Howard Camner [poet1]
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
My first read was probably The Cat in the Hat since we were both born in the same year. And I've always worn a hat, so in a way I guess I aspired to be the living version of The Cat in the Hat; unless he aspired to be me. Who can say? I began to write seriously at the age of 17. It was a difficult year for me and I needed an outlet. So it was either writing, which I found easy, or a dive off a cliff which there aren't many of in Miami where I'm from. I don't know who the first to read my work was. I started getting published very quickly in a literary journal out of Bloomfield, New Jersey. So I imagine some frazzled souls across the river take that prize.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
I'm not one of those people who can sit down in front of a blank sheet of paper and start writing. My inspiration comes to me like quick little lightning bolts. A flash goes off and there it is. I have to write quickly or it's gone. There have been countless times when the lightning struck and I had no way of writing it down. I have millions of brilliant ideas just floating around in space because I couldn't get to a pen in time. When I do have enough to work with, it becomes a jigsaw puzzle. I put the pieces where they fit best and somehow it seems to gel.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
I don't read much at all because it bores the devil out of me. My philosophy has always been that the time I would waste reading, I could be writing. I've paid attention to two books in my life. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Those two books say it all for me. I do also love the work of the afore alluded to Dr.Seuss whom I had the pleasure of meeting in the early 1980s. And the Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris. So to answer the question, children's stories that are actually for adults, most of whom aren't aware of that, inspire me.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
For me the character always comes first and foremost. The story or plot or whatever you want to call it can be as mundane as they come, but if you have a great character it won't matter. But of course you want the character to have a hoop or two to jump through to get what he's after.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
I use first person 99% of the time. I tend to confuse myself with third person writing. Plus I feel stronger writing in first person. I can move the arms and legs by myself without having someone else do it.
What well known writers do you admire most?
The writers I admire most I've already mentioned: Shel Silverstein, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Joel Chandler Harris, and one Theodor Seuss Geisel. And I wouldn't kick myself out of the sack either.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
My characters often don't seem believable but they're all based on real people. What makes them un-believable is what makes them interesting. I have no desire to write about some ordinary/"normal" person. There's nothing there for me. I'm interested in the person who doesn't fit the clothes he's wearing.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
I can spin a yarn if I need to, but it's never gotten me out of a traffic ticket. I don't tend to talk much, I save what I have to say for my writing. When I do talk no one ever seems to understand; especially me.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
You don't have to dig deep at all for that answer. I write for me. If an audience follows; great. If they don't, I can't be held responsible for what happens to them.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
Yes and yes. Writing is definitely a catharsis if you write for yourself. If you write for someone else I don't know if it can work that way. But as I stated previously, I started writing at 17 because I had no choice. Internal conflicts; the quarrel with oneself; is the greatest creative force I know of. I believe that all true art comes from that inner war. The arts could cure a lot of problems if the people who needed the outlet were exposed to it.
Does reader feed-back help you?
I like an audience when I perform, but I'm not overly interested in someone telling me whether they like or don't like my work, because I don't write for them, I write for me. I mean if they like it, that's wonderful, I'll listen to that. But if they don't like it, well, I can't be held responsible for what happens to them.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
I don't participate in contests or competitions because I don't believe in them for the arts. I think it cheapens the work. If it's true art it comes from the soul and who can judge something like that? I've been asked to judge several competitions through the years and I always make that statement before anything starts. It's not possible to judge real art. Besides, it's all subjective. You're dealing with opinion and nothing more. That said, I've won several awards including the Fine Arts Press Poetry Award (1988), The MiPo Coat Hanger Literary Award (2004), the New Times Best Poet of 2007 Award, I was nominated for Poet Laureate of Florida (1980), nominated for a Pulitzer Prize (1990), nominated for the Poets Hall of Fame (2002), and have been included in many reference books including the Marquis Who's Who series, the American Biographical Institute series, the Cambridge Blue Book, the International Who's Who in Poetry from Europa Publications, and the International Biographical Centre in Cambridge, among others.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
I never share my writing until it's published. That's just been my own self-imposed personal rule.
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
At this stage of the game I know my writing voice very well, but there are occasions when it takes some time to get it in gear, depending on the project I'm working on and what it calls for.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I give myself "assignments" and time limits. The big time limit will come from the publisher, but the little ones are set by me. I'll need X done by such and such day, etc. I'm pretty good at sticking with it, but there are always excuses if one needs to find an excuse. still, I'm a pretty strict taskmaster when it comes to getting my work done.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
My work area is surrounded by monster models. They keep me pretty well focused on the work at hand. You don't want to stop working when there's a werewolf growling at you.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
I write very quickly on legal pads. I've attempted to write on a computer, but it's useless. My mind works very fast and my fingers don't.
What has been your experience with publishers?
I've been at this game a very long time. Some publishers don't give me the time of day, as they say. Others think my work is great but still wish me well placing it somewhere else, while others like what they read and give it a shot. Getting published is like winning a contest. It's all subjective and writers should never take any of it personally.
What are you working on now?
I'm currently peddling a feature film script, a comedy series for television, and I'm finishing up my autobiography.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
If you like the work, send it out. If it sits there gathering dust it will just sit there gathering dust. Give it a chance to fly.