By Elizabeth Gracen:
Flapper Press has afforded me the opportunity to work with talented writers and thinkers from all over the world, and
without fail, one writer will introduce me to another talented writer, and so it goes—and that makes me very happy. Such
was the case when Kim Carr joined the Flapper Press team this past summer and told me about another talented writer who
has just recently started writing for the site. Her name is Annie Newcomer, and we are excited to welcome her to our team. Annie writes poetry and will be a regular contributor to the site with her series "North Stars."
Please meet Annie Newcomer!
EG: Annie, first of all, I want to thank you for joining the Flapper Press team. Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
AN: I grew up in the 1950’s in upstate New York, the daughter of a graduate professor at Syracuse University and a middle child in a large Catholic family of nine children. Our lives revolved around family, faith, education, and competitive swimming. My older brother, who became a Russian Historian and a Jewish Scholar, was my hero and my third parent. He taught in London and was a very popular and well-respected professor and researcher. We lost John to a rare misdiagnosed cancer in 2007. After his death, emotionally frozen by grief, I searched to find ways to keep tethered to him. So, I made a bucket list. Poetry was on that list because my brother loved poetry. Now that I am on this course where life presents an opportunity to discover and explore curiosities through writing as well as being in a position to share with others, I am confidant that I will never be able to lay down my pen.
EG: From your bio, I see that you are interested in something that I am truly passionate about: healing through the arts. In your case, “the power of words” is the conduit for transmuting life’s many lessons into art. Can you tell me about your journey to becoming a teacher, writer, poet, and artist? AN: I wish that I could say definitively that the Arts, Poetry, Music, and Writing could heal all illnesses. It breaks my heart to say that this isn’t always the case. But what I have seen is this: the Arts can “stop the bleeding,” which, when you think about it, is huge. The Arts can help an ill person find a reason to be relevant and purposeful and gifts them an opportunity to add value to their life. The Arts are a magic potent that can help a sick person, for a time, step away from the focus they and others tend to place on their illness. Classrooms can be a place where an enthusiastic artist gets a break from pain. So while it is important to be realistic and knowledgeable on the scientific reasons for pain, it is also important to understand that the arts can make a huge difference in the life of a person suffering, just as it can make a difference in a well person’s life. How we set up opportunities for those inflicted with pain is the process that leads to this magical outcome.
EG: Why have you made it your intent to “motivate others to write their own stories”? Why do you think this is important in our lives? AN: When I raced in swimming, my goal was to be the best and the fastest swimmer possible. I was disciplined, hard-working, and loved participating and performing well. I tried to be a humble representative of my sport. But I could never have had the successes that I did without my wonderful parents and coaches. In competitive swimming, the swimmer who touches first wins. So I needed to learn a whole new way to approach the literary process. This meant developing additional tools to assess my growth as a poet and to appreciate that this process also affected my personal growth. Over time, I realized that there’s a huge difference between being a fine writer, as some poets are, and a fine person, as some are not. I continue to aspire toward both. For me, that means finding a way to share and to give back and not become too focused on my own writing successes. That understanding is what led me to teaching at Turning Point, a Center for Health and Healing under the auspices of the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. My experiences at Turning Point, both as a student and a teacher, have blessed me profoundly. These I hope to articulate and share as part of my North Stars Series.
EG: Tell me about your work with various programs like Turning Point, Sweet Kara Lines, and Prayer Walkers Without Borders. AN: When I was a little girl, I asked my brother why he never gave the same speech twice in high school oratorical contests when he could have used one talk for the full school year. I was about ten years old, and he was sixteen at the time. His response to me was, “I would never use the same talk twice. I never want to be boring.” So sensing his disdain for this dreaded condition called “boring,” I knew that I never wanted to fall into that trap either. I think that if a person outlaws boring from their life that means they choose instead to invite into their life ways to be unique. This is the standard that I place on myself and my projects. My husband has a mantra to “add value” to the world. So when I see an opening, I try to develop unique ways to add value. I developed Prayer Walkers Without Borders with friends from all over the world when I heard about Doctors Without Borders. I also started Sweet Kara Lines as a way to engage with my severely autistic niece and my sister. I put everything I have into my students and classes and try to offer ones that perhaps nobody else has ever taught or imagined.
EG: You have just begun a series for Flapper Press called “North Stars.” What will this series be about and what can we look forward to? AN: I could not be where I am in life today without the amazing people who grace my universe, my North Stars. In this series, I hope to introduce you to these friends and share why they are dear to me and why their light shines so bright in this world.
Read Annie Newcomer's posts!