Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Karen: I fell in love with writing as a young child, starting with an illustrated biography of our family cat, Garfield, which sent me to the Young Authors’ Conference in 3rd grade. (I’ve always been a sucker for any kind of conference or convention.) The following year, a creative writing class with Ms. Jancose continued to ignite my passion. I started writing terrible novels, which led to slightly better stories and first chapters of novels written throughout my life. I only seriously started exploring poetry in 2017 when my friend Amanda Dickson started a poetry writing group. My first influences included C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary and Star Trek.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Karen: My biggest influence today, not just in art but in life in general, is Monty Python.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/art? Have any travels away from home influenced work/describe?
Karen: I grew up in Northwest Indiana, in a small town called Griffith, in the shadow of Chicago and undoubtedly in a cloud of pollution from our oil refineries and steel mills. (I’m sure riding my bike in the wake of the town’s mosquito fogger truck didn’t help either!) Nevertheless, it was a great place to grow up in the 1980s as a free-range kid. It’s a region of hard workers who battle lake effect snowstorms and mid-summer heatwaves and the disdain of Illinois city-dwellers and fellow Hoosiers alike. I also felt like an outsider during much of my adolescence as a small, nerdy bookworm with absolutely no athletic ability. I think that this upbringing helped me to develop my ambition and perseverance, the latter being the most important quality in a writer/poet. I’ve been a huge Anglophile for most of my life (see: Monty Python obsession), so one of my most influential trips was a six-week study-abroad program in London when I was 19. I’ve written a number of pieces about London and that trip in particular, including “Maida Vale,” which was published by the Wells Street Journal in 2019. https://t.co/YwQVYiCsgK?amp=1
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Karen: The most meaningful work that I’ve done creatively so far is explore my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. I have a full-length collection about this experience that I am starting to shop around for publication, and I hope that someday it can provide comfort and some humor for someone facing the same experience. Here is a link to “Mastectomy,” published at Sledgehammer Lit, as an example. https://t.co/G6aAwf3Xoy?amp=1
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer/artist?
Karen: When I joined my friend Amanda’s poetry writing group, I was honestly intending to spend that time to continue to wrestle with the novel I had been working on. But when she read out our first poetry prompt, the words just started pouring out of me with a joy and abandon that I hadn’t experienced while writing in a long, long time. With fiction writing, I often felt like a penguin trying to fly. But with poetry writing, I feel like a penguin swimming. (Even though I’m expecting at any moment for someone to tell me I’m not writing poetry correctly.)
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Karen: To be honest, I spend a lot of my free time scrolling through Facebook and Twitter. But I love to play mountain dulcimer and have found a very special community of musicians in my classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music. I also enjoy reading, volunteering with my local greyhound rescue group, Greyhounds Only, forest walks, and learning foreign languages.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Karen: I always like to refer people to my blog, The Midlife Crisis Poet, where you can find a lot of my work and a list of my publications. http://themidlifecrisispoet.com
I also would like to direct people to recent publications at Bombfire Lit, and two poems will soon appear in Journal of Erato’s “Coming of Age” issue: https://t.co/sylgxC3Nyj?amp=1
Q8: What is a favorite line from one of your poems/writings or others?
Karen: One of my favorite lines that I’ve written appears in “A Bit of a Meltdown” in Crow and Cross Keys. “I casually disemboweled myself the other day/ in front of a crowd of people.” https://t.co/06isyfWGL5?amp=1
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Karen: I have to thank my writing friends, especially Amanda Dickson, Melissa Kramer, Emily Patterson-Kane, Jesse William Olson, Raymond Wlodkowski, Padraig Johnston, for their thoughtful reading and feedback.