Monday, October 22, 2012

Life of a Poet - Sara Vinas

Kids, now that the interview rotation has slowed down, Sara, of Cracker Jack Poet, has waited patiently for several weeks now for her turn in the spotlight. Sara says she named her site the way she did because she offers "a poetic snack with a surprise inside".  Aptly named. Draw your chair up close and settle in, for a most enjoyable visit to a woman who loves the sea, and her wonderful family.

Poets United: Sara, I am looking forward to this chat. We share a love of the sea.  So let’s dive in, metaphorically speaking :) Can you give us a verbal snapshot of your life these days, set the scene for us?

Hector and Sara by the sea

Sara: I'm always hopping.  Even though the boys are grown, it's amazing how the day just goes—munched up by mundane things! My husband and I have our own business, so we pretty much live, breathe and eat it.  We live on an acre with a big pond (keeps my water muse happy) lots of tropical foliage and big trees.
6:30 AM wake-crawl out of bed
6:45 stumble-walk Max (poetic muse rubs eyes and ponders life)

Max the Wonder Dog, waiting to walk

7:00 Breakfast-read emails, news, answer blog comments-smile and laugh
8:00 Play tag with Max (laugh some more), do dishes-watch ducks and butterflies
8:30 Work out to old rock and roll (Stones, AC/DC, Journey, Led Zepplin, Chubby Checker...) cool down doing laundry and housework/yardwork
10:30 Work
6:30 Home (squeeze in some writing—or not...)
7:30-9:30 Dinner prep, dinner eaten, dishes, feed Max, walk Max

Max Relaxed

10:30-11:00 Read or watch comedy, then lights out
I'm looking forward to when things slow down a bit and I can write more.  Like most people we're still crawling out of that economic hole that opened up in 2008.

Good Night Max

Poets United: Busy days! How long have you lived in Florida? Did you move there because of your love of the sea, or did work take you there? 

Sara: I've lived in Florida thirty years.  (Yikes!) I've now lived here longer than I lived in California, my home state.  I moved here for love, that fell apart, and I almost moved back--but I met my husband and stayed.  Still, it took me about 7 years to stop telling everyone how much better California is than Florida—lol.

My love of the sea was born and raised on the steep cliffs, gravel beaches and pounding surf of California.  I lived in San Diego for a year and never wanted to leave.  I grew up in Sacramento.  Suburbia, not the downtown.  That neighborhood used to be an almond orchard and every Spring, it was sweet scented, delicate pink flower heaven. Another thing I miss....

                                          California rocky coast and two of my favorite men

The girls at the beach-
Sara, best friend, her daughter
and Sara's step-daughter

Poets United: Sigh. So lovely. Can you see a connection between your childhood and your writing? Any influences from that time that color your work today?

Sara: Oh yes! My family is a bunch of readers and they introduced me to Robert Louis Stevenson (and others, but that was my fav, then—I still love the meter of  “My Shadow”). Then Robert Frost, Ogden Nash—My dad rattles off limericks and poetry at the drop of a hat.  He is the king of puns (kinda rubbed off on me) and also writes poetry, especially haikus.  I've been writing poetry pretty much as long as I can remember.  Read lots and lots—when I finish one book, I need to have another ready to start, or I feel pretty lost.  Shel Silverstein and Dr. Suess were major influences, their poetry/words are so fun. There is also a very old book called “Reflections on the Gift of a Watermelon Pickle” that has wonderful poems in it.  One  was William Carlos Williams -”This Is Just to Say” and I love that poem. That book had so many different styles of poetry. 

However, the playfulness stuck with me. For years, I gave up writing poetry, because every place I wanted to submit, was full of serious literary poems, and my muse just doesn't play there.  My husband was really encouraging though, he kept telling me that he loved my poems. :-)

Poets United: When did you begin to write seriously? (I see your work is often humorous, but I suppose I mean consistently?) 

Sara: Haha! Good catch Sherry! I love to laugh, my boys say that I will laugh at almost anything.  And they're mostly right...

