Meet Writer C. J. Prince

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C.J. Prince, Author and Poet

The first thing I thought when I met C. J. about two years ago was “Who are you and how do I get to know you more?”  Love at first sight you might say.  Her colorful personality, bubbling energy and big smile are completely addicting.

This August she released her new poetry book “Mother, May I”.   Reviews are already out:

“A brilliant, intricately woven rendition of stigmas, family rules, love and pain that stains the soul.”  ~Una Bruhns, Poet, Creative Writer, Vancouver, BC, Canada

“…In this autobiographical collection abounding in images from BB guns to drowned kittens, the shadow cast by her mother, “born too early for the age of Aquarius,” inhabits the pages either as a bodily presence, a memory, or as a ghost who is “not here” but “everywhere…” ~Paul Fisher, Bellingham, Washington, author of Rumors of Shore


 

Congratulations on the release of your new poetry book “Mother, May I”.  What’s it about?

“Mother, May I?” is a selection of poems that primarily reveal the relationship between myself and my mother.  I had no intention of writing it but discovered after a number of years that there were many mother poems, enough for a poetry book.  Some of the poems are not obvious, written in second or third person.

 C. J., you seem to overflow with inspiration.  I’m curious, what does your writing process look like?

My writing is a glass of water on a hot day.  I gulp down words.  The Muse comes with pitchers full and without regard for my lifestyle.  Her words flood my mind while I’m teaching Tai Chi and I turn aside and write for never will she allow them again unless she is honored.  She wakes me in the middle of the night.  She especially likes to ride along the lake.  I keep a notebook open to a blank page so I can scribble a few lines at a stop light.

 You write about domestic, psychological subjects, deep stuff.  Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

“Mother, May I?” deals with factual situations as perceived by a child and remembered as an adult.  I think anyone who had a difficult relationship with her mother will identify on some level.  The specifics may not be the same but the concepts exist.  There is only one answer, self-forgiveness and self-love.  Then forgiving and loving others is easy.

When people ask what I write about, I laugh and say “Sex and death.”  Pretty much that and everything in between.

My next novel, working title “Stepping Up”, deals with women’s issues of abuse and how one woman finds the courage to heal herself and recover.

Oh—what would I never write about?  Never say never.  I like reading mysteries and thought about writing one.  Then I asked myself if I really wanted to spend all that time on something gruesome.  No.  What I’d probably never write about is necrophilia.

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Mother, May I? -that’s C.J. on the cover!

Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?

I’ve always said my favorite author is the one I’m reading.  Having reviewed books on goodreads.com for years, I discover that I’m a tad pickier now than that. Plus I’ve been in several excellent book groups in Bellingham and that adds to my ability to discern.

Currently I am in a head space to avoid literary and deep works.  So I read mysteries lite. I’m on the 26th Hamish Macbeth book by M. C. Beaton.  Knowing I’m coming to the end of the series, I started reading the alphabet mysteries by Sue Grafton, set in Santa Teresa, modeled on my home town of Santa Barbara.  Plus I read poetry every night before I go to sleep.  Have been captured by Billy Collins lately.

 What is your background in the arts?

My grandmother was an artist.  She taught me to draw when I was a child sitting at her pink Formica kitchen table waiting for chocolate chip cookies to come out of the oven.  I didn’t have an art class until 7th grade.  I was too insecure in high school and college to take art.  Then I took life drawing and oil and acrylic studies at various colleges and universities as I moved around.  I now paint in oil, work with photography, which I did study in college, and mixed media.  I have five spinning wheels, four looms and endless knitting needles.  There is no limit.  I’m learning how to needle felt.  Have a great design in my mind.  Now to make it into a reality.

 What are you up to when you’re not writing?

I teach Yang Style Tai Chi, 24, 48, 37 and 108 forms plus Qigong in Sudden Valley.  I also teach seated Tai Chi to memory care residents at Highgate Senior Living in Bellingham.  I’m learning more and more vegan recipes and love to cook.  I walk my two Papillons.  I garden.  I am a compulsive knitter.  Last winter I was on a hat binge, creating the perfect hat for my son.  It took perhaps a dozen before we found the comfortable combination for him.  It was great fun.  Mostly I knit socks in my default mode.  My grandmother taught me to knit when I was four.  I’ve had four needles in my hands ever since.

I facilitate two practice writing groups and attend one writing critique group.  Some say writing is a solitary practice.  That first flush of words, direct from the lips of the Muse, are mostly received in private.  After that it takes a village to create a book.

