Wednesday, October 5, 2011
7 Questions With an Author: Cameron Conaway, Warrior Poet
Today's author is Cameron Conaway who has come to be known as "The Warrior Poet." He teaches Shakespeare for Ottawa University, is an award-nominated teacher of creative writing for Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, was the University of Arizona's 2007-2009 Poet-in-Residence and received the Richard Russo Award for Creative Writing. But Conaway is more than a poet, he's a warrior - literally.
He's an NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer and is undefeated (2-0) in the 155 lbs. weight class as a mixed martila arts (MMA) fighter. Cameron has trained with Brazilian Jujitsu master Renzo Gracie and is now studying Muay Thai in Thailand under sponsorship from www.WhatsYourFight.com.
His book Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet , is the true story of a young man who overcomes a family background and his own inner torment by learning to channel his frustrations into the physical world of mixed martial arts fighting and the cerebral world of poetry and writing.
Here is 7 Questions With Author: Cameron Conaway
1. Tell us about your book?
It’s about the power of then. It’s about a young boy who struggled through a difficult divorce and abuse. He’s a former mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter from conservative central Pennsylvania who had three fights, acted in a play and went to graduate school for poetry. He is me. Readers will learn about poetry tools like iambic pentameter and enjambment as well as the transverse abdominis muscle and the complexities of a fighter’s mind.
2. What led you to write it?
I am obsessed with MMA and poetry and I had a story of overcoming within myself. Writing this book took five years and each day it developed from a yarn-ball of tension and frustration that ultimately gave way to understanding and forgiveness. As award-winning writers and mentors saw interconnecting threads throughout my essays they encouraged me to weave a book out of them. Those mentors believed this book could help other people and would be a unique contribution to the literary field, so I went for it.
3. Who is a writer that inspires you and why?
I’ve got an Allen Ginsberg quote tattooed on my thigh. It reads: “The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world.” We’ve lost our awareness of the world so I’ve taken his torch (or some fire from it) and am using what skills I have to help us reclaim our lost awareness. Ginsberg stood on train tracks where weapons of murder were being delivered and said “Ohm” into a microphone as a form of protest - he pushed the boundaries of peace and poetry.
4. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book?
An unexpected lawsuit threat and the ripple of drama it caused. There are usual and expected hardships that every writer must face - the critical thinking over the course of years, the editing, the rejection letters and pursuit of a publisher and agent and yada-yada-yada was expected and happens to most writers. But to have your dream publisher (Tuttle Publishing) accept your work, to work with them for a year on it and then - precisely when the book is available for pre-order - to have them cancel the contract because of lawsuit threats from a stepmother I haven’t talked to since I was a little boy? That was something no writer can truly be prepared for.
5. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Balance this: Find motivation from wherever you can – inspiring people or organizations or stories – but also be a doomer and by that I mean be prepared for the worst. It’s good to have high hopes, but when high hopes aren’t tempered with a doomer mindset the writer is setting themselves up to be crushed in a way that may be difficult to recover from. To be any good at this craft, writers must be sensitive. A smart writer will realize this sensitivity can swing like a pendulum and they’ll prepare ahead of time.
6. Where do you get your ideas?
If it’s interesting I’ll think about. If it also hits me emotionally I’ll write about it. Beyond that I have no idea.
7. Anything that you'd like readers to know that I haven't asked?
I’d like thank my sponsor WhatsYourFight.com. They’ve given a small-town dude the chance to live and train Muay Thai kickboxing here in Thailand. Check out their work – they are helping loads of people achieve their personal goals.
Some interesting insights from a uniquely dualistic perspective....you can find out more about Cameron Conaway at his site http://cameronconaway.com/
Question: What's an area of your life were you have had to reconcile seemingly opposite issues?