This is the final post in our Women Artists series, at least for this month. I have so enjoyed getting to know my fellow creatives better, and have loved sharing their work with you awesome readers.
I’ve already got a whole list of people in mind for future interviews, so please let me know if you want more of these! Comment below with any nominees of your own!
Today I’m excited to share my interview with a friend and fellow writer, Channing B. Parker.
The first time I saw Channing, she was on stage, sitting on a yoga mat, performing one of her own poems about being quiet. I found her the second the event was over and asked if I could be her friend.
I’ve loved following her writing ever since!
Here’s what Channing had to share:
What is your medium of choice?
I enjoy writing prose and poetry equally. It really depends on the topic and my mood at the time of writing. More often than not, I’ll combine the two when writing bigger pieces such as essays and presentations.
Something about the passionate, conscious mixture of descriptive writing and the carefully worded, shorter stanzas of poetry seems to reach people really well.
How would you describe your artwork?
I describe most of my writing (and myself) as a “poetic force for good”.
What originally got you interested in this type of art?
I have loved reading from a very young age. I think early exposure to well-illustrated books and literature fostered a love of language for me. The beautiful stories of my childhood enchanted me into writing my own.
The earliest I can remember being really invested in writing was in early middle school. I was first exposed to your typical “old white guy” poetry in 7th grade and I was utterly fascinated by the process of interpretation and “reading between the lines” for complex concepts that were not explicitly presented like they are in prose.
I wrote some of my own really bad poems back then, but it was very cathartic for me to express myself with the written word. I enjoy poetry because it allows me space to explore less developed ideas and theories, which was incredibly helpful when I had (and still have) a less mature understanding of the world around me.
Could you share a story or experience you’ve had because of your art?
There are so many experiences to share! Most of them are intensely personal, but I share the following story with reverence.
I once listened to a discussion about the Old Testament story of Lot and his wife during a Sunday School lesson that greatly angered me. I must have been in a terrible mood that day because the pages in my notebook I wrote in during the discussion are heavily indented and doodled on. I mused on the discussion for days before deciding to write a blog post to sort out my feelings about the story.
I soon posted my piece titled “The Salt of Women’s Stories,” which discusses the importance of paying attention to women’s stories in scripture instead of writing them off because few details are readily available in the text. I received a lot of positive feedback from my usual audience and I felt I had made a difference in a small way by advocating for women’s voices in religion.
A week later I again sat in a Sunday School discussion about Rebekah and Isaac. The teacher briefly and vaguely mentioned having a student in the class bring his attention to women’s stories in the scriptures and proceeded to spend a generous portion of the discussion about the influence of Rebekah.
I approached him afterward. He told me his wife had shown him my post and after reading, he had took what I said to heart. I told him how grateful I was that he had read it and implemented some of my suggestions. I left church that day feeling very humbled.
With a wide lense, the impact that post had was very localized to my specific church community and seems very small and insignificant. But to me and the people who were seeking for evidence of the “small and simple ways” the Divine works in our lives, it was nothing short of a miraculous, tender mercy.
To me it was evidence that God heard my pleas, yearned to soothe my heartache, and that my community was listening, invested, and supportive.
But that is how I understand change to work – first in ourselves, then our communities, then our world. Slow and fast, small and big, all at once.
What does your art mean to you? Why do you do it?
I remember as a very young girl sitting with a book. I would pour over the pictures and stories of these mythic and historical women who changed the world with their bravery, grit, and poise.
Nellie Bly, the Amazons, Athena, goddess of Wisdom, Amelia Earhart, Anne Frank, Mother Teresa, the Sufferagists – these were women who shaped history with their hearts.
I was also exposed to many stories of hardship and sadness growing up too. Elie Wiesel, Maya Angelou, and Sandra Cisneros showed me with their powerful witnesses that above and below the horrors of life is always the deep, profound beauty of humankindness.
I first started writing for myself, as a therapeutic exercise in releasing toxic emotions during a turbulent childhood. But beneath that, there has always been a constant desire to help others.
I have found that understanding the world and seeing the beauty in it has brought me great strength and healing. I look around me and see so many who need exactly that. It has only been in the last few years that I realized I could use my writing to reach those in need of love, understanding, and advocacy.
My art is my way of shaping the world with my heart, like the women who came before me did.
I do it to reach those miring in the wasteland of loneliness, rejection, heartache, and loss. I also create and write to inspire changes I believe are necessary, such as with my advocacy for women’s rights and ecological issues. Because my interests lie mostly in the world of nature, feminism, and spirituality, this is the main focus of my work. I offer my words, and in them, myself, in hopes of being some kind of lifeline, an inspiration, a resource, and a hope, like the poets and authors who have so generously offered the same to me.
What piece of yours is your favorite and why?
