Women on Writing : Heather A. Mattern (and a giveaway!)
I am so excited to have the brilliant and beautiful Heather A. Mattern here today to celebrate National Poetry Month with me. Heather is a blogger, author, speaker, mother, AND poet. Her collection of poems, The Grey Muse, releases April 19 and, in addition to sharing her writing wisdom here, she is also giving away one advanced copy of her work! Read through the post to find out how to enter. And to check out the rest of the posts in the Women on Writing series, click here.
When did you know you wanted to create a collection of poems? What was your inspiration for The Grey Muse?
Mmm! I've wanted to put together a poetry collection ever since I fell in love with those gorgeous messy lines as a middle schooler. It just wasn't in the cards. Each time I would try, something stopped me. I now feel as though The Grey Muse was always supposed to be my beginning.
The idea for this particular book of poems came last year as I was sitting with a group of women listening to Kate Inglis share about writing. She gave us a list of prompts to choose from, the one I picked was, "Oh darling, such a puzzle I know but let me tell you a secret" and as I let my intuition guide the words, I couldn't stop crying. We each read our writing aloud and once again I wept. And not the pretty tears -- the sobbing, barely catching my breath kind of crying. I knew then, that this was what I was supposed to be doing. Scribbling love notes from me to me, from my old woman to who I am in this moment.
How did the process of writing these poems, as love notes from your old woman, change the way you see yourself, both present and future?
Writing these poems healed me. In so many ways. In the beginning, as I was fleshing out the first draft, I attempted to write daily. I am NOT a morning person. I would sit on the couch wishing I could just go back to bed and thinking of all the things I needed to get done, I'd grab my pen and let her, the grey muse, whisper to me in my morning pages. She wasn't worried about the laundry or the errands, she was focused more on hugging the kids because they aren't kids for very long. She helped me learn what being present meant. And those whispers later became these poems. Many mornings as I sat scribbling down rough drafts of her love notes, my frustration and exhaustion turned into joy and smiles.
There were other things that started happening too. I began thinking of her. Dreaming of her. I could picture what she looked like and this helped me discover more about myself. The style of clothing I love. My old woman wasn't wearing the hippie layers that I'd tried so hard to fit myself into, because they are freaking adorable! No. She was wearing cow girl boots, long skirts and blue jeans. For the first time in a very long time, I started stepping into a style all my own that finally felt right.
What would be your ideal writing environment? How do you make space and time in your life for the practice of writing?
Oh boy, an ideal writing environment would be at my house with a glass of wine and kids sleeping. I love coffee shops but I tend to people watch and get distracted, which is why home is favored. I also prefer writing at night, theres just something about it. I like to think it's the moon. She's got magical powers and inspires me.
Writing and having three kids home at all times (we homeschool) is difficult. For a long time, there was guilt surrounding this dream of mine. I've discovered I'm not happy unless I make space for the words. I get up with my husband in the mornings and have a ritual, what Julia Cameron calls morning pages. It's a practice of rambling on about nothing in particular for three pages. For me, this wakes up my mind and soul.
I've learned to steal moments. When the kids are outside playing or when the hubby is out at night with friends, instead of watching television I write. How does your poetry writing practice differ, if at all, from that for your prose? Do you notice any difference in rituals, environment, or mindset with each?
Writing poetry definitely feels more raw than when I'm writing fiction. I feel my heart is exposed. I feel naked. Poetry is also scary for me because though I write prose on a blog, there seems to be more "fill in the spaces" things whereas poetry gets right to the point. I don't talk too much about my marriage struggles, depression, or anxiety in my prose but when the grey muse spoke to me, she spoke into these dark places, which although healing, is scary to release into the world.
Oh and for me, poetry is much more fun to edit than prose. :)
What authors or works most inspire your writing?
Hafiz keeps me coming back to poetry. Even the style of The Grey Muse was inspired by him.
For a while, I was too scared and thought I'd just stick with fictional stories but Hafiz's poetry kept bringing me back, almost as if saying, "I'm not going to let you forget what you are really supposed to be doing."
If you could give one piece of advice to budding writers, what would it be?
Write! If you have a dream, don't push it aside -- fill in the empty spaces with writing. Whether that be when the baby naps or when the kids are watching Frozen for the umpteenth time :)
If you really really want it -- you WILL do what it takes to make it happen. XO
Heather A. Mattern is a writer, speaker, blogger, and poet from North Carolina. Her writing has been featured in Natural Life magazine and The Garner-Cleveland Record. Her words reflect the raw naked bits of her chaotic yet beautiful life as she juggles homeschooling three children, a writing career, and a romance with her high school sweetheart.
*** For the chance to win a copy of The Grey Muse, leave a comment sharing a dream that won't let you go, then register below (open to US residents only). We'll announce a winner on Friday! *Giveaway now closed. Congratulations to Hannah!*