Anna   Paige   is   an   extraordinary   person.   With   her,   you   can   talk   for hours   and   this   time   will   fly   by   like   a   second.   Anna   is   multifaceted, talented, witty, positive, inspiring... She is a writer, community   programmer   on   Yellowstone   Public   Radio,   co-founder of    Billings    Area    Literary    Arts    (BALA),    an    adjunct    professor    of English   at   Montana   State   University   Billings,   writing   instructor   with Arts   Without   Boundaries,   and   a   member   of   the   Big   Sky   Writing Workshops.  JBN: At what age did you started to write? Anna   Paige:   I   have   written   for   a   long   time... As   long   as   I   can   remember. I   wrote   terrible   poetry   (Anna   smiles)   as   a   teenager,   and   even   in   grade school I was writing. It was an outlet that I always had. I didn't think about   doing   it   seriously   until   I   went   into   journalism   in   college.   I   began focusing   more   on   poetry   after   graduating.   Poetry   is   a   vehicle   to   express yourself   concisely;   it   cuts   the   barriers   down   between   people   and   allows us   to   really   relate   to   one   another   in   a   visceral   way—in   a   way   that   is intense and monetary and very beautiful. JBN: Is true that poetry is very popular here in Montana? Anna   Paige:   I   was   surprised   by   how   many   people   were   interested   in   poetry.   About   a   year   ago,   we   had   an   event   called   Pulitzer   Out- Loud.   We   got   a   grant   from   Humanities   Montana   and   the   Pulitzer   Foundation   to   celebrate   the   100th   anniversary   of   the   Pulitzer   Prize   to create   events   around   the   Pulitzer.   We   did   a   reading   of   Pulitzer   prize-winning   poetry   and   had   more   than   200   people   show   up!   We   had all   ages   too,   three   generations   from   a   grandmother   to   an   infant!   It   was   wild   how   many   people   of   different   ages   and   backgrounds showed   up. We   created   BALA   shortly   after   that   because   we   wanted   to   have   a   vehicle   for   sharing   literary   opportunities   in   our community.   That   was   sort   of   the   catalyst   and   why   BALA   exists.   We   saw   the   hunger   that   this   town   had   to   engage   in   poetry,   sharing stores and being together. JBN: So how you see your part in that process? Anna   Paige:   I   believe   very   strongly   in   empowering   people   to   share   their voice   and   their   truth   through   writing.   Sometimes   writing   is   a   very   solitary pursuit.   That's   why   though   BALA   we   created   “write-ins,”   which   is   an   idea of   coming   together   as   a   community   to   write   and   share   work.   We   also started   a   monthly   poetry   open   mic   because   there   weren't   as   many   stages where   people   could   share   their   work.   We   have   a   very   active   slam   poetry scene   here,   but   it   doesn’t   allow   for   other   voices   that   maybe   were   not ready   or   interested   in   competing.   So,   an   open   mic   gives   people   a   chance to   share   their   work   who   have   never   been   up   to   a   mic   before.   We   get people   at   an   open   mic   who   have   only   shared   with   their   friends,   or   who have never shared with the public before. JBN: And as professor, what you teach to your students? Anna   Paige:   I   teach   writing   101.   Everybody   is   expected   to   take   it,   and they   have   all   kinds   of   different   experiences   with   writing.   I   have   people who   have   never   really   had   a   good   relationship   with   writing.   They   were red-penned   when   they   were   younger   and   told   what   they   were   doing   wrong.   They   were   not   necessarily   encouraged   and   have   lot   of trauma   around   writing,   because   they   think   they   are   not   good   at   it.   I   meet   them   where   they’re   at   and   help   empower   their   relationships with   writing.   We   do   free-writing   in   my   class,   we   engage   a   lot   in   arts   and   cultural   conversations,   and   of   course   we   focus   on   the   basics   of mechanics.   But   to   me,   it’s   more   about   developing   a   relationship   with   writing   than   it   is   about   creating   a   perfect   research   paper.   They need   to   know   those   skills,   but   I   think   in   order   to   make   writing   more   enjoyable,   they   need   to   develop   a   relationship   with   it   that   they   might not have had before. Writing is a powerful medium that can help you process really complex emotions. I   also   teach   poetry   to   grade   school   children   though   the   nonprofit   Arts   Without   Boundaries.   