As part of our October writers retreat we are very fortunate to have with us published author and poet Carolyn R Parsons.
|Carolyn R Parsons, poet and author of The Secrets of Rare Moon Tickle and Wind Rhymes|
Carolyn R Parsons is here with us to talk about her writing career, her poetry book Wind Rhymes, and give us some insights from her debut novel The Secrets of Rare Moon Tickle.
Lia Mack: Carolyn, thank you so much for being part of the BB Writers Retreat series. Please start us off by telling a little about yourself:
Carolyn R Parsons: Hello, I'm Carolyn R Parsons. I am the married mother of 4 daughters and I have a grandson who is three. My husband’s name is Kent and to the family and school etc., I am Carolyn Chaffey. I write under my maiden name as I was published prior to my marriage.
I am first and foremost a poet, but I’ve written everything from how-to content for websites to opinion pieces for newspapers to short stories to a novel. I’ve received a few Canadian awards, been included in a couple of prestigious magazines and poetry anthologies. I have an online presence with the Breeze Daze on blogger.
Lia Mack: Wonderful. Now for the ultimate question...
Why do you write?
Carolyn R Parsons: I don’t know. Why do I breathe? I have no memory of when I began either. The odd thing is I’m very visual so it was always possible that I would fall into film or theater or fine art since I “see” what I write about and my descriptive writing is my strength with dialogue being my greater challenge.
But words are my thing and I love the fun of rearranging them into something that wasn’t there before. A turn of phrase, a collection of words set down in a way that is brand new, never done, completely reflective of and from inside me and something nobody else could have done. I create with words and to create is our strongest human drive. It’s what builds cities and it’s what tears them down—humans even create destruction.
Lia Mack: Very true.
About your writing... From when you first started writing to now, how do you feel you've grown as a writer?
Carolyn R Parsons: I’ve gotten better of course. Practice makes—not even close to perfect, but I’m improved. I’ve let go of anything that inhibits the flow of writing and accepted that the first draft will be crap no matter how good it eventually becomes. I’m better at making things better. I’m also better at knowing when it’s finished. I’m not better at using the word better too often though.
I think that's perfect advice: let go of anything that inhibits the flow of writing. And I agree with you about first drafts ;)
Lia Mack: What made you decide to write as a career?
Carolyn R Parsons: It was just plain old opportunity. I had always written and wrote more when I became a stay at home mom ten years ago, but just for me. Then when the youngest daughter entered junior kindergarten, the idea to start a serious writing career came to the surface and eventual fruition. A dam burst and I wrote a 100,000 word novel in approximately six months. I wrote and still write, every day.
Lia Mack: That's the key, isn't it?
Write, every day.
The Secret of Rare Moon Tickle. I've read it and loved your debut novel. Can you tell us a little about it and what were the greatest and toughest parts of telling this story?
Carolyn R Parsons: There is a lot of myself in The Secrets of Rare Moon Tickle and it started out in first person. I think the best thing that happened with this story is I started just telling the truth and it was maybe about 25000 words for the entire story which was a good sized summary. Then I went through and started to write it in third person keeping some of the aspects of the true story/journal part of it but fictionalizing a great deal of it also. There are incidents in there that are 100% true in that they happened but they didn't necessarily happen in the context. It was good that I got to use my own stories sometimes but within the safety of fiction. I've been storified.
90% of the story is my imagination, the characters are based loosely upon some people I've known but that's the extent of that. The toughest part was just working through it after editing it down to something manageable. It was 120,000 words and ended up at 99,000 including removing the main character's entire university career. I jumped over it and that was fine because after writing it it was firmly in place in my own mind so I could delete it and refer to it rather than drag the reader through the boring stuff.
Lia Mack: In regards to your poetry, will there be a second collection coming out soon?
Carolyn R Parsons: As to another poetry book, poetry is my fun thing. I have a collection of love poetry that I would like to see published. I've not even tried to do so however. It's better than the first book was so there is no reason except my own laziness about organizing and submitting to a few places. Here is a sample. This is perhaps my own favourite and yes I write in rhyme. What of it? It's how it comes to me. I'm a balladier I suppose.
My Ordinary Life
My ordinary life is flash and sparkle
dazzling days and glimmering frosted happy eyes
My ordinary life magnetizes and authorizes
all lips to smile and hearts to sympathize
My ordinary life is fashioned from twinkling stars
and woven in the daylight's misty songs
My ordinary life whispers words of love and passion
and sets about to right a million wrongs
My ordinary life sees miracles and grabs them
and shares them with the passers that go by
My ordinary life shines like an angel's halo
and makes the devil want some wings to try to fly
My ordinary life knows wonder and excitement
and laughter likes to wander in and tarry
so that I wonder if indeed it's true
that this life I claim for me is ordinary
I do have a submission in a book coming out next year I think. It's a collection of stories of cats from all over the world called Nine Lives. Nine stories from Tripoli, Montreal, Ontario and of course Newfoundland. The authors are actors and writers and other artists of note from around the globe. Should be fun.
