POET INTERVIEW – ANDREA HEIBERG

ANDREA HEIBERG

Writers on the whole are (in my opinion) a brave lot.  It takes a measure of courage to put words on display for viewing and assessment of the general public.  I can only imagine it takes a heightened sense of commitment and courage for one such as our own Andrea Heiberg, who chooses to write in a foreign language:  English.

In addition to writing and posting poetry online, Andrea has published a fictional book of short stories, centered around folks on her beloved Sejer Island (Next Stop:  Sejer Island).  In this English tongue that is foreign to her, she manages to engage and move the reader to truly feel, know and (yes) love the characters she draws.  Her stories speak to everyday life as experienced on a tiny island, complete with life perceptions and subtle take-away lessons from ordinary victors.  I applaud Andrea’s efforts, and highly recommend this book.

 MARIE ELENA:  Andrea, what prompted you to begin writing in English?

ANDREA:  Arab, Spanish, and English are the main languages in the world, and since I like to be part of the world and speak English, I picked English. It’s been quite a journey for me, though. I knew I needed an editor, so I looked for an editor in Britain since I write in British English, and I found a firm. I sent some short stories, and I never understood the corrections. Then I saw an American editor who was so much cheaper, so I sent the same short stories to her and didn’t expect anything considering her low charge for editing.

I will never forget that Tuesday back in 2008 when I got the first short story back from her – it was “A Kingdom for a Kalashnikov.” When I read her perfect edit of my short story, I was shocked because I had wondered whether I could ever accomplish my task, which was and is to preserve my Danish voice in English – and she just showed that I could, that I accomplished it. In a way, my writings in English could have stopped there, but I liked corresponding with her. I still do, so I wrote more short stories.

When I finally had written a lot of short stories, a British publisher wanted them, so a British editor needed to change the words into British English. So my stories needed another editing, but this time the British editor only changed the American expressions so they appear in British English.

MARIE ELENA:  “A Kingdom for a Kalashnikov” was well placed as the first of your short stories in Next Stop:  Sejer Island, as it shows off your ability to draw in the reader, endear us to your characters, and your extraordinary ability to layer your work.

Andrea, I know your place and date of birth carry great significance to you.  Please tell me about that.

ANDREA: I like that my place of birth is near the place where one of my favorite authors lived (Karen Blixen), and since I could couple her with Ernest Hemingway (another favorite author of mine, with whom I share a birthday), I had a chance of making a bit of fun – and so I did.

So here I have to admit there is nothing special about my birth – only that I was born far away from where I come from.

It is a fact that I am born, though, and also that I consider my birth miraculous, just as miraculous as yours, and I see us all like little wonderful wonders all around the earth.

Still, having been born, I live with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s words. He says in his “Le Petit Prince”: “It is the time you have spent with your rose that makes your rose so important.”

Walt and you share your roses on The Poetic Bloomings, and thanks for that.  I’m also so grateful to be given the opportunity to share roses with Ina Roy-Faderman on http://www.inourbooks.com

MARIE ELENA:  What a lovely sentiment, Andrea.  Thank you for your kind words.

Let’s talk about Sejer Island.  It is not your place of birth, so what drew you in, and why did you decide to settle there?

ANDREA: I haven’t settled on Sejer Island, yet. I have a cabin out here, but I still have a house on what we call “the other side.” In my case, I come from Vordingborg. There is a ferry to and from, and the service takes an hour. In my case the ride is around three hours altogether, but since the weather is unpredictable, I might arrive seasick to the mainland, having another two hours to drive. It is quite a journey for me to come home, so very often I stay on the island during the weekends, too, but I guess it’s important for me to know that I’ve got other possibilities.

I admire people from Sejer Island for being able to live on an island permanently, but I’m not sure I could stay here if I didn’t have the chance to go “home” and have a good warm bath, and knowing that the electricity will work 24 hours a day.

Sejer Island
(Photo credit: Gitte Andreasen )

Sejer Island
(Photo credit: Gitte Andreasen)

MARIE ELENA:  My goodness, Andrea.  I have such a low tolerance for being seasick, that it is hard to imagine subjecting myself willingly on a regular basis.  But when I think of the stories in your book, and I see the photos of your lovely island, I do believe it would be well worth the trip.

