I have a theory. I’ve been sitting on it for about six years, keeping it to myself as I mulled it over and tested it. I experience it in daily life especially when interacting with my teenager. It goes like this: I ask Joshua to do something, and he responds with “Oh joy, oh rapture” to let me know that he is not going to enjoy what I’ve asked him to do. I already knew that what I requested of him wasn’t meant to produce pleasure, but nevertheless, it needs to be done. A voice in my head whispers, “Kind of like I told you (insert request here) needs to be done.”
Another example is when Joshua asks me for something, and the answer is no. I usually follow up with a tactfully pointed out, “Why would I spend money on (insert desired objection) when you don’t appreciate what I’ve already given you?” And the gentle voice in my heart says, “Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?”
Then there are the times when I give Joshua instructions for completing a task, and he does it wrong because he doesn’t listen and/or doesn’t care about the outcome. It takes him twice as long to finish (insert task here) and often things end up broken. I say, “Why didn’t you do it the way I told you the first time?” and the loving but firm voice speaking to my will sighs, “Exactly, beloved.”
My theory: God gives us teenagers to let us know what it’s like for Him when dealing with us. If I hadn’t heard His voice every single time I corrected Joshua, I would never have come to this conclusion. And because I’m the adult, the parent, the smart one who has lived more than twice as long as my child, I have it all together and nailed it the first time, right? Wrong.
I’ve grumbled, complained, whined, begged, pleaded, made deals, and sulked my way through life just like a teenager. God—being the great parent that He is—never backed down. Discipline and guidance came my way whether I wanted it or not. The lessons flowed from God to me to Josh, and still I didn’t catch on.
Until one day last week when I had a moment of brilliant insight. I had been moping because I received my first rejection notice concerning the novel I’m currently querying. Instead up getting right back up in the saddle and sending out another query, I sat in a chair at the kitchen table and sulked. It was a most unproductive day until my teenager came home. While Joshua may be a sluggard when it comes to picking up the dirty socks on his bedroom floor, he’s a drill sergeant when it comes to my writing.
“How many queries did you send out?” he asked. No “Hello, Mother, how are you? It sure is wonderful to see you.”
“None,” I replied.
“Get over to the laptop and send out a query letter.”
“I don’t want to.”
Without further comment, Joshua pulled out the chair with me in it, used a karate hold on me that put my arm behind my back, and led me to the computer at the other end of the table. Before you become upset thinking that he hurt me, please be assured that we laughed throughout the whole process. No bullying was involved as my son strong-armed me out of the doldrums and into positive energies. It worked.
Here’s the key: I knew better than to resist the karate hold because it was a real one he learned on his way to becoming a red belt. It didn’t hurt at all when Joshua helped me from the chair and gave the instruction to get back to work. If I had pushed or leaned in any direction against the hold, it would have been painful, and that’s when it hit me. God’s instructions only hurt when I resist them.
Finally, I’ve learned my lesson. Will I always apply it to my life perfectly? Probably not, but that doesn’t let me off the hook from trying. Just as I expect Joshua to strive for new levels of maturity in his life so, too, am I expected to stop behaving like a child, grow up, and pass the lesson forward.
Shabbat Shalom to all my friends.
May your weekend be peaceful and productive.
My mother and I recently had a conversation on this very subject. I have found that I am happiest when I’m writing. Sometimes, even the dream of publication can suck the soul out of my love to create stories. I am no less a writer whether I’m published or not. The passion of writing is the flame I choose to keep burning.
Shabbat Shalom to all my friends!
May your weekend be peaceful, productive, and worth writing about.
Whenever I am unable to write on my current work in progress, I find that journaling helps ease my frustration. It’s a great tool to overcome writer’s block and jump start one’s mind back into the process of writing. I’d be lost without my journals.
