FEATURED ARTIST: Carla Christopher (Poem Sugar)

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Tell me a little about yourself…

My name is Carla Christopher, although I perform under the name “The Priestess”. I am a cliché Leo, spoiled and bossy at times but generous, genuine and passionate about everything I do. I have lived all over the country, from North Carolina to Michigan to New York and I currently live in the small but spunky and creativity rich city of York, Pennsylvania

 How long have you been writing?              

I started writing in elementary school but I always thought I was going to be a dancer. A terrible accident ended that dream at the age of 12 and while searching for a way to connect with people again, I started doing theater; deaf theater in fact, because I moved well with my hands and body. I didn’t speak sign language at first so I would watch movies of a hearing impaired person signing my part and then I would memorize and perform their motions. I began writing my own material and enthusiastically joined the Baltimore burlesque scene before moving to Pennsylvania in 2007 where I began focusing on page poetry and then on spoken word poetry. I adapt to the scene and to the location and the demand. It keeps writing an adventure and a challenge.

How’d you get your start, or get discovered?

I won my first writing contest in the 5th grade. It was a little school wide “Reflections” contest, part of the national Scholastic competition. I was so proud I still have the laminated certificate. I went to college in New York and was selected for an honors writing program where I was wonderfully mentored and given great opportunities to perform and study with and watch real masters. In Baltimore the underground art scene really exploded in the 2000’s and I was able to perform at Baltimore Theater Project, Center Stage and several other major venues with groups. That exposure led to some wonderful media and connections that helped me to be chosen as York’s Poet Laureate in 2011. Expectedly, that was a wonderful launch into the world at large. It’s been pretty much non-stop since then.

What prompts or inspires you to write?            

I have written for so many years that right now I love telling other people’s stories. Giving a voice to my interpretation of what has happened or what someone may be thinking. I have started telling the stories of my mother and grandmother and of my mentors or inspirations in poetry form. I also get inspired to write by hearing certain lines or voices so I will write when listening to music or at poetry readings or at concerts. Then there are the heart moments. I was asked to write a poem for my grandfather when he passed away and nothing came for days but the night before his funeral, so late it was closer to dawn, I just felt him and I felt emotions so strong I *needed* to write them.

Any advice or solution for writer’s block?         

It’s cliché but just write. Journal, stream of consciousness scribble, google writing prompts or exercises…. Sometimes though, I believe the soul has a natural period of gestation. We just need a break to process both mentally and spiritually. Don’t stress it. It will come. Give it a gentle try, get some alone time and surround yourself with whatever feeds your creativity – nature or music work for me but for some people it’s sitting in the middle of a bustling city while people are watching or in the shower. If nothing comes and you start to get frustrated though, just let it be, and try again tomorrow.

Where can we check out and buy your work?

I have poetry and links to my books and to the books I edit and publish through PoemSugar Press, the independent press I started to give voice to writers from marginalized communities all on my website:

www.carlachristopher.com

They can be found on:

www.poemsugarpress.com as well or at www.etsy.com/poemsugar and www.facebook.com/thepriestess or www.facebook.com/poemsugar

What do you think sets you apart from other writers?         

I don’t see many writers who fit into as many genres as I do. I write Ivy League trained classical form poetry but I also perform urban spoken word. I write spiritual poetry and perform frequently in churches but I also write erotic poetry and do a spicy anthology of women’s erotica every year, but it’s all me. It’s all my voice and style. I hope that I help expand people’s horizons through the broadness of my own.

Carla Christopher photo credit Kate Penn, York Daily Record

What do you get out of being a writer? How has it improved your life or been a benefit to you and/or others?             

Writers deal in emotion. We have to reach a certain level of self-awareness about ourselves, our experiences and emotions to be able to share them effectively. To be able to distill and reflect upon them in a way that communicated and resonates with others. I like to think that writing is the best church, free therapy and growth experience there is and what helps me enables me to help others. That’s the best part of what I do – when I perform or read or meet someone who has read my book and they say they felt alone, that no one had ever felt what they felt…until they read my words. I think that sharing emotions through writing takes away some of the isolation in the world and replaces it with connection, and with hope.

What’s the weirdest or most astonishing and controversial work that you have ever written and how so or why?   

I know my mother was shocked at some of my spicier erotic pieces but once she read them she found the beauty or the humor in them. I wrote a few graphic pieces about rape and sexual assault, one that revealed that I am a survivor of domestic violence. No one knew. I couldn’t tell my family, but I told a huge room of strangers. AFTER that, I felt free enough to tell my friends and family.

What is your advice to fellow writers if any, to encourage them to begin or to keep doing what they do?             

Challenge yourself, try new things and don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself. And get better. Don’t ever stop learning, taking workshops and reading books about writing. No matter how good you may be, don’t rest on it. Find ways to increase your skills and to keep your mind active. Also, get out into the writing community. Support other writers, join writing workshops or groups, take classes and definitely go to readings and hear what other people are doing. You need new input to keep from getting stuck!

How would you describe your writing style?              

My style is lyrical, influenced by my years as a musician and as a theatrical performer. I am also a romantic, both in nature and in poetic influence so there can be almost a Biblical feel, a flowing cadence and a dreamy romance to my metaphors. I am also very personal, I won’t be pretentious or complicated if something straight forward would be just as effective.

Do you have any future plans for your writing?           

I am working on my first poetry CD right now. That’s an adventure, working with music and sound effects. I am loving working in collaboration so I would like to do more with that in writing as well, writing with other poets and doing collaborative pieces or performances

What do you want others to take away from your writing, if anything?

You are not alone. You are not the only person who has felt how you feel. What you have experienced, what you think, who you are, is beautiful and it matters. We care.

 carla2

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