Kids, you all know Lolamouse, aka Sheri Tardio, from her blogs Mouse Droppings and Rants for the Hormonally Challenged, (love that title!) Lolamouse was interviewed a while back on Real Toads , by Susie Clevenger of Confessions of a Laundry Goddess, so I am not exactly boldly going where none have gone before. However, we love her, so there can never be Too Much Lolamouse. This was her reaction, when I asked her for an interview:
But I did a little arm-twisting (nagging), and she so caved:) Kids, we hormonally challenged souls require a lot of caffeine to keep moving forward, so brew yourself a strong cuppa joe, and gather ‘ round. Come sit by Lolamouse’s fire and enjoy the glow.
Poets United: Lolamouse, I must ask, because I get such a kick out of it: what is the story behind the name of your blog, and your moniker Lolamouse?
Sheri: Well, the name “mouse” is from my high pitched laugh. It sounds like a squeak when I really get going! “Lola” is a pseudonym I used way back in college when I submitted a reader’s story (totally fictional!) to Playgirl (link) magazine on a dare from some friends. It actually got published! Ever since, that has been my nom de plume.
Poets United: Have you always written? What made you choose poetry as your means of creative expression?
Sheri: My maternal grandmother (Bubbe-it’s Yiddish) was an English teacher and amateur writer. She gave me my first book of poetry, which I still have, for my 7th birthday. My mom doesn’t do any creative writing but is a voracious reader and used to read me poetry from A Child’s Garden of Verses.
My first poem was for Bubbe. I think I was in 2nd grade or thereabouts.
My Bubbe is a lady
And when she smiles, sunshine spreads
All over the place!
Poets United: I so love it! Advanced vocabulary for a second grader, too. Did your teachers encourage your gift?
Sheri: I wrote a lot of stories and poetry throughout my childhood and especially in middle and high school. It was a way for me to express those angsty feelings of adolescence. Most of this writing was very personal, and I showed it to very few, if any, people. It was more of a catharsis just for myself. When I began college and then grad school, I was just too overwhelmed with academics to do much of any personal writing. Then came marriage and motherhood.
Allison, David and Sheri in Orvietto, Italy, (sigh) 2010
Poets United: What was it in 2010 that brought you back to writing poems again? Would you like to share the first poem you wrote then, and give us a bit of the story behind it?
Sheri: I would send emails to my friends kvetching about incidents that annoyed me or things I thought were stupid. I usually began the emails with a warning that I was “ranting” again. A couple of friends suggested that I start a blog. I ignored them since I had no idea what a blog even was. After several people suggested this, however, I looked into it and decided to give it a try. That’s how “Rants From the Hormonally Challenged” was born.
Once I had a blog, I started following other people. That’s how I began my writing again. Reading other peoples’ writing made me excited to try my hand at it again. Once I thought I had written enough new material and would continue to write, I started “Mouse Droppings.”
One of the first poems I wrote back then was a villanelle (a form I had never even heard of before!) called Status Migraine. It was a very personal poem because I’ve suffered from migraines since I was a child.
Poets United: You wrote a fantastically effective first villanelle! I’m so sorry you suffer from migraines. A whole other level of pain! What effect does blogging have on your output? Would you write as much if you were not involved with it online? (In my case, that is a big fat No!)
Sheri: No way! The weekly challenges are like school assignments (only more fun!) I was always a good student; if I have an assignment, I’ll do it. Left to my own devices, maybe not so much.
Poets United: Do you write in any other genres: fiction, memoir, essays?
Sheri: Does sarcastic ranting count as a genre?
Poets United: But definitely! So let’s look at your life, Lola. What part of the world do you live in, and who are the people you share your life with? Any critters? Are they rescues? (The critters, that is!)
Sheri: I live in Southern Maryland in an area I refer to as “ruburbia.” It’s too suburban to really be rural and have the country charm of real farmland but too rural to have the amenities and proximity to city culture that the suburbs have. This may explain why I spend so much time on my computer!
I’ve been married for 19 years to my college sweetheart (1,2,3…AWWW!!!) We have a 16 year-old daughter, whom I‘ve mentioned in some of my blog posts, and 2 rescue dogs, a poodle and a maltese.
Poets United: AWWWWWWWW, indeed! A college sweetheart hubby, and two cute little doggy faces. Sigh. I am so impressed at how many happily married poets we have in this community. So nice to hear about. I love your sense of humor and adore the name of your second blog: Rants from the Hormonally Challenged. What is your philosophy, when it comes to dealing with hormones, while still busily raising a family, and trying to write in your “spare” moments??
Sheri: Well, looking back, I believe that I was all too accommodating during my pregnancy. I didn’t have any real cravings that demanded any late night trips for food. As a matter of fact, I’ve been pretty easy going throughout my life. As I enter peri-menopause, I think this needs to change. It is my goal to speak my mind, rock the boat, upset the equilibrium, and say things that “nice” folk don’t talk about. Some day I hope to become a crochety, ill-tempered, demanding old biddy.
Poets United: I love it! But you will not be too convincing in your high sweet voice! And you might need to change your name to Dragon Mouse! What makes for good poetry to you? Are there any forms you avoid or find difficult to either read or write? What are you striving for, when you write a poem?
