Friday, November 13, 2015

Entry 240 - Laura Shovan - on Poetry, Pitch Wars, Book Vines & Poets for Change

Entry 240 – Laura Shovan – on Poetry, Pitch Wars, Book Vines & A Thousand Poets for Change Conference in Salerno, Italy

Laura Shovan
By Jan Bowman Laura Shovan is poetry editor for Little Patuxent Review. Her newest book The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, her novel-in-verse for children, debuts in April 2016 (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House).
Laura’s chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone (CityLit Press 2010), won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. She edited Maryland Writers’ Association’s Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems (MWA Books, 2011) and co-edited Voices Fly: An Anthology of Exercises and Poems from the Maryland State Arts Council Artists-in-Residence Program (CityLit Press, 2012), for which she is a longtime teacher. Laura spoke at the 2015 100 Thousand Poets for Change World Conference in Salerno, Italy. She is a Rita Dove Poetry Award finalist and winner of a Gettysburg Review Conference for Writers scholarship. A member of the Poetry Friday blogging community, Laura has judged for several literary contests, including the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards (CYBILS).
After graduating from NYU’s Dramatic Writing Program and receiving a Master of Arts in Teaching from Montclair State University, Laura taught high school, worked for the Dodge Poetry Festival and as a freelance journalist, and now coaches teens with learning differences.

Jan:   Thanks for the interview. Your new book coming out in April 2016 is described as a whimsical novel-in-verse, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House). What inspired you to write this book and how did you arrive at the decision to use this particular poetry form?

Laura:   The idea for THE LAST FIFTH GRADE came from an intersection of two things. The first thing was my admiration for the classic American verse novel Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters. Spoon River is a collection of interwoven persona poems, all spoken in the voices of one town’s citizens. Together, the poems create a complex picture of what small town life was like during the turn of the century. The second point of inspiration was my work with students as a Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Education. I became interested in the classroom as a small community. Why not create a version of Spoon River, set in a modern fifth grade classroom?

Jan:   What do you love about this book and will there be a sequel?
Laura:   After working on this book for seven years, I am quite attached to the characters. Each one has his or her distinct personality and voice. To me, they are a fun group of kids to spend time with. I am working on a second stand-alone children’s novel with my editor, Wendy Lamb, but we may be seeing more of Ms. Hill's students in the future.

Jan:   I was intrigued to discover that your book is travelling around America on a book field trip. Is this a new approach to marketing? Tell me more about this project.

Laura:   It’s not a new approach! In fact, I’ve read books that were out on ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) tours too. The tours are sometimes called book vines. Bloggers or readers – in my case, members of my 2016 debut author group – sign up to read the ARC and write a review or blog about the book. The book travels from reader-to-reader. The Sweet 16s group has authors all over the country, so my ARC has gone from coast-to-coast as it travels between the members of that group.

Jan:   You have taught high school students, worked for the Dodge Poetry Festival, and now coach teens with learning differences. You mentioned a quote from Mary Jo Bang that Poetry is a shared social space.  How does this connect to your personal philosophy as a poet and how has that influenced the way that you write poetry with children? What touches you most about teaching poetry to children?

Laura:   What touches me most about writing poetry with children is how humanizing it is. When I visit a classroom, the students can briefly forget about grades, rubrics, and standardized tests. I am there to write poetry with them. That’s it! This gives them the freedom to write about their lives: their likes and dislikes, family traditions, and favorite memories. In the process of sharing their poems, the students begin to learn new things about one another and to see each other as full, interesting human beings. Often, children who struggle with writing for academic tests have the opportunity to shine as poets.

Jan:   In your work with the Maryland State Arts Council artist-in-residence, you are described as a poetic master chef. What ingredients are essential as you prepare tasty morsels of words that even reluctant readers and writers will enjoy?

Laura:   Ha! At the time, I was teaching an introduction to poetry course for CityLit Project called “Poetry Café.” After years of teaching, and reading so many wonderful poems by young writers, I have come to believe that children (and adults) already have the essential ingredients of poetry in our pantries. Much of my work is showing children that they already know how to create similes. Who hasn’t looked at the sky and seen a cloud that looks like an animal? They are adept at using onomatopoeia and hyperbole in their everyday speech. My job is to show them how to take what they already know and make a space for it on the page.

Jan:   Tell me about your experience with the 2015 Thousand Poets for Change World Conference in Salerno, Italy this year. How did you become a participant? What amazed you the most about this conference?

Laura: It’s a long story. The short version is that I have been a 100TPC event organizer since the program’s inception in 2011. Every year, Michael Rothenberg, a California poet, invites people from around the world to host poetry events in their own communities during the last weekend in September. The events are streamed, photographed, and uploaded on YouTube for everyone to view and share.

Michael and his partner Terri Carrion invited me to attend the first gathering of 100TPC organizers this June. What amazed me most goes back to the Mary Jo Bang quote you shared. Despite our differences in culture and language, more than 60 poets from around the world came together to talk about poetry activism in our home communities. That was our common ground, something all of us were passionate about. I formed friendships with many remarkable people at that conference. I love waking up in the morning and seeing a Facebook message from a 100TPC friend in Malaysia, Israel, or India.

Jan:   Someone told me you have story and advice for anyone involved in Pitch Wars. What is the story and what do you know now as a result of your experience?

