Welcome to another CC’s Interview Series, where once again I am settled in my own city of Seattle. This time I am honored (and quite honestly, ecstatic) to be with writer and artist, Pamela Hobart Carter.
I was the luckiest of hopeful writers, back in 2017, when seated next to Pamela at the PNWA Awards Ceremony Dinner. A funny story she might not know, I had been sitting somewhere else, when an author I’d met earlier saw me off to the side. She insisted I move to the front and plopped me down at Pamela’s table. I call it divine intervention because after talking about poetry, among other various dinner conversations, we exchanged contacts and voila! Pamela reached out, we shared our work, and then she invited me to my first poetry reading. From there, we have continued supporting each other’s creative endeavors.
I cannot wait for you to hear about Pamela’s thoughtful yet intentional drive to write and create, so grab that mug of coffee or glass of wine. You may even need a shot rye whiskey because this artist is a shooting star lighting up the darkest of nights!
CC: Welcome! Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us how long you’ve been writing?
Pamela Hobart Carter: In first grade Diana Stevenson and I competed to write the longest story. Hers had a plot and a bigger lexicon. Mine, really a handwriting exercise, was seven pages of characters repeating the story’s title: “I’m Sorry.” In second grade, when the teacher had to leave the room, she’d ask me to the front to tell a story. (I don’t remember this, but my mother told me that’s what Miss Newalder told her.) Other early story-telling practice: I lied a lot.
CC: What sparked your initial interest in writing? Or, how did writing find you?
Pamela Hobart Carter: Although I won my very small high school’s essay contest and adapted stories for our drama club, I veered off into geology (two degrees) and teaching (science, art, preschool, science pedagogy). Writing lay dormant for 25 years or so. Re-awakening came as I watched a 10-minute play festival at the University of Washington. Leaving the show I may have said aloud, I want to write one of those.
CC: This is a big one because I know you as a playwright, a poet, and an author of fiction. Can you tell us who you are as a writer? Do you have a favorite style? 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?
Pamela Hobart Carter: Although plenty happens alone at my desk, I’m a social writer—often a collaborator. (Co-author of 14 books, a play, and several poems.) When my adult writing life erupted, I learned about timed writing for generating new work and have frequented a group or two ever since. Timed writing erased my habits of procrastination.
No surprise, of all the genres I undertake, playwriting involves the most community, but several times a month I get together with poets to critique each other’s work. I read at open mics where there are regulars and we cheer for each other. Classes connect me to other striving writers. Memberships in writer organizations provide me opportunities to talk shop and join forces. Accountability check-ins give me perspective and encouragement. Curating readings fascinates me and has me communicating with rosters of poets. So much comes of this crammed calendar—friendships, focus, support, synergistic energy, feedback, book and class recommendations, ideas on submission and other business, and warm venues in which to test material.
Recently I added to my list of genres by writing lyrics for “3 Billion Birds,” composed by Bronwyn Edwards.
CC: How do you begin a poem or piece of writing? When do you know it’s done?
Pamela Hobart Carter: Visual art and the mysteries of the creative impulse inspire me. Paula 101, a play I wrote last spring, took shape over months, after I read a biography of German Expressionist, Paula Modersohn-Becker. For weeks I wrote poems inspired by her life and art. Seeing my obsession, a friend suggested writing a play. Finding its story took me a couple more months because I knew I didn’t want a play full of naked people (P M-B is most famous for her nudes) or someone acting P M-B herself. When I finally figured out the frame I did want, the first draft plopped out. The second draft and third drafts followed rehearsals for a reading. The fourth draft is yet to come and will draw from audience, actor, and director feedback.
Paula 101 is my second ekphrastic play. An installation by Leo Saul Berk at The Frye Museum inspired Three Sane Women. Scores of my poems are ekphrastics about real and imaginary art.
I don’t necessarily know what I’ll make when I open my notebook, but find out as my hand moves. Sometimes I give myself challenges and heuristics, like assignments. For example, last fall I determined that I wanted to have written a second full-length play in 2019, so launched in with my immediate surroundings as its setting. (Intentionally I had arrived an hour earlier than the playwrights I was meeting at the KEXP lounge at Seattle Center.)
There are stretches when I feel as if I will never have another poem to write, and a line appears when I’m walking.
When is it finished? Never, while I’m alive. I mess around with stuff even after it’s been published.
CC: How might you describe a perfect writing day?
Pamela Hobart Carter: Poet Kelli Russell Agodon suggests approaching the day as if at a retreat. When I lay off dinking around on Facebook, when I focus, when I register forward motion or see something new that I have made, I love those days.
And boy do I love to quantify stuff: numbers of words written, submissions sent, productions, and publications.
CC: Do you have any secrets to get through rejections or bad writing days?
Dark chocolate and whining. My nice spouse invariably says, I don’t reject you.
