10 Questions with Author Bri Bruce

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

B. L. Bruce is an an award-winning poet and Pushcart prize nominee whose has appeared in dozens of anthologies, magazines, and literary publications, including The Wayfarer Journal, Canary, The Remnant Archive, Northwind Magazine, The Monterey Poetry Review, and the American Haiku Society’s Frogpond Journal, among many others. Bruce is the recipient of the Ina Coolbrith Memorial Poetry Prize and the PushPen Press Pendant Prize for Poetry, as well as the author of The Weight of Snow, 28 Days of Solitude,The Starling’s Song, and Measures.

10 QUESTIONS WITH BRI BRUCE:

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH PRASHANT SINGH (Books by Prashant)

1. Can you please introduce yourself and tell us something about your book “Measures”?

My name is Bri Bruce, writing under the name B. L. Bruce, and I am an award-winning poet and Pushcart prize nominee from California. I hold a bachelor’s degree in literature and creative writing from the University of California at Santa Cruz, with work that has appeared in dozens of anthologies, magazines, and literary publications, including The Wayfarer Journal, Canary, The Remnant Archive, Northwind Magazine, The Soundings Review, The Monterey Poetry Review, and the American Haiku Society’s Frogpond Journal, among many others. I am the recipient of the Ina Coolbrith Memorial Poetry Prize and the PushPen Press Pendant Prize for Poetry, as well as the author of The Weight of Snow, 28 Days of Solitude, and The Starling’s Song. I recently celebrated the release of my fourth book, Measures (Black Swift Press), in February of this year.

Already, Measures is being well-received, with high praise from reviewers and readers alike.

2. When did you get the thought of writing this book? I read the book and I loved it; your writing style is commendable. You are amazing.

I wrote the majority of Measures during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic’s shelter-in-place. I was spending a lot of time isolated at home but felt the drive to remain productive with my time. Measures was a big silver lining of this past year.

2020 was a challenging year for a number of reasons, and with everything happening in the world around me, it was difficult to still find creativity in such a tumultuous time in history. The constant barrage of terrible news, both in my personal circle and of the state of the world, was weighing heavily on me. I shouldered through the worst time period I’ve experienced in my life because Measures helped give me purpose. In a way the collection reflects the year, with themes of grief and loss and the measures of time and change. I’m proud of this collection.

3. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I was raised with a wildlife biologist and avid gardener for a mother and a forestry major, backpacker, and fisherman as a father. Both my parents instilled in me at a young age a love of nature. My research for my books has been a lifetime spent outdoors, absorbing what my parents taught me: names of trees, plants, flowers, birds, how they all fit within the larger ecosystem. All of this weaves its way into my work.

My active research for writing only consists of observing and letting myself be inspired by new places and landscapes. 

4. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That I always have a hunger to keep creating. Each time I release a book, I feel like I’ve said all I need to say, and perhaps I won’t have anything more. But this has been fleeting each time, and I find myself quickly beginning to work on another body of work. For this I always feel fortunate, and it forces me to seek out new opportunities and experiences, and to see the world in a different and new way so that it can inform my writing.

5. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I identify most as a nature poet, and what I write is what I consider to be ecopoetry. My books are all connected by a common thread: nature. While each book does stand alone, each has a strong sense of place and emotion, with an ecological undertone. I would think my work very neatly fits into the nature genre because of this.

6. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I started writing at a very young age. I was nine when my uncle gave me my first journal, and I haven’t stopped writing since. It was a means of escape and of understanding the world around me. It was also a way for me to cope emotionally and it gave me a way to find my voice and to process what I was feeling.

One poignant example of when I learned the power of language was as an adolescent. I had difficulty voicing my feelings. Through the filter of writing them down, I was able to really get out what it was I was feeling and thinking, and this was formative for me in learning how to effectively communicate but communicating in a way that was comfortable for me. Through my difficult teen years, I took to writing letters to my parents after our disagreements. I didn’t know it then but looking back this is likely where I realized the power of the written word.

My first publication was in junior high when I had a poem accepted in an anthology. Shortly afterwards, in high school, I had a teacher that was formative in encouraging me to continue to write after completing a letter-writing assignment that was read aloud to the class. Given my experience growing up, this particularly resonated with me. Again, in college, I had a professor that saw potential in my writing and instilled in me the confidence to continue to write, and to share it with the world. It wasn’t long after I graduated when I published my first book, and the rest is history.

This isn’t to say that you need validation of others in order to prove your language’s power or worth. In my particular journey, this encouragement was eye-opening and really guided me on the path that I would follow into adulthood. In the beginning I began journaling, writing for no one but myself. This transformed to writing to someone else, while working through my own internal struggles, really illuminating the affect that words can have.

Now, I aspire to be a writer that can bring to light the way words can incite emotions.

I hope that readers can find something to relate to in my work, whether to spark a memory or feeling, provoke an image, or inspire—all through the power of language.

7. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I do occasionally hear from readers, and when I do I feel so grateful that my work not only resonated with them but that I am in some way validated and seen. It’s less important to me to be known as a writer than it is to affect a reader, even if only in a small way.

8. How would you express your journey as an author?

My relationship with writing is complicated. And I say this only because I grapple with being a perfectionist, so I am a hard critic of my own work, and because I am most prolific in what I would consider my darkest days—days when I am overtaken with emotion or am struggling with my own mental health. I associate some of my most productive periods with this mental struggle.

As someone who was recently diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I can look back on a lifetime of struggle with untreated mental health disorders. After finally having a label for the things I was feeling, and the ability to recognize what it was when I was feeling a particular way, I realize that I always turned to writing when I struggled most. In a way it was my saving grace, a way to deal. I channeled those emotions, and the silver lining here is that this struggle has shaped me into the writer I am today. Writing prompts me to face my emotions head on, acknowledge them, and sit with them.

Writing is an important part of my life, and I’ve gone to great lengths to make time to write. It comes first when I am in the midst of a productive period, and I make sure I give the time, space, and energy to nurture that creative flow. I once spent 28 days alone in a remote cabin in Northern California to do nothing but write. During this time, I worked on a novel that has been in the works for over a decade, wrote my second poetry collection The Starling’s Song, and wrote all about my daily struggles as a writer in 28 Days of Solitude.

9. What other things do you love other than writing?

If I’m not writing, I’m finding other ways to create. I’m also a photographer and painter. By day I work as a marketing director, film producer, and graphic designer. I am also the founding editor-in-chief of Humana Obscura, a nature-themed literary magazine.

When I’m not creating, I’m finding ways to recharge, either by practicing yoga, taking a walk in nature, reading, beachcombing, surfing, or traveling.

10. And last, what advice do you have for writers?

Read. Seek new experiences.

Don’t be afraid to feel. As someone whose emotions often fuel my writing, and as someone who was just born sensitive, I think that this can be channeled into the creative process.

Don’t hold back when writing, and don’t write for a specific audience.

And last but not least, don’t let rejection stop you.

You can pick up a copy of my latest book, Measures, on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1735707406?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860

See Prashant Singh’s original post here: https://bookbyprashant.blogspot.com/2021/04/ten-questions-with-b-l-bruce.html

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