Laura:   I participated in the Pitch Wars author-to-author mentor program right before I signed with my agent. You can read the full story here:

Online pitch contests aren’t always the best venue for quieter books. A flashy logline or premise tends to catch the agents’ eyes. But I’d encourage any submitting author to give Pitch Wars a try. Having an author who coaches you through an intense revision is invaluable. So is the sense of camaraderie among the Pitch Warriors. There’s a real feeling of “we’re all in this together.” When alumni of the program sign with agents or sell books, the whole community is there to cheer them on.

Jan:   In your work as an editor of Little Patuxent Review what useful things have you learned that continue to enrich your current work as a poet?

Laura:   Being on the editorial staff of Little Patuxent Review for the past five years has taught me countless things. Reading the submissions stretches me to think past my own poetic style and subject matter, because I want readers to stretch in the same way. When they open an issue of LPR, it’s because they are willing to try new things and be surprised by a poem, essay, or story. Editing the journal was also on-the-job training in the art of putting a full-length manuscript together.

Jan:   What advice can you offer to a budding poet that would encourage him or her? What should you know if you want to be a poet?

Laura:   Staying engaged with the literary community is the best piece of advice I have for any writer. Writing friends will be your beta readers and sounding boards. They offer a shoulder when you think you can’t handle one more rejection, and they are the people you’ll celebrate with when a poem is accepted or when you sell a book. Perseverance is important too, but a supportive literary community can help a writer find the stamina to keep working on his or her craft.

Jan:   And finally, would you say a bit about your work this year with Howard County’s high school students through the HoCoPoLitSo writers-in-residence program?

Laura:   HoCoPoLitSo’s long-running education program has brought many wonderful poets, people whose work I admire like Michael Glaser, Lucille Clifton, Derrick Weston Brown, and Joseph Ross, into our local schools. I am very excited about working with Howard County’s high school students this year. It is an honor to be part of that tradition.

Jan:   How can people find your books, website, and blog?

Laura: Here are some links that should help. My new website should be up soon. It will be

My blog will be moving to that site. For now, it is “Author Amok”:
My books are available on Amazon:
Life Like Grass

(Also available through Maryland Writers Association:
Mountain, Log,

Last Fifth Grade

All three are also listed on my Goodreads author page:

About Jan Bowman
Jan Bowman

Jan’s upcoming story collection, Flight Path & Other Stories will be published by Evening Street Press, October 2015.
Brief Biography for Jan Bowman
Jan Bowman is winner of the Roanoke Review Fiction Award. Her stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, a Pen/O’Henry award. Her fiction has appeared in Evening Street Review, Uncertain Promise: An Anthology of Short Fiction and Creative Nonfiction, Roanoke Review, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, and others. Glimmer Train named a story as Honorable Mention for Short Story Awards for New Writers. Jan’s stories have been finalists or short- listed for the Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, The Phoebe Fiction Contest and So-to-Speak fiction contest. She is working on a new story collection, working title, Life Boat Drills for Children. She has nonfiction publications in Atticus Review, Trajectory, and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a regular blog on her website on the writing life and interviews writers and publishers. 

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Entry 239 - Tony Deaton - on Practice, Podcasts, & Talking to Your Performing Self

Practice, Podcasts, & Talking to Your Self

By Jan Bowman
Tony Deaton is currently associate professor of music at Lee University, where he teaches applied voice and vocal literature. In addition to his teaching responsibilities at Lee, Deaton continues an active performance schedule through the southeast. His new book, STOP! LOOK! LISTEN! A Practical Guide to Vocal Technique and Performance was just released and offers down-to-earth tips to anyone involved in vocal performance.

When I first met Tony Deaton at a Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop a few years ago, I was impressed with his clear distinctive speaking and reading voice. Later I discovered his vast experience as a vocal artist and learned that he was writing a book about techniques to improve vocal performances. In this age of Podcasts, more and more writers are reading their work to audiences. The spoken arts, such as giving a public reading require different skills from those language skills that a writer usually uses. I wanted to know more about this skill, so I interviewed Tony Deaton.

Jan:     So tell me about your new book, STOP! LOOK! LISTEN! A Practical  Guide to Vocal Technique and Performance. Who is your intended readership    for this book that speaks to vocal training to improve speaking and singing performance? And what led you to write this book?

Tony:     My book is intended for use by singers on all levels from beginner to professional. I’ve been a student of the singing voice most of my life and I performed in opera, oratorio, recital, and musical theatre for more than forty years. I began teaching on the college level twenty years ago. I love teaching, but it has its challenges. In an effort to be a better teacher, I read a lot of books, as well as articles in music journals. While these were interesting, I found myself bogged down in too much jargon with charts and discussion regarding physiology. I wanted to write a book that is easy to understand and is immediately applicable to a singer.

Jan:     You have spoken about the differences between those who have natural talents versus those who have marginal talent, but who understand the value of practice. Successful writers learn how essential practice is to the art and craft of writing. As a teacher of both individual vocalists and choral groups, you have seen this make a difference. How could this same idea be useful to someone doing public readings or speeches?

