Recently I had the great fortune to interview one of my all-time favorite modern poets Kristiana Reed and here, alongside her interview, is a short of her reading one of her poems from her second collection of poetry, Flowers on the Wall. This collection came out yesterday and can be purchased here.
Candice: You have a background in Classics and you write a lot of very high-quality poetry that pays homage to your learning. Do you feel that helps you as a writer? And if so, how?
Kristiana: Thank you. The fact my degree is in Classics has afforded me a knowledge of mythology, of empire, of how history repeats itself, of the beginnings of poetry in the oral tradition, and of some of our earliest poets (Sappho, Theognis and Hesiod). Consequently, I find myself alluding to the past, our legacy and ideas which perhaps enrich the poetry I write. I think I’m very influenced by Homer’s descriptions of nature, Ovid’s darkness in Metamorphosis and Virgil’s idyllic landscapes in his Eclogues and The Georgics. This said, the study of Classics is very Westernised and Eurocentric and is therefore limited in this sense; I would love to learn more about the ancient empires in the East such as the Abyssinian and Persian empires and explore the literary tradition which was born there.
Candice: What inspired you to write poetry over say, prose or some other art form? Was there a specific genesis or was it almost an outpouring that became something more formal?
Kristiana: I still write lots of prose but I am more confident with poetry. I have a love for the brevity in poetic storytelling and I am insecure in regards to prose and the development of plot, characters and action. Poetry was my way to write about my Nanny’s (Grandmother’s) garden (which I still refer to as a fairy garden) and my way to express moments of fear, indecision and love as a teenager. I was told I was good at writing poetry from a young age so I guess I stuck with it and I remember my A-Level English Literature teacher telling me even my essay writing was poetic. It was never a conscious decision but I’m happy with my choice.
Candice: Who influences you as a writer/poet and why? This can include any type of artist or non-artist – explain what about their output influences you.
Kristiana: Again, I have no specifics here as such. I am an avid reader and I absorb storytelling. I remember images or phrases for years so sometimes these become a starting point for me when writing. Musicians are an influence – I have vivid memories of sitting cross-legged in my bedroom, aged twelve, reading the lyric book inside the CD case for Avril Lavigne and Evanescence. Even now, I often judge a song based on lyrics because for me they are just like poetry. Lyrical poetry was poetry set to a lyre; nothing much has changed apart from whether we pair our words with music or not.
Kristiana Reed reads one of her incredible poems “Tattoos for the Living” from her collection Flowers on the Wall
Candice: Your work is very pastoral in some respects, something I deeply appreciate as modern poets often stay in the navel-gazing pews and you are unafraid to really stretch outward into any genre. But your appreciation of the pastoral stays with me because you really know how to bring to life your surroundings. Do you feel where you live has influenced how you write?
Kristiana: I have always got lost in my surroundings and this stems from childhood. Already I have mentioned my Nanny’s garden which was a constant and burgeoning with blooms (I could easily watch the seasons from my slide on the lawn). My favourite memories are often associated with places and so I felt such freedom when I moved to where I live now which is an area between the town and country. There is a wheat-field at the end of my garden, woods a short walk away and the quay. To me, the natural world is magical. I always thought I was magical in these places and I guess I still hope to harness this feeling of hope, space and joy. I would also argue the cycle of nature is the best metaphor for life.
Candice: I noticed how prodigious you have been since Covid 19 and your wonderful movement of writing a poem in response to a poem that inspired you – almost daily. Do you find moods change your writing or are you able to work through any mood and produce solid work despite how you feel? Was it always this way? Is discipline in writing something you learn or something you are born with?
Kristiana: As a teacher, from the moment lockdown occurred in the UK, I was secure in my job. This meant I could work from home safely and found I had more time in my day. No longer standing in a classroom for 4 – 5 hours a day, I began to write more often and then the ‘on Reading’ prompts were created. The process of sourcing these poems and then sharing my responses with people and reading their pieces has been wonderful. I’ve had to teach myself the discipline of writing every day or every few days and I am aware that come September, this discipline will give way to full-time teaching again. So, in short, discipline is taught. I do not believe any one is born disciplined. In regards to different moods, I’ll often try to harness it where I can and let it fuel the work. If not, I’ll cheat and post a poem from my first collection and unashamedly plug it that way…
Candice: Do you see a future for poetry once we get over our immediate love affair with online memes? What does poetry bring to 2020 and going forward that prose does not?
