Betty Dravis: Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Chase. As you know, we interview a lot of authors, but we also feature people from all walks of life. Since you wear a lot of hats––poet, author, celebrity interviewer and publisher––I think our readers will be very interested in you. I want to tell our readers right up front that you are the co-author on my latest book “Dream Reachers.” Can you tell us a little bit about the experience of working with me? You don’t have to tell them what a big whip I carry, though. And please don’t pump me up…LOL…
Chase Von: Working with you, Betty, has been one of the very best experiences of my entire life. I will admit though, it wasn’t easy dealing with a perfectionist and I found out really quickly you’re a sweetheart outside the writing world but inside it, when it comes to things being as they should, you’re a TIGER!
(Good thing I’m the Last Panther or you’d be picking your teeth with my bones. Heh, heh…)
Being a poet first (where there is so much artistic freedom), I wasn’t prepared for the truly technical structure of writing that you brought to the table. But I’ve learned so much from you and consider you not only a co-author and a friend, but also a mentor. Mentally, you’ve smacked me around quite a bit, but I really have to thank God for your being in my life and I say that in all seriousness because you are an angel. You’re hard, but fair, Marine…er… I mean Betty! Heh, heh… But there’s no doubt in my mind, you could be a Drill Sergeant.
Betty Dravis: I told you not to pump me up, Chase, but I kinda like it! (I just wanted you to admit I do have a tougher, more serious side than most people see, especially when I’m editing.) But back to you: I know you are an esteemed poet with two published volumes. The titles of both are unique, but I’m most curious about “Your Chance to Hear the Last Panther Speak.” I understand that you are “The Last Panther.” How did that come about and what does it mean?
Chase Von: I think it’s in recognition of my American Indian heritage. Ethnically, I’m black, Blackfoot Indian, Cherokee Indian, and according to family lore, French, as well. The Last Panther is no different to me than saying Black Elk or Sitting Bull. It confuses some people; they read it wrong and think I’m a “Black Panther.” I’m okay with that, as well. If you read my books or get to know me, you know I’m not a member of that organization, but I also understand why that group formed and I also know they’ve done a lot of good, like initiating the before-school breakfast programs, for one example. Speaking of that, did you know there is no such thing as a black panther? Tigers have tigers, lions have other lions, and so on, but there is no “black panther” species. Sometimes some are born black, though. It always mystifies me how people get “Black Panther” when I clearly state “Last Panther.” I guess their minds wander when they read…
Betty Dravis: I like that name for you, Chase; it suits you and your philosophy of life. And thanks for the information about the panther species. I also think our readers will be interested in your poetry. I’ve read PANTHER and am impressed that your words seem to flow from your heart; you have penned some powerful thoughts. I’m even more fascinated by your celebrity interviewer status. Author Christy Tillery French termed me a “celebrity interviewer” but when I interviewed a few stars back in my day, I was actually a columnist and it was just part of my job at the various newspapers where I worked. How did you get started interviewing celebrities? I notice that all the people you interview aren’t celebrities in the normal sense of the word. What is your definition of celebrity?
Chase Von: I got introduced by Willard Barth to Judyth Piazza, and did an interview with her. She’s the creator and founder of the Student Operated Press. After the interview she asked me if I would like to write for her. Because I write, I’ve met a lot of interesting people, so in addition to mentoring on SOP and sharing some of my own work, I decided to interview some of the very interesting people I know. They are not “world famous,” but they’re extremely talented and if they stretch to reach their dreams, they could one day be icons. I interview interesting people whether they are famous or not. To me each person is to be celebrated, whether they are known only by their family and friends or by the whole world. I enjoy meeting new people, talking to them, learning from them and writing about them. And I do it for that reason. I like learning because if you aren’t learning, you aren’t growing, and there is no better way to learn than to ask questions.
