Oh you know what time it is. It’s time for my favorite feature here at Wrays of Sunshine, Meet! This time around we’re having a sit down with Mrs. Katherine Ramirez Massey. She’s a full-time writer and all-around badass. We discuss the art of resting and new projects on her horizon. I can’t wait!
Ladies, fellows and everyone in between, Meet: Katherine Ramirez Massey!
State your name for the record, please.
Katherine Ramirez Massey.
What’s your art form (and you have so many, so you’ve got to encompass them all)?
I would say communications is my art form. I love everything about it. That’s why I became a writer. That’s why I do what I do.
How do you find your voice and continue to find your voice as you grow and change?
It took me a really long time just to feel comfortable in my own skin and to feel confident about how I view the world and how much my perspective actually does matter in the grand scheme of things. As I grow, what helps me come into my own is my strong belief that everything that happens in life is a lesson and an opportunity for you to evolve as a person. So I am constantly evolving and changing. As I continue living and exploring new avenues of communication I’m discovering new things and learning more and applying it. That helps me become more aware and gives me the confidence to be more myself and less all these other things that I was.
That’s a beautiful idea, but it seems like that would be very complicated to achieve on the day-to-day.
It’s not. People make living a lot harder than what it should be. There’s a lot of focus on huge bad things that happen; this global perspective where you want to change the world and do huge things that seem overwhelming. But if you take it to the local level, to yourself and to that around you, you learn that you can affect everything on a global scale just by changing your surroundings inside. You can radiate that out. That’s part of why I love communication, and writing especially, it’s such a simple way of changing the world; just to know that you have a voice and that you can use your voice for good. You can influence others, exchange new ideas, you can redefine words and concepts, explore old ideas. Writing is a wonderful tool. When used correctly, even with just pen and paper, you can change somebody else’s whole life and perspective.
You’ve written and I’ve seen you perform many, many great poems. How do you go from sharing such personal, cut-to-the-bone experiences in your poetry and then turn off that voice to write professionally?
It’s all about control, just like everything else. One thing that a lot of people don’t know about me or do know and just don’t remember is that I actually went to college for singing. When you’re a vocalist they teach you about breath control, diaphragm control, and how your whole body works as a unit to deliver the sound. You learn how you can turn off certain parts of your vocal chords to get that pitch-perfect sound. The same thing goes for writing. When you’re writing, you’re not just doing it for yourself. When it’s for someone else, you can turn certain things off and focus on the message. When I’m writing for a client they have very specific things they want me to do. It’s about finding where your unique voice belongs within that. If that makes sense. It’s hard to explain, but I just learned to separate, to compartmentalize.
When writing professionally, for example ghost-writing blogs, do you ever feel weird that your name isn’t on it when you see it posted later?
In the beginning I was a little weirded out by it, but I just really enjoy having other people see the value of services that companies offer in a positive way. When I do a good job for a client and I know that they’re satisfied, that’s really all the satisfaction that I need. And I hate to say it, but if you’re not a journalist, marketing and ghost-writing…that’s kind of where all the money is. The other option is having your own blog like you have. Your blog is freaking wonderful.
Thank you! I love blogging for a great many reasons, one of which is that it’s my own little corner of the internet where I make the rules. How do you handle rules and deadlines? Do you thrive under the pressure? Does it inspire you to get things done or is it a stressful situation that you try to stay on top of?
Hah! Oh man, loaded question! I love deadlines. I thrive on deadlines. I hate when clients say, just do it whenever you can. That’s the cool thing about working for yourself. You can set your own parameters and your own rules. I don’t work without deadlines. Deadlines are really important for several reasons, not just to give me an idea of when I need to get things done for them, but also in consideration for my other clients. It gives me a timeframe and that way I can prioritize, organize and give you my best work. Sometimes I prefer longer deadlines, but no deadline at all is not ideal. That’s why I love journalism, too.
You wrote for the Orlando Sentinel for a while, do you still?
No, actually, I’m not really writing for any local publications now. I wrote a couple pieces for the Orlando Weekly recently, but I haven’t heard back from them yet. I’m on break right now, so it’s just practice for me. I’m taking a break to regroup and start submitting to magazines. There is a magazine for every single person in the world and there are thousands of publications that cater to every kind of person imaginable. There is zero excuse why I shouldn’t submit things that I care about. It’ll take some time, but I think it’ll pay off, too. It’s time to level up as my brother, Michael, says.
Yes! I might have to borrow that term! And yes, writing has so many echelons to it. Do you have ambitions to write novels?
Yes. I’m working on that as well. This is my Achilles heel as a writer! It’s every writer’s dream to be a novelist, but you have to be really, really good and really, really lucky to be successful. Truly successful, I mean. There’s a lot to be said for self publishing and things like that but I mean an old school legit publishing house. Submitting a manuscript, being accepted, being published, you know. You have to work for many, many years and be really lucky. That’s the dream of course, but there’s a certain satisfaction in saying, I’m okay with ghost-writing. I’m okay with writing for others because I’m getting to do what I love and hone my craft. That said, my Everest has been trying to find my fiction voice. Our dear friend Rachel Kapitan has been helping me with that a lot over the years.
