An Interview with Heather Grace Stewart


Leap, from the author of Where the Butterflies Go, is available for purchase at Lulu.com and Amazon stores worldwide.
It’s also available on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, and where all fine ebooks are sold. You can also order an autographed copy via Paypal. Contact the author at writer@hgrace.com. Half the proceeds from sales go to Hearts for Change – an Educational Project for orphaned children in Kenya.


Here’s an interview with the author from 2010:

Questions for a Poet, As Put to Seamus Heaney

Q: Some years ago, Seamus Heaney told an English journalist: “My notion was always that, if the poems were good, they would force their way through.” Is this now your experience?

HGS: Absolutely. Sometimes it comes through in a matter of minutes; other times, I write down a few lines, and the rest follows maybe a day or a few weeks later. But if it’s good, it all ends up on the page…and then typed into a document in my “Poetry in the works” file on my computer, and then, if I still like it after I’ve lived with it a couple weeks, I put it into a “Poetry to publish” file.

Q: Over the years, Heaney often quoted Keats’s observation, “If poetry comes not as naturally as leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all.” Is that just a young poet’s perspective?

HGS: I think so. It doesn’t always come naturally to me. Sometimes I just need to sit down and force myself to write. Stop listening to the whining voice; shut it out, and just “do it.”

Q: Does this mean that a poem essentially begins for you when you find a form?

HGS: A poem essentially begins for me when I’ve found my voice for it; the form takes shape with the voice.

Q: Is there a poetry time of day and a prose time of day?

HGS: Used to be I used my early mornings for poetry and at sunset, and prose anytime, but now that I am a mother, it’s when I have a notepad, pen, and that spare minute when I’m not being asked to wipe a bum or put Barbie’s head back on.

Q: I remember Anne Yeats saying that her father mumbled to himself when he started to write. Would the Stewart household know that a poem was coming on?

HGS: In my household my hubby can usually tell a poem (for kids or adults) is being born if he comes home at 6:30 p.m. and DD is beside me doing a puzzle; a grilled cheese or rice is burning on the stove, and I’m soaking wet; just out of the shower in a towel with a focused look on my face, typing at the computer, “Just a minute, honey I have this idea…” And he’s so cool about that. He’s used to me by now. Now my daughter’s getting in on it, too. She looks at my face sometimes and says, “Mommy, what? Do you have an idea? Tell me, tell me, what is it? ” I try hard to be in the moment with her as often as I can, but the kid is smart, she’s onto me…so I usually end up spilling, because I don’t like to talk down to her, and sometimes, just by explaining it to her, she helps me better formulate the idea. Just wait, you guys are going to love our kids poem, ‘Cats Can’t Cook!’

Q: Do you ever feel burdened by the sheer amount of work you know it will require to do justice to a particular inspiration?

HGS: All the time. All the time. Right now, I’m trying to write a poem that’s going to do justice to this amazing group of people I’ve met online, and become close to over a year and a bit. Some might guffaw that you can make special friendships online. I beg to differ. I don’t know how I’m going to write something that truly speaks to this experience I’ve had. I think maybe they’ll help me somehow, because a lot of them are writers…actually, I’ve dedicated LEAP in part to them.

Q: How can you tell a poem is finished?

When it stops shouting at me. ;-)

Q: Do you keep a notebook of phrases and images for later use?

HGS: I have several notebooks, with penned poems/ ideas to type out later, and my images are saved on the computer by date.

Q: Does the poem come more quickly if there is a form? Would you be offended to be called a formalist?

HGS: I don’t think anyone would call me a formalist, but I definitely use techniques. Just not formally. Okay, seriously now, I’ve written haiku, tanka,
and Villanelles, using proper form. I just don’t like being weighed down by form. As Frank sang, I’ll do it my way ;)

Q: Do you have a preference for pararhymes and half rhymes over full rhymes?

HGS: I only use rhyme when it will only come to me that way, and even then, I hesitate to use it. I have to think about it first. I ask myself, is this form going to help the message or hinder it?

Q: Are you a poet for whom the sound the words make is crucial?