Tony:     At one of my very first voice lessons many years ago, a teacher said something I’ve never forgotten: “Singing is speaking with music around it.” The point is the muscles, and for the most part, the use of those muscles in singing and speaking are the same. I emphasize to my voice students the use of a mirror and a recording device. Many of the technical errors and bad habits can be fixed simply by watching and listening. That’s two parts of the title I chose, Stop! Look! Listen! Watch yourself. Watch others. Listen to yourself. Listen to others. By watching and listening, a singer or a speaker can observe good points of vocal technique and good habits, as well as bad technique and bad habits you do not want to copy.

Jan:     What do you see as some of the biggest hurdles for someone who is learning to become a singer, actor, or vocal performer?

Tony:     That’s a very good question and one that is a little complex. It almost has a Jekyll/Hyde answer. What I mean is that on the one hand you have to work, work, work. Learn the basics of technique and continue to refine those for the rest of your singing life. On the other hand, you have to trust your voice. Let it sing freely. Vocal technique is very important. But technique should serve to enhance and support the natural talent and ability. It’s important to believe in yourself and respond to that burning passion to perform.

Jan:     Let’s talk a bit about stage fright. I bought and read your book because I am going to do some readings for my new collection of short stories, Flight Path & Other Stories soon, and I find public reading terrifying. I got some good tips. As a writer I see myself as somewhat quiet and introverted. Stage fright is a real problem for me. What can I do to manage my stage fright and maximize my reading performance?

Tony in a performance of Die Fledermaus

Tony:     I used to be scared to death of auditions. Once onstage, I could hide behind the role/character I was portraying and feel very comfortable, but in auditions I felt completely exposed, vulnerable, and helpless. Every performer knows if you want to work, you have to audition. To connect and to feel comfortable with an audience, it’s important for performers to connect and feel comfortable with themselves.
It may sound crazy, but I suggest finding a private space, looking at yourself in the mirror and repeating words and phrases of calm assurance. Remind yourself of who you are, what you are, your accomplishments, the fact that you have had excellent training and experience. You are a professional. Also remind yourself that your audience came to hear you. They believe in you; that you are someone special. They are your fans. They love you. Love them. Reach out to them. If you feel nervous, tell them. Stating the obvious is a good way of dealing with it. Just saying it often minimizes the threat.

Jan:     You have talked about the need for efficient articulation. What exactly is efficient articulation?

Tony:     I must have read that term, “efficient articulation” somewhere. It sounds too good to be an original. When I said it in our workshop class, I think what I meant was to cut out the fluff. To say what you say with integrity. A minister from my youth used to say, “Plain talk is easy to understand.” An audience, whether it’s a live group of listeners, or those who read our work, can spot a fake. They see right through the “bull.” Just tell the story as straightforward as possible.

Jan:     You have worked with such renowned artists as Gian Carlo Menotti, Carlisle Floyd, Robert Ward, Bodo Igesz, and Marni Nixon, among others, and performed many times on public and commercial radio and television. Who has most influenced you?

Tony:     The names of those renowned artists sound good in a bio sketch, and I feel fortunate to have had the experience of working with them. But when I think of who influenced me most, my mind immediately goes to my teachers. My high school choral teacher, Henrietta Brandt, made a huge impact on me. Through her constant encouragement, I was made aware of my talent. In time I believed in my talent and in myself. She instilled a love of great music in me and I was given ample opportunities to perform. Jim Burns, my undergraduate teacher, and Edward Zambara, my teacher in graduate school, were also both very influential in my vocal journey.

Jan:     When did you know that music would be your life?

Tony:     There was never any doubt for me. I knew in high school that music would be my life’s endeavor. After my collegiate study I expected to return to my hometown and take over from my beloved choral teacher, Miss Brandt. Originally I wanted to be a high school choral director and a minister of music. Sometime during my freshman year of college I got the bug to be a performer. A few years later I did a role in an opera, and I knew then there was no turning back.

Jan:     And what are your favorite pieces of music to sing and to teach chorally?

Tony:     I have about three roles that are favorites. Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro is a role I have performed many times and always love it. Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof is another, and Reverend Olin Blitch in Susannah is the third. All three roles have unique vocal, musical, and emotional demands. I could be very happy given an opportunity to perform those three roles every week for a long time.

In the past I directed church choirs, but most of my training and experience is in vocal solo performance. Occasionally I am asked to work with the men’s section of a choir, but I haven’t taught a choral group in many years. My choral performance experience is as a soloist in choral masterworks. Two very different, exquisite works, The Mozart Requiem and Carmina Burana come to my mind as favorites.

Tony with his award-winning students.

Jan:     Finally, what advice do you have to encourage people struggling to develop their talents, whether they are musicians, writers, singers or others dedicated to a life in these arts?

Tony:     Thanks. What a good opening for me to plug my book, Stop! Look! Listen! A Practical Guide to Vocal Technique and Performance. It’s available on Amazon.
Although I said it a little differently in my book, I will use the same catch phrase, Stop! Look! Listen!
Stop. And ask yourself if you are you maximizing every opportunity given you to grow, study, and learn. Stop wasting your time. Work! The real reward comes in the fulfillment of work.
Look. Observe others in your discipline. What are the successful people doing as they produce quality work? Look and learn. You can also learn as much of what to avoid by watching the pitiful efforts of others.
Listen. To yourself. As a performer, record yourself. Be your own teacher and critic. And, I know it’s a cliché, but listen to your heart. Will you ever be truly happy and fulfilled if you deny the love of this art?

