Today's writer interview is with poet and author M. Sakran! Find out about his journey into the world of writing, how he mixes poetry with artwork, and the challenges of writing novels and moving forward. I'm sure you'll find something in this interview which resonates with you, as I have.
You have a B.S. in economics and an MBA - poetry is quite a change from this! How did you get into writing poetry?
Well, first, I got into writing in general, actually because of my MBA. During the program, I was in a group and we had to write a song. It may sound silly, but it had something to do with learning about group interaction. Anyway, with input from the group, I wrote the song. My group members thought it was great. I was asked if I had ever written anything before. At the time I had to give the answer, "Well, I've thought about it, but I've never done it." That, for me, was the moment that pushed the ball down the hill. Something about that answer hit me. I wanted to do something, but had never done it. That hit me. That was the very day I started writing.
As far as writing poetry, there were probably three things that led me to it.
The first was shortly after that first day I started writing. I wrote short stories and started sending them to literary magazines. Well … none were accepted. This failure led me to try something else. I wrote poems and sent those to the literary magazines. Well … none of those were accepted either. While this may sound discouraging, it led me to examine what I was writing and for whom. It was a time that sparked change. I had to figure out what I could write well and for whom.
I started to write things for magazines and websites that weren't literary in nature. I tried to do things that were a little different. All of a sudden, I started to get things accepted. I kept at it, and after a while, I had more than a dozen items published. After a while, I had a problem though. I needed to find more publications to write for. It was difficult finding magazines I could have some connection to and think of something to write for.
I went to the library, and they had a book. It listed places a person could send writing to. I was having trouble finding one in it that I thought I could send things to. Each magazine seemed to have a focus that I knew nothing about. I thought I wouldn't find anything, until I came across a certain magazine. I won't say the name, but it was a magazine that was about something I knew about from almost my daily life. In the description, they said they accepted different kinds of writing. Among them was poetry. I thought I could try it and sent them some poems. They were accepted and published. Those were the first poems I had published.
I kept at writing, and this led me to the second thing that got me into poetry. After getting a few more items published, I decided I needed to something more substantial. I wanted to write a book. The problem though, and I actually still have the email where I tell this to someone, was that I thought writing a novel would be too hard. I know that is an understatement. At the time though, a novel just felt overwhelming (by the way, I've written two since as well as a creative nonfiction book. One of the novels can be read on my website.) All those words. All those pages. One long cohesive story. I didn't think I could do it. It thought I could write a poetry book instead. I thought this would be easier.
Well, I was right and wrong. I could write a poetry book – but it wasn't easier. I spent a lot of weeks and a lot of effort on my poetry book. I looked at it as my opportunity to say something to the world. I took it as my one chance. Making the poems impactful was important to me.
Well, I wrote the book, and it was published in 2014. It is called First Try. You can read more about it here.
Up until the book was accepted, I had sort of dangled my feet in the poetry pool. Once it was accepted, I jumped in. Since the book was accepted I started M. Sakran's blog of and about poetry and poetry related things (msakran.wordpress.com), have gotten over two dozen additional poems published (many with literary publications, include one in Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine), started my website, msakran.com, which features poetry as part of sets of items, and have self-published a book of poems with explanations called Understanding: poems with explanations. The book was actually reviewed in the January 2017 of Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine. You can learn more about the book here.
As I think back to those moments – the graduate school class, the innumerable rejections from magazines, that moment when those poems were published, and my book being accepted – it all feels like it fits together. All of those experiences led me to be the writer I am today.
Who is most supportive about your writing?
For me, it's actually editors of magazines and websites. When I think back to all the editors who published something I wrote, mentioned me somewhere in their publications, worked with me on something, or gave me an opportunity (such as this interview here), I feel like I can't thank them enough. There are so many people who took just a little time to look at my work or do something for me and give me a chance or opportunity and all of those little things have added up.
What do you enjoy writing, and what do you find yourself writing about most often?
My favorite thing to write is writing that "hits". This is a little hard to describe, but think of the most dramatic scene from a dramatic movie, and you'll get the idea. I love it when I write something and it is succinct and makes a point and says something in just the right words. There's just something about it. It just "hits". Most of what I write doesn't fit into this category. I often write humorous things for example, but there are those little moments, where I get something through, where I think they express what I want my writing to be about.
