Today is an important day for our country (Happy Election Day!), but in an attempt to distract everyone's mind during this controversial political season we have a Q&A session with author Elizabeth Garcia! Elizabeth Garcia is a poet native to Thomasville, and she will be returning to host a special author signing in our shop during this not so busy weekend. Elizabeth is currently an involved stay at home mother, and is celebrating the recent 2016 publication of her poetry chapbook Stunt Double (pictured above). Let's get to know her a little better, guys!
1. What led you to writing as a profession, or was it something that you ever thought could be a profession for yourself?
EG: I’m somewhat of a late bloomer in terms of my writing career. I got both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Humanities and Literature and started teaching before ever thinking I would be a writer. To be honest, I didn’t think I had much of a story to tell. Coming from a middle class, fairly sheltered upbringing, I doubted that I had anything to contribute. I remember reading Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, in grad school and thinking, “My life is so boring. What could I possibly have to say that anyone would care about?” But I decided I just loved too much trying to put things into words; there are so many powerful experiences and emotions that are universal, and that we always need new words for to re-experience their power, and I wanted to do that. So I started finding what opportunities I could to attend author workshops, read lots and lots of contemporary poetry, and gradually worked on my craft. To borrow from Joseph Campbell, I’ve been trying to “follow my bliss,” despite the doubts that are always there.
2. What made you choose poetry, or what pulled you towards being a poet as opposed to writing any other type of literature?
EG: The thing I love about poetry is that you don’t need a story or a plot. There’s no minimum or maximum length to a poem. There are genres and subgenres of poetic styles that you can experiment with and find what suits your voice. And you can find your material anywhere. When I was in high school, I participated in a poetry contest with some other students, and got to go to Mercer University and hear some famous writers talk about poetry. And I remember Judith Ortiz Cofer talking about how poetry can come from the smallest moment, the smallest idea--and it was a big paradigm shift for me to see poetry in a new way. I love the density of it, the challenge of encapsulating so much power in so few words, especially in a way that can be appreciated by people who are resistant to cliche and emotional manipulation (like me).
3. How do you find the time to write considering you are a busy mother? Do you find the writing process to be relaxing for you at the end of the day?
EG: Honestly, I don’t write much since having little children. All of the poems in my first book were written before I had children. It takes me about an hour just to write an email when my kids are around. It takes all my energy to love them and keep them alive. And at the end of the day, I just don’t have the mental capacity to do much besides watch Netflix and crochet.
But I decided that if I didn’t want to disappear, I had to change that trend. Just a few months ago, I hired a babysitter to watch them for 4 hrs a week so I could do some writing/ marketing/ research/submitting, and it has helped immensely. I also participate in periodic workshops still, and meet monthly with a peer review group, and occasionally go on writing retreats (thanks to my very supportive husband!).
4. What is your favorite part about the writing process and bring your words to life?
EG: I think the most rewarding part about writing is just that--surprising yourself with what you’ve written. When I first started writing poetry seriously, in my mid-twenties, I remember a particular occasion, just driving through Atlanta after it had rained, and I felt this palpable need to put into words the ephemeral, the ineffable. And I tried--and surprised myself with what came to me. It was wrenching and satisfying at the same time. And ten years later, it’s no different. I’m a much better writer than I was then, but every time I sit down to write, I’m intimidated by the fear of not coming up with anything good, and then often surprised--and sometimes awed--by what comes to me.
The second most rewarding part is rarer--when someone actually tells you that something specific you wrote meant something to them. That’s the validation you really long for.
5. If you had to choose one aspect, what would you say is your favorite part about being an author?
EG: If “being an author” means sitting back and enjoying some kind of notoriety or celebrity status, then I will probably never know what that’s like. If it means working your rear off to market yourself--submitting your work, getting rejected over and over, finally getting accepted, begging your friends to buy your book--well, that’s not so fun.
But the part I always look forward to is meeting other writers who are encouraging and inspiring, and who struggle with the same doubts and fears that I have. I met Li-Young Lee once--someone whose work I had studied and loved for a long time--in a very small, intimate workshop. And I was so taken by his humility and his sincerity. We sat and shared a first draft of a poem we’d written that weekend, and listening to his (which was of course, wonderful), I was struck by the fact that he was navigating that same inner struggle--is this going to be any good? Have I already written the best work I’m ever going to write, and now I have nothing left? I’m constantly amazed by that vulnerability in the other writers I’ve met. It’s encouraging, and helps me remember to avoid comparing my early drafts with the finished pieces in someone’s collection, which are the result of years of hard work. I think that’s a common misconception about poetry--that it just magically comes to you in finished form, and all you have to do is write it down. It takes much more perspiration than that.
6. We look forward to having you visit our small business community in Downtown Thomasville, do you have any parting words for our readers?
EG: Yes. Go Bulldogs! (And I can’t wait to eat at Jonah’s again.)
Remember to come meet Elizabeth Garcia this Saturday during our author signing - check out our Facebook for more event details. Also, if you haven't done so, please vote for us in the 6th annual Indie Awards! The link to vote can be found on previous blog posts here, or on our Facebook as well. We look forward to seeing you this week!