Our latest Author Spotlight piece, part of a series exclusive to Coffee Time Reviews, features an interview with Reinfred Addo, writer, speech-language pathologist, and graphic designer, of Ghanaian and American descent. Reinfred is the author of poetry chapbook, The Dedicadas, recently reviewed by our writer Ed Bedford, who wholeheartedly recommends it.
An award-winning poet, Reinfred’s work spans across several avenues, all focused on his passion for writing. He has contributed health humanities creative writing content to official anthologies, but he is largely drawn to poetry, due to its language playfulness and ability to reveal people’s deepest secrets.
CTR: How did you decide to become an author?
Reinfred: Authorship, in my mind, has always been an extension of writing, so I’ve always felt that becoming an author would be a natural step to take. I see writing as an act that does not necessarily require readers outside of the writer, whereas authorship seeks readers outside of the writer; however, I feel the two are companions (writing to feed one’s own internal needs and allowing other people’s eyes on your work). So, once I was comfortable enough with people seeing my work, the most efficient way to get exposure was to do the ‘author’ thing.
CTR: Was your journey into authorship a smooth one or did you encounter challenges along the way?
Reinfred: Even though I’ve been taking creative writing seriously for about six years now, my poetry chapbook The Dedicadas is the first thing I’ve authored. If I had to assign a smooth-challenging scale to the process of authoring and publishing The Dedicadas, I’d say it was 80% smooth and 20% challenging. The biggest factor that went into the smooth portion was planning and having access to helpers: planning in that I have over the years accumulated a checklist of things to do during the publication process; access to helpers in that I know people in the poetry and graphic design world who vetted the manuscript and visual aesthetics/language to make sure I was putting forth sound work.
The biggest factor for the ‘challenging’ portion was accepting myself as a ‘true’ author: the model I used for publishing was a pay-to-publish one and not the traditional model whereby the publisher incurs the upfront costs, aka the part of the industry that usually sets the standards and gatekeeps regarding what is deemed worthy of publication. Because of this I occasionally felt that I was simply buying the ‘author’ tag and not necessarily earning it. I feel my work was well received by others but I think the time it took me to accept that the quality of my writing earned me the ‘author’ tag was longer than it would have been had I been traditionally published.
CTR: What inspires you the most in your writing?
Reinfred: This one is tough because I have a lot of different things that inspire me. That said I go through what I call ‘Ages’, meaning for a time period a particular aspect of life fuels my content then during another time period a different aspect of life fuels me. Currently, I’m in what I call the Age of Identity, whereby I write a lot of content with attention to topics such as ethnicity, race/racism, and migranthood. Another Age that is very memorable was the Age of Nature when I wrote lots of nature and ecopoetry.
CTR: How does your poetry writing process look like?
Reinfred: Poems come to me at different parts of the day and in different contexts. I can be in a reflective mood or I can be at a gathering with lots of activity, it doesn’t matter, the poem comes when it decides to come. I’ve just learned to recognize these moments for what they are and write down the ideas before they leave my mind.
Sometimes I’ll jot down the ideas in my Moleskine notebook first and then later, in the Notepad program on my computer. I’ll edit/refine them and shape them into their final poem form. Other times I’ll type immediately into Notepad and skip the notebook. Other times too I’ll note the ideas in the text message app on my phone, send the text to myself, then do notebook and Notepad or skip notebook and go from text message straight to Notepad. Of course, I’ll also use tools as needed, such as the thesaurus, dictionary, online or print research, and spelling/grammar checker.
CTR: Is there a writing tip you would recommend during writer’s block?
Reinfred: For me, engaging the mind in a different creative activity is usually effective in breaking the block. I will usually doodle or play music, but I think what matters more is that whatever activity I do allows my mind to be free, open, and uninhibited to receiving thoughts and ideas that I can then transfer to poem form.
CTR: What advice would you give your younger self?
Reinfred: I’d tell my younger self to love the process as much as the product. I used to be less patient and had the notion that every writing session needs to result in a piece of poetry. Whenever I’d come out with nothing I would not be satisfied because, in my mind, I had not been productive. Now I find that the act of just being present and going through the process of writing is just as rewarding, even when the process doesn’t lead to a product immediately. Ironically enough, the vast majority of my favorite poems I’ve written have come after I learned to not worry about having an end product all the time.
CTR: What are 3 books you would recommend to Coffee Time Reviews readers and can you give a brief reason why for each book?
Reinfred: Firstly, The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes. This is my favorite Hughes book and Hughes is my favorite poet so it holds a special place in my heart. The musicality of Hughes’s lines as well as the clarity with which he speaks about topics such as racism makes it a top read.
Secondly, The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. This one falls somewhere along the spectrum of memoir and essay and is a nuanced look at the lives of those who migrate to the United States. What Cornejo Villavicencio does that I particularly like is she allows the full humanity of the people in the book to come alive instead of writing caricatures of whatever good or bad stereotypes we may associate with migrants. The people aren’t just ‘good’ or ‘bad’, they are fully human with human motivations and desires.
Then, there’s a tie between Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, Joanna Penn’s books for author-preneurs, and Selling Your Poetry Book by James P. Wagner. I like Me Talk Pretty One Day for Sedaris’s humor and ability to write about typical life experiences (e.g., childhood music lessons) in a way that makes them special. I like Penn’s books because they provide actionable steps to help writers and authors who want to turn their writing craft into more than a hobby. I like Wagner’s book for the same reason, plus it is specifically about poetry, which has unique challenges that are not typically addressed in broad-scope and general author-preneur books.
Thank you for reading Author Spotlight, a series of interviews with authors who are happy to share the tools of the trade with our CTR readers. If you’re an author and would like to be featured, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. For any author suggestions, leave us a comment and we’ll try to chase them up. And if you’d like to support our independent publication, please consider doing so through our Donations page.