ANDREA:  Gitte Andreasen (from the island) took these beautiful photos using her cell phone. She is out here, every day, everywhere on the island on her small three wheeled bike, accompanied with her two small dogs.

MARIE ELENA:  Your friend has captured such beauty with nothing but her cell phone?  Impressive!  Please do thank her for us.  We are pleased to share her photos here.

So now tell me — what does a typical day in the life of Andrea Heiberg look like?

ANDREA: A typical day for me is so typical. I’m up at 6:30 every day, at work at 8:00, and home at about 2:00. I’m a teacher at the local school. Then there are the meetings on Mondays and Thursdays, and quite often these days I’m “off duty” at around 7:00 or 8:00. In between, there are the poems. If, for instance, you and Walt have an appealing prompt, it might stay in my head so I need to write a poem when I get home. But I seldom write short stories, prose, during the week because normally I’m not satisfied with my writing after a day’s work at the school.

MARIE ELENA:  I did not realize you are a teacher.  That’s wonderful! Walt and I have been rather amazed (and pleased) at the number of educators who regularly grace our site.  Do you teach small children?

ANDREA:  My education allows me to teach both children and adults. During my long life of teaching, I have been teaching both children and adults. English is one of my specific subjects, but working on an island requires good computer skills. We cooperate with other small islands, and we use a video conference, Smart Boards, laptops, Ipad –and we connect using a program called Bridgit. So far we only worked together with Danish schools, but an Irish school and a Swedish school (also island schools) might want to join us – and that’s great!

MARIE ELENA:  In addition to being a teacher, blogger, poet, and published fiction writer, you are an award-winning playwright.  That is just so impressive, Andrea!  Please tell us all about it.

ANDREA: Back in 1986 I won a contest. A theater in Copenhagen, Teaterbutikken, picked my play, and I won kr. 25,000 (around $7,000 in today’s money). It was a play about recycling. It’s called “Losse Else,” which means more or less “Trash Else” – “Else” being a female Danish name. This Else is an old woman who collects trash items, and so does a young boy. It is within this bonding that the story runs. On the surface you might think: What is trash? But you might also think: Who is trash?

MARIE ELENA:  That sounds so unique and intriguing.  On top of that, I understand plays of yours have appeared on Danish television.  That must have been such a thrill for you!  How did this come about?

ANDREA: Danish television picked one of my plays to air in the beginning of the eighties. It was a play for and with children, called “The Bad Sheriff and His 18 Robin Hoods.” It was quite a success, so we went forward with a story inspired by Danish history called “The Murder in The Finderup Bar.” This was also a play for children and played by children. So much fun!

MARIE ELENA:  They both sound absolutely delightful.  What diverse experiences you have under your belt!

Let’s concentrate on poetry a moment.  I’ve chosen two of your poems, which I believe flaunt your diverse creativity.  The first, “ENGLISH,” particularly touches me.

ENGLISH (by Andrea Heiberg)

Though I love the sound of my mother’s voice,
her words,
her lullabies,
the stories are stories
and the facts are facts
and when told in English,
there’re just as much stories and facts than any Dane could tell them
in any language
and just as much English.

So, please Mom, up in Heaven,
please,
remember,
that English bears the signs of worldwide cultures
and
we added
“window”
up here
from the north,
up in Denmark.

 And how I love that someone added
“kangaroo.”

 Mom, I tell you this in English
though tears drop
down my cheeks
and whether they drop in Danish or in English,
I don’t know.
I just miss you.

MARIE ELENA:  This: “… and whether they drop in Danish or in English, I don’t know. I just miss you,” is one of the most touching lines I’ve ever read, in any poem, by any poet.

Another poem is inspired by one of Robert Brewer’s prompts back in 2009 during the April Poem-a-Day challenge.

SO WE DECIDED (by Andrea Heiberg)

So we decided to go home,
only we didn’t,
we kept sitting there side by side, staring at the lake,
staring at the lake’s surface,
until,
we decided to go home, not daring to touch, not daring to even look, just staring at the lake, waiting for us to decide to go home, only hating having nothing better to say and hating the thought of leaving,
leaving for our homes, our parents,
hating sitting like this and desperately thinking of something brilliant to say, only not too brilliant, something catchy, but not sexy, something that could make the ice break.

