Carmen Micsa, MORSELS OF LOVE: A Book of Poetry and Short Form

Carmen Micsa, MORSELS OF LOVE: A Book of Poetry and Short Form

Zibby interviews real estate broker, marathon runner, tennis player, podcaster, and writer Carmen Micsa about her beautiful new book of poetry and short-form Morsels of Love. Carmen talks about her relationship with fitness and reveals that running inspired her to write poetry–the strides, the breaths, the rhythm! She also describes the memoir she is working on, which will cover her childhood in communist Romania and fighting in the Romanian Revolution. Finally, she shares the life lesson that has helped her accomplish so much (it involves prioritizing the fun stuff!).


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Carmen. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” I’m so excited to have you here.

Carmen Micsa: Thank you so much for having me. It is a great honor. I am just very, very happy to see you and to talk to you.

Zibby: You not only self-published your second collection of poems, Morsels of Love, but you also wrote a tennis book back in the day. I love it. When was that published, by the way?

Carmen: It was published in 2018. What happened, I was in my forties, and I decided to go back to college just to be on the tennis team.

Zibby: No!

Carmen: Yes. All my colleagues there, my friends, they were eighteen, nineteen years old. They were more tired than me. They were like, “How come you’re never tired, Carmen?” because I was like, “Let’s play all the matches in one day and get it done with.”

Zibby: Wow. Wait, so you’re from Romania originally.

Carmen: Yes.

Zibby: Let’s talk about tennis first because that’s fun. Did you grow up a tennis player? Did you compete? Tell me your tennis history.

Carmen: What happened is, my father was a ping-pong champion. He was really good at ping-pong. When I was in sixth grade, I said, “Daddy, I want to play tennis.” He goes, “Well, we’re going to play on a quarter of the court because I don’t know how to play tennis, but we’ll both learn.” I said, “Great.” Then we started to play. Then once we both learned, we moved to the whole court. We were having so much fun. I never competed as a kid. Then I met my future husband. We met. He said, “I love to play tennis.” I said, “So do I.” We started to play tennis. Then we came to America, actually, and that’s when we really started to play a lot of tennis. We played tournaments. I’ve played over 250 tournaments in USTA. It was just our way to release stress. In our first year, we used to work twelve-hour days. Then we would go in the evening to a local park and play tennis.

Zibby: Did you end up getting ranked and all of that, or no?

Carmen: Yes. I was 4.5 in USTA. Now I’m a 4.0 because I don’t play as much. I run more.

Zibby: Right, so that’s your other big thing, is running. How far do you run? What is your running schedule? This is amazing to be in such great athletic shape and be able to accomplish all these goals.

Carmen: Thank you, Zibby. As a matter of fact, I feel, in my forties, I am much stronger than I was in my twenties, honestly. With running, we all know that you put in the work, and you actually get things in return. You actually become better as you age with running. We have a funny thing, runners. We always celebrate getting older because we move to another age group. It’s just counterintuitive. We’re like, yes, we’re in the new age group. Now we can do better. We can run stronger.

Zibby: How much do you run and play tennis in a week?

Carmen: Lately with tennis, it’s about once a week. All my friends keep trying to get me on the tennis court. I’m like, “No, I have to run twenty miles because I’m preparing for Berlin Marathon.” In marathon training, I ran sixty miles last week, 6-0. If I prepare for a 5K, obviously, the training is different. I always have fun. I run with friends. They listen to me talk. I’m like, “I’m writing a new poem. I’m writing a new short story. I’m doing this.” Then they tell me what they’re doing. Our miles just fly by. You know?

Zibby: My miles never fly by, but that’s amazing that you can do that. That’s just wonderful. I didn’t read your tennis book, I have to admit, but tell me what I should know from that book. It’s about nutrition and life and how you translate tennis into having you — tell me the title. I see the book right behind you. I looked it up ahead of time, but I don’t have it in front of me.