I usually read at Village Books open mic on the last Monday of the month and at Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theatre on the second Wednesday of the month.  I am pleased with the new venue in Sudden Valley called Creekside Open Mic on the third Wednesdays of the month.  I’m looking forward to World Peace Poets on September 19, 2014.

pastel portrait by sue hill
Pastel portrait by Sue Hill

What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

If you want to write, write.  Too many people think the first words on paper have to be publishable.  Think of it as a Buddhist practice.  Write 10,000 times, publish once.

Bellingham is a mecca for creative people.  There are many writing groups.  Go for it.  Everyone has a unique vision of the world, a personal perception that no one else can duplicate.  Just do it.  Write now.  Check out my Facebook page “Writing Prompts.”

Keep a journal.  Write a poem a day for National Poetry Month in April.  Write a post card a day with Postcard Poetry Fest in August.  Write.

 What are you working on now? What is your next project?

I mentioned the novel.  I have three more hiding away that need high revision but “Stepping Up” will be the next one.  But my immediate focus is to gather up stacks of poems and find some way to assemble them into my next book.  My current natural format seems to be poetry.  If I write a cool sentence, I pull it apart and let it tumble into a poem.  Next month I will publish “Canvas Angels,” a novel under its own cover.  It is currently available in “Catching My Breath,” three novels, three authors, three women, one town.

There is something about the precision, the minute detail that calls up the pollen of a flower or the breath of midnight, only a poem captures essence.


 

Purchase “Mother, May I?” on Amazon here.

To learn more about C. J. and get in contact with her please visit her sites:

https://www.facebook.com/poetc.j.prince

C.J. Prince’s Blog on WordPress

Event: 2014 West Coast Tagore Festival

You’re invited to the

West Coast Tagore Festival

September 5th and 6th 2014

Richmond, British Columbia

tagore 2014
September 5th and 6th

 

Carla Shafer, friend and host to Bellingham’s Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater, and I have been invited to read poems at this event.

Last year I was moved by the presentation of Rabindranath Tagore’s life, (b. 7 May 1861 – d. 7 August 1941).   The festival is a colorful gathering of true Tagore followers.  A real treasure for the NW.

“…sobriquet Gurudev,δ[›]was a Bengali polymath who reshaped Bengali literature and music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Author of Gitanjali and its “profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse”,[3] he became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.[4] In translation his poetry was viewed as spiritual and mercurial; however, his “elegant prose and magical poetry” remain largely unknown outside Bengal.”


THE GIFT
A poem by Rabindranath Tagore

I want to give you something, my child, for we are drifting in the
stream of the world.
Our lives will be carried apart, and our love forgotten.
But I am not so foolish as to hope that I could buy your heart
with my gifts.
Young is your life, your path long, and you drink the love we
bring you at one draught and turn and run away from us.
You have your play and your playmates. What harm is there if
you have no time or thought for us!
We, indeed, have leisure enough in old age to count the days
that are past, to cherish in our hearts what our hands have lost
for ever.
The river runs swift with a song, breaking through all
barriers. But the mountain stays and remembers, and follows her
with his love.

 

***

*source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabindranath_Tagore

Poem: Fort Builder

I am a fort builder of cushions and sheets
I stole the plywood from the garage and nailed it to the tree

I am the girl who spattered lavender paint on her new jeans for school
I am that one

I am that girl who made extra money picking berries,
babysitting, and watching cats

I was that girl who carried her gaming marbles
in a purple velvet Crown Royal bag at recess

I am the fourth grade girl who, it was rumored, picked up
Rodney Grange over her head and threw him down the hill

I am the girl who endured long Sunday drives
second hand smoking with you and Paul Harvey

I am the girl who walked with you around the muddy edge of Doyle Pond
It’s soft cat-tailed ground rewarded us with leaches

I am the girl who watched you deal pills of all colors
in between our classes from your locker next to mine

I am that girl who had no cliques to sit with at 8th grade lunch
I sat at crowded tables in 9th
I found stairs outside to eat on in 10th
I drove off campus in 11th
I no longer cared in 12th

I was that girl who wore her gray leather boots everyday

I am that girl you shared stolen apricot brandy with
at an Auburn dance club parking lot one night

I was that girl you had between the ones you wanted
That neighbor girl you thought you had to trick to touch

I am the girl who builds forts

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Book: Odd Little Things

So happy to announce that my book is out, and ready for purchase!

