Welcome to the fifteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with poet Lisha Garcia. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello, Lisha. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Lisha: I came to be a writer to make sense of my place in the world. I am from the U.S. Mexico border region of the United States and its rich combination of cultures that influences all who reside within. There is the Native American, Spanish / Mexican and Anglo cultures mixed in with all the complexities of conquest and the unique landscape. Currently, I reside in Arizona within the Arizona Sonora desert that is its own unique eco-system. My father was Anglo and went to Mexico to marry my mother and then left us. So I grew up very much a border creature. Spanish was my first language and I love sahuaros and palo verde trees.
Morgen: I used to speak pretty good Spanish but it’s really rusty (oxidado now. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Lisha: I am a poet, and have written since I was a small child. I have considered writing a novel about my family, who for generations, has gone back and forth between Mexico and the United States. I have ancestors from England, Ireland and Spain and also from the Native peoples of the Mexican State of Jalisco. My contemporaries claim it is a fascinating story and needs to be shared.
Morgen: Do let me know when you have and you can guest blog about it! What have you had published to-date? How much of the marketing do you do?
Lisha: I have a book entitled: Blood Rivers by Blue Light Press of San Francisco and a chapbook called: This Stone Will Speak by Pudding House Press. I have published widely in journals across the United States and have judged a few contests. My second book: A Rope of Luna, is currently out in competition. Once selected for publication, Blue Light Press requests a marketing plan as the Press really has few dollars to assist us. I use mostly social media and readings to get my work known. I am not an academic poet in that I am not part of University circles that have a vested interest in seeing their professors published. I am credentialed however, with a Masters in Fine Arts in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Morgen: I’ve been involved in a couple of writing competitions – they were fun. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Lisha: No, agents don’t usually work with poets in the U.S. unless you are extremely famous.
Morgen: Sad but true. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Lisha: No ebooks.
Morgen: Me neither… so far. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Lisha: Being accepted for publication is a great thrill because usually it comes after many rejections. My first publication was in Crab Orchard Review with a poem entitled “San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio de Bejar, Día de los Muertos.” It is about the Day of the Dead celebration at the Cathedral in San Antonio, Texas.
Morgen: I’ve heard of Día de los Muertos… spooky. How do you deal with all those rejections?
Lisha: I try to be completely indifferent to rejections because otherwise discouragement gets the better of me. I have learned to target publications that complement my aesthetic and are open to women, minorities and different regions of the country. I am considered a poet from the West of the U.S. vs. the New England part of the country where more experimental poetry is currently in favour.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Lisha: I am working on getting readings and the publication of my next book. They say getting the second book published is challenging. I am now about a third of the way through writing my third manuscript.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Lisha: I can’t let a day go by without reading or writing a poem. A poem takes me a long time to write so I need a lot of poetic inspiration. If I can get two drafts of a poem done in one day I am well pleased.
Morgen: Wow. I mentioned this to one of my writing friends, Lucy, and she was so impressed. She says it used to easily take a year to write a poem (she’s a perfectionist and constantly removed/re-adds words) although she is getting faster and has just returned from an Arvon poetry course – something she can’t recommend highly enough – and wrote a really short / tight and moving poem (although I’m no expert) in a couple of hours. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Lisha: I work full time and have a myriad of other chores so if I don’t focus the time every day for writing then I would not move forward. This daily concentration in poetry has so far saved me from writers block. I also participate in constant online critiques with fellow authors of Blue Light Press. This keeps me sharp and on task.
Morgen: This probably isn’t relevant to poetry but do you plot or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Lisha: I have flash fiction or prose poems that don’t require much of a plot but the order is crucial.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Lisha: I do. I am trying to make sense of the politics of Arizona which by most standards, would be considered backward. These poems come out angry and flat. It is cathartic though. I admire Patricia Smith’s book, Blood Dazzler so much on Hurricane Katrina and how the stories she chose became incredible poems. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer. I am working on this so the “truth” I see, can be relayed to a larger audience.
Morgen: Writing fiction for me can be very cathartic and I love that. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Lisha: I guess my favourite part of the life is the creativity of writing and sharing that with an audience. The least desirable is the constant search for publication.
Morgen: I’m hearing that a lot. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Lisha: To never doubt the power of their voices. Writing is power and progress.
Morgen: Absolutely, it’s wonderful. What do you like to read?
Lisha: I read voraciously. I read fiction, historical fiction and escape fantasy. I just completed a book by Helen Hollick, about one of the first English queens entitled, “The Forever Queen: The Lost Kingdom of 1066.” I am currently reading another British novel called “The House at Riverton” by Kate Morgan.
Morgen: I’ve not read Kate’s book but see it coming in the Red Cross shop from time to time. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Lisha: I subscribe to WOMPO (the Women in Poetry listserve) and learn a lot from these women who come from around the globe. I also like “She Writes”, and the “Poets and Writers Magazine” online forums (http://www.pw.org/connect), Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux also wrote a book I refer to often, called “The Poet’s Companion”.
Morgen: Do you find being based in Arizona a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Lisha: I do feel that it is a hindrance when trying to get attention but am finding more resonance with poets outside the U.S. Many publishers just look at your address and automatically toss your submissions. Or so I am told by people in the know. People from New York and Chicago have so far not related well to the southwest landscape.
Morgen: That’s not fair. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Lisha: I am active on LinkedIn and the Writer’s Cafe but I also have my business personality there as well.
Morgen: I’m a member there and on a dozen others, they’re great ). Where can we find out about you and your work Lisha?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Lisha: I also translate contemporary poetry from Spanish to English and vice a versa. I have translated Mexican poet Luis Armenta Malpica’s book called “The Brief South”.
Morgen: Thank you, Lisha and all the best for your future projects.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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