An Interview with Ohio Author & Illustrator Sandra Russell
southeastern Ohio, Sandra Russell writes of personal experiences, local venues,
and more. Her new book Some of Us Are Ghosts explores
the possibility that there are some among us who exist but are really not
living to their fullest potential. Sandra, an accomplished artist, illustrates
beautiful scenarios that correspond with her thoughtful poem.
being an artist and acting in the local theatre group, Sandra is an engaging storyteller. Her wit, whimsy, and
total serendipity will keep you entertained.
GM: What is the
premise for your new book Some of Us Are Ghosts?
SR: The book is
meant to suggest we are all living a bit of a 'half-life' in one way or another
a good deal of the time. We imagine what we would like to see in our lives, but
seldom find an experience to match our expectations. Still we continue to live
each day, and have new perspectives and new wishes, and may find ourselves in a
life that is even better than our plans. So like the bird that flies between
the stanzas of the poem between the pauses and punctuations of our experiences,
our spirit continues to fly. In that way; the 'ghost' of us is the part of us
that is always with us, is in fact always our self.
GM: It's an engaging
poem with beautiful illustrations. What would you like readers to take away
from your story?
SR: To keep
going...reflect on what worked and what didn't. Find the light in the dark
roads, don't murmur the songs of the living, sing out. Be present in the moment
and don't wait for life to come to you, be more fully engaged in each day.
Don't just stop and smell the roses, pick some, put them into a vase, take a
photo of it, paint a picture of it; send it to a friend, give to a rest home or
hospital ward, or just stick it on a bulletin board?
I guess it's about
taking ownership of your own life and not letting losses become tomorrow's
expectation even if there is no guarantee, keep going more boldly.
illustrations capture the gist of the poem so well. What are you currently
writing, reading, and/or illustrating?
SR:I have been
making masks for a puppet show for a community theater event, and am designing
some cookies for a play reading in June Lion in Winter still working on
a crown that will serve as a set decoration for the reading. I have been
reading about quilts and symbols for the "Underground Railroad"
hoping to write about some of the local involvement there, that's more or less
a study at this point. I recently purchased a number of artist's biographies to
deepen my appreciation of their work and historic times.. So many things going
on with ceramic sculpture sketches and painting projects too numerous to get
them all done, but working on them all.
GM: Describe your
workspace and where you like to work...
SR:I like to work
from home for the most part, that way I can take breaks or not as the need
strikes. I do like to write though when traveling. I get ideas when I'm moving
through space, have to pull over sometimes if I'm driving to write things down.
A train is the best. I love writing on a train, when Amtrack ran through Athens
I would buy a ticket for Cincinnati or Washington D.C. to write my term
papers...I also like to sit under a tree on a hill...just depends?
GM: Do you have a
muse (maybe a cat?) or other prompt that motivates your creativity?
SR: Not really a
muse, I am motivated by admiration. If I see a beautiful thing, or listen to a
song that is just the right song for that moment. It can fire up an idea. Also,
if I think of an artist or writer I admire, I do use some image or thought of
their work as a guide...not to copy what they did, but to say, dang, I want to
do something grand like that thing they did. Some characters are admirable for
what they stand for in my mind, writers I grew up with, like Mark Twain, Arthur
Conan Doyle, or Agatha Christie. Illustrators like Arthur Rackham, and many
more. I like the early 20th C, it inspires me.
GM: What advice do
you have for novice writers and those wanting to write their first poem/story?
SR: I believe that everyone in a story needs to be in that story (don't use people, animals, characters as filler). I think every person
in a story supports the story in some way or they shouldn't be there.
Avoid the temptation to clutter a scene with too many distractions.. That poems are like drums, they have rhythm, they are like songs, they
have a melody....write your words, then walk and talk them til the pattern
starts to happen, play with the pattern, til the melody comes up, maybe do it
with a friend...there will be adjustments probably, but let it be what it is,
don't question it too hard at the beginning or you won't find it...write all of
it down, read it out loud, have someone else read it out loud and listen...that's
Connect with Sandra
Sandra Russell was born
on a dreary rainy December afternoon in the parlor of a farmhouse midway
between Athens and Albany Ohio. She started drawing at a young age when her
grandmother, a painter herself, gave her charcoal and paints. Sandra holds a
BFA in sculpture and painting and a master’s degree in art history from Ohio
University. Professional work includes a wax pattern maker for monumental
bronze sculptures, and for gold jewelry manufacture. Sandra was chief
porcelain painter for Lee Middleton. She recently has been active as parade
puppet designer (paper mâché) seen in festival parades and in the recent past
given much time to theater work, as a set designer, props master, and performer
with local community theater groups. Sandra lives in Southeast Ohio and is the
mother of a pharmacist, actress, sculptor, painter, named Chloe.
From the back of the
One October night
Sandra Russell was driving on a country road, headed for town to meet a friend
who was performing at a local nightclub. There was a breeze blowing the
treetops and strands of shifting fog low to the ground. Just as she crested a
big hill, she saw below what looked like a specter, someone in white. Maybe
someone dancing? As the car slowed, she realized it was just a neighbor in a
long nightgown, picking up her mail from across the road. When she arrived at
the nightclub, she sat at a table near the stage. The energy of the crowd
reminded her of how some people seemed so full of life while others were just
blanks, like empty jars on a shelf. Suddenly the poem came to her. Sandra asked
the waitress for something to write with. With the help of a blue crayon and
paper napkins, Sandra wrote Some of Us Are Ghosts. The author entertains the
reader through ethereal illustrations, painted less with a brush and more with
a diving rod that opens the mystic well of imagination.