.”

Michelle looked at me mesmerized for a moment. She half smiled and shook her head at me as if I was a sad woman she felt sorry for.” I know love” she said “I won’t leave the man I love. He doesn’t want you.  He’s like this with all the pretty girls, but he always comes back to me. Even if I’m fat. You want him like all the others. I won’t let you have him.”

Marcus looked at Michelle and gasped. ” I stay with you because you look after me, not because I love you. You are like a dog, you always stay by my side and do whatever I need. Doesn’t matter if it’s sex or food or whatever. I don’t think you’re attractive. I don’t know if I ever did, when you weren’t fat. That’s why I always go to other women for sex, women who who are pretty enough. I treat them well because they are like me, they are good looking and they have some pride. You have no pride, you do whatever I want, whenever,” Marcus sneered. 

He stood up and brushed the crumbs off his lap looking at me apologetically. ” We could have so much fun” he says to me. “You could show me around the city and we could have lots of sex.” Marcus is practically drueling as he talks to me.

I can see Michelle breaking a little more inside with every word he says. He doesn’t want her. 

Marcus comes and stands close to me. I am assaulted by the stench of overpowering cologne and he has chocolate smeared on his face.”Baby you have chocolate on your face,” Michelle says without thinking. Marcus looks at her with venom.

” Shut up you Bitch.” 

Then he tries to touch my face but I elbow him in the stomach and step away from him. I reach for the phone as a weapon. 

“Get out, get out, get out. And Marcus never touch me again you pervert,” I yell.

Marcus looks at Michelle if this is all her fault and turns to me embarassed. He sighs.”Shall we go, ” he asks Michelle, smiling at her again as if he hasn’t verbally abused her. 

She looks at Marcus blankley a smile passes her lips. Her face is deathly pale. She shakes her head at Marcus.” I am going. You can find your own way to wherever you are going. It is my vehicle and it has been my money we have been using. I’m cancelling your credit card when I get to the first gas station.” She asks me where that is and I tell her. She nods, a seemingly small women despite her extra weight.

” Have a good trip home” I say ” and good luck with your medical problems. I hope you find answers fast.”Michelle nods a tiny smile gracing her lips.

” I never saw how much he used me until today. I just saw how good looking he was. I saw how good he was in bed. I really loved him but he doesn’t care for me at all. He’s right I have no pride.” I shake my head but she stops me.

” Sorry for eating your favourite cake. I can see why it’s your favourite. It’s delicious.” I shake Michelle’s hand and watch her get into a black car. 

Marcus looks around confused then steps out into the street as Michelle pulls out to drive. She screams at him, telling him to get the f$&k out of the way. I laugh as he falls into the snow and Michelle drives off. Marcus looks at me like a dog begging for scraps. 

“Go. I am phoning the police this instant. You are a horrible ass and don’t want you in my family’s home ever again. The bus is six blocks up.” I hand Marcus a bus ticket I had on my pocket. I run inside and lock the doors.

Marcus stands in the middle of the icey road for a few moments regarding the bus ticket with unease. Eventually, he walks up the hill by my house and I don’t see him again.

I call the Police anyways and tell them what happened. My details about Michelle are vague. I don’t know if they ever found Marcus. Guys like him use people. He probably found some silly girl who is thinner then Michelle or I. 

When my Mom and Dad come home. I explain what happened with one Police officer chiming in often. We clean up the cake and put it in the freezer for another time. I’m not sure it’s my favourite chocolate cake anymore. My Dad calls a locksmith the next day and we receive better locks, ones you can’t pick easily.

The next time I arrive home from being out, I am happy to see the door is locked solid. I still don’t know why Michelle said the dog let her and Marcus inside the house. It was an odd thing to say. Especially considering if said dog was alive her bark would have scared them off. Or the dog would have eaten them. The second option makes me smile as I unlock the door and go inside a quiet house.

——

©Mandibelle16. All Rights Reserved. 

Writing 101: Day 7 – A Writing Space


Let me paint a picture for you: I am in the living room at home. The walls are seashell beige on the wall opposite of me where there is a grand picture window with wispy white see-through curtains. Behind me the wall is a darker beige, with a slight green tinge to it. To the right is a corner cabinet in oak, furniture  my Uncle built, displaying a few trinkets. Beside the corner cabinet to the left is a side-table stained in a darker wood with a butter yellow corrugated place mat on it. Beside it is a deep dark red-orange sofa with a sheet covering the seat and back. The sheet is off white with brown and copper leaves. In front of the coach is a french provincial coffee table with a cream runner on top. The left corner of this coach is usually where I sit and write. It is quite comfortable, a place to sink into words.

The side table is where I pile various textbooks I’m using for school: Furniture in History 3000 BC – 2000 AD, and papers about applying for a Masters in Fine Arts. There is a little leaf green binder for portion sizes of food you eat; I try to follow the guide. It’s from when I was doing Herbal Magic. There are tabs of varied colours you can write on to make a divider for your binder or mark a chapter in the textbook. There is lip chap, pens of blue and black, paper clips, and a  binder for my Furnishing’s Course –thick with printed out slides and notes. In front of me is the IKEA catalogue. And to the left of me a framed vertical drawing of a bench and buildings in Ottawa, it’s matting is forest green. There is a lamp that’s tall with a cream lamp shade, providing light to me as I write on my lap top. I am resting my right arm on a multicolored brown, orange and red pillow, a muted knitted purple blanket covers my legs. Usually it’s nice and quiet during the day, everyone is at work. But lately, there is a loud truck across the street and it runs and makes the most horrible rumbling sounds. I’m trying to ignore it and I can’t do anything about it. But I wish the people would hurry up and leave already or get their truck fixed.

I’m burning a candle on the coffee table it smells like heavenly vanilla, I love that smell. And I just keep on writing. I wish I had a quiet room with a  desk and a comfortable leather chair to sit in, where I was looking out the window at the river valley full of orange and red in Autumn. A place I couldn’t hear this rumbling noise, it’s like a tractor. But you write where you write and create your “room of your own” wherever you can find the space. This will do for now.

creative_writing1
http://www.pacejmiller.com