Friday, November 13, 2015

Alarie Tennille Responds to a Writer’s Survey

Thanks to Kansas City poet Alarie Tennille for allowing me to post her responses to my writers’ survey. I created this for several professional workshops. Tennille is a force in the Kansas City literary scene. She recently was runner-up for the prestigious Thorpe Menn Award for her book Running Counterclockwise (Aldrich Press, 2014), which I reviewed for the Kansas City Star-- A quartet of locally rooted poets  She is a thoughtful person; her wise responses are helpful for writers and readers alike.

 Personal Writing Style
1. Where do you do your best writing? Describe the table, chair, keyboard or tablet, and room or place. AT: My best first drafts are usually written somewhere cozy, usually I'm sitting on my sofa with my legs up. I write in long hand in a magic notebook. (It's magic because it seems to expand and never fill up...well, not for years anyway. I favor large sheets of lined paper in a spiral bound book that will lie flat. Cat on lap optional (at cat's discretion). Usually I have a hot mug of tea beside me, sometimes a different beverage. After that I move to my computer in my upstairs study to type it in. The room is red, and I'm surrounded by bookcases.
2. What audio environment works best for your writing? Silence or background chatter? AT: I definitely don't like chatter. I prefer silence or very soft Classical music (nothing with lyrics!). Nature sounds are fine: birds, fountains.
3. What is the feeling you get when you do your best writing? Does this happen often? AT: It doesn't have to be my best writing, just writing that pleases me at that moment. (I sometimes change my mind later.) At times, it's a peacefulness, because I can let go of my guilt about procrastination or writer's block. Other times, it's an adrenalin rush. I almost want to share it with the world right then, though I know that's not a good idea. (The adrenalin rush is typically after I hear my critique group's reaction.) Thankfully, the feeling comes pretty often and never gets old. I wrote professionally for many years and didn't have the luxury of waiting for inspiration. Now I don't pressure myself to write every day, but enough to be ready for my critique group.

Public Writing Experience
1. What kinds of experience do you have with publicly sharing writing (besides this class)? AT: If it's bringing a homework assignment in for a critique, I generally enjoy it. If it's sharing what I just wrote on-the-spot, I don't like feeling pressured to do that. My best writing rarely happens sitting at a table of strangers and working on a tight deadline.
2. What do you enjoy about public situations that involve sharing of writing? What is your favorite type of activity? AT: I love to share my writing at public readings and open mics. However, it took me many years to get over my stage fright. I like hearing and seeing the crowd's reactions. I'm often surprised which poems seem to be the evening's favorites. I can feel shy about sharing in a workshop if I don't feel I've had time to polish my work a little.
3. When you participate in a public activity you like, do you have any feelings similar to your good writing times? AT: YES! The satisfaction of reading my poems to an audience is really the culmination to my original feeling of wanting to share the poem.
4. What can you do to improve your personal satisfaction from writing? From public sharing of writing? AT: The best way to improve both craft and satisfaction is to work at it and repeat the process. If you'd told me 10-11 years ago that I'd one day enjoy giving public readings, I wouldn't have believed you.

 Alarie Tennille was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia with a genius older brother destined for NASA, a ghost, and a yard full of cats. A Phi Beta Kappa, she graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class that admitted women (B.A. with distinction in English). She met her husband, graphic artist Chris Purcell, in college. She still misses the ocean, but loves the writing community she’s found in Kansas City. After a career ranging from technical editor to greeting card writer, Alarie is retired and has more time to focus on her poetry writing. She serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place. Her poem, “The Quilters of Gee’s Bend” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 2010, she published a chapbook, Spiraling into Control (The Lives You Touch Publications). In 2014, Alarie celebrates her first full-length poetry collection, Running Counterclockwise (Kelsay Books: Aldrich Press), a Thorpe Menn Award finalist. Her work appears in The Whirlybird Anthology of Kansas City Writers and in numerous journals including Margie, Poetry East, Coal City Review, I-70 Review, English Journal, Wild Goose Poetry Review, and Southern Women’s Review. Website: Reviews
A quartet of locally rooted poets.The Kansas City Star.