I am thrilled to kick off my new “CC’s Interview Series” with poet friend and 2017 Pushcart nominee, Ann Christine Tabaka. Although she lives across the nation from me, in Delaware, it feels as if we are sitting together in a warm and cozy coffee shop. The scent of cappuccino fills the air as our poet’s inspiration and experience weave an intricate story.
Please, pull up a chair, fill your cup, because a lovely treat awaits…
CC: Can you please introduce yourself and tell us how long you’ve been writing?
Chris: My name is Ann Christine Tabaka, most of my friends call me Chris. I live in Delaware, USA. I love gardening, swimming, and cooking. I live with my husband and three cats. I am a retired organic chemist and a retired personal trainer.
I started writing musings and rhymes when I was 14 years old (1965). I always kept a handwritten diary of my poems. I started to post some on my Facebook page, and so many friends encouraged me to put them out in a book. I self-published my first poetry book in 2017, with all the poems going back to the beginning. That was hard for me since I am not tech savvy and formatting was a nightmare for me. I now have nine poetry books published, the last three by small press publishers. And, as they say, the rest is history!
CC: What sparked your initial interest in writing? Or, how did writing find you?
Chris: I can’t pinpoint any one thing. I always felt that I had to express my feelings in written words when something was beautiful, painful, or beyond explanation. I was just compelled to put it down on paper. I write about my emotions and what I observe. I actually did not like to read when I was in high school since I am a slow reader, and have trouble concentrating. I was a fine arts major in college before changing to a more lucrative career. Now writing has just become part of who I am. It is as essential as breathing and eating to me.
CC: What are your favorite subjects to write about?
Chris: I love to write about so many things. I started out writing mostly about my feelings, love, loss, pain, joy, etc., all the typical teenage angst things. Then I started to write more about nature, its beauty and it power. Now I find myself writing about many past experiences and things in the world around me, like how other people behave. I guess, like most writers, I love to write about everything that touches me in a deep way.
CC: How do you begin a poem or piece of writing? When do you know it’s done?
Chris: I always carry a spiral notebook with me everywhere. In fact, I have them scattered all over, on my bed stand, in my purse, in my car, etc. I write down whatever comes to mind at any given moment. I usually have most of my ideas late at night or in the middle of the night, and then the light goes on and I have to write it down or I will lose it. In fact, I wrote a poem about just that, how I thought I could remember a few lines until morning, because I was too tired to get up and write an idea down.
I sometimes have an entire poem come to me at one time, and write down a rough draft that has to be re-worked later when I type it out. Other times, I have multiple pages of just one line, or one stanza, that it takes me forever to get back to complete. I have an easy time starting poems, but conclusions often times elude me. Sometimes I combine several different poem ideas together to make one poem, and it works. Other times I end up dissecting one poem into several different poems. My poems rarely end up as I originally imagine them. Sometimes, they are never done, they sit there waiting for some Ah-ha moment in the future.
CC: How might you describe a perfect writing day?
Chris: Is there such a thing as a perfect writing day? Maybe for someone that is disciplined and has always made a career out of writing, but not for someone who is as scatter-brained as I am. I always have ten things going at once, and I am not very good at organizing what should be done first. I just write when I have the need to. I guess I would like to be able to dedicate several hours every day to just sit down in a quiet room and write. In reality, some days I write throughout the day, and then I go weeks without writing anything at all. When I do write, I tend to spend a lot of time on the computer doing research for the subject that I am writing about – like what words best describe a situation, and what words can be substituted for certain words, etc.
CC: Do you have a writing group or community you belong to? If so, can you elaborate on how you found them and/or how they support you as a writer?
Chris: I realize that many writers depend on writing groups for support and inspiration, and that they can be a positive thing, but I have never joined a writing group. I know that they can be helpful, but I am not comfortable in groups. I am a loner at heart, which is why I do things like swim and bike ride, and not team sports like volleyball or tennis. Besides, I do not know if there are any poetry groups anywhere near where I live.
CC: Do you have any secrets to get through rejections or bad writing days?
Chris: Rejections and bad writing days can be depressing. I used to take rejections really hard, but now I realize that they are part of writing. Every publishing team or editor have their own criteria and taste. When I get down, I just play with my cats, go out to garden, or do something enjoyable to get me through it, and then start all over. Many times being outside or doing something positive can start the ideas flowing again to help with writing. I still feel hurt by rejections, but I cannot change the fact that my poems were not what the editor wanted, and so sometimes I try again with new work, and other times I put the publication on my “strike three and you’re out” list (3 rejections means they just do not like my style of poetry).
CC: What other styles of writing have you dabbled in? Do you have a favorite?