So we decided to go home.

We went.
Stumbling kind of.

 “Should we kiss?” you said.

MARIE ELENA:  “So We Decided” captures the excitement and awkwardness of “that moment” perfectly!

When did you begin writing poetry?  What poet(s) inspire you?

ANDREA: Poetry is my “in between” during what feels like busy days– only I learned that poetry also gives me the feeling of syntheses. Like headlines for stories, or like prompts for short stories or novels.

The Danish poet, Benny Andersen, inspires me a lot.

Most of all, I like that poems unite us. We can write about all kinds of everyday issues, the general truth, so to speak, of our everyday lives, and we don’t need to involve politics and religion. Poems give us this opportunity to say hello, and I believe that this “hello” is a building stone for a world in peace.

MARIE ELENA:  I can’t help but share one more poem.  “O Magnitude” was the recipient of a “Beautiful Bloom,” and will appear in our upcoming “First Blooms” collection.  I was glad to learn that it is one of your own favorites as well as mine.

O Magnitude (by Andrea Heiberg)

The days never end but
for the longing of
the damping forest
morning,
the on shore wondering,
the red-necked grebe
on its way
with her two heavy babies on her back,
resting.

 No, the days never end.

MARIE ELENA:  One of the most memorable experiences of your life is an event that I’m embarrassed I knew nothing about:  The Camino.

ANDREA: The Camino! The Way! People from all over the world walk the Camino every year, and we are following a trail of hundreds of kilometers up north in Spain. There are around 25 kilometers in between the towns and the beds where you can sleep, so for many people the options make it possible. A lot of men wrote about their external sufferings and inner revelations walking these hundreds of kilometers, and I don’t understand this because the majority of people I met on the Camino back in 2006 were women. Women from all over the world losing weight.

I never intended to walk the Camino, but a friend of mine wanted to go there. She had breast cancer, and in a hospital bed without breasts, she cried, “Now I can never walk the Camino.”

And I said, “Of course you can.”

And she said, “Will you bring me?”

And I said, “I’ll carry you all the way if necessary.”

My friend recovered, and every now and then she reminded me of my promise, so one day we were there. “Hello 500 kilometers ahead of you,” I thought one day in Burgos in Spain. It turned out to be a painful nightmare for the first couple of days because I did not know anything else than walking these 500 kilometers (approximately 300 miles) to reach the airport in Santiago to get safely home to Denmark. How would I ever succeed?

I got lost from my Danish friend after two days. Only I met a lot of other people. People from all over the world. People from Holland, Germany, England, Ireland, Canada, America, and Australia.

I walked all those hundreds of kilometers mostly with three Australians, but I met my Danish friend after 19 days in Santiago. When sitting in a restaurant with my Australian friends, whom I walked with for what felt like a lifetime, my Danish friend asked me, “Andrea, why do you speak in English?”

And what did I say? Likely that it was important for me that everybody around the table understood what I said – only the fact was that I felt more or less Australian.

When I returned to Denmark, I started writing about all the experiences with all those hundreds of people that I’d met. I wrote in English, and after three months I ended up with a book manuscript of 72,000 words, now wondering:

Who doesn’t need to follow a long-haired, American anorexic pilgrim walking out there with her plastic bags?

“Being a Franciscan believer doesn’t allow me to own anything,” she said. Only I for one would have loved to buy a rucksack for her. Listening to her endless packing and unpacking of her noisy Spanish plastic bags at 5 o’clock in the morning was hell.

“Sorry, but I need to arrange all my stuff right,” she said.

Or the polite British pilgrim who wore his trekking trousers inside out, explaining to me that the trousers belonged to his dead friend who had wanted to walk the Camino.  He promised this dead friend’s wife that he would wear these trousers along the entire journey, and there he was, “saving” these trousers for Santiago where he would put them on right.

“What an odd promise,” I said.

“Yes, you might say so,” he said, “but that’s how she wanted it, and I do it because she promised me his old car when I return to England.”