Oh, she’s so great!
She is. She’s my fiction mentor. I don’t see her very often, but when we do get together she always gives me that pep talk that revs me up again. So thanks to her I’ve been able to explore novel-writing. There’s one I’ve been working on for about seven or eight years called Little People Watching that I don’t ever think is going to see the light of day. I’ll be satisfied just to finish it. I’m reworking it into a different direction. What I’m thinking is restructuring it into a short story anthology. The characters deserve more attention. I have another one called Dead Squirrel Diaries which I started as a blog project. Each entry in the blog was a chapter. I started that a couple of years ago and never followed through. It’s about a woman who, when you first meet her, is waking up from a drunken stupor. You find out things about her relationships with friends and family and how all those things that damage her lead up to this one particular night but you still don’t know what happened the night before that lead to the drunken stupor. There’s a short story I recently finished called Pamplona in the Spring, it’s a short-short story, maybe 2000 words. It’s a woman’s letter to her ex-lover detailing why she broke up with him and why she did it the way she did. There’s another about a man on his first day out of prison after several years, going home to make amends with his mother. There’s a lot! I love writing about the human experience. A lot of these details and characters are from parts of me or people in my life. That’s what makes it so hard to get into a fictional voice because so much is confessional. It requires a level of openness to myself that I am sometimes not ready for. Poetry is one thing because you can just write it and it’s out there. There’s one that comes mind that I wrote called No Doors. It’s about how I grew up in a house with no doors because my dad was involved in some not great stuff when we were younger. He took the doors off the hinges so that he could hear intruders coming into the house in case anything happened. When you’re involved in things that aren’t great a lot of times they’ll kill your family before they kill you. Little details like that I can put in a poem, get it out, it’s purged and I’m done with it. But with a novel or short story there’s so much of a character that you have to put in. I could talk about this for hours. I’m fascinated by very complex characters. So yes, novels.
You’re on a three-month break, yes?
Yes. We’re blessed that my husband’s job pays all our bills. I was the primary breadwinner while he was in school and job hunting and after my mom passed away, so this is my time. He suggested a two month minimum to take that time. So I’m saying 3 months, but I may be bored. I’m targeting August or September to return to work.
Right on. So, on your break, well, wait, how do you do that? I was sick a couple weeks ago and Matt actually had to make me promise that I wasn’t going to do anything else except rest for a weekend. And it was hard!
With a lot of self pep talks. This is good for you. You need this. I had been talking about breaking since January. It was supposed to start in March and then I just kept delaying it. One of my clients needed more time to replace me. It went from early March to mid April to the end of April. Everybody told me you need it, but the biggest indicator was that I was so mentally exhausted. I was starting to hate writing. Which, to me, cannot be. I don’t know how to do anything else. I mean, I can do other stuff. I’ve worked at banks, in retail, and in non-profit. I can do anything I want to, but there’s no fulfillment in anything else. I had taken on all these different projects. I spread myself too thin. I was also working as a copy editor at the Orlando Weekly. I was editing the calendar section, the largest section. I turned something in and my editor spent an hour going through it. The next week she was very kind about it, everyone there is nothing but wonderful, and I felt so awful. She had to call me in to say we love you, but I think you’re spreading yourself too thin. That’s when I knew I needed a break. When you need it, you just figure out how to get it done. It’s been hard because I want to do stuff. If I’m not stressing about work I find other reasons, but it’s going well. My only fear is that I’ll get too used to it and won’t want to go back. But that’s unlikely.
That’s my fear for sure. That one weekend was so great. And then I ended up oversleeping into Monday! I was like this is why I don’t relax.
But your body needs it. I have to tell you on my last day of work, April 18th, that night it was so weird. This never happens to me, but I was finishing these event listings for a client and as it got closer to 6—when I was set to say okay, this is as far as I got, you have to take it from here—my hands started shaking. I kept saying I’m just gonna finish this. I started getting sick to my stomach. My body said no. That night was the best sleep I’ve had in seven years. I just needed that. And I’m rediscovering things about myself on this break. This is for me. To find my creativity again because I’m 35 years old, if I don’t figure out what I’m gonna do soon, I am fucked!
It’s true! You gotta do what you gotta do.
I totally agree. I’m so proud of you! Get it, girl!
I’ve been looking at your blog a lot, at the projects you’re doing. I’ve taken up landscaping, too. I’ve never worked in the yard before. My dad always said it was for the boys. We’re building a greenhouse and we’re adding a rainwater collection system and a compost pile. There’ll be a rock garden in the yard and a fire pit. I’m getting my hands dirty. It’s cool!
Not only are you an awesome, talented artist, but you are married to an awesome, talented artist. Do you have any words of wisdom in terms of maintaining a creative on creative relationship?