We   go   into   the   elementary   schools   for   12 weeks   in   the   spring   and   teach   poetry.   They   hear   poetry   read   out   loud,   so   they   get   to   engage   with   published   poets—everyone   from Gallaway   Kinnel   to   Sharon   Olds   to   more   contemporary   poets,   and   then   they   write   their   own   poetry   based   on   a   prompt   from   the   poems. Then   they   read   their   poetry   aloud.   Through   these   three   components,   they   begin   to   understand   that   they   contain   poetry   within   them, and they are just learning techniques to bring it out. JBN: And who is your favorite writer? Anna   Paige:   I    spend   a   lot   of   time   with   female   poets   of   the   50s   and   60s, like    Anne    Sexton    or    Sylvia    Plath.    They    were    creating    in    such    a tumultuous   time   for   women,   questioning   their   place   in   the   household   and women's    roles    in    society.    They    used    their    poetry    as    vehicles    to communicate   taboo   subjects,   sexuality   and   even   abortion   and   things   that were   not   being   talked   about   at   that   time—and   they   were   being   vilified   for it.   I   find   that   these   voices   are   incredibly   bold   and   very   visceral.   I   also   love Sharon   Olds,   who   is   a   more   contemporary   voice   of   this   nature. And   Mary Oliver—she   is   just   of   the   earth.   Her   connection   to   the   natural   elements   of the   planet   is   strong,   and   when   she   shares   her   work,   it   feels   like   it’s   a piece   of   us.   We   all   come   from   the   earth.   I   think   that   she   communicates that really well. JBN: Do you have your style in poetry? Anna   Paige:   I've   been   trying   to   figure   that   out   lately,   because   I'm   more of   a   stage   poet   than   a   page   poet.   I've   been   working   on   some   poetry   for submission.    Poetry,    when    it’s    spoken    out    loud,    has    such    a    different existence    and    is    very    momentary.    When    it’s    on    the    page,    there's    a different interaction and more permanence to it, so I’ve been trying to make my work more concise and more relative to the page.  JBN: And what topics are popular here between poetry writers? Anna   Paige:    Regarding   my   younger   students   who   write   each   poetry   ...   Some   of   their   favorite   poems   are   “I   come   from”   poems   or poetry   focusing   on   experiences   that   have   had   or   things   that   they   might   have   grown   up   with. As   well,   I   teach   seasonality   poems   where they focus on one particular aspect of nature. I   like   to   bring   Galway   Kinnell’s   “Blackberry   Eating”   into   the   classroom,   and   we   use   an   actual   blackberry   to   focus   their   poetry.   Writing about   a   singular   entity   is   challenging   for   them,   especially   young   students   who   are   not   used   to   honing   in   on   one   particular   item.   They look   at   the   blackberry   and   think,   “Oh   my   gosh,   how   can   I   write   so   much   about   one   thing?”   And   it   push   them   use   their   senses.   It teaches them how to write though all of their human capacities: sight, memory, touch, sensations… JBN:   In   my   country,   poetry   writers   love   to   use   one   special   word or symbol until it become untasty... What about in Montana? Anna   Paige:    We   have   real   original   voice   here.   Because   we   have   a lack   of   outside   influences,   we   don’t   mimic   as   much.   We   are   pretty isolated   here,   so   we   kind   of   have   to   fight   for   what   we   have   and   what we build. And we have to support each other. JBN: Tell me more about “A Reading of Her Own.” Anna   Paige:   “A   Reading   of   Her   Own,”   and   actually   the   Billings   Area Literary   Arts   model,   came   from   our   sister   organization   in   Helena.   We connected   with   the   women   who   had   created   a   literary   organization called    Helena   Area    Literary   Arts    (HALA).    We    met    with    co-founder Chelsia   Rice   and   talked   about   collaborating   to   build   literary   arts   and enhance   writing   opportunities   in   our   own   community.   She   said:   “Here is   my   model,   use   it,”   which   is   I   think   very   honorable   thing   to   do.   People sometimes   are   so   close   to   their   projects   and   don't   want   anybody   else to   have   them.   Chelsia   was   doing   “A   Reading   of   Her   Own”   in   Helena. The   title   comes   from   Virginia   Woolf’s   "Room   of   One’s   Own."   The   idea is   that   we   women   need   places   to   process   the   things   what   occur   in   our   life.   