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The Healing Power of Words: An Interview with Cate McNider, author of Escape Velocity

Cate McNider 1

Cate McNider is a multi-disciplinary artist, and a psychophysical practitioner and movement educator registered as The Listening Body®. Since arriving in NYC in 1985, she has expressed her healing journey through poetry, multi-media movement performances and painting. She has performed her multi-media works in downtown venues and Brooklyn, and exhibited her paintings in solo shows in the East Village and NOHO. Poems from her first collection, Separation and Return, have been in several journals, in print and online. Escape Velocity is the follow-up on the success of her healing practices. Cate still lives in New York.

You can buy Escape Velocity here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The physics concept of it was what was already underway; I was using the depth of the wound to rise to escape velocity; the more I let go and let the information (pain, conditioning, linear beliefs) in the body release, the more the Truth revealed itself to me. It was applying a concept that exists in science to an experiential process of consciousness. The nature of consciousness is expansion.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

It was like how a pregnant mother feels the first time they hold their baby. The gestational process has been birthed to something real, it’s formed in your hands. To hold and look through it and see all the decisions made along the way, were manifested into this vessel of expression of experiences, gave me a warm feeling, of years of collecting them, into this volume.

I saw that it had arrived when I was already leaving my building one June dusk, and took it with me, marveling at the cover’s velvety texture that printers are using these days. I took it with me to a local wine bar and celebrated with a glass of champagne. I wanted to share the warm feeling, so I took a selfie video, and later posted it on Instagram. The joy and wonder were visible, I think; it got more views than any other reel I’d posted. Haaa…

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

A friend of a bartender friend where I worked at the Blue Note jazz club, in 1986 asked me a question: what my family was like. I said, “Call me back in twenty” and hung up. I wrote ‘In Families Such As Mine,’ which I included in my first collection, Separation and Return (Vantage Press 2010). He called back and I read it to him.

That question tapped a surplus of creative energy that would have gone into acting parts, had they come like I wanted them. So the energy went into writing. All I needed was pen and paper and time; I wrote while riding in the subway, in cafes, in parks, or at home, wherever the inspiration struck.

Four years later, the Healing Arts called and began studying anatomy and began a whole other track of investigation, which became a career I still practice. My life began weaving itself into a body of work.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I came to NYC in 1985, fresh from post-graduate study in acting at the Drama Studio in London, UK. I also studied Martha Graham technique in college as well as in London, and in the 1990s – 2018 created my own multi-media solo improvisational dance pieces. I alternated between waiting tables and temp work while I was auditioning for theater and film parts in the late 80’s. I got as far as Off-Broadway in 1987.

Giving up pursuing acting was like surrendering my first child to Rumpelstiltskin; it was a sacrifice and a deep loss for these new callings, and the writing smoothed and soothed the pathway, creating the road ahead.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

The reason I choose to self-publish or ‘co-publish’ as is the case with Atmosphere Press, is that I am in artistic control, guided by their professional experience. I know how I want the art piece that it is collectively, the content, the cover, the font, etc. to look and feel. Maybe a regular publishing company would take my vision into account, but I’ve not attracted their interest, so far, so I don’t know, but I like owning the copyright.

For example, I use my own paintings as my book covers, since they reflect the same source, the image supports the written content in symbolism.

I had to hunt down the font I wanted that I had seen in another poetry book of another press, and they helped me, find what I wanted. The visual feeling was as important as the content therein. That was probably the longest back-and-forth-ness of the interior, aside from perhaps the proofing.

At each stage, the person (editor / designer) was understanding and supportive of my vision. When the editor told me that I was to write the introduction, between our conversation, and her intelligent questions, it got my heart so fired up as to write it immediately after hanging up! All the editors are amazing!

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

It would be sonic, ambient, atmospheric sounds, like how planets sound when astrophysicists have recorded them, or the sound waves were picked up, rather, by their instruments.

It’s my voice on the audiobook, which is as close as a soundtrack there actually is!

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

Inspired to recognize their own wounds and pains, to undertake a healing journey if they haven’t begun already some form of investigation.

Escape Velocity reports from 10/2010 – 1/2023 of my journey, and is a window into what one can expect from delving deeply into themselves.

My first collection, Separation and Return, was written in the beginning and middle stage, which expresses more directly early messages from my unconscious, and then discovering the wound from which I was recovering.

Write your dreams in a journal, put your thoughts and feelings on the page, and then look back when the book is full, and re-examine. Be compassionate with yourself.

When one begins asking the deeper questions, it poses a decision one must make and that leads to the unknown, to let go of what one thinks one knows. This whole book details what I found when I did let go, and what I experienced, and the depth of reality it uncovered.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I began writing a novel in 2013. I look at it from time to time, and write more. Frankly I had hoped I would have finished it already, but when it seemed time to publish EV, my focus stayed on poetry. I’ve also got 40+ poems for my next collection; as soon as one is published, another begins. The publication time seems to be shortening, as I go: twenty-four years for the first collection and twelve and a half for this second collection.

I also have begun other stories and have fifteen pages of a pilot screenplay.

The painting is calling again, and some experiential installations also.

The problem is always which to focus on when?—funding and time!!

How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?

Relax and enjoy the ride!

Stay true to your vision and intuition, but also listen to their professional expertise, they know what they’re doing. It’s a delightful collaboration, and only occasionally frustrating in the necessity of the electronic messaging, that is the way these days. I appreciated the phone calls when it was appropriate. They will take you through the whole process, when one stage is completed, they will pass you onto the next professional who will guide you to complete what is necessary, and on and on until it is birthed with the launch date!

You can buy Escape Velocity here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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