                                                           Why I laugh...boys making faces

As far as writing,  I always wrote, especially poetry, and then there was law school, kids and an 80 hour job, with an hour each way commute.  No writing.

Writing children's books (that's what I was reading at the time...) was my first goal. And my husband's business was doing well enough to let me quit my corporate job.  Joined a writing group— three women who are such a gift--close to my heart and talented, wise people— finished some manuscripts and submitted to some publishing houses—but my heart wasn't in it (I see now).  Those women are still in my life, and so supportive and loving.

It was Robert Lee Brewer, by starting the Poem A Day Challenge, who got me writing poetry again.  In the first challenge, he picked two of my poems, a few people left me positive comments about my poems, and I'd found my bliss (again).  I love poetry, how you can paint, play with words, sounds, rhythm..... and it's very immediate. It's also one of those things that just flow out of me—sometimes ..*smile *

Poets United: On your profile  you list the Arts as your industry – fill us in!

Sara: That was a bit of wishful projecting.  I do love the arts.  My husband is a great photographer, my youngest son is majoring in computer animation, and my oldest son does cartoons and CAD designs.  As kids, my sister and I drew all the time.  Then I took art in high school and really got serious—painting, drawing, all very realistic.  In college I continued with botanical illustrations, and actually was a contributing artist to a botanical guide for the California State University at Chico Arboretum.  Life got in the way for many years, then one day I felt like just splashing paint around and asked an artist friend if she had some time—that resulted in the painting on my blog.  Now, every month or so we get together and paint—it's truly a meditation; once I start working on something, the world narrows down to that canvas and paint.

                                                                   Happy Tree

Hector's Award Winning Photo Here Comes the Sun

Poets United: I love your Happy Tree! And your husband's  photo is spectacular! The shot of a lifetime! 

Sara:  He won the award in a landscape photo contest put on by our local artist-supporting non-profit "Artserve."  

The Intrepid Photographer

Poets United: He is very talented. I am way impressed that, in your work life,  you were a scientist and an attorney. That must have been quite an interesting journey. Which did you love best?

Sara: Thank you, but really not so impressive.  It was a journey--My dad was a high school biology teacher and I grew up with that enthusiasm for all living things and how things work.  So I got my B.A. In Biology—unfortunately, no one told me to get any experience in that field before I graduated—there were a lot of science grads in San Diego. Surprise! I never actually worked in the scientific field. 

However, a friend, who was a chemistry teacher, went to law school and became a patent attorney.  I saw a chance to use my science degree (finally)--I worked for technology companies in software licensing.  That was pretty interesting—however, my favorite job was working on a team that was developing software, so many interesting people, and I was able to use everything I'd ever learned.  Also did pro bono legal work for artists and writers with “Artserve,” and that was really rewarding.  This is my third time working with my husband—and like they say (fingers crossed) third time's the charm!

Sara at Zion

Poets United: These photos are magnificent! Is there a story in your life that has shaped your journey? Something which informs who you are and that you draw from in your writing?

Sunlight on Water

Sara: Hmmm. A story—The enthusiasm for life that I talked about earlier.  It is a wondrous world that we live in—the way our body works, a dragonfly in flight, the twinkle of light on water.  When you really pay attention and appreciate every little thing around us, you realize that life (the sun, the sky, the stars, the grass, the insects, your beating heart, my fingers on the keyboard) is truly amazing.  And that definitely is a well I dip into when I'm writing. My mom has always been downright effervescent, and that joyousness flows through me too—colors my words and my world. 

   Mom and Dad on their 58th Anniversary

Poets United: Sigh. So lovely. Your parents look amazing – very young at heart! What do you love about poetry?

Sara: Before, I talked about what I love about writing poetry.  What I love about poetry itself is how many different ways there are to see something. And it's always from the heart, from your experiences—so transparent.  It is so delightful to visit all these different blogs/poets and see how they see the world, the turn of phrase—how they paint and play.  I am so thankful for the internet and the ability to enjoy all this wonderful writing!

