Current obsessions—literary or otherwise.
My current slightly-less-than-obsession is the movie “The Descendants.” It is about and was filmed in Hawaii where I grew up. Director Alexander Payne portrays the real thing, not a plastic paradise or stupid tourist/umbrella drinks scene. This movie inspired me to seek out Hawaii friends I had not spoken to in years. I bought the CD/score of the great Hawaiian music and will play it often.
What’s your advice to someone who’s fallen in love with a writer?
You have to have a life of your own plus be a support system; it’s a delicate balance (for example, my husband has an electric train set and works, too). You need to have great patience and realize your beloved can be moody, crave solitude, and may see a red cabbage where you see a crumpled trash bag. Know not to chatter when they’re writing and don’t take anything personally unless told to! Don’t accept B.S., abuse or statements like “I can’t stop drinking, I’ll lose my talent.” Writers are good manipulators with imagination to boot.
What other jobs have you had—other than writing or teaching writing? Did one of these help shape you as a writer?
I had an 18 year career writing in advertising and P.R. This made me a relentless editor. I was driven to pack as much punch in as few words as possible. I also developed business skills and etiquette such as returning phone calls ASAP and my career was all about marketing which has been invaluable to me as a writer, I don’t live only on planet poetry; I function in the world of business and reality (ugh).
Was there an extremely influential writing teacher who was impactful on your writing life?
Absolutely. My adored Dr. Duane Yee at Punahou School in Honolulu. In eighth grade, he wrote on top of my paper “You really can write!” Seriously? I kept these words and took them out at times when I felt I had no talent. Dr. Yee and I keep in touch.
Are you a writer of place? Is place always one of your main characters?
Yes, because place shapes persona. Vertically Coastal is all about living 7 months in Charleston, SC, and 5 in the Berkshire Mtns. of MA. The places differ and I am different in each one. Hawaii, my growing-up place, definitely impacted my character and personality. I’ve lived in Israel and Ireland, both of which I love. As a Jew, Israel is my spiritual home.
What’s your worst writerly habit?
I am terrible with punctuation and line breaks. I’ve worked at this consciously since 1996, with no improvement. I always need a good editor!
Jerri Chaplin is a poet and certified poetry therapist in her birthplace, Charleston, S.C. She grew up in Honolulu and in 1970 received a B.A. in English from the University of the Pacific in California. Her love of Irish poetry, particularly that of W.B. Yeats, took her to Ireland many times for study and work. Her poetry has been published in anthologies and in a 2010 book, Pictures of Change. She has won a number of prizes for her work and has given numerous readings. Her new book, Vertically Coastal, will be launched October 2011 by Planet Media Books. Her loves are her family, including a Shetland Sheepdog, friends, poetry and dance.