Literary Hook: An interview with ‘Writing After Retirement’ author Carol Smallwood

By Christine Swanberg
Author and Poet

Carol Smallwood’s more than four dozen books include Women On Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching, which is on Poets & Writers magazine’s list of Best Books for Writers. Carol’s most recent books are Water, Earth, Air, Fire, and Picket Fences (Lamar University Press, 2014). Writing After Retirement (Rowan and Littlefield publishers, 2014) is hot off the presses.

The Rock River Times (TRRT): Rock River Times recently ran a review of a book that you co-edited with Christine Redman-Waldeyer, Writing After Retirement: Tips from Successful Writers. Please tell us about your own writing after retirement. As you have grown older and wiser, how has your poetry matured?

Carol Smallwood (CS): That is hard for me to answer, because I started writing poetry after retirement from public schools and was facing breast cancer. I suspect having the time to write as well as the need to try a new genre came at the same time — after telling myself for a long time that I would write more when I knew more. I tried fiction, nonfiction, so the last was poetry. Retirement gives one a lot of freedom, and not having to please employers, one can write without having the excuse of not having enough time or enough experience or for pleasure. Learning about formal poetry forms online, writing some (especially pantoums and triolets) has been a lot of fun; getting awards and acceptances provides important validation that you are succeeding.

TRRT: How does an anthology emerge for you?

CS: If there is a need, a gap, on a topic for readers. The first step is a first look at what is out there in WorldCat as far as what has already been published on this topic, how recent the publications have been and who published them. This must agree with the needs of the publisher — the timing must be right. One never knows if the anthology will work and attract readers. It also helps if you are especially interested in the topic, are familiar with it, and already know possible contributors.

TRRT: Please tell us how Writing After Retirement evolved from nudge, to concept, to action. What was the process?

CS: I was having my lunch at McDonald’s trying to think of a good topic, and it came to me that as a retired person, writer, combining both topics would perhaps work for an anthology. It was a topic I was interested in and was different from my usual ones in which contributors were librarians. So, I first sent the proposal to a publisher who did books for librarians and also to others I’d worked with before. It was accepted. Then, calls for submission were sent out to attract contributors. It involved searching CataList, the official catalogue of litservs using such terms as: retirement, aging, baby boomers, writing and senior citizens.

TRRT: Thanks, Carol, for your insights and information. Writing After Retirement, with its near 300 pages of useful information, was conceived well and will be a great resource for many retired writers looking for practical information. The book, published by Rowman and Littlefield, can be ordered easily online.

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet. She received the Lawrence E. Gloyd Community Impact Award at the 2012 Rockford Area Arts Council State of the Arts Awards.

From the Nov. 5-11, 2014, issue

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