Betty Dravis: I admire that about you, Chase, and I agree; everyone’s life is a celebration of wonder. Now I’m curious about which genre you most enjoy writing: poems, short stories or nonfiction, such as “Dream Reachers?”
Chase Von: It’s still something that confuses me unless I really think about it: Fiction isn’t true, and nonfiction is…yes? For some reason, that just seems backwards to me. So let’s just say “real” or “made-up” to make this easier for me. (Maybe I’m a tad dyslexic.) With my own writing, I prefer making things up, mostly because that’s what I do. I’m a “thought catcher” who turns thoughts into poetry. Whether I write about love or dreams, I hope readers can relate to it in a “real” sense––pulled out of thin air or not. It’s always interesting to interview people and write the facts of their lives, but poetry is my first love.
Betty Dravis: I can understand that, but getting back to celebrity interviewing, since you do your interviews by phone and email, have you met any celebrities in person? If so, tell us a little about the first one and the most recent one you’ve met.
Chase Von: The first celebrity I met was the famous boxer Joe Frazier; I met him at a 7-Eleven when I was going to a high school football game. And famous Olympian Carl Lewis’s Dad was my winter track coach in Willingboro, New Jersey. The last celebrity I spent time with on the phone was Hollywood actress Jenny McShane, who is a beautiful person both inside and out. The last one I have actually spent time with is musician M.T. Robison and his band “The Messengers.” I was a personal guest at their recent gig in Hollywood.
I’ve pulled security for Sinbad, Cedric The Entertainer, Shelia E’s family and The Weeper and I’ve also met Kidd Rock, Alyssa Milano, Lee Anne Womack, Brittany Murphy and many others. I do want to say here, though, that Brittany Murphy and Jenny McShane are like twins, personality wise.
Betty Dravis: What are your ideal writing conditions? Do you listen to music while writing? And how do you go about promoting your books when published?
Chase Von: I really don’t have any ideal conditions, as I’m a “thought catcher,” as mentioned before. I might be on a bus, in my backyard, on a ship or driving in a car and something will hit me and I have to write it down. I don’t have to catch all of it, but the gist of it. I might write it on a matchbook or a napkin, or if I’m lucky enough to be at home, the computer. Thoughts don’t always introduce themselves at convenient times; they come when they want to come.
Betty Dravis: I suppose most writers are a little bit like that, too, Chase. You know, I love the complete act of writing and hate the marketing. What do you love about it? What do you hate? I bet your answer will be a lot like mine, but this curious mind wants to know…as I’m sure our readers do.
Chase Von: I think in today’s world, writers have to help sell their own books…to make a dent, but I much prefer writing to marketing. Marketing is work; writing is a part of who I am. It’s also difficult for me to “sell myself” because I don’t think on the level of: I’m all THAT and a ‘bag of chips.’ I’d call it humility, but if someone likes what I write, I’m deeply touched. I’m the type of person who likes to let what I do speak for itself. Perhaps this is outdated, but what I’m generally saying is, if you’re good, the world will beat a path to your door. So I’m waiting.
Betty Dravis: What advice would you give other writers?
Chase Von: Read! Writers to me are like verbal painters, and if you have a limited vocabulary, it’s like trying to paint a picture with two or three colors when you could be using the entire spectrum of colors. Another thing is: learn things you don’t know and admit that you don’t know it all. I’d like to share a poem here, if I may?
There are so many people
Who will never know
More than what they know
Because what they know
Actually prevents them
What they could know
Betty Dravis: That’s lovely, Chase…thought-provoking… Do you have a current mentor? If so, tell us about him or her and about others who have influenced your life.
Chase Von: Not to sound corny, but I think just about everyone that teaches me things I don’t know is a mentor: Judyth Piazza, yourself, Willard Barth, Bryant McGill, Ed Roberts…and I could go on and on here. But I also want to say something that might sound a bit crazy to a lot of people—God! Someone gave me something years ago, a little card that said…and this is from memory: “God Still Speaks, To Those Who Listen.” I believe that.
Betty Dravis: That doesn’t sound crazy at all to me, Chase, because I credit God as my main mentor too. Now, tell us a little about your family who must be thrilled that you’re a published author.
Chase Von: I have a lovely wife and three kids…a dog and two fish… And no matter how others might admire things I do and have done, to my kids I’m Dad. I’m the one my youngest shows his cars to, my daughter tells about her “Beanie Babies,” and whose oldest son has to be called a couple of times because he can’t hear because he’s on the phone with a girl….
Speaking of family, I would like to wish my Mom a happy birthday in a public format; she celebrated in July. She turned 29 again. Heh, heh…
Betty Dravis: Well, that’s a woman’s prerogative, they say, Chase, but I know a few men like that too. But now for the fun question: I waited till the end to put you on the spot, but do you mind sharing the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you in connection with your writing?
Chase Von: Perhaps not in the vein you’re expecting, but a teacher once told me and the entire class that “few people change.” It triggered me to write one of my first poems: “So long.” When I showed it to that teacher, she couldn’t believe that I wrote it and thought I had copied some adult’s writing. To prove (to herself, I imagine) that I didn’t write it she had the entire class do something else and told me to write a poem.
I even remember what I wrote that day… From memory:
I’ve been on this earth
Since my birth
Like most others
I’m pretty well sure
A brain I am not
But I know quite a lot
Enough to get by
I could go on and on
About the things I know
How the sun stays lit
And why rivers flow
But there’s one subject
I will never know
And that subject
Well, in her thinking, it wasn’t on the same level as “So long”––so I was embarrassed, even when I shouldn’t have been. It was years before I showed anything else I wrote to an actual “Adult.”
I was in Ansbach, Germany when my former high school counselor asked me if they could put one of my poems in a high school yearbook. (It was my rival high school, and she and my former teacher had ended up there, both on the yearbook staff.) “Probably Will” was included in that yearbook and when the teacher recognized my name, she said, “I remember him! He’s the one that wrote this?” She then went on to tell my once-high-school counselor about the childhood incident and the counselor said, “So you’re the one?” The teacher then relayed an apology. A little late… Nonetheless, I forgave her long ago and don’t want to end this on a sour note, but to be accused at such a young age, sat off by myself and forced to write (which any writer knows isn’t how any of us do it)…. Well, that brings a two-time war veteran like myself to unfavorable memories because it is still painful to be treated like that by someone in an established position, one who you thought you would be pleasing.
Yes, that was embarrassing, but I got over it. But any teacher who jumps to conclusions about how advanced a young child’s writings skills should be––or whatever talent they exhibit––isn’t a teacher to me. She (or he) is a “Dream Vampire!”
I survived and went on to win accolades for my poetry. I wonder how many people out there might have laid down their pens for good because of experiences like that. And this isn’t a book plug––though some might think it is––but I’ve learned not to be too concerned with that as of late. I really think people who have had similar experiences need to read the book we put together, Angel Betty: “Dream Reachers.” If they are still letting something like that hold them back, maybe our book will inspire them to forgive and move forward to go after their dreams.
I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anyone slow me down or stop me from reaching for my dreams. No one has the right to take that from me, regardless of what their credentials might be.
Betty Dravis: It’s sad, Chase, that some teachers intimidate students that way, and I agree: it can harm them for life. I’m glad you came out okay and continued writing inspiring poetry––like my favorite one that’s on the final page of “Dream Reachers.” Do you mind sharing it with Dames of Dialogue and our guests? We all appreciate your visiting with us today and I think it would be a perfect way to end this interview
Chase Von: Sure, I’m happy to share the poem, and thanks for inviting me to be your guest. It’s been my pleasure. Peace and love to y’all.
If the universe
Is big enough
To hold countless stars
And uncountable galaxies
Is it really a stretch
Of the imagination
To believe within it
It can also hold