It’s time to take a deep breath and mentally prepare myself for one of my least favorite challenges in my writing life: querying. I remember the first time I queried my novel. I labored over my letter, presenting it to members of my writing groups and submitting it for a paid critique, as if I was writing the Declaration of Independence. Every word had to be perfect. Nothing less than exceptional would do as I crafted this key to unlock the doors to the world of publishing. But never mind the doors; I must first get past the gatekeepers.
Researching agents is a full-time job unto itself. I found literary agencies that represented my genre, and then I located specific agents within the agency. After choosing an agent, I looked to see which authors they had worked with and which titles they represented, hoping to find a title comparable with my novel. Using tips I’d picked up from webinars, I hunted for any connection between myself and the agent. (Did we have similar hobbies and interests, did we grow up in the same state, do they have pets?) All this was before I even sent the letter. Crazy, isn’t it?
Just today my husband wished for me the kind of writing life where I didn’t have to worry about publishing. And what is the concern, really? Can I not create art for the sake of art? Trying to have my work published was my idea. No one forced me to do it. But then I struggle with the question of why write if I’m not going to try to publish, and I start thinking maybe I should find a job. I hate the way money always pops up in my thoughts.
The truth is, I have a supportive husband who isn’t insisting that I find work or publish to bring in a paycheck. When combined with the abundant amount of free time I have, you may wonder what my complaint actually is. Sometimes, I do, too.
There are days I wish I’d never sought publication because I remember how it felt to write freely without that pressure hanging over my head. Don’t think for one minute, though, that I don’t want to be published. Because I do. I’ve invested in my blog and I maintain social media toward the endeavor of publication. My problem is that my two desires are at war in my mind and my heart.
There are also days when I wonder if I’m creating this drama for myself, and I laugh thinking at least I’ll get a good blog post out of it. Because really, it’s better to let this stuff out than it is to hold it in. So again, deep breath.
I am aware of the emotional toll querying can take on a writer, but I’m not ready to abandon my dream. I’ll balance it by realizing how good I have it in that while I’m waiting for replies, I can write freely to my heart’s content. I’ll fill notebook after notebook with words the world will never see. Writing just for me. And once again I’ll…
I met Carrie Tangenberg several years ago in a writing group for poets and authors. Right from the start I could tell she was an intelligent, well-read, and well-spoken woman. The best part was that Carrie never came across as haughty or unapproachable. On the contrary, her elegance and calm reserve combined with her intellect positioned her to make the most constructive critiques. I have also witnessed this in the classical literature book club to which we both belong.
When I realized I needed a poet for The Artist’s Corner, Carrie immediately sprang to mind. I only wish you could hear her answers in her own sophisticated voice. I know you’ll enjoy reading them as they are deeply informative, openly transparent, and incredibly encouraging for anyone who has ever had a passion for art.
Tell me a little about yourself.
Creative writing has been part of my life since early childhood. In kindergarten, I wrote a story about a stick of personified butter in its trials and travails. I think that was my first story. Then, it was poetry in elementary school, which has persisted to present day.
After college, I applied my writing talent in office settings of the publishing and higher education fields. Later, I switched focus to teaching English and writing, along with other humanities subjects. Now, I blog about non-fiction, poetry, and novel writing, as well as nature, travel, and film and TV storytelling. I also tutor writing and career help online.
Other ways I stay connected to the writing world include participating in a classic literature book club, a local writing group, and our region’s National Novel Writing Month program. I took a course in memoir writing earlier this year, and I won a local poetry contest in spring 2016.
I also garden, bird-watch, practice photography, and hike in the area’s metro parks. In reading, I favor Outlander, literary fiction, adventure, contemporary realistic fiction, and sci-fi, poetry, and non-fiction works of memoir, writing about writing, and satire. My film preferences are eclectic, but many of my favorites happen to be space/alien sci-fi adventure such as Star Wars.
See the “About me” page of my blog for more philosophical and literary hints to my personality.
What prompted you to begin writing poetry?
