Schuyler Peck is an undergraduate writer and poet. She writes personal poems, performs slam poetry, and cohosts a YouTube channel dedicated to “trying to end the stigma of talking about real difficulties plaguing society.” Peck also runs a blog under the pen name Daisy Longmile, where she takes secrets that have been sent to her via Tumblr and creates poems inspired by them.
We asked Schuyler about Tumblr, slam poetry, and advice for aspiring writers.
– Interviewed by Bethany Olson
What was behind your choice to publish your poems on Tumblr? What do you like about Tumblr over other blogging platforms?
I loved Tumblr at first because it becomes a sort of diary to people, for what they choose to repost and like, and in that kind of personal sense, I started using it as literally a diary, poetry-wise. I think Tumblr has more sense of community than other social media, where everyone has their own niche, but can still talk together. I loved that. In my mind, I wanted to reach a lot of people with different backgrounds and interests, but could still come together for writing and poetry, and I think Tumblr offered that the most. What it’s given me, which I didn’t expect, is more insight to what other writers are doing. The cool thing about Tumblr is that you see a little bit of what everyone’s doing, and that holds a lot of influence when you’re trying to get inspired.
I read that you are thinking of self-publishing. Explain your reasoning behind publishing a book or e-book instead of on a personal blog? What makes having a physical book so desirable?
I am! Or still considering it, at least. Haha, oh gosh. I mean, what writer hasn’t dreamed of holding their own words on a bookshelf? I’ve been writing since the fourth grade and that’s always been the goal, to get published somehow. I’ve never been into this transference from physical books to virtual, but I understand the convenience. For me, it’s about holding a book, having that book-smell, and being able to put it with a collection, as if it’s a tiny representation of who you are. Although the accessibility of putting my poems online is nice, there are particular poems I have that seem more special, and I didn’t think the internet was right for their debut. Maybe it sounds weird, but for me, it’s like texting your best friend “hpy bday,” when you know they deserve a little better.
Under the pseudonym Daily Longmile, you publish poems inspired by secrets people have sent you. What is it about secrets that inspire you? Why are they such great subjects for poems?
Not to sound too hippie/free-love/peace not war, but I just have a serious interest in society and the human race. It’s so interesting that you are you, and I’ll never personally know what your life is like, but even through small stories, I’ll catch a glimpse of it. That’s all I’ll get, but if it’s right, it’ll be enough. My fiancé gives me a hard time because I talk to strangers too often. I don’t understand why it’s always viewed as a bad thing. Sure, be careful and aware, but get to know your fellow human beings. I was once in New York City and sat and talked to a man that was fiddling in Central Park. He told the most incredible stories. He had toured with several orchestras across the world. He told me about Austria, Sweden, and Paraguay; those were his favorite performances. Because of travel, he was having some trouble with his wife and she eventually left him, around the same time the orchestra let him go. Instead of letting everything send him into a spiral, he kept fiddling to the city, even if no one was listening. That’s probably the experience that changed things for me. He allowed himself to be so vulnerable, even crying, to a perfect stranger, and every aspect about that was beautiful. At the end of things, I was holding his hand and we understood that we connected there, and I think we both needed that experience. I wanted to give that opportunity to more people, to have that chance to share something personal. They inspire the poems so well, because I’m constantly putting myself in a place I haven’t been, and then trying to tell that story. I want to treat whatever they’ve given me the best I can.
Explain your choice behind using a pseudonym? What does Daisy Longmile mean to you?
The secret series started as a project two years ago, and I wanted the focus to be on a safe place where strangers could clear their chest and have that pain turn into something better. I didn’t want the focus to be on me, my name, or my other writings. I still don’t, which is why I try to separate the two. To me, the idea of Daisy Longmile started as a cute, peaceful name. It seemed like a delicate idea, and I wanted people to feel comfortable. Over the years, I’ve watched “Daisy” and I develop into much stronger women. When I write poems, I now know they all don’t have to be gentle; that’s not how life works. People have been through rough times, and if I feel like they need someone stumbling out of the sidelines and onto the field, rooting their name as loud as they can, than that’s what they get. That’s what they deserve.
Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about publishing their poems or personal essays on the Internet?
Of course. What I think is most important is just getting your work out there and into the world. It can be scary, I understand. However, most of your fears will never happen. More likely than not, people are going to thank you for sharing rather than judging you, or making harsh critiques about your work. I don’t think you’re going to regret this. You’re getting your voice out there, you’re getting feedback, and you’re getting better because of it.
What motivated you to write and perform slam poetry? What do you like about it? What are the difficulties?