Kristiana: I think the argument ‘online poetry is nothing but memes’ has been raging for so long I’m not sure it is even valid anymore… It is a very cynical view of a community which thrives. Through my use of social media platforms, I have met talented, fascinating and brilliant people. I’ve had the pleasure of reading collections I would never have discovered if I had stuck exclusively to my local bookshop. I think we are too quick to belittle online communities for what they are, communities.
Mainstream media will tell you the boom has come from Kaur’s Instagram poetry and for some reason we should be ashamed of this. In fact, whether you agree with the accounts boasting thousands of followers for two-line statements, who are we to judge what is art for some people? The fact an audience exists suggests people enjoy it and I’m not prepared to sit on a high horse and extoll what we should and shouldn’t be seeing from poetry. Poetry is an artform and thus subjective. It is a different entity to prose and so again, I do not think it will be anything more than prose will. I often read several books at one time – novels, poetry collections and non-fiction. All genres have their merits and reasons for why we should get lost in them. Life is far too short to get caught up being critical about how others consume art.
“I have learned so much about editing, designing and formatting through the process of creating and releasing two collections. It means I am perhaps prouder of them because I know how much of myself I have put into them beyond the written words.”
Candice: Bravo. well said. I completely agree with you! How has teaching influenced your writing if at all and what would you eventually like to do with your writing if you had the chance?
Kristiana: Directly, some of my poems are inspired by interactions in the classroom and what I endeavour to achieve as an educator. Teaching English also exposes me to a lot of poetry from the poets we may consider the ‘greats’ which has helped me construct the ‘On Reading’ prompts each month since June. Eventually, I’d love to have a series of collections which very much chart the passing of time and how I will no doubt change and, hopefully, publish the novel I’ve had in the works for almost two years now…
Candice: What is the most important thing you have been told about your writing that stayed with you and helped engender your next step in being a writer of poetry?
Kristiana: Nothing necessarily springs to mind here… when I wrote poetry as a teenager I shared it with very few people. The moment I realised I wanted to be a writer of poetry and to share my work with others was in the early hours of a morning in 2016. I couldn’t sleep so I wrote. Then suddenly I had an urge to let what I wrote out into the aether, if you will. Thus, my blog My Screaming Twenties was born. I wanted to document my twenties (kicking and screaming). And actually, I’m glad it was an inner voice which drove me to take this step because I haven’t regretted it once.
Candice: How does building a community of writers versus FVR and other mediums, help you personally as a writer and what are your goals in doing so?
Kristiana: Taking over FVR from the wonderful Nicholas Gagnier has been so incredibly rewarding and that certainly translates into building up a community around myself. I know we often look at creating a platform and audience in the frame of ‘How can I market myself?’ when FVR and spending the last few months working hard to establish and maintain the platforms I have, has taught me the value of genuine connections with like-minded people. Sharing the work of others not only makes you feel good but it draws connections between yourself and others. I’ve found through putting the work of others forward, I’ve benefitted in a way which feels organic and true. In regards to this community, I may or may not be considering an FVR anthology on the suggestion of a regular contributor.
Candice: What inspires you the most in this life and why? Do you find more in darker emotions or lighter or is there some other force that lights your pen?
Kristiana: Inspiration definitely tumbles, falls and surges like waves. Sometimes darker emotions fuel my words and sometimes it’s a love for my partner or simply the slow movement of the Earth. It truly varies. I very much tap into myself as a source whenever I sit down to write. I think this is why I struggle with set metre and form. My work is more often than not an outpouring of a feeling or a moment or memory and thus I write freely rather than write to a pre-defined structure. I suppose in this sense I lack a certain discipline. Poetry is something I seek in order to not feel tied down.
Candice: I agree and feel similarly about meter and form for exactly the same reason(s) although I think it’s good to understand how to do it, then you have a choice, much like Picasso did when he decided to do less realistic (cubist) work, he knew all the forms and chose what worked for him. Would you consider Flowers on the Wall similar to your first collection, Between the Trees, or would you consider it a departure? Why?
