I’m loving getting to know many of the folks here. And I hope you do too. Today, I’d like to introduce you to challengeer and poet Kelvin Fowler.
KEL: I am a Kiwi, and with my wife Sharon am church-planting in Lithuania. We have approximately eighty children– or at least our church ministers to approximately eighty children in a local orphanage.
JOANNE: You’ve done a lot of traveling. What is your favorite place that you’ve been/lived?
KEL: I liked Anapra, Mexico: the vibrancy and danger of living in a desert slum hugging the New Mexico border. But my favorite place to live was amongst the raw passion of Glasgow, Scotland. Something about the juxtaposition of addicts, football hooligans and IRA marches backdropped with Bible college, excellent worship and an overwhelming presence of God.
Also, of course home — Dunedin, New Zealand — is always better, not necessarily because it is, but because it is home.
JOANNE: I understand writing isn’t your only creative outlet. What kind of painting do you do?
I love to have oil paint on my fingers. I love the paint’s smell, sensitivity and subtlety. Mostly with oils I am abstract. I also enjoy the instant results of acrylics and like to paint both architecture and political cartoons. I am presently exploring a little with watercolors. Once a month I also enjoy cartooning our church teaching theme. However I only have one day off a week and that is mostly spent with my writing projects.
JOANNE: When did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Have you considered trying other formats for the Writing Challenge?
KEL: I first tasted writing at about eleven years old, when I was asked to read a poem in front of my country school. My family is quite practical and encouraged me into other things, so I never really picked up my pen again until about ten years later.
I have always loved writing poetry and loved watching where God takes it. I also have written an unpublished book of short stories and a self-published travel humor story. And yes, I will be trying other formats for the Writing Challenge. Time is my issue and at the moment the Writing Challenge is competing with my latest writing project, a travel/humor account of cycling across Lithuania.
JOANNE: You have written several books. Can you tell us about the process? What are they about? How were they published? Why?
KEL: Oh, big questions. My coolest book is not published, but it is for sale on my blog and was written entirely during the worship sets of a conference and then read before the teaching. So many people asked for my poems that after giving them away, I put them in book form and sold them to interested people. On-line self-publishing websites and now ebooks really make this easy.
I often write about the things that hurt me and the things that I have come across as a missionary; social injustice is perhaps my strongest theme. Spouse abuse, human trafficking, orphans, malnutrition, war and communism repeatedly come up.
I self-publish my books, for a few reasons really. I am a little too lazy to follow the project through and lack the skills to find a publisher. Frankly I am still very much learning how to write well enough for mainstream publishers and as I said, on-line publishing is just so easy.
My next book is titled ‘Dancing Battlefield’ and is a twenty-eight page poem about the world’s poor. It is presently locked up in a competition, and if it doesn’t pick up a publisher through the competition I may send it out to other publishers. But I am learning quickly that most people are not actually interested in the world’s poor. I am also beginning to learn that without a lot of risk-taking and capital upfront, there is not a lot of money in self-publishing, so perhaps ebooks may become a focus.
I am also published in secular literary magazines and am pretty much willing to send my poetry off to anyone who may use it.
JOANNE: How did you find FaithWriters? How has it helped you?
KEL: I have been continuously frustrated with secular literary magazines not liking me writing about God. I was born at the beginning of the post-modern era and love the tension between the Kingdom and the world. I don’t like segregating my work or my life between Christian and non-Christian. I want to write and speak the same language to all. In search of a literary home beyond my blog that would allow me to surf this tension and with a little help from Google, I found FaithWriters.
Each week I consider myself the winner of the ‘Best of the Best’ for just getting my challenge entry in. FaithWriters is forcing me to write to a deadline and to write about things that perhaps would not usually cross my mind. FaithWriters and literary magazine rejections are honing my art.
JOANNE: What are your goals as a writer?
My goals in life are to become closer to God, to be an awesome husband and a great pastor. Writing is a day off hobby way in the distance. But my writing goals are; to be picked up by mainstream publishers, to have my writing pay its own way: this includes upgrading the technology, paying for research travel and paying editors and proof-readers. Also in the far distant future, I wouldn’t mind securing a residency. My other big goal is crawling out of level 3 and into level 4 of the writing challenge.
JOANNE: I’m sure you’ll achieve your goals – especially that last one Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
KEL: I also love reading poetry and short stories and have done many public readings. This November I am both nervous and excited to be gigging my way across the UK and Ireland. This is my first ever poetry tour and I need to make enough money to pay for my plane, train and ferry fares. It promises to be a lot of fun and a good promotion for FaithWriters as I read some of my challenge entries.
The last thing I want to say, but do not quite know if or how I should say it. My poems are mostly written from life, things I have experienced and things I have seen. I am aware that a lot of my stuff is too raw and that I need to write closer to a World Vision advertisement where though we are staring at utter poverty the only thing we notice is the beauty of the photo.
Many people comment that there is no hope in my poems. I am trying to learn how or if to put it there. I know that we all have hope in Christ, but when I am writing from the perspective of an orphan who has just gone to jail, well there isn’t a lot of hope in that mind. So this is my struggle, writing about poverty in a way that does not offend or alienate the reader. Any advice would be welcome.
Thanks, Kel. I look forward to watching your talent develop. And you ask some great questions. Hope some of our readers have advice for you!