Interview with Amy Carpenter-Leugs

This is one of an ongoing series of interviews with contributors to The 3288 Review.

Amy Carpenter-Leugs has written poems and nonfiction appearing in Voices, Peninsula Poets, Parabola, and catapult magazines. Amy is also the author of three children’s books dealing with issues of poverty and difference, all published by UCOM Open Door Press. A former English teacher, Amy now speaks and writes about life learning through conferences and online forums.  Amy lives in the literary city of Grand Rapids, MI with her husband Michael, their three sons, and the wildlife of Plaster Creek. More links to her writing can be found at amycarpenterleugs.webs.com. Her poem “Tucking Pants Into Socks” appeared in our Autumn 2015 issue.

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3288 Review: How and when did you start writing? Was there a specific event or moment which sparked your interest in the written word?

Amy Carpenter-Leugs: I’ve always written, even as a child (which sometimes got me into trouble with my classmates). As an adult, though, I’ve come to writing a little differently than many others. Though I’ve occasionally submitted stories, poems, and plays over the years, the most meaningful experience of writing I’ve had—my training ground in many ways—has been related to my parenting.

In 2003, after the birth of my youngest son, our family decided to explore a radically different path of education: unschooling. That means we homeschool without a curriculum—we learn from life and through our children’s interests. To do this, I needed support from others who were making similar choices. I didn’t know anyone in person when we first started, so I joined online forums about unschooling. Over the years, I wrote my way into a path that felt freer from the constant demands of society. As Charles Bukowski wrote in “The Bar Stool”:

I was avoiding
becoming ensnared
in a common
manner of
living.
I truly believed
that this was
important to me
when everything
else was
not.

Of course, he wrote it about drinking his life away, but there is a shared sensibility.

Writing within the unschooling community gave me the tools and the companionship I needed to help our family live so differently. Between playing Pokemon and nursing the baby I was reading, not just unschooling books, but on all sorts of topics from evolution to Hinduism, and it all made its way into my written posts in surprising ways.

On the forums, I was always writing within a conversation—adding perspective and then listening. So I was finding my own voice as part of listening to others. Many of the others were “just regular parents” like me, and yet they had really interesting things to say, and they each said it in their own way.  It was another step away from the more academic side of writing and toward something that felt of real, mysterious life.

We were also writing about the perspective of children—how the world must look to them, how they work to keep hold of themselves within its demands—and that has shaped my writing enormously.

Like many, I feel I’m being constantly remade as a writer. Earlier this year I took some poetry workshops with Phillip Sterling, and that started an interest in the sound-craft of poetry, on tightening and loosening the lines, on exploring them as another quiet path away from the boisterous world. So that’s where “Tucking Pants into Socks,” came from—that work in the last year. Continue reading →