A Chat with Morrie Warshawski

Morrie Warshawski

When first reviewing Morrie Warshawski’s (www.warshawski.com) online profile and many interviews, I came away wondering, “Who is this man?” Trained as a poet in his earlier years, Morrie has become one of the most sought after fundraising consultants/facilitators in his field. Specializing in working with non-profit organizations, he has managed to stay true to his own core values. His eclectic words of poetry lay on the page, inviting the reader to make of them what they will. This is clearly a thinking, feeling, man who values life and humanity in equal measure, and I’m pleased to introduce him to you. Welcome Morrie.

****

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

Q         The poems you’ve written in your latest book, This Afternoon (http://warshawski.com/index.html), seem strange and meandering, with snippets of words ripe with imagery cobbled together. What is the message or meaning you are hoping to convey to the reader?

A         I’m hoping that readers will not look for meaning! When you stand in front of a painting by Jackson Pollock it doesn’t help to ask “what does this mean?” My poems are a bit like those paintings. I’d love for the reader to approach each poem as if it were its own little universe, to delve into it and experience what delight they can from the involvement with language and images.

Q         What happened in your life that prompted you to write this particular book of poems now?

A         I had not been writing regularly for years. Then my wife got a job in Southern California and I found myself commuting part time between our home in Napa and our temporary apartment in Santa Clarita. I had afternoons with nothing else to do, so I started writing again. I decided I wanted to focus on the moment, and on apprehending raw experiences taken directly from my life in the disjointed way that the mind works.

Q         In a previous interview by our host, Christina Hamlett (https://fromtheauthors.wordpress.com/category/morrie-warshawski/), you mention that you trained     as a poet, but later became the Executive Director for three nonprofit arts organizations. That’s quite a leap. Could you explain exactly how that significant life change came about and why you took such a divergent path from the one you started out on?

A         It’s a crazy story that involves my favorite word – “serendipity”! I was teaching Interdisciplinary Arts at the Univ. of Southern California when I applied to be an intern with the Literature Program of the then new National Endowment for the Arts. It turns out that they already had an intern selected for Literature, but they asked if I would accept an internship with the Dance Program of Artists in the Schools! I said yes, and that summer in Washington, DC changed my life. I had to take dance classes three days a week, and attend dance performances every weekend. That experience made me want to leave the University world and work with non-profit arts organizations. The rest is history!

Q         As a facilitator for non-profit organizations, you are a strategist and planner. Would you say planning and strategizing are part of your natural personality traits, or something you’ve developed over time?

A         I would say that “thoughtfulness” is a part of my natural personality. Planning and strategy are notions that I adopted slowly and at first unwillingly. What I learned is that they work and are powerful tools for moving organizations and individuals forward toward their objectives. The first time I was tasked with creating a strategic plan – when I was Executive Director of Bay Area Video Coalition – I went kicking and screaming into the process thinking it would be a big waste of my time. By the time we were through, I became a born again strategic planning devotee!

Q         You’ve worked with an impressive array of clients over the years; from high to low profile nonprofit and for-profit companies and organizations throughout America. What have you learned about yourself and others along the way?

A         Too much to write about briefly! I’ve learned a lot about patience, about what motivators are effective with what types of personalities, about the limits of being consultative and the benefits of being faciliative – and especially that I can’t solve every problem!

Q         Most people have an innate fear of approaching others for funding for any project, believing they aren’t up to the challenge. Can anyone learn to do it effectively, i.e. by reading a book on the subject, or does it take a certain personality type to successfully achieve the set goals?

A         There are so many different paths to fundraising (grants, houseparties, crowdfunding, individual asks, donation letters) and each one is more appropriate for a different set of talents and skills. Some people (introverts) prefer to write a letter or a grant, and others are more extroverted and have no trouble making a personal ask for support. I know that anyone can learn how to be successful in any of these paths through reading, taking workshops, and role playing I also know that some paths (especially the one-on-one in person ask) are much more difficult to pursue and that overcoming the impediments and fears to that path takes a tremendous amount of will power and the right motivation.

Q         You’ve also written Shaking The Money Tree: The Art of Getting Grants and Donations for Film and Video Productions , The Fundraising Houseparty, and co-wrote A State Arts Strategic Planning Toolkit, (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_17?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=morrie+warshawski&sprefix=morrie+warshawski%2Caps%2C189) with Kelly J. Barsdate and Jonathan Katz. What does writing books about your business do for you personally or in a business sense, and why?