Kristiana: The treatment of nature in Flowers on the Wall definitely echoes pieces in Between the Trees. Certain images reappear like a wheat field, meadows, the sky and the ocean. Yet, I would consider Flowers on the Wall a departure too. Between the Trees was the documentation of a journey from depression to acceptance. Although, I still very much experience bouts of depression and healing, Flowers on the Wall is what I would consider a poetry collection. This collection says more about me as a poet rather than a person. It has a maturity I was only just beginning to grasp with Between the Trees.
Candice: Both of your collections are self-published, can you describe this experience and share any advice you might have with those who are considering the self-publishing route?
Kristiana: Self-publishing can feel like quite a lonely journey. Unless you have the pennies to spare, you’re often your own formatter, cover designer, editor, agent, and, of course, publisher. Not forgetting the marketing which follows. But, this also means it can be incredibly rewarding. I have learned so much about editing, designing and formatting through the process of creating and releasing two collections. It means I am perhaps prouder of them because I know how much of myself I have put into them beyond the written words. My advice would be to research every element of the process, speak to as many people as you can who have experience, map out exactly what you wish to achieve and steps one and two should help you achieve this. Stay open-minded and be realistic; you will be constrained by how well you are able to do something so plans will change.
Flowers on the wall – is available NOW via Amazon. (click link) Kristianas first book Between the Trees is for sale on Amazon now.
For the foreword written by Candice Daquin for this gorgeous book please go to Kristiana’s brilliant page on WordPress My Screaming Twenties
Dear WordPressers. Please take note of a worthy and beautiful collection Edited and Created by the very talented Tara Caribou who is an excellent WordPress author and poetess. https://taracaribou.com/
I have known Tara here on WP land for some time and always admired the depth of her thoughts and talent as well as how fiercely hard she works. She produced this without any assistance and it’s a wonderful idea to put poetry to music and vice versa and the people therein are mostly WordPress authors themselves (I am lucky to be included) so if you like the idea of supporting WordPress authors this is the book for you.
If you have not yet heard, the immensely talented Tremaine Loadholt of much beloved WordPress a Cornered Gurl https://acorneredgurl.com/ and extremely successful Medium site https://medium.com/@trEisthename has Edited and Created an incredible collection of works by up-and-coming authors and poets called Quintessence: A Literary Magazine.
This beautiful collection is based upon the work Tre has tirelessly done i recent months through her championing and encouraging of younger authors. This success has garnered her much praise and appreciation in the writing world and she is truly making strides with her selfless support of new authors.
Quintessence is a literary magazine to be published yearly in the Spring. The writers you see featured in this literary magazine are contributors to A Cornered Gurl and have been faithful in their support, encouragement of others, and submitting strong and poignant work to be read freely on the platform. This is the first issue.
you’d get the email about your son, either dead, or gone, or famous
extremes of an only child, spoiled by two successful parents
likely famous, as he was in childhood, yeah … fat and famous
so now, he’s still not tall and he’s still not thin but he might be
unwrinkled and have lots of kids or … Venereal Disease
he might hate me, i suspect he would
why? Why do i think he’d hate me?
When he was the one who threatened me with a sword
when he was the one who broke the Lalique vase
i suppose because breaking hearts is worse than betrothed glass
though someone, with his desire for the world
i doubt anyone had the power to break his, because words
written by 18-year-old boys on the inside of cassettes of
music for my girl, rarely mean what they say and speak
with their hermaphroditic pricks.
i was older than him in lots of ways
i would have told you Elaine, it wasn’t my intention and yes
you remember us arguing but it wasn’t all me
when he was high, he was really high and
when he was low, he was really low
a sundial beneath the earth
i stayed witnessing, smoking chain after chain
his taking of porn, watching nude and slobbering
as i clamored in my shared insanity, letting him
have his hunger sated in my emptiness.