I write in my book, “Follow your passion. Not someone else’s passion for you, but your passion.” Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Contact Information:

B.A., Lee College
M.M., University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Background:     Tony Deaton made his New York debut at The International Festival of the Arts in the title role of Punch in Harrison Birtwistle’s avant–garde opera, Punch and Judy. He has performed at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., at Spoleto USA in Charleston, S.C., and with symphony orchestras and opera companies throughout the United States.
He has worked with such renowned artists as Gian Carlo Menotti, Carlisle Floyd, Robert Ward, Bodo Igesz, and Marni Nixon, among others, and has performed many times on public and commercial radio and television. Deaton created the role of Major William Lewis in the world premiere performance of Rachel, produced by the Knoxville Opera Company, and was chosen by American composer Richard Maltz to premiere his song cycle Seeing With The Heart. As a member of North Carolina’s distinguished Visiting Artist Program, Deaton presented hundreds of recitals, workshops and master classes. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Lee College as a voice student of Jim Burns and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Tennessee, where he studied with Edward Zambara. Deaton has taught on the voice faculties of Appalachian State University and Methodist College. He is currently associate professor of music at Lee University, where he teaches applied voice and vocal literature. In addition to his teaching responsibilities at Lee, Deaton continues an active performance schedule through the southeast. He is married to the former Suzy Venable, originally of Knoxville, and is the proud grandfather of grandsons Spencer and Andy.

About Jan Bowman:
Jan Bowman’s new story collection, Flight Path & Other Stories (October 2015) Evening Street Press is available (for pre-order) online:

Jan Bowman is winner of the Roanoke Review Fiction Award. Her stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, a Pen/O’Henry award. Her fiction has appeared in Evening Street Review, Uncertain Promise: An Anthology of Short Fiction and Creative Nonfiction, Roanoke Review, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, and others.
Jan’s stories have been finalists or short- listed for the Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, The Phoebe Fiction Contest and So-to-Speak fiction contest.  Glimmer Train named a story as Honorable Mention for Short Story Awards for New Writers.
She is working on a new story collection, working title, Life Boat Drills for Children. She has nonfiction publications in Atticus Review, Trajectory, and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a regular blog on her website on the writing life and interviews writers and publishers.                                        Photo by ELAINE RAKSIS
Learn more at:

The stories in Flight Paths & Other Stories reveal the power of kindness. In difficult moments of human contact, explored from childhood through old age, this collection provides a window into the kindness all people seek in moments of sorrow. In her poem Kindness, Naomi Shihab Nye writes that when you know sorrow as “the other deepest thing . . . then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore.” from – “Kindness” in Words Under The Words: Selected Poems (1995) by Naomi Shihab Nye.

The dynamic mix of characters in these stories, know much about sorrow. They know it in the burden of a wife looking after her war-damaged husband and the son who confronts her more than 35 years after she abandons them. They know it in the struggle to hide from violence of the world, even though violence finds them. But they do know kindness, too. They know it in the unspoken understanding between a young man and his elderly aunt in the aftermath of a violent murder. They know it in small gestures between friends, and even strangers, after a sudden death, as well as through the unexpected connections found on the other end of the phone or a shared meal.

What others are saying:
For years I’ve been reading, admiring, and learning from Jan Bowman’s short stories. Her stories explore what we mean to one another, what is discovered, often only in moments of hardship and duress. These stories tread and plummet over rough terrain. That they do so with unflinching candor and searing vision is one reason to read them. The characters, each so distinct and nuanced that together they form a community, will be forever etched onto your memory. But the reason I keep returning to them? It’s the hope they provide, the unexpected paths they suggest, consoling me when I feel lost by enlarging and enriching what it means to be human. —Daniel Mueller, author of How Animals Mate and Nights I Dreamed of Hubert Humphrey

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Entry 238 - Interview with Author Tom Glenn

Entry 238 – The Trion Syndrome – Interview with Author Tom Glenn

By Jan Bowman 517F+mrnzGLTom Glenn’s newest novel, The Trion Syndrome is slated for publication November 2015. Tom has worked as an intelligence operative, a musician, a linguist (seven languages), a cryptologist, a government executive, a care-giver for the dying, a leadership coach, and, always, a writer.  

