The Heart Part: An Interview with Carrie Padian

by S. H. Aeschliman

By day, Carrie Padian is a poet, creative non-fiction writer, dog-mom, change management specialist in the IT field, volunteer with Write Around Portland,
student and student leader. By night, she’s usually asleep. I first met her in a creative non-fiction writing class in 2012 and was struck by her insightfulness, both about her own life and about others’ writing. Since then I’ve come to know her as a people-organizer and an expert cookie cutter with a ready wit and a knack for creating the communities she wants to see in this world. It was through her blog, Sweet Nugget, that I fell in love with Carrie’s poetry, which is sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-wrenching, and often vulnerable. Her poem “We” appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions.

The following email interview has been edited for length, but luckily Carrie’s voice is strong enough to withstand the chop-and-slash.

How long have you been writing?
Growing up it was always my older brother who was interested in writing, so I shied away from it. It was his thing, so it couldn’t be mine. I still wrote here or there – letters to myself, journal entries, stories – but I didn’t consider any of it to be “real” writing, “legitimate” writing. Then about six years ago, in the midst of the worst breakup of my life, I started a blog to kind of deal with my internal business, get some of the muck out of my head and work through it on paper. It got me in the habit of pulling out the emotions, arranging them in a way that told my emotional truth.

Sometimes I just don’t have it in me to be exactly what you want.

– The narrator’s coffee in “Compliance” by Carrie Padian

In a way the blog was like one long letter to the people in my life, reassuring them that, even though I was going through something really tough, I was still living, I was still okay. And it helped reassure me that I wasn’t really alone in the world, no matter how I felt in that moment. So it was writing that connected me back to the world, to the people I loved. It just made sense to keep writing and forging those connections.

Why do you write?
I write to feel connected to the world around me. It’s the same reason I read. It’s that feeling you get when you read a poem or a passage that perfectly communicates some secret joy or pain you’ve been holding onto and you realize you’re not alone in feeling that way. When I write a poem and put it out in the world, it’s like an open invitation to the rest of humanity. Come to my feelings party! Bring your sorrows and a good bottle of bourbon and we’ll be forever friends.

In everyday life, what’s your inspiration for writing?
Relationships are my number one inspiration because they’re so fraught with intense joy and uncertainty and fear, but I love also writing about friendships and family relationships and power dynamics and just the way we fit together as people in our social world.

This is not how I wanted this to go down. In my mind I was perfection, a vision of lithe coolness as I slid the key across the table to you, casually inviting you up to my room. In my mind you were all too eager to go, drawn to me like a magnet’s pole, dying to touch your midsection with my midsection, complete.

– from “Where the Line Is” by Carrie Padian

Do you have an overarching vision for your work? For example, do you hope that your work will reach a particular audience, convey a particular message, etc.?
The one thing I ever hope to say with my work is that we are not alone, no matter how weird or scary or overwhelming our circumstances.

And if I could reach just one audience, it would be hot, sensitive poet dudes. Because, come on, they’re hot AND sensitive AND they like poetry. It’s the trifecta.

What is your writing process?
I wish I could say I had a regular writing practice where I get up an hour early every day and sit down and write, but I’m afraid it’s much more chaotic than that. I write when I’m intensely bugged about something and that feeling needs to go somewhere. I write when I’m sad and there’s nobody around to talk to about it. I write when I’m secretly in love but not sure if I should tell him yet. I write to remind myself that I exist.

I click the thing to download the show where the chubby girl snags the obnoxious guy – Mr. Darcy in argyle and skinny jeans – because it activates that part of me, the heart part that doesn’t get much use unless it’s breaking.

– from “Why I Do It” by Carrie Padian

In what capacity do you work with Write Around Portland?
I work as a volunteer facilitator. The thing I love the most about WAP is their focus on building community between the writers in their groups. Through the process of writing together, sharing our writing and giving feedback, we can build little bridges between people who might have come into the workshop feeling isolated or overwhelmed. And that’s the kind of thing that lasts far beyond the workshop itself: the connections people make to each other by bravely sharing their writing. They’re opening up, they’re telling their truths, and I feel incredibly lucky to be even a tiny part of that.

What advice do you have for someone in the Portland area who’s interested in getting more involved in the local writing community?
Make online friends with the writers you love. If you hear a local writer giving a reading and you liked it, add them on Facebook. If you read a poem or essay or story that knocks your socks off, connect with that person via Facebook or Twitter and just pay attention. Not only will you get to see what the writing life is really like, you will find out about writing events coming up and who the other local writers of interest are.

What does a writer need to know in order to get published?
Getting published is the one situation in the writing world where you have absolutely no control over the outcome. You can get all your ducks in a row, submit a perfectly lovely manuscript with the juiciest-ever twist ending, and the person doing the reading that day is just not into it. Publishing is like dating. It’s very likely there is a soul mate publishing house out there for your work right now, but you’ll never find it if you give up after the first rejection letter. Keep learning, keep refining your approach, keep believing in the worth of what you have to offer and, eventually, you will make a connection with someone who can’t get enough of the delightful writing that flows out of your fingertips. In short: Don’t give up.

What are you working on right now?
I feel like I keep writing around the edges of a memory prose-y poetry collection about my love life – or sometimes lack thereof. All I need is a happy ending to bring it all together. So call me, poet dudes!


Carrie Padian Carrie Padian is in love with Portland and the written word. She spends her days facilitating workshops for Write Around Portland and exploring new ways of bending language to her will in the creative writing program at Marylhurst University. Her work can be found in the upcoming books Code Poems and Loving For Crumbs – An Anthology for Moving On as well as on her website.


S.H. AeschlimonS. H. Aeschliman is a native Oregonian living in Portland with her dog, Milton. By day she’s a freelance writer, editor, educator and learning assessment consultant. By night she’s a writer, reader, learner and dreamer. She blogs about culture, travel, food and lifestyle and writes poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction and cross-genre work. Her prose piece “On Voice” appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of VoiceCatcher, and she’s thrilled to be volunteering for the organization. You can learn more about her work on her website.