“Fiction – and poetry and drama – cleanse the doors of perception.”
Ursula Le Guin
Several books have been written on the art of writing and on how authors accomplish their goals. As Mother’s Day approaches I find myself thinking about my own mother, her love of science fiction, and how it has been passed on to me. I thought an interview of a new friend and poet, April Garcia, B.A., would be appropriate to celebrate our mothers and fellow writers who are also hard-working moms.
I met April via school, and when had coffee a couple of months ago I realized how integrated her life as a mother and writer appeared to me. Listening to her, I got a sense of a weaving of her experience as a mom and poet, more than say – the proverbial balancing act as is sometimes referenced in mothering alongside the rest of life.
I am honored to showcase April Garcia, B.A. here as the Reality Is A Tricky Endeavor blog’s first Mother Writer.
How long have you been writing?
I know it sounds cliché, but for as long as I can remember. I used to write to my aunt in Minnesota all the time, or to a couple of my cousins here close by starting from elementary school age. I remember keeping a diary in my early teens, I guess, until I decided a diary was too girly, at which point I switched to a journal
Who has influenced you as a writer?
I was first influence by E.E. Cummings. He was the subject of my junior year high school research paper. Back then, despite the fact that I was writing poetry, I wasn’t interested in reading poetry by other writers. I love how chaotic his poetry seemed to me. He doesn’t adhere to the rules of grammar (lines begin and end haphazardly, lack of capitalization, etc.). I’ve also been very influence by my friend and mentor Marian Haddad. I have studied privately with her off and on for many years, so I think it is only natural that some of my work might display that influence.
How many books do you have published to date?
None, but I have a couple different manuscript ideas in the works. I’ve also started a children’s book that I hope to finish one of these days
Obviously, motherhood is a massive time commitment. It occurs to me that would change a writing routine. But what other surprises came to you in terms of being a writer and becoming a mother?
So, I’ve never held to an actual writing routine. As I mentioned, most of my early writing was just keeping pen-pals with family. I didn’t actually start writing poetry until my Freshman year of high school, and that writing was sporadic to say the least. Even into my 20’s when I actually started to get serious about my poetry I never kept to a schedule. I just wrote when I felt like I needed to get something off my chest. After becoming a mom, however, things started to change. When I had my first son it wasn’t too hard to keep up with writing and working on my associate degree, but after having my second child my writing pretty much got put on the back burner, if you will. It was a gradual thing of course, until it reached the point that I just didn’t write anymore at all. I was too busy. It wasn’t until I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree, and my youngest about to head off to school, that I began writing again and making it a priority. With all 3 of my kids in school I wanted to get back to ME.
More and more I am reading about authors whose approach to writing is organic and does not fit into a neat fold of time each day. Did you have a specific set of time standards for yourself? What does your routine look like now?
As I mentioned, I’ve never kept to a writing routine. Honestly, I don’t think I had even heard of the concept of keeping a writing routine until I started getting back into the swing of things a couple years ago. Even now, with my bachelor’s degree completed and plenty of time to focus on my writing, I struggle with a routine. I have found that since starting my blog I spend more time focusing on that than writing poetry. Or focusing more time on my professional social media pages. Some days I have to just tell myself, “Look, you’ve spent enough time being present on social media, and you don’t have to worry about your blog right now. Focus on writing something new, focusing on revising something old, or work on submissions.” I find it very difficult to juggle all that is going on in my mind that I “should” be doing and just focus on one thing.
You have mentioned forms of traditional poetry and that the contemporary form, Erasure Poetry has delighted you. You have also published a fair amount of it. What is unique about it?
To date, I’ve published 6 poems that I would say are traditional [short-line, free verse], and this month my first erasure poem is being published in Issue 17 by Unlost Journal. While I consider myself a more traditional poet, I have found erasure, a type of found poetry, to be rather freeing. When first learning about the form I was completely against it. I found it to be less than unique, thoughtless, and little short of plagiarism. Despite that, however, I decided to give the form a try for one of my poetry submissions in my Advanced Poetry Writing Workshop class. I figured if nothing else it would be an easy way to knock out at least one submission. I discovered it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. When you write a traditional, free verse poem you are not limited in that you are free to write away. When working with found poetry, you are forced to use what is right in front of you, and you never quite know what you will end up with. I’ve tried writing traditional, metered, rhymed poetry such as the sonnet, and villanelle, and it was very difficult to create something worthwhile due to the constraints of the form. Not so with erasure.
It seems playful to me…has your appreciation of it come from your interactions with your children?