Many of his prize-winning short stories (sixteen in print) came from the better part of thirteen years he shuttled between the U.S. and Vietnam as an undercover NSA employee. His writing is haunted by his five years of work with AIDS patients, two years of helping the homeless, seven years of caring for the dying in the hospice system, and Post-Traumatic Stress Injury, a consequence of his time in Vietnam. These days he is a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books where he specializes in books on war and Vietnam. His Vietnam novel-in-stories, Friendly Casualties, is now available on Apprentice House of Baltimore brought out his novel, No-Accounts in 2014. Jan:   Previously you have written about your experiences in Vietnam during the fall of Saigon and about your hospice work helping AIDS patients in the early years of the AIDS crisis. Tell us about your newest novel, The Trion Syndrome. What do you hope will draw readers into this novel?
Tom:   I am fascinated by the image of a strong, passionate, and gifted man brought to his knees by his own past, and I’m hoping readers will be drawn to his story. I want to lead readers into the world of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) so they can understand and be moved by the plight of a man unable to face his own combat memories.
Jan:   What do readers need to know about The Trion Syndrome and its connections to Greek mythology?
Tom:   When my protagonist’s story took me over, I searched Greek mythology for an apt metaphor for his struggle. I found none, so I invented a myth about a demigod named Trion, the son of Ares (the god of war), who disembowels his own infant son to prove his ferocity. The gods are appalled and curse him with the inability to love or be loved. That tale caught for me the dilemma of a man who has participated in the gruesomeness of armed combat and comes away afraid that he’s destroyed his own capacity for love. That was my story. I worked undercover providing signals intelligence support to army and Marine combat units on and off for thirteen years in Vietnam, then lived through the fall of Saigon escaping under fire after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of the city. I witnessed and took part in acts so brutal—such is the nature of men fighting each other to the death—that I doubted I was even capable of love.
Jan:   You have mentioned the wisdom and power of Greek mythology to bring about healing. How is it redemptive for you personally, and in this particular novel?
Tom:   When I returned from Vietnam in May 1975 after the fall of Saigon, I was an emotional wreck. My marriage crumbled, and I was afraid I would lose my children, my reason for staying alive. I held top-secret-codeword-plus clearances and couldn’t seek psychiatric help—I would have lost my job. Through writing I was able to confront my unspeakable memories, but to find peace I volunteered to help others less fortunate than me and turned to my language studies, especially German, for solace. Then I remembered the quiet wisdom in Greek mythology. I reread Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths in the complete two-volume version. As I pondered each of the wonderful stories, the gentle insights embedded in each slowly came into my consciousness. I saw the unsentimental lessons inherent in the stories and found metaphors for my own life.
The story of Dave, my protagonist in Trion, is in many ways my own story. He is all but destroyed by a past he has quarantined from his consciousness. For reasons he himself doesn’t understand, he’s drawn to the myth of Trion, the child killer, and sees himself. At his lowest point, he remembers what happened: he killed a child in Vietnam. When another child, his illegitimate son he tried to kill, through abortion, finds him, Dave learns that Trion’s fate, drowning, is not the only way out. Dave is not Trion redux unless he chooses to be. He realizes that Trion’s choices are the lesson of the myth—he could have saved himself but didn’t. Dave’s son leads him to understand the myth at last and shows him the way home.
Jan:   The protagonist Dave Bell of Trion discovers a connection between his life and an unpublished novella by German author, Thomas Mann. Does this unpublished novella exist or is it a necessary fictional literary device to propel plot?
Tom:   The novella, like the Trion myth, is fictional. I needed to have another angle on the Trion tale. Mann is one of my favorite authors, and he frequently used myths as the basis for his stories. I drew on his greatest work, Doctor Faustus, to select the lessons I wanted the Trion novella to demonstrate and incorporated them. I deliberately changed the Trion story, in the Mann version, to include Trion’s suicide by drowning. That suggested to Dave what he should do.
Jan:   Once again you explore the power of repressed PTSI and the emotional wreckage of so many lives from wars and clandestine intelligence operations. Why do you think it has taken so long for our government to acknowledge the damage?
Tom:   Our American culture stresses masculine virtues—courage, strength, self-reliance. We look askance at anything that resembles softness or vulnerability in men, and we deemphasize nurturing and gentleness as masculine traits. Besides, a segment of our population considers psychology as suspect at best. And even today in many military circles, PTSI is dismissed as a cover for cowardice. All that’s changing, but change takes time. And while we wait, the victims suffer in silence. I’m doing all I can to speed up the change. That’s why I painted my protagonist as a brave virile man undone by his repressed memories. PTSI is not cowardice. It takes strength and courage to face the past and comes to terms with it.
Jan:   You worked for many years as a US Intelligence Operative for NSA. Are there still limitations on what you are free to say about that work?
Tom:   Yes. Most of what I did in my career is still classified. I had to personally request declassification of my work in Vietnam. And I was only partially successful. Everything after Vietnam cannot be discussed publicly.
Jan:   How long have you worked on Trion? When did you experience a breakthrough, an insight as to how you would end it, or did you always know the ending?
Tom:   As with most of my books, I spent about fifteen years writing Trion. The story had been kicking around in my head ever since I came back from Vietnam in 1975, but it took time for all the pieces to fall into place. I didn’t know the ending until I wrote it after finishing the rest of the manuscript. But that’s standard practice for me. What I have to do is use something like meditation techniques to unleash my subconscious mind. It’s like watching a movie and writing down what I see. That’s why I make no attempt to write an outline for a novel until I’ve finished the first draft. Then I look at the outline and spot weaknesses, dull spots, and inconsistencies. In short, I rely on something deep inside me to tell the story. For example, I make no pretense that I understand women; they continually surprise and mystify me at the conscious level. But a large part of Trion is written from the point of view of Mary, Dave’s wife. Women who have read the book tell me I got it right. So some part of my subconscious is able to get into a woman’s head and write from her point of view. I have no idea how I do it.
Jan:   What are your particular satisfactions on seeing Trion published at this point in your life?
Tom:   Two real satisfactions. First, I’m proud to have finally mastered the craft of writing fiction to the point that I turn out finished story telling. I’ve spent my life learning how to do it, and I’m still learning. Second, and more important, I yearned to bring to readers the story of a man spiritually crippled by combat and show how he managed to survive. I want people to know and understand how our past can lacerate us. When I came back from my many trips to Vietnam, I and the troops I was travelling with were jeered and spat upon. Even now I ache to hear the words, “Thank you. And welcome home.” Maybe my readers will cry a little with me and say those words to Dave, and therefore to me.
Previously I interviewed Tom Glenn about his book, No Accounts on my website as Entry # 220 in July 2014.  Here is the link:
To find out more Tom Glenn’s web sites are:; and
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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Entry 237 - "In Everything, Birds" - Interview with Santa Fe, NM Poet Debbi Brody