Carmen: It’s Change Your Grip on Life Through Tennis!: A Player’s Physical, Mental, Technical, & Nutritional Guide for Improving Your Game. My goal when I wrote this book is, I wanted to share my college experience because it was fun. I also wanted to share workouts. Mainly, I wanted to share the Zen of tennis, what I call the Zen of tennis. We’re talking about Zen and tennis and writing. I think it helps us a lot as writers when we don’t have any preconceived ideas, we don’t come to life thinking that we know things. That’s what you learn through sports. There’s always a new angle. Tennis is about geometry. When you create those angles on the court, you see things differently. You get to place the ball the way you want it. You feel accomplished. Speaking about Zen, I really love this story. “A Japanese master during the Meiji era received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served him tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the cup overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. ‘It is overfull. No more will go in.’ ‘Like this cup,’ Nan-in said, ‘you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?'” I always felt like with tennis, I was very mentally strong, so a lot of times, I was winning matches that I wasn’t supposed to win. Then my friends would come back to me, and they’re like, “How did you pull that?” I was like, “I don’t know. I got into my Zen place. I kind of let go, but I also thought more on the court and took some risks when I could do it.”

Zibby: I’m still processing your “tennis is geometry” because that would probably make my tennis a lot better, if I thought about it in terms of lines and angles and all of that as opposed to all the things I need to do with each stroke with my body just to get the ball in the right place. I’m more like, okay, bend your knees. Look down. Anyway, doesn’t matter. My aim is probably not like yours, which seems to be amazing.

Carmen: I apply this especially in doubles. In doubles, it’s just even more critical, but even in singles. I play a lot of games with my husband. He’s like, “See, you always do better when you go closer to the line.” Then I say, “Yeah, but see, I missed three or four balls, and you beat me.”

Zibby: You also are a poet, among other things. You sent me two links to different pieces, including “Sunrise Streaks: Saluting the day,” prose poem, which is beautiful. What you do that’s so unique, also, in your collections is pair photos with poems because there’s poetry in photos, to be honest. Can I just read this one? Is that okay?

Carmen: Yes, please.

Zibby: “My reaction to a beautiful sunrise piles up ‘s’ words as neatly as a stack of pancakes oozing with maple syrup. The sun strips, strides, surmounts, and surveys the world in streaks of honey. As soon as I notice the solicitous sun, I salute the day by smiling and surrendering to its sunrays that bathe my soul and renew my being. Today, it was no exception, although I found myself peeking around the edges of the sun that peeled off its rays, stickers of light and longing. The gray clouds circled and cuddled the sun like an egg holder cup as if afraid to let the colors converge with the dark clouds floating around the sky after the heavy winter overnight rain. After I stood there taking a few pictures of the sunrise, my breathing and heart slowing down, the sun started to look like a firm egg yolk. I almost felt tempted to dip small bread pieces into it until I remembered that I had to continue my run, but only after I kept squinting at the sun. And the sun squinted back at me silently and solemnly in its full splendor.” That is absolutely beautiful. So beautiful.

Carmen: Thank you. Your reading was beautiful.

Zibby: Oh, thanks. You can just take me on the road with you. Whatever I can do. When did your poetic side come out? How long have you been doing that?

Carmen: It’s very interesting, Zibby. I always wrote ever since I was about ten years old. I really became poet after I became a runner, which is really interesting. I was running. My stride, my breath, I felt inspired with every step I was taking. Rhymes or lines would pop into my head. Then I would rush back home to write them down. As a matter of fact, in the Morsels of Love — I’ll just read this. “Poetry became motion together with my running.” One of my poems is called “Poetry in Motion.” “When I first became a runner, I discovered dancing words that floated freely in my mind and filled my soul with serenity. When I first started to pile up my poems, heaps of hope, I would run in nature where my thoughts were nurtured.” It was really interesting. Every time I was going out, I was experiencing different things. I was a new runner. I was learning about running. I was also learning to become a poet. With the first collection of poems, it literally took me three years to get it done because I would just be like, when I run, I’m going to write another poem. I wasn’t as disciplined as I needed to be about writing. Now I am much, much better. The second collection, it took me, from three years, I got it done in three months. That was because I had the discipline and the excitement to write for Medium. I was publishing daily. At the end of it, I was like, I didn’t work enough on my memoir this year, but wait a minute, I have another collection of poetry. Let’s go with this for this year.

Zibby: Wait, tell me about your memoir.