This is a cruel question, Kim. As if. Like I could choose a favorite child. Ha!
But if I am forced to choose only one, I would say the “Cycle of Faith” series.
It was profoundly transformative to write, and I refer to it time and time again. I used a variety of writing methods for each of the six parts, some easier to execute than others.
The most difficult part to write was the sixth and final piece in the series. I think because I had only an inkling of what that final stage in the cycle looked and felt like. Its difficult to write what I do not know.
Still, poetry is a practice of reaching for the elusive and being open to what comes. It is that same consistent reaching and being open that I feel the “Cycle of Faith” showcases really well.
Any favorite resources (products, tools, websites, books, etc)?
Oh goodness. Yes. Because you are what you read, I share the following recommendations with gratitude:
For powerful writing inspiration: “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg.
For beautiful ruminations on the nature of love: the writings of Rumi.
For the application of the teachings of Rumi: “The Birth of Pleasure” by Carol Gilligan.
For a guide to the world: “The Wander Society” by Keri Smith.
For women: both “Women Who Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter” by Sue Monk Kidd.
For LDS/Mormon women: “Mother’s Milk” by Rachel Hunt-Steenblik.
For bloggers, I recommend Canva.com for creating visual art for all your post and social media needs. Since writing bloggers are always in need of good visual content, I recommend Unsplash.com for quality stock photos.
And, in case anyone is in need of an excellent tea recommendation, I love Republic of Tea’s Mulled Apple Spice herbal tea. Its the perfect writing companion.
What do you think being a woman brings to your art?
Each person has a valuable contribution to bring to their communities and the world at large because no two people see the world in exactly the same way.
Art especially requires the artist to bring themselves to their work – their experiences, their emotions, their understandings, and their hopes.
Artwork is valuable because each creation provides a unique and necessary piece to the whole understanding of our shared experience. In essence, it is one voice in the choir of humankind.
For much of history, the song of education, of understanding, and of sharing experience has been primarily sung by men, and men alone. The song of human experience is the “background music” of our societies, influencing politics, economics, and interpersonal relationships on every level. Though male voices are beautiful and necessary in their own right, a choir made exclusively of them does not allow for the enhanced experience and wholesome, accurate understanding of how enchanting, beautiful, and healing the song could be if it included a wider array of voices – such as those of women, people of color, LGBTQ+, and other minority groups.
As a woman participating in the act of creation in a predominately male-influenced world, I raise my voice to join the choir of human experience.
This requires a certain kind of bravery and grit, as millions of women before and around me have experienced the silencing and shaming of their voices and stories. It also requires constant patience and forgiveness of myself and my community when there are misunderstandings and disagreements that are directly caused by my writings.
Sharing my work and singing the song of my experience requires radical vulnerability, but I am happy to do it over and over again in pursuit of greater understanding of myself and to facilitate a space for the greater understanding of others.
What does being an artist add to your life?
Being a poet adds meaning and purpose to my life.
Without writing, I’m sure I could find contentment within other roles I play, such as mother, wife, and human. Each of those is meaningful in their own right, but the act of creation adds a deeper satisfaction to my life that I can only describe as fulfillment.
I believe this is because much of my “art” focuses on the spiritual aspect of my life. The experience of writing brings me into communication with the divine.
It is my prayer, my meditation, it is my communion.
I strive to fill my time with either research, presence, or creation. Each of these methods can be different expressions of love and devotion when done with mindfulness and heart. In many beautiful, ordinary, yet incredibly reverent ways, writing is how I worship God.
What does a typical day look like for you?
In addition to being a writer, I’m also a full-time mom.
My days start reasonably early, with breakfasts and diaper changes for my youngest child. There’s lots of snuggles, reading picture books together, and kids sneaking treats from me and vice versa. I kiss a fair share of early childhood boo-boos, let my kids watch too much tv, and eat too many cookies. I taxi my oldest to and from school and dance classes.
In quiet moments in between chaos, I sneak quick meals, some exercise, and my own reading and writing. Some days I’m purposeful about sitting down to write. Other times I sleep in late and scroll Pinterest all day. As a yoga girl at heart, I like to call this “balance”.
But in truth, I’m always working, always creating, because my inspiration comes from the small moments in everyday life. I’m always looking for the “extra” in the ordinary.
Any other comments you’d like to add?
I really enjoyed the opportunity to sit down and analyze my work and life!
I don’t often have opportunity to do so in such an introspective, yet objective format. It was really fun. Thank you for giving me space to explore and share my inner world.
You can read more of Channing’s work on her blog and follow her on social media-
A few of her popular pieces:
“The Salt of Women’s Stories”: https://www.channingbparker.com/2018/03/tasting-salt-of-womens-stories.html
“The Cycle of Faith”: https://www.channingbparker.com/2018/01/notes-on-cycle-of-faith-learning.html