Chelsia      found   great   success   in   hosting   this   reading   event specifically for women, so we started hosting it here in Billings. The   writers   are   all   women   or   those   who   identify   themselves   as   women.   We   want   to   create   an   inclusive   environment   for   women's voices   that   allows   the   audience   to   connect   to   their   experience.   We   open   up   the   platform   for   anybody   who   wants   to   share   her experience   in   non-fiction   format,   eight   minutes   or   less. The   stories   are   sometimes   heavy,   but   others   can   be   very   funny   and   playful. The event   features   a   variety   of   voices,   ages,   ethnicities,   and   experiences.   Bringing   their   stories   together   and   sharing   them   is   powerful. And we don't hire writers, we instead take all the incomes of the events minus any minimal promotional expenses and give it to charity. Our   first   event's   proceeds   were   sent   to   a   project   called Awakening   Hope,   which   empowers   women   who   are   victims   of   sexual   trafficking to   get   out   of   the   trafficking   circle. The   next   event   provided   money   to   Free   Verse   Writing   Program,   a   project   started   in   Missoula   that brings writing teachers into Montana's youth detention centers to teach creative writing.  With   BALA,   I   strongly   believe   that   we   are   not   in   the   business   of   crafting   people   stories,   we   are   in   business   of   creating   space   for   people to   share,   and   from   that   we   also   want   to   do   good.   The   money   that   people   are   generally   willing   to   give   for   that   experience   goes   back   to serving   the   community. And   I   will   continue   my   work   with   BALA   to   provide   those   services.   We   will   do   it   probably   again   in   the   spring   or   in early summer…
Johnson’s Billings News
Hosted by Johnson Computing
They are read.  We are Quoted!!!
  Anna Paige: “We believe very strongly in empowering people to share their voice and their truth through writing”...
Interview
Photo by Ted Kim
Photo by Casey Page
A Pop-up Art and Poetry show, photo by Stan Parker
Writer Bailey Brown reads during A Reading on Her own, photo by Anna Paige
Anna         Paige         is         an extraordinary    person.    With her,   you   can   talk   for   hours and   this   time   will   fly   by   like a         second.         Anna         is multifaceted,   talented,   witty, positive,   inspiring...   She   is   a writer, community    programmer    on Yellowstone     Public     Radio, co-founder    of    Billings   Area Literary    Arts    (BALA),    an    adjunct    professor    of    English    at Montana    State    University    Billings,    writing    instructor    with Arts    Without    Boundaries,    and    a    member    of    the    Big    Sky Writing Workshops.  JBN: At what age did you started to write? Anna   Paige:   I   have   written   for   a   long   time...   As   long   as   I   can remember.   I   wrote   terrible   poetry   (Anna   smiles)   as   a   teenager, and   even   in   grade school        I        was writing.    It    was    an outlet   that   I   always had. I didn't think about       doing       it seriously      until      I went                   into journalism             in college.     I     began focusing    more    on poetry               after graduating.    Poetry is      a      vehicle      to express   yourself   concisely;   it   cuts   the   barriers   down   between people   and   allows   us   to   really   relate   to   one   another   in   a   visceral way—in a way that is intense and monetary and very beautiful. JBN: Is true that poetry is very popular here in Montana? Anna    Paige:    I    was    surprised    by    how    many    people    were interested   in   poetry.   About   a   year   ago,   we   had   an   event   called Pulitzer   Out-Loud.   We   got   a   grant   from   Humanities   Montana   and the   Pulitzer   Foundation   to   celebrate   the   100th   anniversary   of   the Pulitzer   Prize   to   create   events   around   the   Pulitzer.   We   did   a reading   of   Pulitzer   prize-winning   poetry   and   had   more   than   200 people   show   up!   We   had   all   ages   too,   three   generations   from   a grandmother    to    an    infant!    It    was    wild    how    many    people    of different   ages   and   backgrounds   showed   up. We   created   BALA shortly    after    that    because    we    wanted    to    have    a    vehicle    for sharing   literary   opportunities   in   our   community.   That   was   sort   of the   catalyst   and   why   BALA   exists.   We   saw   the   hunger   that   this town had to engage in poetry, sharing stores and being together. JBN: So how you see your part in that process? Anna   Paige:   I   believe   very   strongly   in   empowering   people   to share    their    voice    and    their    truth    through    writing.    