When I Write, by Dominique Traverse Locke

Please welcome our first (of perhaps many) guest blogger.

Dominique Traverse Locke received her B.A. in English from Virginia Intermont College where she served as editor of the college’s literary magazine, and received her M.F.A.in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte. While at Queens, Dominique studied with poets Cathy Smith Bowers, Alan Michael Parker, Sally Keith, Claudia Rankine and many other masters of their craft. She has been publishing work in literary magazines such as The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Barely South Review, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, The Howl, The Clinch Mountain Review, The Dead Mule, and other fine publications regularly since 2006. Dominique’s first collection of poems, a chapbook entitled The Goodbye Child, was published by Aldrich Publishing in late spring of 2012. Two of her manuscripts were finalists in the Press 53 Open Awards, one of which won the poetry category. Dominique is a member of the Appalachian Authors Guild and the Virginia Writers Club. She resides in the Appalachian Mountains of southwest Virginia with her husband, the poet, David Alan Locke.

Oh, how I wish I could say that I get up at sunrise every morning, pour a cup of coffee, go into the library, sit down at my laptop, and peck out the makings of a poem, but I don’t. I wish I could say that I reserve a handful of minutes every evening to sit down and scribble a line or two, but I don’t. I wish I could say that…you get the point.

From August until June –

I’m teaching:

Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition

British and World Literature

Freshman English


I’m coaching:

Cross Country

Track and Field

I’m sponsoring:



Oral Communications Seminar

I’m chairperson of the:

English Department

Publicity Committee

Relay for Life Team

And that’s just professionally. Throw in homeowner, wife, momma to six children (all shelter rescues), and I’m lucky to bang out a really rough first draft once a month. If I get to revise that draft or write more than one poem, I feel like a heart disease patient that has just moved up on the transplant list.

When I write and what inspires me sort of go hand-in-hand. Nearly 97% of the time, I write after I read. You might be wondering, “Well, Dominique, since you’re so busy, when do you find the time to read?” My answer (including, but not limited to): fifteen minutes during my planning period, while the clothes are in the dryer, when my husband takes a shower, snow days.

It’s a matter of actually making myself take the time to sit down and do it. There’s half a zillion things that I could or should be doing, but I have to stop and remind myself: Hey, sure you’re all these other things, but you’re a poet too! If social services worked literature cases, you’d totally be in trouble for neglect.

And so I’ll pick up something that I’ve been meaning to pick up for quite some time, or one of my tried and true favorites, and I’ll read it, or as much of it as I can before the “empty lent filter” buzzer on the dryer goes off. Chances are there was a word, line, or image from whatever I was reading that resonated with me, that triggered something, anything to make me say, “Wow. I want to write like that!” Then, I’ll try to write “like that” and fail miserably, but oddly enough, the failure of writing something terrible is never as bad as writing nothing at all.

The only other time that I have found truly works for me has been the six weeks of summer vacation. Though I have a handful of responsibilities during that time, I am fortunate enough to have the house to myself and no distractions other than the intermittent bark reminding me that someone needs to go potty. I take a book, literary magazine, etc. to my chair in the living room and read until I feel something. I call this the “Cathy Smith Bowers Moment” – when the poe-umh makes me feel something. Good God, I love that woman. But I digress. Once that moment occurs, I leave the chair, take the book, sit down at my desk, and try to get it the idea from my head to the laptop.

This is when and how I finished my second book. During summer vacation, I went back to those words, lines, stanzas, and first draft poems that I had written on the fly. I separated the ones that I thought had any potential at all and fleshed them out. Then, I read a lot and in turn, I was able to write quite a bit. I put the two groups of poems together and revised like crazy.

Don’t get me wrong, all this reading and writing time was great, but honestly, I got burned out. I felt like I had invited a friend over to stay for the weekend, but they ended up hanging around for a month. Days would go by and I’d do anything, everything to avoid reading, writing, and/or revising, and then, I’d guilt trip myself back into it – telling myself things like, “You always complain about never having any time to write…” or “Other writers would kill to have an entire summer to write.” Sometimes I wasn’t as nice to myself. “Stop being a douche and fix that stanza,” or “Yes. That’s right. Waste that MFA tuition.”

Since school is back in session, I’m back to reading and writing in spurts, squeezing them in between hormonal teenagers begging for extra credit and cleaning out the litter box. I’ll complain about how little time I have now and complain about how much time I have later. Shame on me, I know.

Dominique’s chapbook, The Goodbye Child, is available on Amazon.com:


or for a signed copy, LIKE Dominique’s Author Page on facebook and message her for more info:


Also, Dominique’s second book, a full-length manuscript, No More Hard Times is forthcoming in late 2012. For more about Dominique’s books and poetry, LIKE her Author Page on facebook or follow her on twitter – @thedomwrites.

  1. #1 by RobDudski on August 21, 2012 - 2:48 pm

    “oddly enough, the failure of writing something terrible is never as bad as writing nothing at all.” I think I’m going hang that up above my desk. Anyway, great read, thanks.

  2. #2 by wordimprovisor177 on August 27, 2012 - 11:19 pm

    Rob, I was just going to post a very similar comment! Dominique, great entry. The line Rob cited should be a refrigerator magnet! Or on post-its. LOL! Okay, I’m a little cheesey! Anyway, I’m impressed with your accomplishments and how you manage to write when your schedule is so intense. The way you manage your time and balance reading and writing is smart. I’ve learned a good lesson here.

    BTW, CSB makes poetry so accessible. I used to be terrified of poetry. I love her work, and though I know little about the genre, because of her seminars, I’ve dabbled a bit myself. I look forward to checking out your books. Thanks for joining us this month.

  3. #3 by jpgirl27 on August 28, 2012 - 5:28 pm

    So happy to have Dominique as a part of our 5writers guest bloggers! I have her book, and it’s well worth the purchase!

  4. #4 by dominiquetraverselocke on September 6, 2012 - 9:29 pm

    It was the truest of pleasures to appear on this page. Thanks again to all. Big love, D

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