HGS: It’s all about sound for me. I love alliteration. Sometimes a poem starts out with words that sound great together; they just come to me and I have to write them down. For instance, I was walking to a Queen’s University class at 8 a.m. one rainy spring day in Kingston, and couldn’t get this line out of my head: ‘These are the days, quickly melting away,” (from the poem EQUINOX). The poem took off from there.

Q: Would you accept Eliot’s contention that the subject matter is simply a device to keep the reader distracted while the poem performs its real work subliminally?

HGS: To some extent. But I don’t do it on purpose. It must be subliminal. ;)

Q: What role does humor play in your poetry?

HGS: I don’t try to be funny. I don’t try to be anything. I just write the way I think, and I think people find my honesty refreshing and humorous.

Q: What are your thoughts about accessibility and obscurity in poetry?

HGS: Accessibility is probably my trademark: something I’m proud of and at the same time it’s my tragic flaw, if you will, because I’m so accessible, many journals wouldn’t be interested. I’ve managed to get several respected online journals interested, and printed ones in the UK, and even a Canadian textbook company sought me out. I’ve been published in international anthologies, including a very special one memorializing 911–Babylon Burning, edited by the great Canadian poet Todd Swift–and in a few print journals in Canada, but not the most “elite” ones–the ones that have been around almost 100 years. I’ve kind of given up trying because I don’t think it’s that important to me any more. I want to touch real people’s lives; not just the academics. I want to write something that might comfort a stay-at-home mom or a couple struggling with their love/ marriage or a depressed person looking for a glimmer of hope in a fast-paced world. I think the people I’m trying to reach are more likely to happen upon my poetry on the Net, not so much in the special collections rooms of their libraries. I know that people can understand my poetry without having to go look in some reference book (except for the odd references I make to items in the news, and even then I try not to be obscure) and that’s quite odd. But I can’t change the way I write. I guess I’m destined to be a Fridge Poet – the one that makes it to everyone’s fridge beside their kids’ finger paintings. And at the same time, to help a few children in third-world countries get the education they wouldn’t otherwise get. That’s just fine with me.

Q: And the avant-garde?

HGS: I’d love to be avant-garde. I’d love to be Avant anything. Ahead by a Century. That’s cool. I think some of my poems are there (for instance, my collection Leap features the concept of the Status Update as poetry), others, not so much, and I guess we’ll see which ones stand the test of time in 100 years. Well, no, unless I live to be 137, I guess I won’t see that. But whether they’re set in a classic or innovative style, as long as my words can touch a few people’s hearts along the way…for me, that’s really all that matters.

Thanks for reading! —Heather Grace Stewart

About these ads

Another 5 Star Review for The Friends I’ve Never Met!

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I love waking up to surprises. Some of my favourites: Snow on the ground. My daughter leaving a crayoned card at my bedside table. Hubby and her made breakfast in bed. AND FIVE STAR REVIEWS LIKE THIS ONE!

Thanks to author Lisa Justus for such a well-written review that will hopefully make more people want to read this story.

You can read Lisa’s review here and follow her links to buy the book on Amazon. It’s also available on the Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Sony reader and at Smashwords in epub format.

2013-11-28 11.25.01_2This is me, keeping on going until I am stopped! What, you think a tree is going to stop me? :)

The Story Of A Traveling Screenplay (Please Share!)

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The Story Of A Traveling Screenplay (Please Share!)

The Friends I’ve Never Met has traveled.

It has traveled around in Aaron Sorkin’s (The West Wing, The Social Network) script bag and been referred to his agency, been given constructive criticism (which I gratefully used) by the creator of King Of Queen’s, and has been accidentally left in an airport by Tom Cavanagh (Ed), but he did scribble more constructive criticism in the margins! (which I gratefully used).

It has been read, referred & praised by the kind and generous Mark Feuerstein and the beautiful and talented Forbes Riley But thanks to YOU it has traveled the farthest, WAY UP to #28 in Women’s Fiction>Action and Adventure!

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE share the link, buy, review, star rate, and help KEEP ‘THE FRIENDS I’VE NEVER MET’ TRAVELING UPWARDS!

I’ve come this far – why quit now?

Thanks for your help!
Heather
P.S. You do not need a Kindle, Amazon.com has free Kindle reading software for your computer!

