BR: What is NOT writing related — well, nothing, since I am willing to write about all of it (and often warn my kids, “I will write a poem about this”).
That’s what the world wide web can do! During National Poetry Month my poet friend Dorothy connected me to a great blog by a writer who was reading poetry all.month.long. Her name is Bethany Reid! I did some [uncreepy] creeping of her site and loved what I read. Also, I appreciated her dedication and discipline to poetry. I contacted her via Twitter, and low and behold, she accepted my request for an interview. Bethany is a prolific writer, a teacher, a mother and more who lives in Washington. Inspired by a teacher who tacked a photo to the wall, seven-year-old Bethany’s life changed when she learned she could make up a story. Here’s a bit more from her bio.
“Over the last twenty years I’ve published academic essays (you can find one in the Norton Critical edition of The Scarlet Letter), and hundreds of poems. I have three books of poetry, The Coyotes and My Mom (Bellowing Ark Press, 1990), Be Careful (a limited edition chapbook from Chuckanut Sandstone, 2005), and Sparrow (Big Pencil Press, 2012), which won the Gell Poetry Prize. In addition to the Gell Prize, I have won several poetry awards, including Calyx’s Lois Cranston Memorial Prize. All of this I managed by writing in the interstices of a busy life.”
Here’s Bethany! Oh – and get your pen and paper out because there are links to many great books/writers in this interview that you’ll want to know/read!
She totally looks familiar to me! Does she to you too?! Must be her kind face! Let’s get to know her together! I hope you’ll connect with her blog as well! Thanks Bethany!!
VS: Your blog looks and feels different – I love that – did you design the site? Share how the logistics of the blog works – ex. do you have a helper? do you do it all? how often do you try to post?
BR: I have to give Sue Anne Dunlevie credit for my blog’s reboot. She is one of those blog goddesses (https://www.successfulblogging.com/about/) — if you take a look at her site, one of her subtitles is about “making money.” That was less my interest than increasing my readership (which I am sorry to say, I have not done). I am still working on it. I will say that when I go to poetry conferences, etc., total strangers tell me that they lurk at my blog. So, safe to say, the 7 days of writing booklet has not enticed many and maybe I need to change it to something more targeted to poetry?
VS: How does writing/keeping up this blog support and/or challenge your creative writing? You have three books of poetry published, and I’m sure, other creative projects that you’re working on. Where does the blog fit in?
BR: As for how blogging fits with other writing, I LOVE to write. Writing lights me up and makes my life worthwhile. Blogging is an immediate outlet, a place where I can share and know that a few people are reading, if not lots. I want to add that, although my comment rate is pretty low (don’t know why that is), I get emails from readers regularly enough to encourage me to continue. And, recently, the poet Alice Fulton visited the blog — which makes me deliriously happy. I don’t usually blog daily, maybe bi-monthly (or weekly, this year, as I’m taking part in a challenge to post weekly). I have lots of topics saved up, and am looking into guest-blogging on some other sites. I am SLOW, however, and don’t know when I’ll get to this.
VS: What creative projects are you working on? How does ‘discipline’ play into your creative life?
BR: I have a new poetry book coming out in 2-3 months. (It is just now going to press.) Its title is BODY MY HOUSE, after the first line of May Swenson’s poem, “Question.”
I am also at work on a novel — which I had to set aside for the big push on poetry (both the book and the blogging for National Poetry Month). I’m eager to get back to it May 1. I have an earlier novel, PEARL’S ALCHEMY, which is out to contests, and it is my very fond dream to “be” a novelist, too.
A fortune in a cookie at a Chinese restaurant once advised me to “stop shooting off in every direction like fireworks.” But I do.
VS: What do you do that is not writing-related? Ski? Skip? Slap chicken?
That said, I’m pretty busy with family stuff. My mother takes up a lot of my emotional energy, as well as the day every week or so that I set aside to visit her (she lives near my younger sister, who is still working full-time and four years ago out-argued me for where Mom’s care home should be–of course we thought we were talking about a few more months, not years).
I have three young-adult daughters and they waylay my plans pretty frequently. Hubby, too. He is having a full-hip replacement and I’m trying to cut back on everything else while we get him through this. I admit to being a people-pleaser and too-happily skewer my own ambitions to have lunch or coffee with a friend.
Three cats, fish, and a dog, whom I adore, and who adores me (he was supposed to be my girls’ dog, but you know how that goes).
I love to take pictures, which is why the blog often features photos. And I walk every day. There, I think that’s it.
VS: How do you choose/find/connect with books and authors that you write about/read on your site? Do you write reviews for pay? Or pleasure or both?
BR: I occasionally review a book on my blog. And, as you can see, I sometimes binge–like last month when I read a poetry book a day and put a sample up. (You can’t really call those reviews–I knew from the outset that I was going to celebrate the books and not offer negative opinions, even if called for. Poetry has it hard enough.)
Is reviewing books for money a thing? Could I do that?! (Did I tell you that I took early retirement from teaching?)
I tend to take on certain authors and read EVERYTHING they have written. It’s hard to break that PhD habit, and in fact I think it predates my graduate school training. Penelope Fitzgerald has been one of my recent crushes (and I can’t wait to see The Bookshop, which is part of SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival). Many poets have read her novel, The Blue Flower, but I have read everything she ever wrote, plus the recent doorstopper of a biography. I’ve read several of her (short) novels more than once.
