Rise & Shine Interview: Heather Grace Stewart about Writing

Ever wondered where a professional poet finds inspiration to write? I'm excited that today, Heather Grace Stewart, is “Speaking From the Heart” and sharing her experiences with all of us.

Heather Grace Stewart is a Canadian Poet and the Author of /Three Spaces, Carry On Dancing, Leap, Where the Butterflies Go, The Groovy Granny, & The Friends I've Never Met. Visit her website heathergracestewart.me and her blog heathergracestewart.com. I had to ask Heather to be involved as she continually inspires and encourages me on my writing journey.  Heather and I both grew up in the same city, and connected through blogging.  I consider her a "Friend I've Never Met" as we both live on opposing sides of Canada.  I can't wait to meet Heather in person!  Read her interview below.

Image (c) Heather Grace Stewart
Image (c) Heather Grace Stewart

Why do you believe self-expression (speaking from the heart) is important?

I think my best writing is when I'm honest and even vulnerable, and I think in turn that kind of writing helps encourage others to be honest about themselves. I've been so touched to find out from a number of readers that my writing has been either therapeutic, after the loss of a loved one, for example, or a kick in the pants to get up and get realizing their dreams.

How has writing empowered you in other areas of your life?

I think it's about strength. Just as yoga gives me strength, peace of mind and endurance, so does writing. If I didn't write, I wouldn't be the mother, wife or friend I am. Writing is therapeutic and enlightening for me- it helps me see my world more clearly, and it even amuses me (right now I'm writing a fanciful novel - one that could never happen in real life - and it's a bit of an amusing escape for me ).

How did you find your authentic voice through writing?

This is a tough one. I can't remember not being real in my writing. From my first poem, "At the Arena," when I was five, I was talking about how I felt in my poetry; I mentioned feeling exhilarated even when I fell. The challenge for me with my writing has been trying out different voices that aren't me, and not being afraid to publish a piece that uses "I" as the narrator and a controversial subject, such as wife abuse, but isn't about my life. That's been difficult for me, because, for the longest time, I worried what people would think if they assumed I was the character. My husband actually helped me with that one. We were going for a walk, and I was about to send off The Friends I've Never Met to several production companies in an attempt to get it optioned (It's now on Kindle and Kobo ) and I told him I was worried people would assume the main character, a writer and Mom, was me. She's not. The similarities stop at writer and Mom, but I was worried "what people would think." And Bill [Heather's husband] squeezed my hand as we walked around the neighbourhood and simply said, "So what? We know the truth." That short sentence has helped me publish a lot more pieces where I use different voices and don 'personas' that are not me. And I think my writing is a lot stronger for it.


How did you develop the courage to stand tall (i.e., get the courage to share your writing)?

I first published a few poems in the Literary Lapses section of the Queen's Journal newspaper at my university. I was 20 years old the first time one of my poems appeared there. The reason why I felt I could do it was, I watched everyone in the rest areas at school, and didn't think anyone was reading that section of the paper, so I was safe! I thought it was a safe debut! However, about a year into my poems appearing in that section, I was using Walk Home service late at night. There was a girl and guy my own age walking me home, and we got talking. We shared our names. At that point I was just Heather Grace. Well, the girl stopped walking, gasped, and said "Are you Heather KATHERINE Grace of Literary Lapses?" I laughed and wanted to crawl into a hole. Then she pointed out who I was to her male friend, and he said, "Oh yea, I cut out your poem about your grandfather's death, and put it on our fridge!" And she added, "Yes, that gave me so much comfort after my Grandpa died!" I still grin and shake my head over that incident. You never know the impact you may have on someone's life with your writing. You have to share it. You have to see what kind of good it can do, however small. After that incident, I started submitting my work to our Queen's yearbooks and a Kingston Literary journal and when I moved to Montreal I hit up some other Canadian literary journals, but it would take another decade before I submitted to book publishers.

Photo Credit: Heather Grace Stewart
Photo Credit: Heather Grace Stewart

When you have a hard time writing, what do you do to work through it?

For me the writing isn't the hard part at all, it's the getting down to it. The convincing myself I need to make time for it, and that I can find time for it. It's my daughter's summer break right now, and I had told myself it was going to be impossible to write my novel with her home. But after I gave those negative voices a good butt-kicking, I figured out a schedule that would work for both myself and my daughter. I just need to be disciplined and not stay in bed past the alarm clock. I'm allowing myself weekends for that!

How did you find your support group?

My family and friends have always been very supportive of my writing. That's always been enough, but I do love how the Internet has put me in touch with hundreds of writers from all walks of life. My publisher, Winter Goose Publishing, and its authors are also very supportive. The League of Canadian Poets has provided me with information on where to read and Canada Council Grants to do so. My blogging community is incredible, too - I have many readers who have been following my blog for five years now, since my first collection Where the Butterflies was released, and I learn as much from them, if not more, as they do from my posts.

Any advice for new writers/authors?

I want to share something you can also find in my latest book, THREE SPACES, because many people have said it's inspiring and helpful.

“You meet dozens of people who tell you you can't do it. Surround yourself with the people who believe you will do it. Seek out and spend time with those rare people who tell you, no BS, why you haven't done it yet, what it takes to do it, and how they could help you do it. Note how this advice works whether 'it' is robbing a bank, opening a gallery, or writing a bestseller. "It" is up to you. But you can't do it alone.” ― Heather Grace Stewart /Three Spaces 

Thanks for speaking from your heart and empowering others, Heather! Keep up the fantastic work!

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Has writing been therapeutic for you? How so? What lesson(s) did you learn from reading Heather’s interview? Write the lesson down and your thoughts on the topic (i.e., why it spoke to you). If you met Heather, what would you like to tell her.  

Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.

See you at the beach!