Making Space for Accessible Poetry

February 15, 2013

Canadian Poet Heather Grace Stewart launches her fourth poetry collection, Three Spaces

Three Spaces is a ‘brave new collection’ of poetry, prose and photography from Amazon and iBooks Canada bestselling-poet and journalist Heather Grace Stewart.  It examines themes within three spaces of our society: public space, personal space, and cyberspace.
“I wanted to put out a collection that was a reflection of our society today, of how we’re trying to balance our  public lives with our lives in cyberspace, all while trying to maintain some privacy in our personal lives,’ Heather explains.

“There are dark and intense poems that start this collection, but then I move into tender, humorous poetry and prose to lighten the mood, and colourful images that can provide space for introspection,” Heather explains. “As always, I try to give my poetry substance, but make it accessible. I don’t want my readers scratching their heads or pulling their hair out after reading one of my poems! I want them to relate in some way. I’d like for them to walk away from the experience of reading this book feeling moved, energized and entertained.”

Early reviewers describe Three Spaces as ‘inspiring’ ‘heartfelt,’ ‘professional’ and ‘modern.’ Best-selling Author Elisa Lorello (Faking It, Adulation) writes,

“Buy this book. Get hooked. Add it to your space. You won’t be disappointed.”

Three Spaces is available now in Kindle Stores Worldwide, including Canada, USA & India, the UK, Germany, and many other countries, as well as on Kobo, iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, and many other epub readers.

It will be available in print on Amazon and in bookstores in April, IF there is enough initial interest (at least 100 requests ) to warrant the production costs.

Heather will appear at Chapters Pointe Claire, Quebec on April 14th to celebrate National Poetry Month and to read from Carry On Dancing and a Kobo version of Three Spaces on her Kobo for IPad app.

Heather’s poems have been published in Canadian literary journals, newspapers and magazines, nation-wide school textbooks, international print anthologies, online journals, and in the British small presses. She was awarded Queen’s University’s McIlquham Foundation Prize in English Poetry (1995) and the UK journal Various Artists’ Poet’s Poet Award in 2008 and 2012.

Her third collection of poetry and photos, Carry On Dancing (Winter Goose Publishing, 2012)  hit #1 on Amazon Canada’s Bestselling Poetry list in April 2012, and stayed there for several weeks. It’s now topping the Canadian Kindle Bestselling Poetry charts along with Where the Butterflies Go.

Her second collection of poetry and photos, Leap (Graceful Publications, 2010), has been described as a “lovely lilt of language,” and, “a must for new and already hooked fans,” by reviewers. Where the Butterflies Go (Graceful Publications, 2008), was reviewed as “whirlwind poetry that never hesitates…always delightful and rarely what you expect. We need poetry like this.”

Heather is also a children’s poet, and enjoys screenwriting. The Groovy Granny (2012 Kindle version; Special Audio Version on iBooks) and The Friends I’ve Never Met (Romantic Comedy screenplay, 2012) are her best-selling Kindle books.

Her photographs have appeared in Equinox and National Geographic Traveler among others, and on the cover of over a dozen poetry books.

Born in Ottawa, Canada, she lives with her husband and daughter near Montreal. In her free time, she loves to take photos, scrapbook, cartoon, inline skate, dance like nobody’s watching, and eat Swedish Berries — usually not all at the same time.

Three Spaces

Thank You Canada!

I’m starting to think hard work DOES eventually pay off.

Today, Where the Butterflies Go hit #1 on Kindle > Poetry on Amazon.ca, and Carry On Dancing hit #2!

The books are also doing well in ‘Books’ (paperback) – currently #23 and 24 in Canadian Poetry. The Friends I’ve Never Met hit a high of #39 in Fiction & Lit> Women> Single Women (I haven’t looked at it again since yesterday – at a certain point as an author you just stop looking! Please let me know if it goes up again! :) )

You guys are amazing! Thanks for reading & sharing with others about my poetry & my rom-com screenplay.

If you haven’t bought a Kindle copy of any of my 3 poetry collections yet, today or tomorrow would be the perfect day – help me stay ahead of Leonard Cohen! ha ha ha :)

Thanks so much for buying CANADIAN books!

