Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Life of a Poet - Kim Nelson

Kids, I never cease to be amazed at the talented, incredible people we have in this community. One of these is  Poets United staffer and contributor, Kim Nelson, of Kim Nelson Writes . Kim is an award-winning author, whose published works include A Desert Gardener's Companion and Southwest Kitchen Garden. Kim was a recipient of Foreward Magazine's Book of the Year Award. She  has been a regular columnist for Sunset magazine for several years, and has appeared in many more magazines as a freelance writer.

Poets United: Wow, Kim, what an impressive track record! Good for you! Can you tell us a little more about yourself, your family and  life in your part of the world?

Kim: I live with The Good Husband (and a couple of dachshunds) on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona. We’ve been a couple and a team for 35 years ~ since our first date on my 17th birthday. Together we raised three kids - two with serious, chronic illness - and now enjoy the distinct pleasure of knowing that all of them have chosen mates who seem ideally suited to their happiness and well-being.

I have an eclectic career past, beginning with twelve years as an educator in California and Arizona. Always a passionate gardener, I turned that interest into an avocation by becoming a Certified Master Gardener and coordinating a community plant-clinic for several years. During this time a publisher’s rep attended one of my presentations and saw my copious notes. This meeting led to my first two books, A Desert Gardener’s Companion and Southwest Kitchen Garden, both published by Rio Nuevo Publishers.  I also wrote a gardening column for Sunset Magazine and did additional freelance work in garden writing and design for a number of years.

During most of the garden-writing years, I was entrenched at home caring for two teenagers with early-onset bipolar disorder; and I poised my pen on that topic. I wrote for a year, and then shopped the manuscript to agents and publishers for nearly nine months before Behler Publications made an offer and published Mommy I’m Still in Here, which I produced under the pen name, Kate McLaughlin. As an adjunct to Mommy...  I ran a website for families with kids and teens diagnosed with serious mental illness for several years.

Poets United: Kim, you have been a very productive woman! I am so impressed with your writing a book about bi-polar with that title. Parents need to know,  when this happens to a family,  that their child is still in there.  So, what led to your starting a poetry blog?

Kim: My Kate McLaughlin site reached a large audience and I often spoke at NAMI meetings, mental health conferences, and various outreach and support groups. I corresponded with new readers almost daily, providing moral support and direction toward community services. After a few years of this, I realized my writing no longer brought me joy. To reinvigorate my creative self, I committed to writing poetry every day and soon began submitting to small, independent publishing houses. Hoping for feedback and support, I began Kim Nelson Writes and started lurking around Poets United, Three Word Wednesday, One Shot and other online communities. Soon, Finishing Line Press selected a submission, resulting in Woman’s Evolution, a chapbook that was released a few months ago.

Poets United: Fantastic, Kim. Is there a modern author or poet who has had a significant impact on your own approach to writing?

Kim: Mary Oliver, through her poetry as well as her writing instruction, honed my poetic sensibilities. Billy Collins taught me to sharpen my observations skills and freed me to write with less constraint. Many in our online community nurtured my sensitivity and challenged my courage.

Poets United: I love Mary Oliver, too - and our community, which definitely keeps us writing!  How would you describe your personal approach to the creative writing process?

Kim: I write. It’s that simple. I get out of my own way and I write. I always have a goal. Sometimes I commit to create a poem a day. Sometimes I promise myself a certain number of pages or words. Whatever it is, I take it quite seriously. This is my joy, but it is also my work. I honour and respect it.

Poets United: And it seems to be working for you! How do you start a piece of writing?

[Kim's beautiful family, Christmas, 2009]

Kim: Sometimes I use a photo I’ve taken as a prompt. Sometimes I open my moleskine, a notebook I always carry that contains notes, sketches, ideas, random words... inspiration. I work in the garden, walk, listen to music, or paint. And then I write. I just do it, without worry about what spreads across the page. I get it down, knowing that editing and rewriting and throwing away are parts of a process that I choose, that I enjoy.

Poets United: Wow, that sounds so good, I am getting inspired just listening to you! What inspires you to communicate in the poetic form? Have you always written?

