Author Interview: Peter Liptak

Peter Liptak, who also goes by pETEthePoet, is a happy father, publisher at Exile Press, and author of poetry, children’s books, and linguistics books.

Liptak is currently continuing a series of books for English language learners in the intermediate to advanced level. A new volume of Idiom Attack was released this summer and contains 300 common North American idioms. The book contains language comparisons according to one of seven language editions. Idiom Attack is not just a list of idioms; it allows readers to practice and engage with idioms in everyday life. Interested readers can check out the series’ website.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Liptak holds a BA in English Literature. Before graduation, he explored a little of everything, from astronomy to philosophy. He spent his college years as preschool teacher, waiter, dishwasher, dance instructor, and massage therapist. It was then he realized that “teaching was my ticket to the world, finished a TEFL certificate and moved abroad.”

Liptak can now call himself “a weary wanderer, ultra-explorer and true-wheeled cyclist.” He lives for soaking up adventure and found himself at Yonsei University to pursue an MA in Korean Studies. In Seoul, Korea, he found a “source of inspiration, linguistic and otherwise” while also enjoying teaching, publishing, and acting.

The possibility of being a writer were first made clear to Liptak after a high school project in eleventh grade and thanks to his teacher, Jon Rondesvedt. Liptak thinks of his teacher as an “altogether different breed of educator, who bursting with enthusiasm for history, philosophy and the classics, issued us a challenge: turn in a typical paper or compose a poem.” In the hopes that poetry would be manageable, young Liptak accepted the challenge. Liptak remembers his teacher’s pride. He says of this experience, “Mr. Rondesvedt’s endless wonder awakened in me that inescapable enthusiasm for the written word, that love of travel, and that passion for teaching.”

Should film theaters ever be blessed with a Liptak original, it would be a rendition of Teddy’s Day or Teddy’s Camp, two illustrated books for children. With such a deep interest for multiple genres, when asked about his favorite books, Liptak named several genres. To name a few: children’s books by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein; the poetry of Langston Hughes and Robert Frost; Korean works by Baek Seok and Jung Ji-yong; and classics by Herodotus and Homer.

Langston Hughes is particularly influential to Liptak. After reading Hughes’ poem “Dream Variations” and looking at the poet’s life journey, Liptak felt a call to action. In his own words: “Wanderlust came early in my imaginings, but that singular poem by Langston Hughes’ stirred my spirit to action.” Soon after encountering Hughes’ work, Liptak says he “discovered languages and unexpected inspiration in unfamiliar cultures and odd little towns of Europe, found work in Freiberg, made my way to Matala… and found words.”

With serious contemplation, Liptak calls poetry “my urge and my ache, my aspiration, my identity.” He goes on to ask, “Is poetry in the mind or in the heart? A journey of verse should take us somewhere unknown and yet somehow familiar, on a walk through the dark heart of words to the edge of truth, to the verge of vexation then back again, to a place newfound and fresh.” Poetry takes us places!

Though Liptak holds many thoughts on poetry, his writing process is less complicated. Writing is a three step process: “Sit. Write. Get distracted.”  He tackles writer’s block by engaging in conversation “about nothing in particular.” Sometimes, he will find inspiration from a random phrase. Other times, he tells himself, “I should get some work done and just do it.”

Today, Peter Liptak wears many hats as actor, teacher, author, and publisher. Another of Liptak’s role, an especially wonderful one, is being father to Ian, Aiden, and Ella.

His advice to writers is to “go out and experience the world.” Liptak likes the way Thoreau poses this advice: “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

Find updates from Liptak’s projects on his website or connect with him through Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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