Terrie Leigh Ref: What are your writing rituals?
Keith W. Sikora: I don’t really have any writing rituals, outside of listening to music whenever it’s possible. Usually, it’s my “poetry writing playlist.” Most of the time, I use the shuffle option, though when I’m deliberately trying to create a specific mood set for a poem, depending on what type of poem it is, I’ll listen to a specific genre of music or a specific band.
Being a poet, I always try to keep a paper and pen handy. I have them on-the-ready by my bed. I even keep a notebook that stays in the car. I have spare pieces of paper in my wallet for jotting down bits and pieces of lines or inspired ideas, too.
TLR: What are your favorite genres? What intrigues you about the?
KWS: The most common genres or styles of poetry that I write are mainly free verse and speculative poetry. I also write a lot of romantic poetry, too. I have, in the past, and every once in a while, written horror poetry and scifiku. I recently created a type of haiku inspired by my favorite band, RUSH, that I call RUSHIANKU.
TLR: Do you have a day job? If so, how do you balance your creative and work time?
KWS: I don’t have a day job currently, but I am a full-time college student. I’ve had to adjust my creative time to fit in around my classes and homework time. These days, creative time comes on the weekends or after midnight, as well as when I’m waiting for my wife, Lee Ann, to get off from work. We carpool.
TLR: What tips do you have for other writers?
KWS: 1. Do not stop trying to improve your skills as a writer or poet. Go to workshops. Here, they can usually be found at our local library or college. Most of the time, they’re free; 2. Always have a thesaurus and dictionary handy – they are a writer/poet’s best friend; 3. If you are trying to get published, develop a thick skin because you’ll get more rejected than accepted submissions in the beginning; and 4. Never give up hope if you want to be published.
TLR: What are your thoughts on the creative process in general and your creative process in particular?
KWS: On the creative process in general, it’s a magical process going from inspiration/idea to finished story/poem and publication. It’s really hard work in that regard. I cannot emphasize enough that you need to continuously hone your skills and craft. As for me, the creative process begins first and foremost with inspiration. That can be anything, though for me it’s often weather-inspired or some emotional stimulus. Dreams are also a good source of inspiration for me, too. I also love to write in the wee hours of the morning, just after midnight, because of the quiet. It’s easier for me to focus.
TLR: Where do your ideas come from? What inspires you? Intrigues you?
KWS: My ideas/inspiration comes mainly from nature, fantasy, and romance, of course. I often draw inspiration from the magic in the world around us – the sight of a butterfly in flight or a beautiful sunset. I recently wrote a poem, “The Lesson of Hindsight,” that was inspired by a really strong thunderstorm with an attitude problem that literally developed right over our home. That poem can be found on my website in my “Saturday Poems and their Stories” blog.
TLR: What about upcoming publications? Awards and other accolades?
KWS: Well, I just recently released the second edition of my first poetry book, Voices of Light on Amazon – available on Kindle and in trade paperback. The second edition of my second poetry book, Celestial Bodies, will be released on Amazon sometime around Thanksgiving this year. My third and brand new poetry book, Lifelong Road, will be released around the end of December 2015 or January 2016. This is a project that I’m really fired up about – it’s a career-spanning book that covers the 39 years that I’ve been writing poetry. It will have close to 300 poems in it, broken down into decade-long sections, with photos of some of the roads I’ve traveled in my day – and a few personal ones that highlight important people and times throughout my life. I’m really excited about this project. It’s the peak of my poetic career, so far. Most of the poems in it are previously unpublished.
As for awards and other accolades, I’ve won a few poetry contests, placed in a few more, and I’ve been interviewed a couple of times, including here. I want to thank you for doing this, by the way. I’m grateful.
TLR: What else are you working on now?
KWS: Besides Lifelong Road, I’m starting my 17th binder (or “books” as I call them) of poetry. I’ve written close to 3,000 poems in my day, with about 80% still unread (except by myself) that are unpublished. They are stored in a large, plastic tub. I’m also beginning my second year as a poetry workshop teacher at our local library for the Crossroads Poetry Project, which is a non-profit group of writers, poets, teachers, and others who love poetry. It promotes the reading and writing of poetry in our county schools from 1st to 12th grade through a variety of programs, many of which are for adults, too. I teach a free verse class in February and a speculative poetry class in January. I love it. It’s always a fun time and I get excited and inspired by what the kids and adults produce from the exercises we do. It’s so cool to see the looks on their faces when they create poetry that they didn’t know they could.