Sheri: I don’t enjoy poetry that’s full of hackneyed thoughts or clichés. I try to avoid this in my own poetry. Oversentimental, schmaltzy poetry also makes me queasy. I don’t mind a challenging poem, but if I have to google every other word or reference, I may just give up and do a load of laundry instead! I try to make my own poetry accessible. I like to evoke an emotion or tell a story. If my poem does this, I’m pretty satisfied.
Poets United: Well said, kiddo. Are you happy with where your writing has brought you since 2010? What are your hopes for the next five years of writing?
Sheri: I’m pretty satisfied. Ask me in an hour and my answer might change! I’ve submitted a few poems to some publications, both online and in print. It would be nice to see something other than a rejection over the next few years but, really, that’s not why I do this. Luckily, my family doesn’t depend on my writing to eat!
Poets United: Where is your favorite place to write? Do you need quiet to create?
Sheri: I can write pretty much anywhere. I often write in the car when I’m playing taxi for my daughter. I carry a small notebook with me most of the time because I have a terrible memory. I’ll think of a great line I want to use in a poem and then forget what it was. If my muse is there, I can write when it’s quiet or in the middle of a high school cafeteria. If it’s not, I could be in the most inspirational location in the world and produce doodles.
Poets United: When you are not busy writing, what other things might we find you doing?
Sheri: I just started painting. I’m really pretty awful, but I love the sensory nature of the activity and playing with the colors. I make hand stamped cards quite frequently too. Haven’t purchased a store bought card in years! I love to play with my boys (the dogs!), read and go to plays and musicals. I hate exercise but love yoga.
Poets United: So cool about the painting – I hope you post some of your work on your blog. I know you are an animal lover, and volunteer at your local nature center. Do you have a story about a special relationship you formed with one of its critters?
Sheri: They don’t generally keep critters in the center. The philosophy is that animals should be in their own habitat. The ones they do have can’t survive in the wild but they limit contact with humans to keep them “wild.”
Poets United: Oh that is really good to know. Any other causes dear to your heart?
Cypress Swamp , near to where the Nature Center is located:
the Cypress knees, part of the root system of the trees
Sheri: I volunteer teach at our local nature center, mostly elementary school kids. I think it’s a shame that kids spend less and less time outdoors. Due to testing pressures, many schools have even cut recess! It’s an abomination! I also deliver for Meals on Wheels and volunteer for hospice. I work at the hospice summer camp and facilitate bereavement groups for both children and adults. My hospice work has inspired some of my poetry. I’m also rabidly pro-choice, which is readily apparent in a number of my poems.
Poets United: That swamp photo is fantastic, Lola, and good for you for doing such great volunteering. Way to be! What is your most favorite place in the world?
Sheri: In bed (take that however you wish!)
Poets United: Well, I was thinking geographically, but come to think of it, that is my favorite place too. (With a good book, in my case, given my spinstery state). Who would you say has had the most significant impact on your writing? In what way?
Sheri: Probably my grandmother because, although she was never published, she continued writing well into her senior years. She showed me through example that one doesn’t have to be famous to be a “writer.” Blogging has been a second major influence. Reading other writers makes me strive to be better, and the challenges have taught me techniques and forms that were new to me.
Bubbe and my daughter, when she was two years old
Poets United: What a beautiful photo! Your grandmother glows and is taking such joy in your daughter. Have you written a poem you feel best describes who you are? Would you like to share it?
Sheri: I’m not sure about one that best describes me, but Open Sesame expresses some of the process of personal growth I’ve experienced in recent years.
She begins to rise
She stretches her stiff muscles
and yawns awake
I greet her warily
like the sister I never had
and never knew I wanted
She is curry while I am raita
the yes to my no
the no to my yes
but more than this
She wears tacky jewelry
She paints her toenails midnight purple
She buys strange spices she can't pronounce
and throws them in her potions
She dreams of kissing girls
Half a century
the weight of obligation her blanket
her eyelids tied shut with apron strings
She is a sesame pod
With the slightest touch
she will burst open
She is ready
I inhale her heady perfume
Poets United: WOW! I love it, and I so relate, especially to “the weight of obligation”. Fantastic writing, Ms. Mouse. Do you have any advice for young, beginning writers?
Don’t be afraid to suck
Sheri: Don’t be afraid to suck. Really. Believing you have to produce perfect, or even high quality, work from the get-go is one of the biggest obstacles to creativity. I think that most people need to write lots of crap before they write one really good poem or story. And just because you wrote one really good thing doesn’t mean that everything else you do is going to be great. You will hate a certain percentage of what you write, but keep writing. The law of inertia applies to writing; the more you write, the easier it becomes; likewise, once you stop, it’s harder to start up again.
Poets United: YES! That is absolutely key. I have lived that truth many times.
Sheri: Also, read, read, read. Read anything of quality that inspires you. Borrow words, styles, techniques and use them in your own writing. I’m not talking about plagiarism but incorporating inspirations into your own, unique style. A great book about this is Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon.
Poets United: Great advice, Lola. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Poets United?
Sheri: Before I became a mom, lo so many years ago, I was a clinical psychologist. Yes, I am analyzing each of you through your poetry. You all are a sick bunch of people!
Poets United: OMG, you now know WAY too much about how crazy I really am. Thank you, Lolamouse, for being willing to do another interview. We have really enjoyed this visit with you.
Wasn’t this a lovely visit, kids? “I am Lolamouse, hear me roar!” And isn’t it true that the people behind the pen are some of the most interesting folks around? Do come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!