Winter rains seem to be settling in for the duration as I gathered yesterday with my family for Thanksgiving, and will remain I’m sure, in the coming weeks for our blended celebrations of Hanukkah and Christmas. Even local traveling becomes more difficult amid all the liquid sunshine, but the coziness of the hearth, and the sweetness of our embraces swells and deepens, filling the moment, the house, and I hope spilling over into the dark and dreary streets outside.
It happens to be the perfect afternoon for a chat with poet and writer, Ann Chiappetta, whose warm-hearted nature and open sincerity fill the room the minute she steps inside.
Me: Hi, Annie, how nice of you to drop by! And Bailey…Ari has been waiting for you. Oh, let me take your wet things, and here’s a towel to dry Bailey a bit.
Annie: My pleasure, thanks for inviting us.
Me:Would you like a cup of tea as we chat? Or maybe some coffee will warm you up?
Annie: Coffee would be wonderful, black, if you don’t mind.
Me: Here you go, and how about a cookie or maybe a piece of fruit?
Annie: A few cookies would hit the spot, thanks!
Me: And where would you feel most comfortable: here at my kitchen table? Or would you like a comfy chair in the Livingroom?
Annie: Comfort is my middle name.
Me: Okay then…I’ve got my lemon-ginger tea…and our canine buddies seem comfortable enough, how about telling me a little about yourself. What part of the country do you live in?
Annie: I was born and raised in a small harbor town in New York called Mamaroneck. It is in the lower end of the Hudson river tributary that flows into the Long Island Sound. I now live in a city called New Rochelle, not too far from it.
Me: Have you been there long?
Annie: I’ve lived in New Rochelle for over 20 years, and living in the burbs has its advantages, for sure. I lived in San Jose, California for a little over 8 years but ended up coming home again. I am glad I did, it’s there where I met my husband.
Me: And what do you like best and least about living there?
Annie: The ease of transportation, the people, being near the water and in less than 30 minutes, being at the horse farm. I love the change of seasons, too. I don’t like New York City, I am a country gal. I love concerts and Broadway but dislike the subways, the hustle and bustle.
Me:Is your writing influenced in any way by where you live?
Annie: My writing is often influenced by where I live, where I’ve traveled, and I plan to keep expanding my geographic repertoire. My life and adjustment to blindness is also a big part of my writing life, and, of course, my dogs.
Me: Can you describe your writing process for me? For example, do you have a certain time of day you find most productive? Or a special place where you find inspiration?
Annie: I write whenever I can fit it in, but I love stormy days and evenings when folks are tucked in and it’s uncommonly quiet. I live in an apartment complex that is bordered by a busy street to the east, and the train and highway to the north-west. It’s rarely quiet enough for me.
Annie: When the snow dampens the noise pollution, I love it and it gets the Muse going. The rain seems to also help dampen some of the chatter. I get inspired when I am in the shower, brushing the dogs or folding laundry.
Me: Really…that must be a bit tricky.
Annie: Sometimes I have to stop and send myself an email from work so I can expand on a blog post idea or project.
Me: So what got you started writing?
Annie: I have been writing since I could read. My first published poem was in Seventh grade. I’ve kept journals and filled a 100-page legal sized book during my time in California.
Above all else, it is to honor the Muse. I am a highly creative person, I live in my head, I must find a way to externalize my thoughts, my “what if? Narrative. When I could see and draw or use visual art to express myself, it was very satisfying. Now, after blindness, I use the literary arts to keep me grounded.
Me: And what keeps you writing?
Annie: I write to find out what I think and how I feel; I find writing immensely, personally satisfying. I find my own poems powerful. I hope others find my writing powerful, too.
Me: I’m sure they do. I do. And now a few more “creative” questions, if you don’t mind, so we can get a better glimpse of you as a person. What color would you say best expresses your personality?
Annie: Why, blue. It is the ocean and the world. After all, I am a Pisces, a water sign.
Me: Now my favorite question because I learn the most from this one. -What’s your favorite part of going grocery shopping?
Annie: I do not like food shopping but love shopping for clothes, dog stuff, and gifts for others.
Me: and what do you think that says about you?
Annie: Ha, that I married the man of my dreams who can compensate, he loves food shopping.
Me: Did you ever bring a stray home with you? What happened? Annie: When my son was in kindergarten and my daughter was an infant, I would walk the ½ mile to the school and pick him up. One day, a lab puppy walked over, and sat in front of the stroller. It had no collar, but was not going to let me go on without it. I petted it, then found part of an old belt in the bottom of the stroller, the dog allowed me to put it on and we walked the remainder of the way to the school. I insisted the dog be kept in a room until the owners could be found, since I figured this dog was someone’s pet. At first, the principal resisted, then I asked if it was his dog, wouldn’t he want someone to care? He offered to keep the dog until the owner could be found or until animal control could come get it. I found out that the dog was indeed a beloved pet and had escaped when the gate was left open. I was the one thing keeping this puppy from running into the busy, six-lane street and possibly being killed or injured. Knowing he found his family again was a wonderful lesson for both of my kids, and I am glad we had this experience and outcome.
Me: Do you have a favorite fairy tale or children’s story?
Annie: I must digress just a tad – I love nursery rhymes and when my kids were little I could read large print. I wore out one book, and I love that they loved these poems, too. Okay, back to the fairy tales