Well … depravity is depravity and girls who hate themselves
they’re really good at running with that and boys who
like to torture cats
did you know what he did behind that red door Elaine?
did you know what he was really like or just your little boy?
i remember his father once visiting and how
estranged they seemed and he hollered at you like he’d
never stopped not for one minute
and you screamed and screamed and screamed
i remember it because i witnessed it, see i’m not the bad penny
you assumed, but he might think i am, that’s how our memory works
put her in this box, label it wrong; She’s the reason i got a Second at University
she’s why i didn’t fuck enough, she’s why i fell out with my really good friends
(who weren’t so really good, if they had those seducing intentions)
and she? Sure, she let his friends do her, like she sold her soul for lasagna
or a slice of wholesome bread with Ganja
God she was always hungry, or purging
and the drugs he gave her, sometimes with prescriptions, sometimes with sweaty palms
sometimes naked on his stomach where his scar, shone like a dalmatian on a fire truck
she half-liked his brown skin and his imperfections, the matted hair, green eyes, short squat pudgy thighs and tiny cock
they didn’t threaten her, they reminded her of a girl
she felt safe even when she felt scared, his hormone injections, wild untamed stare
he said she made him calm, especially when sucking him off to a good record
yeah I bet. Swallowing is harder for those who give head, to narcissistic boys with pretty
Though it’s been so long, she can’t be sure, of what cut what and who bled and who left the door, slightly ajar,
because that was the year she found out she was mad
and he was too, so they sort of worked
though he wasn’t her boyfriend, though he wasn’t her brother, he was a lot of things under the covers
places where they could escape themselves and that eventual horror of knowing
you haven’t got any hinges and the world’s gonna spit you out into the gutter.
Elaine, she could tell you that your son, was actually a surprisingly good lover after she got through showing him how
or she could lie and say; We just watched horror movies, sometimes he posed me
and pricked me, and played, games, with paint and swords
which was also true, because it was all true.
We gorged ourselves, only children without parents who were home
and when you were, you chain smoked too, behind your dust and your exhausted slump
we all did, drinking your wine, eating delivered organic food, such irony Elaine
you think i was just some dumb girl with thin hips and a small brain?
You used to look at me like; Who the fuck do you think you are? And I’d look right back because I wasn’t wearing my glasses and I was fucking the world with my sadness and it really didn’t matter what you thought or what anyone thought, because i’d already decided to jump
and i was watching all the time i was standing there, in my short skirt and my bare legs and my impossible tight breasts and my impossible tight cunt, all of which you hated, because your husband had left you for one
but one isn’t me, and i wasn’t her and she wasn’t it, and you weren’t alone, you were free of him, and he was the reason your son hated you, not me.
I watched through the floor boards, through holes in the ceiling, to your life unpeeling
for your short stubby hands revealing, to the kisses you gave the picture by your reading glasses, to the wine you drank and stained your hands with, before you passed them over yourself in genuflection like a good Catholic and reached for the vibrator
to your son hating you, as he may have loved you also, why we never quite knew, does anyone? Hate being so close to love, as sex is to horror and horror is to desire.
Elaine, you summoned like a Magi, some kind of anger in him, at a strong mother or women in general, he was a sexist asshole, who liked men who hated women and women who let men hate them and I was a great substitute for Robert Crumbs little busty girls who bent over and let anger take them right up the ass
but he thought anorexic actresses with dark nipples were beautiful and one time i visited his office in Greek Street Soho WI and he was talking to a Jewish actress who i also thought was hot
Rachel Weisz you still are …
and she walked away with her five-inch heels and his eyes up her skirt
i wanted to say what about me? But i was just ordinary despite being an eight to his one, and she was a handsome, famous, adored shiny girl with a full rolodex and you were a tit man
who because you were a man, (though you’d never be a real man and that made you crazy) thought you could, (fuck Rachel Weisz? Seriously?) and you never would, but it was funny imagining, especially when you already had more than you ever would
(with me, the girl of cinders and soot)
so i watched you watching her and later on when you pretended it was her you took
i pretended right back because i wouldn’t mind being her or being you
and if i were her I’d let you split me open four ways like star of anise and divide me back because it’s a soulless game and I’m your whore and i’m your mother and i’m your bloody crack.
