Interview with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, co-author of Cherished Pulse ~ Poetry ~ Compulsive Reader
Conducted by Lucille P. Robinson (Reviewer at Alternative-Read.com).
LPR: Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an award winning author, poet, lecturer, and University instructor. She loves to travel and speaks at various writing conferences. She has appeared on nationwide television and radio. Her fiction, non-fiction and poems have appeared in many anthologies, magazines and newspapers. Thank you, Ms. Howard-Johnson, for permitting me to interview you. I just have to ask. Which came first: writing poems, fiction or non-fiction and what was the first writing you had published?
CHJ: I was a journalist first. For my high school newspaper and then, at the ripe old age of seventeen, as a columnist and staff writer for the Salt Lake Tribune. By the age of nineteen, I was an editorial assistant for Good Housekeeping Magazine. I didn’t start doing anything really creative until only recently.
LPR: I read The Frugal Book Promoter and plan to read The Frugal Editor when it comes out. They are books about promoting and editing one’s books with the least expense possible. Will you describe how you came about putting this material together?
CHJ: Well, I’m naturally thrifty, raised by depression-era parents! But I also spent a small inheritance from an aunt for a publicist for my first book. When I realized that she didn’t do anything for my book I couldn’t do for myself, I resolved to do what I could to never let the same thing happen to another writer. Of course, I don’t have that much power, but I’m chipping away at it, one book sale and one author at a time. (-:
LPR: Are these books part of a series you are planning? If so, can you give us a hint as to what the next book will focus on?
CHJ: I’m trying to decide on Frugal II, Advanced Promotions for Authors Whose Books are Languishing and The Frugal Author Builds an Agent-Friendly Package. Which do you think I should do? (- Those interested in the How To Do It Frugally series of books can learn more at www.HowToDoItFrugally.com. This series really is a return to my journalism days. Non-fiction can be really fun.
LPR: You have written some fiction. Describe the type of fiction you like writing and tell us what you have published in this genre.
CHJ: Oh, it’s probably easier to just tell you it has become my first passion. Not only in writing but in life. I conceived This is the Place at the age of 18 and it gestated until cancer gave me the nudge I needed to write it–some three decades at least. A very long pregnancy. Almost all my writing deals in some way with tolerance; I think intolerance is at the foot of all the ills that face the world today, including 9/11 and Iraq. Sometimes it is subtle and even gentle. But if we don’t watch the little tendencies in us not to be accepting then we are nourishing an evil that will grow and get more destructive as it does. People can find more about my books of poetry, my novel, my creative and creative non-fiction at www.HowToDoItFrugally.com and then click on the “Published Works” tab.
LPR: You have co-authored a book of poems called Cherished Pulse. Who is your co-author and how did you decide to get together and produce this book of love poems?
CHJ: Oh, I love that project. Magdalena Ball (an Aussie) and I connected through her CompulsiveReader.com site. We started talking poetry. We both prefer poetry that isn’t too sing-songy, syrupy sweet so this idea of an unconventional book of love poetry came to us. It’s called Cherished Pulse. I think it’s a wonderful story of how the Net can bring people together in all kinds of ways.
LPR: What form are your poems written in, what are their topics, and do they develop from life experiences? What do you like most about writing poems?
CHJ: I love to write poetry because I can fit little snippets of writing into a busy day. Quite unlike writing a novel. But more than that, it is (or, in my opinion, should be) very personal so it is great therapy. And I believe all creative writing develops in some way from life experiences. And my poetry–if you ignore the lines–reads more like than prose than poems. I rarely rhyme (sometimes unintentionally though!). Most of it is free verse.
LPR: You said that poems say much more in fewer words than other writings. Sounds like you like tight writing; writing that has no extraneous words or phrases. Does this preference carry over into your other writings? If so, how do you handle description of settings and people, which seem to need more words than poems need?
CHJ: I think this does carry over to my other writing but more so each year. Poetry is about images, not adjectives. They say “show don’t tell” for fiction. Images and scenes help a writer both write tight and show rather than tell.
LPR: As mentioned before, you are a very busy woman. How do you find the time to write? Do you follow a particular schedule?
CHJ: Oh, how I wish!
LPR: Do you speed write a first draft and then spend your time editing it or do you outline first?
CHJ: I try to do it that way. It is truly wasted time for any writer to perfect a first chapter and then find that it isn’t the first chapter. Or worse, that it doesn’t fit into the finished novel at all!
LPR: What authors have inspired your writing of the Cherished Pulse and Tracings?
CHJ: My mentor is Suzanne Lummis, one of the well-known Fresno poets . Her poetry is very different from mine but she has shown me so much about digging deep and keeping my writing spare.
LPR: Have you any favourite writing tips you can share with beginning writers?
CHJ: The one that comes to mind in this moment is a warning. Don’t let your fear of having an idea or your work stolen keep you from writing and publishing. Plagiarism is a lot rarer than we are led to believe. I’d rather have a poem of mine credited only as anonymous read by a million people than read by 100 with my name on it.
LPR: You have a good imagination, Carolyn. Would you mind suggesting three topics that would be good for poems?
CHJ: I like the concept of found poems. That’s perfectly legitimate in the poetry world. See a phrase that sings to you and let your idea take off from there. If you use the phrase exactly, you can credit whoever said it first, of course.
LPR: Thank you. Finally, where can we buy Cherished Pulse?
CHJ: Go to http://www.compulsivereader.com/html/images/cherishedpulse.htm. Maggie, my co-author, sends you this beautiful little e-chapbook as an e-book but also as in a landscape document so that it can be printed out like a real book. You’ll love the artwork by Vicki Thomas in color! Just exquisite.
LPR: Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us. It’s been a pleasure to speak with you and a most enjoyable interview. Good luck with all your future endeavours.
CHJ: It has been fun being with you. I like to leave people with a tip when I can (I even do that with my column “Back to Literature” at MyShelf.com). This is for all of your readers, not only the writers. Pick up a copy of Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies. You’ll learn tons about grammar, improve your writing–even the writing of personal or business letters–and have fun doing it. It’s by June Casagrand and is from Penguin. Oh! While you’re at it, you can add another book to your order on Amazon and get free shipping and pay no tax. Now, is that FRUGAL, or what? (-:
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