Aesthetically Speaking: Catherine Adel West

This week’s interview was conducted with Catherine West, a colleague of mine at work. We found out we actually grew up blocks from each other in Evergreen Park, and now years later we’re working as editors in a small office in downtown Chicago. Small world. Catherine’s blog makes me laugh every time I read it, and I’m looking forward to reading more as the inspiration strikes her. Thanks for sharing, Catherine!

What is your name and city of residence?
My name is Catherine Adel West and I live in Chicago, IL.

What medium do you work in?
I am a writer. Whether or not I am a legendary writer remains to be seen.

Catherine West

Catherine West, legendary writer

How often do you work on your art–is it a full-time endeavor or something you work on in your spare time?
I write in my spare time. Mostly I write after work or during breaks. It’s for the most part when inspiration hits me, which is more and more often these days.

How does art fit into your life, in general? Is it something you think about and talk about every day, or every week, or only in certain situations, etc.?
As I have to edit other people’s words, I think about my work and my words all the time, every time. It actually helps to know what techniques work in writing and which ones do not.

When you start on a piece, what kind of end result do you have in mind? Does it get performed or published, put in a permanent form or is it more temporary?
When I begin a story, it is very fluid. I never know where I’m going to end up which is most of the fun. My result varies with each story I create; I want to make you laugh; I want to make you cry. My overall goal is always the same and that’s to make the reader feel something powerful. I will publish my work on a blog. I am, however, experimenting with the idea of being more aggressive and entering short story competitions.

What goals do you set in relation to your art, both short- and long-term? Is it something you hope to make money doing, or is it something you want to keep uncommercialized? Does the term “sell-out” hold meaning for you or do you see the art/commerce relationship as a necessary one?
My ultimate dream or goal has always been two-fold. Become a successful writer both literary and screenwriting (maybe an Oscar or two in my future). To me, sell-out is not a dirty word as I have never been the “starving artist” type. We do have to make a living and we all, as artists, want to reach as many people as we can with our words, music, images, etc.

I think the lines that one is willing to cross determine the extent to whether they will be able to ultimately live with their decisions or not. I think in the end, I will be able to live with my decisions and do so happily.

What role does collaboration with others play in your art, if any?
Collaboration, if any, for me comes mostly in the editing process. I give my stories to a few trusted people and they give me their honest feedback. We will go back and forth about things that can be edited or changed. However, writing is mostly a very single and lonely process.

How conscious are you of your artistic influences? Who are your artistic influences?
I think anyone who performs music, paints, writes, or whatever is constantly trying to live up to an ideal person. With every note played, word written, or brush stroke comes a constant questioning of how would this person handle it or how can I put my own unique spin on my art form. I am no different.

 I read and re-read every line and compare myself. How I write, every word used has little bits of Zora Neale Hurston or Dean Koontz or Anne Rice or Chuck Palahniuk. I try to write to combine love of ethnicity and mystery and description and dark humor. I want my writing to be all of these things in a unique shell.

Since this is a travel blog, how does travel relate to or affect your art? (Themes in what you produce, road trips to perform your music, thoughts on what happens to your painting when you ship it across the country to a customer, etc.)
Travel mainly affects the way I describe a place in my writings. A lot of it I pull from different places I’ve visited. A hotel room in Paris; a casino in Vegas; the way the Pacific Ocean beats the sand in Santa Monica — all this helps me give a place or setting as much depth and feeling as the characters themselves.

And finally, a right-brain question: If your art was a map, what would it be a map of?
As much as I dislike the wilderness, I would actually compare my art to the forest. There is a lot of beauty, dense and raw, and it can be hard to get through, but once you hit that beautiful meadow, and the sun is shining off the picturesque lake, the trek was totally worth it!

If you’d like, share your website/Facebook page and any upcoming gigs/plans you’d like readers to know about.
I have a wonderful blog titled “Ghetto Yuppies.” It’s funny and crazy and a good read so I invite all people to check it out!