Jean and I had a chance to Skype one morning and I must say it was probably one of the most relaxing interviews that I have had in a long time. Jean has been writing a poem a day for almost 20 years now. In this interview she tells us how it all came about, and her new song for Canada’s 150th birthday.
OPAL: Can you tell our readers how long you have been writing a poem a day and what it was that inspired this activity?
I started writing every morning, before I eat, drink, or speak, in August 1993, following a workshop by Bob Trask of the ARAS Foundation, which stands for Acceptance, Respect, Affection and Support. Sometimes it would be a poem that I wrote. Four years later on October 26, 1997 it became a poem every day and that is almost twenty years ago. I create that time for me. I have written on flights to Australia, on cruise ships, in hotels, in friends’ homes. No matter where I am or who I am with, that first half hour of every day is mine.
OPAL: What is your background in music and how were you inspired to write a song for Canada’s 150th birthday?
I have always loved to sing. As a young girl, in England, all seven in our family would gather around the grand piano which my Mother played, and sing some of the old songs. My Dad played the banjo and my older brother the harmonica. We made music. I took a couple of years of piano lessons as a teenager, and I wish now I had learned more music theory. I enjoyed very much performing in musical theatre groups and that carried on to my adult years.Last fall, as librarian for Elder College Singers, I was looking for songs about Canada, written by Canadians to perform in our April concert series in honor of Canada’s 150th Anniversary. That inspired me to try writing one myself. I sang Canada, Our Canada onto my morning page on September 8, 2016. I quickly wrote down the notes to my song and played them on my keyboard. I then had to listen to it several times to make sure the tune was authentically mine and I hadn’t copied it from someone. It was thrilling for me to have my song performed in eight concerts in April, two in June, and again on July 1st.
OPAL: What kind of promotion and marketing does a song writer have to do that is different from the promotion and marketing that a writer would have to do; is there much of a difference?
I think any writer will tell you that the hard work begins when the manuscript is complete, and it is similar with composing a song. Ron Smail was recommended to me as a well established musician and composer. I was delighted that he agreed to create the piano arrangement and two part harmony for me. I am fortunate to have the support of Elder College Singers Conductor, Pat Rogers, and pianist Rod Asher. One significant change to the music publishing industry is that all new songs being submitted for publishing consideration now need to have a video to send along with the score. Purchasers want to not only see the music, but want to hear it before they purchase. I am in the process of having Canada, Our Canada arranged into a three-part arrangement (S,A,B) and then I will make it available for choirs to enjoy singing across the country. For more information I can be reached at email@example.com
OPAL: Publishing as a poet is often more difficult and presents its own challenges. Do you have any words of wisdom for Canadian poets who are looking for publishing opportunities?
I chose to self-publish my first book of poetry and it was mostly for family, friends, and locals who hear me recite. My second book, Morning Light, is a print-on-demand book, which means that there is not a big inventory of books anywhere, but books can be printed on demand and purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Author Solutions, or my website https://poetrytoinspire.com I also created an e-book on Amazon called Christmas Poetry to Inspire. For all three ways of publishing my poetry books, I am the one who does the majority of promoting and making sales. I specialize in writing commissioned poems for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduation, retirement, memorials, etc. I also sell my books, framed poems, bookmarks, wallet sized prayer cards and fridge magnets at craft fairs, or from my home studio.White Mountain Publications (www.wmpub.ca) create an annual “The Canadian Writers’ Contest Calendar” magazine which lists by month all the contest opportunities for poems and prose. I have found the calendar to be a most useful tool as it describes in detail what the publishers are looking for. Writers Digest Books (www.writersmarket.com) publish a “Poet’s Market” book each year, with the subtitle “The most trusted guide for publishing poetry.” It contains over 1,000 listings for book publishers, magazines, contests, conferences, etc. It is another useful tool for poets wanting to get published.
Read the interview and download the Opal July issue
Canada, Our Canada
CANADA, OUR CANADA
Music & Lyrics by Jean Kay
From east to west in Canada,
from sea to shining sea,
our multiple nationalities
live gloriously and free.
We share our cultures and our foods.
We learn from one another.
We mix and mingle every day,
we live as sister and brother.
Refrain: Canada our Canada,
how proud we are to be
citizens of this great land,
living gloriously and free
We’ve mountain ranges very high,
we’ve rivers, lakes, brooks, and streams.
We’ve cities, towns, and villages
where we pursue our dreams.
We’ve meadows, fields, and forests green,
we see beauty everywhere.
We live in a democracy
where our aim is to keep life fair.
We’ve created wildlife sanctuaries
to protect birds, beasts, and trees.
Our climate may be hot or cold,
we can live wherever we please.
Canada, our Canada
how proud we are to be
citizens of this great land
living gloriously and free,
living gloriously and free.