Kate Cumiskey discovered she was a poet whilst in high school. In fact, it was her high school boyfriend who suggested she start writing things down because she saw the world in such poetical ways.
She attended a class by Robert Creeley and that was when her writing life really took off. But it wasn't until about seven years ago she started writing fiction and has just had her first manuscript accepted by finishing line press.
This is how she describes writing poetry for her. The frame of the poem comes to her quickly, but it can take up to seven years to refine the piece.
She says she learns about her work from the comments of others, and they have noticed her themes include Florida, the space programme, man's relationship to nature.
We talk about why some people are very fearful of poetry and are reluctant to try it. She feels that this is because many think they have to examine and understand poetry, rather than simply experience it.
We talk about "found" poems and what a straightforward way they are into writing poetry.
A piece of advice she has for new poets is to describe and write about the external, rather than the internal. And she gives a great tip and writing prompt on how to do this.
Kate herself doesn't write rhyming poetry in its traditional form, but she has a lot of internal rhyme in her poem. We talk about how she has struggled to know the best way to end a line. To overcome this problem, Kate uses sculpture to navigate the endings.
Sculpture enables her to see the poem as a physical object and so seeing its form becomes much easier and she sees where the line ends and the next one begins.
Cumiskey has worked with several small presses and she kindly shares her experiences, as well as how to find a small press to work with.
She also offers some caution, encouraging you to understand your author rights, that the poems are your intellectual property and to be careful what you sign.
Kate recommends Submittable as a wonderful place to find publishers for short stories and poems. She even has a top tip for Submittable which you can find out by listening to the episode!
We finish our conversation with Kate sharing what she's writing at the moment and how Natalia Ginzburg's Little Book Of Virtues has inspired her to write a new essay.
Connect with Kate:
Authors Talk: Kate Cumiskey – s [r] blog (asu.edu)
Surfing at New Smyrna Beach - https://amzn.to/3pFaOU1
Allison Joseph - ALLISON JOSEPH, POET - Home (allisonjosephpoetry.com)
Poets and writers website - Poets & Writers | Contests, MFA Programs, Agents & Grants for Writers (pw.org)
Submittable - The Social Impact Platform | Submittable
Natalia Ginzburg - https://amzn.to/2Tr3xN9
Robert Creeley Robert Creeley | Poetry Foundation
William Carlos Williams - William Carlos Williams | Poetry Foundation
Found poetry - Found poetry - Wikipedia
Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/emmadhesi)
Hello, I'm Emma Dhesi and welcome to another episode of turning readers into writers. If you're brand new here, welcome and here's what you need to know. This is a community that believes you are never too old to write your first novel, no matter what you've been up to until now, if you're ready to write your book, I'm ready to help you reach the end, I focus on helping you find the time and confidence to begin your writing journey, as well as the craft and skills you need to finish the book. Each week I interview debut authors, editors and industry experts to keep you motivated, inspired, and educated on all things writing, editing, and publishing. If you want to catch up, head on over to emmadhesi.com, where you'll find a wealth of information and tools to help you get started. Before we dive in, this week's episode is brought to you by my free cheat sheet 30 Top Tips to find time to write. In this guide, I give you 30 ways that you can find time to write in the small gaps that appear between the various errands and tasks and responsibilities that you have in your day to day life. Now you might be thinking that you don't have any time to spare. But I can guarantee these top tips will give you writing time you didn't think you had. If you thought writing always involved a pen and paper or a keyboard. Think again. If you thought you needed at least an hour at a time to write your manuscript. I help you reframe that you won't be disappointed. Get your free copy of 30 Top Tips to find time to write by going to emmadhesi/30 Top Tips. Okay, let's dive in to today's episode. Kate Cumiskey is a writer, painter and social justice activist in coastal Florida. Her work appears regularly in fine literary and peer reviewed journals. Cumiskey and her husband Michael worked together to meet the needs of homeless teenagers and young adults by housing them and promoting public awareness, including founding an independent student cadre at a local high school. She is recognized by the state of Florida Department of Education as a distinguished educator through the best and brightest scholarship program and as a pioneering autism advocate by the National Association of Social Workers. So I talk to Kate more about how she came to be a poet to be a novelist, her journey towards both of those, and she shares about her work she shares about working with small presses. And she has lots of great advice for anybody who wants to develop their own poetry practice, and even has some writing prompts for us. So let's get chatting to Kate. Well, welcome. Thank you so much for being with us today.Kate Cumiskey:
