Connie Peters is yet another poet Walt and I met at Robert Lee Brewer’s 2009 April Poem-a-Day Challenge. Connie was then (and continues to be) one of the most uplifting souls we’ve been “introduced to” in the poetic community. Her presence here enriches our spirit.
MARIE ELENA: Thank you for letting us pry into your life, Connie.
CONNIE: Thanks for the interview, and thanks to you and Walt for hosting Poetic Bloomings. I’ve been writing a poem a day since October 2004, so Poetic Asides and Poetic Bloomings have been wonderful poetic company. They make writing poetry a lot more fun, interesting and educational.
MARIE ELENA: I always choose a favorite poem of our guests. With yours, Connie, I knew which one I wanted. I’m thankful it was easy to retrieve:
Mood as light as angels kisses
Hope on butterfly wings
Sweet ideas as tinkling bells
Rhythm of dancing dreams
Wishing you a magical muse
Inspiration as morning song
and whispering wishes
Words skipping along like fairies
in gossamer dresses
Wishing you a magical muse
Encouragement as sparkling dew
Rhymes like lilting laughter
Poems shining as glittering stars
Wishing you a magical muse
The title of your blog, “Enthusiastic Soul,” strikes me as apropos. Your writing is so very uplifting! Are enthusiasm and positive thinking qualities that come naturally for you?
CONNIE: Not at all. I tend to be negative and prone to depression. I think it’s probably my struggle to stay sane that I’ve learned to focus on the positive, God’s love and that all things are possible with Him. And in prayer and poetry, my soul is much more enthusiastic than what might show on the outside.
MARIE ELENA: Prayer and poetry are a combination that simply cannot be beat, in my opinion.
You have several publications displayed on your site, containing not only your poetry, but devotions you have written. For those who may not know, please explain what devotions are, and how you came about writing them.
CONNIE: A devotion is a spiritual insight derived from the Bible, and a practical anecdote. They are usually about 150-500 words. I wrote a book called Sonshine with fifty of my poems, a devotion based on the story of each one, plus writing tips and exercises. I self published a few copies, but it has been in an eternal state of revision. I met editor Adam Colwell at a conference my group puts on each year. He read some of Sonshine and asked me to join the Presidential Prayer Team to write devotions. So I write five devotions a month for Presidentialprayerteam.com. I have written poetry for them, too. I also write for Adam Colwell’s WriteWorks. Adam gets jobs from organizations that need writers, and gives his team assignments. The last article I wrote for him was about milk.
MARIE ELENA: You have also been on the board of Southwest Christian Writers for about fifteen years. Please tell us about this experience, and what duties this entails.
CONNIE: We are Christian writers from several towns in Southwest Colorado, northern New Mexico, and one from Arizona. The group has been in existence for about thirty years. I have been a member most of that time. We put a two-day conference on each year in September with national and regional speakers, and a day conference in May with regional speakers. We also have a few more meetings throughout the year. Most of us belong to local critique groups, and we meet all together for conferences and fun activities.
The leadership works closely together. So I’ve been president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, at different times, but we all basically lead together. I’m vice president for 2012, which involves getting speakers for the meetings and conferences. Penny Henderson from Poetic Asides was one of our speakers. It was great meeting her.
MARIE ELENA: How nice that you were able to meet Penny! She is another poet whose work is very inspirational and uplifting.
In addition to poetry and devotions, I see you have participated in NaNoWriMo. Do you have any novels under your belt, or in the works?
CONNIE: I have written or in the process of writing about fifteen novels. I’ve published several children’s short stories and received an honorable mention in one of Writer’s Digest’s contests for an adult short story, but haven’t had any novels published yet. I do have a junior novel series being considered with a major Christian publisher, at their request, but haven’t heard back from them yet. I write picture books, too.
MARIE ELENA: Excellent! You have certainly enjoyed a level of marketing success. Please share with us how you go about marketing your poetry and devotions.
CONNIE: I have gotten assignments with Barbour’s Heavenly Humor Series and David C. Cook’s Quiet Hour. I sent in samples of my work, using Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers Market Guide. But the best way to get published is to meet editors at writers’ conferences. I’ve been to many in several different states. I’ve had several pieces accepted with Focus on the Family through meeting one of their editors at a conference.
MARIE ELENA: Focus on the Family? Now I’m really jealous. 😉 Good for you, Connie!
Your blog subtitle is “Tidbits to inspire the creative, poetic, and spiritual soul.” You make no secret of your love for God. How does your faith influence your writing? I suppose it is obvious how it would inspire devotions, but what about poetry?
CONNIE: Many of my poems come directly from my insights during prayer and Bible study. I also use poetry in worship and prayer. When I pray for others, I usually use acrostics. That’s why acrostics come easy for me.
M ay Marie draw near to You
A nd may she bask in Your love.
R emind her that You are
I n charge and care for her very much.
E nvelop her and her family in Your grace.
When Walt was having sleep problems I wrote this:
W onderful Lord, thank You for Walt and all Poetic Asides. We have become
A family in a way. Lord, I pray that you help Walt grow in You.
L et him experience Your loving presence. Help him get the rest and sleep he needs.
T oday as he writes poetry, write through him.
Sometimes I share the acrostics with the person I pray for, but most of the time, I don’t.
MARIE ELENA: Wow. I have never known of anyone using acrostics for prayer. What a marvelous idea. Thank you for your prayers, Connie. You have me tearing up.
