Janet's Jargon

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Will "the Riehl Janet" please stand up?

When Janet Riehl and I first got acquainted, it was a bit confusing. I quickly be came “the original Janet” and she was dubbed “the other Janet.” However, today, as you will see below, she is “the Riehl Janet.” I hope you enjoy getting to know her.

Janet built on her book Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary (http://www.amazon.com/Sightlines-Poets-Janet-Grace-Riehl/dp/0595374999/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1247835841&sr=1-1 )to make an audio book Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music. Together these form The Sightlines Collection.
This is the 7th week of a 9-week Internet tour. This week brought her to my on-line radio show (http:////www.internetvoicesradio.com/Arch-JanetESmith.htm ) on July 14, and the WOOF! (Women Only Over Fifty) http://www.woofersclub.blogspot.com/July 15th .
Welcome, Janet.

JES: Your poetry is beautiful and inspiring. Who inspires you the most?
JGR: In whatever genre I’m working in, I write in response to a point of connection—whether with a person, a place, or a memory—in which meaning comes together. For the story poems in Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary, these points of connected meaning came through being with my father and mother in the old family home place after my sister’s death.
These encounters with meaning became the themes of place, memory, homecoming, change, and shared grief. The home place is a beautiful spot on top of the bluffs above the Mississippi River. When I wasn’t needed to care for my mother, I roamed the land as I did in childhood. As we know, nature is comforting, embracing, healing…and, yes, inspiring.

JES: You have a CD out, and it features not only your poems, but some lovely music as well. Are you the musician, or if not, who is it?
JGR: I’m one of the musicians. In the interludes between the 90 poems, you’re hearing the Thompson Quartette playing. My father (Erwin A. Thompson) sings and plays fiddle; Gordon Dingeldein backs us up with rhythm guitar; and Mike Hammerbacher rotates among guitar, mandolin, and singing. I’m playing violin and sing sometimes with Pop. We’re playing in Pop’s parlor.
These are all songs from his young manhood in the 1930s mostly. Seven he composed. If you listen closely, you can detect the difference between my father’s fiddle playing and my violin playing. This is the same instrument, just played in a different style. My father, 93, had trouble that day with his hands getting numb. But, he prevailed. You can hear the fragility in his playing.

JES: How long have you been writing, and what got you started?
JGR: There have been different stages in my writing. As a child I naturally made up stories as all children do…at least the pre-techno children. That morphed into writing poems and stories published in a middle school magazine. Stage two was writing for college and graduate school; during this time, the poetry came in more strongly and I co-edited the “Sou’Wester” magazine.
Stage three was beginning to journal when I joined Peace Corps in 1972. I now have boxes of journals! Stage four was a career as a professional writer in every field as work for hire: education, marketing, technical, and business. Stage five was the resurgence of creative writing in 1990 when the art came in for me in all its forms.
It’s been a lifelong exploration in which my craft has slowly developed as each new part of the journey came on stage.

JES: Do you write other things besides poetry? If so, which ones?
JGR: I consider myself primarily a prose writer specializing in memoir. My personal essays have been widely published in literary journals such as The Cream City Review and The Harvard Review. I have written short fiction, but that’s not my strength. Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary came through as story poems because that’s what seemed to be needed at that time for this project. I like the sense of versatility of being able to choose.
I’m currently writing a memoir Finding My African Heart: A Village of Stories. This tells the through line of my five years in Africa in the 1970s and how that time shaped my adult life up to the present. Inter-laced with the basic narrative are poems, personal myths, and essays to punctuate my factual story.

