Interview with Author CJ Heck

My guest today is CJ Heck.  Hello, CJ!  Welcome to Writing in the Modern Age!  It’s such a pleasure to have you.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?

The name of the book is Anatomy of a Poet.  It came out on April 18, 2013. I've been told it is direct and with no pretension, which is nice, because that's what I've tried to do.   All too often, poetry is written so abstractly that it leaves the reader with more questions as to the point of the writing, rather than the insight, or inspiration.  

Says one reviewer:  "This is not true of these poetic verses.  The words are poignant, resonating feelings to the reader -- words from the heart that penetrate a reader's heart.  The poetry is rich with memoir, rife with humor and, at times, it is delightfully sensual in nature."  

Personally Autographed:

You should also be able to buy it in most bookstores.  If not, ask, and they will get it for you.
Great, CJ!  Is there anything that prompted your latest book? Something that inspired you?

"There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken. There is a shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable. There is a sorrow beyond all grief, which leads to joy. And a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength. There is a hollow space too vast for words through which we pass with each loss, out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being." ~ Bri Maya Tiwari

That quote astutely describes not only my life, but the poetry in Anatomy of a Poet, which was written over a period of nearly forty years.  

One of six children, I grew up in a small Ohio town and married my high school sweetheart at nineteen.  A Vietnam War widow at twenty, I went on too soon to marry and then divorce twice more.  I made a lot of choices, some good, some not so good, but as one of the poems in the book ends, " least I made choices.  How sad for those who merely hitchhike along, never daring to choose at all."

I have three beautiful daughters, nine grandsons, two granddaughters, and a wonderful partner, Robert Cosmar.  I have finally learned that true happiness begins and ends within me.  I would have to say then that everything in my life has inspired me.
So, when did you know you wanted to write?  Or has it always been a pastime of yours?

I think my love for writing came from an overactive imagination in childhood. I was always pretending and creating magical adventures -- I think I put more miles on mama's broom than she ever did, because it was my pony and I rode it everywhere.

My love of poetry, rhyme, and rhythm came from my mother. When it was raining, she would often entertain us by teaching us tongue twisters while she ironed. The love for both prose and poetry only grew stronger as I went through school and English was always my favorite class.

When I became a mother, I often made up bedtime stories or poems for my three daughters which they wanted retold time and again.  This inspired me to come up with even more. 

When mother heard them, she told me I should write them down and get them published.  At that time, I pooh-poohed the idea -- with three youngsters, I had precious little time for myself.  Still, I secretly scribbled poems and stories in notebooks which were piled high on a corner of my desk. 

I didn't begin writing seriously until the 1990's, when one of my now grown daughters picked up one of the notebooks and began to read. She said, "Mom, you really should DO something with these. They're good. They're really good!"

With that (hopeful) thought in mind, I set up a website for children, posting the poems and stories I had written, plus those I was still writing. Then I began to get requests from parents and teachers -- where could they buy my book?

So, I took that as a challenge.  I decided to give it six months. I quit my full time job, knuckled down, and began the daunting task of sending manuscripts to publishers. After 5 1/2 months, (and a pile of rejections) I received a publishing contract and my first book of poetry for children was born.

Now, twenty long years later, I have five books.  I would love to be as prolific as Stephen King, but I guess you could say, it is what it is.

Do you have any favorite authors?
Some of my favorite children's authors are Ogden Nash, Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelutsky, and of course, Shel Silverstein.

I also love anything by Nicholas Sparks, Robin Cook, Maeve Binchy, John Grisham, and Stephen King.  There are many others, as well.

Do you write in a specific place?  Time of day? 

No, not really.  When I get the, what I call "inspiration" to write, I don't argue with it.  Everything else goes on the "to do" list and I go with the flow.  I've battled writer's block too many times to argue with "inspiration" when it shines on me.  I've been known to write all day and then all night, just ask my understanding partner, Robert. When I'm in that space, I'm driven and I love every minute of it.

Are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers? Any advice?
Persistence!  Never give up.  If you want to be published so bad you can taste it, just be persistent.  If you get a rejection, send it out again, and again, and again.  Remember, it only takes one "yes" and you are published.

Here is the blurb for Anatomy of a Poet.

Poetry can be daunting and hard to understand, but it doesn't have to be. I feel a poet has an obligation to write in a way that everyone can understand. Poems should flow softly through a poet's words, their meanings gently caressing the heart and mind of its reader. If a poem comes from the heart, it will reach other hearts, and this is what I've tried to do with the poetry in Anatomy of a Poet. ~CJ Heck

"Like a rose with many petals and sharing its sweet aroma, this is how I see and feel about the love of my life, CJ Heck. She is my electric blue-eyed girl. She can be both a little girl, or a strong woman, whenever and wherever the situation calls for it. She is both sensuous and exciting, and soft and affectionate.
Tragedy struck her life early with the death of her husband in Vietnam. This experience laid open the very core of her heart and soul and opened the channel to a well of compassion and sensitivity that waited deep within. Her pain was the fertilizer that helped her bloom as a writer.

