Renee Y. Brown is a writer of Writer of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction who publishes her work on Subversify.com , here is a link to her LinkedIn page:
Q: What made you want to be a writer?
A: It wasn’t a deliberate decision, like I said “I want to be a writer,” like someone would say “I want to be lawyer” or “I want to be a teacher” or whatever. It’s more like it’s impossible for me to not be a writer. Before I could read or write my mom read books to me or I saw movies and TV shows that sparked my imagination and I would make up my own stories and characters and act them out, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. As soon as I could write I started to write stories. So it wasn’t a decision. I was born this way.
Q: What is the overall theme of Beauty and the Beast?
A: That poem, published September 3 at Subversify.com, http://subversify.com/2014/09/03/the-beast-of-beauty/ was actually a re-written version of a poem I wrote in 1976. I was born and grew up in Los Angeles. The pressure to be physically attractive is an intrinsic and palpable part of the social culture there, then and now. In 1976 I was 18 and attended junior college. I was slightly overweight and had acne so I felt like the most hideous creature on earth. I’d never dated a guy or had one touch me. I was sitting in the cafeteria one afternoon and saw the most gorgeous guy, downright beautiful. He had pitch-black hair and sparkling ocean-blue eyes and perfect features. After 38 years I still remember. I came to the cafeteria at the same time every day because he was always there with his friends. He never saw me. I wrote ‘Beauty and the Beast’ with him as the beauty and me as the beast. Funny, but this is the first time I’ve ever told that story to anyone. When I went into the army a few years later I found out I wasn’t as ugly as L.A. thought I was. Today the poem is no longer personal but I re-wrote it in my current style and made it the opening poem of a sequence of three published by Subversify.com under the overall title ‘The Beast of Beauty.’ The sequence is a journey, from the woman in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ seeing herself as ugly and unworthy while dreaming of the unattainable prince, to the second poem, ‘Mirror, Mirror,’ which is about how fairy tales warp girls into judging themselves only by their appearance and to associate physical unattractiveness with evil and outward beauty with good. The last poem is ‘A Kiss from the Prince,’ which is about spiritual and metaphysical transformation into true beauty. In 1976 I was the woman in ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Today I am the woman in ‘A Kiss From the Prince.’ I have gray hair and wrinkles and I’m invisible to the world so outwardly I’m right back where I was in 1976, but now, my face doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. My face is not who I am. My words are who I am. I know the true prince and I know I am loved.
Q: Who are some of your influences?
A: Influences for poetry are Erica Jong, Adrienne Rich, and Marge Piercy. For fiction, I used to read science fiction and fantasy in the 80’s and 90’s, so I was influenced by the great women authors of the genre: Ursula K. Le Guin, Andre Norton and Joan Vinge. I don’t have any authors I follow anymore, there’s just too much stuff published these days and it doesn’t come close to the quality of the great authors I mentioned. My own fiction is so particular (maybe even peculiar) and quirky and unique that it doesn’t even fit into any genre niche. Maybe ‘quantum-metaphysical-romance-science fiction-fantasy-erotica,’ or something.
Q: What is Subversify.com?
Subversify.com is AWESOME. It is my BFF. It’s an online magazine that has everything: news and commentary from all political perspectives; personal essays and memoirs; reviews; travel articles; fiction and poetry; even cartoons. I like the open format that allows writers from both ends of the political spectrum and all points in between a forum to express their views. There is a lot of reader feedback so it is a very interactive publication. Their sub-heading is “A subversive retort to biased media, promoting free speech & the right to question.” And they do all this with humor that is razor sharp, irreverent and always brilliant. Subversify is a cooperative owned by Mitchell Warren, Karla Fetrow and Grainne Rhuad. Mitchell is CEO and Karla and Grainne are editors, writers and general curators of the site. Grainne is my editor and she works with me in a cooperative way that lets me be me and that’s something I appreciate. She’s a webpage genius and designs the pages for my poetry which is no easy task when I use odd formatting or have lines that are longer than the page is wide. Somehow she makes it all work and adds the perfect images to go with my pieces. Although I’ve never met her face-to-face I consider her a friend. Karla writes insightful and intriguing articles on subjects not covered by the mainstream media. Mitchell is an all-around cool dude with a great sense of humor. When I first submitted to Subversify in 2010 he advocated for my story ‘The Second Amendment Solution’ http://subversify.com/2010/09/24/a-randomized-sample-study-of-resistance-by-citizens-to-the-triumph-of-the-socio-political-movement-known-as-the-%e2%80%98second-amendment-solution%e2%80%99/ and it was published and I’ve been with them ever since.
Q: What made you select it as your platform?
A: I honestly can’t remember how I found Subversify. It was in 2010 and I had written the short story ‘The Second Amendment Solution’ and I was probably looking for places to submit it and stumbled upon Subversify. However I got there, I don’t believe in random coincidence. I believe in synchronicity and that things happen for a reason so I and Subversify were meant to be. I submitted the story and they liked it and published it and the story received good feedback from readers. Mitchell encouraged me to submit more, and as I sometimes joke about myself, ‘don’t invite me for a free meal unless you’re serious because I will take you up on it,’ so I kept submitting stuff and they kept publishing it. Certainly having Grainne as my editor keeps me coming back because it’s such a pleasure to work with her. Of course I like the publication itself, I like that it stands for free speech and is open to all points of view. And of course I like them because they like my work! It’s sort of my literary home now, for shorter works anyway, like ‘The Earth Show’ http://subversify.com/2013/12/27/the-earth-show/ I have novellas and novels that I will probably self-publish. But for poetry and short stories Subversify is my go-to place. I love those guys!
Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your writing?
A: I don’t have a job at all. I am a disabled veteran on VA disability. When I was able to work I was a newspaper reporter. I loved the actual work and if I ever did anything meaningful in writing beyond personal meaning it was as a reporter. But I hated the corporate structure and working with editors who didn’t care about the quality of their work. I also saw the end coming in the mid-2000’s because 21st technology made newspapers archaic. I have no nostalgia for the dead newspaper industry. For decades I saved copies of newspapers with my stories in them. Last year I finally threw them all out, every single one.
Q: You were a photo journalist in the military; what were some of your most memorable assignments?
A: I had no memorable assignments in the army as a photographer. I’m a woman. I spent four years mostly in a darkroom developing film and printing photos taken by men. The good assignments where you actually shot photos that got published with your byline, those jobs went to men. I became an army journalist only after I got out of the active duty (full-time) army and went into the army reserves. My reserve unit sent me to the military’s journalism school in 1985. I did nothing memorable in the reserves either. That doesn’t mean I’m not affected by having been in the military. I’m on VA disability now. Enough said.
Q: What trends in poetry annoy you?
A: Snobbery in literary poetry annoys me. Literary writers and university professors would not consider my poetry ‘real’ poetry because I often use rhyme and right now rhyming is anathema in poetry. It’s considered to be at the level of pop song lyrics which of course they also look down upon. I don’t give a damn what the snobs think. I’m not writing to please literary critics. I’m writing first of all to please and satisfy myself. I’m also writing for the reading pleasure of people who are turned off by the snobbery and obscure metaphorical language of literary poetry. My poems don’t need to be ‘interpreted.’ The reader knows exactly what I’m saying and what I mean when they read the poem. I respect the intelligence of my readers and I hope they simply enjoy reading my stuff. Reading shouldn’t be ‘work,’ it should be fun.
Q: What is your process for writing a poem?
A: Process? What process? Just kidding. It varies according to the poem. Like I said earlier, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was inspired by direct personal experience. Some are commentaries on subjects I feel strongly about, like the obsession with physical beauty in our culture. Sometimes an idea just pops into my mind. And sometimes I sit down with the intention to write a poem and either it happens or it doesn’t happen. I can give examples of each. Obviously ‘Mirror, Mirror’ is a commentary poem. ‘Fairly Tales’ http://subversify.com/2012/09/13/fairly-tales/ is a narrative poem in three parts that takes three major fairy tales, ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ ‘Cinderella,’ and ‘Snow White,’ retold by other women within each tale through totally different interpretations. I like taking traditional subjects like fairy tales and deconstructing then reconstructing them in my own way. In that sense those are also commentary poems expressing my point of view. A very personal poem was ‘I Had Sisters Once’ http://subversify.com/2013/02/07/i-had-sisters-once-do-not-publish-until-after-feb-8th/ That one was difficult to write because I was expressing some very deep emotions and beliefs. As a side note to the reason why I love Subversify as my poetry platform, a reader, ‘Rich in PA,’ left this comment about that poem: “wow … how painful to read and now know … we all make choices, sometimes for no reason at all, that I think haunt every breath and every moment as a silent echo that blurs our memory. Powerful work here … the reason I visit Subversify often …” That’s better than money to me and shows what I mean about respecting my reader’s intelligence and hoping that they get something valuable out of their reading experience. Another narrative poem, ‘Michael,’ http://subversify.com/2012/01/26/michael/ was based on a character from one of my novels but as I wrote it the character morphed into the Archangel Michael and the narrative into social commentary and eventually ended up as a love poem. That was just following the inspiration of the creative process in the moment. Then I have groups of poems, like ‘The Beast of Beauty,’ that are on the same subject. ‘Here and Hereafter’ http://subversify.com/2011/01/25/here-and-hereafter/ are poems about death and the afterlife. Some are personal (‘King of White Roses’), some are my own ponderings on the subject (‘If,’ ‘The End of the Line’). ‘Today’s The Day’ http://subversify.com/2012/02/16/todays-the-day/ are poems on romantic love. I wrote ‘Today’ just for fun because it’s about an older woman seducing a younger man using principals of quantum physics to prove her point. ‘The Gospel of Jon’ is from my personal experience of first love. ‘In Translation’ is dialog taken from another novel in which an American woman explains to her British boyfriend the subtle differences in the same language that can lead to misunderstandings but ultimately to the same conclusion—love. Despite all the poetry my main focus is writing fiction. Poems just sort of pop up now and then. So basically I guess the answer I gave at the beginning of this question applies, ‘what process?’ Like life, poetry happens.
Q: If you could take a road trip with Sylvia Plath or T.S. Elliot who would you pick and why?
A: That’s a difficult question because there are pros and cons with both. Since you’re talking about a road trip and not dinner or just having coffee I’d probably rather be cooped up in a car for a long time with T.S. Eliot. After all, I put a quote from him on my Linked-In page header: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” I believe in that. I believe consciousness is infinite and eternal. The things valued in this world—money, possessions, status, power, fame, looks—are all temporary and will end or turn to dust. Only those who will risk thinking, imagining, and doing that which is far beyond the limitations of this world will find out, without having to die first, that how far one can go is limitless.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)