Welcome back, readers. It's a pleasure to reconnect.
Today I'd like to share a fun and inspiring "chat" with Jennifer Minotti, publisher of a new, popular online literary journal.
And here's a bonus: read on and you'll also find out how you can submit your work for inclusion in this quality, weekly-updated site.
"Founded in 2020, The Journal of Expressive Writing is the first online literary journal to publish expressive writing, free writing, non-fiction, personal essay, memoir, reflective essay, poetry, prose, contemplative discourse, and creative non-fiction—all that originate from a writing prompt—by both established and emerging writers."
Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for joining us.
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHO YOU ARE AND YOUR CREATIVE BACKGROUND?
I live in Cambridge, MA with my husband and two teenage children. Currently, I am an Artist-in-Residence at the Center for Women's Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University, where I have been facilitating Women's Writing Circles for the past five years.
I’ve always considered myself to be a creative person. However, as a young person, I also had to figure out a way to put myself through college and support myself. I have always wanted to be a writer, but I could never conceive of how I would pay my bills. Perhaps I didn’t have enough belief in myself as a writer at a young age. Perhaps I was scared. Mostly, I think I have always been a very practical person. For example, when I was in graduate school at Columbia University, I fell even deeper in love with photography as I was exposed to the darkroom and so on. Yet, I knew that I would graduate with a lot of student loans and therefore felt I should take a safer route to work and apply for positions that would provide a stable income with health benefits.
Fortunately, that decision ended up being a good one! I was lucky to land a job right out of school at Education Development Center (EDC)—a global non-profit working to improve education, health, and economic opportunities worldwide—and ended up working there, in a variety of technology, research, writing, and leadership roles, for 17 years. While there, I grew to have a lot of autonomy creatively. As a website developer, online course designer, information architect, and content writer, I was apply to integrate my artistic background to everything I did. Looking back, I am so grateful for the many years I spent at EDC and for my bosses who recognized my ingenuity and trusted me to use my inventiveness to benefit our work.
In 2011, I left EDC to be a full-time, stay at home mom. That transition was difficult, as I felt a loss of my professional and creative identity. But an amazing thing ended up happening. As I journaled regularly to process my feelings, something I have done since middle school, I developed a passion for the power that expressive writing holds. And I knew I wanted to share this newfound knowledge with others. A year later, I founded the Women's Writing Circle, which I view as another vehicle for limitless creativity and imagination.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE APPROACH? DO YOU HAVE ANY “RITUALS”?
I’ve learned over the years not to rush creativity. I often get great ideas while exercising and journaling. But if I wish to execute them too soon, I often find myself stuck. I have found that when I am able to pause and let the universe guide the timing of my work, I find myself in perfect flow and people show up to offer help. When this first started happening, I was suspicious. I thought, “Why are these people wanting to help me?” But over time, I came to realize that this is what it means to be in synchronicity.
In terms of rituals, I habitually use writing prompts as an entry point to figuring out what I’m thinking. I also use meditation as a guide to my writing, often sitting in meditation before I write. And as I mentioned before, I often get some of my best ideas running or doing other forms of exercise.
WHAT CHALLENGES YOU THE MOST ABOUT BEING A CREATIVE ARTIST?
I think the biggest challenge for me is being able to acknowledge my gifts as a creative artist and silence the inner critic that keeps showing up to tell me that I’m not “good enough.” It’s funny, because after all of these yeas, I still have never once been able to call myself an artist … even though it’s actually my current work title! I have also grappled for a long time with the concept that earning an income is the measure of an artist’s success, or any success. I fundamentally do not accept that narrative and yet, it’s a difficult storyline that permeates our culture.
OF WHAT PROJECT ARE YOU MOST PROUD?
I’m most proud of my creation of The Journal of Expressive Writing, which I spent years conceptualizing. I long had the idea to establish an online literary journal dedicated specifically to publishing the stories that were inspired in my Women’s Writing Circles. These stories were amazing and for those who wanted to get their voices out into the world, it wasn’t always easy. I wanted to facilitate that process for them, as well as others. And then, I realized amid COVID-19 that there was no better time to begin than right then. Many of us not on the front lines were asked how we could best be in service to others. I quickly realized that publishing this online journal was the best way I could use my strengths to make a difference in the world. You can read my essay as Editor-in-Chief on May 15, 2020, the day I launched the Journal of Expressive Writing. It is entitled, “Belly Flopping in my Evening Gown.”
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR CONTEMPORARY INFLUENCES?