Poets United: Do you have a favorite spot where you write?

Sara: I finally have a place of my own.  It's painted aqua like the color of the Florida Bay (Gulf of Mexico), my new favorite color, and my art and my friend's art (painting by artist friend, panda by my sister, photos are friends and family) and all my favorite books are here.  (along with my faithful laptop) * grin *

                                                My Favorite Place to Write

                                                     My Favorite Books and Art stuff

Poets United: Do you have, or have you had  a mentor, or someone who encouraged you to write? Anyone who influenced or inspired you?

Sara: I used to love cursive writing, kinda went with the whole “art” thing.  In 6th grade I had a teacher who recognized that I really didn't need to do drills, and let me write stories or poetry, in cursive, instead.  When she read my poetry, she told me that some day I would be published.  Her name was Mrs. Kirkpatrick. (Thanks, Mrs. K!) That compliment kept me going many years.  Then Robert Brewer, at the Poetic Asides blog--when he started the Poem A Day challenge - and all the poets there.  It's quite a supportive group. Since starting my blog, I'm constantly inspired by all the poets out there. Poets United was an incredible find.  I thank Amy Barlow Liberatore for that.  (Thanks Amy!) 

Poets United: Amy is such a wonderful promoter of our site. Yes, thank you, Amy! How has blogging impacted your work?

Sara: That is a funny thing.  I never wanted to have a blog because I felt like it was a burden—there's so many blogs and it's hard to have time to read them all, and of course “who would want to read mine?”  Then Robert Brewer started the “Platform Challenge” and here I am.  Poets United, dVerse Poets, Poetry Jam, Poetic Bloomings, and of course Poem A Day, that has all impacted my work—the chance to read everyone's poems and to get such positive responses—wow.  I am overwhelmed and thankful for everyone who visits.  And I love visiting and commenting too.  It's fascinating and a lot of fun. 

Poets United: Is it ever! Do you have a poem you feel expresses who you are?

Sara: Yes. It's definitely not the best poem I've ever written, and I can't even say it's my favorite--however, it does a really good job of summing up my life since I moved to Florida.

Memoirs of a Gringa 

An immigrant from
The Western sunshine state
Met an immigrant from Cuba
And the merengue began
One full of missteps
And misunderstandings
Most had nothing to do with language
And everything to do with culture
Who knew I'd be attending funerals
Of people I didn't know
Or that my Thanksgiving would have
Black beans and yucca with nary
A mashed potato, cranberry, or scrap of stuffing
(and my pumpkin pie would be admired, but uneaten)
That all holiday meals would be loud, political
And served on paper plates
While in California my family dined on china and spoke
In the hushed tones of well-mannered Gringos
Or that all good-byes would consist of three rounds of hugs
Kisses, good wishes (in Spanish and English) and conversations at the car
And I'd consume twelve grapes at midnight to ensure a lucky New Year
Who knew how many times I'd be kissed and squished
Into plump well-dressed breasts at Quinces and weddings
And that three years of high school Spanish would be useful
Or that my children would learn to say “mio”
Before “mama”
For twenty-four years, we've spun and twisted frequently
Stepping on each other's toes
Yet, paper plates and chaos, stranger's kisses, and long goodbyes
Have become as beloved to me as black beans and turquoise seas
And while a part of me will always be 3000 miles west
The rest of me is glad I embraced the music, and
Kept on dancing

Poets United: How wonderfully life-affirming this poem is! I'm glad you  kept on dancing, too. Do you write prose, Sara?

Sara: I don't, yet.  It's something that I've wanted to try.  However, since it's not my usual style, it's not the first thing that comes to me when I sit down to write.  Brooke Horvath's poem “Definition” says a prose poem should be...”not too short and not too long, somewhere between a snort and a song”.  That inspires me!  Maybe next week, I'll give it a try.

Poets United: Where is your favorite place in the world?

Sara: Sitting on a boat in the middle of the Florida Bay, watching the sunset, with a glass of wine, my husband, dog, friends, and lots of laughter.

