This week I'm pleased to introduce you to Shannon Henry, - who I met, virtually speaking, through my cyber-sister, Martie Coetser Pozyn.
I find Shannon's writing to be an interesting combination of boldness and vulnerability. By the time I have read even her most succinct poems, I experience some kind of feeling, ranging from tears of sadness to giggles of hilarity.
As such I was thrilled to learn that her first (of hopefully many) poetry compilation is now available for purchase from Amazon.
Maria: When did you first discover your passion for writing?
Shannon: I've been writing for just about as far back as I can remember. It was probably in middle school and especially high school that teachers began to encourage me to write. Reading and English always came easily to me and whenever we had a writing assignment, I could often do it just before class and still get an A on it, like at lunch time or on the bus. I've such a bad habit of procrastinating, and sadly, that hasn't changed. At least now when I'm writing a poem in a matter of minutes, I'm not being graded. And, I'm certainly not judging my own technical abilities because I do it all in free-style form without any rules, except for the ones I might give myself for a particular poem.
But in high school, we had an assignment for English class to write a pair of poems. One of them had to show a situation from a particular perspective and the second poem had to illustrate the same situation from a different perspective. I wrote about a soldier excited to go to war and then from the perspective of a soldier already at war. The first one was all about the glory of it - the honor of defending something good and standing up for what's right, the prestige of it, etc. The second one was asking what's so glorious about lying in a ditch? It was one such assignment that I finished during my lunch hour. Thankfully, my friends have always been really supportive and helpful. Back then, they were throwing out rhyme ideas and I went with it, using words that inspired me as I was writing. I can't even remember what they were called or why we did it, but I remember the assignment because I remember the reaction I got from the class after I had to read it out loud. The teacher wanted me to publish them in the school paper for extra credit, but I somehow lost them. I was really upset that I lost them because I wanted to keep them.
I also published something in one of those vanity press things that compiles poetry from thousands of people. I think, perhaps, my grandma might have been more excited about that than I was. But it was kind of neat to see my name and poem in an actual book. This is much more strange to me. There's no one else, except for a couple of poems/lyrics at the end that I co-wrote with someone else.
Maria: Do you have any writing quirks that you can share with us?
Shannon: Hmmmm. . .I don't know. I have quite a few quirks in general. My daughter has recently informed me that I'm not allowed to be weird in front of her friends. Little does she know, she probably gets her own quirkiness from me!
When it comes to writing, I don't really have anything to compare my writing approach to. Much of my poetry comes rather easily once I have the inspiration. At most, I just have to come up with a rhyme when I get stumped and then use it. I often write down things that inspire or ideas as they come so that I don't forget them, but I suppose many writers do that. If it's a poetry idea, I often just write it while I'm thinking about it or at least write down some of it. Sometimes I can't sleep until I do because once I start, I can't stop.
Now, on the other hand, when I'm writing fiction, it's different and not always the same. I often can start off rather strong and then I sometimes jump around writing the story. I only recently began doing a few short stories, but when I wrote the last one, I wrote the beginning and then inspiration came for how to end it, so I did that next. The middle was like a fill in the blanks game to connect A to B. Sometimes I have no direction at all past the initial concept and I just tell the story as I go. Or, I found a cool spreadsheet tool online for a big project I have going right now. It lays out the chapters and the plot in such a way that I can add ideas for each chapter, from general points I want to make in that chapter to whole paragraphs or sentences. It fits with my habit of jumping all over the place and helps me stay organized without forgetting so that I can
put it all together without forgetting anything. And I can turn my unorganized and unplanned story-line into one that has some structure, allowing me to jump around when I need to.
Maria: Where did your inspiration come for your compilation of poetry?