I suppose on a certain level you could say that. My very first erasure came from a Minecraft book. My boys LOVE Minecraft. It was a book I actually sat and read with my oldest son. I thought it would be fun to see what I could come up with. It is definitely much different than any of my other poems. Which has made me realize, I think another reason I enjoy the form is it gets me out of my own head and creating something totally random that isn’t about me or my life or my feelings and experiences. They are about something completely outside myself.
Do you read poetry with your kids?
I do. Not real often, and I think more so with my middle child than my other two. But I do try and get some poetry in there from time-to-time when we are working on our reading minutes. I recently subscribed to Rattle magazine. They publish issues quarterly and along with my first quarterly magazine I also received their yearly copy of Rattle Young Poets Anthology 2019. This anthology is unique in that it is not filled with a bunch of poems written by adults for children, but rather a book full of poems written by children themselves. Reading it with my middle child, who is my youngest son, inspired him to create a couple of poems himself. I plan to submit his poetry to Rattle’s Young Poet’s contest for next year’s anthology. I don’t know if my son will ever be a poet, but I love that he has a least a tad bit of interest in something his mom has a heart for.
What about speculative fiction (sci fi)? I have to ask since that is my genre.
Lol I’ll be honest. I don’t think I’ve ever read any sci-fi books. I do enjoy sci-fi shows, and I’d certainly be interested in reading a sci-fi novel if it were to catch my eye. As far as writing sci-fi, I honestly can’t really see myself, at least at this point in time, writing anything but poetry (unless I’m ever able to finish that child’s book I started). When it comes to reading, I don’t have any one particular genre I prefer. Anything that looks and sounds interesting (a good book cover can really catch my eye) is up my ally. Oh, except horror. I don’t read horror.
What would you like to tell our readers about writing and/or being a mother that I am missing?
Wow, that’s a good question. Umm… I guess I would just say give yourself lots of grace if you are a mom and a writer. Don’t expect too much of yourself. Being a mother is a very demanding job and especially when your kids are below school age. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself when it comes to your writing. If you have people who can help you out and it allows you to get time in each day or each week, or even each month, to get some writing in that’s awesome. But if you are more like me and your writing takes a back seat to the kids, that’s okay too. I’ve heard and read that one of the best things you can do as a writer is to keep a journal. Even if the only time you can find to write is to journal a little each evening after the kids go to bed or each morning before the kids get up, that’s great. That journal is something you can come back to later on when the kids are older and you have more time for yourself. You might be surprised at the little nuggets of inspiration you might find. Looking back, if I had followed that advice, I’d probably have so much more material to work with from those baby years.
Since you are a poet – who is your favorite? If I could take one book of poetry with me to the desert island I am going to be stranded on, which should it be?
Hmm… That’s a hard question. There are so many fantastic poets in this world and I feel like I’ve hardly scratched the surface. One poetry book I recently read, which happens to be by my friend and mentor Marian Haddad, titled Wildflower. Stone. is quite good. I highly recommend it if you can manage to get your hands on a copy.
And one more seemingly nonsensical question. If I were a synthetic human being (robot), what would you have me read to become more human/humane. Why?
Yikes. Well, I’d love to say the Bible but common sense would dictate that a robot might not be capable of interpreting such a book appropriately. While there are many great lessons of love and kindness that would certainly help a robot become more humane, there are also many stores (such as Cain and Abel, for one) that could have an undesired effect.
This question actually makes me think of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit. Great movie.
Maybe Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. That sounds like a pretty good place to start at least. Or maybe something by Beth Moore. She is a fantastic teacher.
How do you enjoy spending your time when you’re not writing?
I spend a lot of time (too much time really) on Facebook. I also enjoy reading, of course. I love to crochet. It can be a little embarrassing to admit that because a lot of people think that’s for old people and I’m only 35, but I love it. Starting a project and seeing that finished project is great. I also enjoy how happy it makes others when they receive the items I’ve made. Oh, fishing. I love fishing. I’m not necessarily all that great at it lol but I enjoy being out by the water or especially out in a boat on the lake.
Garcia was born and raised in South Central Texas. In recent years, her work has appeared in multiple anthologies published by both the Laurel Crown Foundation of San Antonio, Texas, and Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). She was included in Northwest Vista College’s Spring 2009 literary journal The Lantana Review, and has appeared in SNHU’s online journal for creative writers, The Penmen Review. Her first erasure, “Metamorphose,” can be found in Issue 17, May 2019 by Unlost Journal. She has studied privately with poet/writer Marian Haddad, M.F.A, and is a member of The Poetry Society of Texas (PST). Garcia resides in Texas and recently earned her B.A. in general studies with a concentration in poetry from Southern New Hampshire University.