I have a début author on the blog today, whose book, Pieces of Humanity, a collection of poetry and prose, has just been published by Daisy Lane Publishing.
Skylar’s a member of one of my mentoring groups, and it’s been a thrill to watch the lead-up to publication from such close range. I was also lucky enough to hear Skylar reading from her book at her launch on Saturday. Her poetry and prose don’t shy away from difficult subjects, such as depression, suicide and euthanasia.
Read on as Skylar has a discussion with her ‘alter-ego’ about writing under a pseudonym and the freedom that gave her.
Skylar J Wynter is a fledgling author, budding new poet on the performance poetry scene and winner of the 2020 KSP Unpublished Author Program. Upon completing her debut novel, Pieces of Humanity; Wynter signed a contract with Daisy Lane Publishing, and has produced a stunning mosaic of verse and prose made out of humanity’s broken pieces, bravely painting for us the fractured self and raising such important questions as respect for self, respect for others and the importance of being heard. Being the alter-ego of a busy rural housewife Wynter sits in the passenger seat much of the time but by her own admission has become an accomplished backseat driver and resides in the tranquillity of the Perth Hills.
You can find Skylar on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and buy a copy of Pieces of Humanity from Booktopia.
INTERVIEW WITH AN ALTER-EGO
Q. Skylar J Wynter, give it to us straight. Just who and what are you? I’ve been hearing rumours and, quite frankly, I’m confused. Is this just a pen name or are you a real person?
A. Skylar J Wynter started as a pen name for a woman who felt her name was pretty unremarkable, then she accidentally fell into performing her poetry live and quickly realised doing that as herself was debilitating and fraught with all kinds of anxiety-ridden repercussions. I told her to snap out of her histrionics and turn me into a real girl in good old Pinocchio fashion so I could be the one to perform, to smash through comfort zones, to do and say and write all the things that were terrifying to her.
Q. You don’t seem very sympathetic.
A. I object. I offered her freedom from self. I’ve given her a set of wings. (Actually, that’s a good idea. I should tell her I want her to add wings to my outfit). Now she doesn’t have to be afraid of anything because it’s not her on the line, it’s me, and I’m just a character so what does it matter if people like me or not?
Q. So, you became a real girl as you put it, an alter ego in the flesh to keep her identity a secret, which in turn removed the fear factor, which in turn removed all limitation from her creative genius?
A. Well, I don’t know that we’d call it genius, would we? But yes, exactly. You’re very quick.
Q. So, tell me about your book, Pieces of Humanity. This is a mixed-genre collection of poems and flash fiction. Were you already writing it before you began performing your poems live or did the idea blossom after that?
A. This book was one of those fortuitous accidents that plays out when you least expect it. I was busy working on a novel when women in my writing group suggested entering short story competitions to see if I could get a few runs on the board before I submitted my novel to publishers. I started entering flash fiction competitions and found myself writing poems and submitting them as well. I thought poetry was dead so I’d never really considered writing a collection and trying to get it published. Anyway, one thing led to another, and I noticed that KSP Fellowship submissions for the Unpublished Writer Programme were open, so I submitted the idea for this mixed collection and I won.
Q. So did the theme emerge or did you plan everything out before writing pieces?
A. I am definitely a pantser. At any given time, I write whatever comes. I’d written a lot of the work in response to competition entry criteria or prompts, but when I looked at all the pieces I realised a theme had evolved. As I kept writing, the theme kept evolving, and the works seemed to take on this exploration of the fractured self via topics of trauma, suicide, social madness, community issues like domestic violence, mental health and discussion that was already happening around equality, euthanasia and our right to choose.
Q. So was winning the Unpublished Writer Program a pivotal point in this collection becoming published?
A. Absolutely. Up until then nothing I’d written and submitted into competitions had placed or even been long- or short-listed. There was a bit of angst around this for me as everyone who was hearing or reading my work was giving positive feedback, yet I could not get any runs on the board. I even paid a mentor to assess my work and help me figure out what was lacking, but even that didn’t show up any major flaws although there were areas I could improve. Winning this validated that what I’d submitted had promise.