“Odd Little Things”
Released June 2014

Purchase your copy here:

Description

The 2013 Mayor’s Arts Award recipient, poet, author and community radio personality, Shannon P. Laws, celebrates glory in the little things, the odd little things to be exact.
“Odd Little Things” is a familiar ride full of piercing moments and wishes. In this, her second book of poetry, Shannon bares all making you feel like best friends at a café sharing secrets. The cycles of life seem to spin like an unforgiving stellar system for this poet. However large or small, everything matters, especially the moments you only share with yourself. Shannon says about her new book, “If ‘Madrona Grove’ is my lover, then ‘Odd Little Things’ is my child.”

About the Author

Bellingham poet, Shannon P. Laws, is a regular at open mics, sharing poems and excerpts from her work of literary fiction. She can be found at such venues as Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater, Village Books Open Mic, Poetry Night and Kitchen Sessions. She is a founding member of World Peace Poets, who encourage harmony through words for international writers at various public readings. In her spare time she hosts the Village Books Poetry Group, and is a volunteer producer at a non-profit community radio station.
Product Details
ISBN-10: 0692222359
ISBN-13: 9780692222355
Published: Chickadee Productions, 06/24/2014
Pages: 44 , $7.99

Message from the Author

“Synchronicity shows up in the oddest places.  It  waves at us, at just the right moment, from the living rings of our spiraling universe. It is our choice to recognize it. Miss it once, well that’s OK, perhaps you’ll catch it next time around. Years later a lightning bolt of déjà vu runs down your spine, awakens the bumps on your skin, jerks your elbow to perform a respectful wave back toward your connection to it all.
 
Thank you for the visit, spending some time with me in my mind’s garden.”  
 
 
~Shannon P. Laws

 

Poetry Day Camp

Saturday, I went to a poetry day camp taught by a well known poet here in Bellingham. Went in support of a friend and I’m surprised at the poems that came out of the day, well, not TOO surprised.Poetry is a personal art, an intimate process.  To write poetry in a group setting creates conflicts in my mind regarding acceptance, insecurities in presenting work not polished, and sharing my life with strangers.  Believe it or not, these are all good energies that will spark new creativity!

I’ve talked with dancers, musicians and writers and many have shared how a challenging outline, space, or environment pushes them into new creative territory. The more unusual the boarder of space, physical or otherwise forces our imagination into the problem solving quadrant and the results can be amazing.

I encourage artists of all types to look for new space to work and perform.  If it scares you a bit, you’re probably on the right track.  I’m learning to enjoy the uncomfortable.

Amazing or not, here are my two favorite poems from the day, unpolished, slightly edited, and fresh:

Photo prompt:

Goats in Trees Have Bird Bones

Air filled, no wings
not feather, but fur
covers the skin
soaked in urine
now a leather bag of a man
strapped to shoulder
walker of the road
follows the orange
setting sun until
he reaches the
land where goats
climb trees

but do not fly

Line Prompt:
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
 -a line from “Go to the Limits of Your Longing” by Rainer Maria Rilke
A Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist, b.1875-d.1927

Make Big Shadows I Can Move In

Protected by your stare
Sun’s rays will burn me
If they spy me standing there
Under covers of the bed I made
Next to a pile of books to read
Window’s light a threat
Curtains now a shade
Dull shaped pattern of gray
Cover thick on the ground
Outline the places where I can stay
***

Guest Poet: Denise duMaurier

Snowdrop

A daystar opened in my row
of dead leaves pallid from the wind
a golden center ready for the slug
that finds it blind and eats it whole.
Feet that feel no miracles will
stomp on it thinking it a weed
in the way of clearing fallen bark
and broken twigs that quit the tree.
January snowdrop white as milk
glows like fairy-light on the foggiest
morning of the week frosted in the
polar vortex, born again.

~Denise duMaurier

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Poet Bio:

Born in Pennsylvania and educated in England, Denise duMaurier worked as a stage actor in character roles for more than 50 years. Her love of poetry began with wonderful roles from the “SH-guys:” Shakespeare, Sheridan, Shaw. Her latest book, Follow Me Down, contains poems of tribute, remembrance and aging, most written in Minneapolis, MN, before moving to Bellingham, WA, in the spring of 2010, to escape Minnesota’s winters.

Village Books is pleased to carry copies of Denise’s poetry books Follow Me Down and Abandoning the Raft. Please call 360-671-2626 to obtain copies.

***

~Thank you Denise for allowing me to post this beautiful, fresh new poem on my blog.  When you shared it with me the other day at our Saturday brunch, I was moved.  If it wasn’t for the noise of the cafe, people may have heard me sniffing tears away.  It touched my heart as your poetry often does.  
Great stuff!  –Shannon


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