I'm excited.Emma Dhesi:
Yes, me too. I'm really keen to delve into learning more about you and poetry in particular, because I'm not a poet. So I often find it quite mysterious. I'm eager to learn more. But I wonder if you could just start by telling us about your journey to writing both fiction and poetry.Kate Cumiskey:
Well, I'm, I'm 58. So it's been a long journey. Actually, when I found out I was a writer, I was in high school, my husband and I were dating. We've been together 39 years now. And he said to me, You speak like a poet? Why don't you start writing things down. And I did. And that's when I realized I was a writer. Just kind of interesting. So I've been writing forever but back in the day in the US, women in high schools were encouraged to go into one of three professions, nursing, teaching or secretarial on that old. So it never occurred to me to do anything else. And I became a special education teacher. And I did that for 20 years before I started getting very, very serious about my writing. And so I have a bachelor's in special education from the University of Florida. And then I started working here locally, I'm in Central Florida and we have some incredible colonies, writing colonies and I went to Atlantic Center for the Arts and work for three weeks in an intensive with a poet named Robert creeley, one of the big poets, and it just changed my life. So I would say poetry community had so much to do with me getting serious about my writing and following that experience, I went ahead and applied to get into a Master of Fine Arts program are several and I chose University of North Carolina Wilmington and it was a three year studio academic program and I chose to stretch for four years just take advantage of being in that community and I did a lot of nonfiction writing there. I did not start fiction until seven years ago, when I was experiencing some insomnia and I didn't want to wake the house with doing research, like for my nonfiction walking around looking things up, that kind of thing. And I just started writing story in the middle of the night and that book, Anna, a social justice novel about homelessness, which I've long been involved in serving homeless youth, my husband and I. And I started writing that novel, and it is coming out with my publisher next year, they just invited me to send it to them. And I like current publish.Emma Dhesi:
Congratulations. That's wonderful.Kate Cumiskey:
That answer your question a little bit?Emma Dhesi:
Oh, yes, definitely, definitely. And congratulations on your upcoming upcoming release. That's super, super exciting, and how nice to be ads.Kate Cumiskey:
It is nice. This publisher in particular, this is my fourth publisher. So this will be my fourth and fifth books. I'm finding them excellent to work with and I believe what they, they are trying to keep their poets, their writers, because they do publish fiction as well. They try to keep their writers in house if they have other manuscripts.Emma Dhesi:
We will come back to that a bit later. So I do want to ask you more about that. But just sticking with your poetry for now, as I mentioned that I'm not a poet, naturally, it's not what I gravitate towards. And I wonder how you create your poetry because I've heard lovely stories from some other poets about how, you know, it's like, often the Muse hits them. And then, you know, this, this flash, and they just have to sit down and be a vessel for the words. But then I like other writers, that is a lot more attractive than that. So I wonder what your experience was? Or is right?Kate Cumiskey:
Mine is kind of a hybrid, it's a little bit of both. I would say that writing poetry for me is grueling work. The poetry is work, the prose is not roses pleasure, which has been an interesting journey for me to discover that I do sometimes. Wake up, go to the computer or to the page, the poem comes out. It's there organically, it's sort of you can't help it. I definitely can't help writing blocks myself. And then I might take five to seven years of revision on a given. So I am a big revise, it does come out, but it doesn't come out. For me, I revise, revise, revise. Um, there's that. But lately, in my journey of learning about my own writing, I have started doing some prompt driven poetry and, you know, which might be helpful to people for whom poetry does not come. Naturally, it's helpful for me, I will just decide what to write about and then work on upon and, and I've been enjoying that a lot.Emma Dhesi:
So that's quite a different. That's coming at it from a very different way. It sounds like previously, or often what he soon and then...Kate Cumiskey:
And its based, back about my poetry, sorry, based on what people have said about my poetry helping Oh, they're saying I'm a Florida poet or write about nature. Why don't I write about something in Florida in nature that interests me, and that's all I'm doing. I'm basically on feedback.Emma Dhesi:
