Posted by Mark on April 10, 2012 | Short Link
I’d like to thank Elizabeth Howard for agreeing to answer my set of questions. Her bio is at the end of the interview. I must say up front that I am in awe of her ‘Demand Poetry’ idea. I am either ill-equipped or simply unable to write poetry to order. That she can, do does it well is a testament to her talent and committment.
And now, The Questions!
1. Without naming it, describe for me your favorite dessert?
My favorite dessert lives 1,300 miles to the west, in little red and white shop, delivered to me by perennial teenagers in white uniforms and paper caps. I’ll stand on line for it, on a muggy night, once a summer, with my mom. And while we are waiting, one after another of my mom’s old students from Geometry class come through the door and call her name like a revelation — Mrs HOWARD!
I won’t recognize the boy that I used to have a crush on, but suddenly he interrupts his chat with Mom to say – wait, is this Beth?
– and the flicker of who he used to be arises. I feel strange talking to him: like I’m standing there, trying to juggle large suitcases full of all the life I’ve lived since the last moment I mooned over him.
Then all of us shuffle the line forward, to our turn. Mom rattles off our desires to a girl in spattered white who looks as vulnerable as a lamb — black cherry for Dad, turtle-something for her, and chocolate and Butterfinger and malt for me. I watch the girl scooping and blending and can remember exactly, perfectly, what it felt like to be mired in 16.
2. Do you believe in Writer’s Block? Why or why not.
I did, once, believe in Writer’s Block. But I had something interesting happen to me at a pottery class. I only went to the class because my roommate at the time, Rita, coerced me.
I was at home, crying into a sofa pillow, and she said “Come on. Just come.”
So I sat there at the table, making a crappy pinch pot and having a really great time. There was a tall woman with wild, curly grey blonde hair and thick glasses across from me. She said she was a psychic. She even worked on cases for the Kansas City Police Department, I heard. Well, I mentioned one night that I was a writer and I was blocked.
She looked at me and said: “Oh no honey. You aren’t blocked. You are just absorbing.”
Well. Well, well.
I took those words with me wherever I went. That was back in the 90s, when at the same time I was learning about paradigm shifts. Truly, I never felt blocked again. If I wasn’t writing, I focused my attention on taking things in.
3.Do you carry a notebook?
I have a thing in my purse that says “NOTEBOOK” on it. But I use it for notes at meetings, and crap like that. Stuff for my mom life. I have many journals, though, which I love and use for thinking. I use them less than I used to… and I long for the days before computers, actually. I use my MacBook for hours a day. I love it, but I miss the real world connections with paper, books, pens. I miss holing up at a table in smelly coffeehouse with my journal for hours, because computers stayed at home.
4. Who inspires you?
This is a tough question for me. I immediately think of so MANY people. Some who are famous and some who are family. Some who are transient in my life.
However, there are a group of women who are friends of mine — working writers and professionals — that I see myself in. We worked in college at the Iowa State Daily together in the 1990s as writers and editors. Jennifer Wilson, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Marietta Nelson-Bittle, Holli Hartman, Christine Romans, Becky Waller Bausman, Nicki Saylor, Amy Willis, Julie Roosa, Colleen Branford Krantz, and others from wonderful group of women who are living hard, real, creative lives. I feel grateful and humbled to count myself among them. We convene on Facebook, and being near them reminds me to get to work!
5. What are you afraid of?
Well, the 8-year-old inside of me is sure that no one will ever like really like me just as I am. I always felt like the odd-girl out in my family growing up. That my passions and talents weren’t seen, or they were just a problem. And I do think the fears of our childhood carry with us into our grown-up lives.
6. Since you use a typewriter for your ‘Demand Poetry, how has using a computer affected that? Do you do anything differently when typing as opposed to your approach with a computer?
A typewriter is definitely a different writing experience than a computer. Most significantly: I don’t use any kind of correction fluid or tape on the typewriter. So when I create the “final” versions of the my Demand Poems,
I have to get very Zen with the keyboard. If I go too slow, I make mistakes. If I rush, I make mistakes. The final versions often have small errors in them. People seem to like that, though.
The other obvious difference between my Mac keyboard and my Olivetti is that I have to strike the keys on the typewriter (it’s a manual typewriter) much more forcefully. This is part of what I came to love INSTANTLY when I got a typewriter back in my life. I loved the pure physicality of it and the permanency of it.
And, I loved thinking about ALL those writers before us who wrote book after book and newspaper articles on a machine like this. A typewriter is a machine, not a device!
Though, that said, using the typewriters reminds me, every time I roll a sheet of paper into it, how the act of writing has nothing really to do with the what tools you use. It only matters that you arrive and let yourself disappear into your work.
7. What is more rewarding for you, the finished product or the writing process?
Well, I do love the finished product. I admit that sometimes I go back and re-read a poem I wrote a few weeks back and think: Wowzers! Good on you! But that is only because the writing process has become — over the course of time — a real place of joy, ease, and escape for me.
Recently — like in the last month or so — I came to the realization that I do MANY things during the day, but the one thing I rarely have to fret about is my writing.
If I sit down to “get some work done,” when I come out the other side of it, I will almost always be happy with the outcome. I started as a semi-full-time writer when I quit my job as a TV news director in 1997… so what is that? 15 years of practice? Yeah, I guess I oughtta be good at it by now, right? The only thing I haven’t done yet is get a book published. That’s next.
8.How can your art change the world where you live?
Well, hmmm. I guess that part takes some bravery doesn’t it? I haven’t had a published book yet, so I suppose I do harbor some fears still about whether my writing is “worthy of the world” (see number 5, haha!) though I don’t have many doubts that it is good enough.
Elizabeth G. Howard is a journalist, blogger, poet
, and detail picker. She founded Demand Poetry
to help people like you tell your love story. She looks at the details of American culture on her blog, “Letters from a Small State,
” and is a regular contributor for Fiona Robyn’s the free, international writing community “Writing Our Way Home