Friday, July 2, 2010

An Interview with a Creative Few: Leann Wendell

I know so many creative people and talking with them about their projects often inspires me to try new things. So I've decided to introduce them to you all in a format that I like: an interview.

I met Leann Wendell while I was at a fellowship at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. She had attended the six-week journalism boot camp the year before and stayed on as an intern. I'm don't remember the first time we met, but I do remember going out with a bunch of my fellow fellows, Leann and another intern, Pat Walters (who now works for RadioLab), to a bar to hang one night.

Leann and I sat in a booth and ended up having a long talk about relationships and writing. I remember thinking, "Even though I don't know this girl, I can tell we have a lot in common." I kept up with her career moves (to The Dallas Morning News) and her life moves (marrying Bryan Wendell) through Facebook, and noticed one day that she started a blog.

During the past six months or so, I slowly started reading blogs, adding a new one here or there. I'm drawn to those bloggers who share ideas for cooking, crafting and decorating. But I also enjoy blogs that are just well written. But when you read those people's blogs (like smitten kitchen, or Made, or cjane) who have thousands of followers, advertisers and have made blogging into their business, I couldn't help but feel like there wasn't room for me in the blog world.

Reading Leann's blog, which is relatively new, reminded me that a blog is just a place to categorize your thoughts, to share ideas and to have conversations with people. Blogs don't have to be about just one thing, but can be about all of your interestes.

Leann writes about cooking, reading, music and her life on her blog. As a copy editor, she gets to read, write and ask questions every day. "If I only ever have that job, I wouldn't be unhappy," she said. "But I'm pushing myself to keep creating my own work vs. only reading other people's and going home and relaxing."

In addition to blogging, Leann enjoys performing in musicals and plays, hanging out with friends and having date nights with her husband.

What do you create?
I've been writing, playing the piano and singing since I was a little kid, and I think those activities define how I see myself. If I ever stray away from practicing them, I feel distanced with myself and who I used to be. So I try my best to keep up with them all. So I guess you could say I create stories and music.

I've dabbled in fiction and poetry but really got involved with nonfiction when I majored in journalism. And now I'm going back to school to get my MFA in Writing for nonfiction, with a secondary genre in poetry.

I'm also taking piano lessons again with a professor at a nearby community college. I play a lot of classical but also love ragtime too (I saw your Aunt Phyl loves Scott Joplin; I couldn't agree more!) And I've also been working on singing while playing and writing my own songs.

I also recently have gotten into card-making and scrapbooking. I've really been enjoying the more visual aspects of those. I feel like it works a different part of my brain.

 How did you get started?
Our family had a toy piano in our living room when I was a toddler. My parents noticed that I would hear a song on the radio and start playing the tune on that little piano, so they thought I should start taking lessons. I started when I was 5 and went through my senior year of high school, playing for various community and school functions, talent shows and competitions.

What inspires you?
I get really inspired when I hear other writers/musicians/artists talk about why they do what they do. I feel really inspired right now by a talk that author Barry Lopez gave at our MFA residency. He talked about why writing is so crucial to society -- that by telling a story, we make sense of the chaos that so many are living with, and by doing so, we can help to save someone's life. He also talked about how it's our job as writers to draw attention to a problem in our society by writing about it and helping people to see their relationship to the problem.

I also get inspired when I read a book that gives me a different perspective, or when I hear great music. I love seeing people's photography and art, too. So I guess just surrounding myself with people who are a whole lot better than me at what they do. That inspires me to get better.

Oh, and talking to my sister and husband, too. They're my best friends, and they know me so well. I love bouncing ideas off of them, because they're a lot smarter than I am and can really help me take an idea I have to the next level.

How do you promote your work?
I started a blog recently where I get to practice writing and share some of my work, whether it's cooking, crafts, photography or -- hopefully in the future -- recordings of some of my music.
(It's Also, through the MFA program, I hope to learn how to better promote my writing.

Leann sometimes writes about different meals she's created and includes the recipes on her blog. Check it out!

pad thai

pimento cheese

spinach and strawberry salad

1 comment:

  1. Hey Kalen, I came across your blog from InspiredKara and was like, "Hey! An old Truman-ite!" How are things? Love your blog!


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