Interview: Composition of a Woman by Christine Ray

 

You started you journey in the past two years. In that time you have made enormous strides as a writer and a publisher. Is there validation in getting a book to press?

My life has changed a great deal in the last two years, hasn’t it? I knew nothing about blogging when I started Brave and Reckless, let alone publishing. It has been quite an education as I have learned how to negotiate the blogging world and then the world of small press publishing. I think my writing has improved dramatically over the last two years as I have found my voice and been exposed to some really incredible writing. Joining Sudden Denouement has really challenged me to refine my writing and take more risks.

If someone had told me two years ago that I would be publishing my first book of poetry this month, I would have laughed at the idea. Even a year ago I would have scoffed at the idea- I was still too new and too raw a writer. The idea that getting a book to press was an actual possibility grew very slowly. Even in early 2018 I was really struggling with the questions of “Is this the right time?” and “Is my writing really good enough to warrant a standalone book?”

Many steps along this journey have been incredibly validating. Winning the Sudden Denouement Writing Contest, having Brave and Reckless designated a Discover Blog by the WordPress editors, getting published in a e-Zine for the first time, getting published in Nicholas Gagnier’s Swear To Me, editing Anthology Volume I: Writings from the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective have all validated my sense that this is what I am meant to be doing. I can’t tell you how tickled I am that I have a Goodreads Author page and an Amazon author page! It’s crazy. Publishing Composition of a Woman is both validating and surreal, exciting and a little terrifying.

My experience tells me that a great deal of writers stop within a year. What suggestion would you give to new writers about seeing their dreams through?

Keep reading, keep writing, keep networking, give support to other writers as generously as you can, and find your tribe. What has happened in my writing life over the last two years is truly astonishing. But it wasn’t part of a master plan that I carefully developed. I just kept walking through the open doors when opportunity presented itself. And when there wasn’t an opportunity for something I believed in passionately, I asked myself if I could make it happen. Blood Into Ink, Go Dog Go Café, and Indie Blu(e) all grew out of that place.

At the core of your first book, what message do you want to articulate? What do you want the reader to take away from the book?

Writing is really my therapy, my diary, and my confessional. Composition of a Woman covers a wide range of themes: chronic illness, depression, love, loss, and identity. These are issues that many of us will wrestle with in our lifetimes. These pieces are both deeply personal and highly relatable. I want readers to feel less alone when they read Composition of a Woman. I want them to know I get it, that I’ve lived it. Perhaps I will be able to articulate their lived experience in a way they have never been able to.

You have done an amazing job communicating with other writers. How important is that your journey?

I didn’t start Brave and Reckless because of the writing community, but I have definitely stayed because of it. I honestly did not realize how much I needed those connections with other writers until I started to develop them. It was like some small, starved part of my soul woke up when I met other writers who create from some place that I do. I hadn’t written in 12 years when I started my blog. My family and many of my real-world friends had never seen this part of me before and many of them just didn’t know what to do with it! Some of them treat reading my writing like a guilty secret while others find my candor in my writing very unsettling.

In addition to it being deeply important to my emotional health, the power of networking has had a profound impact on my writing life. I was always the kid who hated group projects but I love to write collaboratively. I love the way synergy occurs between writers and how organically something amazing develops. I have started other blogs with writers I have met on WordPress that continue to grow and thrive. It is really an honor to work with other editors and writers who I know have my back and who know that I have theirs.

Sudden Denouement is truly my literary home and I have made deep soul-satisfying friendships there, but my writing circles continue to grow. I have finally started to connect with my local writer’s community and thanks to the incredibly generous and talented Alfa (Silent Squall), I have started to connect with a large group of passionate poets on Facebook and Instagram.

I benefit every day from the support, generosity, friendship, and creative inspiration offered by these writing communities. It is not unusual for me to have four chat windows open while I communicate with writers all over the world- they are my friends, my comrades-in-arms, and my support system. I often hear people complain on social media about how jealous and petty some writers can be. I have been blessed to meet and connect with a writing community that really supports, encourages, and lifts each other up.

S.K. Nicholas stated that it is important to write every day. How did you balance life and writing in a way that provided you the opportunity to make this book happen?

Oh, how I miss writing every day! I used to write every day. I believe that I should be writing every day. I used to get up at 4 am daily just to have two quiet hours to myself to write. I have really been struggling with balance the last seven months. Some days I manage Fibromyalgia and frequent migraine headaches and some days they manage me. I love all the projects I am involved with but my writing and maintenance of Brave and Reckless often get pushed to bottom of my to-do list because of other, more time-sensitive tasks. I had to be pretty ruthless some days and close my email, mute my phone, put on my headphones, and just ignore everything else so I could have a chunk of time to work on the book.

It took an enormous amount of time just to assemble everything I had written since October of 2016 (over 450 pieces!) and start rereading and sorting through the pieces, making decisions whether to include or discard writing, and then organize the original manuscript. There were days that piles of my writing were on every flat surface in my house. My family ate meals amid tentative book sections on more than one occasion. I worked on Composition of a Woman and its sister manuscript, The Myths of Girlhood for months while also working on the Sudden Denouement Anthology and Rachel Finch’s A Sparrow Stirs its Wings. Some days I never thought Composition would never be finished but, here we are!