Kim: I’ve written poetry for pleasure since I was a young child, always reading and writing. My maternal grandmother wrote poetry, and I was quite close to her. This connection no doubt inspired me. Professionally, I began writing at another’s behest, never truly thinking I’d be published. Four books later, I’m still amazed! I did magazine work after editors at Sunset contacted me because of my expertise in desert horticulture and gardening. I was invited onto the literary merry-go-round and have thrilled at the ride!

Poets United: Your books are so beautiful! I love this cover! How do you know when a poem is finished?

Kim: Quite often the final line in my poetry breaks from form or pattern. It announces itself to me and feels like a full stop, like the piece’s final punctuation.

Poets United: In what way do you think  your writing has improved in the past year?

Kim: My writing has improved in nearly every way in the past year. I use better diction and imagery, I’m learning to guide the reader, rather than tell the story directly, a skill I’d honed with magazine work. Allusion is more accessible to me now. Subtlety of meaning is more easily achieved. And all of this transpired because others were generous with emails and critiques, helping me to grow as a poet.

Poets United: Yes, isn't it true that it is the feedback of others that encourages us most? How do you know when a poem is 'good'? What are your personal criteria for good poetry, your own and others?

Kim: A poem is good when it conveys a message and instigates a reaction using vivid vocabulary and relevant form. There is movement to a good poem, a rhythm that feels natural to the topic and word choices. More than anything, though, I “feel” a good poem, don’t you?

Poets United: Yes, every now and then one slaps me up-side the head and I say "whoa!" :) Many writers say that rewriting is the real work of writing. Do you revisit old writings, or rework your poetry?

Kim: Absolutely! Most of my posted poems are the result of a dozen or more tweaks. I get the gist of it down quickly, then read and reread, making changes in word choice based on subtle meanings or cadence.  Sometimes I change my mind and discover, when going back to a piece, that I don’t like what I did before. I revise then too.

Poets United: Do you have a process, certain steps that you use in writing something to its completion?

Kim: My process is simply to write, read it aloud and revise... repeatedly!

Poets United: Sounds like a good method! What advice would you give someone who is just a beginner?

Kim: See the answer above! LOL! Really - just do it; and seek out others who will provide constructive criticism. It’s also vital to read lots and lots of poems in a variety of forms and styles. I read dozens a day, both online and from collections I have here at home.

Poets United: What, most often, triggers you to write?

Kim: Writing is like breathing. I have always done it. It’s a natural part of my existence so I don’t need a lot of outside inspiration. I enjoy prompt sites and use them a couple of times a week, but mostly I write from my heart, my experience, photos I take... from life.

Poets United: Do you have any issues that are especially dear to your heart?

Kim: Clearly I’m an advocate for mental health parity and for accessible treatment. I’m also convinced that our diets greatly contribute to our health and well-being, so I’m involved in organic gardening and the “eat locally” movement. And I’m big on kindness. I truly believe that human goodness can, and will, change the world. 

Poets United: Oh, you're preaching to the choir here, Kim. I agree with every single word.
Do you have a favourite poem, written by you? 

Kim: No real favourites, Sherry. I tend to create and release.

Poets United: Where can our readers go to find your books, Kim?

Kim: I’ve highlighted and linked the titles above to my Etsy shop where folks can buy them. They are also available at Amazon here and here.

Poets United: Thanks, Kim. What other poets in the blogosphere do you like to read or visit most?

Kim: I read many every day, but always Jae Rose , Amy Barlow Liberatore and Susannah Bec.

Poets United: Three great poets! And, when you are not writing, what other interests do you pursue?

["The Garden Angel is in my bird and butterfly garden, the space
just beyond my desk window"]

Kim: I garden at least a couple of hours a day, practice yoga and Pilates five days a week, love to cook, have my 2-year old grandson two days a week and avidly follow Diamondbacks’ baseball and University of Arizona sports. And I often travel with The Good Husband. I have a really great life!
[Kim's adorable grandson, "the happiest being I have ever encountered"]

Poets United: It sounds glorious - and busy! And your grandson is beautiful! Who is the person who has had the greatest influence on your writing life?