In terms of what I find myself writing most, I think lately it has been two kinds of things. Sometimes I like to write light humorous things. I like to write things where someone doesn't think they will laugh – and then they do. Those things are fun. The other thing that I write about a lot, and that I've actually had a number of items published that relate to it, are poems about those who are downtrodden in some way. I find that I write about homelessness, poverty and those who are oppressed. There is something about people in these circumstances that impacts me and that I think is important to write about. Although it may seem strange, my humorous writing and this type of writing, at times intersect. I find that sometimes, the best way to make a point is through satire. Somehow exaggerating a behavior is a good way to highlight something. When I do it well, I think the poems make people almost laugh and yet think at the same time. That's what I want – to do something that makes people think.
Where do you write? Do you have a writing space or a particular process/routine?
I write from this very uncomfortable padded wooden chair. The legs are always loose and foam is falling out from a tear in the cushion. The desk is small, metal (and painted to look like wood) and is generally uncomfortable. I can't quite sit at it the way I want. I sit in the corner of a room, behind a sofa, with a wall on one side and bookshelf in front. I have an old desktop computer.
See … writing is glamourous.
Does your artwork and your poetry ever intertwine - for example, does one inspire the other, or do you ever create mixed media pieces incorporating artwork and poetry?
My artwork and poetry most certainly intertwine. On my blog, I have a whole category called Artwork Inspiration. The idea is to have an artwork that inspires poetry. With many of the artworks I have written poems.
Additionally, on my website, I have sets of photography, artwork, poetry and fiction. Generally speaking all of the items in a set are related. So for example, the photography might inspire the artwork, which might inspire the poem, which might inspire the short story. There is a lot of interaction between the art and poem.
Additionally, I feel that artwork is a lot like poetry. Just like I like poems that hit, I like art that hits. Although not all my art is like this, I like to make artwork that says something dramatic in a brief way. Those are the ones that I look back on with a sense of "That's what I meant," in terms of art.
What do you find the most difficult or challenging about writing?
Honestly, I would say it's moving from where I am, to where I want to be. I enjoy the writing I do. I love coming up with posts for the blog, I look forward to the challenge of sets on my website, I enjoyed posting a novel on my website, and I still feel a sense of happiness each time something is accepted for publication.
Despite this though, I want to do more. Like a lot of writers, I've written full length works that didn't reach the potential I felt they had. I have two novels, two poetry books, a poetry chapbook, and a children's book that were never published (one novel was published on my website though). That's one of the hardest things about this.
I love my blog, website, published items, poetry book, and self-published book of poems with explanations. Those things are good and I am glad I've done them. Despite that though, it has been difficult to move from those things and expand to something more.
Tell me about the piece of work that you are most proud of writing, or about the writing accomplishment you are most proud of.
This is hard to answer. I've done many things and each one has something about it that makes me feel good. If I had to just pick one, I would say it is my science fiction novel, The Finch. The Finch is the story of two friends, Georgia and Hugo, their flying ship and the adventure they have.
The Finch is actually the second novel I have written. Writing a novel was always one of those things that seemed so insurmountable. It was like saying you climbed a mountain. Well, it was difficult at times, but it was a very fun experience and I happy with how the story turned out. I think it makes me feel the best of all the things I have done, because it is something that I never thought I could do.
8. Tell us a little about your blog.
My blog is M. Sakran's blog of and about poetry and poetry related things. It can be found at msakran.wordpress.com. The title basically gives the idea. I wanted a poetry blog that was more than just poems. The main categories are: Poems, Poems with explanations, Poetry topic ideas, Artwork to inspire poetry, Photography to inspire poetry, Experimental Poetry Forms and Bilingual poems. The blog is supposed to be entertaining, inspire thought, give poetry ideas, and give inspiration for poetry.
9. What are your writing plans, goals or dreams for the future?
My main writing goal is to expand my writing into more books. The latest book I have written is a humorous creative nonfiction book about colon cancer. I am currently sending it to agents. It is called I'm not sick! All of you are sick! A grumpy old man, his grumpy old colon, and his grumpy old colon cancer. It looks at the experience of colon cancer from a humorous point of view. The idea of the book is to help colon cancer patients and their loved ones feel better during their experience by helping them laugh.
My goal is to have this book accepted and published. I want people who desperately need to laugh … to laugh.
In the long run, I would like to write a series of books like this one and maybe one day expand into other nonfiction books. I like to write about unusual things in an unusual way.
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