JES: Your name seems to pop up in many different spots on the Net. Which are your favorite places to “hang out” and why?
JGR: That all depends on what I’m looking for or needing at the time. I’ve become interested in social networking sites. I’ve joined Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and Plaxo. I’m most active on Facebook and find that rather fascinating.
I’m a member of Story Circle Network and am a monthly contributor to their blog Telling Her Stories (http://ow.ly/15H7Ke ) . My column, “Creative Catalyst,” examines themes of our creative lives in cycles of three posts each. I read all the posts from my blogging sisters there. Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler post there as well. I love their blog Women’s Memoir (http://www.womenmemoirs.com ).
I’m a member of Women Writing the West (http://www.womenwritingthewest.org ) which is an amazingly supportive group of women writers.
I like following my colleagues’ blogs. These are mainly the ones who have now partnered with me in supporting the Inernet tour. One I never miss is Susan Tweit’s Walking Nature Home, (susanjtweit.typepad.com ), named after her lovely new book.

JES: On Riehl Life: Village Wisdom for the 21st Century, you’ve been posting a featured video each week as part of your Internet tour on how to produce audio books. How did you get started with this?
JGR: I got into making the audio book because so many people told me that they’d like to have a recording of me reading my poems. That stuck with me, and like most dreams eventually the situation appeared where it all flowed. Perhaps this is something like the points of connection I mentioned in the beginning.
During the last week of the Internet tour on July 27th, I’ll be posting an article on Irene Watson’s Blogging Authors http://(www.bloggingauthors.com ) that gives the basic steps of how to produce an audio book. To illustrate each stage there’ll be video inserts to illustrate my points.
During several conversations on the tour I’ve given a good summary of these stages. The recording of the Women’s Memoirs telephone seminar is one of the best.

JES: For aspiring authors, is it expensive and where is the best place to start?
JGR: The author’s aspirations determine how expensive the project with be and how to go about it. The very first place to start is to figure out what you want (your vision and goals), and how far you want to reach out to an audience.
For family and friends as your audience, and with a straight reading you could probably just do it yourself rather inexpensively if you had the right equipment and software.
For a more commercial project, and with material to integrate into the reading then it would be more complex and more expensive. In that case, the place to start would likely be a good sound engineer. At least, that’s where I started.

JES: You are doing a blog tour this month for your audio book Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music. Where can people find your schedule so they can follow you?
JGR: Yes. We’ve had 22 stops on this tour which has included blog interviews and guest posts, reviews, a telephone seminar, an Internet radio show (yours!), and a podcast. The calendar for the tour can be found under the bookstore tab of Riehlife. http://www.riehlife.com/bookstore/sightlines-audiobook/calendar-for-janet’s-internet-tour-“sightlines-a-family-love-story-in-poetry-and-music” ).

JES: You do, I think, do quite a bit of public speaking. How did you get started with this, and which is harder—the speaking or the writing?
JGR: For me, I’m more tense about any type of performance: playing music, acting, or speaking. Because, in writing we have time to work out what we’re going to say and firm it up. With performance, we practice and prepare, but it’s in the moment that our chops are revealed. Performance is affected by so many factors. Some of these are external and some internal.

I did lots of training in my 20s and 30s especially. The ability to speak in public emerged from that. For Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary talks that fused poems, commentary, and music became a major way of promoting the book.

JES: I have heard that it is hard to sell poetry books. How have you been marketing your books, and what seems to have worked the best?
JGR: Talks with back of the room sale have been most productive to me. We’ve distributed around 500 copies of Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary. The audio book so far has been promoted through the Internet. We’ve distributed around 200. While those figures are small for mainstream sales, they far outpace the sales of most chapbooks. But, Sightlines with its 90 poems in 170 pages is far larger than the average chapbook as well.

JES: It has been wonderful having you as a guest. Best of luck with the rest of your tour, and do you have any final words of either advice or inspiration for our readers?

JGR: Just get out there and do the work. I believe that just as in the movie The Field of Dreams that if you build it, they will come.

JES: Where can people find you on the Web?
JGR: My blog magazine Riehl Life: Village Wisdom for the 21st Century (www.riehlife.com) is also my website.
You can follow my monthly posts on Story Circle Network’s Telling Her Stories blog (http://ow.ly/15H7Ke ).
If you belong to Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, or Plaxo find me there and we’ll connect.

Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing a bit of your life with us. The next stop on Janet’s Internet tour takes us to South Africa as we savor Damaria Senne’s Story Pot (http://damariasenne.blogspot.com ).
To win a copy of Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music view the featured video of the week and comment. That’s it!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dear Fidel...

Yes, it is Castro I'm referring to. Fate has a funny way of pointing their fickle finger at us. Back in 1963, when I made my first trip to Venezuela, I was flying on a Venezuelan airline from New York City to Caracas. It was supposed to be a non-stop flight. Until...

The plane suddenly began to roll from side to side. The announcement (in Spanish) came over the loud speaker. "This is your captain. We have hit turbulent weather." Well, color me stupid. I had already figured that much out! "We may have to make an emergency landing."

I leaned over and looked out the window. It was the most beautiful blue I have probably ever seen. Yes, it ws clear water. I knew how to swim, but how long could I stay afloat? How long would it be before anybody missed us, or came to rescue us?

In a few minutes that seemed to stretch into an eternity, I spotted a little patch of something green. Land! I could have shouted Hallelujah! Again, that was until...

"We may still have to make an emergency landing." Well, it didn't seem nearly as frightening, until...

"We are presently over Cuba."

This wasn't very long after the Bay of Pigs, and President Kennedy and Fidel Castro were enemies of the nth degree. Visions of my spending my entire missionary career locked in a prison cell in Cuba for the rest of my laugh danced in my head. I was sure a young missionary single woman would not be the most favorite person Castro would welcome to his fair isle. Perhaps my mother had been right when she told me I was too young to go to "a heathen land (she meant Venezuela, not Cuba) when I wasn't even old enough to vote!"

Soon the bad weather subsided and the captain announced that we would be able to proceed to Caracas as planned. What a relief. All of the passengers seemed to unite in one gigantic sigh.

But let's back up a bit. Ivan (my late husband) had his share of excitement on foreign soils too. He was in the Korean War. He was a conscientious objector, and he refused to fire a gun. In fact, when he was assigned to duty as a night guard, he agreed to carry a gun, but he never put the clip of ammunition in the gun. He trusted God to protect him, and He did a fine job of it. He often had to take ammo out to the guys that were on the front lines, and again, God had his back covered.

Their unit had a young Korean houseboy. He was a Christian and he taught Ivan several hymns in Korean: Onward Christian Soldiers and Revive Us Again were the two I remember him singing, especially when our kids were little. When Ivan left Korea, he gave his last paycheck to the houseboy. He had no idea what he did with the money, until...

One day Ivan received a letter from the houseboy. He had to find somebody who could read and write Korean to translate it for him. Thankfully, we lived right near the Grand Forks Air Force Base, so finding a bi-lingual person was not that difficult. He learned that the houseboy had given the money to his parents, and they used it to build a small chapel where they lived. They named it "The Ivan Smith Chapel." Ivan was, understandably, pleased as punch.

Now, fast forward to today... I don't know what the status is on missionaries going to South Korea, but I am sure it is impossible to get into North Korea as an American, say nothing of a missionary. Also, to my knowledge, neither Fidel nor Raul Castro are not about to welcome American missionaries to Cuba.

I'm not about to go to either of these countries, even if it were possible. For one thing, I am a whole lot older now than I was when I went to Venezuela. I don't have the money to travel the world. So, both Cuba and North Korea are safe, just in case they were worried.

However, my counter on my website http://www.janetelainesmith.com has a few stats that you can see. Recently, they have added a map so the owner of a website that has their counter in place can see where their most recent visitors are coming from. I have had hits from all over the world, which is a true delight, but what has been the most amazing thing to me is that I have been getting a whole lot of hits from both Cuba and North Korea. Thanks to the miracles of the Internet, I can carry a bit of the gospel, information about my books, and a whole lot more to these forbidden lands. Ah, yes, it is true: all things are possible with God!