Wednesday, October 5, 2011

AROHO Speaks, Writer to Writer: Interview with Lisa Rizzo

Thinking back to the 2011 AROHO retreat, can you tell us about an idea, exercise or conversation that had either an identifiable impact upon your writing habits or became a finished piece of writing or one in process?  

I attended every Mind Stretch during the retreat, braving heat-induced hot flashes to soak in the incredible inspiration.  Everyone was wonderful but one session, in particular, had a huge impact upon my writing habits - the Mind Stretch led by Kate Gale. When she asked for a show of hands from those who regularly attend Pilates or yoga classes, I proudly raised my hand. I’ve attended Pilates twice a week for the last four years, one of them at 9:00 a.m. on Saturdays!  Then Kate wiped the smug grin off my face with her next question:  why couldn’t - or wouldn’t - we schedule the same time for our writing? That hit me hard.

 I’ve never tried, systematically, to schedule writing time for myself.  Why don’t I take care of my mind and creativity the same way I try to take care of my body?  Since that day, I’ve set a goal: to write everyday at scheduled times – that means writing something other than my teaching related. Since returning home from Ghost Ranch, I’ve mostly kept that promise to myself, missing only five days.  Because I can’t always grab the afternoon time I originally planned, some of my writing takes late at night when everyone else in my household has gone to sleep. The house is quiet.  The amount of my writing time has increased but now I’ll have to work to make sure I don’t suffer from sleep deprivation!

Is there one specific moment or event at the retreat that sparked an insight or shift in how you perceive either your work or yourself as a writer.

I can pinpoint one moment that changed the way I perceive myself as a writer.  I was sitting in my small group, one for late bloomers, i.e.,writers over 50.  As I talked with that incredible group of women about writing, a real chill of fear suddenly coursed through me. I had an epiphany that since coming to AROHO I would have to actually start taking myself seriously as a writer – and that terrified me. What a responsibility!  Now I had “come out” as a writer with all these women. They even accepted me as a serious writer. There was no returning to the dark hiding place, the one in which I tell no one about my writing, where I can spend weeks at a time and not even think about writing.  That was the moment I began to own the title “writer”.

How would you describe your typical writing day?

During the school year, there is no typical writing “day.” Often, writing time consists of stolen moments. Since being a teacher is incredibly demanding - mentally and physically, I’m often exhausted when I get home.  At AROHO I conceptualized a plan: to sit down to write as soon as I’ve changed out of my work clothes, a plan that doesn’t always work.  Sometimes other life responsibilities get in the way. That’s when I fall back to late night sessions as a time to put a few words onto the page.  During weekends, I make the effort to get up early and write before anyone else is awake. As soon as my household stirs, my mind is divided and I no longer concentrate as well. 

Can you describe for us what you’re currently working on?

Attending the AROHO retreat has changed my work in many ways. First, I’ve become involved in this collaborative project, AROHO Writers Interview Team (AWIT).  Also, after talking to many of the wonderful bloggers whom I met there, I’ve mustered the courage to start my own blog.  Both of these projects have been so exciting. I’ve actually been dreaming about them! I generally don’t even remember my dreams so that’s really amazing

I’m also implementing another piece of advice from Kate Gale. She talked about outlining a work - start to finish, even a book of poetry. I’ve never before thought about doing that with my poetry so now I’m attempting to envision my theme for a new book of poems.

About Lisa: 
Lisa Rizzo is a poet and middle school language arts teacher who manages to combine her love of words and poetry with her day job. Born in Texas, Lisa grew up in Chicago and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area 30 years ago. Rizzo has participated in numerous poetry workshops around the Bay Area.  For five years, she led a poetry workshop herself, which culminated in the self-publication of a group chapbook, Five Windows. Her work has appeared in such journals as The Lucid Stone, 13th Moon, Writing for Our Lives, Earth’s Daughters, Bellowing Ark and Calyx Journal.  Her chapbook, In the Poem an Ocean was published by Big Table Publishing Co.  She recently entered the “blogosphere” with her blog Poet Teacher Seeks World.

Read Lisa Rozzo's interview of me answering the same questions.



  1. Thanks Marlene and Lisa!! You are both so talented and generous. It was a special pleasure and gift to have been in our late blooming group together. This post and your blog in general have encouraged me to stay true to the promises I made while at Ghost Ranch. So nice connecting here again!

  2. Very inspiring! i am so glad you had such a good time marlene and became so incredibly encouraged. This interview asked all the right questions. Lisa you had some really good food for thought in your answers!
    Samantha Stacia


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