Grantee Highlight: Poet Emily Vieweg

One of our values at The Arts Partnership is supporting local art and the artists who make it, and one of the main ways we live that value is by awarding grants to artists in our community. Last fall, we announced our 2017-2018 Individual Arts Partnership (IAP) and Jade Presents Arts Partnership (JPAP) grantees. Every month since November, we’ve been highlighting each grantee so our readers can learn more about them and their artistic process. The featured grantee for June is poet Emily Vieweg!

Emily Vieweg received a grant from us to rent studio space at APT, a Creative Incubator to focus on creating her first full-length book of poetry. She grew up near Saint Louis, Missouri and has lived in Fargo for the last decade.

Inside Vieweg’s studio at APT, a Creative Incubator in downtown Fargo.

TAP: Who inspires you?

EV: I am mostly inspired by my reality, my life, my children. I have written poems about my daughter’s declaration upon seeing her shadow, “I’m a giant!”

I have written poems about my struggle with BiPolar Disorder, Social Anxiety, and collaborated with my son on a poem about his struggle with Autism.

I have been inspired by nature, poetry prompts, phrases written by other authors, the process of coloring postcards for a project, and random poetry writing prompts.

Primarily, though, my inspiration comes from the small things in life, like when you catch a whiff of perfume, reminding you of Grandma’s house when you were twelve; or as the breeze blows by you remember visiting Grandpa’s pool in Massachusetts; a title suggestion brings up ideas of wandering and traveling, and what possibly could go wrong?

TAP: What is your daily creative work schedule?

EV: I admit, I do not have a set creative work schedule. I am trying to write on a daily basis, but juggling a full time job with full-time special-needs parenting leaves little time for creative outlet. I do allow myself some creative time during the week, though, usually on Thursday evenings when I’m either taking part in the Out Loud Spoken Word open mic (First Thursdays) at the Red Raven, or participating in one of many open mic poetry podcasts. Hearing other people read their works helps the creative juices flow. This spring I am going to spend some dedicated time in my studio at APT, so I can focus on creating new work, compiling poetry for a full-length collection, and turning some of my already-published pieces into print broadsides to sell at the Arts Market and in my online store. Right now I have two poems available as Broadsides, in two different sizes. “My Life as a Fountain Pen” came from a writing prompt, to write a poem from the point-of-view of a small object. “A Piece of the Puzzle” is a new piece, written in collaboration with my son who lives with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What is a Broadside?  Simply, a Broadside is a one-sided print of a poem, art, mixed media or other printed material, typically on heavy paper or card stock. Historically Broadside prints were designed to be plastered to walls, announcing events, the news of the day, or political opinions. They were printed en masse and distributed to make an immediate statement, using large type and readable from a far distance. An example of a historical broadside would be a WANTED poster: Large type with an instantly recognizable message. Through the years broadsides have developed into a form of graphic art, combining writing, visual art, mixed media, etc, into a heavy-paper print or small poster to be framed and displayed as visual art.

I would like to connect with a mixed media or other visual artist to collaborate on creating large Broadsides, combining my words and their visual art.

I would also like to collaborate with other artists on a poetry/visual art series, where we inspire each other with visual art, respond with a poem, and back-and-forth until we have a complete collection. It will be a lot of work, but that is on my radar as a project I would like to participate in.

TAP: What is your greatest fear/challenge when facing a new project?

EV: The greatest challenge is looking beyond the denials. Writing poetry for publication typically results in an inbox full of denials, but when that acceptance comes in, or even a feedback response with denial, the heart skips a beat and I celebrate for weeks.

When I am feeling incredibly overwhelmed and depressed at the number of rejections, I look at the number of acceptances over the last couple years, and that gets my spirits back up. Publishing 10 pieces out of over 60 submissions does not sound like a lot, but 16% successful publication rate in 2016, plus earning an Honorable Mention in a poetry contest, plus the publication of a chapbook with a small press (which came out of hiatus in order to publish your book) is a great success.

In 2017 I published 9 individual poems, plus 3rd Place and 2nd Place in International Poetry contests, plus self-publishing a second chapbook! Fantastic!

TAP: What do you do when you get stuck?

EV: I have two strategies. If I am feeling overwhelmed and can’t think of anything to write, or I just can’t seem to get my ideas out, then I will take a break. I will take a break from writing new material and maybe I’ll go back and look at some old journals and maybe I can get some inspiration. Other times I take a break by not writing or creating anything new at all for a week. I let my brain recuperate and relax a while before going back to the empty page.

The latter can be dangerous, because sometimes if you don’t write for a while, you (I) get distracted by another creative outlet and forget to write again.

TAP: What advice would you give to someone starting out in the field

EV: 1. Write, Write, Write, Write, Write
2. Read, Read, Read, Read, Read
3. Explore genres different than your primary art. My primary focus is poetry, however I have also dabbled in Flash Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Essay writing, newsletter article writing, and have published pieces from those different genres. If you know you’re good at writing dialogue, maybe try your hand at writing a short play. If you think you need something different, try writing a nature essay from the point-of-view of a tadpole. Be bold, try something new. You never know what could be successful.
4. Find your tribe. This person or group will support your efforts and give you honest, constructive feedback on your work. Be brave, shop around for different audiences. We grow as artists by hearing feedback we may not always agree with – this is okay.
5. Realize that criticism is not a bash against you personally. I have some poems that I will not allow others to read because I am still too close to them. They are still personal, and I am not ready to let go yet. This is okay, though, because I know eventually the emotional bond I have with these words will lesson, and later, I will be able to hear critique about these pieces. Until I feel ready, though, these pieces will be safely stored away, until the thought of dissecting the work does not cause literal physical pain.

TAP: If you had a chance to do it all over again, how would you do things differently?

EV: I would not have put my notebooks away after a creative writing instructor gave me horribly unhelpful feedback. I was a freshman in college and he was an established, published poet. He wrote poetry for a living, so he should know, right?

Had I been stronger in my own self-worth, I would have pushed back by asking for advice. “Okay, how can I make it better? Does anything work in this poem or are you suggesting I start over? Do you see any imagery in this poem that is worth anything?” Now that I am older and wiser, I am able to advocate for myself, and anyone else who feels his or her voice has been stifled.

TAP: What was the most discouraging feedback you ever got?

EV: My freshman poetry instructor told me, “Emily, this is crap. I don’t know why you even bothered.”

I refuse to respond to anyone’s work with that type of harmful judgmental attitude.

TAP: What was the most encouraging feedback you ever got?

EV: I worked at Washington University, St. Louis several years ago as an Administrative Assistant. I took a class as part of the “free classes” benefit, and I chose a Poetry Workshop class. I submitted a poem for feedback, and the instructor said, “You know, I see where you want to go with this. There’s just something… clunky, I think about this phrase here. Polish that up and see where it goes.” His name was Brian. He passed away in 2016 and I don’t think I was ever able to express to him what an impact his feedback had on me as a writer. The feedback was a perfect blend of positive reinforcement (I see where you’re going here) with critique (this sounds clunky to me), without calling me stupid or a bad writer.

Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, advice and inspiring story with us, Emily! We’re excited to see your finished full-length book of poetry when it’s finished!

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