Okay, well, because I was going to ask you that actually. Are there any particular themes or recurring subjects that you find that you write about more often than not?Kate Cumiskey:
Yes, I think I've been listening more to my, the people who have been reviewing my current poetry book that's coming out the finishing line. And it's interesting, I learned about my work from the words of others who look at my work. And yes, I would say, social justice, the environment in Florida and sort of thanks for the love hate relationship with Florida that bending Floridian tab, which I definitely share. I came here at three years old from Alabama with face program. My dad was a rocket scientist with NASA. And I definitely write about Florida I write a lot about the space program. I'm very, very interested in science, very interested in the evolution of space exploration man's relationship with with nature and with science, as well, so those those are definitely.Emma Dhesi:
Mm hmm. Um, another question I was keen to ask you was, you know, I think a lot of people, and maybe this comes from our education at school, but I think a lot of people have fear around poetry and it feels a very difficult complex medium to grasp. What are some of the fears that you've seen people have about writing poetry?Kate Cumiskey:
Well, I've experienced that a lot as a teacher of senior English, what we have here in the States, the last year of high school, I taught singers. And I did see a lot of fear. So what I've done with that, as far as to help take away that fear, because poetry can be daunting, I think the main fear is thinking you have to understand and decide, rather than just experience it. And I think it's okay to just experience. And I use short poems that are very physical, easy to understand, to kind of get people to enjoy poems, I think of William Carlos Williams, there's a form of his this is just to say, and I may not put it exactly. But this is just to say, I have eaten the problems that you were probably saving for breakfast. I'm sorry, they were so good, and so full. That's not an exact quote, I don't have it in front of me. But what a wonderful home and teach students and young adults that I've taught, you can just take upon from almost anything, an apology note on the refrigerator, that's what that form was very, very famous. And I also think it's fun to take crows, if you're a little daunted by poetry, try to pull a poem out of prose piece. That's a lot of fun and it's called a found poem, you just put a disclaimer, I took this from, you know, the Encyclopedia Britannica definition of our article on Henry the Eighth. And you pull a poem out of there, and that can be fun. So those kind of prompt driven things can take away the fear.Emma Dhesi:
Hmm. Oh, nice. Nice tip there, that's, I've got I've not heard of that before a found poem, I'll be looking at now.Kate Cumiskey:
I love found. Because if something appeals to my ear, and I really, I had to be taught in graduate school to refer to myself as a writer, rather than just a poet, because I really am a poet. That's, like I said, I don't have a choice about writing but my ear. Some things just lyrically appeal. And, for I'll give you an example, my husband and I were driving down the road. And there is a lot of there are a lot of buildings that are empty here now. And there was an old bank. And he said to me, that bank bank just wants a steeple in some Jesus and wants to be a church. Well, the lyric of that line, a steeple and some Jesus. You know, I mean, there's lyric everywhere so just grabbing some lyric. And if you're daunted by poetry, grabbing it off of the page.Emma Dhesi:
Sounds like some of your, some of your inspiration. Some of your poetry has been rubbing off on your husband as well. It was very lyrical.Kate Cumiskey:
He's a musician. Yes.Emma Dhesi:
There we go. family. And so your, your poetry. Traditionally your poetry. Is it writing poetry? Or is it more? I don't know what it's called. I'm writing non rhyming poetry.Kate Cumiskey:
Yeah, that's a great question. I think it's an interesting question. Because again, for me, it's more an organic process of discovering what my poetry is and I have found that there's a lot of internal rhyme in my poetry. I don't generally in the line on a roll. Like Like say Asana. I don't do that. But there is a lot of rhyme and my poetry, I've had a lot of trouble in the past with, structurally with my work, where to end lines. That's something I've worked very hard on and begin the next line and break up into standards and verses. So what I've done, it sounds crazy, but I have worked on sculpture. And when I work with my hands that helps me know how to physically work with my poetry. When I'm doing something with sculpture. I can go back to the page and it's somehow easier for me to physically break the lines.Emma Dhesi:
So interesting. I would never had...Kate Cumiskey:
It has helped me for me, it helped. You know, I needed a solution to where do I break these lines and the sculpture is terrible, but it does help me with my poetry. Working with my hands.Emma Dhesi:
So that's so interesting. I don't know, if you, I don't know if it's just an intuitive thing? Or are you able to explain a little bit more about how, how this relates.Kate Cumiskey:
I work with my hands on sculpture, it helps me to think of the poem as a physical thing. And then I can look at the lines and see, oh, move this here, move this here, you know, rather than just the mystery of Oh, gosh, where do I? Where do I stop this line, and it has helped a lot.Emma Dhesi:
That's amazing. Putting those two together.Kate Cumiskey:
It's a little weird isn't, isn't a little odd.Emma Dhesi:
I don't like to say that. Because then I just think it just shows the the magic of creativity and how our minds can work in such weird and wonderful ways that if it makes a connection for you, for you, then it's, I don't like to say that it's old. But and I've not heard of it before. That's true.Kate Cumiskey:
As an educator, too, I will say I'm a special education teacher by trade and one of the things we have learned about learning with children is that when youEmma Dhesi:
Mm hmm. Yeah, to help. Yeah, I've certainly heard physically engaged with learning, when you use your body to look, it's more, it's retained longer. So if you're teaching reading by, you know, physically touching the letters moving and book around, then you're you're keeping that so I think that's probably what made me think of knowing that about the learning process made me think of getting physical. of other people take up drawing or take up another art form just to break some writer's block, you know, just to think designing. But then so maybe it's kind of an extension of that, or a part and parcel of breaking that kind of block at the end of line.Kate Cumiskey:
But it helps me so?Emma Dhesi:
Yes. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But you know. And so that's interesting that the ends of lines you find hard is there? Is there sort of in the, in the teaching of poetry? Is there a received way of doing it? Is there an expected way of ending a line of moving to the next lineKate Cumiskey:
There is, There is, That's a great question. And it doesn't work that welcome. But for most people, I think it does who are learning to write poetry? And that is ending aEmma Dhesi:
Ahhh Interesting! Ah so if someone is you've, you've line where you pause to greet. Oh, nice. So where are you pause for breath, that helps a lot of people. Um, also, I have found that the more difficult and compact upon the shorter my lines need to be maybe because you need that space, that whitespace that space to breathe that space to pause. And I have been told I write difficult, heavy homes, I don't write light burps hardly ever I'd like to, but I'm not good at that. And so my poems do tend to be fairly compact. One thing I'd like to mention I find a teach this, this is my from my own brain, I don't know. But I if I think of writing as Soup, I think of prose as a nice, hearty soup. And I think of poetry as buryat. I mean, poetry is just the nugget that is almost unpalatable sometimes that it needs. It's difficult. At least that's how poetry has been. It's the absolute essential language. Whereas with, I think prose, there's more room for play, there's more room for creativity, for me, at least when I write is more fun. given us a lovely prompt there about doing the fund poetry. And if someone's a real beginner, is there any kind of way that they can find an another way of finding an in and I'd love to have just a couple of tipsKate Cumiskey:
Something I do to help students I come into class and I actually do this when I teach poetry. I do this as a rule now because I found it so effective. I will take a piece of fruits like an orange or Florida us oranges a lot. And the closer to rotten, the better not quite brought that berry right. And I'll put it in the middle of the table on a plate and slice it. bennis smash it. And then I'll just have the students write adjectives about the orange and we'll work on a poem from there. I think getting outside of yourself is easier if you're going to write a poem about love or your parents much harder or your or your lover or you know, a death or loss, that's harder. So writing something that's physical in the room contain outside of yourself, I think it's much easier. And then so you get those that list of that. And then you just start filling in, you know, the smells the way it feels touch the orange, you know, things like that. And then you work together to kind of fill in.Emma Dhesi:
So yeah, I don't know, that's a great way of seeing it that if it's less personal, you can always be more objective. And then it's easier to kind of find a way in rather than go straight into the hard stuff to the very complex.Kate Cumiskey:
What comes out, you might enter into the hard stuff through that northEmma Dhesi:
Yes. Oh, that's a great tip. Thank you for that one. Now, I'm going to move us on a little bit. And because you mentioned earlier that you working with a pressKate Cumiskey:
My remind and remembering is in line finishing line, press.Kate Cumiskey:
And you said that you you really enjoy working with them. And but they're the fourth press that you've worked with. So for those of us because most of my listeners are new to the writing world, and I wondered if you could talk to us a little bit about how you might find a press to work with that. It's not because I think a lot of us think once you get the agent, once you get the publisher, it's a done deal. It's really easy. But I imagine it's more complex than that, because you've got relationships there and deadlines to meet and expectations to live up to so I'd be really interested to know about your experiences working small presses.Kate Cumiskey:
Okay, um, when I was in grad, I did not know in graduate school following graduate school, I knew I was a serious writer I knew I wanted to write, but I didn't know how to. And I'm much more comfortable just pulling myself into a hole and writing, writing, writing. But for me writing is a Kree reaching out and communicating. So I did want someone to read my work, I wanted people to be able to access my writing so that I could have that communication, that writing and I got a tip in graduate school and a class on publishing that what you should do to enter the publishing world and I found this so useful, is think of something you know, that nobody else. And I entered with nonfiction, because in nonfiction, you need an idea and a book proposal. And then you get the contract and then you write. So what I did was that you think of what you know, you find a publisher and I'll talk about that a second you make a proposal and get a book. Well, I did this with this very, you know, enter into publishing perspective. I wasn't trying to literary and I know surfing. I grew up in a surfing town Island in Florida for surfing son surfing husband, I know surfing very well. And actually, in the process of writing the book, I found that the town that I am from has the largest number of world rank surfers come from this town than anywhere on the planet, which really helped the book. I mean, Hawaii, South Africa, you know, my town is the place to grow up if you want to be a world class, sir. So I knew I made a proposal to a trade house had a contract in three days, no one had written about surfing in New Smyrna Beach. And then it took me three years to write the book. And it was difficult, but it did give me that first book. And that books been very good to me. I would not work publisher, I'm not gonna say who it is because the process was good. But the royalties have been, for instance, they tell me, it doesn't sell, but it sells all over town all the time. So they haven't given me a second book plan. Well, I'm like, oh, not gonna work. Because that is somewhere publishers can, you know they can lie to you. But I had that first book, did a second book with a wonderful poetry house. Many poetry houses are very small. My second book was poetry. And the press, which I love is silent e publishing out of Jacksonville, Florida. They do some vanity works and self publishing, but we're trying to enter into traditional publishing with my book. So I got a traditional contract with them. I do traditional publishing, rather than self publishing. Maybe a little bit out of insecurity, I need that I need that validation from the canon, I guess, but I think a lot of people can do much better self publishing. The money is better, you know, I just don't do it. Plus, I unleashed See, I don't, I don't. As far as the physical work of a book, I mean, putting a book together and publishing it myself, I don't think I'd have that discipline or that knowledge base. So I'd rather concentrate on the writing and get a little less. Does that make sense?Emma Dhesi:
No, it absolutely does. I certainly find depending on what's going on in my life, I have less time for the writing. And because I'm doing more of the other stuff. So it's a constant juggling act. Yes.Kate Cumiskey:
Right. Right. I'd rather live myself and just work with good houses. So Cylon II was great. And then I went with another trade book, because I was teaching at the University of Central Florida. And I found the university very interesting, I had access to the archives. So I wrote a history of that. And I did. Same thing with the nonfiction proposal, I wrote a proposal how to contract by the way. And then my poetry manuscript now is coming out with finishing line. They're wonderful, I would say with poems, specifically with publishing poems. There are some fabulous resources out there for finding the right home for your individual poems. And traditional poetry. Publishers do prefer that several of the poems in the manuscript have appeared in magazines and publications, before they will accept your manuscript and I think it's a good stepping stone to and submittable.com is fabulous for finding the right place for your work for poems, or prose, nonfiction, fiction, pieces. It's so free website. It's fabulous. So I use submittable. And I do have a little trick, I like to sort by deadline and submit when the deadline is close that you get your answer. So so like, I would go in and do submittable sort for a poem that I think is finished and ready to be out the world. And I will sort for April 21, and the deadline is tonight at 10, I'll submit it and chances are good if they're going to accept they'll do it quickly. Rather than, you know, end of the year. It's the trick if you need to get feedback quickly. Or if you have a book coming out, and you need some more of the poems to appear in magazines, before you finish the galleys.Emma Dhesi:
