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Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed writer and counselor Valerie Montgomery about her life and career, what inspires her, and why she chose to write her new poetry book, Beyond Beautiful.

Tell me a bit about who you are:

First, I am a mother, grandmother, community volunteer, and former military spouse. My second career is being a Licensed Professional Counselor, which in Colorado requires a Master’s degree. I also hold a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work. I work with adult women in my psychotherapy private practice who have experiences less-than-nurturing behaviors in their childhood by a major caregiver. I facility self exploration, metabolizing shock and trauma on the nervous system, and healing for life success.

When did you first WANT to write poetry?

Valerie Montgomery, poetry book, Beyond Beautiful, interview on The Table Read

Turns out, I never WANTed to write poetry. My poetry came through cathartic and desperate journaling during my first divorce and worldview collapse. Life as I knew it no longer existed. Part of my support included daily journaling.

I found that parts of my journal writing had a form and cadence to it. I would read some of my poems while ending a speaking engagement and audience members started requesting a copy of the poems.

When did you take a step to start writing poetry?

I took a step toward writing poetry when I made myself a priority in my own life. To dedicate myself to my healing journey eventually allowed me to feel my experience through the use of language.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

I think my timeframe for publishing was about a year. Right now I am not planning on publishing anything else, but I do think I have a memoir in me.

What made you want to write Beyond Beautiful?

I wanted to demonstrate the route of catharsis and emotional healing that I experienced. I wanted a place to collect the heartfelt experiences that would move people. The collection that I included in the book are placed by depth of each poem. So, the beginning of the book is cathartic and the end is triumphant.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Beyond Beautiful?

For me, it was choosing which poems were included. Plus, I paired each poem with a photograph of my friend’s family’s trip to Italy to make the book multisensory. I even visited the printer to feel the example copy in my hand. My book is 5 times local. Meaning, there is me, my friend, the printer, the cover artist, and my editor. All from Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA, at the time.

Do you keep to a theme or just go where the mood strikes?

In the case of my book, I wanted to share the rawness to trigger folks’ unhealed grief, pain, loss, and joy. So, the poems I included not only paired with the photograph, but were ones I thought readers could understand.

In my everyday life, I start writing my experience of the moment and then let the pen take over. I also wrote a healing course from my experience of how my poetry helps me heal. It is called Process Poetry: Using Language to Discover Your True Self. It is available online. It is a self-paced course. It is a somatic and literary wonder!

What is your favorite poem in Beyond Beautiful about and what inspired it?

This is a difficult decision. Each poem has a story. The one I would like to share with you here is called The Prize. It is about leaving my Counseling Internship site in Western Kansas for the final time.

I had facilitated the next Intern to replace me and take over my psychotherapy clients. While they were seeing my former clients, I went into the hospital chapel. My internship was in a hospital. I wrote what it felt like to leave this experience that I had for the developing of my Counseling practice from the last 17 months.

Valerie Montgomery, poetry book, Beyond Beautiful, interview on The Table Read

Hospital staff were saying goodbye, I was learning more about everyone who was finally ready to be real and open with me-some folks are guarded with psychotherapists in case we can read their mind or something they are believing. Everyone was so kind and appreciative on May 1, 2008.

And, I was celebrating, feeling the changes to come-graduating, and probably not going back to that little town. They had given me a chance to support them as I developed my Counseling skills. It was resplendent!

Does music help you write?

I usually am in my morning headspace and do not put on music for my journaling.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Beyond Beautiful need?

Yes! I hired an editor. I had no idea how to put the poems and photography together. Plus, she was a military spouse whom I had already met through a speaking event. She had organized the military spouses conference. I was one of the speakers. So, I asked her for help. She gave the sections of the book words that I chose as a divider of content. It really made the book pop!

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write poetry?

The first piece of advice I would give for my type of poetry writing is to get into your body. The body carries our truth, whereas our brain thinks it is in charge.

For me, writing poetry cannot be separated from my emotional reality.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

Well, I do have a document about my Process Poetry course that could be a book already. It is actually part of my former PhD work. In my heuristic self paced program I wrote my curriculum. The final class I would prove completion in was called Insight Journalling. Which is what my Process Poetry online course is about.

Another idea I have begun is a memoir. I am recording content privately on YouTUBE to see if that project has any traction. People tell me I have an interesting story.

Whatever I do, I always want others to feel a sense of hope and success in their own lives.

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Absolutely worth all the effort. I am proud of pushing forward through immense pain and grief. Creating a career supporting healing and demonstrating vulnerability through my own story.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here:

Please know I am developing a second business to house the items that are non-clinical. As you can imagine, there are regulations around the practice of psychotherapy. My courses, the book, my guidance model, and speaking are going to be on the new business website. Beyond Beautiful . net is my Counseling website.

My online course is still on my Counseling website, but Counseling is only for Colorado residents. But, anyone can take the online course:

Here is my Linktree:

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