Sol Magazine Interviews Three Poets at the
Bay Area Writers League 2002 Conference
5/10 - 5/11/2002

Sheila Killingsworth Nancy Bertoncelj Kelly Ann Ellis


Sheila KillingsworthAs a nurse married to a physician and with a parent, grandparent, and son connected to medicine, this realm defines my identity.  The center and horizon of medicine lies within the patient narrative.  Literature in medicine, as does the art, focuses upon two places—the “there” of well-being and the “here” of suffering.  Their joining is how we realize our humanity.  But it seems as if the poetic trend is a much different push toward a “real TV” point of view.  The narrative connects to nothing but itself and defines nothing but itself.  This is neither good nor bad.  It is a self-conscious move I find curious.  It seems to search for a destination or a somewhere where it will not be lost.

Literature in medicine is a genre removed from the general discourse.  It has difficulty crossing into the public domain.  Well-being is a state of solitude.  Its balance is circumscribed.  Yet each individual has a need to seek the internal universe where the self is infinite.  To write about well-being is to write about the quest, not the actual experience of being there.  Being there may be bliss.  But bliss is where we shed substance. 

When we write from suffering and loss, we define what makes us human, just who we are, what we value most, and how we connect to each other.  Suffering and loss can be profound or superficial.  Maybe our lives are threatened.  Maybe we temporarily misplace a child at Astroworld.  The topic is not actually the negative.  What is the negative is the form the narrative takes; the value placed up on it and not its source.  When this happens, and it does, the topic transforms into something trite.  The “real TV” movement in creative writing is its own enemy when focused solely upon its narrative.  Connections cannot be sustained.  As writers, we must remain aware of that effect.

When I write, I open a door that is one of many along an endless hallway.  Then I step into a room.  Or I walk through he frame of n image like a painting.  Either way, I enter a space outside myself yet still within my mind.  I am a passive observer who experiences all her senses at once.  I carry the narrative of this other space with me when I leave.  Sometimes a space is pleasant.  Often it is difficult to remain long enough for the narrative to complete itself.   The experience is always compelling.  The source of joy is the resultant movement of a space upon the page—the interaction of its images and sounds.  If this appears detached, it is not.  A very intimate relationship forms with a place outside my routine existence.  Joy and relationship are the desired ends to a writing process that joins “here” with “there.” 


Poet Sheila Killingsworth is a Registered Nurse.  She graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a B.A. in literature, and a M.A. in humanities.  While she writes from a medical background, she also focuses upon art history and the merging of visual images with the written word.  In her words, “Writing is like working a puzzle, or solving a calculus equation with phrasing and layering; I’d rather move to the next problem than submit my work for publication.”

Sheila Killingsworth won Third Place in the BAWL 2002 Conference Poetry Competition. 



Nancy BertonceljI write because I want to hold on to a moment, to taste, touch, see, hear, smell it, to experience the subject. My first poems concerned a mental institution where my grandfather was superintendent; I spent my childhood summers on the grounds or at their cottage on Lake Manistique in Northern Michigan. 

I also write short stories and copy down poetic sentences in other writers’ novels, which gives me ideas for my own writing.  Who can say this is not poetic?  When I revisit the North Woods in my stories, I try to do what some of my favorite authors do, take the story to a poetic level with vivid imagery.


Award winning poet and writer, Nancy Bertoncelj is a contributing editor to Image Magazine.   She is currently writing an article on wildlife rehabilitators, and tries to achieve a poetic opening in her articles.  She lives in Angleton, Texas, with her husband Carl, their daughter and son-in-law, and infant granddaughter. 

Nancy Bertoncelj won First Place in the BAWL 2002 Conference Short Story Competition, and Honorable Mention in the Open Manuscript Competition for a “professional manuscript of literary, intellectual, or artistic interest.” 



Kelly EllisThere is always a conflict between creativity and conformity.  Poets may pride themselves on being free thinkers, but frequently have strong opinions on what is appropriate in their writing.  I believe poets should follow their own intuitions.  Writing is risk-taking, and writers are only as good as they dare to be.  I try to find a balance between being gutsy and being polished. If a poet doesn't have the nerve be different, all the polish in the world won't help.

Writers should not be so immersed in writing that they neglect living.  A fulfilling life is balanced; time should be spent learning, loving, laughing. 

I first started writing seriously, in Hawaii, where there is an innovative, multi-cultural writing community.  The writers all knew each other; it was there that I met my greatest inspiration, Sheila Gardiner.  When I met Sheila, she was in her sixties and finishing her first novel.  Now, at 80, Sheila is a prolific, noteworthy poet with many publishing successes.  Sheila inspired me by her example and through her support.  She was both mentor and friend during a difficult time, and I am very grateful for her nurturing friendship.

I have no set schedule to write.  Writing is like a meditation.  It takes me completely into the present moment and makes me utterly happy.  I do use it for exploration of myself as well as society.  I work through typical struggles – the conflict between the desire for a rich inner life and the need to attend to all the demands of living – the struggle to have faith in a world of disillusion – the usual.  I am interested in mythology and that shows up in my poems.  Mostly, I go where the spirit takes me; I try to stay somewhat detached and watch what unfolds; then I roll up my sleeves and get to work, focus on a few words and repeat them until they are right. 

Poet and writer, Kelly Ann Ellis teaches English at San Jacinto College South, and also teaches ESOL at University of Houston.  She is a member of several creative writing groups, most notably the Womens Writing Group, and INYD.  She enjoys sharing her poetry,  recently read her work at a local writers' conference, and was published in "Lean Seed," an Anthology of San Jacinto College South.  In April, during National Poetry Month, Ms. Ellis was a featured poet at HIP 2002 for Peace, performing at DiverseWorks, in Houston.  She would like to mentor others in their creative efforts, be published, and have an active part in the writing community, and helped to start a venue for poets of all ages at Shakespeare’s, a local coffee bar.  She lives in Sagemont, Texas, with her husband Kelly Castator, a consultant for Grinnell Industries, and their four active daughters, and two dogs.  In her words, "Don’t think, just write."

Kelly Ellis won First and Second Place in the BAWL 2002 Conference Poetry Competition, and First Place in the Short Non-Fiction Competition. 

Conference Closing Luncheon

Click here for 5 pages of additional pictures of the conference
(New window will be opened... just close it when done.)

Sol Magazine, P.O. Box 580037, Houston, TX  77258-0037
Phone number:  281-316-2255       Call weekdays 8-5 (CT)
Send comments, questions, advice to:

© 2002 Sol Magazine

Sol Home