Sometimes writing   is   a   very   solitary   pursuit.   That's   why   though   BALA   we created   “write-ins,”   which   is   an   idea   of   coming   together   as   a community   to   write   and   share   work.   We   also   started   a   monthly poetry   open   mic   because   there   weren't   as   many   stages   where people   could   share   their   work.   We   have   a   very   active   slam   poetry scene   here,   but   it   doesn’t   allow   for   other   voices   that   maybe   were not   ready   or   interested   in   competing.   So,   an   open   mic   gives people   a   chance   to   share   their   work   who   have   never   been   up   to   a mic   before.   We   get   people   at   an   open   mic   who   have   only   shared with    their    friends,    or    who    have    never    shared    with    the    public before. JBN: And as professor, what you teach to your students? Anna   Paige:   I   teach   writing   101.   Everybody   is   expected   to   take it,   and   they   have   all   kinds   of   different   experiences   with   writing.   I have   people   who   have   never   really   had   a   good   relationship   with writing.   They   were   red-penned   when   they   were   younger   and   told what     they     were     doing     wrong.    They     were     not     necessarily encouraged   and   have   lot   of   trauma   around   writing,   because   they think   they   are   not   good   at   it.   I   meet   them   where   they’re   at   and help   empower   their   relationships   with   writing.   We   do   free-writing in   my   class,   we   engage   a   lot   in   arts   and   cultural   conversations, and   of   course   we   focus   on   the   basics   of   mechanics.   But   to   me, it’s   more   about   developing   a   relationship   with   writing   than   it   is about    creating    a    perfect    research    paper.   They    need    to    know those   skills,   but   I   think   in   order   to   make   writing   more   enjoyable, they   need   to   develop   a   relationship   with   it   that   they   might   not have   had   before.   Writing   is   a   powerful   medium   that   can   help   you process really complex emotions. I   also   teach   poetry   to   grade   school   children   though   the   nonprofit Arts   Without   Boundaries.   We   go   into   the   elementary   schools   for 12   weeks   in   the   spring   and   teach   poetry.   They   hear   poetry   read out   loud,   so   they   get   to   engage   with   published   poets—everyone from    Gallaway    Kinnel    to    Sharon    Olds    to    more    contemporary poets,   and   then   they   write   their   own   poetry   based   on   a   prompt from    the    poems.   Then    they    read    their    poetry    aloud.   Through these    three    components,    they    begin    to    understand    that    they contain   poetry   within   them,   and   they   are   just   learning   techniques to bring it out. JBN: And who is your favorite writer? Anna   Paige:   I    spend   a   lot   of   time   with   female   poets   of   the   50s and   60s,   like   Anne   Sexton   or   Sylvia   Plath.   They   were   creating   in such   a   tumultuous   time   for   women,   questioning   their   place   in   the household   and   women's   roles   in   society.   They   used   their   poetry as   vehicles   to   communicate   taboo   subjects,   sexuality   and   even abortion    and    things    that    were    not    being    talked    about    at    that time—and   they   were   being   vilified   for   it.   I   find   that   these   voices are   incredibly   bold   and   very   visceral.   I   also   love   Sharon   Olds, who    is    a    more    contemporary    voice    of    this    nature.   And    Mary Oliver—she   is   just   of   the   earth.   Her   connection   to   the   natural elements   of   the   planet   is   strong,   and   when   she   shares   her   work, it   feels   like   it’s   a   piece   of   us.   We   all   come   from   the   earth.   I   think that she communicates that really well. JBN: Do you have your style in poetry? Anna   Paige:   I've   been   trying   to   figure   that   out   lately,   because   I'm more   of   a   stage   poet   than   a   page   poet.   I've   been   working   on some   poetry   for   submission.   Poetry,   when   it’s   spoken   out   loud, has   such   a   different   existence   and   is   very   momentary.   When   it’s on   the   page,   there's   a   different   interaction   and   more   permanence to   it,   so   I’ve   been   trying   to   make   my   work   more   concise   and   more relative to the page.  JBN:    And    what    topics    are    popular    here    between    poetry writers? Anna   Paige:    Regarding   my   younger   students   who   write   each poetry   ...   