Chris: I started out writing mostly classic rhyming poems, but have since developed a love for free verse and some experimental. I prefer the free verse now. I tried Haiku & Senryu for a while, with a moderate amount of success, but that was not my niche. I do love micro-poems, because I love the idea of telling a complete story in as few words as possible, and leaving the rest to the reader’s imagination. I believe that my poems come from my heart and mind, but the reader puts themselves into the poem and makes it their own. I have had different readers tell me what they thought a poem was about, and each one had a completely different image and idea.
Speaking of telling a story in as few words as possible, I recently was encouraged by several of my fiction writer friends to start writing and submitting drabbles [complete stories of exactly 100 words, usually on a specific theme] to drabble publications, and have been fairly successful with that. It is fun to try new things to stretch my mind and grow.
CC: Tell us a little about your published books. Is there a theme or inspiration behind each one?
Chris: My most recent book is “Words Spill Out” published by CYU Publishing Group. It is a mixture of styles and subject matter. I have poems that some may take as world view statements (aka: political), and many about the harshness and cruelty of nature (drought, floods, storms, etc.). There are also poems and photographs from my trip to Kenya in 2018. Many of the poems in this book have B&W photographs to accompany them. Raja Williams [CTU Publishing] did an amazing job of designing the cover and formatting the photos to fit into the poems.
I do not usually write a book with a theme in mind, except for my one chapbook, “No More Hallelujahs,” published by Alien Buddha Press. That book is exactly what the title sounds like, about loss, and sadness, and the search for new hope. This is the first book that I started to include B&W photographs in. Nicholas Mitchell (aka: Red) used a photograph of me from inside the book and turned it into the cover. It was so much better than the original Idea that I had for the cover.
My one micro-poem book, “Just Breathe” was published by Cyberwit and is broken into three themed chapters: Life, Loss, & Love. The cover is a photograph that I took while in Kenya in 2018. Karunesh Kumar Agrawal did a fantastic job of using it for the cover.
I self-published my first seven poetry books, so I did all the editing, proofreading, and cover design. The first three covers were okay, but not very exciting. I finally started getting the hang of making covers using only a MS Word doc stretched to size, and pasting images onto it. All of my books are available on Amazon.
CC: How has writing changed you as a person?
Chris: I believe that I have become more observant, and more methodical in my day-to-day life. I feel more attuned to my surroundings than before. I now try to see how a situation that I encounter can affect everything surrounding it, and then maybe eventually become a story or poem. I find myself researching topics more now, because I want to know everything about them before putting pen to paper. I listen to people more, instead of trying to think “what can I say to respond to them.” Everyone has a story within them, if you only listen.
CC: Who are a few of your favorite authors (books &/or poetry)? Who are you reading now?
Chris: Oh my, my favorite authors are a mix of the classics, like T.S. Elliot, and fun mysteries like Shirley Rousseau Murphy (of the Joe Grey Mystery series). Other than reading contemporary poets from many of the poetry journals, I like fun books to relax with. I also read a lot of poetry books by poets that I know through Social Media, the list is too long to mention them all, and I wouldn’t want to leave anybody out. There are many really strong poets out there waiting to be discovered.
CC: Are you willing to share a few lines from a poem or story? Share as much or as little as you like.
Chris: I would be honored to share one of my poems. This is from the book I am working on now, “Running Backwards in Time,” from the chapter titled “Words of Many Colors.” The poem is called “Snow Day.
the different colors
of the sun,
brisk winter air.
just out of reach,
while crystalline hope
clings to trees.
A world of white
on a bed of fresh
the child emerges
and takes flight,
on the first snow day.
~ By Ann Christine Tabaka
My favorite lines: “while crystalline hope / clings to trees” and, “A world of white / sparkling blindness / encasing all.” The imagery is lovely and reminds me why I appreciate your gift of writing. I can’t wait to add this newest book to my collection when it’s released. Thank you for a sneak peek!
Chris, it has been wonderful learning more about you. The diversity in your work speaks for itself, and I am enlightened by the journey you’re on, sharing your poetry with the world. Congratulations on all your poetry success. You are an inspiration!
Ann Christine Tabaka’s books and website links are listed below.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our first “CC’s Interview Series” on Steps In Between. My goal is to introduce new creators (writers and artists) at least once a month. Please share this post with everyone you can; let us continue lifting each other up the light!
Happy writing friends (because at least you’re writing),
Celaine Charles, October 13, 2019
Content and Image Links:
https://annchristinetabaka.com/ (Tabaka’s website)
https://www.blogtalkradio.com/ql_p/2018/10/16/quintessential-listening-poetry–ann-christine-tabaka (hear one of Ann Christine Tabaka’s poems read by Michael Anthony Ingram)
https://spillwords.com/spotlight-on-writers-ann-christine-tabaka/ (another fun interview with Ann Christine Tabaka with the amazing Spillwords (where they have featured one of my poems too)😊
https://www.claude-monet.com/the-magpie.jsp (Claude Monet, The Magpie)
https://hiveminer.com/Tags/cappuccino,impressionism (coffee art, Christopher Clark)
Categories: Thoughts on writing...
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