A         Personally, it’s a great learning experience. Doing the research involved forces me to go out into the world and discover new trends, meet new people, and learn new skills. Professionally, the books have been a tremendous calling card for consulting contracts and requests to teach workshops. Published books help give me credibility, as well. And, they are a modest source of income.

Q         You have chosen to self-publish This Afternoon and offer it for individual sale via your website (www.warshawski.com). Can you tell us why you chose this method of publication for this particular project?

A         It often takes years to find a publisher for a book of poems. This particular book is very short, and very quirky. I knew from the start that I wanted the poems to be a very limited edition, and that I wanted it done “old school” – hand set type, letterpress printing, handmade paper covers, hand sewn binding – and I wanted control of the design – all things that are expensive to have and that you can’t get from a publisher. The book is a little work of art in and of itself. I was lucky to work with a great designer and letterpress printer, Lisa Rappoport (http://littoralpress.com).

Q         Who has been your greatest life or career mentor, and why?

A         I stand on the shoulders of many people who have made a significant difference to my life. Like many people, there were two high school teachers to whom I will always be indebted – Bob Richmond and Harry Klutz of Paseo High School in Kansas City, Missouri. They showed me that there was a wider world out there, and that I had special talents I could use to make the world a better place.

Q         You specialize in working with the nonprofit sector. What is it about nonprofits that excites and energizes you?

A         You have to love the non-profit sector! Its values are my values. Nonprofits want to improve the human condition, to make communities better, to serve those in need, and enhance quality of life. I’m especially drawn to working with arts and culture organizations because of my commitment to the role that art plays in our lives.

Q         What has been your greatest personal life-lesson thus far, and why?

A         Identify, clarify, and stay true to your core values. They are inescapable and are the key to your “comportment” – how you travel through life with authenticity, with a sense of mission, and with energy.

Q         What’s next for you, Morrie?

A         More yoga, more reading, more chocolate!

You can learn more about and connect with Morrie here:

Twitter: @morriew

Facebook: www.facebook.com/morrie.warshawski

Website: www.warshawski.com

LinkedIn: Morrie Warshawski

 

Advertisements

Capsized: A Novel in Verse

Capsized

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

What accounts for our longstanding fascination with the sea, with ships and with the siren call to distant destinations? Anne Tews Schwab applies her own love of all things nautical to Capsized: A Novel In Verse – an imaginative story told in poems about sailing, music, family and swirling teenage emotion.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

**********

Q: Let’s start with telling us how your personal journey as a writer began.

A: My writing journey began at age three. I had recently mastered writing my first name, and was eager to share my writing prowess with my whole neighborhood.  Red crayon clutched in my hand, I hurried outside and proceeded to write on the walls of the house, the door of the garage, the silver trash cans and the slats of our white picket fence. I was proud of my work but my mother seemed to disagree.  Soon after my crayon masterpiece was discovered, I had my first experience in editing as my mother handed me a bucket and a sponge and instructed me to start scrubbing!

Q: Were you a voracious reader growing up?

A: Yes! We weren’t allowed to watch any television except for PBS, so my sisters and I all became voracious readers at very early ages.

Q: What authors and titles especially resonate(d) with you (and why)?

A: I read so many covers off so many books, I wouldn’t have the space to name them all here, but a few that come to mind include: The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M Montgomery (because my mother read a chapter out loud to me every night before bed), Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (because I dreamed of one day having a family as big as theirs), the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene and Bobbsey Twin books by Laura Lee Hope and Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (because I had dreams of one day becoming a detective or spy),  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (because I wanted to be as smart as Meg and wanted to believe it possible to time travel).

Q: What are you reading now?

A: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka, J. K. Rowling)

Q: What is Capsized about and what was your inspiration to write it?

A: Written as a series of poems, Capsized is a fictionalized version of the some of the highs and lows and joys and woes of scow sailing and lake racing combined with a deep love of piano playing and music. Dani’s story began many years ago when I wrote a short story featuring a girl from a sailing-centric family who was deathly afraid of the water. Like Dani, I grew up sailing and playing piano, but unlike Dani, I loved the water, and my sailing and piano stories are quite different from hers!

Q: Who is your target audience and what is the takeaway value you hope to achieve with those readers?