Lia Mack: That was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing some of your poetry with us. And as for the book on cats, you'll have to let us know when it comes out ;)
Going back to your writing career, can you describe a bit how your venture into writing looked like?
Carolyn R Parsons: While I veered off into a business life, managed at a community newspaper, worked for stock brokers, every single thing I’ve ever done has prepared me to be a writer. I’m a better writer because I’ve marketed and promoted and run businesses in the past. I know how to sell my work and I know how to find the people to help me learn my work. My parenting has made me learn to write under the strangest situations, with babes at the breast and dogs at my feet. I’ve had periods where I didn’t write and they let me live the things I wrote of later on.
Lia Mack: Speaking of marketing, what are your thoughts on the necessity of writers building a platform?
Carolyn R Parsons: I started branding very early on. I use my name with the middle initial everywhere, I created a blog, I created a Twitter and I use my personal Facebook. I include people in my writing as I work at things and get them engaged in the story to some degree. I am a social networking fiend and expert and I even have run a Facebook page for a well-known celebrity. I’m still an administrator there. It’s not necessary for writing of course but the benefits are down the road when time for selling comes.
Lia Mack: What does your typical writing day look like?
Carolyn R Parsons: I write a weekly column for our local newspaper and a bi-weekly art feature. I also do lots of human interest stories and have done some impactful news stories. Each day I get up before 8am and send kids off to school, drink lots of coffee and write. At 11:30 I go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On non-gym days I go for a walk for an hour. Then I return home and write some more. Some of it is the book, other times it’s the newspaper stuff. If it’s for the newspaper, part of writing is often interviews and they are done at the convenience of the interviewee and myself. I read and do other things around the kids. I research in the evenings with the kids around. I’ve cut back on the newspaper stuff just to concentrate on the book now.
Lia Mack: Speaking of reading, do you read a lot while you write?
Carolyn R Parsons: Yes, voraciously. In fact when I’m working deeply on a project as I am now, I read more. Currently I’m reading a political biography of two former premiers of the province I live in, the first who brought us to join Canada and the second who decades later toppled him from power, written by a fellow who was there through it all who also happens to be a brilliant writer. I am a political junkie so I love that stuff. I also love Stephen King. I don’t particularly choose genres, just grab what I fancy. I have for a long time read almost exclusively Canadian and Newfoundland work and just the top rated American and world authors.
Lia Mack: For fun, can you share with us what your writing space is like?
Carolyn R Parsons: Yes, I have a beautiful writing space that I created in our new home in a colour I love with an ocean view. And wouldn’t you know that for weeks I’ve been writing on the couch because I don’t have a comfortable chair. I’m chair shopping now! Would you like to see a photo of my space?
Lia Mack: Absolutely! An ocean view... that's pretty close to perfect ;)
Carolyn, if you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself if you could speak to the aspiring writer you once were?
Carolyn R Parsons: Just fucking write.
Don’t think about publishing or being good enough or anything, just perfect your craft. You’re not a publisher, you’re a writer. The publishing has nothing to do with writing. Write write write write.
Then, when you retire from writing, write. And if you finish something and need a break from the writing, start querying then, which of course, is writing.
Also, never take writing advice from other writers who have yet to be published or produce any amount of work. Avoid critique groups like the plague because the need to criticize another person’s creative efforts is a character flaw and those folks are just psychos. To take criticism from somebody who is exactly like you is like sending your kids to school for other kids to teach.
Take classes and workshops on the craft from the experts and use your own brain and heart and soul to make what you write yours. But don’t get so “trained” you lose the art either.
Don’t be so concise you lose expression or so tightly perfect technically you lose your voice. Keep all the rules except for when you have to bend them. And never bend them except for those times you have to break them.
Also, one more thing, Read On Writing by Stephen King. Keep it beside you. Put it under your pillow. Make a shrine to it with candles and crystals and stuff. Ok this wasn’t around for young writer me but let’s pretend I’m 20 still ok? It’s fine to read all sorts of books about writing. But the conclusion you may find you come to is that it’s the only one you really need.
Lia Mack: That is all perfect advice, from Just f'n write to reading On Writing by Stephen King.
Lastly and quickly, could your share with us your six-word-motto?
Carolyn R Parsons: Easy come, easy go, walk on.
It’s all fleeting, stay unattached, keep moving forward because this moment is the only one you have, therefore the only one that matters.
Lia Mack: Carolyn R Parsons, thank you so very much for being a part of the BB Writers Retreat series, and our very first guest speaker.
Where can BB readers go online to find you and your work?
Carolyn R Parsons:
For the newspaper column, art feature and other stories: http://www.lportepilot.ca/
My blog is at BreezeDaze.blogspot.com
I'm also on Facebook as Carolyn R. Parsons. (Please add me and say you’re Lia Mack’s friend in a message.)
You can also find me at: