Interview on 4-11-2012 with Host, Alan Ghostman Place, of Indie Authors Network:
In the chair today is my friend, children's author, blogger and published poet CJ Heck. Hello CJ.
Hi Alan. It's always a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you for inviting me.
You and I have been chatting a while. For those new to your work, would you please be kind enough to give us a short resume' of any new
Since my first book, "Barking Spiders (and Other Such Stuff)", was traditionally published in 2000, I've spent a lot of time promoting it through my
website, author school visits, and by teaching poetry workshops in schools. During that time, I also worked on a sequel book, "Barking Spiders
2", which I illustrated and self-published in September of 2011. I'm proud to say, it was nominated for the 2011 Cybils Children's Book Award in
the poetry category. It didn't win, but it was wonderful just to have the nomination and the recognition.
I also self-published a book of poetry for preschool children, "Me Too!", in October of last year. Young children love rhyme and rhythm! I'm a firm
believer that little ones who are introduced to poetry at a very young age develop a lifelong love for poetry. Like the "Barking Spiders Poetry"
books, this, too is written from a child's point of view and helps them find answers to the puzzling world around them.
The third book I self-published last year, "Bits and Pieces", is a collection of both flash fiction and short stories, twenty in all. It's my first venture
into any books for grownups, but it won't be my last. I really enjoyed the challenge.
I also published an ebook of poetry for grownups, "A Reflection of Feelings". It's only available through Kindle and Bookrix at the moment, but I
plan to also self-publish it in print within the next few weeks.
Your biography said you are from Du Bois, are you a Pennsylvania born lady?
Heaven's no. I've moved around a lot since I left my home state of Ohio, where I was born and raised.
As you are a noted children's author, do you find children hard to write for?
No, quite the contrary, Alan. I love writing for children and I find that it comes easily -- what I find difficult is writing for grownups! (Hahaha) I seem
to be able to get inside children's minds and see what concerns them -- or my inner child does, and she's the one who actually does the writing.
Have their tastes changed much over the years since you have been writing? I was thinking more in general terms than the new trends like
Harry Potter books.
I find that children love being challenged, both then and now, and I can't see where that will ever change. They love poetry that makes them think,
laugh, feel, and even cry. They write amazing poetry themselves, which I allow them to share with me during my school visits.
I see from your profile pictures, you do a lot of school work. Do you find children more inquisitive?
Absolutely -- they question almost everything! That's what makes school visits so much fun for me. When I read a poem, they want to know
where the inspiration came from, how long it took to write it, etc. Children ask very intelligent questions, too, about the writing and publishing
business, itself, some even hoping to become authors.
As a published author, what part of the trade did you find most frustrating?
That's easy, Alan. Rejection letters from publishers! It's frustrating when the rejection letter is positive about your manuscript, but has the caveat
added, "… but it's not what we're looking for at the present time …" I want to scream at them, "Then tell me what you ARE looking for at the
present time -- maybe I have the EXACT manuscript you're looking for right here!
I love your title "Barking Spiders," what gave you the idea?
(laughing) Ahhh, a question many people ask me.
When my three daughters were small, we drove from New Hampshire to Ohio to visit family. While we were there, we went to see my youngest
brother, Chip, and his wife at their home in Columbus.
Chip, the girls and I were all sitting on the floor playing Chutes and Ladders, a children's board game. About midway through the game, my
oldest daughter, who was about seven, passed gas. She was embarrassed and immediately put her hands over her face and apologized. I was
about to tell her it was all right, when my brother jumped up and yelled, "Sue! Grab the can of Raid! It's under the sink! Hurry! We've got a barking
spider in here!"
The girls and I started to laugh, a huge gut-wrenching laughter that goes on and on and on! The kind where you're almost done and just thinking
about it makes you start all over again! The kind where your eyes water, your nose runs, and you have to hold your sides because they hurt!
Okay, I told you that, so I could tell you this. Years later, when Chip turned forty, Sue had a surprise over-the-hill party for him. I wasn't able to go
to the party from New Hampshire, so I wrote the poem, "Barking Spiders", as a gag gift for Chip. I asked Sue to make Chip read the poem out
loud to all of the attendees ... I know, I can be a real booger, but I'm his oldest sister and he loves me (giggle).
NOW you know what a barking spider is.
The barking spiders all march in
just past dinnertime.
Some big, some small, they come to call
floating on the wind behind.
Each is clearly noticed,
although they can't be seen.
You're positive they're there though,
'cause your nose is very keen.
You know you can't outrun 'em
and a net won't get 'em caught.
Your friends laugh 'cause they're funny ...
Your mom yells 'cause they're not.
So open all the windows!
Crack the vents real fast!
'Cause these aren't normal spiders ...
barking spiders are … just gas.
Did you have to ask many publishers, before you got accepted?
Uh huh. I had a two-foot pile of rejection letters, Alan, but you know what? It only takes one
"yes". Just one "yes", and you're a published author. I always tell everyone to be persistent!
Are there any genres you would like to try to write but feel you cannot?
Not really. I've written short stories in horror, romance, science fiction, memoirs, and fantasy. I've also written erotic poetry, but I don't really have
an interest in writing erotic fiction. I'm satisfied. Presently, I'm writing my first novel-length book, but it's slow moving.
I tend to write cross-genre, have you any thoughts on moving genre, or will you keep to what you are known for?
As they say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." (laughing) I tend to stay with what has worked well for me.
I ask this of all my friends who write, was there a time when you thought. 'This is not going to work!' And thought about giving up?
There were times when I felt terribly frustrated, but I never had thoughts of giving up. I love writing -- it's as much a part of me as my heart is.
There are things down inside that are uncomfortable where they are. They want me to let them out into the light, so I do.
Who would you say was your biggest influence?
I would have to say my mother was my biggest influence for my love of poetry and she always encouraged me to write. I was the oldest of six
children. When we were small, I can remember my mother entertaining us on a rainy day when we had to stay inside. She was ironing and she
recited tongue twisters that we were encouraged to learn. I still love tongue twisters! Anyway, I think that's where my love of rhyme and rhythm, vis
a vis poetry, came from.
Would you say you had been influenced by the work of authors, if so who? Or was it the genre that drew you?
Besides my mother's influence, I've always loved reading poetry by poetry greats like Shel Silverstein, Ogden Nash, and several others; however,
I would have to say, my inner child is the driving force behind my writing for children and I hope she never grows up!
Have you suffered writers block? If so how did you get past it?
I think everyone suffers writers block at times. I tend to just wait it out -- the writing and inspiration always come back when it's time. With writing,
it is what it is. Only a rare few are as prolific as Steven King.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of writing a book?
Do it. Just do it! Be persistent and never give up -- you have to want it so bad you can taste it.
Before we leave. Is there anything you think I have left out?
No, Alan, you have been very thorough, and more than fair, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts here for your
I would like to thank you CJ, for your time in answering the questions.
It's been a pleasure!
In closing, would you give us some examples of your work please?
Anatomy of a Poet
Go in through the eyes of a poet
deep into her alphabet mind.
Ideas like flotsam and jetsam
dodge poetry fragments and lines.
Beware the dark shadows of memory,
knife-sharp and bloodied by time,
or gentle, orgasmic and sensual,
swirling eddies, some without rhyme.
Softly notice the spirit in hiding.
Tiptoe past the bruised heart mending there,
knitting poems, pearls strung on a necklace,
unfinished jewels everywhere.
Take note on your tour of this poet
the outside no different you see,
but inside, my God, a passion abyss,
the poet, the woman, the me.
A little girl clops in mommy's heels,
her dress, a floppy hat.
The borrowed pearls she's chosen
dangle halfway down her back.
Her face a shining rainbow,
ruby lips, cheeks tinted pink,
blue splashes on both eyelids,
powder snowflakes in the sink.
She'll go twirling in a ballroom,
a princess with her knight.
Or better still, be mommy
out with daddy Friday night.
In a child's imagination
everything is crystal clear,
yet the truth beneath the surface
is revealed in mommy's mirror.
That little girl is all grown up,
clothes and shoes are now my size...
but the mirror of maturation
… is my own daughters’ eyes.
Coshocton Natives Find Common Ground with Writing Dec. 1, 2011
Coshocton, Ohio 43812
COSHOCTON -- Two childhood friends from Coshocton now are sharing their lives and their literary talents with the world.
Coshocton natives Catherine Parrish, who writes as C.J. Heck, and Robert Cosmar got reacquainted two years ago during a multi-class
reunion for graduates of Coshocton High School that Cosmar organized. Although they were two years apart in school, they said they can't really
remember talking or seeing each other since they were young kids, almost 50 years before.
"We were often thrown together as a group of kids," Parrish said. "(Cosmar) said he didn't remember me at all in high school, although I'm sure
we passed in the halls, but he said 'my last memory of you as a child is you sitting beside me in the back seat of my parents' car. I was about 9
years old, and you were about 11. I remember looking over and seeing those blues eyes and thinking 'oh my God, it's a girl.'" He said he never
forgot those blues eyes.
Parrish received an email from Cosmar sent by another classmate about the reunion and from there, they began writing back and forth. A
rekindled friendship flamed into love, and Cosmar eventually moved from Coshocton to be with Parrish in DuBois, Pa.
"We're motivating and stimulating each other to grow and more fully express who we are," Cosmar said. "We do what we love to do, which is
basically write and share stories."
Cosmar knew Parrish was a children's author, and the two often would talk about writing and literature. Shortly after getting together, Cosmar
mentioned he had written three short unpublished stories about 20 years ago. Parrish said she asked to read them and was impressed
immediately by their quality.
"I demanded, 'Why haven't you published these? They're wonderful!' He answered, 'Who'd want to read those? They're so old,'" Heck recalled.
She then offered encouragement and editing, which resulted in Cosmar publishing his first book, "Trilogy of Awareness" in September, 2011.
Cosmar describes the book as one meant to inspire imaginations. One story deals with a banished alien prince; another tells of a middle-aged
man, lost in life, who is whisked to a parallel dimension, and the final tale is about the ghost of Jimi Hendrix aiding young guitarists at a music
camp near Woodstock.
"My stories are allegories. On one level, they're like your 'Twilight Zone,' Rod Serling-type stories. They present a platform that's very obvious and
understandable that applies to life in general, maybe your situation or someone else's situation, but somewhere in it, it takes you to a place of
awareness and that's why it's called 'Trilogy of Awareness,'" he said.
Heck has published four books since 2000, the most recent being a collection of short stories and flash fiction entitled "Bits and Pieces from a
Writer's Soul" and "Me Too! Preschool Poetry," both in September. Her newest book "Barking Spiders 2," a sequel to her "Barking Spiders and
Other Such Stuff (2000)," has been nominated for the 2011 Cybils Children's Book Award in the poetry category.
Heck said much of what she writes about comes from her children or from her childhood in Coshocton. Although she can't remember her
teacher's name, she never will forget how a fourth-grade teacher at Washington Elementary School encouraged her to write poetry as part of the
class. She said she and Cosmar still have friends and family in the Coshocton area and visit often.
"We had such a wonderful childhood living (in Coshocton)," Heck said. "We could go anywhere. It's not like today where (parents) are afraid to let
their kids go out alone. I remember walking down Main Street up to Elm Street by the hospital and (Cosmar) remembers the same thing. We'd
play outside until dark, and nobody worried about us. We loved Coshocton growing up. It's such a wonderful, wonderful town."
email@example.com; (740) 295-3417
"May you always see the world through the eyes of a child." ~CJ Heck
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Barking Spiders 2 was a ...
My three daughters, years ago. My greatest