Hearty thanks go to Kelly Davio for inviting me to participate in The Writing Process blog tour; Kelly is a poet and teacher living in the Seattle area. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (Whidbey Writers’ Workshop), and works as an instructor of English as a Second Language.
Kelly is the poetry editor of Tahoma Literary Review, a new, quarterly journal published in both print and e-reader formats. Currently the Associate Poetry Editor for Fifth Wednesday Journal, she is also a book reviewer for Women’s Review of Books. Davio served as the former Managing Editor for The Los Angeles Review. Her debut collection, Burn This House, is available from Red Hen Press and from Amazon, Barnes And Nobel, Powell’s, or your local book retailer.
You can read Kelly’s responses to the blog tour questions here, and below are my responses to the same:
1) What am I working on?
I recently released my second book, The Burden of Light: Poems on Illness and Loss. This multimedia digital anthology has been the true definition of a “labor of love,” and though its creation nearly killed me, I could not be more proud of the final product. With 90 contributors, a mix of both formal and free verse, visual art, music, and video contributions, the collection provides something to just about every reader. And because the book is being offered on a donate-what-you-can basis, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, I feel pretty incredible about what I’ve accomplished. So these days, most of my literary efforts are bent toward promoting the anthology and its brilliant contributors.
On the days when there’s quiet time and creative energy to get down to the business of writing, I dig into the post-apocalyptic novel manuscript I’ve nearly finished. I keep my life busy and my brain stimulated, that’s for sure!
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Though books on grief and illness saturate the marketplace, and poetry anthologies have long and ceremoniously taken elegy as their subject, none before this have so fully blended emerging and established voices. None incorporate electronic multimedia with powerful, well-crafted verse. The collection I have had the good fortune to curate represents literature at its best: here, we explore, we divulge, we share, and come back once more to the surface, renewed. I truly hope that readers will be as forever altered for the experience as I have been.
Because I write across genres, I will always challenge myself to face whatever fears and difficulties arise; certainly, this anthology presented its own set of both, but I wouldn’t change a single moment of my experience. I learned a ton! I believe that with every new writing project, we teach ourselves to write all over again. The passion, thrill and fresh perspective this inevitably incites comes across the page, and brings a certain sense of immediacy to my work that I hope excites my readers in the same way it does for me.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Good writing must accomplish many tasks, just as all art should strive to do: not only need it appeal on an aesthetic level, but it should also impact the audience in the mind, the heart, the gut, the loin, and so on. All the senses come into play and the whole of a person comes alive—at least this is the goal of a true artist. I want to hit those marks and hit them hard. I made a decision quite early in my career to bring a certain boldness and lack of inhibition to all my work—no matter the genre. In my life, I might choose otherwise, but I see no use in writing anything half-assed. There are important things to be said, and I want to say them with confidence.
I write the books that I need and do not yet have; I write the books that I myself would enjoy reading. I write about the things that keep me up at night, that ideas and troubles that linger, that effect. Hopefully, I write the kind of work that will keep me in the business long enough to keep on writing some more. Mostly, I write the kind of material in which I feel a great investment, whether that investment is emotional, political, or intellectual in nature. Without such devotion and passionate interest, I simply wouldn’t be able to endure the lengthy and often grueling composition and publication process. This industry ain’t for pussies.
4) How does your writing process work?
From the very beginning, I’ve only ever been able to write in the evenings or at night. My creative juices might be flowing all day, but my fingers don’t hit the keys until after dark. I work a full-time day job (as most of us do), so most of my writing sessions begin at 7 pm, ending around midnight or 1 am, if I’ve been particularly productive. Nothing makes me happier or keeps me in my chair longer than when my dog, Mona, sleeps on her little sofa beside my desk—that is just the best! I tap my away on the keys while she snoozes peacefully at my side, and when it’s finally time to crawl into bed, we are both pretty darn happy to hit the lights in the office and shut the door. If I write new poems, I write by hand with a special pen. All other genres form on the computer. I am very careful to stay away from Facebook and Pinterest—a writer’s worst enemy! I often research as I write, however, so I still need the Internet enabled. I need all my books nearby, and often have piles spilling forth from my desk, as I like to page through for bits of information or sometimes just for inspiration. It’s a messy affair, this writing business of mine.
Because a lot of the subject matter I work on—especially The Burden of Light—tilts toward the heavy or even disturbing content, I often need to read or watch something lighthearted before I go to sleep. Sometimes just a few minutes of an old Harry Potter movie will do the trick and help me recalibrate my mood, but I find this silly little ritual very helpful when I work with dark subject matter. Hey—whatever it takes, right?
Next week, two new poets/bloggers will respond to these questions as well. Both of these smart, savvy, accomplished writers will give us some good thoughts to chew on, I guarantee it!
Andrea Scarpino is the author of Once, Then, a collection of poems that will be published in March 2014 by Red Hen Press, and The Grove Behind, published by Finishing Line Press in 2009, She is a weekly contributor to the blog Planet of the Blind and is widely published in print and online journals. She teaches in Union Institute and University’s Cohort Ph.D. Program in Interdisciplinary Studies where she is the Creative Dissertation Coordinatoor.
Alyse Bensel serves as the Book Review Editor at The Los Angeles Review and as the Assistant Poetry Editor at Beecher’s. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Shift (Plan B Press, 2012) and Not of Their Own Making (dancing girl press, forthcoming 2014), and she has poems most recently forthcoming or in The Fourth River, Cold Mountain Review, Blue Earth Review, and Ruminate.
Alyse is currently a PhD candidate in creative writing specializing in poetry and eco-lit at the University of Kansas.