We have interviewed several poets who were school teachers. You home schooled your two children. I have to tell you, that is something I don’t believe I could have accomplished with any satisfactory degree of success. Is it as difficult as it seems? Please tell us a bit about your home-schooling experience.
CONNIE: Teaching two students is a lot different than teaching thirty. So I would think most parents could do it. In general, home school students do better academically than public school students. I’ve made mistakes and would do some things differently, but overall it was a good experience. My daughter Lori graduated with honors with her BSN from the University of Louisiana. She was aghast at the writing skills of most of the students. And home schoolers tend to learn better thinking skills. Lori often writes on Poetic Asides. My son, however, is your classic geek in the garage. He’s very intelligent, but he’s 26 and we’re still trying to launch him. He does help around the house and keeps my computer going.
MARIE ELENA: I don’t believe I knew your daughter writes poetry, let alone at Poetic Asides. Very cool!
I believe you and your husband have traveled the United States, with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. What is your favorite state or favorite area of the country? I assume your children accompanied you on most, if not all of your travels. How did this affect their education? What effect (if any) did it have on your writing?
CONNIE: I’m not sure how many states my husband has been to. I went to several before we were married, or with just the kids. My daughter and I travel together on the odd-numbered years. She and her brother will be going to London this summer, but I won’t be able to go with them. My kids had a better understanding of geography and cultures than I did as a child.
Maine and Washington are two of my favorites. I grew up in Pennsylvania so I’ll always love it, but I don’t want to move back there. The weather is always too rainy, sunny, cloudy, foggy, snowy, cold, hot, or humid. I’m quite happy in Colorado, other than getting frustrated with snowy springs. It’s a beautiful state, and I want to explore it more in detail. I’m not sure how traveling affects my writing, except that I have more to write about. In November my novel and poems were about a jilted bride that traveled to all fifty states on her non-honeymoon.
MARIE ELENA: You and your husband host two developmentally disabled people in your home. Such an unselfish act of love. Please tell us how this came about, and what a typical day looks like in the Peters home.
CONNIE: In my earlier years, I said I’d never work with people with developmental disabilities. But through the school of hard knocks and prayer, I’ve developed more compassion and understanding toward them. It works for us because my husband and I take care of them together. And at least once a year, he takes over for a week while I go gallivanting.
We have two types of days. Four days, Justin and Vanessa (our two great clients) go to day-programming and I have more time to write, and long weekends where everyone’s kind of hanging around the house. It takes about three times longer than normal for us to do anything, and much of our day revolves around meals, baths and bedtime.
Vanessa, we’ve had for nine years. She has a big smile and a big heart, and likes to tease. She communicates well, despite being nonverbal. We’ve had Justin for three years. He is also nonverbal and operates on a lower level. He’s very affectionate. Many times when I’m writing poetry, Justin is leaning on my head. Vanessa’s wheelchair-bound and Justin is a constant walker. Justin has a thing about noise. He leaps up and down at the hairdryer and vacuum cleaner. It’s quite different at our house.
MARIE ELENA: It warms me to my core to learn of this loving, unselfish act. No, not a single “act” at all, but a lifestyle. God bless you and your husband.
This seems a good time to share the poem you chose as one that best represents you.
You may see an old woman with
sunken cheeks, all skin and bones
who scowls at you, hits and bites
and speaks in angry tones.
Please, don’t trust only
what your eyes can see;
I’m just months away
from what I used to be.
A mother who raised five girls
and loved their dad fifty years.
A woman who gave of herself
and calmed others’ fears.
One who worked hard, painted pictures,
and wrote to all she’d meet.
One who was known to be
patient, kind and sweet.
Jim suffered from Alzheimer’s
and as he began to roam,
I lost my health, house and husband
to a nursing home.
As the sore grew,
I chose not to grieve.
Instead, something inside of me
decided to leave.
I lay alone and afraid
in this bed of pain.
Others say there’s sunshine,
but all I see is rain.
But when you reassure me,
with a kind word and a smile,
the other me that’s locked inside
visits for a while.
When my wounds heal
and my mind is set free,
it will be from the Lord’s love
and how you cared for me.
CONNIE: In 1998 my mom, a diabetic, had to have her leg amputated. The infection caused her to be mean and, in turn, the nurses were mean to her. And even on the day of the amputation, I heard two nurses mocking her. I was devastated, but didn’t say anything. I went home and wrote this poem and gave it to them, and they treated her better after that.
I chose Dear Caregiver because it’s about my family as many of my poems are. Some are serious like this one and some are humorous. I write in many different styles and forms. I have fun with poetry. I’m not afraid to write a bad poem. So I experiment a lot. Photographers take loads of pictures and only expect two or three to be published. I’m that way with my poems.
MARIE ELENA: What a moving story. My heart breaks for your mother, and those in positions like hers. Your poem moved me to tears. What better use of poetry than to stir others to kindness. Wonderful, Connie.
You know, I have never thought of poetry in the same light as photography, as you explain above. I like your style!
Finally, we will end with the same question I ask of all our guests: If we could know only one thing about you, what would it be?
CONNIE: Out of high school, I was not creative at all. Early in our marriage, my husband kept telling me to be creative. Now he’s probably sorry! I learned to think creatively, draw and paint and write. People often say, “I wish I had your gift.” They shouldn’t write themselves off like they tend to do, especially when it comes to poetry. They can always learn.