Carmen: My memoir has been a work-in-progress because it was my thesis for my master’s degree in English. I put it aside after I graduated because I wasn’t happy with it. Then I did so many other things. Last year, I picked it up. I changed the direction completely. I basically focus on growing up in Romania during communism. I also fought in the Romanian Revolution when I was sixteen. I was out there in the streets with my dad. I’m focusing on the lessons that I learned and that there was sunshine coming through the cracks all the time. There was so much that I learned and that made me the resilient person that I am. I look back. I’m like, you know, that wasn’t as bad, especially because I was pretty lucky. I didn’t have to worry about other things that other people went through. Some people went to jail. It was intense. Like I said, I learned so many lessons. I want to impart that. Every chapter will have some lessons that I learned then, like swimming against the current.

Zibby: Could we go back to fighting in the streets of a revolution at age sixteen? Oh, my gosh, I was showing up at parties at sixteen. What was I doing? Tell me about that. What on earth? What did that look like? Did you have a gun? Tell me about that.

Carmen: No gun. Basically, what happened is, the revolution started. I had just left Timişoara, which is a big university town. That’s where the revolution started. I had just left it to go back home because winter break was coming. I was in high school. I got home. My dad and I, we were listening to the radio. They were saying the revolution started in Romania, the free Europe radio station. We couldn’t get real news in Romania. I told my dad, “Dad, we need to go in the streets. We need to go fight for freedom.” He’s like, “But they’re shooting at people. We could risk our lives.” I said, “I don’t care. We need to fight for freedom. We need to go.” My dad says, “Okay, we’re going.” My mom says, “I can lose my job, you guys, with the communists if they know you’re in the streets.” I’m like, “Don’t worry, Mom. We need freedom.” We went for three days in a row. Luckily, I lived in a very small town, and so they weren’t shooting at us. They were only shooting in big towns. It was more intense there. It was an experience to be surrounded by thousands of people wanting freedom, who wanted a change in our country. It’s really seared into my memory. I’m glad I got to do this with my dad.

Zibby: Wow. I feel like you should read — wait, where is it? There’s a new book out. Hold on, I’m grabbing it to show you. It’s called A Life in Light by Mary Pipher, Meditations on Impermanence. I feel like there’s so much in your writing about light and the effect of light. That’s her whole theme. It’s really a memoir, but it’s told through light. I think you would really appreciate this. I feel like you’re on the same page as her in the way you literally see the world. That image not only in your poem, but even just saying that you could see the sunlight through the cracks, it’s beautiful imagery. I find it very complementary. I bet you’ll like it.

Carmen: I will definitely read it. Last week, I finished reading your memoir, which I really enjoyed.

Zibby: Thank you. That’s very nice of you. It is crazy talking to people who’ve read my book who are also writers. It’s really neat. This is very neat to read each other’s work. It’s very cool.

Carmen: Yes.

Zibby: You seem to have no trouble setting goals and accomplishing them. You decide to pick up tennis, and you become a masterful competitor. You decide to run marathons and now just up and run sixty miles a week. You decide to write poetry collections and whip them up as you’re going, memoir, short story. You’re also a super real estate broker. You have so many things. What do you think it is about you? What are the secrets to just setting intentions and going after them and achieving them? It seems like that comes very easily to you.

Carmen: That’s a really great question, Zibby. I was on another podcast. I told this story. I always put the fun first into my calendar. I learned that when I first became a real estate broker because the broker at the time — now I am the broker. He said, “You could work twenty-four hours in this business. If you’re not careful, you’re going to burn out.” It’s the same for us writers. If we’re not careful, we’re going to burn out. He said, “Make sure you put your fun into the calendar first. Pencil it in, literally.” I’m really, really good, also, about making sure that I balance everything, that I balance the play with the work. Once I get something into my mind — this year, for instance, in the summer, my daughter and I started a podcast.

Zibby: That’s right. I meant to mention that, yes.

Carmen: It’s called “Seeds of Sunshine: A Mother-Daughter Podcast.” We already interviewed authors and, of course, an Olympic runner. I just go with, if I set something and if I say that I’m doing something, I’m not one of those people who just talks about dreams and goals. I like to take action. It’s probably also because when I grew up in communism, our teachers were very blunt to us, Zibby. They would say, “Carmen, this is great, but this is not at your level. Can you go and do it better?” It would be straight in your face. “You can do much better. I’m disappointed in you.” You learned to be tough and to think that, okay, how can I do this better? If I say something, how can I actually do it? By basically sitting down in our chair and writing or lacing up our shoes and going. Sometimes I have to plan carefully. I am lucky that my job is very flexible. I think that’s my advantage. I played a lot this morning and during the day. I’ve had lunch with a friend. I’m going to work until midnight. Something has to give.