A: I hope that young adult readers will emphasize with the plight of the main character as she struggles to balance the demands of her father, her mother, her brother and the friends that come and go in her life.  In addition to empathizing with the story’s theme, I hope that teens and tweens will come away with a new found love and/or appreciation for power and beauty of poetry.

Q: You describe Capsized as “a novel in verse.” What influenced your decision to go this particular route?

A: As part of my MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Hamline University, I had the privilege of penning two theses – one critical, one creative. For my first thesis, I researched extensively in the field of poetry, focusing specifically on the epic poem and how it related to a novel of my own.  As I dove deep into the epics of yore and was immersed in the world of verse, I had the lightbulb idea to rewrite a shelved prose novel entirely in poems.  When the award-winning verse novelist, Ron Koertge, was assigned as my final semester advisor, I knew I had made the right choice.

Q: What were some of the challenges you encountered in developing the story and its themes?

A: The first challenge came when my advisor advised me to put the whole prose novel away, make a bare bones outline of the general story structure from scratch and then begin again, but this time in poetic format … Yikes! The next challenges arrived as I struggled to find the poetic forms that would best represent character, setting, action and emotion.

Q: What part does setting play in the development and progression of the plot?

A: Dani’s home lake — Black Bear Lake — plays a large part in her life and the lives of her friends and family. In addition to being essential to the sailing action that takes place in the story, the lake also sets the tone and pace of the poems and prose throughout the books.  The rhythm of the winds and waves across the lake are reflected in the rhythmic development of the story and the ebb and flow style plot progression.

Q: If you could be any character in the book, which one would it be?

A: Mary — so I could tell her story (there’s so much about her that the reader never gets to see!)

Q: If you were to set sail around the world with only one person for company, who would it be and why?

A: My first choice would be my amazing husband, although it would take some convincing since he has often stated — in no uncertain terms — that he has zero desire to sail anywhere where he can no longer see land 🙂

Q: How long did this book take you to write from start to finish?

A: If we count all of the prose drafts, plus the short story that began it all, the whole process adds up to nearly ten years. If we only count the poetic drafts, it would be closer to two.

Q: Tell us a little about your writing process. For instance, do you do outlines and research in advance or create and research as you go along?

A: I am more of a pantster than an outliner – I tend to write by the seat of my pants, letting the plot develop and the story grow until the first draft is done. After that, I will go back and outline the basic structure to find the holes, pinpoint the flaws and discover what more is needed.

Q: What are some fun or interesting facts about Capsized you’d like readers to know?

A: The sail number and name on the X boat pictured on the cover are the same as my boat’s name and number from back when I was an X-boat racing teenager, but that’s not me or my boat in the picture!

Q: In classrooms across the country, the study of poetry has seriously fallen by the wayside. Further, aspiring writers are often discouraged from writing poetry because there just isn’t any money in it. What’s your reaction to this?

A: It’s true, there is not a lot of money in poetry, but, as I tell teens today, poetry has a power that cannot be denied.  With poetry, deep emotions can be expressed in non threatening ways.  With poetry, teens can speak deep truths. I like to borrow the words of a certain wise doctor when I speak with teachers and teens and tweens of today about poetry, telling them that, with poetry in their pocket, “Oh, the Places You Will Go!” (apologies to Dr. Seuss).

Q: How did you go about finding the right publisher for your work?

A: I submitted my book to a wide range of traditional publishers, but as a quiet verse novel, Capsized did not garner a strong interest from agents and/or publishing houses.  After some careful research, I found North Star Press, a local publisher with strong poetry collections. Through their guided self-publishing arm, Polaris Publications, I was able to bring Dani’s story from manuscript form to published fruition.

Q: What kinds of things are you doing to promote the book now that it’s out?

A: Interviews, book signings, mailings, book club appearances, teaching classes about poetry, teaching online workshops, contacting schools and libraries.

Q: For writers that are just starting out, what are your three best tidbits of advice?

A: 1. Write.

2. Write.

3. Write!

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: A middle grade fantasy fiction story about pirates and mermaids and destiny and family.

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your work?

A: I write a poem a day and I would encourage all of your readers to do so as well —  poetry is perfect for all people, all places, all the time.  Poetry is perfect for you!

 

Readers can learn more about Anne by visiting the following:

Website: http://piratepoems.com/capsized

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/capsized.anovelinverse

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PoetryPlunder