Saturday, March 10, 2012

Heather Grace Stewart: The IAN Interview

Heather Grace Stewart’s poems have been published in Canadian literary journals, newspapers and magazines, international school textbooks, online journals, international print anthologies, and in the British small presses.  Her third poetry collection, Carry On Dancing, was released by Winter Goose Publishing this March. It’s available at, and Nook Books. Her collections of poetry and photos, Leap (Graceful Publications, 2010) and Where the Butterflies Go (Graceful Publications, 2008) have risen to ‘What’s Hot’ in poetry in iBooks USA and Canada, and available at and on several e-readers including Nook Books, Kobo, Kindle and Sony Reader. Her photographs have appeared in Equinox and National Geographic Traveler among others, and on the cover of over a dozen poetry books.

Born in Ottawa, Canada, she lives with her husband and daughter near Montreal. In her free time, she loves to take photos, scrapbook, cartoon, inline skate, dance like nobody’s watching, and eat Swedish Berries — usually not all at the same time.

IAN. Please tell us about your latest book.
HGS. From Winter Goose Publishing: “Feel the tears and the laughter in this inspiring new collection of poetry by Heather Grace Stewart. Carry On Dancing will take you on a journey through personal and global tragedies, and the new technologies that can bring us together or tear us apart. Let the author of Where the Butterflies Go and Leap give you a hopeful look into love and loss, and keep you striving for what is truly important in life.”

“Brave, personal and eloquent poems from Heather Grace Stewart, who can save a child from drowning in one poem and write words of support for children being bullied in the next; for whom the world is a hotchpotch of crazy politics and loving families; whose poems can be cannonballs, wisecracks, narratives, or haiku; and whose photographs complement the poems with the same characteristics of simplicity, surprise and freshness. Carry On Dancing picks up from where Leap began.” - Sally King, Poet and Editor, Poetry Scotland

IAN. How long did it take to write Carry On Dancing?
HGS. I wrote this collection over eight solid months of writing, from late 2010 -spring 2011.  Good poems don’t come to me quickly. I can’t imagine writing a collection in less than a half-year. I also like to reflect the seasons of my life in my poetry.

IAN. What inspired you to write the poems found in Carry On Dancing?
HGS. My whole world inspires me. My family, my young daughter, my friends, and my environment.  I write about everything from wanting to sleep in a little longer with your lover, to the pain of losing a loved one, to the trials of cyber-bullying and trying to live up to everything society expects of us as women,  to the simplicity of enjoying a new blossom in the garden.

IAN. Talk about the writing process.
HGS. I usually write in the early morning, once my daughter’s on the school bus. I try to spend at least a few hours a day working on my poems, and then I have to get to my freelance writing work, and the laundry. There’s never an end to the laundry! But I am usually working on poems in my mind when I’m doing other tasks.

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?
HGS. My poetry isn’t outlined at all - it just comes to me. First drafts are usually yellow stickies by the phone!

IAN. How is your work different from other poets?
HGS. My poetry has been reviewed as accessible, and using deceptively simplistic language. I don’t want people scratching their heads over what I mean. The last thing I want a reader to feel at the end of my poem is frustration over the reading process. I want them to walk away with new hope and new ideas, not racking their brains over what I was getting at. Also, I like to include photographs with a few of my poems. They’re not meant to overtake the poem but instead compliment it, and reviewers have written that I do this well.

IAN. Is your book published in print, e-book or both?
HGS. It’s available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble ( in print and on the Kindle and the Nook. I’ll also be happy to ship autographed copies ~ readers can contact me at to arrange that.

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your poetry?
HGS. I’ve tried to make my poetry collection a journey. At the end of that journey, I’d like the readers to feel a sense of hope about their personal world and the world around them. I’d like them to feel a little lighter. A little more rested. Energized to take on the rest of their day.

IAN. Any other links or info you'd like to share?
HGS. My author page on  


Carry On Dancing by Heather Grace Stewart
130 pages
Winter Goose Publishing

Excerpt from book:

The Present

It wasn’t intentional.
This day of quiet gratitude
just happened.

Power goes out,
comes back on,
lights flicker;
we breathe a sigh of relief
as the future returns full force;
we carry on with our busy days.

Today, I lived inside the flickering lights;
stopped and stood firmly in the now.
I didn’t wake up, put on my Sunday best, and
promptly go to church. No. In fact,
I slept in; woke up wondering what day it was.
But by tonight, I had a whole day’s grace
to think about, lying awake,
looking out the window at the stars
between me and all my loves;

the ones I miss and don’t tell enough,
the ones I haven’t spoken to since
last year’s Christmas card,
the ones I share this home with
and yell at for silly reasons: Hurry, hurry!
The bus will be here in one minute!
You could have called. Supper’s ruined.

Oh, so many days, I do it wrong,
but today, I did it right.

When she came to me
asking how to wrap a present,
I almost said, It’s November 12!
and kept typing my Tweet, but
a wisp of her hair
fell across her face
and I had to sweep it;
tucking it behind her ear,
just so.

In that second, I remembered
how Dad and Mum taught me.
We used a whole roll of tape,
heard Nana Mouskouri
sing Old Toy Trains
half a dozen times;
I loved those lessons.

I closed the laptop and
sat by the fire with her;
her small fingers creasing
the corners, struggling to
get it right; my hands over hers,
gently guiding, teaching;
We laughed with abandon
as we ripped it open
together, many times.

When the shower water
came pouring down
I lifted my face;
felt every drop:
sweet summer rain.
I wasn’t making lists or
fuming over past conversations.
The flickering lights were
striking, beautiful;
they made me want to stay inside.

When he called me
to see his handy work
there was no Just a minute!
I ran up the stairs, saw his surprise,
kissed him hard. I didn’t even see
the sawdust, the boxes still
to be sorted. I was lost
in the warmth of his lips;
in the warmth of our living.

I know you did this.

At your funeral,
the minister kept calling you
by your brother’s name.
Those up front corrected him;
annoyed whispers,
awkward silence,
summer heat rising
in the room.

You didn’t like your brother much.

Dad and I laughed
all the way home.
We knew you’d sent us a wink.
We knew now: you were fine.

They cut the tumor and
failed, but they didn’t
cut your soul.
How you wish we’d live.
How you lived, nearly every day,
until the cancer crept back,
and you simply couldn’t see
your dreams any more.
You sent me this present.

I’ll rip it open, every day.
On the days I forget—
make the lights flicker.
I won’t sleep in

Carry On Dancing
COPYRIGHT © 2012 by Heather Grace Stewart
Excerpt appears courtesy of Winter Goose Publishing

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