51hMVu+HL8L._AA160_Jan:     Thanks for the interview Debbi Brody; your newest book of poetry, In Everything, Birds will be released at the end of May, tell readers about yourself.
Debbi:     I consider myself a poetry activist, bringing poetry in wherever I can. This includes conducting poetry workshops and readings at festivals and other venues throughout the Southwest to writers age five through eighty-five. I publish frequently in regional and national literary journals. My work has appeared in the Santa Fe Literary Review, Broomweed Journal, Poetica, Sin Fronteras and many others literary journals and books of note including numerous anthologies. My first full length collection, “Portraits in Poetry,” (Village Books Press, Oklahoma, 2006), as well as my chapbook, “FreeForm” (2003, self published) are out of print. My new chapbook, “Awe in the Muddle” is almost sold out, but available through As well as being active in the poetry community, editing, writing and reviewing, coordinating readings and judging art shows and recitations for the National Endowment for the Arts annual high-school Poetry Outloud State Finals, I work full-time for a small scientific research and development company. I have lived in Santa Fe, NM with my husband since 1992. We have one grown, married son.
Jan:     Tell me about your new poetry collection “In Everything, Birds.” I like the title. What inspired you and what is the significance of the title?
Debbi:     Birds are traditionally, in the arts, a symbol of communication-including communication with the spirit world, as well as a symbol of the spirit, the soul, and of diplomacy. These are all subjects I regularly address in my writing, both head-on as well as sideways. It is infrequent that birds themselves are the actual subject of a poem, but they are flittering about within the work.  I have been fascinated and comforted by their constancy in real life, even feeding one with an eyedropper, bringing it back from the brink of death, when I was eleven years old, skipping school to do so. I discovered, accidentally that birds are a constant in my real life and in my writing. How did I learn this? One day, when completing the title poem of this collection, as I hit save, the computer asked if I wished to replace a document of the same name. Without meaning to I said yes and realized I had lost a gritty poem from ten years previous of the same title. It was my Eureka moment for this collection.
Jan:     Which of your current poems are your favorite poems to read before an audience and how do you select particular poems to read aloud?
Debbi:     I did a CD of the collection, which covers about half of the 80 or so poems. I learned a lot about my reading style making the choices. I like poems that ask questions of the reader, that don’t provide answers, that have strong musicality. Different audiences require different choices; if I am reading at a gallery, museum, or university, I veer towards the more “intelligent, narrative, less visceral” poems. If I am reading at a Festival I steer towards the theme of the festival and more lyric and surreal pieces. I truly enjoy reading in tandem or collaboratively and will choose poems that I think will complement my co-reader (s). For many authors, writing is a solitary pursuit. For me, writers are my community, my family, my tribe. I belong to two bi-monthly writing groups. We feed off of each other’s lines at 5 minute intervals, to push our minds and pens to unexpected places.
Jan:     What happens when a poet reads her work aloud before an audience? Based on audience reactions, tell us about how that experience best empowers your resolve to write?
Debbi:     Funny you should ask this question because I wrote a letter to myself last night asking why I have no fear of reading in public to an entire theater full of strangers. Am I some kind of sociopath? Even the most renowned writers I know suffer stage jitters. Then of course, I realized I have this fabulous tool of suppression. Generally, I smoke 4 cigarettes a day. That’s all I want. But as the date of a big reading comes up, such as the first release of this new book, a week from the day of this writing, I am smoking seven a day!
I feed off audience reaction and participation. I encourage heckling. After reading, naturally, people approach and volunteer their favorites and I always ask why. This helps me make choices for future readings.
Jan:     When did you begin to write poetry? Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote? How does it “stack up” next to your current work?
Debbi:     You can laugh as you wish, but I began writing as soon as I could write. I was a bit precocious and taught myself to read, via the backs of cereal boxes and Dr. Seuss books by the time I was three. I have a very distinct memory of going out on to the driveway with a piece of blue chalk, writing “ that fat cat hat,” then running inside to show my mother that I knew not only how to read, but how to write. Something my big sister (4 ½) couldn’t do! I don’t believe my first “poem” stacks up well to my current work, but strangely I still feel Seuss in my bones, although my rhymes are all slant and/or enjambed – unless I am writing in a form which requires a rhyming pattern.
Jan:     What “rules” for poetry do you reject as too constricting? Are there any particular “rules” that you believe are essential for the full development of your work?
Debbi:     Yes, I firmly believe that all writing must follow the same rules, no matter the form. But in poetry, if it does not have some scheme of rhythm, it is just an essay shaped as a poem. Use complete sentences, avoid superlatives, create images in the reader’s mind. Remove the distance between self and reader wherever possible. Did I say image image image, to tell a story and/or to create a visceral response? The joy of poetry for me, versus the other kinds of writing I do, lies in the non-linear nature of the genre. I can go from a dream, to under a tree, to a remembered conversation all in under 30 lines, and it feels natural and right to do so. That is an on-going thrill!
Jan:     Who are among your favorite poets alive and writing today? And of course, I must ask who are your favorite poets who are no longer with us?
Debbi:     Currently, I am hooked on Joan Logghe, poet laureate emeritus of Santa Fe. She has had a big influence not so much on my style, but on my process. I am a devotee of Sharon Olds and Dorianne Laux. But it was a visit to the Chicago Public Library as a little girl, when I heard Gwendolyn Brooks read that everything fell into place. This was before she became Illinois’ poet laureate in 1968. So here’s my poetic lineage post Seuss and Brooks: Ginsberg, Yevtushenko, Gerald Stern, Dickenson, Langston Hughes, CK Williams, Maya Angelou, John Muir (I say everything he wrote was poetry), Rumi, Plath, Miribai, Cummings and Leonard Cohen. Wow, reading that list, I see I am a weirdo even for a poet.
Jan:     What are the greatest obstacles to your writing at this point in your life? And of course, what do you know now about writing, poetry and the poet’s world that you wish you’d known when you were twenty?
Debbi:     You ask some wonderful tough questions. I was saying to a friend at a reading this afternoon that life gets in the way of poetry. I work full time at a fairly intense office. I am the only full-time employee there who is not a scientist, and I do everything except science. This includes the occasional midnight alarm call (a window in the laboratory has been broken into!) I also find that while waiting for a new book to come out, it is difficult to write, it’s like having sex at the end of a pregnancy, no purpose, no desire. In those moments I turn to flash fiction and socio-political essay as well as close content edits for friends and customers who write nonfiction.
11401573_408443282685832_3146710083622327730_n“I wish I knew when I was twenty that not everyone, in fact very few, will hear your words the way you intend them; this is one of the joys of writing. It is not a problem of execution!”
Jan:     And what advice do you offer to a budding poet that would help and encourage him or her? What should you know if you want to be a poet?
Debbi:     You should know that  if you are an organic and tasty poet versus pedantic and scholarly poet, this will always be your avocation, not your bread and butter, even if you acquire great success.
“First thought, best thought,” as Ginsberg said, may be a great way to find your initial draft, but in reality, first thought is much like the first pancake on the griddle, not as pretty as the next one. Clichés come to exist for a reason, so “revise, revise, revise,” as Ginsberg said. Think of poetry more as a process than a product and you will be happier every step of the way. Play with your stanzas, invert them, subvert them! What words are unnecessary to the picture you are painting? Get rid of them, don’t love your own words too much; you are a poet, or as Shakespeare says, “Brevity is the soul of wit!” You will still write long poems. Most importantly, don’t take yourself too seriously.
Lastly, there is no such thing as writers block for a poet, only an unwillingness to look outside yourself and record what teases your mind and sparkles.