I’m sure now you have a young wife and four chubby kids with green eyes
or you might have died, by plunging into a canal, or cutting your throat with a blunt razor
if you’d started to shave after you starred aged ten in Ms Marple as the fat cheeked boy with shorts on and a smart mouth (yeah that was about right)
but either way, i hope you will let me know Elaine, what happened to your son
because i didn’t burn his house down, he did, he struck a match and he lit us both
on fire, until we stopped being repulsive and we stood charred and broken
in Camden Town, not being able to afford to drink, at The Elephant
or fuck each other in your bed, or die standing up right then and there
because burned people are shadows, they persist
I think of him regularly, whilst I’m sure, he has long forgotten me, which isn’t fair and is ironic and really typical, because men operate on a different time and hour. They think of the girl who is bending over now and not the one who did when they first learned to use their magic wand
unless she was obedient at all times and acted the part, in which case they will brag at 45 of the one they did in St. James’s park, who hitched up her skirt and got on all fours, and she was a “right go-er that one,”
Yeah I gave it to her so many times, she couldn’t walk and yeah, yeah, yeah, builders salivating in a pub talk, I guess you had me enough you could, but you’re probably an attorney and that means you like being tied up and debased, and it’s bad taste to talk about women who left you
because you’re in control, you’re the passive one with the fat wallet and the penchant for sex in the afternoon in a diaper, or with a plastic mask over your hair, that you cut when you became serious, so you could hide the scream and the mess of your desperation.
Sometimes I check online to see, if you posted the naked pictures you took when I wasn’t even legal, in your bathroom, where your mom had lots of soap in fancy bottles
because we both have ruin in our DNA, and Elaine, if you’d asked, I might have slept with you both, your eyes were so lonely and I liked how ruined they were
the extending, unending madness of your family of animals
it comforted me, slowly dawning, I was mad also, I really didn’t know it, until
Hoda Abdulqadir Essa is a New Orleans native with roots hailing from East Africa. Hoda is a maker, writer, lover, shapeshifter and soul traveler, searching for heaven or hoping to construct it with her own bare hands.
How does being a poet inform your views on expressing emotions through writing?
As a poet, I’m consistently working from a place that many people call “emotional intelligence” – in other words, I am dreaming out loud when I open my mouth or put pen to paper. So, for me, being a poet comes with a subtle responsibility to always tell the truth. Poetry is not a soundbite nor is it a news-clip. To me, poetry is the rhythm that lives in each person individually. It’s important to express that and writing is a powerful medium to do so.
When you found out SMITTEN was about women who loved women, without the emphasis on erotica that is usually the case – could you immediately think of ways to express that love through writing?
Absolutely! My friend and I talk about bringing intimacy to life and to me that is what art is. No one has ever written ballads about an intellectual conversation they’ve had but we pause to capture the gentleness of a lover’s brush against your own skin – to me writing is a way at grasping moments that we ultimately have no language for. The erotic, especially, can be more greatly understood as we wrestle with it on the page.
What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work alongside other women who love women?
To me, this is a declaration of the time’s we are in. Standing together in creativity unity is the most empowered place for many women, myself included. It means to me that I have graduated into a time space reality that is being carved out by the very people writing and experiencing love for and from a woman.
Why is love a worthier subject than erotica to write on?
To me they’re intermingled. You have to love a moment to be inspired enough to write about it. Erotic writing is being so in love with an intimate moment that you want to recreate it for others. The two are closely related as far as I am concerned.
Have you ever been SMITTEN and if so, do you feel it’s possible to summarize those feelings in poetry?
I am smitten and often. As often as possible. And I love this word as the title for the anthology (kudos to you all) because that word encompasses how wistful it is allowing oneself to be overtaken by simply being fond of another. I’ve tried my entire life to bottle this feeling and give it to the world so yes! It is absolutely possible to summarize these feels in poetry, until we can market the sensation of course!
Your poem in SMITTEN was excellent, why did you choose this particular poem and what did you hope it would convey to readers?
I chose this poem because I was inspired by a woman who took my breath away. She was beautiful, inspiring, deliciously sad in all the right places and talking to her moved me. We never formally met but my hope in writing “WOMAN” was to zoom in on how explosive this connection was without any physical intimacy. I am not even sure if I felt romantic ideations towards this person up until this day – I just knew that I wanted her inner-flame to be safe. I wrote this poem to honor her fire; to protect it.
SMITTEN is available by ordering it in your Barnes & Noble, purchasing it online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon or asking your independent bookstore to order it via Ingram. SMITTEN is available on Kindle and in print form.
