Q & A with Sonja Mabel McClure, writer, wanderluster, dancer
Sonja Mabel McClure is a writer and poet. She is the author of the full-length poetry book Shift//Motion. She holds a BA in Communications as well as a minor in English from the University of Utah. Several of her poems and non-fiction articles have appeared in Touchstones, Catalyst, and elsewhere. Sonja is of Finnish descent and is a member of the Utah Finlandia Foundation. When she’s not avidly reading or writing, she enjoys yoga, belly dancing, cycling, and playing outdoors with her two adorable dogs. Connect with her on IG: @sonjasolstice.
GB: Sonja, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. Can you share a bit about yourself? Any background info that’s NOT in the bio?
SM: Thank you very much for featuring me, Glen. I moved around frequently in my childhood which may explain some of my ever-present wanderlust. After receiving my BA, I dappled in the area of being a travel writer, doing various freelance writing. I’ve published several non-fiction pieces about exploring the vast desert in southern Utah. My travels have taken me to such exquisite places as: Costa Rica, Spain, and The Virgin Islands. I’m a nature enthusiast. I’ve spent many summers working seasonal jobs at National Parks, such as Glacier National Park in Montana.
Live music has always been a prominent interest of mine. I’ve attended a plethora of concerts and festivals. One fantastic job I had was working as event staff for Summer Nights on the Pier in downtown Seattle. Outdoor shows are extraordinary!
The other part of my background many don’t know is that I’m trained as a professional seamstress in alterations and as an embroidery operator. I’ve done production for many years running industrial sewing and embroidery machines. One of the machines I used to maneuver was able to sew 15 different items at one time.
GB: Shift//Motion is a beautiful and refreshing read — unique amongst the noise of 2018 poetry. If you could use one word or phrase to describe its message, what would it be and why?
GB: What other artistic genres do you experiment with? Why?
SM: My passion for the arts first started at the age of 6 when my mom enrolled me in ballet class. I spent many years learning various dance styles. My mother thought I was going to be an opera singer because I sang so loud and with so much confidence. I love music. I’ve taken voice, choir, clarinet and piano lessons.
Currently, I still love to sing but only as a hobby. I’ve always found songwriting difficult. My skills as a musician are definitely rusty. My main focus outside of writing is on belly dancing. Dancing freestyle, with double swords and with zills are my favorite. Lately, I’ve been studying ATS and tribal fusion techniques. Dancing is such a wonderful outlet and expression of creativity for me.
GB: Any connections between writing and dancing — in either creation or consumption?
SM: What a great question. A definite connection exists between writing and dancing, in the process of creation and in the delivery. I see a correlation in the momentum and pairing of word combinations with the movement and composition of dance. A narrative can be found in writing as well as in choreography. Each word, like each dance move, builds upon the other to facilitate a bigger picture. When consumed, both artistic platforms aim to evoke an emotion, a reaction from the audience/reader.
GB: Talk about your creative process. Do you have any takeaway strategies? Advice?
SM: As frustrating as it can be at times, I’ve learned to respect the process. Some of the hardest poems to complete, the ones I struggle to tackle the most, end up as the biggest reward. I try to challenge myself to write in a way that is unique, whether it’s the vocabulary I use or the way I present a concept that makes it my own. Avoid generic and cliché ideas, they can easily be viewed as plagiarism. Push yourself to try topics, writing prompts or formats outside of your comfort zone. Don’t let self-doubt consume you. It’s worse than writer’s block on the psyche.
GB: Who and what is on your MUST-READ list?
SM: I have broad interests when it comes to reading. I tend to indulge in classic literature and philosophy. I’m often intrigued by unconventional and nonconformist writings. Some of my favorite writers include: Hermann Hesse, George Orwell, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Aldous Huxley, Tony Morrison, Kahlil Gibran, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Virginia Woolf, Anais Nin, Edward Abbey, John Muir, Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, and Henry Rollins.
I’ve had the pleasure of studying poetry for many years. It’s difficult for me to narrow it down but here are a few poets I absolutely adore: Saul Williams, Adrienne Rich, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver, Maya Angelou, E. E. Cummings, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Rainier Maria Rilke. One contemporary poet I enjoy reading lately is Lea Lumiere. I’m impressed with her compelling imagery.
GB: What does the word “success” mean to you?
SM: Take pride in your work. Give it your all, no matter what job title you have. Be passionate about your career. Determination, motivation, ambition, and resilience are all successful attributes to aspire to.
GB: What’s next for Sonja Mabel McClure? Got any forthcoming projects we can look for?
SM: My forthcoming chapbook, Incandescence will be released soon from Iron Lung Press. I don’t want to reveal much at this time but I do have another full-length book in the works. It will incorporate visual art and feature poetry from various writers. I find poetry readings invigorating and I would love to get involved with more of those. It’s important to me to continuously support other writers. I’m partial to seeking out the indie and small press publishers as well as independent bookstores for my book buying needs.
As far as dancing is concerned, I intend to enroll in more online tribal fusion classes. Maybe I will conjure up choreography for another double sword dance number. On the upcoming agenda is some intensive workshops, featuring some of my favorite innovative dance instructors.
Interview originally published in May 2019 at ONLY HUMAN. If you enjoyed this conversation, please recommend, comment, 👏👏👏 and share. Sign up for the Bing Bang Co. newsletter to see more!