Women Crushing It Wednesday: Author Sarah Joy Thompson
1) What is your name or nickname(s) you go by?
Sarah Joy Thompson
2) Why did you start writing?
Writing goes way back to my early childhood days in the 90s, when I would make cards for my parents and write, “I love you, mommy and daddy”. I grew fascinated with words: putting newly learned statements on paper, making handwritten letters for friends and pen pals, memorizing words for spelling tests, and working on my penmanship. Fast-forward to my angsty teenage years, when I was living in Cebu and volunteering at Rise Above Foundation Cebu. There I helped to write blog posts/newsletters and proofread the report cards of sponsored students. I also became a teacher at The Resource Room, Cebu and offered individual remedial instruction in reading, writing, and comprehension to students having difficulties in school. It was in Cebu that I fell in love with poetry and the practice of writing manuscripts. I was a terrible self-critic though, so I kept my personal writing a secret.
3) How long have you been a writer?
While I was in college, pursuing a BA in English at the University of Texas at San Antonio, I submitted my poetry to Sagebrush Review (UTSA's Student Run Literary & Art Journal). They published two of my poems in Sagebrush Review Volume XI, 2016, and boosted my confidence as a writer. Since then my poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, anthologies, and publications. I have written two poetry collections “The Everyday, the Mundane, and the Brave” (Finishing Line Press, 2019) and “Driving into Black Mountains” (FlowerSong Press, 2020). Presently I am pursuing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Texas at El Paso, where I hope to spread my wings as an author.
4) Since it is Filipino American History Month, how do you incorporate Filipino culture in your books?
As a child I was lucky to live in Baguio City with my missionary parents and spend time road tripping in the Mountain Province. In my latest poetry book, “Driving into Black Mountains” I pay homage to places I hold dear to my heart, including my favorite places in the Cordillera Region. The poems, “Sagada Orchids” and “Practices and Beliefs” are about the treasured landscapes tucked away in remote towns north of Baguio, and another poem, “Mindoro Days” was inspired by a kayaking trip on the Subaan River.
Recently I have been writing poems about my Filipino roots on my mother’s side of the family, such as poems that make me feel nostalgic about traditional foods, places, and celebrations. Here is one such poem about my mother’s cooking:
Visiting My Ilongga Mother
Ginger, garlic, and onion residue linger
Under the fingernails after
Grated and minced ingredients
Are thrown into the pot
Monggo soup simmers with coconut milk
Smells that remind me of mother’s cooking
Or how she enfolded us with life lessons
In a nurturing kitchen environment
This is the loveliness of cooking
Being able to traverse space and time
While preparing a simple meal
A cultural hand-me down
And always sitting back with anticipation
Trying and experimenting, perfecting the recipe
With a teaspoon of turmeric or curry powder
To appeal to my acquired tastes of aging
Mother’s recipes still live in my mind, in my kitchen
As I revisit the bridge that joins me to her bones
(*Ilongga is the feminine version of Ilonggo. Ilonggos form the majority in the province of Iloilo, Philippines, where my mother is from. She makes exceptional traditional dishes.)
5) For those who are unfamiliar with Filipino culture, what books do you recommend people read or what are some of your favorite books written by Filipino writers?
Lonely Planet, the travel guidebook publisher, has an informative travel book “Philippines”, which can help first-time travelers plan their visit. It includes places to stay, noteworthy restaurants, attractions, sites, etc. A memoir I would recommend is “The Eye of The Fish” by Luis H. Francia. And for poetry lovers, anything by Barbara Jane Reyes and Ma. Luisa Aguilar Igloria will not disappoint. There are also great bilingual books for young readers. Mt Cloud Bookshop in Baguio City has books in Tagalog and English. I got a few of their bilingual books while on vacation in 2018 and 2019.
6) What advice do you have for people who want to become a writer?
Write as often as possible, even daily if you can squeeze it in. Join writing communities to share your work and get feedback, participate in open mic events, and attend workshops. If you’ve already written a manuscript or you’re currently working on one, write a cover letter and send your work out to publishers, or excerpts of it to journals, anthologies, and publications.
If you’re based in San Antonio connect with: Write Art Out Inc, the Sun Poet’s Society, Gemini Ink, Stone in the Stream/ Roca en el Rio, and Austin Bat Cave.
7) Of all the poems you've written, which one is your favorite one and why?
I cherish the poems in my debut book, “The Everyday, the Mundane, and the Brave”. Those poems are intimate, soulful, and celebrate motherhood and our human longing for connection.
8) What are your social media platforms where people can follow your journey?
FB: Sarah Joy Thompson - Poet
9) What do you want your readers to take away from reading your book(s)?
I hope readers will be able to resonate with the stories, memories, and songs that are present throughout my work. Many of my poems are written in uncluttered free verse, so I would say that my poetry appeals to a large audience, even an individual who would not normally read poetry as a genre of choice.
10) How can people purchase your book(s)?
Connect with me on social media. I have books in my home office to sign and ship to you.
Order from my publishers and retailers:
DRIVING INTO BLACK MOUNTAINS
THE EVERYDAY, THE MUNDANE, AND THE BRAVE
11) Is there anything you would like to add?
I would like to thank my local writing communities, family members, friends, peers, and professors who have encouraged me and believed in my writing journey.
Final Thoughts From Shenel
I saw a post on the Filipinos of San Antonio Facebook group about Sarah's book signing at Sari-Sari last year. I purchased a copy of The "Everyday, The Mundane, and the Brave" during the event. As you know, I'm all about supporting women who are able to identify their passions and act on them. Everyone can have a dream but putting the steps in place to make a dream come true takes courage and perseverance. I read Sarah's poem "To My Sisters" shown below. I needed to read it during a time of healing from the passing of my sister last year. You know how you get so overwhelmed with emotion that it's difficult to identify how you feel? This poem was able to demonstrate the love that I had for my sister in such a beautiful way.
I hope you take the time to follow Sarah's journey and buy her books if you can. Her firsthand experience in the Philippines allows me to connect with my Filipino roots in a creative way and I would love to share that experience with others. I can't wait to see what she publishes next.
(Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are that of the owner. Any purchases made are between Sarah Joy Thompson and the buyer. No commission is made from featuring this writer on my blog).