August Artist Spotlight: Word Wizard, Julia Klatt Singer

* Hi Julia, what art form do you work in?

 I am a writer. I am mostly writing poetry these days, but started as a short story writer. I find myself writing stories quarterly, whereas I write poems daily.

* How did you first become interested in the arts?

 My sophomore year in high school I took a class titled Theme of Loss, and the two teachers, Ms. Klein and Ms. Miller, introduced to me the stories of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Tillie Olsen, J. D. Salinger, and John Irving. I remember most of what I read in that class and remember too thinking how great it would be to be able to write something that could change the way someone thought about the world, the way their stories changed the way I thought about mine.

* Do you have any advice for aspiring writers or artists in general?

 Read as much as you can. Read broadly. Don’t let fear stop you. Love what you’re doing. Trust that you’ll find your way.

 * How does teaching affect your own art?

 I love being able to spend my days with children and with words. Their words inspire me. It is both work and play and I try to make sure they know this about writing too.

* By the end of a week with you, what are a few things you hope most participants have learned?

 To trust their own voice. To not be afraid to say what they have to say. It is so important that they hear their own writing out loud. Words have both meaning and sound. Most students don’t read anything out loud in class, so to read their own writing is intimidating. But it is also important. All my favorite poems I heard out loud first. So I read poems to them and have them read theirs. And hopefully by the end of the week, they are more comfortable with words, their own and others.

* What does being a COMPAS artist mean to you?

 It’s a pretty cool thing to be able to work with students all around the state. And it makes the state feel more like home to me. Just knowing that there are kids in Eyota, Rochester, Roseau, Janesville, St. Paul, Holdingford, Hastings, Detroit Lakes, Mazeppa and Zumbrota that I’ve worked with over the years, gives all those places faces and names and stories that I remember. Many of them are grown-ups now and I hope stories and poems are still a part of their lives.

* Why do you think arts education is needed in our community?

It is through the arts that education comes alive. We know the world through our senses and art is something that requires that we use our senses to experience it. I also believe that through our stories, we create both community and understanding. Community, for me, is sharing our experiences, our lives, and the beauty around us.  

* How do you practice creativity in your everyday life?

 I write a poem just about every day. Ditto for taking pictures. And when the words aren’t coming, I paint.

* You recently had your second book, Untranslatable published. Can you tell us a little about it? What was the inspiration for it?

 Untranslatable is a book of poems written from untranslatable words—words that exist in other languages that we don’t have in English. January was the inspiration. Winter. I stumbled on a list of ten untranslatable words--words like komorebi (Japanese) that means the sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees—and started writing. It was escape mostly. Escape from winter and the closed in world that January in Minnesota has to offer. I loved that words like mokita (New Guinean) the truth everyone knows but nobody says, exists, even if we don’t have that word in English.

* What does it feel like to be a published author? Does it feel different the second time around?

 It does feel different the second time around. I think it feels a little like running a race. The first time you are so happy you made it to the finish, elated. The second time you know you can finish, and there is a strength in that. I think too, that the focus shifts. It becomes more about the writing, and less about that fact that you are writing it. For me, writing is always best when I’m the least important part of it. When it is about the words or the idea or the feeling or the moment and I am just the means for getting it onto paper.