Yousei Hime blogger extraordinaire, graciously answers some questions about her writing.
The first thing I noticed about your blog is the connection you seem to have with nature. Would you describe how you see yourself as a writer, and from where do you draw your inspiration?
Yes, I think of myself as a writer, but not an accomplished one. For years I wrote daily, then life and family took precedence. Only last year did I pick up my pen (and dust off the keyboard) to renew that daily practice. That is what it is, practice. I try to write something fresh, clear and beautiful. If I don’t like it or part of it, I keep trying or save it to work on later.
My inspirations appear in a variety of places. Nature is an easy place to find a muse. I live on four acres surrounded by trees and wildlife. Our property borders a state park which offers visits from deer, raccoons, turkey, herons, hawks, skunks, squirrels, and other wildlife. Events in the world and in my world often spark my writing—relationships, loss, love, arguments, friendships, injustices, victories, and so on. More recently I’ve found ideas in reading other writers’ works. If I like, and sometimes don’t agree with, what I’ve read, I will think about it. It will germinate and something new will sprout. The same thing happens with words alone. There are prompts on many writing sites, and sometimes they are irresistible. I know there are other sources of inspiration, such as art and music, that touch me, but those above are my most frequent muses.
Do you mind sharing a bit of information about your life now? Do you have a family or pets? Write full time? Have a favorite writing spot?
I have both family and pets. I have my husband and two boys, 16 and 13. Our animals are numerous—dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, goats, and sometimes ducks and turkeys. I suppose I write full time, much to my husband’s chagrin. Little housework gets done when I’m writing. Our family computer is in the basement, but it is positioned so one can see out the solarium doors into the yard—a bit of trees, yard and pond. My laptop goes with me but we stay near a plug. I’m usually at the dining table which is in a bay window area that overlooks the west side of our property, bordered with pines and oaks and within sight of our garden. Our main floor has windows on the west, south and east walls. Everywhere you look you see trees and land. It really is lovely throughout the seasons, and somewhere on that floor is where I prefer to write.
When did you know you had a passion for writing? What influences have other writers had on your life?
I’m not sure when I knew. It has always been connected to my love of reading. I know that when I was quite young, early elementary, I wrote imitating my favorite books and stories. I even drew my own illustrations. Later my sister and I “published” our own magazine, hand written and illustrated. One of our neighbors from that time still has a copy she refuses to give up. Pen pals were an important part of my early years, and I had over 100 at one time. There were papers for school and even writing competitions while in high school. I also began keeping a daily journal in high school for one of my Sophomore English class. I continued keeping a journal for years after that. In college I helped form a creative writing club, and that is where my creative writing really bloomed. I suppose writing has always been a part of my life, and I only realized its importance when I quit doing it.
There are so many writers that have touched my life. There are too many to list them all, but of course I do have favorites. Early on they were Mother Goose, Dr. Suess, and adventure and fairy tales from a multivolume set of children’s books my parents got for us. Through these my love of language and storytelling grew. Later I read all I could about American Indians, read many Encyclopedia Brown novels, and absorbed Walter Farley’s horse books and Jim Kjelgaard’s animal novels. My delight in mysteries and a well-told tales with attractive characters awoke. My high school years were dominated by the Middle Earth. I read and reread The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I realized that a writer could create more than a story—creating an entire world was possible. Fantasy writing is still my favorite reading genre. Throughout my life I have read poetry, enjoying it but never really wanting to write it. Having gone through a long barren period with no writing, I find poetry as valuable as fiction, and some days more so. To study it and study to write it gives one a deep appreciation for each word and how each word transforms those around it. Today my influences are more wide-spread. I love reading all kinds of genre—poetry, novels, journalism, biography, non-fiction, instructional, short stories. My strongest instruction in writing is from my fellow bloggers. I am inspired by their efforts and challenged by their work. Because I love learning new things, I don’t see this growing period ever ending.
If you could meet any author(s) (deceased included) who would you meet and what would you discuss?
This is a very difficult question because there are so many. I would have loved to meet Tolkien, but I am uncertain that I would be little more than a groupie. I suppose I would like to know how he came up with his tales. How did the ideas arise? From older tales he translated? Did he construct them or did they spring to life in his imagination? He is known for his detailed descriptions. Did he see his world, walking through it in his mind, and describe what he saw? Or did he create it and build on it sentence by sentence?