Such a great tip, so and so practical.Kate Cumiskey:
Yeah. And the poets and writers website is great. The poets and writers website is fabulous. I would say always be cautious of publishers, even magazines that expect you to buy something to publish, you want to watch out for that, which I'm sure your reader your listeners probably know. Want to Be careful reading fees are sometimes very legit. And definitely for contests. for writing contest, the fees are legit. And I actually go to the more expensive i will i because I think less people submit and you have a better chance of getting published. So if it's a writing contest with a $35 fee and a $15 fee, I'll sometimes go for the 35 and of course, I definitely study the publication and make sure my work. Always, always, always.Emma Dhesi:
Yes, yes, I've heard. That's the same in fiction as well, isn't it? And be sure that the publisher you're approaching publishes the type of story or the type of poetry now the subject matter that you're writing about.Kate Cumiskey:
New they've published. And I often if I have a ticket, a writer, I love Alison Joseph is a US writer here that I really like her work. And I looked, and she was published by finishing line. So I approached them. So people I admire work sometimes that mine is similar to I'll look at who their publishers are, or who who has accepted their poems or their stories, and I'll approach that well. You know, just, I don't I do my research.Emma Dhesi:
Well, my goodness, we're almost at time. But I wondered if you could just tell us a little bit about what you are. Right? I'm not sure if you're still writing at the moment because obviously you've you've had your manuscript accepted. So are you working on that? Or are you working on something new?Kate Cumiskey:
It's interesting, you should ask that. Like I said, I try to pay attention to the take of my work and see where what people see in my work. And I my sister sent me a book, Natalia Ginzburg, the little book of virtues, virtues, and she was a Jewish writer in Europe during World War Two and these are essays and she writes so beautifully about place. So I read some of her work about place. I sat down and wrote quite a long essay about a store in my childhood, just walking to the store with my brother quarter and home to go buy penny candy. So trying to get very specific, and learning from what grabs me and other people's work. So I did, I wrote that essay, it'll need some work on fighter reviser. I am working on a nother book of poems. I'm about 30 poems in that to that. So yeah, I work on multiple things.Emma Dhesi:
Oh, lovely. I've really enjoyed our conversation today. Thank you very much, Kate. Just before we wrap up, but could you tell listeners where they can find out more about you online?Kate Cumiskey:
Oh, I'm looking at by name Katecumiskey c u m i s k e y. There are two of us. One is in Scotland. She's a soccer player. I don't play soccer. Just look me up and you can find some of my thumbs up. Let me turn that off at superstition review. There's some bombs on product. I have a WordPress blog. That's educational, mostly. But sometimes I share some writing. For instance, there's a chapter from a nonfiction book I'm working on there. And that's at Cumiskey education group. So I do sometimes share excerpts there as well. And of course, my forthcoming book June 11, from finishing line press is the women who gave up their vowels. And it's v o w e l s, and my novel Anna.Emma Dhesi:
Fantastic, we'll be sure to link to all of those in the show notes. Now, for our listeners, if you're interested in hearing a little bit of Kate's work, you can pop on over to the Patreon page where you can if you subscribe there, you can hear a little bit about some some of Kate's work. And also she's generously offered as a writing prompt as well. So you can go to patreon.com/EmmaDhesi. But in the meantime, Kate, thank you so so much for your time today.Kate Cumiskey:
And thank you I have so enjoyed this conversation. I'm going to get across the pond one of these days, and we'll have to have tea or something together over there. Oh, I'd love that. It'd be really nice. Yes, let's make it happen. And please have your listeners feel free to contact me and give feedback or, you know, I'm a teacher. If you need a prompt, send me an email at Kate Cumiskey @ gmail, and I'll send you a writing prompt.Emma Dhesi:
Perfect, thank you. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you find that helpful and inspirational. Now, don't forget to come on over to facebook and join my group, Turning readers into writers. It is especially for you if you are a beginner writer who is looking to write their first novel. If you join the group, you will also find a free cheat sheet there called three secret hacks to write with consistency. So go to Emmadhesi.com/turning readers into writers hit join. I can't wait to see you in there. All right. Thank you. Bye bye.