Brenda Baker, Poet
Brenda Baker graduated from Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland (the Easternmost province in Canada). She earned a B.ED with a major in French and a minor in English. With her degrees in hand, she made the decision to start her educational career as a teacher in Labrador City, Canada. With her two beautiful daughters, ages twelve and six, the three were on their way to “…a small community where the winters are long and very cold. It’s a good thing that I love coats and boots.” In the small city she started her career as a teacher and fell in love with the man who became her husband.
Labrador City long, cold months offer less warm days to enjoy a day out walking, but the educator has learned to adjust to the cold weather. “I love reading and watching movies throughout the winter months when it’s too cold for much else.” As of late, she spends time in front of the T.V. enjoying hockey games with her husband. Baker says, “I have to admit that I don’t have many hobbies outside of writing. I do love blogging, which is another form of writing. I like to get outdoors whenever possible. On summer vacations, I seek out places that allow me to walk – sometimes for hours. Those walks give me a chance to reconnect with myself and with my husband on a different level than at home. I’ve also been working out now for a little over 30 years.”
Baker wrote on many of those cold days and at the age of forty-eight, she published her first book and says, “It’s never too late to start."
Finding Their Way Home is a short book of poems divided into four sections which explore our shared humanity. And within that global theme, it explores topics we can all relate to such as love, loss, heartache, pain, joy, etc. This is done through the poems’ characters. Some poems are written in the first person to give the reader an intimate look into what the characters are experiencing. Other poems are written in the third person to share more details of a character’s story. The last section is a little different in that it moves away from the characters to observe and question our human experience from a greater distance.
Baker is “…currently working on a poetry series about a teenage runaway.” She says the inspiration for the series came to her a while back. She started it but, “I never got around to finishing it.” The unique poetry book is written from the point of view of the MC (main character) named Autumn. Baker says, “I love writing from Autumn’s point of view. And because I started this series early on as a writer, I credit Autumn with helping me find my voice as a writer.” She plans to publish another book of poems and penned her first novel over the next few years.
Interviewer: Why did you choose to self-publish?
Baker: As a first-time author, I couldn’t see a publishing house taking a chance on my book – especially a poetry book which tends to have a smaller market. I’ve always been independent and stubborn, so I decided to self-publish without so much as a glance down the traditional publishing route.
Interviewer: How many hours a day do you write?
Baker: It depends on the day. I’m also a substitute teacher, so that affects how much time I have to write as well. There are days when I don’t put pen to paper and other days when I’ll spend several hours writing. I usually do the bulk of my writing on the weekends. And I’ve never been one to get up with the birds to write. I suffer from insomnia, which means that I never take a good night’s sleep for granted. Although I have been known to stay up well past the witching hour to write.
Baker says she tries to create only original stories. She loves dabbing into social issues, it is where her heart vents. “I have a hard time staying away from social issues in my poems. Many of my poems have a point to make inside them somewhere.”
For the past thirty years, Baker has kept a well-hidden secret that occurred when she was a teenager. “It was in the 80's and people weren't nearly as accepting as they are now of mental health issues. It drove me further inside my shell and took me several years to finally get well again.” Writing became her outlet. “I was often ridiculed as a teenager. A fact that until recently, I’ve never shared. It’s been my dirty little secret. But I’ve finally let go of the shame, and I’ve included a poem based on that struggle in my book. My struggle has taught me to always be kind to others. We never know what someone may be going through.” In Finding Their Way Home, Baker addresses her “dirty little secret” head-on, but not only for her, she hopes her book will help others with that issue as well as so many other social taboos that she speaks about. The collection of well-written poems articulates what many of us are think, feel, go through, and deal with. Sometimes openly, other times alone. Her poems provide a safe haven.
Interviewer: Why did you title your book Finding Their Way Home?
Baker: Before I started writing, I had nowhere for my thoughts to go. Writing gives them direction and purpose. So when I finished my book, it felt as though my words had finally found their home inside its pages. I also realized that in following my dream to self-publish, I too had come home.
Interviewer: Why do you write?
Baker: Writing is my way of organizing my thoughts and making sense of the world around me. I also try to keep my writing simple and honest.
Interviewer: What does literary success look like to you?
Baker: The greatest literary success for me would be to have people reading my work, enjoying it, and taking something for themselves from what I’ve written. Interestingly enough, one reader told me that she found my book empowering. And even though she’s now finished reading it, she’s kept that sense of empowerment derived from my book. I could never hope for better feedback.
Interviewer: How do you feel about negative reviews?
Baker: I’ve only published the one book for now, and the reviews are slow to appear. I know that I’m guaranteed to receive negative reviews at some point. And I’ll most likely be crushed at first. But I’ll remind myself that it’s impossible to appeal to every reader. Some will like it, and some won’t. I can only hope that in the end, there’s a healthy balance between positive and negative reviews.
When deciding to publish, Baker had no idea where to start. She spent hours researching before she started writing. Once she succeeded in the beginning stages, another challenge followed, then another and another which all brought on “more countless hours”. As a first-time author, the entire process was a huge learning process that gave her a “new found respect for indie authors. I knew self-publishing would require a lot of work, but I didn’t realize just how much work was involved. Indie authors are some of the most dedicated and passionate writers out there. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a self-publishing industry.”
Interviewer: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Baker: In grade four I wrote a story for Halloween. I wanted to make the story as scary as possible. Soon after, the teacher called me to his desk. He was concerned about the inspiration for my story. I reassured him that I had only wanted to write something scary. I made sure that all future writings would not draw unnecessary attention to myself. Then, at the age of thirteen, a classmate decided it was her mission to taunt me whenever and wherever possible. I discovered that words have the power to hurt us.
Interviewer: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from being a published author?
Baker: I’ve learned that self-publishing can be a lonely and sometimes difficult road to navigate. That said, I’ve also discovered how supportive indie authors are of each other. As indie authors, we understand the challenges of self-publishing. Without a traditional publishing house to back our work, we lack the benefits of traditionally published authors. And potential readers may lack confidence in our self-published books - which makes reviews so important to us. We all have way too many demands on our books as it is, so reviews help potential readers decide whether or not a particular book is worth the investment.
Baker would like to leave these final words to new writers: “Don't waste time worrying about the opinions of others, or whether your writing is good or not. Use that time to write.”
Brenda Baker welcomes you to connect with her.