Kim: My friend, Barbro Drott Huth, who reads all my manuscripts in their infancy and has always encouraged me to write. Largely because of Barbro, I feel empowered  and competent as a writer. She is one of my greatest blessings.

Poets United: It sounds like a wonderful connection. Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Kim: Oh, you know, the usual... be kind, expect goodness, release judgment, love unconditionally, embrace your wonder.

embrace your wonder

Poets United: I especially love "embrace your wonder"! Yes! Thank you, Kim, for a most lovely visit. I wish we could have sat near your Garden Angel, with iced tea! But it has been lovely, just the same, to have this time with you.

See, kids? It is true that the people behind the pen are some of the most interesting folks around. Come back to see who we swoop down on next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. I really enjoyed reading this and finding out more about Kim.

    I always enjoy her writing (and photos) and I just loved...
    "be kind, expect goodness, release judgment, love unconditionally, embrace your wonder."

    Right on! :-)

    Great interview both of you. x

  2. Kim's a terrific writer - plus, anyone who has dachshunds can't be all bad. LOL!

  3. "Be kind, expect goodness, release judgment, love unconditionally, embrace your wonder." What wonderful words of wisdom! That was a great reminder to me this morning. Kim, I enjoyed reading about your writing and your life - you are inspiring.

  4. I am so glad you chose to profile and interview Kim! She is an amazing poet and wordcrafter...but so much more, too.

    Embrace your wonder!

  5. Kim is so cool. Kim, you're a real inspiration to me.

  6. yes indeed, Kim, you certainly inspire. i really enjoyed this interview and WHAT A GORGEOUS FAMILY! and also? people? everyone run out and buy Kim's chapbook, "Woman's Evolution." i'm on my fourth read and find something new and bright each time. read! thank you for interviewing Kim, Sherry :)

  7. How wonderful to find out more about one of my favorite poets. Kim's book of poetry, "Womens Evolution" is an amazing body of work. It is on my nightstand always ready for another reread. I love the way the book looks and how she packaged it. I felt like it was an added gift besides her wonderful work.

  8. Excellent interview. Thank you Sherry and Kim.

  9. I enjoyed reading this interview. It was inspirational to me.

    I haven't visited Poets United for some time. Sorry. But I am ready to resume a more active participation. Love being here.


    (For some reason Blogger is interfering with my comments.)

  10. An excellent interview. It is so wonderful to
    read about a loving person enjoying life.

  11. Kim,

    What a lovely interview and an opportunity to get to know something more about you.
    I already knew about your excellent poetry!


  12. Wonderful interview; I so enjoyed Kim's view! Sherry you did an amazing job, it felt like we were porch side listening to you interview Kim.
    Kim, I admire your approach to life and wearing so many hats! You are an amazing mother, to go the extra mile for your children! It was nice getting to know you better~ Great job Ladies!

  13. How could I not count this community as one of my many blessings? Thanks for the kind support and on-going encouragement writer-friends!
    And Sherry... well... you know I adore you. This was a delightful experience. You are a woman of exceptional character whose online company I cherish.

  14. A stellar interview, Sherry and Kim... I felt you'd invited us all into the garden for a chat!

    I very much admire your poetry, Kim, and really appreciate the comments you leave for others. Your words are always well-considered, helpful and encouraging. Thank you for that, and for sharing with us a glimpse into your wonderfully creative life.

    And Sherry...what can I say about your boundless enthusiasm? You always ask the questions we writers want answers to, and highlight time and again what a joy it is to create wonder out of words. A most enjoyable chat, indeed...:)

  15. I love Kim... she is an inspiration to me. Thanks for this wonderful, personable interview... it's always so good to learn more about those we admire in the blogosphere.

  16. WoW! What a fantastic interview!
    I always enjoy reading about everyone (guess I'm just nosy!).

    I think you outdid yourself, Sherry.

    Kim, I always enjoy my visits to your blog. You have a lovely family. Your garden looks like the perfect place to sit & write lots of poetry.

    Awesome job, ladies!

    Thanks so much for sharing.


This community is not meant to be used in a negative manner. We ask that you be respectful of all the people on this site as each individual writer is entitled to their own opinion, style, and path to creativity.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Blog Archive