On rare occasions I take a full break—not writing any words in any form in any location for a day.
I remind myself I’m going to die. If I want to get things out for anyone else’s eyes, I’d better keep going.
CC: What other areas of creativity do you dabble in? Is there anything new you’d like to learn?
Pamela Hobart Carter: Recently I’ve reclaimed calling myself a visual artist. When I was a kid I’d tell people I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I also take piano lessons. Nonverbal action opens rooms in my brain otherwise locked and dusty.
My excursion into creating lyrics for “3 Billion Birds” has me curious about that world.
CC: How has writing changed you as a person?
Pamela Hobart Carter: Five and a half years ago I quit teaching to see what would happen if I wrote full-time. A big change. Probably I would not have finished a novel nor would I be submitting a poetry manuscript.
While some of my friends are not writers, a whole lot are.
CC: Who are a few of your favorite authors (books or poetry)? What are you reading right now?
Pamela Hobart Carter: Until I’ve made it through his oeuvres I’m reading a Dickens a year. (Last year was Little Dorrit.) Favorite novelists include Ann Patchett (The Magician’s Assistant and Run, Lianne Moriarty (What Alice Forgot), Michael Ondaatje (his poetry too!), and Dodie Smith (I Capture the Castle). Favorite playwrights include Joe Orton and Caryl Churchill. Favorite poets include Natasha Trethewey and Elizabeth Bishop. Currently I’m listening to Tracy K. Smith read her poems in Wade in the Water. I’m reading Peter Brook, The Empty Space and Virginia Woolf, Monday or Tuesday in paperbacks. On my e-reader I’m reading The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez.
CC: Do you have any upcoming events you would like to share?
Pamela Hobart Carter: Some 2020 events:
March 15 – South Seattle Community College Choir sings “3 Billion Birds,” choral music composed by Bronwyn Edwards with my lyrics.
March 11 – I read 10 minutes at Poetrybridge’s 10th Anniversary Party (7 PM, C & P Coffeehouse, West Seattle).
April 6 – Infinity Box Theatre Project presents InVerse Functions, a science poetry journal in theater form. I’m curating.
May 29-31 – Penguin Productions presents the One Act at a Time short play festival with an as-yet-unwritten shortie by me.
August 27 – Seattle Playwrights Salon reads my play, Paula 101.
CC: Do you have any advice for creators out there?
Pamela Hobart Carter: I like Nancy Pearl’s advice, “Write on!” It reminds me that no one is forcing me to do this. I’d better be having a good time.
CC: Are you willing to share a few lines from a poem or story? (And, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for sharing so much of your writing life)! Please add anything additional you feel would be relevant to our readers, as well as any book links, websites, etc. you would like to share.
Pamela Hobart Carter: My websites: https://playwrightpam.wordpress.com/
No Talking Dogs Press: twelve short books in easy English for adults: https://pamelahobartcarter.wordpress.com/
Bronwyn Edwards and I made a piece of choral music! “3 Billion Birds:” https://www.jwpepper.com/11191458.item#/submit
My most recent poem published, about moles: https://www.seattlestar.net/2020/01/january-walking-meditation-in-seattle/
My most recent story published, about a risky relationship: http://potatosoupjournal.com/shooting-range-by-pamela-hobart-carter/
My most recent article published, about taking the note/criticism: http://seattleplaywrightssalon.com/blog-1/2019/12/28/taking-the-note-by-pamela-hobart-carter
This poem was nominated for a Pushcart Prize!:
I’m excited to write a play for this fundraiser by Seattle Playwrights Salon. YOU could be the influencer:
Pamela Hobart Carter: Celaine, thank you.
CC: You are more than welcome…your work inspires me daily!
The energy and urge to write…or compose or paint…is literally pulsing through my veins! I hope all my readers are clicking those links above and breathing in Pamela’s fresh take on creativity. As an observer in the world, she is beyond supportive of each individual’s inspiration-process.
I enjoy reading (and viewing and listening to) the diversity in all her work, then wondering about the many steps she may have taken in the background…before her many somethings came to be. Surely, she leaves the footprints of her heart in every piece, and I gladly accept them as gifts.
In Pamela’s own words, from her poem, Hiking to Red Pass, “We see into spaces where time is slow to round mountains.” (https://www.parksandpoints.com/poetry-2019/hiking-to-red-pass) I’m certain it’s with these eyes she will capture many more opportunities to create and encourage. Join me in keeping our eyes on the night sky, where undoubtedly she will continue to shine her light.
As always, happy writing (because at least you’re writing),
Celaine Charles, February 9, 2020 (Shout-out to my MOM, Happy Birthday)!
Image and Content Credits:
Pamela Hobart Carter
Amazon for Ann Patchett Book photo
Categories: Thoughts on writing...
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