And yes, I realize after I post this post, they could fall to 800,000 in books. Such is the way of Amazon rankings and the life of an unknown author! But at this moment, I’m so happy, grateful, and wanted to thank you all so much.

xo
Heather

Wow :) Thanks!

Wow :) Thanks!


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The Friends I’ve Never Met- Now on Kindle!

This is the story of a screenplay that has traveled around the world more than I have in the last three years.

It’s the story of my romantic comedy screenplay, The Friends I’ve Never Met, now available for you to read and enjoy on Kindle or for free on your laptop or desktop computer using easy to use, FREE Kindle software  I’m selling the screenplay there for just three buckeroos.

Why put a screenplay on Kindle? Why not? It’s registered to me under WGAW, and it’s not like it hasn’t been read by dozens of people already. I just decided that I wanted it to be available for more people to read and enjoy.

I wrote The Friends I Never Met in 2009, and acted as my own agent, because finding an agent proved tougher than just getting it read by people in the industry. On a whim, I called up my then-Facebook friend, playwright and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (he’s since left Facebook) and asked if he’d take a look at it. He was kind enough to say he’d be happy to read it (and also to suggest I buy the show Pinky and the Brain to engage my then- four-year-old daughter. I’d told him I’d given her a bowl of cheetos bigger than her head so I could “talk to the nice movie-making-man.”) and to send it right away to his office. It’s an understatement to say he’s a busy guy, and he never found the time amid writing The Social Network, Moneyball and The Newsroom. Last he told me, it was not only in his house but in his “awesome Mulholland Brothers script bag.”  I’d like to think some day he’ll finally pick it up, read it, and give me some pointers ~ or maybe even take his Kindle out of the box, set it up, and read my screenplay on the Kindle. That would surprise me more, since he admits he doesn’t even know how to create presets on the radio in his car. But, damn, the guy can write movies and television.

I didn’t stop at sending it to Mr. Sorkin (twice). I sent it to one of my writing heroes, Michael J. Weithorn, executive producer-writer of King of Queen’s, a writer-producer of Family Ties, and now a film director (A Little Help, 2010). He didn’t just read it; he offered to talk about it over the phone with me. His advice was the best I got on this journey. I used a lot of it to make the script tighter, more real, and, I hope, more compelling. As well, he sent me old Family Ties shirts and a funky sateen jacket from set. Come ON! It was definitely a Top 10 moment for this Family Ties junkie.

I sent the screenplay to several screenwriting festivals too, including WildSound in Toronto and Scriptapalooza in the U.S., and I got some solid writing pointers back from a team of writers at each festival.  I used their comments to improve it once again. (The script has seen at least 10 revisions. I’ve lost count).

I’d been acquaintances with actor Mark Feuerstein (What Women Want, In Her Shoes) for a few years before writing this screenplay (we’ve never met in person but we’ve spoken on the phone), and he agreed to read the script next. What a sweet, unassuming guy. He was busy preparing for his new show, Royal Pains, at the time, but he still took the time to read the screenplay, compliment me on it in an email (he even said he’d be happy to play either male character, schedule permitting and all!), and offer to let me use his comments as a referral to any person or agency I sent it to. And so, I sent it to his agency and a few others, and crossed my fingers that it would catch someone’s eye in the Slush Piles of Screenplays.

It didn’t, so I continued to send it to festivals, and called producers, big and small, in LA. Sometimes, their office assistants wouldn’t even give me the name of the person I should mail the script to. I used to open with “I’m in Canada.” Maybe that was a bad idea, EH?

Next, I poked someone else on Facebook. I’m kidding – but all of these contacts thus far were made thanks to Facebook!

Other places my script traveled? Actress Forbes Riley (24, The Pretenders, The Practice) gave it a read and a big thumbs-up from Florida. Next it went overseas to New Zealand into the hands of actor-director Tom Cavanagh (Ed), who was acting as Ranger Smith in Yogi Bear. He then accidentally left it in the Vancouver airport waiting room. I’d like to think he was overtired from flying half way around the world, and not that he left it there because he hated the read. It was mailed back to me with some very constructive comments – including new director’s directions! – in the margins up to half-way through. I kept that copy because that was even better than an autograph, and I implemented the changes he suggested.

