Monday, January 7, 2019

Tianna G. Hansen : My (small press) writing day

by Tianna G. Hansen, Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Rhythm & Bones Press

Poems come naturally to my brain like wafts of dreams, lingering. They arrive unannounced, all hours of the day. And if I listen, they lure me into writing them down. If I believe in them, they come to life before my eyes.

Writing was never easy to carve time out for during my typical day but it became all the more difficult after I started my own literary magazine and small press, Rhythm & Bones.

And yet, the less time I seem to have for writing, the more important it becomes.

I often find myself composing poetry or creative nonfiction (or even fiction) as I drive my daily commute. There’s always something about motion inspiring creation, and it never fails. When I’m working out kinks in my novel, it’s the same deal. I’ll be driving along, pondering my characters or my plot, and the solution will seem to hit me out of nowhere. Always when I’m without pen and paper to write it down.

When I’m at my day job, sitting in the office or attending events or writing a story for work, the creative bones of me burst. I sneak lines of poetry into my diet, craving them with an endless, insatiable appetite. I can never get enough. It’s like I am a poet always on the move, always in flight, never resting.

By the time I am home, I am spending time with my husband or snuggling my cat, or sitting by the fire with a book on cold wintery days.

Rarely do I carve out time just for writing into my typical day, because when I find myself with spare time, I fill it with literary magazine/small press duties. Either reading submissions or planning the next release of our newest issue or editing and laying out books, revising endlessly, creating and designing book covers, speaking with my authors, being an active part of the lit community – reading contributors’ work in other magazines and journals, supporting the work that other mags and presses do in the community.

Ever since I first emerged into the lit scene (I want to say it was a year ago now), I embraced the world and fell in love with it. Not only reading others’ work, but really creating connections and bonds with fellow writers. With poets, writers, artists… it really never ends, this world of creativity is always teeming with inspiration from one area or another.

I wasn’t satisfied merely with creating for myself, I yearned to bring other people’s work to light and spread it through the community. Thus, the creation of Rhythm & Bones, and an end to any “free time.”

Writing has always been my ultimate escape. I started creating stories before I could write myself, dictating to my parents the tales that occupied my brain – princesses and unicorns and princes were the original stories. As I grew, my writing has taken on a darker edge. I enjoyed exploring the darker aspects of life, in particular how trauma and mental illness can be turned into something beautiful, thus the tagline of my press, “trauma-turned-art.”

I am of the strong belief that if used properly, writing can be therapy. It can be used to overcome and defeat trauma. Not completely, but it can make a large impact. It can also make you feel less alone. My most recent project with the press was an anthology titled You Are Not Your Rape (or YANYR), a collection of stories by and about sexual assault and abuse survivors. This was one of the most difficult feats I have accomplished to date. Reading the heart-wrenching submissions, deciding which stories to include with the help of a wonderful co-editor Kristin Garth, curating a strong anthology aimed to inspire hope and inspiration that healing and empowerment is possible, after. It makes all the difference in the world feeling like I have made at least some positive impact in the lives of the contributors in the anthology. It can feel so hopeless, living with trauma and PTSD after an act such as sexual assault and abuse, but taking back your control after is freeing. Knowing you aren’t alone, that you have many others who have experienced similar and who are finding their voices to speak up – that’s even more empowering. I am a sexual abuse survivor and victim myself and took the title from one of my own creative nonfiction pieces published earlier this year. I’m also working on a collection of creative nonfiction, and one of poems. I have a novel sitting on the back burner that I should publish. But I have other things that take up my time. Namely, publishing others’ work, which is also empowering in itself.

If I could make myself wake earlier before my morning commute to work, I would spend a good hour or two just writing. If I could run my small press and lit mag as a fulltime job, I would be content. This is my dream. It was born out of an intense desire and passion which are still burning strongly within me. I find that sometimes, some days, I have to take a break. Take a breath. Come back to the real world and my husband. But I am always composing poems in the back of my mind, on scraps of paper. I have over 200 poems scattered across various notebooks, pieces of notepaper, receipts that I will discover every now and then and which may never see the light of day or be published. My brain eats and breathes in poetry, my soul lives in any time of prose. And when I find the time to write with me and myself, I find my inner self dancing. Soaring. I am free, uninhibited. I get this same giddy feeling before I release a new issue of Rhythm & Bones Lit or when I am preparing a new book for publication. Seeing a book born into the world is one of my dreams that has come true with full force in the past year. It is something I look forward to greatly, creating a repertoire of books and stories and tales that I am able to share with the world, giving emerging and already established writers a voice. Giving them a platform to shout their stories at the top of their lungs, and giving them some wind to allow their wings to spread, to fly. Especially, above all things, to find that empowered footing, to brace themselves against oncoming storms, and to overcome their trauma, to embrace it like an old friend and find healing through the creation of art.

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