Introducing Creative Writer Laura Tetreault…
I’m so excited to have my cousin as a featured artist! I have always admired your creative energy and passion for the written word. It is an honor to share your thoughts and ideas on being a writer via this blog.
Thank you so much for featuring me here, I’m the one who is honored! I love talking to you about creativity, and I have always admired your passion for art and your talent! I am also honored to be featured among the wonderful artists who have been interviewed so far.
Please introduce yourself and your writing a little bit.
I am an incoming graduate student in the creative writing MFA program at Emerson College in Boston. My declared genre is poetry, but I also write creative nonfiction and occasionally venture into fiction. I currently work as a writing tutor for the Talent Development Program at the University of Rhode Island, which is a great program that gives students from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to pursue a college education. I have a BA in English from URI, where I was lucky enough to take writing classes with many wonderful professors who have really inspired me. As an undergraduate, I was honored to receive a few awards from URI for my creative writing, including a second place Academy of American Poets Prize.
From poem “Plan B”
When the rain falls, she sips warm droplets from the plastic lid of her coffee cup,
walking alongside the puddles and runnels turned black-
orange-yellow. Mud thick on boot heels
scabbed into pigeon claws that scratch the startle out of concrete, dig and dig
for breadcrumbs and iridescence, lulling
smaller creatures into sleep.
And the next day she would be the stray dirt that blows through the city
and coalesces to form feathers,
when there’s enough of it.
Where can people find you and your work?
People can contact me by email at email@example.com. I am working on starting a blog of my own, but for now I just blog as a contributor for The MFA Chronicles (http://mfachronicles.blogspot.com), a blog written by graduate students in creative writing MFA programs all over the country.
Finish this thought: For me art is…
What I create out of my daily bewilderment, wonder, fascination, perplexity… I think that artists and writers are so tuned in to the strangeness and beauty of this world, hyper-sensitive to the perceptions, emotions, images, and experiences that are part of their daily reality. Art is more important to me than I can really describe. I think that being an artist isn’t just about the art that you make — it’s also about perceiving the world in a unique way. But I’m not so much interested in just representing reality — I’m more interested in the idea of rendering, of taking things and making something else out of them, something experimental or unusual. So, to me, art is (among other things!), gathering the raw materials of day-to-day life, and making something new and wholly your own out of them.
What is your favorite quote?
This is really difficult because I’m a compulsive quote collector! I have notebooks and Word files full of quotes. I have to cheat and pick two.
“The world will not perish for want of wonders, but for want of wonder.” – J.B.S. Haldane (I think that wonder is such an important part of creativity — really realizing how many strange and interesting things there are in the universe. It’s mind-boggling! I think that too many people just go around every day without experiencing wonder, and that is a real shame.)
“Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.” – Hafiz (I love Hafiz because every one of his words just explodes with exuberance and joy! This quote makes me grin. Just the idea that people spend their whole lives looking for happiness and thinking it’s impossible to find, but all along it has been chasing after them and they are the ones running away from it!)
How has your personal life influenced your writing?
I find it really difficult to write about things that I haven’t directly experienced in some way — that’s why I write poetry and creative nonfiction more than fiction. But that said, a lot of my writing might not seem very personal. My poems are filled with characters more than an “I” persona, and in nonfiction pieces I’m usually more interested in exploring some idea or issue instead of recounting a direct personal experience. But all my writing is personal in that I care very much about everything that I write about, whether it’s a tree or a myth or a bus stop. There’s always something personal at stake, I’m invested in some way. Also, some of my writing really is directly personal, about people and events that have had a huge impact in my life. But I don’t like to recount in a piece of creative writing “this happened, then this, and I felt this way,” in a diaristic manner. I’m more interested in really taking that material of what happened and how I felt and creating something more unusual and unexpected out of it — but something that still remains true to the original impulse behind it.
From poem “First Day of Spring”
Ferris wheel seats swung back and forth without a sound
as we remembered June’s music playing in primary colors
on the rise before the beach. Time and blood move
more slowly in March, so we lingered along the shore,
stopping to scavenge for debris left buried in the sand:
a green plastic army soldier, a cracked-
open ball, robin’s-egg-blue; flat black rocks
for skipping over water; seashells that unrolled
from their centers like children’s ears.
As an artist, what keeps you motivated?
