20 Questions with... Ann Christine Tabaka
Ann Christine Tabaka was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry. She is the winner of Spillwords Press 2020 Publication of the Year. Her bio is featured in the Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2020 and 2021, published by Sweetycat Press. She is the author of 15 poetry books, and 1 short story book. She lives in Delaware, USA. She loves gardening and cooking. Chris lives with her husband and four cats. Her most recent credits are: Eclipse Lit, Carolina Muse, Sparks of Calliope, The Closed Eye Open, North Dakota Quarterly, Tangled Locks Journal, Wild Roof Journal, The American Writers Review, Burningword Literary Journal, Muddy River Poetry Review, The Silver Blade, Pomona Valley Review, West Texas Literary Review, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Fourth & Sycamore.
Twitter: @TabakaChris, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christine.tabaka
Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What was your life like growing up?
I was born in Wilmington, Delaware. Growing up, we were dirt poor and never knew where our next meal was coming from. I prefer not to mention any more about my life growing up since my father was a violently abusive alcoholic – enough said.
Did you always want to be a writer? If you also work, what do you do / did you do?
I wanted to be a visual artist. I started off in college as a fine arts major. I thought that I would be a dress designer or an art teacher. I ended up switching over to organic chemistry, and worked for DuPont, then DuPont Pharma as my career for 31 years. I became a nationally certified personal trainer after retiring from DuPont. In between I kept a notebook of poems and musings that I had written since the 9th grade. I did not become serious about writing until 2017. I am still searching for what I want to be when I grow up!
Tell us about your most recently published work in a sentence.
Right now I am exploring poetry that leans towards the abstract and experimental.
What are you working on right now?
As I write poems, I start formatting them into a book for convenience. My next book will be titled “Children of the Storm.” I am not sure when I will be ready to send it to my publisher. I have been having a hard time writing this past year.
I was recently ecstatic to have two very personal poems, “Anna” and “Lost Summers of My Youth,” published by Bourgeon Magazine. Thank you, editor Gregory Luce.
Do you have a writing routine, and if so what is it?
Nope, I write when something pops into my head. Some days I can write an entire poem or two. Other times I go months without writing anything. I seem to always be jotting down a line or thought to try to form into a poem at some later date. Sometimes it develops, other times it is a dead end.
Where do you write – always in the same space, or different places? Can you write ‘on the move’?
I always carry a small spiral notepad and pen with me. I write as an idea hits me. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and write in bed. When it is time to polish my poems and prepare them to submit or put in my books, then I type them up on my laptop in the spare room that I use for an office.
What advice do you have for other authors who are starting out? What is the best advice you’ve heard?
That is a hard one. I keep hearing to read, read, read, as much of other people’s work as possible to keep learning. Also, never give up. We all change, and our style of writing changes along with us. Hopefully we grow.
Do you enjoy doing live readings or are they a necessary evil – or somewhere in between?
I do not like to read in public, for videos, or live recordings. I hate my voice, and I get nervous and stumble a lot. That makes me even more nervous. I have slight dyslexia so I am forever reading words wrong (switching up letters in my head). To me live readings are pure evil. BUT … many people become very successful by doing live readings.
Are there recurring themes in your work? Where do you feel these emanate from if so?
Back when I started to write, I tried to write a poem about everything I could think of. Every person, object, event, etc. Recently my writing has been much more personal. It revolves around my life experiences and the people I know, like my family. I write a lot about loss and pain because that is something I am very familiar with.
Should writers have a moral purpose? What is the purpose of a writer in today’s society?
That is up to the writer. Everyone has different sensibilities and they need to do what feels right and works for them. Some writers thrive on morality subjects. Others prefer to write about tangible things around them like nature and beauty. If everyone wrote about morality, literature would become very preachy and boring.
Do you write between genres or not?
I write mostly poetry. I tried writing short stories when some friends encouraged me to do so. I had a small amount of success, but my emotional state does not seem to lend itself to writing narratives and conclusions. It takes too long to write stories, and I am a very impatient person.
Which living writers do you most admire?
I have several friends that I met through Facebook who I personally feel are outstanding poets and writers. As far as famous writers, I do not read many.
Which dead writers do you most admire?
I was never into reading when I was younger. In fact, I hated to read. I do like T. S. Eliot and C. S. Lewis. I have read some of their books.
What’s the book you wish you’d written?
I am not sure that I can answer that. I never really thought about it.
What other external influences do you have: nature/place, music etc?
I do love nature and tend to incorporate places that I love into some of my poems. I love the ancient myths of pirates and ghosts, so I write about those also. Mostly I write about people that I know and feelings.
Do you suffer from ‘writer’s block’ and how do you overcome it if so?
I suffer from writers’ block a lot. The older I get the worse it becomes. When I find the answer to that one, I will be a happy camper. I usually just suffer through it. Forcing myself to write has never worked for me. When I try, only garbage comes out.
What’s been your favourite reaction to your writing?
I always love it when one of my poems touches a reader and they comment on it. It makes me feel like it was all worth it!
How do your family and friends feel about your writing?
Don’t ask. None of my family or friends take my writing very seriously. Most of them do not even care for poetry of any kind.
Do you have a favourite bookshop?
There is a little local bookshop that is also a resale book shop. The owner is very supportive of local writers and holds book signing events. It is called The Hockessin Bookshelf.
How do you see the future of writing? Will we become more or less dependent on Amazon?
I do not see much change from where I am. I have never sold many books. After all, who is going to buy a book of poetry from someone they never heard of? I have a few loyal friends who purchase my books and I purchase theirs in return. Amazon is an easy way to have my books available to a wide range of people from all over the world.