We love supporting amazing Girlbosses, so we are launching a whole new series called GirlBoss Featured, which highlights some incredible, inspiring gals who are just killing the game. And what better way to open up the series than with with our friend, contributor and now author, Kristen Lem. We recently sat down with Kristen to talk about her new book, “Haiku To Fall In Love To”, set to launch in June.
But before we jump into our Q&A, why don’t we introduce Kristen a bit.
KRISTEN is always surprised when people describe her as quirky because in her brain, where the streets are paved with melted pink peeps and guinea pigs run rampant, she is completely normal. She’s been writing since childhood, filling notebooks on notebooks, lined and unlined, with lines and lines of who knows what. Before Kristen learned to count numbers, she was counting syllables on her fingers. This behavior eventually turned into haiku, which she won a contest for in the 6th grade. Kristen continued to write well into adulthood and went on to be published in indie magazine Grunge N’ Art and books such as Beyond Depression:Essays About Feeling Low, Feeling Stuck, and Finding Healing and We Can Hear You: From First Class to Third World. Kristen is also a contributor on websites Thought Catalog, Bustle, Project Girl Crush, Modern Chic Mag, and Talk Thirty to Me. Haiku to Fall in Love To is her first book of poetry, which she collaborated on with artist Molly Ha.
Now let’s begin the Q&A.
First off, congratulations on your first book. Can you give us a snippet at what your new book is about?
Thank you so much! It’s a love story told through a series of haiku poems. There are 17 poems, each with 17 syllables. This the first in a series I’ll be working on.
Where did you get the idea to do a collection of haikus? And why love as the focal point?
Gosh, I’ve been counting the sounds of words on my hands before I learned to count numbers. In 6th grade, I learned what a haiku is (5-7-5) and won a poetry contest. Since then, I’ve used its simple form to convey complex emotions … and what is more complex and grand than love?
We know writers often grab material from their own lives and incorporate it in their own work, was this the case for you?
Yes for sure! Sometimes I write about myself or friends, and of course I alter reality to make a better story or fit the number of syllables in the poem. The haikus in Haiku to Fall in Love to were inspired by different people and written at different times in my life. I arranged them later to form a story.
How long did it take you to write the book?
Almost exactly three years. I started diligently writing haiku daily in May 2014 on my blog haikubebe.com, and the book is now launching in June 2017.
What is the most difficult and positive part of your artistic process? Can you walk us through it?
The most difficult part is staying committed to my creativity. Yes, there’s a part of me that “needs to get this stuff out,” but life distracts and pulls me in so many directions that it’s easy to let my writing, artwork, whatever I’m working on fall away. It takes discipline to give myself the time and space to nurture my soul on a regular basis. The best thing by far has been has been the creative energy exchanged between the people I’ve worked with – from Molly (artist), to Natalie (publisher), other poets I’ve met, and so many others. The magic that happens when different people bring their expertise and ideas together for a common cause is indescribable.
Tell us more about your collaboration with artist Molly Ha for your new book?
Molly and I went to high school together and have known each other a very long time. She made me a hand-drawn bookmark once and I carried it around for 15 years, when I ran into her one day at the market. At that time, she was deciding whether to go back to school and pursue a career in the arts. She wound up doing so and we continued to stay in touch. I always knew I wanted my book to be illustrated and tried many times to do it myself, but was never happy with the results. It wasn’t until Molly illustrated a book for a friend’s baby that it clicked and I knew I wanted her for this. She agreed to the collaboration and when I saw her first round of sketches, I knew it was a perfect fit.
What period of your life do you feel has influenced and continues to influence you the most in your writing?
I would say my 30s have been a time of deep self-reflection about what I’ve done and where I want life to go. Writing helps me process these thoughts and questions.
How did you begin to write? Did you always want to be a published author?
I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. I used to fill notebooks with stories, poems, thoughts, who knows what. And yes, even as a kid I knew I wanted to publish a book someday. It wasn’t until later in my life that I solidified a certain style and felt like I had something to say.
Is there an author(s) or book(s) that have had a strong influence on you and your writing?
Dr. Seuss, Shel Silvertein, Rupi Kaur (Milk and Honey), B. Abbott (High Poets Society), Lauren Eden (Of Yesteryear).
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers who want to write a book and eventually publish it?
Start. Just start. And don’t stop til it’s done. These days you can self-publish so there is really no reason to let that writing sit in your drawer. The process can feel daunting but it’s so worth it. And honestly the only difference between publishing a book and not publishing is that one of you chose to do it.
What would you like the readers to take away from Haiku To Fall In Love To?
In life we will fall in and out of love, become vulnerable, break hearts, and have our hearts broken. It’s so tempting to close off after being hurt. I’d like readers to feel hopeful about love no matter what happens. Maybe even turn their pain into something, or at least a better experience next time and know that love is everywhere in many forms and that there will always be a next time.