This is a huge project of 120 female authors – an anthology that is testimony to the power of love and connection between women. Support SMITTEN by purchasing a copy for someone who supports LGBTQ equality, women or poetry.
For the sake of SMITTEN, a project I believe in more than anything I have ever done before, I have asked close friends to take over my social media rather than close it down, so that SMITTEN can continue to flourish and succeed.
In my absence, due to my severe eye-sight-issues, my friends will be running the SMITTEN Facebook page and all SMITTEN related materials. Our goal is to ensure SMITTEN is successful in all ways. Sales are one way of legitimizing a project and ensuring its authors are HEARD.
Obviously LGBTQ projects are harder to sell than others, but it is my hope SMITTEN can continue its success through the rousing support of all those who believe in LGBTQ equality and the rights a woman has to love another woman. Please consider supporting SMITTEN – each sale helps raise visibility and gives SMITTEN authors another opportunity to share their unique and beautiful voices.
SMITTEN is for sale at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If you support local bookstores please ask them to stock SMITTEN using Ingram. If you cannot afford a Kindle copy or hard copy please ask your local library to get a copy of SMITTEN via Ingram. It doesn’t take much and it means everything to the 120 authors and poets of SMITTEN. Indie publishing doesn’t flourish without our support as a community!
Erin King lives in southeastern Pennsylvania. Interests include creating fiber art, jewelry making, and the outdoors. She lives with her partner of eight years.
What made you interested in submitting for SMITTEN?
It was a incident of timing, really. Like once a decade I’ll go on a poetry writing binge. There’s this feeling that something is under my skin, that something needs to be expressed. That’s when I write. This coincided nicely with SMITTEN, and it’s such an amazing project. I feel so fortunate to be included.
Since SMITTEN’s launch what’s your response been from others?
Feedback has all been positive. One of my male friends said my work was hot. I’m not one to say hooray about the male gaze on lesbian objects but I didn’t mind; that’s what I was going for in these two poems.
When writing were you thinking about the political implications of your work?
When writing these I wasn’t thinking politically or even socially. I was a woman lusting after another woman. It was definitely a micro level thing. No lofty aspirations here.
Why do you find it important to express yourself through poetry? How does it differ from other mediums?
When I’m working on designing a piece of jewelry or layering an art journal page, things come a lot more naturally. It flows more. Poetry is more deliberate. My ultimate goal is to introduce poetry to visual media like painting and art.
Do you think there are many steroetypes of LGBTQ people and if so, do you think as a writer you can dispel them?
I think there’s a lot of biphobia coming from all sides. We’re fickle, we can’t pick a side, blah blah blah. It’s all bullshit. I’m not sure if I can dispel them, though I am happy to say I’ve been with my Margaret for nine years.
How did you get into writing and what do you get from writing?
I started writing when I was 12. It was pure escapism, a reprieve from an abusive environment. I would come home from school every day and write. When my parents started barging into my room, I’d sit with my back against the door, physically creating a boundary when there were none. It’s not so different when I’m 47. It’s escapism in a different sense. It’s sublimation, a channeling of energy.
Consider purchasing a copy of SMITTEN and supporting this collection of 120 poets who are helping to increase visibility for women who love women. By your support we can do more projects like this and help bring awareness to neglected groups of people who need to be heard.
SMITTEN is for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and you can order SMITTEN as a hard copy or Kindle or if you are unable to support in this way, consider contacting your local library and requesting they carry SMITTEN by letting them know SMITTEN is available through INGRAM.
I am a writer, painter, and more. I received my BA in Psychology, MA in Education, and 50 graduate credits in Counseling before coming out; as being queer was grounds for dismissal. I am now seeking my MSW, so I can help those marginalized by society and be a voice for the LGBTQ community. When I met my wife, I knew I had found myself and I’m learning to love the human I have become. Wil Staley
Do you find any stereotypes in lesbian/bi work that you would personally remove?
–Absolutely! Most books for same-sex attraction focus on sex and erotica. Very little exists for same-sex love and companionship. Not only that, but I haven’t seen many books that have lesbian or bi characters who are just people; it almost always focuses on their sexuality. I think it’s important to remember we’re all just human and we are not our sexuality though that is an amazing part of us. Being a lesbian or bi is a normal part of life and I hope this anthology is able to portray that truth.
