Scott Thomas Outlar: First off, Karen, I want to thank you for taking some of your time to do this interview. Thank you, also, for all the work and dedication you put toward your Whispers online journal. You helped foster a wonderful community of poets there. Can you start off by talking a bit about your venue? What made you decide to become an editor/publisher?
Karen O’Leary: Whispers was born out of the international print book I published called Snippets and the desire to give back to that writing community that has been so good to me. I wanted a venue that would give new writers and award winning poets the same stage and a desire to help those that are just beginning to understand parts of the editing/submission process. I also wanted a publication free of charge and one that allowed for commenting as writers need support and encouragement. The Gmail format fit most of what I was striving for. It has surpassed any dreams I had. I’m so grateful for all those that have been a part of this journey.
STO: When did you first become attuned to poetry and literature? Has it been a lifelong relationship, or was there a certain moment in time where you suddenly discovered the deep connection?
KO: As a child I hated poetry–trying to understand Shakespeare at a young age made it seem so far beyond my comprehension. In 2002 and 2003, I published my first poems. I discovered small press publications with readable poetry. I was hooked!
STO: You’ve recently received an offer to release a new book of poetry. Can you tell us a bit about your publisher?
KO: My new book will be published by APF Publisher, Patricia Farnsworth-Simpson. The title is Another Side of Me, which will be a collection of my short stories and articles. Dealing with poetry these last few years, Publisher Farnsworth-Simpson’s offer gives me a chance to share what makes the writer in me more of a whole. She prints her books through Lulu press which allows the author to reach out to an international audience as books can be purchased online. She is a talented cover and page designer in addition to her publishing skills.
STO: What type of material do you envision including in this collection? Do you have a certain theme you are aiming for?
KO: If I had to give a theme that unifies the stories and articles I plan to share for this book it is love, not the kind shared in “dime store novels” but one that incorporates the gift of friendship, the everyday heroes in our lives and the bond of family which I have been so blessed to share in.
STO: What do you think the purpose of poetry is today in our modern society? What role does it play, if any, toward influencing culture at this point?
KO: Poetry is an artistic way of conveying thoughts. The opportunities are endless for those that study the markets and network with others. I recently had a poem of mine printed on bright pink paper hanging from a tree for the Bulgaria, Blooming Cherry Tree Exhibit. Our haiku group was invited to share some poetry. Although public posting sites allow writers to network, they often give writers an inflated view of their work. Then, when they submit writing to editors, they get mad and insult the editors that are trying to help them. No one knows everything and every editor has a right to choose what he or she wants to publish.
STO: What types of other hobbies do you enjoy outside of poetry? When I ask what the happiest moments of your life have been thus far, what immediately springs to mind?
KO: I love reading, card making, encouraging others and sharing time with family and friends. The happiest moment in my life was my wedding day, followed by the birth of my daughters. We are a simple family that loves each other.
STO: Is there a certain philosophy or code of conduct which you seek to live your life by? Is there good and evil in this world, and if so, how should we confront/contend with such forces?
KO: “Love without judgment”–Pope Francis’ message is a mantra that I strive for in my own life. This humble woman falls a bit short…I’m still a work in progress. Yes, there is good and evil in the world. Each of us are candles, born to be a light in the darkness. What we do with that light in our corners of the world matters.
STO: Thank you again, Karen, for agreeing to do this interview. On a personal note, I’d also like to thank you for the kindness you’ve shown me since we connected through poetry over the internet in recent years, especially during one particularly difficult period I went through. Simple acts of generosity go a long way sometimes. You are a wonderful human being, and I can’t emphasize it enough. If there are any other thoughts or subjects that my questions didn’t raise that you’d like to speak on, please do so here. The floor belongs to you.
KO: I thank you for your kindness, Scott, and am grateful for this privilege to share my words with your readers. Yes, simple gifts like a smile, a letter in the mail and other things often lift others up when they need it the most. Thank you for being a beacon in this world. Wishing you the best always.