I would also love to have met Basho, the Japanese haiku master. I envy his journeys and the simplicity of his life. I realize his life was a struggle, poverty and the circumstances of his era, but from all accounts, he relished the simple life and the daily opportunity to live in each moment and appreciate each moment without struggling under life’s usual responsibilities. How did he do this? How did he embrace near poverty and see beauty without bitterness? Did he find haiku in a moment, or did he find a moment and write a haiku, possibly revising it? I guess, I’d like to understand his Zen of haiku.
Similarly, if you could visit any time and place, what would you pick and why?
To visit any place and time . . . again I am unsure where and when. Since I already talked about Basho, I will choose another favorite poet’s place and time—the Lake District of the early 1800’s. The Romantic era was my favorite in college studies. I loved the poets, most of the writing, their glorious use of language, and their adoration for the inspiring intoxication of nature. I would love to see them on their walks and watch as they met their muse and were transcended. It would be wonderful to see the land that inspired the settings of their fairy tales and classics retold. To meet in that elven glade, so many of the poets of that time, that would be a rich moment indeed.
How would you describe the following three words: diversity, language, culture.
We all have definitions for ideas, the definitions we work within our own ethics and morality. Diversity—the many things outside of what I know—people, cultures, languages; the things that I do not know but that offer a chance to grow beyond myself. Language—what we use to communicate including and beyond words—expression, gesture, art, music, every form of communication is a part of language to me. Culture—that which makes us us: birthplace, parentage, region of origin, country of origin, language, music, art, literature, religion, beliefs, ethics, morals, rituals . . . all of these and more than I can name
I write about what’s on my desk…so what’s on your desk (work-in-progress or something else)?
It varies from day to day. Sometimes a work in progress sits waiting. More often my desk is covered with books for reference, books being read, a thesaurus, a dictionary, papers with doodles and/or notes, books to be read, articles to be filed, and my laptop.
What quote would you share that is a driving force for you, either personally or professionally?
I remember reading this sometime in high school. I have never forgotten it, and it shapes everything I writing.
“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?” (Emily Dickinson)
Out of all of our human senses what do you consider the most important one? How is that reflected in your writing?
They are all important for good writing, but I do think sight edges out the others. Readers depend on description. Writers do too. We rely on what we see, whether we believe it or not, to aid us in understanding and communicating. I am a very visual writer, though I try to bring in the other senses when I realize I have neglected them and my writing can be better with their inclusion. I can’t imagine trying to describe my pond without sight details. Although . . . that sounds like a wonderful writing exercise. Impose a handicap on one’s writing—blind, deaf, without taste, without touch, without smell. If each sense is deleted for a time, that seems like a good way to build a balance in writing about the others. You’ve asked a very good question.
What do you consider the best thing about writing? How about the worst?
The best thing about writing is reading a quality finished product. Even if I’m not fully satisfied with what I’ve written, when it is close, when I know there are some very good bits in it, I am delighted and motivated to go on.
What is the worst thing about writing is a harder question to answer. I hate it when I have an idea but don’t have the opportunity to get it down right then—my memory is awful. I like to write until I’m finished, if I’m interrupted I am irritable and don’t trust myself to finish the writing properly. Perhaps the worst is having no idea at all. I’ve had those times too, when I wanted to write and had nothing or nothing pleased me.
Barbara Walters asks the question, “If you were a tree, what tree would you be?” as she interview stars. So, I pose a similar question, what inanimate object would you choose to be, if not a tree? Why?
There is some allure in the tree idea, but I think I would rather be a writer’s pen. It would be wonderful to be the pen that helped create my favorite books and poems. Oh to be the first to see the battle at Helms Deep, to scribe a journey across ancient Japan in haiku, or to mourn Ophelia as she floats among the flowers. Don’t you think?
Would you share some writing tips you have found useful?
No matter the topic, the quality . . . no matter what—write every day.
Find someone (or more than one) who can give you an honest assessment of your writing, can offer useful suggestions, and will welcome the same from you (critiquing others and being critiqued is invaluable in growing as a writer)
Don’t give up! Always keep writing.
I noticed some very helpful writing prompts on your site. If you could sum up the essence of a prompt, what would it be?
The essence of a prompt . . . is something–be it a word or words, a phrase, or an exercise—that helps the writer focus their creative mind. It is like a lens that catches the sun’s rays. Through that lens the writer can concentrate his/her abilities to create writing framed by the prompt.
Thank you for sharing so much about yourself. Where may readers find your work?
At Shiteki Na Usagi @ http://tasmith1122.wordpress.com/