My Favorite Place

Poets United: If only I could jump into that photo, I would! So! Art!  What do you love about it and what style of artist are you?

Sara: I have always drawn.  Started painting in high school, and then I was hooked.  I used to be stuck in a very traditional formal illustrative style, and I still draw that way sometimes, but now I like to paint with acrylics and bright colors on big canvasses.  Modern would have to be the style, because I'm just playing. 

                                                 Illustrative Drawing of A Primrose

Whimsical Geese

Poets United: So cheerful! What are some of your other interests? Tell us about Kung Fu - I'm stoked!

Sara: Me too! Kung fu is awesome.  I've always been active.  Running, hiking, swimming, horseback-riding, biking, dancing (lots of dancing!)  Being outdoors is my favorite place.  I like to cook and bake too—especially bread.

Kung Fu Weapons

With Kung Fu, my family had been tossing around the idea of starting martial arts-- we were very lucky to find an incredible school, with instructors who are the warmest, most sincere, caring people you'd ever meet. 

After a year, our sons stopped (our oldest still goes to the Sanshou, fighting class), but my husband and I were inspired.  We've been going for about 5 years and we're about 5 forms away from being black belts.  Forms are a series of moves that you put together (it's almost like a dance) of kicks, punches, jumps, etc.  The really cool part is the weapons forms—we've learned forms with staff, spear, sword (yes!) and kwan do.  It has given me such a sense of confidence and it's fun to kick doors and drawers closed.  It's also great for flexibility—I can almost do the splits—something I never was able to do as a kid...

Poets United: I'm totally impressed. Describe your idea of a perfect day.

Sara: Waking in the Florida Keys, sitting on a deck with a cup of coffee welcoming the sun-then spending the day with my husband, kids, and friends boating, swimming, snorkeling and finally having dinner out at a great restaurant outside, watching the sunset.  With wine and chocolate in there somewhere too—and dancing, that would make it perfect. :-)
   A Perfect Day

Boat Boys - older and younger sons

Poets United: The photos prove it - that is Happiness, all right!

Sara: The boat shot was taken by a friend of ours and is one of my favorites--you're right, it channels pure joy, which is how we feel on a boat.  Never knew I would enjoy a boat that much--it's an old, used boat, and we've gotten miles of smiles out of it--

Favorite Sunset Photo

This is what our Christmas dinner 
looks like--family and friends

the cousins at Christmas

The Cookie Tradition

The cookie tradition is a 22 year old tradition that started when Nick was 2.  My friend Ann was missing the cookie decorating party in her home town Buffalo, NY--so we started one here.  Even though the boys are grown, it's still one of their favorite holiday traditions.

And the view out my kitchen window includes a Rainbow Eucalyptus that my parents gave Hector and I for our anniversary about 5 years ago.

Poets United: Sigh. Happiness lives at your house! Those smiling faces! That view!!!! Those cookies! Are there a few poets you really admire, either well-known or in the blogging world, and how does their work inspire or motivate you?

Sara: Oh my goodness.  The list just keeps on growing.  As I said, I love Robert Louis Stevenson, Shel Silverstein, Robert Frost and Mary Oliver, William Carlos Williams, Billy Collins (if you haven't seen him on TED you have to!) and Sara Kay! Love the  Spoken Word—that is on my “to do” list.  I read one poem on Buddah's site and felt like reading my entire inventory of poems!! 

Blogging world:  I have to say this—Everyone!!  I started to make a list and it was just too long. 

However, I have to give a special shout out to De Jackson (of course)--she's one of the poets from Poetic Asides, that I have always admired and she's incredibly talented and just keeps getting better.  She's also a great cheerleader and generous soul.  I wouldn't be published in any online ezines,  if it wasn't for her encouragement.  Also, Pearl Ketover Prilik, Paula Wanken and cast of many who worked so hard to get “Prompted” published.  As well as the editor of ”Really Love Your Book” , Michele Poet, for publishing it.  And Robert Lee Brewer who has such a range as a poet—he can make you laugh and then touch your heart - he challenged me poetically and blog-wise.  Muchos kudos. 