You have been inspiration to so many. What advice do you have for the poets who have not found their voice, who are looking to become a writer of your caliber?

I still giggle when people say things like “a writer of your caliber.” I want to look around me to see who they are talking to, because they can’t possibly be talking about me!

It helped me to read good writing. Lots of it, as much as I had time for. Not just technically good writing but writing that impacted me—made me feel, made me think, challenged me. It was profound when I stopped worrying so much about pleasing an invisible audience and started writing for me. When I write poetry, it is a selfish act. I am writing what needs to get out, regardless of what anyone else thinks about it. I need to express my truth. Truth isn’t always easy or pretty. It just needs to be authentic.

This sounds like a weird thing to say, but it really made a difference when I stopped thinking of myself as another middle-age woman who wrote some stuff and started thinking of myself as a writer. I had to take myself seriously and see it as part of my identity. It made it easier to justify carving out time for my writing and helped me see this as a marathon, not a sprint. The more you write, the better your writing gets.

Collaborate! It really encouraged me to up my writing game when I started writing with other people. At first I was really shy about asking people to write with me. I have gotten bolder and rarely has anyone say no.

I also took a college-level Creative Writing class that involved workshopping. It both helped reassure me that I had potential and also forced me to look more critically at my writing. I won’t say that it was always a good experience for my ego, but my writing voice evolved significantly during those 12 weeks. I left the class much more willing to take risks and much more confident. I also had a lot of fun! If you do not have easy access to a college writing program, there are lots of good online courses available, including many that are free.

Christine Ray is the author of the Composition of a Woman, as well as being managing editor of Sudden Denouement.

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Excerpt from Composition of a Woman: Raven – Christine Ray

It starts as tightness
tingling
across bare shoulder blades
becomes an itch
I can’t quite reach
stretch my spine sinuous
slow
vertebrae by vertebrae
long for a shot of whiskey
or three
liquid gold disinhibition I can blame
for the reckless choice
I am about to make
I finally let go
tightly coiled control
gasp with relief
as I finally unleash the darkness
onyx feathers rip
sharp and true through the flesh of my back
talons shoot from fingertips
toes
bones burned hollow
by demon fire dwelling in my belly
exquisite pain of rebirth
brings me briefly to my knees
I arise something new
wipe the blood from my mouth
spread fledgling wings
and with the lift of the north wind
I claim the night sky
mine

Composition of a Woman will be released by Sudden Denouement Publishing on Tuesday, July 31st.  It will be available on Amazon.com, Amazon Canada, Amazon Europe and other major retailers.


When not running around pretending she is Wonder Woman, Christine Ray can be found writing for Brave and Reckless. You can also find her at Blood Into Ink, Whisper and the Roar, Indie Blu(e) and Go Dog Go Cafe. ]

Are You Fucking New Here?- A Weyward Sisters Collaboration

You dropped by today

dissected my verse

thoughtfully pointed out

all the ways I could

smooth out my edges

improve flow

to slide more gently past

your discerning eyes

you must be fucking new here

if you think

I was asking for it

not a fan of unsolicited advice

my “friend”

I like my truth

raw

bloody

with a hint of lemon for acidity

that stings going down

(Christine Ray)

Oh, hello,

I didn’t see you there

although I can already tell you like to stare,

as if it is your obligation

to females everywhere.

And everywhere you seem to be.

You’re the type who lingers in keyboards,

assaulting our letters

with ones you would never dare to speak.

You’re the type who visits galleries just to sigh,

point out the vulvas in the petals

and tut at a landscape you’ve never visited.

You’re the type who slumps way down in the theatre,

feigning sleep during her monologue

because it is ‘feminist and shit’, and yet

she’ll be the only one on your mind

when you reach down tonight.

Oh, how do I know this? 

Why, because you always come back for more.

For more of my letters, pretty letters,

your coeliac stomach cannot wait to reject.

(Kristiana Reed)

You stab me with a misplaced comma’s edge,

expect me to bleed ink, but I blossom gold

leaf, like pages of a holy tome, and your

lines of prose crackle in my burning gale.

I am more word than woman, you see

and I am truth, your haunting just ghost

of all those who said no, who pushed me

down stairs of paragraphs, but I got grit,

I grew wings of paper, from you I fly.

(Allie Nelson)

hey you there –

with the pursed lips

and furrowed brow

click-clacking

your studied

critical analysis

of these driblets

of my life’s blood.

you must be fucking new here

if you mistake

the penning

of my soul

upon the page

as a request

for literary critique.

this, here

is the juice of my carotid

scrawled with fingertips

as I apply

tourniquet and poultice.

your worded attempts

to package my agony

into neat and tidy

boxes

are ill-advised salt flakes

poured into my wounds.

(Aurora Phoenix)

Soft upon the scene

He entered

Mushy odorless rambling

Entailed:

“Darling, how are you faring?

Your words are dancing in my soul

Your star shines upon my dreams.”