I require constant kicks in the butt to remain motivated! Deadlines are a great motivator. Also, just knowing that I have the support and encouragement of so many awesome people — family, friends, mentors — definitely keeps me motivated. When I’m feeling really uninspired, I try to remind myself of how important art really is. It’s easy not to take your creative work seriously, especially in a society that often uses money instead of personal fulfillment as a measurement of success. But it is much more courageous to really believe in the integrity and importance of creative work, and that’s something I try to do. I think about what would have happened if my favorite writers had decided not to write those amazing books, if they hadn’t believed that they could do it — then we would be missing out on a lot of wonderful literature today.
What advice would you give to someone else wanting to pursue writing?
Take creative writing workshops, preferably ones taught by professional writers! I have grown so much as a writer through workshop classes, and I’m sure my writing will grow and change so much more in the next three years of intensive workshops in grad school. Having your work read and critiqued by a classroom full of people really helps you to improve. Gradually, you start to realize what works and what doesn’t work in your writing, to nurture your strengths and improve your weaknesses, and stretch your writing in new and daring directions. It also helps you gain confidence in showing your work to people, and gives you a thicker skin for accepting criticism (criticism is very, very important!). Finding writing mentors has also been very important to me. My writing mentors are professors, but you don’t need to be a full-time student to find wonderful mentors and fellow writers — a lot of universities offer extension, continuing education, or distance-learning courses.
Your ability to capture the world with words is inspiring! I’m almost afraid to ask a writer this question for fear that the list could go on for an eternity but… Who has inspired you?
You are right that the list could go on for an eternity! I’ll have to cut it short! I have a long list of favorite books, but a few remain at the top of the list and never fail to inspire me: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (fiction), Sad Little Breathing Machine by Matthea Harvey (poetry), Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse by Darcie Dennigan (poetry), anything by Virginia Woolf, and anything by Haruki Murakami. As for artists, umm, Jeniffer Hutchins! Far too many artists and musicians to name! Teachers — I’ve encountered so many wonderful teachers, but have worked most closely so far with poet Peter Covino, poet Talvikki Ansel, and nonfiction writer Mary Cappello, and I admire all of them so much. As for personal acquaintances, I am inspired by all of my family and friends, who all have their own unique and wonderful stories.
I also glean so much inspiration from the small, wondrous things that make up the everyday — scraps of paper found in pockets, light-slants on the floor, overheard conversations, people on subways… this could really go on for an eternity! I should stop!
Are there any other tips to living a creative life that you’d like to share?
Really, I am just beginning to figure it out and I have a long way to go! So I guess my tip would be… if you have something that you really love, then you are so fortunate to have that thing, and you should treasure and respect it. If you really and truly love writing or painting or scribbling or filling your street with sidewalk-chalk drawings, then you should be thankful every day that you have a passion, and don’t stop yourself from becoming obsessed with it. I struggle with this — any kind of love is something that requires work. Sometimes when I start writing something, it’s like a new relationship and everything is fabulous and shiny, but then the piece of writing and I have an argument and we end up sitting in opposite corners of the room glaring at each other. Then, I really have to re-remember how much I love writing. That falling-in-love-all-over-again with writing is something that happens to me all the time. I am not constantly motivated, committed, and driven, but is anyone? The important thing is knowing how to deal with the uninspiring times just as much as the precious moments of inspiration. It’s something I need to work on a lot. But the fact that I’m excited about even the difficult parts of the creative path makes me believe that this is the right path for me.
From essay “Public Transportation: A Few Alternate Definitions”
“Red Line, Porter to Downtown Crossing:” There is a forgotten umbrella in the corner. Rather nice. Black, with a curved wooden handle. It was not raining today. How long has the umbrella been riding the subway? Is it an experiment? Did someone leave it there only to encounter the wonder of stepping onto the same subway car someday and re-finding his umbrella?“
“What If?” What if the Red Line turned purple? What if I posed a question to everyone on a bus whose shoulder bag bumped against mine? What if I were able to dwell deeply in flashing windows for longer than just a train ride? What if everyone on a subway car started singing the same song at the same time, without knowing why?“
Laura, you are definitely leaving us with much to be inspired by today. Your “tips” were so honest and absolutely perfect! Thank you.
“Inspiring Artists!” will be an ongoing series. It will run as long as there are inspiring artists out there wanting to share their stories. If you are an artist and would like to participate please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!!