Q. You mentioned the ‘fractured self’. What does this mean? Why do you think your manuscript explores this so deeply?
A. Like almost every other human who walks the planet, my life has been affected by trauma. As I was finding my way back to myself, I noticed that one of the reasons I was feeling so broken and alone in my experience was that what I was projecting on the outside was very different to what was going on for me internally. I wondered if that was the reality for all of us? Without me actually planning it, my stories and poems became explorations of the many selves and the societal madness that drives us to continually need these selves to cope or appear normal, whilst hiding our true internal experience. The stories and poems pose many questions because I have many questions, and I’d rather keep asking questions than get locked in a rigid opinion that’s only ever going to be based solely on personal experience but not necessarily on truth.
Essentially, my writing is a way for me to make sense of all the layers and issues that plague us as communities and individuals.
Q. If you were only ever allowed to ask one question of anyone what would it be?
A. If they could answer without fear of repercussion, judgement, opinion or someone offering advice on how to fix ‘it’ or ‘them’, I’d ask: Who are you beneath the surface?
Skylar has donated a copy of her book, Pieces of Humanity, to giveaway.
To enter, simply comment on the blog or any of my social media posts about Skylar’s book.
The winner will be drawn 12pm (WST) this Thursday, 15th October, and will be chosen randomly.
International entries are welcome, but we can only post to an Australian address.
Stories and poems that pose questions rather than give answers … brilliant.
I also love the way this post, and the whole Attic series, reassures us as writers that there are myriad ways to create, and many roads to fulfilment as a writer. So good.
Thanks Skylar and Louise! x
Yes, I loved that line, too—a great approach to writing any book, I think.
Thanks for your kind words about this series. xx
Thank you for commenting. Yes, one of the biggest things I have learned in this whole process is that there are infinite ways to be a writer, which is brilliant because we do all have our own unique voice and it is helpful to know nothing is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
I love what Skylar says about the difference in what goes on outside to what is happening on the inside. I wonder what would happen if people didn’t feel forced to hide. Look forward to reading more from Skylar.
It would be interesting to see what happened if we just said if we were having a bad day. Thanks for reading. 🙂
Hi Amorina. Thank you for your musings. Yes, wondering how the world would look if we could just be and not hide, plagues my writerly mind. I think the biggest thing that comes from at least understanding there is an inner and external self is compassion and hopefully that creates an environment where we can all feel less like we need to hide. xx
Wonderful to hear Skylar is combining genres – a meld so to speak and creating, and finding, the new! And to find poetry – that is a joy!
This is the thing—there are a million ways to write a book! 🙂
Thanks Poets Kitchen. It is a joy to just write what is there and have it accepted even when it is a little or a lot different to the norm.
How creative, flowing freely. All is grist for the mill…which sounds hard work, but is actually incredibly liberating.Thanks for this, a fascinating read and connections.
If you look at life and its experiences as making us who we are, grist for the mill as you say, it is liberating. Thanks, Helen. 🙂
Thanks for reading and commenting Helen. Life is grist for the mill and being able to write it all down is very liberating.
I think this is a book I will find a great deal to relate to. Great q&a
I heard Skylar read from it last weekend, and the poetry is so dynamic when performed. It’s a very thoughtful book. 🙂
It would be, is that available to listen to as a recording?
Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/skylarjwynterauthor/videos/664167051201698
Great, thank you
As a friend who has been lucky enough to know and love Skylar’s real life creator for almost thirty years, I’m so happy to read this interview and note that any other readers will now become aware of the hilarious and rapier-sharp wit and fun that exists side-by-side with the serious poet. A novel will be utterly different from the poetry, when it comes, but equally as brilliant and unique. Skylar, enjoying your quilt graphic – I presume you made it yourself in your ‘spare time’!
You are so right, Jenny—she does have a sharp wit and is full of fun! I can’t wait for her novel, too. 🙂