Going after me

Feeling my every words’ step

With a presumptuous club

White and black penned music

That clawed silence to my ears:

“You are the brightest…

Fade away, you heartless beast!”

(Iulia Halatz)

i picked up my pen and out came all of me.
it poured and poured,
filling space with untrained words and anarchy,
sharpened love, feelings bent,
a keenness breathed without judgement,
ink balled with mercy
into something of me that might speak in truth.
but you sat and held your cup,
and watched it spill.
you put it in your cabinet
with a yellow note: ‘could do better.’
i would those curling lips
might taste the poison in the teacup
between your eyes;
that is where the horror really lies.

(Lois E. Linkens)

You must be new here, because tact and common decency seem lost on you. You see, it is not okay to call a woman by any other name than the one she has given — so don’t call me Baby and I won’t call you Tiny. It is not okay to insert yourself in my life and assume I need your sage advice — if I want to know, I will ask. Do not presume to know what I am thinking, or what my heart is trying to say — because you can be damn sure that if I wrote the words, I meant each and every one of them. I’m not perfect, and I never claimed to be, but I don’t need a lecture on semantics or grammar — I’ve had more than enough schooling and experience to know my own mind. But, if you really are new here, remember this one simple rule: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
(Sarah Doughty)

You enter my house and

manhandle my verse. You

wonder why my

heart spurts crimson with

every heavy beat—

pressure me for information.

Why so mocking?

Why so angry?

Why the foul language? Bitch,

you must be fucking new here

if you expect an

explanation.

Cos I don’t answer stupid

questions.

Grow a brain, and

get a clue.

(Kindra M. Austin)

 

Lost Voice – Christine Ray

siren’s golden voice
once dropped confident syllables
into air
as naturally as breathing
now stifled in constricted throat
that struggles to swallow
six-sided anxiety
hot, sour bile

college ruled notebooks
once full
of manic scribblings
compulsively captured in black ink
before inspiration could swirl down the floor drain
collect dust
sigh from disuse

pen now held in death grip
fingers have lost their grace
their nerve
fertile mind now an empty room
where silence rings
torturous tinnitus

blindfolded by fear
weight pressing down on shoulders
by the weight of giant
unseen inquisitor’s voice barks
Have you reached the bottom of yourself
are you so shallow
so barren?!
Or is truth so deeply hidden
that you must dive inside
hand to elbow buried into slippery entails
to reach it?

surgical implements laid out
with precision on a stainless tray
slide into view
no hesitation picking up sharp scalpel
with shaking fingers
a writer’s way is
always to bleed


[Christine Ray writes for Brave and Reckless and is a member of Sudden Denouement.  She is also curator at Blood Into Ink and barista at Go Dog Go Cafe.  She is an aspiring badass.]

Glass and Thorns – Christine Ray

hysteria (1)
Betrayal is an inside job
wrecked by muscle and
joints
neurons and
neurotransmitters
mitochondrial mutiny
lays waste
to formerly silver tongue
now struggling to find words
that used to flow like
ink through fountain pen
fatigue hangs round neck
chain woven of boulders, glass shards &
thorns
muscle spasms contort me
into balloon animal shapes
so alien, so grotesque
that they frighten the village children
like the pick axe
I plant above right eye
in hopes of blessed relief
don’t mind the blood
it’s barely an inconvenience
during insomnic ruminations
about long dormant-mutations
coded in DNA turned
time bombs
that ripped through my life
casualty count still being assessed
by medics in white coats
who write cryptic words
on shiny clipboards
while I bleed


 

[Christine Ray writes for Brave and Reckless and is a member of Sudden Denouement.  She is also curator at Blood Into Ink and barista at Go Dog Go Cafe.  She is an aspiring badass.]

Cat Nap

by Lois Linkens and Christine Ray

catnap

 

sleep stalks me, finds me an easy target

slinks in to drag me under, into the depths
where unknown dangers lurk in my unconscious
what murkiness lies behind my drooping lashes,
what shadows hide between each whistling breath?
what sharpness snuggles buried
among the feathers in my pillow,
what traps will soon ensnare
and dangle me, just feet from death?

they hook me, by the ankle
and suspend me from the tree of dreams,
around which serpents rattle, tigers prowl,
insects scuttle, poisonous, foul.
blood rushing to my head
cheeks flushed
heart thundering
as i dangle helpless

great cats bat their armored paws
at my flailing hair
like beggars round a campfire.
their claws pull and snag –
draw drops of blood
that quench night blooming jasmine
waiting below

i wake with a start. temples throb and pulse,
the bed is dry as my parched throat, blankets cold.
perhaps a girl
can be herself without the hair of fairytales.

 

 

Lois describes herself as a “confused english student,” though one quickly finds a polished, charming poet in her work. She has an elegant style that compliments her keen insight and whimsical sensibilities. It is a pleasure to present her work, and we ask you to take a second to look at more of her wonderful work, lois e.linkens

Christine Ray writes for Brave and Reckless and is a member of Sudden Denouement.  She is also curator at Blood Into Ink and barista at Go Dog Go Cafe.  She is an aspiring badass.