Cassie Preemo Steele: I introduce myself as "a Pushcart Prize nominated poet, author of seven books, and creativity coach who lives along a beautiful little creek in South Carolina." But it's taken a lifetime to achieve that-- years of turning to the page day after day, being honest with myself over and over, learning to heal the past, claim the present, and let go of the future. Be who I am. And serve others through my writing and coaching out of that solid core of lived wisdom.
Q) Your Co-Creating Workshops debuted this year. What are they like, and what would a writer get from joining in a workshop?
Cassie Preemo Steele: I had been teaching writing workshops in the community and literature and writing courses at the college level for fifteen years-- and in 2004, even opened an office to see clients in what I called "Poetryhealing." All this was based on the research and scholarship I'd done while getting my Ph.D. and writing about the connections between multicultural American women's poetry as a way of healing from our national traumatic histories-- at the personal and collective levels.
But my daughter was four years old at the time, and it was too soon for me to try to juggle everything at once-- motherhood, wifing, teaching, Poetryhealing, and my own writing-- so I pulled back, focused on what I call the 3 B's-- bacon, beans and butter--- so that I could learn to be Balanced and then share this with others.
Bacon: are your basic needs met? what do you need to do to be solid financially?
Beans: are you paying attention to the little ones in your life? including your own little needs?
Butter: are you doing what comes smoothly, naturally, greasing the way toward your goals, or are you banging on locked doors?
These are some of the things that I teach people to ask and answer in the Co-Creating work, both individually and in groups.
Q) As evidenced by your workshops, connecting and networking with writers can be inspiring and useful in this industry. What are your favorite ways to connect with new writers?
Cassie Preemo Steele: I love the Co-Creating work I do, whether clients come to my sunny little studio filled with windows, or phone me, or sit face to face on Skype. I love speaking from my heart, giving writing prompts to journal or write poetry or fiction, teaching them what the writers and researchers have learned about the connections between writing and living a balanced life, and then writing With them. That's why it's called Co-Creating . We're in this together. In the end, we're all equal. When you truly believe that in your heart, your own voice and vision can shine.
Q) What are some of your favorite books or literary journals now, and what has been inspiring you as of late?
Cassie Preemo Steele: I am eternally grateful to Annmarie Lockhart, the editor of the poetry journal, Vox Poetica and the independent press, Unbound Content which published my new poetry book. I remember the day I saw her call for "poetry about motherhood" on Literary Mama (where I have a column called "Birthing the Mother Writer") and I thought, any poetry journal that has a beautiful African American girl reading to her cat as the main image has to be cool! So that day I sent in the poem, "The Poemgranate," that ended up being nominated for a Pushcart Prize. We have since become colleagues, friends, and co-creators. I encourage all poets to check out both Vox Poetica and Literary Mama. Read. Submit. Read. Submit again.
My favorite writing book right now is Laraine Herring's The Writing Warrior. Just this morning I dropped my daughter off at school, went to the bank, and then sat in a coffee shop and wrote for an hour in my journal, responding to the essays, questions, and wisdom in that book. Then I went and got a massage. This was all by 9 AM! I think taking care of myself, continuing to journal and take time for self-care, is vitally important in keeping me balanced so I can continue to write and serve others.
Q) Your work as a coach and writer involves healing, kindness and goodness. Do you see a decline in those attributes in the writing and media industry today?
Cassie Preemo Steele: Oh, Lisa, it means so much to me that you say that! I have always tried to be "a good girl," and although I no longer define it the same way I would have when I attended Catholic school, haha, I still make an effort every day to be good, to do good. In fact, the Sisters of Providence who taught me at Immaculata still inspire me-- as they work with immigrants, run an ecojustice center, serve the poor, and find ways to get quiet, contemplate, and listen.
Do I see a decline in kindness and goodness in the media? I ignore most of the negativity out there (I call it "fear TV" when I see it and we turn the channel or turn the TV off and go outside to play.) I think you eat what you cook. If I'm not cooking fear and hatred and violence in my home, I can't eat it. And I do love to eat, so there better be plenty of good stuff in the kitchen!
Q) Where can we look forward to you this coming year?
Cassie Preemo Steele: I'm so excited-- I am currently on a book tour for my two books that just came out in September: the poetry book, This is how honey runs, based on work with my Co-Creating clients, and Shamrock and Lotus, a novel about globalization, mothering, and the healing memory held in the land. I just went to Asheville, NC, for the first reading, and it was a full house! Next I'll visit Atlanta, GA, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Then in November, I'll come home to Columbia, SC, for an event I'm calling Cassie's Double Book Launch Party, which will feature the wonderful artists whose work graces the covers for the books-- Amy Alley and Philip Mullen. Readers can get details about all the events at my website at Cassie Preemo Steele. I hope I'll be able to meet you and all the readers of Caper Literary Journal!