Zibby: Interesting. I like the idea of putting joy and fun and play on the calendar. I feel like that’s the first thing to go, and certainly never sees the light of day on my own calendar. Not that there’s that much white space. Any day where I actually take the time to do something out of the ordinary — this weekend, we went and did all these fun things. I feel like I’m starting totally refreshed as if I’ve peeled off a layer of, I don’t know what, cobwebs or something. Not cobwebs. It’s almost like I’m in a plaster cast. I have to start by peeling off each layer. The more fun you have, the more you can get back to who you even are underneath. That sounds ridiculous, but it made sense in my head.

Carmen: No, it’s exactly how I feel. I also feel more creative. When you start writing, you have different images and ideas. You’re writing so freely and with more joy, I feel.

Zibby: Yes, so true. Top three ways that you have fun. What are your top three go-tos for fun?

Carmen: Obviously, running. It’s running. It’s spending time with our kids. They’re teenagers. Yesterday, they dragged me to the mall, but it was just so nice to see them. They were explaining to me about the new shoes. They’re like, “Mom, you don’t just do with these shoes like you do with your running shoes.” I was trying to feel the sole of the shoe and bend it. They’re like, “Mom, you don’t do that.” I’m like, “What’s the big deal?” Obviously, being with them. Playing tennis with my husband is a lot of fun, even though he just demolishes me. It’s fun because we both have an unconventional tennis game. We do a lot of slices and all tricky shots. If I play with him and then I play with my women friends, it feels easy because he makes me work so hard. We love to travel as a family. We spent three weeks in Europe this summer, in Spain and Portugal. If I could travel my entire life, that’s what I would choose to do for fun.

Zibby: I feel like everybody’s talking about Portugal. I don’t know what it is. What’s going on? Maybe the Portugal tourism trade board stepped up or something. I just feel like everybody’s going to Portugal. I was just on a call with someone in Lisbon. Now I’m very eager to go. I’ve never been.

Carmen: You will like it. We really, really liked Spain as well, the Andalucía region.

Zibby: Next up for you, you’re going to finish your book, finish your memoir. What else?

Carmen: Finish the memoir. I also should plan writing a novel. It’s a different kind of genre. I feel like I would want to do that.

Zibby: Sounds good. Last question. Advice for aspiring authors?

Carmen: Yes, absolutely. I recently read an article, and I think if we all did that, we really would write more consistently. This author said that the best thing to do is to read for thirty minutes. He calls it the 30/30 rule. You read for thirty minutes. Then you write for thirty minutes. What you read is also important. You want to read something that is deeper or matches what you’re writing because it will inspire us to think and write with revelatory depth and beauty, if that’s the kind of writing you like to do. Basically, I want to start trying that. I usually read late at night. I have my own book club. I feel like at night, it’s easier to read than in the morning if I want to write in the morning. I think the 30/30 rule where you actually sit down and read something that inspires you and then writing will make things flow.

Zibby: That’s excellent advice. I have never heard that. I love it. Very cool.

Carmen: I used to read more than a hundred books, and mainly the classics, back in Romania. We were taught to underline, to always read with a pencil in your hand. I think it’s very powerful when you actually read and engage with a text on a different level and you mark things down or you take notes. My bookmark is a blank page so that I can write my notes as I read. I even made notes reading your memoir. I actually made it on my iPhone so that I share with a friend. That way you engage with a text at a different level and different depth.

Zibby: Thank you for doing that. Thank you. Thank you for everything. Thanks for coming on and being so prepared and just amazing. Thanks for your patience.

Carmen: Thank you so much, Zibby. I’m deeply honored. I’m very happy we got to do this because I know you don’t get to have a lot of poets. Thank you for opening up your heart and your podcast to me.

Zibby: No problem. It’s a joy. Thanks so much. Buh-bye.

Carmen: Thanks, Zibby. Bye.

Chris: Bye.

Carmen Micsa, MORSELS OF LOVE: A Book of Poetry and Short Form

MORSELS OF LOVE: A Book of Poetry and Short Form by Carmen Micsa

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