PILGRIM FAMILY

THE AUSTRALIANS AND THE CANADIANS

MARIE ELENA:  “I’ll carry you all the way if necessary.”  Wow.  What a friend you are, Andrea.  And what an amusing and amazing experience!  It sounds like a very good thing that you brought your sense of humor with you. ;)

And now, as I end all my interviews — if we could know only one thing about you, what would you tell us?

ANDREA:  Being a Danish author writing in English, living on a remote island, makes it difficult to get published. My dream is to have my Camino manuscript published. I could go on forever, and I do so in my manuscript. I promise the world a good read and promise any reader a new and extraordinary view of the Camino. Please help me get my Camino manuscript through.

MARIE ELENA:  Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy life to help us get to know you better.  Your poetry is a welcome asset here at Poetic Bloomings.

~~~~

Ways to find and support Andrea:

Next Stop:  Sejer Island was published by an independent British publisher, and may be found on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Next-Stop-Island-Andrea-Heiberg/dp/1844718700) and on Salt Publishing at www.saltpublishing.com .Remember to leave a review, and consider a recommendation on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/) .

“A Kingdom for a Kalashnikov” may be found at: http://www.belletrista.com/2011/Issue14/features_4.php

As Andrea touched on above, she recently connected with another talented writer, Ina Roy-Faderman, to create a delightful blog:  “in our books (tales of two writers)”   http://inourbooks.com/.  Do stop on over and give them a look-see.

One more way in which we can support Andrea is to share Facebook connections with her.

It is wonderful having a diverse poetic community here at Poetic Bloomings.  We thank you all for your generous support of one another.

48 thoughts on “POET INTERVIEW – ANDREA HEIBERG

  1. Such a great interview!
    Marie Elena, the questions just flow & the poems are such a great addition.
    Andrea, wonderful to know so much more about your journey and your writing–the setting and process.
    After first learning about the Camino in a film, The Way, as I mentioned to you previously, it was great to learn a bit more here. Hope your book gets published!
    This was a wonderful finish to my day!

  2. Oh, Andrea… your interview (thank you, Meg) was WONDERFUL!!! I love all of your work and the poems featured here were beautiful. From your interview, I loved these lines: “…and I see us all like little wonderful wonders all around the earth…” and, “…and I believe that this “hello” is a building stone for a world in peace…” —- YES!!! Thank you for who you are, Andrea!

    • Henrietta, I love your way of thinking. Your comments to all the poets here are always so uplifting and here you also make me so glad with your words. Yes, aren’t we all little wonderful wonders? Thank you so much.

  3. I loved this interview, especially learning more about your home and experiences, and reading these wonderful poems again. Thanks to both of you!

    • Jane, I wrote to you on FB that I’m a fan of yours. Your poems are always so sharp but tender and meaningful – creating that combination is so difficult. So often you have left me with this feeling of “oh, yeah” and so very few people can convince me so easily. Your words here mean the world to me. Thank you.

  4. For me, as for some others, a lovely ending to my day Andrea – thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your life in this interview. And thanks Marie Elena – as always, you know just what to ask to bring out the most interesting facets of a person … I loved learning more about your island Andrea (I’m a bit of an island girl myself – spent summers on one as a child, and a year on Newfoundland early in my married life, plus my love and I escape to Vancouver Island or the Salt Spring Islands – usually Galianos, whenever possible…) Sejer sounds ruggedly attractive and looks beautiful. I really hope you can get your book about the Camino published, it sounds absolutely fascinating. Actually your whole life sounds pretty amazing. Glad to get to know about it. Thanks again.

  5. Andrea, I love your reflections on the Camino. I have several friends who have walked it, and one who is just completing the walk today. I hope that manuscript finds a wide audience! And “So we decided” is wonderful. Thanks for sharing yourself with us in this interview!

    • Andrew, thank you so much. That you like that poem makes me so happy. Back in 2009 I guess it drowned in all the other thousands of “So we decided” – poems. And you have friends who walked the Camino! Though your friend might have returned and your other friends have, please say “Buen Camino” from me – you see, I think that you especially need to hear this when your return home to bear in mind that your entire life is a never ending road.