Shannon: Oh, my--the compilation itself or for the individual poems? I was inspired to do the compilation by sweet, wonderful friends like yourself, Maria. You've all been so encouraging. In fact, you gave me the title, which I loved, and Sunshine (Linda Bilyeu) suggested that I leave off the index and page numbers since each poem has its own title. It was driving me crazy trying to figure out how to get the page numbering to work properly! Duh, such an easy solution. Why didn't I think of it? Well, I guess I did. The thought crossed my mind a couple of times, but it took a nudge from someone else to actually do it. Haha. Who heard of a book without page numbers? Apparently, there are quite a few. And mine is now one of them, just in case anyone wondered.
The inspiration behind the poems varies. Sometimes all it takes is someone saying something to me and I have an idea all of a sudden. Random words or sentences. . .an entire concept. . .something that made me stop and think after it was said. Sometimes the poems come about because I feel strongly about a certain subject. It doesn't matter if it is just a fleeting moment of feeling that way or something more long term. Sometimes I write to purge my own feelings. Other times, I write about someone else's feelings or situation. To me, poetry and song lyrics go hand in hand. If I can write something that potentially makes someone feel something, I feel like I succeeded. It doesn't matter what the emotion is necessarily or if it is interpreted the way I thought or felt when I wrote it, because they're all a part of life, and people interpret according to their own perspectives. Also, I often get told by readers that I make them stop and think. That's a huge compliment, too. It's good to consider things from different angles.
Maria: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
Shannon: I'm not sure about this one. Probably the most surprising thing was that it was not as complicated as I thought it might be (except for that page numbering thing). It's a compilation of some of my poetry dating back from high school to now, so I suppose I've learned quite a bit creating it. Hahaha.
One of the things I've learned recently is that my daughter is a natural at writing poetry, too. Last year, she wrote a poem for school about a missing tooth that her teacher thought she pulled off of the internet somewhere; it was that good. I didn't help her much either. All I recall doing was pointing out one line that didn't quite make sense and she fixed it herself. I might have given her a rhyme idea when she asked.
My oldest son wants to write more as well. Now he's intent on publishing his own story.
It's funny how kids want to do what their parents do. When I was five, I wanted to be a janitor because my dad was, but you'd have to pay me really well to WANT to clean now.
Maria: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Shannon: Now you've done it! You stumped me. You mean hobbies, right? I wish I had time for hobbies! What I'd like to do when I'm not writing and what I have to do when I'm not writing. There's a vast difference between them.Haha.
I enjoy spending time with friends and family, especially if it involves laughter. It doesn't matter what we're doing. I enjoy that about as much as I enjoy solitude.
It's all about the balance. As far as hobbies go, I enjoy making jewelry. I give most of it away, though I have sold some online in the past. I find it to be relaxing and it is something I can give to someone else as a gesture of friendship. When I make a design for someone else, I try to do something that captures that person's personality or that I think that person will particularly like. They're all different and unique. I don't think I've ever made the same necklace twice.
Uhm...let me see...Nope
...anything else I could say involves writing still.
Maria: What's next? Can you share any future writing plans with us?
Shannon: Wellll, remember that problem with procrastination I mentioned?
I've been writing one novel since high school. Yes, I said it. Whew! Good to get that off my chest. Hehe. Someday I'll finish it. And I have another one that I actually began a few years ago. I don't know why I'm dragging my feet with it. Actually, I do. It's an important project to me and involved a lot of research. Now, I'm nervous about being able to tell a tale that keeps readers interested enough to want to read it all the way through.
I want it to be one that packs an emotional punch because the subject matter is just that important. So I keep telling myself to just tell the story. I can fix any issues, add to it, or take away, whatever it needs during the editing session. Of course, another problem I have is editing as I write. It's very hard for me to just get the story out and then perfect it later. Nonetheless, after those two are finally finished, I have several more ideas and notes for other novels jotted down and tucked safely away for later use perhaps.
Thanks for this informative and interesting interview, dear Shannon.
Hoping my readers will take some time to check out your poetry and all the best with future writings.
Until next week, be peaceful and well,
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marcoujor, Virtual Buskers' Guild
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