Today I’d like to welcome to Creekside Café, poet, author and publisher, and several more titles, Robin Greene. Robin it is so good to have you here at my virtual café. I’ve set the table just for you. Don’t worry about having too much wine or too many cannoli; here, none of the calories count against you.
Robin: Thank you, Sherri, I love cannoli.
Sherri: What other foods do you like?
Italian pastries, and just about all vegetable dishes—especially spicy ones
like curries. I’m not sure you know this, but I’ve been a vegetarian for most
of my life.
Sherri: No. I didn’t know that, and I have to say that I, too love spicy foods and pastries, but unfortunately, they love me too much. That said, we’re very excited to have you with us today. You have such an interesting life. I know that you’re a professor of English and Writing, and that you’re a publisher with the Methodist University Press, Longleaf Press. Can you tell our guests a little about your work?
Robin: Yes.I’ve been an English and Writing professor since 1985, when I began teaching at SUNY-Empire State College in upstate New York. I’ve always loved the wonderful and often deep relationships that teaching allows. I began working at Methodist University in 1991, and by 1997, I became the director of the MU Writing Center. Michael Colonnese and I founded Longleaf Press in 1997, and that’s also been an important part of my life. In fact, working in these ways—as a publisher, an English and Writing professor, and an administrator at the writing center—offer me experiences and connections that enrich my life and my writing.
Sherri: You’re not a native of North Carolina. Where are you from, and where do live now?
Robin: I was born in Queens, New York, and was raised there and on Long Island. I now live in Fayetteville, NC, with my husband, Michael Colonnese, to whom I’ve been married since 1976. We raised our two sons mostly in Fayetteville, where we’ve lived since 1989.
Sherri: How long have you been writing seriously? Have you always been a writer?
Robin: I’ve been writing since I was about seven years old, when I wrote my first short story, “Monty, the Dog.” But I began writing more seriously when I was sixteen and in college.
Sherri: What kind/genre books do you write? Do you plan to write any other genre in the future?
Robin: I write poetry, short fiction, novels, and creative nonfiction—and I love moving back and forth among these genres. My plan is to continue writing and just be with whatever form it takes.
Sherri: I know your work takes up a lot of your time, so when do you write?
Robin: I write in the mornings, often for about three hours, and, of course, I have summers off and write then. Also, in the fall 2018, I had a semester-long sabbatical that allowed me to write full-time. At some point, I’ll retire and write full-time, but right now, I enjoy the combination of activities in my life.
Sherri: What is your latest writing/publishing project?
Robin: My novel The Shelf Life of Fire is due out spring 2019. In fact, I’m hoping to have copies—or advance copies—of my novel by April at the Pamlico Writers’ Conference. I’m excited about this novel, which takes place in Fayetteville, Fuquay-Varina, and Raleigh.
Sherri: Please tell readers a little more about it.
Robin: The story begins when Rachel, a middle-aged novelist and university professor, learns that her brother Dennis, from whom she’s been estranged for decades, is dying of cancer. Rachel then finds herself in a downward spiral as she reconnects with her mom—from whom she’s also been estranged—and is drawn back into her family-of-origin’s dysfunction.
As Rachel begins to understand how early events have changed the trajectory of her life, she remembers some of her adolescent sexual experiences and begins to rethink her role as a woman, a daughter, a wife, and a mother—reexamining the life she’s found herself living. The story that Rachel tells is off-beat and intimate, and, Sherri, I’m hoping that readers will resonate with her story.
Sherri: Thanks, Robin. The novel sounds interesting, and I look forward to reading it. But now, to change the subject, tell me about your workshop experience. I know that this year’s Pamlico Writers’ Conference won’t be your first time presenting. How long have you been presenting? And are you offering other workshops this year?
Robin: Yes, I’ve been presenting workshops since about 1991. And I’ve a part of the Pamlico Writers’ Conference community since 2015. Additionally, I teach writing, meditation, and yoga at a yearly women’s retreat in Oaxaca, Mexico. This year, the retreat’s focus is on honoring memory and dealing with death, as participants will join in an authentic Day of the Dead ritual in a small indigenous village in rural Mexico. And, FYI—if any women are interested, I have three spots still available for the retreat. If any of your readers are interested, they should just contact me for more info.
Sherri: Oh, I wish I could attend your Mexico retreat. It sounds lovely. But tell us about your Pamlico workshop.
Robin: The title of this workshop is “Connecting with our Authentic Selves—Poetic Strategies for Self- Liberation,” and here’s the description:
Writing well requires a deep connection with our authentic emotional selves, but in our busy daily lives, tapping into that connection is often a challenge. In this 75-minute workshop, Robin Greene will offer poetic strategies designed to help poets connect to their authentic selves and to write without the self-judgment. Robin will discuss the poetic line, the power of specific images, and how ideas can be linked through sound. Intended to liberate both poets and non-poets alike, this workshop will include writing with prompts and sharing in an atmosphere free of taboo and judgment. Open to writers of all genres and all levels.
Sherri: What do you hope attendees will get out of your workshop?
Robin: I hope that attendees will leave the workshop with a more authentic sense of themselves and a more liberated connection to their writing.
Sherri: More personally, I want to ask about you—whatare your writing strengths and weaknesses?
Robin: My main strength is that I have an open heart, and my main weakness is that I’m susceptible to depression. That said, I try to be grateful and live fully—as a person and as a writer. There are always challenges and struggles, and I try to acknowledge and cope with these but not be overwhelmed by them. In this way, life for me involves finding and maintaining balance while honoring the self.
Sherri: In finding balance, do you have any hobbies or interests besides writing?
Robin: Of course, I love reading. But I also weave on a rigid heddle loom, love to hike, and do yoga. I’m a yoga teacher and currently teach Yin Yoga once a week in Fayetteville, and I’m cofounder of Sandhills Dharma Group, a Buddhist meditation group, so that’s an important part of my life as well.
Sherri: Who or what do you feel has been the greatest influence on your work?
Robin: Poets like Galway Kinnell, Robert Creeley, Linda Hull, Dick Allen, Mark Doty, and Rick Jackson—all fabulous poets and teachers with whom I’ve studied.
Sherri: If you could change anything about your writing/publishing past, what would it be?
Robin: I would have turned my attention earlier to submitting my work more regularly.
Sherri: Great. Now, for my last question, I want to ask what words of wisdom would you offer to aspiring writers?
Robin: Write every day, never stop learning your craft, and welcome rather than resist change.
To learn more about Robin, you can follow her on social media or check out her website:
On Instagram as Robin Shelley
On Facebook Robin Greene author