TLR: Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years? Ten?
KWS: I see myself over the next five-to-ten years continuing to write poetry. Hopefully, publishing a few more poetry books and continuing to be a part of the Crossroads Poetry Project as a board member and a poetry workshop teacher. One of my favorite poets, who helped to shape my style, was Rod McKuen. He was still writing poetry and publishing on his website in his 70’s. Another of my favorite poets is Neil Peart of RUSH, who is in his early 70’s and writes and publishes his work. That’s what I want to be doing until I draw my last breath – writing poetry. It’s who and what I am.
TLR: What challenges have you faced as a writer and/or with a particular project? How did you meet them?
KWS: Probably the most difficult challenges I’ve faced as a poet is the shyness of being afraid of rejection or ridicule by others after reading my poems. Self-esteem has always been a big hurdle for me. Same goes for reading my work in public. I’ve managed to conquer most of those obstacles now. Another hurdle has been to develop a thicker skin. Once I began to be published in print and Internet magazines, most of the editors were constructive in explaining why I was rejected. It helped me to become a better and more-published poet.
The biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome was a severe case of writer’s block I developed after my last back surgery in 2004. It lasted for four years before one day, out of the blue, I began writing again like somebody turned on the creative switch. I believe the cause of the writer’s block was the 10-1/2 hours I spent under anesthesia.
TLR: Are you currently, or have you ever, been in a writing group? Your thoughts?
KWS: I’ve been in a writing group that was led by my wife, Lee Ann, that eventually disbanded because the various members of the group had conflicting schedules and other projects.
Now, I get the same kind of benefit from the poetry workshops that I teach as well as from attending the workshops my wife teaches. I think writing groups and workshops are a great thing to participate in. They can show you new methods and styles of writing. They force you to think outside your comfort zone by trying new techniques and discussing how to find new sources of inspiration – things like that. In 2014, I entered the maximum of three poems in the local annual poetry contest and took first, second, and honorable mention. Those three poems had been written in one of the poetry workshops taught by my wife over the past two years. The other years I’ve entered, I’ve taken third place with poems written in one of her workshops. They really do help make one a better writer/poet.
TLR: I’d love to hear about your networking, marketing, and promotional experiences – including tips for other writers.
KWS: As for networking, promoting, and marketing experiences I’ve had, I’m still a babe in the woods. I use Facebook, WordPress (my blog), and Twitter. I’ve done most of it by word of mouth and a couple of interviews in local newspapers.
TLR: Anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked?
KWS: Not that I can think of. . .outside of the fact that I began writing poetry in 1976 as a high school senior as a form of therapy to help with issues I had from being a foster kid. Poetry gives me hope.
Keith Sikora is a shaman poet and a Pisces who sees magic in everything around him. Keith began writing poetry in 1976, continuing to compile binders of poems since. He had his first paid published poem,”Faerie,” in 1998.
Keith’s work has been widely published in magazines, both in print & online, including Aoife’s Kiss, Beyond Centauri, Bloodbond, Bubbaku, Champagne Shivers, ETOU, Expressions Newsletter, The Fifth Di, Frostfire Worlds, Hungur, Illumen, Mobius, Red Owl, Scavenger’s Newsletter, Scifaikuest, Shadowland, Sounds Of The Night, Tribal Soul Kitchen, Trysts Of Fate, The Modern Art Cave, and Tales from the Moonlit Path. Keith is a member of Imagicopter, a website that helps local genre artists, poets, and writers promote their work.
When not hunkered down in his creative sanctuary listening to Heavy Metal and Progressive rock and writing poetry, Keith enjoys teaching Free Verse and Speculative poetry workshops, collecting Hot Wheels cars, reading, taking photographs of weather and nature wherever he wanders, talking to wild critters, and hanging out with his five mischievous canines, Jojo, Rosalie, Weiner, Rocky, and Dio. Keith lives in his own little universe happily married to his Muse, Lee Ann.
Please visit his website!