Poets United: Any words for the folks at Poets United?

Sara: You are amazing, the prompts, the support, the interviews.  I am overwhelmed, and so blessed to be part of this community.  Thank you.

Poets United: We are all so happy you're here, too, kiddo! Thanks for this great visit!

Well, kids? We seem to be proving, week after week, that there are far more happy families than unhappy ones. Yay! It does my heart good. Isn't it true that the people behind the pens are some of the most interesting folks around? Come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Another fine interview, Sherry. Sara, I have greatly enjoyed your poetry. You write with a unique style that I think I might recognize anywhere. Looking forward to continuing to read your work!

    1. Mary, thank you so much, that really means a lot to me. Your comments are always so thoughtful, and your poems so heartfelt. It is a gift. :-)

    2. Sherry! I have to say a huge "THANK YOU" you did a fantastic job, as always. I am so thankful that you asked to interview me, quite an honor.

  2. smile. it is great to get to know you a bit more sara, its been a pleasure to read you and your poetry story made me roberts challenge got you going again....its these little touches that reignite people that i live it was one person telling me i should that got me going as well..

    1. Brian, thank you so much! Sherry is great at this. Glad to share a smile too and I'm so thankful for the one person that you got you going--tell that person "thank you" from me :-)

  3. Sara, I also wanted to say how much I enjoyed the poem you shared about your life since you moved to Florida. I love how you acclimated to the Cuban customs and now embrace them as your own. And Cuban food die for!

    1. Hi Mary! So glad you enjoyed that--I actually submitted it to a contest held by NPR in Miami, didn't win, but it was fun. And yes, Cuban food is so good! Definitely felt like I must have been part Cuban in a previous life--love those black beans and rice...

  4. What a kick this was to read! I feel like I just took a quick trip to Florida. Thank you Sherry, for highlighting Sara. I was unfamiliar with her work, but no longer will be. Some beautiful perspectives blossom from her work.

    1. Hi Kim! Sherry did do an amazing job, I love reading her interviews. So happy that you enjoyed the interview and the poetry--what a lovely compliment :-)

  5. As always, it is my pleasure to bring a poet's story to life. Always so fascinating, each journey so unique. Loved getting to know you better, Sara.

    1. Sherry, you do bring out the best in everyone, loved getting to know you better too :-)

  6. You pulled another fabulous interview out of that busy bag of tricks of yours Sherry.
    Sara, what a wonderful life! I loved all of your interview and some of the pics are simply... stunning! Really enjoy reading your blog and your art is so good too. Very talented! Max is sooooo lovely!
    Great post!

    1. Hi Brenda!! So glad that you enjoyed this. I always enjoy your comments and very happy that you got to meet Max, he is really smart and hilarious too.

  7. Such a wonderful interview with one of my favourite poets. Thank you so much for allowing us to see into Sara's day.


    1. Misky! What an absolutely wonderful thing to say. It's a mutual admiration society, then. Love your poetry, as well. :-)

  8. Nice to learn more about Sara :D
    I can relate to being surprised~
    I like you love the sea and live away from
    where I am from.
    Amazing how life and love does that~
    I enjoyed reading about your life!
    I love your view on
    You have an amazing family! ATB

    1. Ella! Thank you so much for your warm, thoughtful comments. I love being part of this community and really enjoy your poetry as well. :-)

  9. It was fun to learn more about you Sara--your poetry always gives me a smile. And we recently sold our boat and now I think we've got to get another one--soon!

    1. Hi! Sherry did a great job. So glad that we share smiles with our poetry!! This boat thing is all new to me, never knew I'd enjoy it this much-life is funny that way :-)

  10. Oh.My.Goodness!
    I had to wait to dig fully into this interview, for a day I could truly savor every word. I loooove me some Sara V, and I knew this would be a treat, but oh, MY.

