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Artist Spotlight: Cara Lorello releases debut poetry collection, ‘but at least you were beautiful’

Aug. 17, 2022 Updated Fri., Aug. 19, 2022 at 5:06 p.m.

For poet Cara Lorello, composing has become a daily necessity. But, it wasn’t always easy. Nearly held back in first grade for poor reading skills, it took a few months of tutoring before Lorello learned to love the written word.

“My teacher wanted to hold me back, but mom wouldn’t have it,” she said. With a little digging around Pullman, Lorello’s mother – an avid reader herself – found a Washington State University graduate student willing to help.

Decks of flashcards and daily journaling exercises put her back on track. In reading Shel Silverstein’s books, however, she finally fell in love.

“It was my lightning bolt moment,” she said, remembering how not long after, she was suddenly at the top of her class in reading skills.

“Learning to read poetry, not only taught me how to read better,” she said. “It taught me memorization, oration – how to pause dramatically, put more force behind certain words to others – the raw power and effect of verse … how just a few words in a single line can evoke such strong emotion and imagery.

“I enjoy novels very much, but poetry – it’s a different animal. The power you feel when you read it … no other type of writing does better.”

Lorello studied English in college; when the tuition required for a teaching track proved too burdensome, she changed courses. After graduation, Lorello found work at various small news publications before eventually finding a job in local government.

Today, outside of her day-job as a legal assistant in the district court office, Lorello still finds time to write wherever she can.

“I write whenever I have a spare moment, work breaks, lunch breaks, in the evening before bed on the weekends,” she said. “Often things start out with scribble notes and then they find their way to my laptop.”

Lorello’s work, both poetry and nonfiction, has been featured in several university and online literary journals including Noble Gas Quarterly, The Book Smugglers Den, Vending Machine Press, SlushPile, and the Spokane-based poetry anthology, “Railtown Almanac” (Sage Hill Press).

After decades of writing for work and for pleasure, Lorello has released her debut poetry collection, “but at least you’re beautiful.”

“This was something I’d intended to do for years, thinking I’d never be able to,” she said.

But the pandemic, along with all of its hardships, brought her the motivation to buckle down and make it happen.

After several months of editing and taking advice from fellow poet Thom Caraway – a former Spokane poet laureate – Lorello found Dancing Girl Press, a small independent publisher in Chicago, at just the right time.

“I was floored when she said yes – I thought I’d have to be cold mailing for years,” she said.

To aspiring writers, Lorello offered the following advice.

“You write because you have to … and mainly for yourself,” she said. Read as much and as often as you can. “If there’s a local writer within your orbit, ask them questions. It takes a lot of courage. But, the alternative is doing nothing and remaining in the dark. So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it. There’s just your way.”

Lorello will read a selection of poems from “but at least you’re beautiful” during Broken Mic night at Neato Burrito on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

“But at least you’re beautiful” is available at Auntie’s Bookstore and online through Dancing Girl Press.

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