I even spoke with Drew Barrymore’s Director of Development for Flower Films on the phone, and he agreed to read the film’s synopsis. He told me it “sounds like an innovative idea and a fun, sincere story, and you’re definitely plugged into the zeitgest,” but Flower Films is a “small company with a very small slate and not making that genre of film right now.”

A lot of good friends and family members read the screenplay, too. I asked for their honest opinion, and in many cases, their critiques helped me change scenes and characters for the better.

After two years of sending the screenplay around the world, I was stopped. I always say, ‘Keep on going until you are stopped,’ when it comes to your dreams, but this dream was getting expensive! I did one last revision, then left it alone.

But, I didn’t want that to be the end of this story. Recently, I read the screenplay again, and realized I didn’t write it for it to gather dust inside my laptop’s hard drive. I wrote it for people to enjoy.

I just had to come up with another way to get more people to read it. So, I’ve published it on Kindle (and soon, on the  Kobo and iBooks!) and hope that you all buy it and tell me what you think. It’s not like I haven’t heard compliments and critiques from people from all walks of life already; I’m all ears for yours!

Enjoy the read and if you like it, please tell others about it!
Best wishes,

Heather

Me, wearing my new Family Ties tshirt, a kind surprise from a writer-producer of the show. Getting his advice and constructive criticism on my screenplay was one of the highlights of this journey.

Taking the LEAP

American writer and poet Jamie Dedes, a former columnist and features writer, reviewed ‘Leap’ today in her Saturday Review series. I’m thrilled with her well-written, informative review (and tickled she’d put Anne Murray, k.d. lang, and Mark Vonnegut in the same sentence as my name) and wanted to share parts of it with my readers here.

“When I think of Canada, the first thing I think of is snow and Mark Vonnegut (The Eden Express, Memoir of Insanity), and voices clear and cool as mountain spring-water, k.d. lang and Anne Murray … and now I think of Heather Grace Stewart, a new-to-me poet, writer/journalist, children’s writer, and photographer,” writes Jamie.

She continues, “In this one collection, Leap, Heather deftly combines lightness and depth. It’s an honest, unpretentious look at life with all its risks and joys. We recommend that you take the Leap. The book is oversized with a paperback cover and illustrated with Heather’s photographs of family – especially her young daughter – and nature scenes. It can be purchased HERE for $9.99 with half the proceeds going to UNICEF’s Gift of Education project.

You can read the whole review and many other great posts over at Jamie Dedes’ site.

Thanks, as always, for reading and taking the leap with me.

'Poetry Rocks' copyright Meg Laufer 2010

The Fine Line: Emails from L.A.

“Your friend’s on T.V.”

“My friend?”

“Your friend whose name I can’t pronounce.”

“Ohhh! My FRIEND! Mr. Sitcom Actor!” I squealed, and ran from the kitchen, where hubby and I had been making dinner together, to the living room. It was three years after the Crazy Phone Call, and since that time, not one restraining order had been placed against me. Wait, that didn’t come out right. I have never had a restraining order placed against me. Seriously. Please, keep reading.

Mr. Sitcom Actor had, in fact, recently told me I should refer to him as my friend, “even though you’re in Montreal and I’m way over here in L.A.” It never surprised me when he responded to my emails—he’s a dear-heart like that—but I knew it was a rarity for a famous person in Hollywood to give a rat’s ass about someone who could do nothing for them. I enjoyed our rare yet lively e-conversations.

I caught the tail end of the ad that was on for his series, but it was enough to get me jumping up and down, clapping, as I always did when hubby told me my friend was on our TV screen. Our one-year-old was sitting in her high chair, and started clapping along with me.

“Dat? Dat dere?” she asked, big eyes blue and wondering.

“That’s my friend. Mr. Sitcom Actor. He sends me emails from L.A. Well, not really.
I email him, and he’s sweet enough to email back.”

“Nice haih, dat,” Monkeydoodle mumbled through her peas.

“Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. He really does have great hair.”

