Friday, February 21, 2020

Christine Hemp Interview - Wild Ride Home

Photo Content from Christine Hemp 

CHRISTINE HEMP has been called a "poetry adventurer." She has aired her essays and poems on National Public Radio's Morning Edition; she has sent a poem of hers into space on a NASA mission to monitor the birth of stars; and her program Connecting Chord, has united cops and youth offenders--in Britain and the U.S.-- through poetry. Her memoir Wild Ride Home will be released in February, 2020. She has been appointed to the Speakers Bureau for Humanities Washington for her talk "From Homer to #hashtags: Our Changing Language." She's received, among other honors, a Harvard University Extension Conway Award for Teaching Writing, a Washington State Artist Trust Fellowship for Literature, and an Iowa Review award for literary nonfiction. She currently teaches at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival and lives on Washington's Olympic Peninsula with two horses, two cats, and one husband.

What inspired you to pen your first memoir?
The book began as a story about my poet adventures (from facilitating a poetry workshop with cops and youth offenders in the highest crime-rate borough of London, to sending one of my poems on a NASA mission to monitor the prenatal activity of stars). But once I started, everything changed: My family would not stay out of the narrative. And then some gnarly things shouldered their way into my life, so I ended up having to accommodate those events and change the time frame of the book. But I was really struggling most with the structure—until Buddy, my little Arabian horse, galloped in and provided the thread which stitches the whole book together! I call it “telling one story to tell another.”

Tell us your latest news.
Well, February has been a wild and wonderful ride! My launch night reading and conversation sold out at our local theatre, so they had to book another event the following Saturday. Super fun. Also, the New York Times ran a condensed chapter from Wild Ride Home, as did And Psychology Today asked me to write a guest blog essay called “Love Lessons From My Horse.” Next week I’ll be doing readings and conversations in Seattle and then giving a TEDx talk with other artists. I’ll be reading in New York, Boston, and New Hampshire after that. It’s going to be a busy spring.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
My writing has been influenced by my whole life. I am a musician, a horsewoman, a fly fisherman, an artist, a teacher, a speaker, a traveler, a lover of family, friends, trees, animals, and stars. I am an adventurer. All these things inform my poetry and my prose.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Since Wild Ride Home came out on the 4th of February, in addition to strangers, I have heard from friends, colleagues, and students from many years back and from all over the world. They’ve taken pictures of themselves with my book – arriving in the mail or at their local bookshops-- and have posted them on Instagram and Facebook. It’s been so moving to hear from people from so long ago. Extremely rewarding and touching that a book can connect us across the miles.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your memoir?
I hope readers will find something of themselves in my book. For it is no longer my story, but theirs, too.

In your new book; WILD RIDE HOME: LOVE, LOSS, AND A LITTLE WHITE HORSE, A FAMILY MEMOIR, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
The story holds both joy and sorrow in the same cupped hand.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I would say Marie Howe, the former New York State Poet Laureate. She was my teacher when I was in my 30’s, and the most important thing I learned from her) is not to lie. To go for the real truth, not the easy, predictable way out. She is going to be the host for my reading and conversation at Shakespeare & Company Bookshop in New York on April 22nd. I can’t wait.

How many books have you written?
Two. A small book of poems, That Fall, and Wild Ride Home.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Live a whole life, filled with people and passions that bring joy, even in the face of disappointment or grief. Then anything you do (jobs, relationships, all kinds of work) will be imbued with all that you live and breathe, Life becomes deeper, richer.

How cute is this? Buddy who has “signed” the book with his hoof! 

  • 1. My Arabian horse Buddy picks up my gloves and hats for me – whether I’m riding him or on the ground.
  • 2. Cancer treatment can include unexpected sweetness and epiphanies of all kinds.
  • 3. I really did send a poem into space on a NASA mission to monitor the prenatal activity of stars. I witnessed the launch.
  • 4. In his 30’s my father climbed to the top of Seattle’s Space needle –the needle itself—for an ad campaign he wrote. In a suit and tie, no less. He also summited Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens (before it blew its top).
  • 5. Horses don’t talk with words; they talk with their bodies.
  • 6. It took well over a decade from the time I began this memoir to its publication. I was also working on and publishing poems, essays, art reviews and writing, producing, and hosting a radio show. But this memoir was a long haul, and I learned a ton.
  • 7. When I was a child, I believed witches lived in my bedroom closet.
  • 8. My mother taught me the delight and importance of identifying bird songs.
  • 9. Bad stuff happens; good stuff happens. It’s all part of the ride.
  • 10. I found the cover painting for Wild Ride Home when I was googling something else. When I saw the image, I said, “That’s Buddy!” I printed it out long before my agent sold my book. Since the painting was not visibly signed, it took a long time to track down the artist, but I did: She is a French painter of horses and her name is Bénédicte Gelé. My publisher loved the painting, Bénédicte and I have become long-distance friends, and the rest is horsestory.
Which incident in your life totally changed the way you think today?
The day my horse Buddy came into my life.

What's your most missed memory? 
The huge birch tree in my childhood home on the shores of Puget Sound.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Have a real relationship with an animal of any kind.

What was a time in your life when you were really scared?
When I was diagnosed with cancer.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be? 
I would not have told my baby sister that the smallest grapes were the sweetest. She ate them and her faced twisted up in horror with the sourness.

An amazingly joyous memoir told with humor and brilliant irony that illuminates the beauty of the absurdity that is life.

Christine Hemp's debut work of nonfiction, Wild Ride Home, is a brilliant memoir, looping themes of finding love and losing love, of going away and coming home, of the wretched course of Alzheimer's, of cancer, of lost pregnancies, of fly fishing and horsemanship, of second chances, and, ultimately, of the triumph of love and family--all told within the framework of the training of a little white horse named Buddy.

Wild Ride Home invites the reader into the close Hemp family, which believes beauty and humor outshine the most devastating circumstances. Such optimism is challenged when the author suffers a series of blows: a dangerous fiancé, her mother’s dementia, unexpected death and illness. Buddy, a feisty, unforgettable little Arabian horse with his own history to overcome, offers her a chance to look back on her own life and learn to trust again, not only others, but more importantly, herself. Hemp skillfully guides us through a memoir that is, despite devastating loss, above all, an ode to joy.


"How is it possible to read a book with so much death in it and so much joy? Here is a family of people who look life straight in the eyes, a horse who runs circles around sorrow so that sorrow itself laughs out loud, and a writer who is such good company I never wanted the book to end."  —Marie Howe, New York State Poet Laureate 2012-2014 and author of The Good Thief, What the Living Do, and Kingdom of Ordinary Time, and Magdalene

"WILD RIDE HOME held me spellbound. I came out of this beautiful book really aware, in a visceral way, of all that life holds in store for us, both the wonderful and the tragic, and of how a melding of these inevitable experiences can (and should) make us stronger. There is joy if only we can see, taste, feel, and grasp it. I think of Christine Hemp’s poem in a rocket ship traveling millions of miles into outer space, and it would be wonderful if this memoir could travel around the earth helping us all to understand that, in the final analysis—no matter what—life is magical. This story gives me the sense that I, too, can deal with whatever when the time comes. At the end of WILD RIDE HOME my reaction is to say, “L’chaim.”  —John Nichols, author of “The Milagro Beanfield War

You can purchase Wild Ride Home at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CHRISTINE HEMP for making this giveaway possible.
Winner will receive a Copy of Wild Ride Home: Love, Loss, 
and a Little White Horse, a Family Memoir by Christine Hemp.