Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cozy Chat with Author C.J. Heck

Author, CJ Heck
Today I did an interview with BookwormSimi which she posted on her "Blissful Blog" (Books, Books, and Some More Books):  

Cozy Chat with the Author, C.J. Heck:

Welcome, CJ.  Let's get to know more about you both as a writer and a person.

Simi: What is your genre? Why did you choose to write it?

CJ:  I write in several different genres, actually. I’ll answer this separately for each genre.

Poetry for Children and Children’s Stories:

I’ve always written poetry, both for children and adults. The children’s poetry is different in that it’s always written from a child’s point of view.

(I like to say that it’s my own inner child who does the writing). The topics I write about are all designed to help children understand the world they live in. They have so many questions and the world doesn’t always make sense to them.

My love for writing for children probably first came from an overactive imagination in childhood. I was always pretending and creating magical adventures. I think I put more miles on mama's broom than she ever did, because it was my pony and I rode it everywhere.

My love of poetry, rhyme, and rhythm came from my mother. When it was raining, she used to entertain us by teaching us tongue twisters while she ironed. My love for both prose and poetry only grew stronger as I went through school and English was always my favorite class.

When I became a mother, I often made up bedtime stories or poems for my three daughters which they wanted retold time and again, which inspired me to come up with even more. When mother heard them, she told me I should write them all down.

From then on, I scribbled poems and stories in notebooks which were piled high on a corner of my desk. I didn't begin writing seriously until the 1990's, when one of my daughters picked up one of the notebooks and began to read some of them. She said, "Mom, you really should DO something with these! They're good. They're really good."

With that thought in mind, I set up a website for children and their parents, posting the poems and stories I had written, plus those I was still writing. Then I began to get requests from parents and teachers, asking where they could buy them in a book.

So, I took a deep breath, exhaled, and decided I would give it six months. I quit a full time job and began the daunting task of sending manuscripts to publishers. After 5 months, (and a pile of rejections) I received a publishing contract for my first book of children’s poetry.

I also have five children’s books ready to go that are in a holding pattern for now. I need an illustrator and that will be expensive!

Poetry (for Adults): Anatomy of a Poet

My adult poetry is most often about my own life, my experiences, my observations of others and how I see the world and my surroundings.

As a baby boomer, I came to the realization that we are all products of our environment. Everyone we meet, each new experience, adventure, book, thought or lesson touches us and teaches something we were meant to know. Life is continually changing us, molding who we were into the unique being we are now.

As Bri Maya Tiwari once said, "There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken; a shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable; a sorrow beyond all grief which leads to joy, and a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength. There is a hollow space too vast for words through which we pass with each loss, out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being." 

That quote describes my life perfectly.

One of six children, I grew up in a small Ohio town and married my high school sweetheart at nineteen. A Vietnam War widow at twenty, I went on to marry two more times and then divorce twice. I had three daughters and I now have eleven grandchildren.

I guess you could say, I made a lot of choices, some were good, some not so good, but as one of the poems in the book ends, " least I made choices. How sad for those who merely hitchhike along, never daring to choose at all."

Anatomy of a Poet was written over a period of forty years. The poetry is rich with memoir, humor and, at times, it is sensual.

Poetry can be daunting and hard to understand, but it doesn't have to be. I feel I have an obligation to write in a way that everyone can understand what I’m trying to say. I believe poems should flow softly through a poet's words, their meanings easily touching the mind and heart of its reader -- if a poem comes from the heart, it will reach other hearts.
Short Stories (for Adults): Bits and Pieces (flash and short fiction and non-fiction)

For a poet, behind every poem, there is an untold story. The original thoughts and ideas for the poem had to come from somewhere. By its very design, a poem can tell only the shortest version of a writer's thoughts, emotions, or experiences.

The twenty-two flash fiction and short stories in Bits and Pieces share the real inspiration, the story, behind many of the poems in my poetry book, Anatomy of a Poet.

Many have nostalgic themes, others share my own blend of humor and sensitivity. They cover subjects like internet dating; a 'woman of the evening' alone in a bar on Christmas Eve; the horror of finding a headless body near a sewer drain in the city, and a grandfather and grandson teaching each other about life and love while in a park feeding the pigeons. Also in the book is one of my personal favorites, which has a surprise ending you won't expect or forget.

Simi:  Are you interested to write in some other genres in the future?

CJ:  At this time, I don’t have any other genres I feel compelled to write in. Down the road, who knows …

Simi:  Which is the first book you read?

CJ:  Hmmm, you’re asking me to remember something from a long time ago! I don’t really remember my very first book.

I do know what book was the biggest influence on me. That was Peter Pan. It's one of my all-time favorite books from childhood and I will cherish it forever.

I was so completely enamored by the premise of flying, merely by believing I could, that I tried to fly from the top of a bookcase. The little scar just above my left eyebrow was a small price to pay for learning that some things are only make believe, even though we wish they were real.

Still and all, I credit J.M. Barrie for encouraging the little girl inside me to stay alive and well and it's why I write for children. Like Peter Pan in Neverland, I hope I never grow up.


Simi:  Are you influenced by any authors?

CJ:  In the early 70’s, I was influenced by the poet, Rod McKuen. I was given one of his books and I loved the ease with which he wrote. That time period is when I started writing my own poetry. I was having a difficult time coping with my husband’s death and I found writing to be cathartic and healing. I still do, even now.

