Interview with Poet Amanda Russell, Author of Barren Years

March 29, 2019
I am so excited to share the interview I had with author Amanda Russell. BARREN YEARS covers her experience with miscarriage, the resulting process of grief,  and the return of hope. It's a must-read and a conversation starter you might just need if you are in the healing process. Read more about the book here and pre-order your copy.


Nicole: First of all - congratulations on your book! Your book of poems touches upon a subject that many women go through. How did it feel to transform your feelings and what you were going through into poetry?

Amanda: Thank you Nicole! Good question. Writing is my natural way of processing both the “good” and the “bad” experiences of life. Putting my thoughts on paper helps give me clarity and allows me a chance to sort through thoughts and feelings. Poetry is my most natural form of writing. So, it was very typical of me to turn to writing poems even while processing the grief, guilt and disappointment I felt after my miscarriage.

Nicole: I think that's incredible how you turned to poetry during such a difficult time. How did your poetry transform the experience of loss and grief into hope?

Amanda
: Time. And allowing myself to acknowledge all feelings even if they seemed illogical to me. It takes time and patience to honor grief. But as I went through the stages, I used my writing to help me express what I was going through. When I got it right, I began to notice that my writing practice was bringing me healing.

Nicole: You mentioned that miscarriage is often an experience women suffer with in silence, but that it's something we need to talk about. Why do you think it's something women often deal with in silence and don't talk about?

Amanda: I shared the information about my book with my OB doctor. The first words out of her mouth were, “No one talks about this.” This struck me. In her line of work, she certainly comes across this unfortunate subject. It can be hard for people to talk about things that cause them pain. It was hard for me. In many cases it was easier to engage in talk on the weather, for example, or just keep my thoughts to myself. The experience is also very personal. Also, since miscarriage often happens early on in pregnancy, many women may not have shared the news of their pregnancy with others. So then it becomes even harder to talk about.

Nicole: I hope with your poetry, it can start a conversation amongst women who have suffered this same loss! What do you hope readers - especially women who have experienced a miscarriage - take away after reading your book?

Amanda: I hope they will feel that parts of it ring true for them. I watched an interview that Michelle Obama did with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts where she talks about how she felt after her miscarriage. I was listening along saying, “Yes. Yes. Yes! YES!” I hope they feel that. And I hope that they will notice the little victories in poems like “Garden Talk” and “The Most Splendid Music.” In the end, I hope they will be inspired by the hope that comes from intentionally moving forward even in a recursive process, like grief.

Nicole: I hope so too! So, tell me about your writing process. What was your process like? How long did this book take?

Amanda: I got the idea for my writing practice from a book called WRITING DOWN THE BONES: FREEING THE WRITER WITHIN by Natalie Goldberg. I loved her concept of writing “first thoughts” and turning off the inner editor, so I started doing it. This practice allowed me to go into territory in my writing that made me a little uncomfortable. When I am really all in, I am shocked by the things that surface. It is cleansing for me. I began numbering my notebooks and titling them “Writing Experiment #1” and so on. I would stop on the way to or from work and do this practice of keeping my hand moving and sticking with it until my time was up and the pages were filled. I love the ideas she introduced me to in that book. The poems in BARREN YEARS span a 7 year period of my life.

Nicole: I love that you read that book - it's one of my favorites! Sof you could give any advice to someone who is interested in transforming pain from the past and into poetry, what would you suggest? Where could they begin?
Amanda: Maybe begin with freewriting, like I described from Goldberg’s book? I have heard of people making scrapbooks, jewelry, writing memoirs and blogs. There is no one creative endeavor that is right for everyone, but for me, poetry was so natural.

Nicole; I was reading an interview you did with Thea from the blog The Space Between and you talked about how these poems are very personal, but people said they realized they were not alone when they read your poems. Why do you think your poetry resonated with people so much?

Amanda: I hope it is because I work hard to make my writing relate-able. I do not want my poems to be cryptic. To serve as good communication, writing must be readily understood. When I asked my friends to do read-throughs for me over the years, I always asked them to circle or highlight any part of the poems that did not make sense to them. I do not want to have fuzzy images in my poems. I strive for clarity.

Nicole: I completely agree - clarity matters so much! What are you working on now?

Amanda: One of my goals for this year is to send out at least one submission a month. I am trying to get into the habit of sending things out regularly and hopefully, build my publications list. I have an idea for a new chapbook dealing with memory. Mostly, though, I want to keep writing and reading.

Nicole: Best of luck to you! What books are you looking forward to reading this year?

Amanda: Oh dear! There are so many on my list! Right now I am working my way through Michelle Obama’s BECOMING and Ralph Wahlstrom’s THE TAO OF WRITING. I also want to read MAN ON WIRE by Philippe Petit. A friend just told me she is loving Ursla LeGuin’s STEERING THE CRAFT, so that has been added to my list now.

Nicole: Is there anything else you'd like to share with readers of your book?

I invite readers to take courage and share their stories. When we reach out, we can find common ground and healing in ways that we cannot find alone. 

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us! Be sure to pre-order your copy of BARREN YEARS today! If you do, it counts towards the author's advance sales goals (you will receive the book in June 2019). You can find Amanda on her blog at https://poetrussell.wordpress.com/ or follow her on Instagram and Twitter

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