I’m going to stop typing immediately and clarify something before I get deluged with excited emails from you, dear readers. This is a fun game to play, keeping you guessing about all the parties in my story, but no, I didn’t get emails from McDreamy in my in-box. Patrick Dempsey wouldn’t return to our TV screens, set my heart racing, and make me put extra mousse in my husband’s hair until a whole year later.

As I finally sat down on the sofa, dinner plate on lap–this has got to be one of Murphy’s Laws–our daughter’s face turned beet red, and she announced an event to us for which anyone with an operating olfactory nerve required no announcement:

“Poop!”

I laughed, and was reminded of an email Mr. Sitcom Actor had sent me a few weeks back. We’d been comparing diaper duty–he’s quite the hands-on Dad and had admitted he and his wife were “knee-deep-in-it” –and, having read some of my poems, he’d told me I should write a Mommy Rap about changing diapers. “That would be hilarious!”

I never did write that rap. Life gets in the way; or perhaps that’s just not how it was supposed to happen. If I’d started practicing my rapping when Mr. Sitcom Actor suggested it, maybe I’d have learned to sing on key and sound bad-ass enough. But then I wouldn’t have earned my “The girl can’t rap, but she sure can write” t-shirt sent to me by The Sex People, along with a delicious strawberry cheesecake, delivered to my door.

Who the hell are The Sex People? I’m sure that’s what the cheesecake delivery guy wanted to know, with every inch of his being, since I wasn’t expecting him, and had answered the door in leggings and the new black stilettos I’d been modeling for my girlfriend Artsy Mommy. He must have thought I was running a very different kind of home business.

Back to The Sex People. The simple answer is I met them online when Mr. Sitcom Actor joked with me tongue-in-cheek, “Yes, Heather, let’s be friends, officially,” when I’d asked him if that was really him on Facebook—as if you have to be on Facebook to make your friendship official. He soon posted a link to a discussion board led by Mr. Screenwriter, which I thought looked quite interesting, so I joined.

Before I knew it I was online every day with a bunch of friends I’d never met, chatting about the in’s and out’s of screenwriting, sex in the movies, baseball, and our messy, beautiful lives.

It was the stuff movies are made of.

Read how this story started:

Prologue: The Fine Line (between persistence and stalking)

1) a-The Fine Line: “Do What You Want”

Read the NEXT CHAPTER: The Fine Line: I’m Afraid to Ask, but What Is Poking?

Progress

from the collection, “Leap”

She misses perfumed postcards,
snail mail letters;
conversations in cafés
without the words,
“hang on, I have to get this call.”

She misses eye contact:
knowing gazes and
flirty glances
that overpower
the urge to send an SMS
or answer the sound
of someone somewhere
logging into chat.

She texts and types
Tweets and Skypes,

then sleeps outside
where stars and
fireflies decorate the
infinite darkness.

"Poet's Notebook" copyright 2010 HGS

Poetry Rocks!

The latest entry for my “By Leaps and Bounds Photo Contest” is titled “Poetry Rocks!” It was taken May 29th at Curl Curl Beach, Sydney, Australia, by Meg Laufer.

Writes Meg, “My friend Mel was engrossed in the poetry, and I was busy with the photography. Suddenly, we both looked up and realised how close the huge waves were to
the ‘dry spot’ where we’d left our bags. Some squealing, scrambling and much laughing ensued.”

Thanks for your efforts ladies! I love that you two would take such a  leap for this contest, and that I’ve made a new reader friend in Mel out of this your photo shoot. In the future, contestants, let’s try to stay dry, or if not dry, at least no broken bones or hospital visits, okay? Think: “Leap –with a Life Jacket” like the cover! (Unless you’re planning on sky-diving with the book, in which case, must admit I’d love to see that, so, Leap, with a parachute!)

That said, I am thrilled with all of these original, fun entries, and really do encourage you to keep thinking outside the box. Can’t wait to see what else you wonderful readers come up with. Never stop leaping!

Rules for this contest are posted here in this previous blog entry. Please don’t forget to vote on your favorite entry so far here at my Facebook group.

'Poetry Rocks!' by Meg Laufer, Sydney, Australia