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Friday, August 19, 2011

Interview with Thena Smith: Poet, Author, and Friend

I first met Thena Smith online back in 2000.  We both frequented ScrapNetwork.com, a (now defunct) website for scrapbookers, and through many postings back and forth, we quickly became friends.  We finally met in person in the fall of 2001, when she traveled from California to Chicago for a scrapbook expo. (Several other SN friends joined us, as well.)  I was happy to discover that Thena is every bit as sweet and wonderful "in real life" as she is online. :)

Thena was known on ScrapNetwork (and other sites) for her writing.  She shared her poetry with us all the time, poems that were the perfect touch for our scrapbook pages.  Thena often mentioned that when she retired, she hoped to publish a book of poetry.  The rest of us cheered her on, knowing that her dream was sure to come true one day.  In 2004, it did.  Thena's first book, Where's Thena?  I Need a Poem About..., was filled with the various poems she had shared with scrapbookers over the years.  I met up with Thena at the Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) trade show in Chicago that summer, and then again that fall at a book signing in Bloomington, Illinois.  (I am thrilled to have my very own autographed copy!)

Janelle and Thena, Oct. 2004

Since that time, Thena has written several other books of poetry, including Whispers (2005), Taste of Paste (2005), Board Smartz (2005), Military Moments (2006), Letters to Heaven (2006), and C is for Christmas (2008), which can all be purchased at Bluegrass Publishing.  Thena's poems are appropriate for all ages, children and adults.  (Some, like those in A Taste of Paste and Board Smartz are geared more for kids than others, however.)

Recently, I asked Thena if she would consider doing an interview, via email, for this blog.  She eagerly agreed!  I am happy to share my questions and her answers with you now:
Thena and her puplets, 2011

Did you like to write as a child? If so, what kinds of things did you write?

I wrote my first poems in grade school as an assignment. We were to write a Christmas poem and I wrote mine as well as poems for several other classmates. My mom sent mine to the local newspaper and I was thrilled when they printed it. I never stopped writing after that experience.  I loved English assignments for themes and always “overwrote”. If the teacher wanted 2 pages, it was difficult for me to stop at two; I would do three.

What did you like to read as a child? (Favorite genres, authors, books, etc.)

My mom said I would read the backs of cereal boxes if I ran out of books! I loved my brothers' copy of Little Men so Mom got me Little Women. I read their Hardy Boys so Mom got me Nancy Drew. I read Life, Look, Colliers magazines that Dad would bring home and Mom’s Christian magazines. When I got access to the Public Library I would bring home as many books as I could carry. I loved books and brought some home each night from our school library. I would stay up late and finish a book, take it back the next day and get another. I read The Bible and Bible story books, as well as all of the take home things we got in Sunday School.

When did you know you wanted to become a published author?

The desire to be published was actually the desire to share with more people. It took me 20 years to be discovered overnight. J

How long did it take to become a published author? And how did you go about it?

I had computer problems and worried about losing all of my work so I put about 300 of my poems on a website where a publisher (Linda LaTourelle of  Bluegrass Publishing) found them while surfing the web. She called me and we hit it off right away. We made plans to meet in Texas at HIA where she came armed with business cards for me and a wonderful opportunity for my first book, Where’s Thena? I Need a Poem About… We introduced the book a few months later in Tennessee and from there went to CHA in Chicago. It was so exciting!

What are your favorite subjects to write about?

My favorite poems and stories are faith centered. I love to write about God, family and country.  I’ve been doing a number of silly poems lately for my friends who have kids who like to read.

I know you write poetry (of course!) ~ do you write other things as well? If so, what?

I love to write short stories, slice of life type things and allegories. I used to write a lot of those for church and present them. I tried to write a teen novel but my family said my teens were too nice. LOL

What inspires/motivates you to write?

Breathing.  Daily life, routine, family, faith, country-everything is fodder for a poem or story.

What kinds of things do you like to do when you're not writing?

I love to create digital works of my version of art and I love digital photography.  At one time I loved to sew and quilt but I just don’t have the space or the best eyesight anymore so it is easier to work at the computer.

Please list one or more of your favorite poems (written by you) for kids. 

I made myself laugh as I wrote “You Can’t Hug a Frog” and “When A Cow Laughs”.

You Can't Hug A Frog...

Some people like all kinds of pets
From dogs and cats to mice,
But as for the perfect pet for me...
I think frogs are nice!

Frogs are very easy to please
And like to live in a stream;
Frogs are always very nice --
I've never seen a frog that's mean!

People hug their cats and
They cuddle with their dogs;
Now you can hold one in your hand
But you can't hug a frog

Nope! You really cannot hug a frog
And this is not a joke...
You can't hug a frog
Or it might

from Where's Thena?  I Need a Poem About... by Thena Smith, 2004

Who are your favorite authors and poets now?

Most of my recent interests have been studies on The Bible. I’ve read a number of biographies on old time favorite stars such as Lucille Ball, Bob Hope and Jack Benny in the last few months. At present I’m also reading The Help. I don’t have an actual favorite author that I seek out. Instead, I go by subject matter. I love Helen Steiner Rice but I don’t think I have any of her books. I’m more likely to buy anthologies of poetry with a taste of a variety of poets.

Are you currently working on any special writing projects? A new book?

I am working on a project with another author which is not ready for public disclosure yet and I have an                            e-book/Kindle/Nook version of my Pets, A to Z book coming out any time now with Comfort Publishing. I have over 50 volumes of various titles and subjects (including photography) available at the Blurb website.

Please share any advice you have for writers, young or old.

Even if you have no desire to publish your work, it will serve you well to write each day. It will help you with your school work, and later on, your employee skills in most occupations. It will help you learn to organize your thoughts and help you improve your spelling, vocabulary and grammar. As an older person it helps keep your mind active and your interests varied. It improves your listening skills. One word can trigger a poem, a story or the idea for an entire book. Before the days of computers I kept steno notepads in each room and in the car. I would pick one up and just start writing. Some of those verses are in my first book.

Anything else you'd like to share with young readers and writers?

If you want to be writer, then you are a writer. All you need to do is write. If your desire is to be published then you need not only to write but to write something for which there is an interest, a need, or something unique that people haven’t read before. For me, it was my writing for my scrapbook pages that lead me to share with others who could use the same kind of simple verses on their own pages.

Don’t hesitate to share your writings with others. If I had not freely shared, Linda LaTourelle, CEO of Bluegrass Publishing, would not have found my little verses as she searched the web for something new for her publishing company. I would not have had the fun of sharing with so many wonderful people all over the globe. I’m proof that simple words and simple verses can find a place in print.

If I had not been sharing I would not have gotten the feedback that help me expand my interests and subjects and would not have been confident enough to accept the knock of opportunity on my door when it came.

I must also share that my Christian friends had supported me in my efforts and prayed for an opportunity for me. I shared with my friends in church programs and a dear friend, Shirley Stoeckel, and I wrote and produced a children’s musical as well as a collage of songs and poems which was filmed by the local cable station. This was a big thrill for us.

Use your talents where you are and just be yourself.  I always tell aspiring writers or artists: Start Simply but Simply Start!

Thank you to my dear friend Janelle for inviting me to share. She is not only a very talented person but a very kind person and awesome friend!

Thank you, Thena, for agreeing to this interview and for sharing your poems and words of wisdom with us! :)

To learn more about Thena Smith and her wonderful poems, please check out her A Poem a Day blog and also her Delightfully Digital blog.

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