Have you ever seen Sarah Kay? If you haven’t, you need to. She is 100% the reason I ever considered performing. What made her so special to me is that all of her poems are some kind of storytelling. They aren’t just words. There’s something about her that just seems familiar and warm. I saw her perform in Salt Lake City once, and I almost cried the entire time. (I know, I’m a wuss.) But I just saw her and kept thinking, “This is what I’m meant to do. This is what I need to do.” I love the energy of poetry slams. Even if performers haven’t met before, they’re already rooting each other on and patting each other on the back. The room is filled with a soft electricity and it so hard to look away when someone is baring their soul to you. The really tough part, of course, is the stage fright. I still get nervous every time. What I try to do is take that “front-seat-on-the-rollercoaster-nervous-pee” feeling and rename it excitement. It’s cheesy, I know, but it usually does the trick. Keep pretending you’re so excited to get up there and your knees eventually stop wobbling.
What do you find beneficial about delivering slam poetry on social media/ YouTube? Do you find it changes the way the poem is received? Is there a difference between delving slam poems on YouTube vs in front of a crowd?
Making slams accessible through the internet, or through YouTube, broadens your audience even further. I’ve actually had wonderful opportunities because of posting my slams online. A year back or so, I was competing in the first online-centered poetry slam. The winner would be entered into the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, and I actually made it to the semi-final round of the slam. It was so cool to have that, especially because it can be really hard to find slams in my area. The tricky thing between the two, is that you get a better feel for how your poem is going with an actual audience. For example, you make a joke in your poem, the audience laughs or they don’t. When you’re talking into the camera, it’s a lot harder to tell the quality of what you’re saying, or how people feel about it. However, at least in my case, you get the same kinds of nerves doing either one; I mean, “Excitement.”
On The Honesty Issue, you speak about your experiences with mental health and related topics, why choose this as your theme? Why do you think it’s important to speak openly about mental health?
Yes, I’m incredibly passionate about mental health awareness and trying to beat the stigma around discussing mental health. I know that there are other factors that are important to work on in society right now; there’s a lot that needs to be done, but working with mental health needs to be on that list too. Mental illness is more often becoming a scapegoat when things go wrong, like school shootings, suicide, and abuse, but even if that was the case (which I think it’s completely illogical to ignore other causes of these incidents) then why aren’t we seeing an increase in how we treat and facilitate those issues? It is so easy to blame mental illness, but no one wants to do the work about it. I know I’m not doing much as it is, but I’m doing what I can. My whole life I knew it was something that wasn’t talked about, and I think that’s why it took me 11 years to get help in my own illnesses. I didn’t know how to get help without hating myself for it. I had attempted suicide twice instead of getting help because I thought that was easier. I’m so heartbroken thinking about that. How awful is it that people have been waiting so much longer, and have been fighting so tirelessly? People need to know it’s okay, it’s so much more than “okay,” to get help about this.
With the holidays coming up everyone, especially we unfortunate English/Writing majors, get the dreaded “what are you going to do with that degree” question. What do you recommend for undergrads looking to combat this trying experience?
Goodness, I don’t know if I’m any better at battling grandmas across the dinner table. Honestly, my advice would be to show them your work. I know that sounds like the opposite of what you want to do right now, but I think once I started sharing my stuff to my friends and family, they started taking me more seriously. You’ve really got to show them what this means to you. If you’re not looking for writing to just stay as a hobby, make that clear. My Dad knows writing is the biggest part of my life because I use it as a lifeline, and because of that importance to me, he’s now encouraging it and telling his friends about how his daughter is making this work. Once they see your passion, and your plans in moving this forward, I think they’ll get it. It might take some time, believe me, but if this is what you want to do, you have to show it. Prove them wrong.
What’s your favorite book? Why?
Oh, ouch. Tough question. There are so many books that have influenced me in different parts in my life, and I feel like it’s not paying them justice to just talk about one. That being said, I’m going to say Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. I know you’ve probably read it in middle school or high school, but this was the first book to really shake me. Her writing was fantastically honest, I felt like I was reading my own thoughts. This was the book that really propelled me into writing. I realized, hey, if she can talk the way my brain does, why can’t I write the way she does? So I kept at it, and as weird as it sounds, it is so hard to write honestly and sincerely. In the beginning, there are so many filters your thoughts go through before they ever land on paper, and so it felt wrong to be peeling those filters back. But that’s what people enjoy, that’s what makes good writing. That way, people can physically feel that pain, or that happiness you’re bleeding out on paper, and that’s what I felt with Speak.