Monday, February 8, 2016
"TIME OF SINGING LITERARY MAGAIZNE" Editor/Publisher Lora Homan Zill . . . .
Scripted Interview With Lora Homan Zill
Editor of Time Of Singing
I was born in 1957 in Philipsburg, PA. I was raised in a small town in the central Pennsylvania coalfields with four siblings. We enjoyed a Mayberry R.F.D type of childhood, which I treasure.
2. First memory you had of God (conversion experience)?
When I was ten years old I attended a revival meeting at the Methodist church where my family worshipped. The evangelist invited anyone who wanted to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior to come to the altar. I felt a tug on my heart and knew God was speaking to me. I responded.
After I graduated college I helped found a charismatic church, married, and had children.
I began reading poetry in high school but always felt stupid during class discussions because I never understood it. Even as a college English major I avoided it.
That changed when I was mentored by a pastor/poet Charles Waugaman who taught me to trust my interpretive instincts, love language, and try my hand at writing poetry. Now I adore its art and craft.
3. How did you first hear about Time Of Singing?
I heard Charles A. Waugaman speak for the first time at a community Lenten service in his church in Conneaut Lake. I believe copies of his poetry magazine were available and I picked up one to read. I was intrigued, especially since I had discovered how much I enjoyed writing from creating Sunday School curriculum for my church. I wanted to learn more about writing and publishing and thought Charles could teach me. So I offered to help him with TOS.
Charles taught me how to prepare a magazine for publication. Back in those days we were still typing and printing on word processors and using light tables, T squares, scissors, and rubber cement to prepare “camera ready” copy for printing. I perched on a stool in a back room in his home and carefully cut out the poems to arrange and glue down on the paste up sheets. (Now I send pdf files to the printer who uses a digital copier.)
I enjoyed thinking artistically in arranging the poems for the most effective look and feel when reading. I would try to link them by imagery or theme. Sometimes poems work as a “team,” meaning the insight of a poem can build from the previous piece or lead the reader into the next one. They strengthen each other. I still edit and lay out the magazine with that goal including white space around and between each poem to give the reader resting places.
I also read the poems as I worked. Soon I began to think, “I could write like this.” I tried my hand at writing some poetry and very nervously offered some pieces to Charles for his input. Now when I read those early poems I cringe and Charles probably did too. But I think he also saw that I had a poetic sensibility, that is, an intuitive feel for language and how it works in poetry. So he encouraged me to keep writing. After many tries he finally selected a couple to publish in TOS. That really lit my fire.
We would also spend hours over a pot of tea discussing and critiquing submissions to the magazine. That’s where I really learned that writing poetry is a bear to wrestle, not a sprite to catch. It’s less about feeling inspired and more about learning a craft through endless practice. Not that inspiration isn’t important, because it is. But a true artist doesn’t wait for the Muse, in my view. They go to work and put themselves in the position to meet the Muse if it decides to show up. If not, I write anyway and trust my own voice.
4. Can you describe the steps of Time Of Singing coming into being?
In the 1950’s Dr. Benjamin P. Browne of the American Baptists in the Philadelphia area had a vision for Christian poetry. Then (and now), poetry was mostly used as “filler” in magazines. Dr. Browne believed it was an art worthy of dedicated publishing space.
So along with Charles Waugaman, who became its editor, he started Time of Singing in 1958. Charles brought the magazine with him when he accepted a pastorate in NW Pennsylvania. I joined him as a helper and soon became assistant editor. I took over when Charles retired and moved to Vermont. Now he is with the Lord.
Time of Singing is a Christian literary poetry journal with “Christian” defined in the widest sense of the word. Time of Singing has grown from publishing poets from the U.S. and Canada to now publishing submissions from all over the world thanks to the web and Facebook.
Most of my poets and readers are in the U.S. and Canada, but I’ve published work from Mexico, UK, Russia, Croatia, Australia, Slovakia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, and most recently, Germany, Albania and Denmark.
5. Can you describe your educational, volunteer, and career history?
I’ve taken a winding path. I have sold insurance, umpired adult softball games, worked as a substitute teacher and with disabled adults, managed the office of an FM radio station, and directed a volunteer program for senior citizens (RSVP).
After I graduated from Allegheny College with a double major in English and Religion I helped found a charismatic church, married, and had children.
I got involved in local politics, serving on a school board for 12 years. I’ve done lots of volunteer work, from holding church services in nursing homes, writing and performing Christian puppet shows, to Girl Scouts. Right now I lead a worship team at a Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) church and I’m vice president of a foundation that benefits local schools.
As a single mom raising two children I earned an M.A. in English from Gannon University and now teach writing at the university level and as an artist-in-residence with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
I’ve had poems and essays published and directed St. David’s Christian Writing Conference for 14 years. Now I speak at writing, artist, and educator conferences and hold retreats for artists and crafters.
I explore the relationship between faith and creativity at www.thebluecollarartist.com and am writing a book, Imagine; How to Satisfy Our Insatiable To Feel God’s Pleasure, about how we create to satisfy our longing to feel God’s pleasure.
6. What is your day-to-day writing routine?
I write every day, including blogs, e-mails and journaling, but devote blocks of time to major projects like articles and books. I’ll write for weeks during the summer when I’m not teaching or entire evenings or afternoons during the school year. It’s easier to focus with the concentration the project demands. It’s not a matter anymore of not “having time.” God has called me to write and teach about responding to His creative voice and feeling his pleasure, so that’s what I make time to do. It’s not easy. I’ve had to learn to say “No thanks.”
7. What do you do to maintain your relationship with God?
Along with the spiritual disciplines of Bible study, contemplative prayer and church ministry, I take annual prayer retreats at a Benedictine monastery near my home.
Creative expression through the arts is also essential. I’m a writer, musician, vocalist, and stained glass artist. My creative work isn’t just a nice diversion, but a pursuit through which I feel God’s pleasure. I learn to explore and discover the kingdom of God through artistic expression. Being creative deepens my relationship with Jesus because it frees me to express my personality and know Him as the Root and Wellspring of my creativity. I love creating language, music, and beauty that draws people closer to him.
8. How would you define Christian poetry?
My view is Christian poetry is an art and craft arising from the poet’s relationship with Jesus Christ. The poet explores the issues of faith and life with God and isn’t content to hide in religious jargon or doctrine. Good poets don’t preach. They dare to wrestle with deep questions and trust the reader to draw their own inferences.
I publish a more literary style (either forms or free verse) that challenges our assumptions and religious thinking but doesn’t “hide too far away” (Robert Frost).
A lot of Christian poetry today is similar to greeting card poetry in how it uses clichés and simple rhymes (God/sod, cross/loss) and sentimental themes. There’s a purpose for that too, but I want art and craft to show me something new.