Interview With Cheryl Wilder


What’s your favorite thing you have written?

I wrote an essay, “Where Are We Going After This?” centered around the last hours of my mom’s life. To me, the essay memorializes her and my relationship. I was honored to be with her when she died, even though it was a little traumatic in how things unfolded. I can’t say the essay is a favorite—I’m not sure I have a favorite. But I return to it more than I do any other piece of my writing.

What’s your favorite thing that someone else has written?

I’m going to say Poetry as Survival by Gregory Orr. Orr is my poet guru, and this book explores the lyric poem, which is my primary form. It’s a philosophical, historical, poetic book on how across cultures, since the beginning of language, people have used the lyric poem to express their emotions from joy to despair. It’s foundational to how I think about poetry and it’s beautifully written.

What are you working on writing now?

Three projects await me: a children’s poetry book, a nonfiction book about poetry and architecture, and a second poetry collection. Each one is in a different stage of development. When I’m ready, I will dip into them to learn where I should put my focus. Until then, I’m enjoying the publication of Anything That Happens—meeting new people, having conversations, giving readings, writing guest posts, answering interview questions (like this one!)—before I begin a new project.

Do you have a favorite food or drink that helps you write?

I eat before I sit down to write. By the time I get hungry again, it’s time to stretch my legs and walk away from the work. Not eating at my desk forces me to take a break, which often spurs an answer to a problem I was having or an opportunity to think about something differently. At my desk, I have water, and if it’s morning or early afternoon, I also have a cup of coffee.

What’s your favorite kind of music?

I have a playlist of classical music for writing. It begins with the soundtrack album The Hours by Philip Glass and Michael Reisman and continues with other 20th century minimalistic pieces. When I’m not writing, I listen to blues and jazz (Nina Simone and Charlie Parker are my two favorites), Grateful Dead and JGB, and rapper Mac Miller—his lyrics play in my head all the time.

Forest, country, beach, or city?


What movie can you watch over and over again?

Midnight in Paris is the only movie I have watched multiple times in a row, and I return to it when I want a romanticized escape. I enjoy the exploration of nostalgia and the focus on writing and following one’s dreams. It feels like a love letter to writers.

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?

In my experience, Indie presses give a lot of attention and care to their authors. Of course, there is a business side to publishing, but Kevin Watson of Press 53 treats authors as people and literary community members first. The emphasis of being an Indie author is building relationships. With relationships and community at the forefront, I feel like I can thrive in the Indie publishing environment.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

In the fifth grade, I wanted to be an interior designer. I was interested in the many different ways people decorated their homes. By the time I graduated high school, I wanted to be a poet. After finishing my undergraduate degree in writing, I worked for an architect where my interest in “home” was reignited, and I found a connection between poetry and architecture. I guess you could say that first career impulse has stayed with me.

What does the writing process look like for you?

The pandemic changed my writing process. I used to write first drafts on the computer. Within the first few days of stay-at-home orders, I wrote with an Optiflow pen in an art notebook. With two elementary-aged kids, I knew my creative time was going to be squashed to nothing if I let it. The notebook allowed me to write and draw no matter what was going on in the house. I still use the notebook for drafting poems (but use the computer for prose). Then I type up the draft and revise until I get to a sticking point. Next, I print and revise on paper. I also begin reading the poem out loud while walking around the house. From there, I go back and forth, typing my revisions into the draft, working on the computer, printing, and walking around reading out loud.

Do you have a blog and what content do you post?

I have a blog on my website The content is generally inspired by what I’m working on and thinking about, so it varies. Subjects include the artist’s life, “little wins,” learning and leadership, poetry, and home. I plan to refine my focus later this year. The blog posts go out in my monthly newsletter. You can sign up here to receive them.

Where do you get inspiration?

I recently wrote a poem inspired by the outdoor fort I built my kids and Henry David Thoreau’s “Alternative Economics.” Anything That Happens is about a traumatic event that wiped meaning from my life. But it’s the pursuit of meaning and learning from my mistake that motivated me to write the book. I get a lot of inspiration from the idea of “home”—the language gives shape to my emotions and thoughts. In other words: My inspiration sparks when an idea or lesson connects with something in my reality, whether that be an emotion or action.

What about writing do you enjoy the most?

Writing helps me process my thoughts and emotions—the core of why I write. It’s what got me started in fifth grade, and it’s saved me over the years. I’m a visual/kinesthetic learner so seeing my thoughts and feelings on paper helps me work through them. I enjoy working on a first draft the most. For the first time, I can “see” what’s inside my head, and I get to dig around with my revision tools. I hunt through my thoughts and feelings, discover new connections, uncover old wounds. It’s a personal exploration adventure.

What is the most challenging part of writing for you?

Grammar. There are so many rules to grammar and I don’t retain that kind of information well. I constantly second guess myself and have to keep all my resources in arms’ reach.

 How have you grown as a writer?

I think how I have grown as a writer parallels how I have grown as a person. I am rooted in writing in a way that I am rooted in my family and my community. I’ve grown more confident. And with confidence, I’ve grown more comfortable with my voice. I focus less on what I have done wrong and more on the lessons I’ve learned. I’m better at knowing what writing to work on and what to leave in the drawer. In all, I’ve grown to trust myself.

At the age of twenty, Cheryl Wilder got behind the wheel when she was too drunk to drive. She emerged from the car physically whole. Her passenger, a close friend, woke up from a coma four months later with a life-changing brain injury. Anything That Happens follows Wilder’s journey from a young adult consumed by shame and self-hatred to a woman she can live with… and even respect.

“The difficult story of what follows a terrible accident in Anything That Happens has me thinking about the word aftermath, how it means not only dire consequences but second-growth, as new grass after a harvest.Cheryl Wilder’s poems are almost shatteringly direct: they explore guilt and suffering so cleanly and so precisely that every detail testifies, and mercy is ever possible. This is a brave and honorable book.” –Nancy Eimers, author of Oz

“Anything That Happens is a mature poetic inquiry into the ways early trauma can reverberate through the whole of a life—relationships, family, one’s sense of self. The poems are candid, sharp-edged and very well rendered. You can taste ‘the bone in the broth’ here as she works through the maze of emotion. In the end, we witness change and redemption, but the psychic weight remains. As Wilder aptly describes it: ‘I am two people now— // the before and the after; one I’ve already forgotten, // the other I have not met.’” –Mark Cox, author of Readiness: Prose Poems

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3 Comments on “Interview With Cheryl Wilder

  1. Pingback: Anything That Happens by Cheryl Wilder (Spring 2021) |

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