|Teresa Schartel Narey|
Laura Davis: Describe the process of making a recent poem or story. Lightning? Slow-dripping faucet? How long did you work on it?
Teresa Schartel Narey: I am not sure what the correct analogy would be here, but I can tell you the last poem I wrote did not come out in one sitting. They rarely do. My husband and I were on vacation in Maine this summer, and I started to think about my family’s first attempt at vacationing when I was kid. That story is ripe with emotion, so like most of my poems, it began as a journal entry (see photo below), also known as “day 1” of my writing process. I tried to recall the event with just basic details—who, what, where, when, why, how—and then when I started to write the poem (day 2), I filled in the rest—emotions, inner-thoughts, dialogue, etc. In general, after a poem is written, I let it rest for a few days, maybe even longer if I struggled writing it. A struggle means I journal again, specifically about why writing the poem is hard for me and what I thought would happen in the poem versus what actually did. Usually this helps with revising the poem. In this case, I finished the poem without struggling, though I still have a phrase bolded because I might want to refine it at some point.
LD: How do you decide that you are finished working on a story, essay, or poem?
TSN: I always have a story to tell with my poems, so when the story is told, I know the poem is finished. Also, the poem is finished when every word counts, and I have not forced the language of the poem to make a point or ended with a ta-da moment.
LD: How long have you been writing?
TSN: I have been writing since third grade, so about 21 years. When I was nine, I read a poem in Highlights that was written by a girl my age. I thought, If she can do it, so can I. It is also when I learned that “great writers steal,” because I pretty much reused parts of her poem to write one of my own for a school assignment.
LD: Let’s talk about your writing soundscape. Do you listen to music? Cafe rumblings? White noise? Utter silence?
TSN: When I write, I listen to wordless music and especially avoid recognizable tunes. I do not want another artist’s lyrics taking over my poems or interrupting my thoughts so much that I am focusing more on the music than my poems. With that said, I have been listening to Penguin Café Orchestra or Chopin while I write.