    Sherry, once again you have mastered the interview process. Fantastic.

    Sara, I knew I loved you, but holy COW do we ever have a lot in common, my friend. Shutterbug hubbies, our love for the sea (your photos and descriptions make my heart ache...I am desert-bound most of the year)...I could go on. I can't thank you enough for sharing of yourself, here. I desperately want even more, now, to sit down and have coffee and words with you. And thank you for the generous shout-out. Your work speaks for itself, and if I had any tiny thing to do with you getting it out there into the world, I'm truly, truly honored.

    Keep on dancing, my talented friend. I'm so blessed to read your work every time it comes to my email inbox. :)

    1. De, your warmth and enthusiasm really *sniffle* touched me. Thank you so much!!

      Always felt that connect, funny how much we do have in common.

      Definitely have to figure out that coffee time--maybe next time I'm in Vegas...

      You embody generousness, my friend, you deserve all the shout-outs you receive. And I completely agree, very blessed to read your work every time it comes to my email inbox. :-)

      Lots of love, right back atcha!!

    2. PS: I am totally jealous of your office space (**covet, covet**). Mine's a horrible mess, so Whimsy (my laptop) and Kiera (my lapdog) and I all work downstairs now. Need to de-clutter, de-contaminate, and De-paint! (love the aqua! I'm thinking turquoise or indigo...)

  11. Go De!! That is exactly what my office looked like-it had become kitchen drawer room Ack!! Tossed, recycled about 20 trash bags of stuff-shocking how much can accumulate. I support all your de-activities-and maybe turquoise with an indigo accent wall? De-lovely!!

  12. Oh Sara - I was away at a family birth - and missed this interview until now. One of my fav writers and peeps! Congratulations!

    1. Hi Pearl! So excited for you and the newest addition to the clan--adorable!!! Thank you very much for your lovely comments--hugs! :-)

  13. Sherry, your interviews are always a fantastic read! Thank you for highlighting Sara for us in a way that totally shows off her talent and personality.

    Sara, this is a WOW. The photos and artwork give us even more of a sense of the life behind the poet. Your list of fave poets could have been lifted from my own. Thank you for the Poetic Bloomings mention -- you are a TREASURED "Bloomer" there!

    Great interview, gals! THANKS!!

    1. Marie Elena, always so generous with the praise and love! Great poetic minds think alike? Love that we share a favorite poet list <3
      Thank you so much--love being a treasured "bloomer" (giggle) :-)

  14. Great interview! LOVE the artwork :)


    1. Thank you Ina!! Really appreciate the visit and the love for the art--big smiles :-)

  15. Oh Sara - I'm so glad I was scrolling down the PU page and didn't miss your interview. As always Sherry has outdone herself with her wonderful technique for getting the best out of the poets she interviews, but you were a pretty spectacular subject. I've loved your work as long as I've been reading it, and I think that's been since the first PAD if I remember correctly ... Now I have an inkling as to why you write such wonderful stuff - your love of life shines through every poem you pen. It was great to get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes Sara - your family, your sense of place - the ocean(s), your other interests, and especially your love of laughter! I look forward to enjoying your work for many years to come. Thanks for sharing a slice of your life with us.

    1. Sharon, I have always enjoyed your poetry as well, you are always a name that I look for :-)

      If I could have wished for a perfect compliment, it would have been yours!! Wow. Totally overwhelmed and slightly *sniff* emotional...everyone has been so generous with the kindness here--and Sherry is amazing :-) To hear that someone "loves my work" will keep me writing forever. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  16. Excellent interview! Fun tales & fabulous pics! A pleasure visiting with you, Sara! :-)

    1. Pam, it is always a pleasure visiting you with you! Thank you so much <3

  17. What a GREAT good to get a more complete picture of that crackerjack poet, SaraV!! :) Love you!! <3

  18. Paula, thank you so much!! It's nice to get to know everyone a little better. Love you too <3. So grateful for PAD, and PU, for meeting you and all these warm generous poets.


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