We have the great pleasure of American writer, poet, former San Jose State University Professor and self-declared nomad, Dr Kate Evans joining The Broken Spine Artist Collective’s editorial team for the third edition, due out in 2021. Kate is an amazing, award-winning writer, inspirational character, passionate reader, and innate humanitarian with a deep sense of artistic integrity.
We asked her a few questions ahead of her reading period with us:
Tell us a bit about your writing.
I’ve written my whole life. Recently I found in a box, an 89-page novel about a boy and his dog scrawled in my childhood handwriting. Since then, I’ve published two novels, two collections of poems, a book about teaching, and a memoir, Call It Wonder, which won the Bisexual Book Award. My next novel, a French Revolution historical romance, is coming out in early 2021. I co-wrote it with a friend, my co-author, Janelle Melvin, under the pen name Mary-Kate Summers. “Summers” is my mother’s maiden name. She read to me every night and is the one to thank for my love of words.
What is your chief inspiration?
Life lived, and life read about.
You’ve had a difficult few years. How has your art helped you through?
Yes, in the past few years I’ve had brain surgery and thyroid surgery to remove two (thankfully benign) tumors. On one level, my art has distracted me, kept me busy instead of obsessing over what was happening. On another level, it’s helped me see the bigger picture, to more deeply understand that life is always changing, that it’s a dynamic, transformative process.
Tell us about your nomadic lifestyle.
Seven years ago my husband and I gave up jobs and home in California to dive into, as I call it, the “fertile void.” We wanted to explore the world and to spend time with friends and family–before it was too late. We continue to live improvisationally to this day. We have taken literally the notion that “life is a journey,” bending with the wind. We’ve also stripped down our possessions, living minimally so that we can maximize what we love: exploration, time in nature and with people, and delving into our personal passions. A few years ago, we bought a small casita in Mexico, where we now live about half of the year, and the other half we travel. We do a lot of house-sitting so we have free places to stay, often for months at a time, which is a great way to slow travel. Often a house-sit involves caring for a dog or cat, a bonus since we both adore animals.
What is your own writing process?
The shitty first draft, as Anne Lamott calls it, is crucial for me. I need to get words on the page in a flurry, allowing my unconscious to do its thing. I write nearly blind, deeply internal. It’s in re-vision, re-seeing, that I weave the deeper patterns and also work to communicate with a reader. Writing with a co-author, as I’m doing now (we are working on the second historical novel in a series) has been exciting. It’s fun to generate ideas together, to send each other our chapters knowing we will receive immediate feedback from someone who’s quite invested.
How important is discipline in your process?
To me, it’s about focus. When I sit to write, I take a breath, remind myself to play, to allow, to get down and dirty, and that I’m doing this because I love it. I call it my meditative pep-talk. While I write, I need to keep off the internet, the distraction par excellence. I don’t need any other rituals or special places to write. Given the nature of our lives, I’ve learned to write anywhere at any time. I wrote most of Call It Wonder at a kitchen table with lots of people coming and going. I just put in my earbuds and blocked out all the noise with jazz or classical music playing.
Have you been on the editorial team of a magazine before?
As a high school teacher in the 1980s, I helped the students start a literary magazine we called Runes. Since then I’ve been involved in university lit mags as both a grad student and a professor. I love how creating and reading a lit mag, you can feel the power of the collective.
What are you looking forward to most when joining us to choose selections for issue 3?
The energy of pieces, the voices reach out saying things in fresh ways, the surprises. It’s a joy to read through a pile of possibilities and pull out the gems.
Kate appeared in The Broken Spine Artist Collective: First Edition and you can listen to her read her poem below.