In the expressive writing and journaling fields, hands down I have been influenced the most by the research and writing of James W. Pennebaker and Kathleen Adams. They are visionaries in their respective fields whom I admire very much. In fact, I am currently exceedingly fortunate to be training to be a Certified Journal Facilitator under Kathleen’s mentorship, which is a huge honor. I have also been heavily influenced by many experts in the fields of positive psychology and Buddhism such as Martin Seligman, Tal Ben-Shahar, Barbara Fredrickson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach, and others who help me to see the world in new and exhilarating ways. In terms of writers and poets, there are so very many whom I love and draw inspiration from. It wouldn’t do justice to the field if I named just a few!
WHEN YOU AREN’T WRITING, WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU ENJOY RECREATIONALLY?
I love sports, both playing them and watching them. I also love the water! Right now, I am in love with paddle boarding, which I did every day this summer at a nearby lake while we were in Vermont. I also love walking. Now that I’m not doing as much strenuous activity as I used to do, I love going for long walks. It clears my head, calms my emotions, and it’s another place where my creative juices seem to flow.
WHAT WOULD IT SURPRISE OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I went to Boston University on a full athletic scholarship for swimming. After college, I was a triathlete for 12 years, completing two Ironman triathlons and many marathons. I also hiked with my husband to Everest Base Camp!
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR RECENT PROJECT AND HOW IT CAME ABOUT?
My most recent project ,The Journal of Expressive Writing, mentioned earlier, was an aspiration of mine for many years and it emerged over time out of my passions for expressive writing, positive psychology, education, community organizing, mental health, mindful communication, and social activism. It may sound corny, but it may be my most important work to date. Giving writers and poets a platform to express their voices, especially at this time in history, I believe is a fundamental, human need. Whatever we might be feeling is a link to what others may be feeling across the planet. Love, belongingness, security … These are essentials right now. Each one of us is a necessary part of the whole world and I want people to really believe that. I believe we can only do that by sharing our truths, our voices, and our creativity.
The Journal of Expressive Writing is the very first online literary journal to publish expressive writing, free writing, non-fiction, personal essay, memoir, reflective essay, poetry, prose, contemplative discourse, and creative non-fiction—all that originates from a writing prompt—by both established and emerging writers and poets. This is what I’m most excited about right now!
WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER POETS SEEKING SUCCESS?
Write for the love of writing!
For years, I told myself that I could not write poetry. Only in the last year have I allowed myself to write poetry just for the pleasure of it. And I’ve been having so much fun! In fact, during the Covid-19 pandemic, I found myself loving to write poetry with others. It started by giving myself creative permission to participate in the May Day Pandemic Poem project. Developed by the Poetry Society of New York, they partnered random writers and poets from around the world to co-create a poem together. The experience was phenomenal and we wound up writing a great poem together (ours is #5 on the list)!
I loved doing this so much that I recruited my husband and children to start writing collaborative poetry with me. During the pandemic, we wrote a dozen or more poems that captured how we were feeling during that time and it was amazing! The more poetry we wrote together, the more fun we had! It was such an intimate and bonding experience! So I guess my advice is: If you enjoy writing poetry, just do it. “Success” might not even mean publishing your poetry. It might mean something else—something as simple as bringing people together as we’re sheltering in place—or another journey not tied to any outcome. The discovery and natural unfolding of things is something I have grown to really appreciate in life!
Submission Guidelines can be found here:
Hello Jennifer M.! It's a treat to meet and get to know another talented "Jennifer". :) Appreciate hearing about your journey and passions. I find it encouraging and inspiring to hear from other writers and artists. Wishing you much joy and success!ReplyDelete
Jen, thanks for hosting and introducing us to Jennifer. Have a lovely weekend!
I couldn't agree more; it is nice to learn about other writers and artists. It expands our horizons and our creative lens. Thanks for stopping by and starting us off.
Thank you Jen and Jennifer for this great interview. I discovered a love of poetry this summer during quarantine, and my husbamd and I also collaborated. I will check out this journal and pass on the info.ReplyDelete
You're very welcome. Thanks so much for dropping by and weighing in. I think it's really neat that your husband wrote poetry with you. How cool! :-)
Thank you for your kind words, Karen! It was my great honor to be interviewed by Jennifer Brown Banks for Pen & Prosper!ReplyDelete
Congrats on the launch of your journal! Wishing you much continued success. I appreciate the interview here.
Thank you, Linda! I agree with Jennifer that it's wonderful that you and your husband are writing poetry together. My husband are still writing poetry together as we speak and it's a really great experience! We email the poem back and forth to each other, each adding one line and then sending it back, sometimes from the same room (sometimes not!). I never knew writing poetry could be so much fun!!ReplyDelete