CJ's poetry is not a surface observation, but a soulful interpretation of the events and people that inspired her. She writes both eloquently and simply of things that touch her heart, things she wants to share. She is gifted at painting a picture with words on the heart and imagination of others, thereby communicating not just an image, but a life experience. 

I feel very honored to have been asked to write this introduction and share my feelings about CJ Heck. She is the water for my soil, the sunlight for my petals and the nurturer of my growth.

Sit back, open your heart and enjoy the journey as revealed through her words, images and emotions. You are blessed by this opportunity to know her in words, as I know her in life." ~Robert S. Cosmar, Author

"This is my kind of poetry. Direct, beautifully expressed and without a hint of pretension." ~Allison Cassidy

"CJ is predominately viewed as a writer of works for children, but CJ now carries over her approach to more adult themes. In doing so, she presents a profound world that is deeply sad, incredibly humorous and sometimes very intimate." ~Joseph Daly

"I love learning new words, especially when they are explained with such diaphanous clarity. Whether she talks of love, children, life, or any other subject, CJ's words are always clear and harmonious. She makes us forget that easy to read is hard to write." ~Marc Mimouni (London, United Kingdom)

"CJ Heck is a very talented author. Her words are enlightening and charismatic to people of all ages. It is a privilege and honor to read her prolific pen." ~Janet Caldwell (Managing Editor, Inner Child Magazine

Here is an excerpt from Anatomy of a Poet.

When I Finally Close My Eyes  

When I close my eyes
for the last time,
I want to have lived,
really lived.

I want to know I've tasted
the smorgasbord of life,
having relished the good
and spat the bad back out,
knowing at least I tried it.

When I'm done here,
I don't want to wonder
whether someone caught
the kiss I threw,
I will know.

I don't want to leave this life
with a heart as empty
as my pockets have always been.

I want to know, without a doubt,
I've left something of me behind,
-- something that's good,  
not regret,
for never making a difference.

When I close my eyes
for the very last time,
I would like
someone to remember
... I was here.

Websters Dictionary: Changeling: (noun):
1. One who, or that which, is left or taken
in place of another.

The Changeling  

At dawn, I looked
with eyes wide open.
The color of his hair had
to winter gray,
the dark crowded out
to who knows where,
perhaps to join 
a master work
in perfect granite,
his finite features
raisined to roadways
buckled into nose
and cheek and brow.
Somehow spared
by nature's cruelty
are steel blue eyes,
eyes that walk my dreams,
and lips that taunt and tease.
Where was I
when all this happened?
Here, a changeling, too,
and robbed as well?
Today, when morning
slipped inside
to kiss my eyelids,
I felt blessed
it reached across
to touch his too. 

A Nickel for Thoughts of You

I wish I had a nickel
for every time I think of you
watching TV on the couch,
chin parked on your chest,
not sleeping, just resting
your eyes for a minute;
or with your brows furrowed,
chasing an errant whisker
on the face in the mirror;
or your hands on the keyboard,
and the amazing speed
of the intricate thoughts,
considering the size of your hands;
or you secretly watching me
from across the room,
and me secretly catching you
secretly watching me;
or your gentle touch
when you pass my chair,
just because you're glad I'm here.
Love is measured
in so many little minutes.
It's important we not miss them,
for who knows,
life might be metered in hours. 
It isn't really about the nickels,
-- but it would be fun
to see the almighty pile of coins.  
Author Bio
 CJ Heck is a published poet, writer, blogger, and the author of three children's books, a collection of short stories, and her newest, a book of poetry. It is rich with memoir, humor and, at times, sensual in nature. She is also a Vietnam War widow.

CJ has three daughters and eleven grandchildren. She lives in The Villages, Florida (Disneyworld for the 55+ crowd) with her partner, Robert Cosmar, who is also an author. They love going on wonderful adventures in their golf cart, which is how everyone in The Villages gets around town.

CJ actively promotes her children's books through school visits. For book excerpts, interviews, to invite CJ to your school or organization, or just to know more about her, please call 352-299-5634 or visit her website:

Barking Spiders Poetry.


Amazon Author Central:

Children's Books:
Barking Spiders and Other Such Stuff
Barking Spiders 2, (the sequel)
Me Too! Preschool Poetry

Adult Books:
Bits and Pieces (short and flash fiction collection)
(New!) Anatomy of a Poet (poetry)




  1. Thank you most sincerely for the opportunity to interview with you, Marie. It was an honor and a privilege.
    Hugs to you!

  2. It is always interesting to read another author's work. Thank you for sharing your interview and some of CJ's work, it was inspiring.


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