Jan:    How can people contact you and learn more?
Please find me at And of course at your local independently owned bookstore,, and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This entry was posted by Jan Bowman on Monday, June 29, 2015.
Filed under: Interviews, On Writing, Reflections
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Entry 236 - "Do Writers Have a Code of Ethics?"

Stephanie Spector of Roanoke Review (online) spoke with me (January 2015) about my thoughts about Ethics in Writing.  As I said, I can’t speak for anyone but myself. But here are a few thoughts that I shared with her. To read more of this interview, go to Roanoke Review’s beautiful new squarespace online website for more.

Stephanie:    Do you think there is a code of ethics in writing?
Jan:    I would hope that writers, just like good people in any line of work, have an inner compass that causes them to use their talents for good and ethical behaviors. John Gardner had some lovely things to say about that in his Art of Fiction. I can’t speak for others, but I am a writer who believes, for example, that writers have an obligation to dig deep, find truth as they can tell it, and help people feel more connected, alive, compassionate, and relevant. I believe writers have an obligation to share their knowledge. Writers are privileged when they can help other writers grow in their writing skills.  I try to do that on my website and when I teach or attend workshops. I believe we have an obligation to help each other on this planet.

This entry was posted by Jan Bowman on Saturday, May 23, 2015.
Filed under: Interviews, On Writing, Reflections
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Entry # 234 – GOOD NEWS

By Jan Bowman
mermaid01Evening Street Review will publish Jan’s story, “Kindness” in the May 2015 Issue.
The Editor of a press (later to be named) read one of Jan’s stories and wants to read her story collection, MERMAIDS & Other Stories, for possible publication.
The Roanoke Review debuts a beautiful newly designed website posted Jan’s (2012 Issue) Fiction Award Story, “Mermaids” in the Archive section and an interview with Jan from Fall (2014) in the Interview section. Link for Roanoke Review story Mermaids. Click within story sidebar for an Interview with Jan. Might need to copy & paste to browser.