I’ve always had a strong sense of rhythm and musicality, so after dancing jazz in first grade and lip-syncing to tunes in the living room, I started writing rhyming poems about birds in fifth grade. Most of my life’s poetry is about nature or wildlife, from the first to the most recent attempts. I also love language and playing with the sounds words make.
Who or what is your inspiration for writing poetry?
Number one, as I said, is wildlife or wilderness, often birds, trees and flowers, landscapes, waterways, and even insects, soil, and rocks, or as broad as the cosmos. I’m fascinated by predator-prey dynamics, the beauty and indifference of nature, and I love all sorts of animals. Favorites include wolves, foxes, African wild dogs, otters, all sorts of birds, chameleons, and meerkats. In an alternate life where I’m better at math and science, if I couldn’t be an ornithologist, I’d be a wildlife or canid biologist.
Other inspirations are existential or spiritual contemplation often intersecting with language and meaning—in other words, the nature of life, death, perception, reality, motivation, and how we express and understand those. Occasionally, I’m inspired by current events such as the death of Leonard Nimoy, for which I wrote my first elegy.
How does a poem begin for you, with an idea, a form, or an image?
It varies. Sometimes I’m attempting to capture an image with description. Other times, I like a phrase or concept and want to see what I can make of it. Mainly, spare impressions guide me forward, and the end result can often remain rather impressionistic. I long ago developed the habit of gravitating toward nature imagery for my similes and metaphors.
I suppose I enjoy the challenge of urging fresh ways of looking at nature, since it’s been done so much by so many poets and songwriters for so long. Nature poetry is typically the first kind that non-poetic types think of or attempt to write, usually a piece of verse about autumn leaves, celestial bodies, or weather. I often aim to upend those expectations or write the usual in an unusual way. So, the prominent starting points are ideas and language, but I might set out to fill a form such as a sonnet, blank verse, or even a limerick—for added, puzzle-solving challenge.
What conditions help you with your writing process? Where do you write? When do you write?
Optimal conditions are the ongoing puzzle I have yet to solve. If only I could figure this out, I’d be in so much greater shape artistically, if not also in terms of publishing. I write mostly at home, but I also find inspiration in local parks, other green spaces, and the occasional cafe. Sometimes I’ll start on the computer, but I keep in touch with the fact that handwriting can boost my creative flow. I write in cursive as often as in print letters, and that lends its own enjoyment of beauty to the exercise. I can write at all hours, whenever the mood or idea strikes, but I’m most productive late at night. I’m not sure when I write best, though.
What is your creative process? Do you have any routines?
Typically, I’ll draft a poem long-hand, then either mark it up or type it up for revision. Next, I’ll try to apply my revision ideas. Often it helps at this point to set the poem aside and come back after a few days or even weeks to see if I still like it enough overall to polish it in its current basic structure. If not, I’ll file it unchanged. If so, I’ll put my best foot forward in finalizing the poem.
I once chronicled my verse writing process on my blog in a series of 4 posts. I learned a lot by doing that, but I don’t know if it helped me set any particular approach in stone or make significant changes to my routine. The posts are cross-linked, and the first one is “On Process: Verse Writing, Introduction and Part I: Motivation.“
What books (of poetry or the creative process) or poets have influenced your writing?
Emily Dickinson was my initial influence for imagery, rhythm, and the combined sounds of words. She wrote a lot about death and loss, as well as nature, in her reclusive solitude. As a child, I had few close friends, so I could relate to some of that desolation and loneliness. Those feelings linger with me, but they’ve also evolved as I’ve adjusted how I write about nature. I have become accustomed to melancholy and used it to my artistic advantage.
Other works I find myself imitating are the nature poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Amy Clampitt, Elizabeth Bishop, Seamus Heaney, W.B. Yeats, and Judith Wright. I also love poets Philip Larkin and Billy Collins. Derek Walcott’s epic poem Omeros, which I read in college, is simply stunning. Beauty drips from this post-colonial Caribbean take on Homer’s The Odyssey.
How often do you create a new poem? What style or form do you choose for your poems?
I write half a dozen or so poems a year, sometimes working on them for long periods and coming back after a break to revise further. The rest are brief impressions jotted and then affectionately released from my attention into the archives. Most often I write in free verse using internal or near rhyme.
Are there any forms you haven’t tried but would like to?
Let’s see. I’ve written one poem in blank verse, a few sonnets, a syllabic, an elegy, a sestina, a villanelle, couplets, limericks, a handful of concrete poems, free verse, songs with refrains, and I tend to play with line and stanza breaks. If I thought more about it, I would probably find lots of forms I’d like to try. I have a poster with a reference chart of poetic forms on it at home. Some of them are very difficult, though, and it takes real dedication, regular practice, or teaching poetry to be primed for those challenges. I tend to dabble and seldom tutor poetry writing, though I have enjoyed a few sessions.
How much of yourself do you write into your poetry?
That’s a good existential question if I ever saw one. For me, the way I’ve written myself into poetry has progressed in different stages, but sometimes I return to earlier ones. I used to write a lot of confessional poetry about feelings, anxieties, depression, situational impressions, my experiences during study in France, and some poems about playing soccer or about ideas in stories I’ve read.
Nowadays, I still write occasional complaints in poetic form, but I don’t consider those serious or publishable samples. I have a strong aversion to writing, or reading, political poetry. I prefer the essay form for that purpose. I find a lot of slam poetry and poetry focused on political viewpoints to be too whiny, with off-putting ideas or, most frequently, simply incomplete and unpolished. People tend to take liberties with form, clarity, and content when motivated by outrage or ennui.
I’m always somewhere in my own poems—as the speaker and observer, as a character made of shades of myself and my way of thinking and speaking, and sometimes as the subject. I think every writer is to some degree.
Do you find yourself returning to a particular theme in your poetry?
The most prominent themes include natural elements as expressions of mood, marveling at some specimen of the animal kingdom, struggles for personal freedom and comfort in my own skin, or a combination of these. I’ve also focused a lot on nature poetry in my blog, along with book and arts reviews, emphasizing Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book and the STARZ TV series. I recently added travel writing about our wonderful trip to Scotland inspired by Outlander. My blog title is a throwback to my philosophy roots, a nod to part of a nickname for me, and a portmanteau meant to capture that blend of writing topics: “Philosofishal.”
Word choice in poetry seems so important. Do you write with a dictionary or thesaurus next to you or make words choices in the editing process?
I periodically refer to dictionary.com or thesaurus.com and research using the Internet. Word choice is extremely important—one of the most important aspects of poetry in particular and, I believe, any good writing. Precise meaning, the right sounds, the right shapes and lengths for optimal rhythm, and careful phrasing, punctuation, and line breaks all have to work in concert for the best effects.
Punctuation choice is highly under-appreciated as a conveyor of nuanced meaning in writing. In poetry, if it is to be used, which is not required, punctuation must be precisely and consistently applied. That was one of the most memorable lessons my verse writing professor had for me in college: “You really must study punctuation.” As an English teacher and poet, I pay close attention to grammar and mechanics standards. When you know the rules, you can more effectively bend, break or uphold them to fit a poem’s purpose and style.
What is your revision process like?
In a poetry reading event at the Akron-Summit County Public Library last year, former U. S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, of whom I have been a long-time fan, said his writing process is nearly effortless. This comes with experience, of course, but he also makes a point of intentionally abandoning the task early if it gets too unwieldy, cumbersome, or sticky. I haven’t learned that trick, or earned that freedom, yet.
As I mentioned earlier, if I think I have a good enough start, I’ll draft and revise until it’s finished or until it’s changed too much to salvage. This speaks to the importance of saving versions. It can be unavoidable to struggle, though, and to be disheartened by ruinous results. Revision is the fine art of learning when good enough is good enough, which is very subjective, especially for new or amateur poets or poets without good editors. Perhaps I also feel a sense of urgency to put out a product, abandoning my drafts only after a hefty, strenuous effort, long past the wisest point of letting go.
Writers need to learn to become comfortable with what we call sh**ty first drafts, to expect snags and detours, and to know when it’s time to switch focus to a new or different project. Several factors may need to come together to make a piece work well, so that means a lot can go wrong, too. First, you have to know what the different aspects of a poem are. Then, after carefully assessing each factor and addressing each as needed, you can get a more realistic sense of a poem’s or a painting’s potential.
It’s always going to be something of a process, but we’re better off if we can recognize when we’re courting futility. The key at that moment is not to view this as a failure, which can be quite hard for artists, me included. Instead, finishing may be a simple matter of using a different form for the content, pinpointing that missing language or concept, or waiting a while for it all to coalesce, but that doesn’t necessarily make finishing any quicker or easier.
Is poetry your only type of writing? If not, what other types of writing do you indulge in? What is the relationship between your poetry and other writing?
I write a lot of different things, but not as many as I should or could if I were publishing my verse regularly. I write essays and articles on my blog about creativity, book reviews, TV shows, travel, and nature. I write novels during NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo. I write political manifestos I never publish, just to get things off my chest. I recently began trying my hand at memoir and may do more of that in the future. My main focus right now, though, is the non-fiction on my blog.
Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?
My standards for what makes a good poem have definitely risen with education, my own reading, and writing experience. I’ve also found poetry in the prose of certain novels and learned to appreciate different poetic forms and outlets as I’ve aged, realizing how rare poetry really is.
Do poets experience (mental/writing) block (or fear) the way a writer of novels or short stories does? If you have, how did you handle it?
Writing is writing. Working with words or any creative material, in whatever form, brings with it challenges and rewards, as with any job. Furthermore, good writing and holding oneself to a standard of good writing means that, chances are, there will be anxiety. Pressure is useful up to a point. It’s when my own internal pressure to perform and produce becomes too much that I have the most trouble writing.
For me, it’s a periodically recurring problem. I feel as if I’m always searching for ways forward, but that’s also my nature: I’m a seeker. I’m very interested in the “how” of life and writing, so I experiment a lot, resist routine, and tend to suffer the inevitable consequences: interesting process, fewer outcomes, more worry. It’s mentally and emotionally taxing, but it can be creatively fruitful, too, because I’m already slightly outside the box in my thinking sometimes.
What do you hope to achieve with your poems? Do you ask questions in your poetry? If so, are they open ended questions or do you resolve them?
I have several different aims that can either cooperate or compete with each other in a poem for both my audience and myself. Beauty is one. Insight is another. Cleverness and novelty, yet others. Sometimes I write my journaling in verse, but I may not realize it’s just artistic journaling until later. In those cases especially, one of my aims is to convey a certain message or answer a particular question.
With nature poetry, as I mentioned earlier, a typical aim is to upset expectations, to open minds and hearts to new ways of seeing things. Along with these purposes, I’m mindful of craft and improving it. I might focus on developing a keener feel for line breaks or achieving tighter phrasing or using a different literary device than I might typically rely on.
As for solving or leaving unsolved, it depends. I think I often try my best to answer a question my poem poses, but more often than not, it’s only partially resolved or the question has changed or has been revealed to be missing the point by the end.
~~Part 2 of Carrie Tangenberg’s interview continues tomorrow at The Artist’s Corner
Recently, at my writer’s group, a fellow writer who is beginning her chosen art form told me that she was advised to not write above an eighth-grade level. I remember several seconds of stunned silence between us before I asked, “Who told you that?” Based on her troubled countenance, I don’t doubt that the horror of this suggestion came through in my tone. I’ve also been told that my facial expressions convey exactly what I’m thinking, so I hope I didn’t overwhelm the poor woman with my response. I wanted her to run screaming, just not from me. If I didn’t scare her off, I’ll make sure I soften my reactions when discussing such matters in the future.
Still, I am shocked that this type of bad advice is floating around writer’s groups. The last time I checked, there were still twelve grades a student in America needed to complete. Somebody please tell me if the progression of education stopped at grade eight. That would mean my child, currently a senior, has read nothing beyond an eighth-grade level for the past four years. That’s insane. Then again, I recall the small heart attack I experienced when I saw Stephenie Meyer’s The Host on the high school reading list. Which piece of classic literature found itself guillotined at the inclusion of that piece of tripe?
I have suspected for a long time that the art form of writing was under attack. My fellow writer’s comment confirmed this. So when did the dumbing down of American literature begin? I don’t know if I can actually pinpoint the precise moment it occurred, but I can tell you the moment I became aware of it. (And shame on me for not being more vigilant if it took place sooner.)
Dumbing down is the deliberate oversimplification of intellectual content within education, literature, cinema, news, video games, and culture in order to relate to those unable to assimilate more sophisticated information.
I remember the day I saw a t-shirt printed with the statement “underachiever and proud of it.” I had another moment, not quite as intense as that with my fellow writer, but one in which I was completely baffled. I could not fathom a person or society comprised of people who willingly settled for mediocrity in anything and a world in which one did the bare minimum to get by. There is no hope of success when one functions under such a principle.
And yet, this is exactly where we, as a society, have fallen twenty-five years later. It’s as if those who bullied the smart kids for hanging out at the library weren’t content to just harass their fellow students. They wouldn’t stop until the smart kids not only condoned but encouraged this stagnation of the intellect. If you don’t get on board—don’t hold yourself back from seeking knowledge or temper your drive and ambitions—you’ll be labeled a snob in the least and intolerant at the worst.
So again I ask: why this attack on art? Because art is dangerous. Art tells the truth. Artists are freethinkers who challenge the status quo. It was a novelist and playwright who said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” A gold star to anyone who can tell me who said this. Here’s where the problem of proud underachiever comes in. The generation in which this concept became acceptable doesn’t care enough to find out who said the above-mentioned quote or what the quote even means. They are too lazy to want this information for themselves and are disdainful toward anyone who does. If it isn’t required of them in school, and based on the poor quality of curriculum in American schools I doubt that it is, they won’t reach out and grasp the knowledge.
That’s pathetic when you consider that we live in an era where knowledge is readily accessible. No more searching through the card catalog or plowing through large volumes of encyclopedias. You don’t even have to go to the library. Just ask Alexa, Cortana, or Google what you need to know from the comfort of your couch. Be sure to wait until the commercial or you’ll miss the best part of your favorite recorded TV show.
What troubles me about his indolent attitude is that it’s creeping backward and contaminating older generations. Hopefully it won’t pollute the writing of those already established and feeling pressured to churn out more or older writers just beginning to pursue their passion. As for me, I am personally committed to fighting this process of dumbing down by writing the best literature I can and by seeking to improve myself in every way. I am not afraid to compete, to go for the gold. After all, why run the race if I don’t intend to win?
I’ll most likely be among the first to die if America ever succumbs to an oppressive regime because we all know how much tyrants fear artists. But If I can leave behind a written work that the next generation, possibly the survivors, smuggle from home to home and hold up as an example of what they should strive for, then my art—my writing—will not have been in vain.
When I seriously started to hone my chosen craft of writing, one of the first things I noticed was how closely related the approach is too many other forms of art. Whether it’s cooking, painting, composing, dancing, or taking pictures, we all start with desire and ability. Where it goes from there depends on our level of commitment, how we respond to mistakes, rejection, and criticism, and how we allow ourselves to grow. The great artists press on and realize that their success isn’t measured by fame or fortune.
In A Snapshot of Writing, I detailed one of my favorite crossover art forms, photography. After re-reading the post, the idea came to me to feature other artists and discuss their approach to their chosen art form. I decided to start with brilliant, budding photographer Michelle Smith.
Welcome to The Artist’s Corner. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m a survivor. My strength is my compassion. I’m a pet person with a rescue cat addiction. I’m destined to be the crazy cat lady, but my husband and son won’t let me.
Do you put yourself into your photography?
I do. I’ve had some rough spots in my life, so I’m trying to tell a story through what I’m taking pictures of. They reflect who I am and how I’m trying to find myself. I want to be seen, and although it’s who I am now, it’s not where I want to stay, it’s not who I want to be.
What has your experience been?
I was a stay-at-home mom for ten years before I started my career at thirty-four as an EMT and then progressed to paramedic. I worked for a private ambulance company for eight and a half years, three and a half years of that was in training and education. I currently work in the ER Department of a hospital as an active paramedic. I love it!
Did your work experience lead to the pursuit of photography?
No, actually it didn’t. My husband’s job did. He’s a detective who trained in taking crime scene photos. His experience piqued my interest in photography.
How did you develop your passion for photography?
I started going with him to take picture outside of the crime scenes. He shot landscapes, objects, places, and eventually senior class pictures. I found myself telling him what to take pictures of, and I started taking the camera from him. He’d just chuckle at me. Then he started explaining what I was looking for and how to work the settings, but I didn’t pay attention at first because it wasn’t my camera. I let him move the settings, and I took the picture.
That lasted for about six months until he gave me a camera for Christmas. We were going on vacation, and he knew I’d want my camera for the trip, so I got it in November. It was either give me my own camera or lose his!
What’s your inspiration?
Spending time with my husband because it’s something we have in common. Listening to him patiently tell me how to use my camera. Taking long car rides to where we’re going to go take pictures and chatting about it on the way.
What do you enjoy photographing?
I enjoy taking pictures of abandoned places because I feel sad for them. I think of all the things that took place there. I don’t have memories of these places so I think what happened here? I wonder about the families that were displaced, the moms who raised their kids there, and the people who lost their jobs. Where are these people now? Time has forgotten these places and no one wants to hear the stories, so I take pictures of the abandoned places and tell their story through my photography.
Where can someone find you online? Do you have a website?
I have some of my pictures posted on ViewBug under the name Just4FunPhotography. You can find them on the home page newest to oldest.
In which contests have you competed? What awards have you won?
On ViewBug, I participated in peer-created challenges and received the People’s Choice award in the categories of Lanterns, Save the Rain Forest, and Toy Planes. I also received the ViewBug Member Selection Award and Staff Winter Selection for 2015. I took first place in Nature and also in Architecture at the Portage County Randolph Fair. At the Lake Community Branch of the Stark County District Library’s Annual Photo Contest, I took first place in Nature and second place in Architecture.
Do you take photos for people? How does a client contact you?
I haven’t yet for major events such as weddings, graduations, but I’m willing to learn. I think I’m afraid to because you can’t have that moment back like you can with a landscape or object.
What is your process for photographing people?
Well, actually, my focus is on landscapes or objects. I’m not a big fan of people pictures, so all the movement in my photographs is natural: waterfalls, wind through the trees. Right now, I don’t incorporate people.
How is what you shoot for yourself different from what you do for people?
When I shoot for myself, I look at the picture with a more critical eye because I am the photographer. I’m harder on myself than when I’m shooting for others. That’s not to say that I don’t put all my effort into shooting for other people. I take their requests very seriously.
It’s a great satisfaction for me to be able to take a photo for someone and capture it exactly as they wanted. Recently, I took pictures of pigs at a fair for a friend who grew up raising pigs for 4-H. I wasn’t sure I got exactly what she wanted because I couldn’t get past the fences to take the pictures. She loved them because that’s what she remembered: looking at pigs up close through the fence. It was a successful shoot because I made her happy.
Has your work ever been used for commercial purposes?
No, but I’d definitely consider it. For National Geographic; I want that shot! It’s the dream. I’d also like to see my picture of a baseball player on a card or the electronic billboard at the game. Or maybe a hockey player because of their facial expressions. If you have patience, and capture the right moment, they have some intense expressions. But then I’d have to photograph people!
What’s your favorite photograph that you’ve taken?
I have to choose one? I have two! I captured it on my first day out with my own camera. Picture this: With butterflies all around, capturing just one was difficult. I turned to notice the curls of a flower vine hanging just above my head. As I admired its beauty, this butterfly fluttered right down onto the dangling vine. I was filled with excitement and literally shook! I slowly raised my camera into position, took a deep breath, and then snapped the picture. Then I recalled my lessons; even though I took the picture, the settings may not have been correct for this situation. I reined in my excitement and slowly changed the settings to capture the picture as you see it. I smiled, thinking to myself, Wow that’s going to be amazing. This photograph has no post-process editing. I named it Curly Q.
My second favorite is of the 1792 distillery rickhouse in Kentucky. It’s called Master Distiller Approved. I applied the rule of thirds and vanishing points to the picture, but when I snapped it, it came out with too much backlight from the windows. I closed the aperture, and it was perfect. Plus the smell of bourbon in there was heavenly!
What’s your dream photograph?
Are you really ready? People are going to think I’m freakin’ crazy. I want to capture what was left behind after Chernobyl. After viewing other photographers’ work, I became inspired and decided that’s one of my dream shots. It’s part of the abandoned place thing. So many lives were lost, these people had no time to pack, they were evacuated in forty-eight hours, and told they were leaving for just a short time.
The other, I’m claustrophobic so it’s never going to happen, is to photograph the abandoned hulls of underwater shipwrecks. I’d like to do war ships, but you can’t get close. Talk about stories to tell!
What’s your biggest beef with photography?
Photoshopping! Lightroom, a program that fixes the picture and makes it more than it was to begin with. It’s not real, and photographers are getting awards for this type of work. The pictures are over processed, over edited. There’s a minimum of allowable tinkering. All I’ll do is sharpen, define, and noise reduction which fixes shaking. If the picture is already good, it’s not even noticeable. There is some post-processing no matter who you are (National Geographic, Victoria’s Secret, or Sports Illustrated), but you can’t make a bad photo good. Well, you can, but that’s cheating.
My other complaint is photographers who steal other people’s work.
Would you like to work full-time as a photographer? If so, how do you see your business growing?
Absolutely! To enjoy your hobby as a career could be more relaxing than the grind of an everyday job that is so-so. Not that my job is so-so. Remember, I love being a paramedic. Breaking in to the world of photography to make your name takes time and commitment. There’s the investment in equipment unless you get hired in somewhere that supplies equipment. So, I’d work for someone commercially to get started.
Then there’s the investment in your craft. I’m still learning and growing my confidence. I need to work at handling variables such as people (they’re so unpredictable!) and not putting a picture in my head and trying to make it happen.
Do you work alone or with a partner?
I prefer going with someone else. I enjoy going with other people whether they’re photographers or not because when they see something they want a picture of, I can give it to them. I don’t have to guess at what they’ll like. It’s quite confidence building to deliver a picture right then and have them be pleased. Plus I like to chat with people!
I love finding valuable resources for writing, but even more than finding them, I love sharing them. One of my goals for my blog is to provide another place where fellow writers can find gems such as the two I’m featuring today.
In addition to writing novels, I churn out a short story from time to time. Now that I have a few stacked up like firewood, I thought I might as well submit them. Ah, but how to format a short story when I’ve been focusing on how to format entire manuscripts? Turns out it’s not all that different, and it’s actually quite easy.
The first link I’m providing is How to Format a Short Story Manuscript for Submission: a Checklist by Joe Bunting. Who doesn’t love a good checklist, right? In addition to this is a wonderful visual resource called Proper Manuscript Format: Short Story Format by William Shunn. Mr. Shunn is brilliant when he not only tells us how to format our short fiction, but he shows us what it should look like as well.
I hope you find these helpful, and that you’ll pass on the useful information.