What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work alongside other women who love women?
–This is such an honor to me. I’m being published alongside those like me who want to speak their truth for others. Not only that, but I can’t believe I’m in a book with so many amazing artists! I appreciate knowing so many other writers hope to make a change in the way our community is viewed.
Did you ever want to be a voice for the lesbian/bi community? If so, why?
-Being a voice for anyone is incredibly important to me but being a voice for the lesbian/bi community is even more precious to me. I know what it’s like to be hated for something you can’t control and to lose many people close to you because you want to love another human who happens to be the same sex. I come from a religious community who turned their backs on me when I came out. I still had a few people who stuck around and taught me what unconditional love was really like and I am so thankful for them. I hope I can help give others a voice and let them know they’re not alone.
Do you feel your voice is heard? Do you believe anthologies like this can help you be heard?
-Writing is really the only thing that has ever helped me feel my voice is heard and has made a difference. Being in this anthology will help my voice expand. I think anthologies like these are amazing because it caters to all types of people and offers many different styles of writing for our readers so they undoubtedly will find something that speaks to them and helps them feel heard.
Your poem in SMITTEN was excellent, why did you choose this particular poem and what did you hope it would convey to readers?
-I had three accepted pieces and the poem “Nakedness” really speaks volumes. I wrote this to show others how beautiful love can be; how healing it is to be able to give your all to someone leaving nothing uncovered; even the painful or ugly pieces of life. My wife and her love took away the shame I felt in being out and open and the pain I felt growing up in trauma. I am forever grateful for her gentleness.
SMITTEN is now LIVE and can be purchased in Kindle and Print format!
Please support this worthy and important project by purchasing a copy or more. Your support goes a long way to helping the visibility of LGBTQ authors, poets and artists. For up to date information please go to www.indieblu.net
Interview with Kindra M. Austin one of the two co-founders of Indie Blu(e) publishing by SMITTEN editor, Candice Daquin.
Candice: Indie Blu(e) is a young, edgy and finger to the pulse type of micro publishing gig. What went into its inception? What forces created Indie Blu(e)? What influences?
Kindra: When Christine and I first encountered one another, we recognized straight away that we share a passion for not only writing, but for helping other writers hone their creative voices. I think we first began talking about joining forces to build a publishing company in 2017. In 2018, we realized we already had the bones to build upon with the Indie Blu(e) Network, which we co-founded. The IBN began as a source for readers and writers to discover indie authors, and authors published through small presses.
Our shared vision has always been to represent the unconventional and underappreciated. Knowing what we wanted to represent was the easy part: razor edged, badass, blow a hole through societal norms types of writing. Christine and I spoke at great length regarding our mission, which is to work in a close partnership with our authors to create books that shine, and reflect the talent of the writers. Speaking for myself, I can’t imagine operating a press that didn’t focus on the aforementioned. My influences come from those who do things their own way. I don’t have the heart to do anything otherwise.
Christine and I definitely bet on our combined reputations as writers and editors when we announced the birth of Indie Blu(e) Publishing, and I know we were both happily surprised by the volume of submissions we received early on. Our submissions list continues to grow, and that is a personal success because it speaks to the trust we’ve earned in the writing community. The level of faith these writers have in us is humbling, and drives us to best ourselves with each new project.
Candice: I was fortunate enough to be asked by the founding members of Indie Blu(e) to come onboard. It struck me early on that Indie Blu(e) are unique in that you are not just a typical micro publishing house. As conceptualizers and publishers you have a very strong principle in the choices you make with publishing and it can be said you galvanize and bring together people over very powerful themes.
What do you think are the reasons you operate this way? What benefits do you believe come from linking your beliefs with your publishing acumen? How has IB shifted the micro publishing world by combining strong ideas with publishing? Did you feel a moral responsibility to do this? Did you talk about why this was important? After the Kavanaugh hearings and the #metoo movement, how did We Will Not Be Silenced come to be created?
Kindra: We make it easy for one another to use our individual platforms, sources, and Indie Blu(e) Publishing as a vehicle for advocacy because we all believe in the power of the collective voice. Personally speaking, I have always believed that as a writer, I have the power, privilege, and duty to speak for those who aren’t being heard, and who are marginalized.
I’m incredibly proud that IB has marched to the front line with We Will Not Be Silenced, and that the proceeds from WWNBS go to charities. So yes, I felt a moral responsibility. During the Kavanaugh hearings, there was a fire burning in the pit of me. When Christine suggested a collection of writings and art imparted by sexual assault and harassment survivors, I was all in without hesitation. And I think that a micro-publisher willing to speak so loudly and intimately about its beliefs shows its golden balls. In my dreams of success, Indie Blu(e) Publishing will be at the forefront of anthologies that shatter the foundations built by bureaucrats, hatred, selfishness, fear mongering, and willful ignorance.
Candice: I came onboard to work with you during the creation of We Will Not Be Silenced. In turn this influenced me to consider SMITTEN. Thanks to your idea of bringing voices together, I could see the value of an anthology of poets writing about love between women. You were open to the idea – why do you care so much about giving voices to those who are usually not heard?
Kindra: I’m too empathic not to. A lot of people don’t get upset enough over injustice and uncaring to rise up and help. I don’t understand that at all, and I don’t want to. I never want to know what it’s like to live quietly while my brothers and sisters of this world are suffering.
Candice: Since I have known you both, I have seen a powerful wave of influence coming from ideas you regularly have, where you create projects and communities and collectives and this raises the awareness and voices of authors we may not otherwise hear from. What are your influencing reason(s) for being so socially conscious? Do you think it is a prerequisite of someone in your position as publishers?
Kindra: A lot of my writing influences are authors who are/were involved in raising awareness and advocating in one way or another. Again, I see it as a privilege, and my duty to do the same. A lot of writers we are introduced to have important messages and sensitive life experiences they want to purge, and we hear the call to give them safe and secure outlets to speak their truths. If I weren’t socially conscious, I’d make for a poor publisher, I think.
Candice: Recently you have had a very successful series of poetry prompts on feminism and feminist books including many lesbian classics. Many of the authors in SMITTEN have participated and become part of your growing community of authors – thanks to your inclusive approach to authors and good ideas. Is this a necessary part of being a relevant and sensitive publisher?
Kindra: Absolutely. If IB ever lost that, I’d have to walk away. But that would never happen, so no worries.
Candice: What goals do you see going forward with Indie Blu(e) based especially on the wide influence you have already had in the writers communities?
Kindra: I’d like Indie Blu(e) to publish fiction. I’m a novelist at heart, and I’d love to work on crazy good novel. Also, we have a lot of great anthology ideas. I’d like to see IB at the front of micro-publishers who represent the best up and coming writers.
Candice: Is Indie Blu(e) a publishing house with a social conscience and if so, do you believe we should all aspire to consider this when committing to creative endeavors?
Kindra: Yes, we have a social conscience, and IB gravitated toward social issues and advocacy naturally. While I do believe we should all develop a strong social conscience and stand by our principles, I don’t think that every project needs to address feminism, sexual abuse, domestic violence, etc. IB is in a position where we can represent both gripping, entertaining fiction, and collections like WWNBS and SMITTEN.
Candice: With SMITTEN you were gracious enough to be a huge support in its creation. Why are you able to tap into the depths of a project and relate to it, even if it’s not exactly like your own lives? How did you learn to be responsive to subjects diverse to your own lives? And sensitive to the needs of minorities when dealing with neglected subjects such as rape, sexual abuse, lesbianism and inequality at large?
Kindra: I don’t know exactly why I can relate to people and experiences different from me and my own, other than to say that I’m highly empathic, and I’ve been around diversity my whole life; I’ve always had friends who were different from the majority, and I saw them struggle with misunderstanding and cruelty. I’ve also experienced a lot of direct disparagement.
I’ve been close with women who’ve been raped, my mother and sister being two of them. I grew up around domestic and sexual violence. I’ve spoken up for my cousin, and the children of some of my friends who are mistreated because of their sexual orientation. For me, it’s all about being human. To see another human being suffering in any way makes me ill, and the only level of relief for me is to use my platforms to address the issues.
I’m incredibly proud to be a part of SMITTEN. There’s no way I could have passed on the opportunity, and I thank you, Candice, for including me in this stellar project.