Rawko is a visual artist, he does a lot of building and refinishing. He’s a drafter, so he works with AutoCAD. We work well together because we both recognize that we each have strengths the other doesn’t. My advice is to be open to the other person’s talents and seek to learn something new from them. Be active participants in the creative process together. The collaborative process is a test of communication and test of interpersonal feelings that is really rewarding.
Do you have any musical collaborations in the works?
Not at the moment. I’m thinking about doing some recording. I’ve been blessed to have married into a family that loves music. Rawko’s been playing harmonica for 20 years. His cousin is Dirt McCoy, his other cousin is Jeff Ilgenfritz, of Mumpsy. Jeff and Dirt have a new band called Moon Men From Mars. It’s a punk band! Rawko has been focusing more on visual art. I’m really attracted to blues and jazz standards. Our house is a blues house. My brother plays guitar. He took a class in high school, but he’s mostly self-taught. So I’m thinking of forming a blues band, but nothing in the works just yet.
So you mentioned earlier in the week that you were working on your blog. I need you to tell me all about it. Where can I find it and what’s it all about? Give it to me!
The blog is called 90-Day R&R. The R&R stands for restoration and regeneration. I started it just after I began my break. For a while we went to church called Resound. We’ve really been exploring our spiritual side. I grew up going to church so it’s a thing for me. So, we went to Resound and the pastor’s mom Deborah, (Thomas Wynn and the Believers’ mom), told me one day as we were praying that any time she thought of me she thought the words restoration and regeneration. She didn’t know what was going on with me, but it fit. The blog is about everything I do during this time of rest. I’m excited to share all our projects in the yard and trips that we’re taking. Purely just a chronicle. I’m finding that I’m not as good at blogging for myself.
What?! Let’s explore this.
Surprising thing! People think when you’re a writer that you’re automatically inclined to journaling but I have never been someone who’s effectively kept a journal every single day. Blogging is a little bit like journaling. I just get caught up with life and forget to do it. So I’m taking this time to retrain myself and give myself the opportunity to share those things with the world. My works of poetry and fiction are on Monochrome Lit. I’m also starting another blog called Pop Talk Today. That is about my other passion: celebrity gossip. I am ridiculous with pop culture blogging and celebrity news. I have a lot of things to say about a lot of things having to do with celebrities. I’m really excited about it. My favorite blog, Lainey Gossip, written by Elaine Lui. She’s my inspiration. She doesn’t just write about it, she inserts thoughts on feminism, culture, and family. She sees celebrity as a statement on society as whole, a study in human relationships. Her blog inspired me to just go out and do it. You know, you get a lot of criticism from other writers, like why write about that when there’s so much out there but somebody needs to do the vanity stuff, too. There’s a place in the world for everybody.
So, inquiring minds want to know, okay, what the fuck is Solange pissed about? What happened in the elevator?
There have been rumors for years that Jay Z has cheated on Beyoncé and is sort of abusive. It’s hard to believe because Beyoncé has always had this image that she’s a woman of the world and who rules the world? Girls. This whole thing has been a complete public relations disaster from the beginning. There are a lot of rumors that what Solange was really pissed about was that Jay Z was going to a party without Beyoncé and that he was flirting with an old girlfriend at the Met Gala. There was also a rumor that Solange was drunk. I’ve watched it, she doesn’t look drunk, she looks pissed. So, I think what we’re seeing really is the fact that Beyoncé doesn’t have a perfect life, that her attempts to control her image so microscopically have failed. The whole Beyoncé and Jay Z machine is a bit of smoke and mirrors and it’s starting to unravel. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a separation announcement in a few months. Right now this is a united front to keep the machine working. It’s a business.
I heard it here first! So, are there any answers to questions rattling around your head that I’ve yet to ask and/or is there anything else you’d like to share with the world just now?
I think you’ve touched on everything, writing, music. I’ve started exploring visual arts, painting. My big passion for celebrity gossip, thank you for including that. Other than that, I’m just trying to live life. I’m blessed to do what I do. I never thought I’d have my own business. I always thought I’d be a worker bee, and to an extent I am because I work for clients, but at the end of the day I’m still my own boss. It’s a lot of work. One misconception is that working on your own is easy and you’ll have all this time. I can tell you from experience that I’ve never worked harder than on my own, working from home. You have to be very disciplined and I was not when I started. The changing and evolving applies here too. Surround yourself with good people who understand that negativity is not an option. There’s no time to keep toxicity around. There’s no room for it. Take time to find your spiritual center, whatever that means to you, so that you can get to know the creative side of you. Make time for family and friends. I’ve been a recluse, focused so much on work. Find a balance and be sure that what you’re doing is what you really, really love. I believe you only live once. When you get to a certain age you realize that there’s just no time. You blink your eyes and you’re 35 and your day is almost done, and your week, and your year.
Thanks a million, Katherine! It’s always a pleasure to see you! Good look with your new blogs, resting and leveling up. You got it, ladyfriend!
And thank you, sweet readers, for meeting another one of my friends! I have to share because I have all the best ones!
*images c/o Katherine Ramirez Massey