VS: What genre have you never tried writing? Why? Do you think you’ll try one day?
BR: What genre have I never tried? In my notebooks, I have probably taken a crack at every genre — if you’re thinking short story, flash fiction, poetry, novel, essay, creative non-fiction — I’ve attempted to publish (sometimes successfully) poetry, short fiction, novel, and essay. But if you’re thinking “science fiction,” etc., well, science fiction. (My “box-under-the-bed” novels include a romance!). And I would like to give Sci Fi a try. I recently bought John Dufresne‘s book on short short fiction and I’m going to take a crack at that this month (while reading short stories).
VS: You originally began a blog entitled ‘A Writer’s Alchemy’ – what motivated the change to your current blog? (I did this as well! My first blog was with posterous. I was there for about two years, maybe, and then I switched to wordpress. I also migrated all the posts. Boy, was it a huge job!)
BR: I still have a bog at blogspot with the URL of awritersalchemy, but I rechristened it One Bad Poem when I created my wordpress A Writer’s Alchemy (which is the blog I migrated to bethanyareid.com). It wasn’t work, just $$$ to hire a blog coach (Sue Anne Dunlevie, aforementioned). Why did I do it? Hmmm. I had been blogging since 2009 and last year I watched a webinar about making money with your blog, and I thought, “I wanna do that.” It turns out of course, that teaching is how you make money with a blog, and I kind of feel I’ve been there and done that. (Though I’m not entirely averse to the idea.) Anyway, I’d been told for years that I needed “an author blog,” so I caved to pressure to rename it…and didn’t look back.
I have done a bit of coaching, and if I could figure out how to offer that, without twisting the arms of everyone I know, I would.
I want to add that my blog doesn’t have a lot of followers, but I’m EVER HOPEFUL that it will.
VS: You offer a 7-day FREE ‘tips-posts-to-your-inbox-prompts’ based on posts from A Writer’s Alchemy. How often do folks subscribe to this? Did you have to think hard about offering something ‘free’ on your site? Do you think it’s been beneficial for subscriptions/readership? (I’ve just subscribed – and am looking forward to my prompts!)
BR: Apparently the 7 days of writing suggestions is NOT helping. So your bonus (you lucky follower) is that you get that e-booklet, which is soon to be retired, and the next one, which is on its way.
VS: What blogs to you subscribe to/follow?
BR: What blogs do I subscribe to? Yours, also Neil Gaiman, Kathleen Kirk’s (https://kathleenkirkpoetry.blogspot.com/). I recently followed Marly Youmans. I am kind of a blog junkie and follow lots. Oh, Loren Webster’s nature photography blog (I probably visit this daily): http://www.lorenwebster.net/In_a_Dark_Time/
VS: How do you choose your ‘guest’ writers? Much like me? Blindly beg?!
BR: I have (so far) drawn guest posts only from people I know, usually in my Writing Lab (which meets every Wednesday at 3). I would like to do more of this. I’m working on an interview with Priscilla Long, author of The Writer’s Portable Mentor.
VS: Share a typical day in your life.
BR: Now that my 18-year-old is FINALLY driving her own car (3 weeks ago she passed the driving test), I am trying to get back into a writing routine. I get up early in the morning, when the house is quiet. I drink 16 oz of water, do some stretches, make a cup of coffee, and write in my journal. I do this religiously. I’ve tried to create a meditation habit, but I kind of think that writing in the journal IS my meditation.
After that I work on whatever is the “hot” project, which has been poems for a while, so is still poem (bodies in motion tend to stay in motion). I am, however, attempting to transition back to the novel, so I’ve been working at least 15 minutes per day on those pages (I get a red X on my calendar for doing this — I’m kind of a toddler at heart, and will work for stars).
Anytime I have trouble sticking with a project, by the way, I set a timer. Do I have ADHD? OCD? Undiagnosed if so, I know only that I respond well to small rewards and consistent actions (like writing every day).
Early mornings are my most creative times, so if I have send-out or some other business-of-writing to do, I’ll work on it later in the day.
Since my twins have moved out (only last year), I’ve reclaimed some space in our house and find that I’m working in the evenings, too. (The 18-year-old is way more independent that her older sisters ever were). I have a standing agreement with the college students (one daughter is working on her teaching certificate; the youngest is in her first year at community college) that if they want me to go out for coffee (decaf!) and homework in the evening, I’m available. I’m usually able to do some of my own tinkering during that time.
VS: You’ve discovered the end of a rainbow. Low and behold it’s not a leprechaun but your favourite writer sitting at a desk writing – who is it? what is he/she writing? and what is in the giant pot?
BR: Can I choose Emily Dickinson, or does this have to be a living writer? I don’t know what question I’d ask, maybe just watch her in action, like the groupie I am. I’ll carry her guitar and amps. I’ll pour her a tipple of dew and amethyst and get her to talk. I’ll bask.
I think I’ll add here, that I’ve gone to several writer conferences, and of course at those you DO get to sit down and talk to a real live author. I had a memorable conversation one with Dorothy Allison (Bastard Out of Carolina), and if Margot Livesey shows up at any local conference this year, I will buy my tickets early.
THANK YOU BETHANY! I see so much of myself in you! It’s been super getting to know you…and to be connected with new authors whose books I will definitely ask for as gifts (I’m in a year of not buying new books! Gah!).
Please connect with Bethany now! Click here to her blog!