Writer Interview-Laurel S. Peterson

Tell me about your latest book.Do_You_Expect_Your_Art_to_Answer Cover

My latest book is a collection of poetry based on artwork: Do You Expect Your Art to Answer? (Futurecycle Press, 2017). My husband and I love to travel, and we look at a lot of art. The book documents my perceptions, interactions, and ideas about the works I’ve seen, including Chadri (burqas) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; a horse painting by Picasso in Madrid; and a handwoven Navajo rug in Santa Fe.


The book previous to that is a mystery novel, Shadow Notes (Barking Rain Press, 2016). Shadow Notes Cover compressedIt’s about a landscape architect, Clara Montague, with terrible mother issues, who has to come home after fifteen years away because she has a dream her mother is in trouble. A few days after her return, her mother is arrested for murder. Did she do it? And what does the mother’s history with the local politician have to do with anything? The book is set in wealthy Fairfield County, Connecticut, where it’s all about how shiny your new ___________ is.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently acting as my town’s poet laureate, in the second year of a two-year term. That’s the highest creative priority at the moment. I’m lucky to have a job teaching, so I get my summers off, which gives me space to write. I am working on a book of poems about piloting and the stars, what it means to float up there in the sky, and what it means to land. I’m also finishing my second mystery novel, which also features Clara, above. Given the number of projects I get myself involved in, I’m a little behind.

Who are your writing role models?

What an interesting question. I have writers I admire, but I’m not sure I ever thought of them as role models, even though they most assuredly are. I admire Sara Paretsky because she interweaves political issues with strong mysteries and an intelligent female P.I. I admire Sue Grafton for her incredible productivity, and for trying new forms and approaches in each of her Kinsey Millhone novels. I love poet Mark Doty for his language and his attempt to connect with life on a deeper level. I  love travel writer Colin Thubron for his gorgeous depictions of the world he’s walking through. I love poet Billy Collins for his wit, poet Claudia Rankine for making me think about race, mystery writer Jo Nesbo for scaring me half to death. And I love Jonathan Franzen for going on and on and on, because he challenges me to look more closely. So many wonderful writers out there to make me think about things in a new way.

How do you balance your day-to-day commitments with your writing life?www.utechristinphotography.com

Balance? What’s that?  A friend of mine once commented that we were rarely in balance; it was more about getting into and out of it over and over, like a see saw. I tend to see my life more in those terms. I write a lot in the summer, from two to six hours a day, depending on where I am in a manuscript and how much work (play) there is to do in the garden. I can maintain a fairly regular writing schedule into early October, and then the college essays needing to be graded start to pile up.  I’ll write on and off until the end of the semester, and then write over the Christmas break, mostly in January and February, until the semester heats up again.  “People” say one is supposed to write every day, but I just don’t have the time or the mental space when the semester is busy.

What are your other passions outside of writing?

My husband is a Francophile, so we’ve visited France a number of times. We have family in Australia and Canada, and we love Central Coast California wineries. We also have a house in Vermont where we spend time on weekends and in the summer.  We live close to New York City, so we maintain memberships at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art; we like films, hiking with our dog, botanical gardens, hosting dinner parties, reading (!), drinking coffee on the back deck on summer mornings, gardening… Life has so much beauty to offer, and we are so lucky to be in a place where we can enjoy it.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Don’t put off doing what you love, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Find things in the world that bring you joy. Listen, even to people with whom you don’t agree. Read things that make you cringe—in order to understand and to think. Never stop looking for something to challenge you. Act from love, rather than rage or fear.

And thank you so much, Susan, for hosting me on your beautiful blog. I am so honored to be here.

Come find me on Twitter @laurelwriter49, on Facebook or at my website: www.laurelpeterson.com.  Thanks for dropping by!


Artist/Poet Interview-Katherine Case

IMG_1521My biggest breakthrough came through when–

In 2011 I lived in the Bay Area and had been working as the Studio Manager at the SF Center for the Book for about ten years. I taught letterpress printing classes, maintained the studio equipment and rented the studio to printers, many of whom were just starting up their own letterpress businesses. Over the years I helped lots of people start up in the letterpress business, but had never really considered starting my own. But then my family and I were considering moving to Reno Nevada and I began to dream a little about having my own studio with my own equipment.

Then one day out of the blue, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (or actually his personal assistant) called me! I had done some printing for him years before when he did a poetry reading at the Center for the Book. Mr. Ferlinghetti remembered me and wanted to know if I would be interested in printing and binding a book of his poetry. This was my big breakthrough! It was an honor to work with a poet of his caliber. Over the course of several months and during the process of our move to Reno I created a limited edition of 250 letterpress printed hand bound books, the first edition of a long poem by Ferlinghetti.

We moved to Meridian Lane in Reno and I named my new business Meridian Press. I realized that the thing that would make my letterpress business unique and interesting was that I could also make custom handmade books for poets, writers, memoirists, etc. Half of Meridian Press consists of letterpress printed greeting cards and limited edition prints. The other half is the custom handmade books I make for clients. I love working with all the different types of people who have ordered books from me. It is a wonder challenge to turn their vision into reality. And I love that the part of my life as a writer has been integrated into the part of my life as a printer and business owner.

Who are your heros in real life?

My heros are creative people who also create community and participate in the life of the world. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, beat poet, owner of the famous City Lights Bookstore, is also a painter, a publisher and for a short time, a letterpress printer. Patricia Wakida, an artist, writer and editor from Oakland CA, is a master of invention and community building. The members of Indie Reno here in Reno are masters of this as well, men and women who are not only creative but also able to create the space in their busy lives to start a business selling the things they make.

How do you balance your day-to-day commitments with your creative pursuits?

My personal challenge is to balance my time between taking care of my two small children (Hunter is 6 and Lydia is 4) and running my business. One way I try to do this is by having very strict boundaries. I only work during the week when both my children are in school, and my studio is in a converted garage, not in our house, so when I am in the studio I work and when I’m in the house I do housework and hang out with my kids. This seems obvious but it can be a big challenge. Meridian Press could grow more quickly if I spent more hours working, but I don’t want to be distracted and unavailable to my kids. On the other hand, I could hang out with my kids even more if I did the grocery shopping etc. while they were at school, but I don’t want to sacrifice any of the time I’ve set aside for Meridian Press. So I try to seek a balance. I will never be able to do everything I want to do either for my business or with my family. I try to prioritize (oh, and I am a BIG listmaker!) and be OK with the compromises of real life.

What are your other passions?

I am a poet. I am published nationally but seldom have time these days to submit work. I belong to a group of other poets who meet once a month to look at each other’s work. Poetry is very important to me and I struggle to make time for it in my life. At the present moment is sort of playing second fiddle to my business, but it remains a priority.

Also and more recreationally I love calendars, maps, good literature, the third world and the high Sierras.

What’s next for you?

 Meridian Press holidays shows! A New Year’s trip to the hot springs! Some great winter IMG_1559hikes in Nevada! The finish of Meridian Press’s latest edition–an amazing book of poems by Alexa Mergen which will be released at the Sacramento Poetry Center in February 2015.