Jan had a recent story on the short-list for the Folio Fiction Award.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Entry # 233 - "More Than I Could Ever Know: How I Survived Caregiving" - by Dale L. Baker

“More Than I Could Ever Know: How I Survived Caregiving” – by Dale L. Baker

Interview By Jan Bowman  December 29, 2014
dentist pic 2Dale L. Baker is an award-winning author. She was born in Ohio, completed high school in California, graduated from college in Oregon and now lives in Hawaii and Arizona. She retired from county social services in 2003 to take care of her husband full-time. Her book More Than I Could Ever Know: How I Survived Caregiving” (a best seller in the AZ retirement community of Westbrook Village) is usually read in one sitting, then passed on to another caregiver, if not kept for reference. Often gift copies are bought. More Than I Could Ever Know: How I Survived Caregiving is a BRONZE MEDAL WINNER in the 2014 Living Now Book Awards and a FINALIST in the 2014 USA Best Books Awards. For more information about her writing career see her website or just Google “Ms Dale caregiver.”

Interview by Jan Bowman – December 29, 2014
Jan: Thank you, Dale, for writing this important book and agreeing to talk about it with me. You’ve said, “Every caregiver needs a support group. You might think that you don’t, but you do.” At what point in your husband’s illness did you come to that reality?
Dale: That phrase comes from a man in my old support group in Portland who was taking care of his wife. It was advice that he had been given from a colleague—“guy talk” around the water cooler. “Support group? You think you don’t need one, but you do.”
I didn’t think I needed one either until I had a melt-down at a grocery store. My husband and I had made it through the rigors of his first cancer together but when he was diagnosed with a second untreatable cancer I felt alone and overwhelmed. Helping him get better so we could go back to living happily ever after was one thing. But, watching him slowly deteriorate until I was left a widow was something entirely different. I was at a loss.
Jan: What do you wish someone had said to you and to your husband when he got the second cancer diagnosis?
Dale Baker CoverDale: No words would have helped me. A hug would have been better. People would say “let me know if I can help” but I didn’t know what to ask for at the time. Then they disappeared, waiting, I guess, for me to call them. What I needed was for someone to call me on a regular basis and say “what can I do to help today—pick up groceries?—wash a load of clothes?—sit and have a cup of tea with you? If you really want to help a caregiver, keep in touch. Be available to do little things. They are SO appreciated. Don’t wait for a crisis call.
Jan: Chapter 19 of your book offers five tips for surviving. To what do you credit your own survival in the face of the daily stress of caregiving?
Dale: Participating in a weekly support group changed my caregiver life. The other life-saving tools—breathing, yoga, respite—came later, after my mind had cleared. I had bottled up emotions that needed to be expressed and on-going decisions that had to be made. The support and practical knowledge that I received from other caregivers kept me focused on my job of taking care of both my husband and myself. Even though I was not interested in joining in at first, the time came when it was essential for me to participate. I encourage all caregivers to seek out a group that’s a comfortable fit. I gladly facilitate one in my community.
Jan: What was your initial reaction when your husband began to help you put together a “To Do” list before he died? How did that help you?
Dale: I was deeply touched with his thoughtfulness. In fact, from that moment on, his focus was on my well-being rather than his. He was my hero again—the proud strong man I married who wanted to protect and provide for me. He felt useful again. Our “To Do” activities took us away from the grind we were in of illness and pain management. It was uplifting for me—a time of joy that softened the tragedy of losing him.
Jan: How do you feel about the current “right-to-die with dignity” movement in this country?
Dale: Having lived in Oregon for most of my adult life, I am very aware of and have contributed to the death with dignity movement. I was a supporter even before I came face-to-face with loved ones in their declining years. None of my people (husband, Mom, Dad) considered ending their lives early but watching them struggle cemented my own wishes to have a different ending for myself. If I were diagnosed with a terminal illness I would not want to be the “one in the bed” for very long. It’s too hard on the “one bringing juice and pills.”
Jan: Do you plan to write about this topic or a related topic in the future?
Dale: Poetry is my first love. I am close to finishing a very personal book of photographs taken by my niece who is a professional photographer (Tamara at Every Emotion Photography). My poems open and close the book and are sprinkled through the middle. I also want to gather all my poems (many about caregiving) into one collection. In addition to the poetry work I am writing short stories again. Fans have been asking me for the full story of the long black dress and tango night that I mention in Chapter 19. It will appear in my humorous online dating manual for widows.
Jan: Is winning two book awards the highlight for you as an author?
Dale: Actually I can think of two experiences that thrilled me as much as the literary recognition.
The first one happened in my dentist’s office. When I slipped into the dental chair I saw a copy of my book lying on a table separating me from another patient on my right. My book had only been released a few weeks earlier so I was thrilled and shocked that anyone who was reading it would be having their teeth cleaned the same time I was. Not only did I have a wonderful chat with the woman who was reading my book, but my dentist took pictures of both book and my smile for her website.
The second heart-warming experience happened recently. “I survived caregiving,” a reader wrote. “This book helped.” I have received many lengthy 5 star reviews on Amazon, but this brief one sums up my mission.
Jan at Corolla HouseAbout Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan’s stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award.  Glimmer Train named a story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers. Jan’s stories have been finalists for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, 2013 finalists in the Phoebe Fiction Contest, 2012 “So To Speak” Fiction Contest.
Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and most recently, Uncertain Promise: An Anthology, Edited by Von Pittman. She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories. She has nonfiction publications in Atticus Review, Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.  Learn more at: