1. What am I working on?
Seven months ago, my first full-length collection of poetry The Cardiologist's Daughter was accepted for publication by Two Sylvias Press. The day after I received this most welcomed proposal, I began to do what I couldn't previously, I set my teeth into my mss and began to tear away anything that appeared unnecessary. Even while proofing the final version yesterday, I still found places to finesse. So, I guess right now I'm working on the process of letting my book go, knowing that there will always be one comma I may regret or a poem that no longer defines me, but has a place in the world of this cardio daughter.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My work…hmm…what is my work? I'm a naturopathic medical student, a writer. Mostly, I've moved away from writing reviews and fiction. I tend to lean into poetry. It's what catches me. Much of my work is informed by fiction, identifying as a first-generation American (born to native Dutch and E. Indian parents), being raised within and falling in love with the practice of medicine. This book in particular explores those roots of being mixed, growing up in the South, and embarking on a non-traditional medical path as a single woman in her thirties.
The other mss that's circulating is much more cynical--it's about what looked like love, but mostly wasn't. Because The Cardiologist's Daughter has some of my earlier poems, the format is more narrative, but I really enjoy playing with space, punctuation/or lack thereof, line breaks, and tend to overall favor the lyric.
3. Why do I write what I do?
You mean, why don't I write about unicorns and rainbows? I find the topic of death and rebirth, along with bones, whether model like the skull on my hutch or real like the collection I keep alongside raptor feathers and a solitary bear claw, to be far more compelling. Who wouldn't want to wing open the latches of a faux skull to discover a neat replication of a sella turcica, sans pituitary gland, within?
Mostly, I think I write where I'm from and where I am. Does anyone write to where they're heading?
Right now, my life is filled with medical school, Boards, clinic, and I want to share this incredibly rich world with readers. Even though gross anatomy lab was over a year ago, I can still remember respectfully and vividly the stunning beauty of our dissections--what it was like to hold the first heart in my hand (especially growing up as the cardiologist's daughter!), to unveil the slim ribbon of the plantaris, or to realize that some of us (me included) still haven't evolved to the point where we don't have the muscle (palmaris longus) whose original purpose was to retract claws.
4. How does my writing process work?
If I admitted to having a muse, it would be something like Veruca Salt meets unidentified raptor. My process of beginning isn't consistent or dreamy. When I haven't written for a while, I feel this deep discomfort. If I ignore it, because I don't have the time or energy, it turns into the big blueberry of a Veruca ready to pop. The demands get bigger and I had better make it a priority.
My ideal writing situation would be right as I wake up, no matter what the time, with a French Press next to me, the phones turned off. Not unlikely, there would be a piece of dark chocolate involved.
In reality, I have often spent four hours alone on the first draft of a poem. Even as I write this first draft, I am editing it over and over again until it seems like it's at a place where I can leave it and return to it on another day and not compromise the mood or tension, because it is essentially complete. If I am living near the workshop I've been attending for eleven years, I'll often take it there for extra eyes. Then, I'll sit with the poem for anywhere for an additional few weeks considering these critiques or I may leave the poem alone for months to years. I strongly believe in the process of revision and will do this over and over, often editing until the piece literally sounds right to me. If there is one thing I took away from a brief attempt to play the drum set as a teenager, it's the ear and need for the right cadence.
Next week, on Wednesday, August 27th, Tamiko Nimura, Andrea Dunlop, and Samantha Updegrave will post their responses to the Great Blog Tour on their respective blogs.
Tamiko Nimura is an Asian American (Sansei/Pinay) writer who grew up in Northern California and now lives in the Pacific Northwest. Her recent publications include pieces inNew California Writing 2012, Kartika Review, Remedy Quarterly, Avidly, Edible Seattle, Full Grown People, and Discover Nikkei. She holds degrees in English from UC Berkeley and the University of Washington. She contributes regularly to The Seattle Star and theInternational Examiner. She has read at various venues, including the San Francisco Public Library and the Evergreen State College. She has received awards and honors from the Ford Foundation, the Japanese American Citizens League, the University of Iowa, the Asia Pacific Fund, and SheWrites. Two of her personal essays (“My Log Cabin Sukiyaki Song” and “Snapshots from a Nikkei/Filipina Album”) have been translated into Japanese,Spanish, and Portuguese by the Discover Nikkei project (Japanese American National Museum). One has been reprinted in several countries (Argentina, Brasil, Canada, Perú).
She lives with her family in Tacoma, Washington, where she taught literature and writing. She blogs here at Kikugirl, her “own private MFA.” She is currently working on a memoir and a novel.
Andrea Dunlop is the social media and marketing director for Girl Friday Productions, a full-service editorial firm in Seattle, WA. She began her career at Random House in New York, where she was an in-house publicist for Doubleday. She also writes fiction.
Samantha Claire Updegrave writes creative non-fiction, micro-essays, profiles, book reviews, and poetry. Her work has appeared most recently in Bitch, Crosscut, Literary Mama, Bacopa Literary Review, hipMama, and the Shambhala Sun’s blog SunSpaces. She is an Elizabeth George Foundation Scholar and an MFA student at The Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, where she is also an assistant non-fiction editor at Soundings Review. By day, she is an urban planner. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her partner, young son, and cat.