Simi:  Do you write more than one book at a time?

CJ:  Not really. Sometimes while writing, I do get ideas for other books, but I just write myself a note, as a reminder for later.

Simi:  Are you a full-time author or you doing some other job?

CJ:  I’m pretty much writing full time now. I’m not working outside the home.

Simi:  Do you prefer pen and paper or Microsoft Word?

CJ:  When I’m home, definitely the computer. When I’m out and about, or on a trip, I keep a notebook and pencil by my side. When I get ideas or thoughts, I jot them down at traffic lights or stop signs.

When I’m in restaurants, or anywhere else, I write on anything I can find – menus, brochures, even on the back of business cards, if I have to. Yeah, you could say I’m a die-hard writer!

Simi:  Which one of your books is the best according to you?

CJ:  Ooooo, that's not fair … that’s like asking a mother which child is her favorite! Every book I’ve written has so much of me in it and each is like a child – I couldn’t choose.

Simi:  Do your family members read your books?

CJ:  I suppose they do, I don’t really know. It’s not something we talk about -- unless I have a new book out and I’ve sent a copy to them. 

To my siblings, I’m just Cath’, their oldest and somewhat eccentric sister. To my daughters, I’m just good ol' dependable, loving, mom, who’s always there for them. 

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t believe any of them think of me as being an author. I’m just me and I happen to write.

Simi:  Tell us about your writing journey.

CJ:  As I’ve already described earlier, my writing journey just naturally evolved. It was never planned. It just, well, happened all on its own. 

Simi:  Tell us about your latest book and your work in progress.

CJ:  My next projects are the five children’s books I mentioned. I really need an illustrator for them before I can get them published. Trouble is, illustrators are expensive, so I’m saving up for it. 

I hope to sell a lot more books! That would certainly help! (hands waving in the air and grinning broadly)

Simi:  Do you reply to your readers?

CJ:  Yes, yes, yes! I love it when readers contact me and I always write back. I also enjoy talking with writers who want to be published. We were all new at it once. I always wished I had someone I could talk to about the whole process of getting published.
Simi:  Share some writing tips with us.

CJ:  Gee, I don’t know that I have any writing tips, other than those you’ve probably heard a million times. 

I do know that editing is one of the most important things a writer can do. You have to read what you’ve written with the idea in mind to pare down all but the most important words to the story or poem. Say things as succinctly as you can possibly say them and still keep the plot intact. When you’re done editing, then edit again, and again.
Proper punctuation is also very important. We all remember the following example, which has two totally different meanings, based on where the comma is placed:

Let’s eat grampa!
Let’s eat, grampa!
Simi:  Do you have any embarrassing tale to share with us? Mine is too embarrassing to share here. :)

CJ:  I had an embarrassing situation once, while doing an author school visit. 

During a presentation to an auditorium full of teachers, parents, and children, I was in the middle of saying one of the poems and I literally forgot how it went. I forgot my own poem! 

 I started to laugh and apologized and then the children surprised me by picking up where I had left off. They recited the poem word for word. 

When they were finished, I clapped for them. With each successive poem, they continued to recite it along with me, which was wonderful! I was totally humbled by the experience. It’s still one of my favorite (and most embarrassing) school visits.
Simi:  Study books used to work for me like sleeping pills. So, I had to either listen to some good music or eat my favorite snacks (read- junk foods :)) to keep my eyes open. Do you have any weird habits such as this?

CJ:  No, not that I can think of.

10 Fun Facts:

Favorite Color:  Forest Green
Favorite Book:  The Stand, by Stephen King
Favorite Author:  Nicholas Sparks
Favorite Movie:  Pay it Forward
Favorite Actor:  Tom Selleck (Magnum P.I.)
Favorite Actress:  Meg Ryan
Favorite Song:  Always and Forever, Luthur Van Dross
Favorite Singer:  Jimmy Buffett
Favorite Snacks:  Fruit, like Cherries and Strawberries
Favorite TV Show:  NCIS

Rapid Fire Round:

Love or Friendship:  It’s got to be both, together
Vampire or Werewolf:  Neither
Amazon or Smashwords:  Amazon
Chick-Lit or Historical Regency:  Neither
Robert Pattinson or Ian Somerhalder:  Who?

5 Things Your Readers Don’t Know About You:

1. I’m shy, except when I’m talking about my books to groups, or in school visits.
2. My bra size (Hahahahahaha)
3. I hate to iron
4. I helped to deliver one of my grandsons
5. I once assisted a coroner while he did an autopsy. He was looking for a permanent assistant and asked if I would be interested. I said I didn’t know, but I was willing to try.
I decided to look at it in a clinical manner and I did fine – within five minutes, I was belly up to the table! 

I found out afterwards that the pay was only going to be $6.50 an hour.
I turned the job down ... but at least I know I could do it.

CJ: YAY! This interview was fun! Thank you, Simi.

Simi:   Glad that you liked it. Nice to talk to you and I wish you all the best for your future works!

Author’s Bio:

A native of Ohio, CJ is a published poet, writer, blogger [3 blogs] and author of five books. 

She has three daughters, eleven grandchildren, and lives with her partner, Author Robert Cosmar, in Florida. CJ is also a Vietnam War widow.  

Her books are all available on the Amazon widget in the sidebar.

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