Some   of   their   favorite   poems   are   “I   come   from”   poems or   poetry   focusing   on   experiences   that   have   had   or   things   that they    might    have    grown    up    with.   As    well,    I    teach    seasonality poems where they focus on one particular aspect of nature. I    like    to    bring    Galway    Kinnell’s    “Blackberry    Eating”    into    the classroom,   and   we   use   an   actual   blackberry   to   focus   their   poetry. Writing   about   a   singular   entity   is   challenging   for   them,   especially young   students   who   are   not   used   to   honing   in   on   one   particular item.   They   look   at   the   blackberry   and   think,   “Oh   my   gosh,   how can   I   write   so   much   about   one   thing?” And   it   push   them   use   their senses.   It   teaches   them   how   to   write   though   all   of   their   human capacities: sight, memory, touch, sensations… JBN:   In   my   country,   poetry   writers   love   to   use   one   special word    or    symbol    until    it    become    untasty...    What    about    in Montana? Anna   Paige:    We   have   real   original   voice   here.   Because   we   have a   lack   of   outside   influences,   we   don’t   mimic   as   much.   We   are pretty   isolated   here,   so   we   kind   of   have   to   fight   for   what   we   have and what we build. And we have to support each other. JBN: Tell me more about “A Reading of Her Own.” Anna   Paige:   “A   Reading   of   Her   Own,”   and   actually   the   Billings Area   Literary   Arts   model,   came   from   our   sister   organization   in Helena.    We    connected    with    the    women    who    had    created    a literary   organization   called   Helena   Area   Literary   Arts   (HALA).   We met   with   co-founder   Chelsia   Rice   and   talked   about   collaborating to   build   literary   arts   and   enhance   writing   opportunities   in   our   own community.   She   said:   “Here   is   my   model,   use   it,”   which   is   I   think very   honorable   thing   to   do.   People   sometimes   are   so   close   to their   projects   and   don't   want   anybody   else   to   have   them.   Chelsia was   doing   “A   Reading   of   Her   Own”   in   Helena.   The   title   comes from   Virginia   Woolf’s   "Room   of   One’s   Own."   The   idea   is   that   we women   need   places   to   process   the   things   what   occur   in   our   life. Chelsia        found    great    success    in    hosting    this    reading    event specifically for women, so we started hosting it here in Billings. The   writers   are   all   women   or   those   who   identify   themselves   as women.   We   want   to   create   an   inclusive   environment   for   women's voices   that   allows   the   audience   to   connect   to   their   experience. We   open   up   the   platform   for   anybody   who   wants   to   share   her experience    in    non-fiction    format,    eight    minutes    or    less.    The stories   are   sometimes   heavy,   but   others   can   be   very   funny   and playful.   The   event   features   a   variety   of   voices,   ages,   ethnicities, and   experiences.   Bringing   their   stories   together   and   sharing   them is   powerful.   And   we   don't   hire   writers,   we   instead   take   all   the incomes   of   the   events   minus   any   minimal   promotional   expenses and give it to charity. Our    first    event's    proceeds    were    sent    to    a    project    called Awakening   Hope,   which   empowers   women   who   are   victims   of sexual   trafficking   to   get   out   of   the   trafficking   circle. The   next   event provided   money   to   Free   Verse   Writing   Program,   a   project   started in    Missoula    that    brings    writing    teachers    into    Montana's    youth detention centers to teach creative writing.  With   BALA,   I   strongly   believe   that   we   are   not   in   the   business   of crafting   people   stories,   we   are   in   business   of   creating   space   for people   to   share,   and   from   that   we   also   want   to   do   good.   The money     that     people     are     generally     willing     to     give     for     that experience    goes    back    to    serving    the    community.    And    I    will continue   my   work   with   BALA   to   provide   those   services.   We   will   do it probably again in the spring or in early summer…
Johnson’s Billings News
Interview
Hosted by Johnson Computing
They are read.  We are Quoted!!!
  Anna Paige: “We believe very strongly in empowering people to share their voice and their truth through writing”...
 Photo by Ted Kim
Photo by Casey Page
A Pop-up Art and Poetry show, photo by Stan Parker
 Writer Bailey Brown reads during A Reading on Her own, photo by Anna Paige