  6. Andrea, it has been a long time coming for sure. Your work has grown in scope and stature since you first appeared on this poetic scene. As we had first discussed, I have a better understanding of your want to write in a “foreign” language. You express yourself wonderfully in whichever tongue you choose, and I for one am honored to have your work grace these pages and my life. From our inauspicious start, to poetic friends… truly a journey worth undertaking. Thank you.

    • Walt, thank you so much. I’m in particular honored that you reach out. Keep doing that. Let Poetic Bloomings continue to be a place for all kinds of poets from all around the world. All these voices telling the same story in so many ways are such an inspiration. We can’t hear the story of love too many times, can we?

  7. Andrea–such a terrific interview. Being as sheltered as I am, I’d never heard of the Camino, or I don’t remember it if I had. I’d love to read that book. Having read “Next Stop: Sejer Island,” Id thoroughly enjoy hearing your descriptions of your traveling/hiking companions and their personal stories.

    I’ve learned so much more about you here, Andrea, for which I’m grateful. I’ve always enjoyed your poetry, and now your prose. You’ve done well, my Danish friend.

    And Marie, I have to say that your ability to interview remains undiminished. You do so very well with this medium. Thanks so much for showcasing our friend, Andrea. She’s a winner, regardless of genre.

    • Claudette, my American friend, you’re so right. Marie Elena is a master interviewer and I saw it when I read all her other splendid interviews, she arranged, and that was why I was honored when she asked me to join you lot here.
      That you call me a winner has me smiling – thank you.

      • I call them as I see them, Andrea. Marie does excellent interviews, but you were also an excellent subject.

        You are a winner in my book. You’re always welcome to my piece of mind–what little I have left of it. LOL

  8. Thanks so very much for all the kind comments. It is a pleasure to present the writers behind the writing. You all have so many interesting aspects to your lives!

    I’m thankful for this opportunity, and I’m truly grateful that you all take time out of your day to read these interviews and get to know one another on a more intimate level.

    Basically, you all ROCK!

    Marie Elena

    • Marie Elena, thank you so much. Please see the comment I wrote for Walt because it more or less goes for you, too – only I guess that you added this line: “It is wonderful having a diverse poetic community here at Poetic Bloomings. We thank you all for your generous support of one another.”
      Yes, it is – it is wonderful.

  9. I enjoyed reading the interview, and, as always, love to hear what Andrea has to say. It still amazes me how well she expresses herself in a second language. As her editor, I can tell you what a unique talent Andrea has, and, even better, what a great friend she is. I am blessed to know her!

    • Amy, thank you. You’re always there. I cry “help” when the words tease me and you know me so well that you always just hit what I mean to say. You supported me far beyond what can be expected by an editor and here I hope that I can give you something back. Now readers of Poetic Bloomings: Go to http://www.thewritehelper.com and join Amy’s poetry contest. It costs 7 dollars (sorry, I don’t have a “dollars key” on my computer) and the deadline is the 31st of October.

  10. What a great interview, Andrea and Marie Elena! Andrea, I hadn’t read these poems before – how beautiful and touching they are. You do a lot with few words. I have no doubt that your Camino book will find a good publisher – your writings about it are amazing (if you still need a title, “I will carry you all the way” would catch my eye ;-) )

    Thanks for sharing this conversation with us, Marie Elena!
    Ina

  11. Wonderful interview Andrea, and thank you Marie Elena for bringing so much forth about this gem of an author and woman.

    I met Andrea virtually via our participation on Poetic Asides. She emailed me, and I have never been so grateful to meet an author/poet. I do not get star struck, but Andrea’s passion and writing leave me with just that kind of feeling.

    She has kept us connected and inspired me to write so many poems, that just knowing her has made me see and think about the world in different ways. She has helped me add to and improve my work more than any other writer. She challenges me to write and to think about writing.

    Regarding her Camino manuscript: it deserves publication! I read it before I happened across the movie “The Way” mentioned above. I couldn’t help but feel that the movie was lacking the substance of the Camino after reading Andrea’s manuscript. The whole time I watched, I kept wishing the movie was based on her manuscript instead.

    When Andrea says that poetry is a way to unite, she couldn’t be more right. As a poet and an author, she is so good at threading both characters and people together across vast distances both geographic and figurative. I am fortunate to call her a friend.

    • Jacque, do you remember your poems on Poetic Asides back in 2009? Your poem with a couple who spend their honeymoon in Spain, in a hotel room, in a bed and this husband’s beard grows and grows – and the woman suddenly wonders: “I never knew I married Taliban?”
      That is my favorite poem from Poetic Asides 2009.
      Sharing humor means the world for me and your way of thinking opens up my mind again and again. Thank you so much for your words here.

  12. Wow, this is one of my favorite interviews to date. I learned so much more about Andrea and her many accomplishments.

    Good luck with your Camino book, Andrea. It sounds interesting.

  13. Hej Andrea.
    Ved du hvad? Det er et rart menneske der har lavet er rigtigt dejligt interview med dig. Det fortæller meget balanceret om dig og dine varme sjove måde at se og opleve verden på. Tak for det.
    Jeg tager min familie med til Sejerø, hvis du giver en kop kaffe…
    JEg har også fulgt El Camino. Vi kørte ved siden af den på sidste års sommerferie – i bil… Vi skulle nok have gået er stykke af vejen, men det ville have været uden air condition. Og det ville ikke have været sjovt.

    Fortsæt med at skrive. Det gør verden til et bedre sted.

    Yours
    Mikael

    • Mikael, ja, der må noget kaffe til og ja, Marie Elena er fantastisk til at interviewe folk, og det nyder jeg øjensynlig stor glæde af her.
      Ja, at have muligheden for at gøre verden til et bedre sted er en gave og det gør vi jo så på vores forskellige måder. Nogen skriver om knive og andre skriver om alt muligt andet. Mange tak for dine ord!
      PS! For English readers: Go to Google Translate and copy and paste if you’re curious about what this is all about.

  14. Yesterday, I read this interview & commented but came back to visit again.
    Would recommend seeing The Way as an intro to the Camino, maybe. It is on Netflix & available elsewhere, I’m sure.
    Before long, hopefully, we will see a new book by Andrea–all about the journey!

  15. Andrea was so kind as to send me her book, Next Stop: Sejer Island, and I loved every word of it. She has a calm and lovely “voice” that lulls me, just like those waves.

    This is a wonderful interview. It was great to learn more about this mysterious and marvelous island lady of ours. ;)

    Andrea, I always love your poems, but “So We Decided” is particularly beautiful. Thank you for sharing your words with us.

    • De, I’m a fan of your clear and striking poems and I just love that you bear Marie Elena’s words in mind when she says: “It is wonderful having a diverse poetic community here at Poetic Bloomings. We thank you all for your generous support of one another.”
      Thank you so much for your support.

  16. Amazing! Well-done, Marie and Andrea! I think Marie’s questions are wonderful and definitely capable of reaching the most interesting answers. And I think Andrea’s story is so curious that a single interview is simply not enough. I will sure come back to read it again.

    • Misky, I’m a fan of your “dybsindige, finurlige, sjove, men klare” voice and whenever I see a poem of yours, I see this clear message come through.
      You also bear Marie Elena’s message in mind, please see above, and I respect you so much for that.
      Thank you so much.

  17. Wow, I loved learning all about you and reading these poems. And how exciting that you’re a playwright, too! Your life sounds full of beauty and adventure; easy to see it coming out in your words.

    • Linda, to be honest there’s not that much adventure in my life but yes, beauty. In many ways I feel so lucky and here today I feel so fortunate to sit and read your words.
      Thank you so much.

    • Sara, I’m a fan of yours. Especially the poem with your mom in New York – well, no, you have so many great ones – the one with your mom’s sister though so sad, it is so beautiful.
      You’re such an inspiration and I’m glad that I seemed to be able to give you something back.
      Thank you so much.

  18. Pingback: Sunday Surprise | in our books

  19. Oh, Andrea! I love, love your poems! Just had to tell you that…as an English as a Second Language teacher, I am in awe of those who can write poetry in a second language. I struggle in my first and only language! The poems above are filled with such emotion and imagery. So happy we have come to know each other, even if it is through cyberspace. Blessings!

  20. Reblogged this on Something to Ponder About and commented:
    In recognition of International Women’s day, I would like to recognize Danish author Andrea Heiberg, who since publishing a book on short stories has become an inspiration to me and my writing and a good friend. An interview with her is reproduced here where she talks about her poetry.

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