Kathleen Kirk, one of my favorite poets and bloggers, was good enough to tag me in the blog chain that is known as The Next Big Thing. Her post about her collection The Cassandra Poems can be found here. One of my regular things to do during my lunch at work is to open up Google Reader and see what my favorite bloggers have to say. I enjoy reading about the ups and downs of other writers, the process and the product, the act of writing and the art. So when Kathleen Kirk invited me to answer ten questions as a part of this traveling series of posts, I knew that I would want to read the answers of others, so why not answer the questions myself?
I have my first full-length collection, A House of Many Windows, scheduled to be published late in 2013 by Sundress Publications, so it only seemed appropriate to discuss it here.
What is your working title of your book (or story)?
The title of the collection is A House of Many Windows. It comes from a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson – “The body is a house of many windows – there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us.” This idea of the body as both a solid and a fragile thing that, in the end, just wants to be loved was the perfect match for a collection that deals with failure of the body and resilience of the heart.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I would call the book “emotionally” autobiographical. Some of the poems are based on my own experience with infertility and adoption, but others were written to create an emotional arc for the speaker of the poems, whose experience is more exhausting and much darker, I think, than my own. My first chapbook Womb/Seed/Fruit dealt some of these issues, but focused on a smaller and more personal landscape, so broadening the narrative gave me license to do things with form and language that were a little less realistic.
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Goodness, this is an interesting question regarding a book of poems. I guess the lead or the speaker of the poems would be the main character and would have to be able to be subtle and angry and sad and jubilant and unsure…in other words, have great range. At this point, I would say Julianne Moore. She has shown both fragility and guts in her movie roles. The Spouse or the “he” in the poems could be played by Kyle Chandler, for no other reasons than I have a big crush on him, and he does well with “regular-guys-under-duress” roles.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
An emotional journey through failure and loss – the expected, the unthinkable, the routine – to acceptance with lots of beautiful doubt thrown in for good measure.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither. I did not have an agent for the book (most poets do not) and was lucky enough to have Erin Elizabeth Smith take an interest in the manuscript at Sundress. I am currently awaiting editorial comments for some possible rearrangement of some of the poems – with the help of the staff at Sundress, I am eager to burnish the poems until they shine.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Well, if you counted from when the earliest poem in the book was written, you could say ten years. But the manuscript as a manuscript was first completed about two years ago and has gone through several incarnations since then.
I didn’t start out to complete a manuscript. The autobiographical poems came first and then others seemed to be pulling the same thread, so I unraveled every path I found.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
This is a very difficult question, as I read and am inspired by many writers. One book that has dealt with similar subjects brilliantly is Suzanne Buffam’s The Irrationalist – a style very different from mine – a stunning and surprising book.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The original kernel was autobiographical, as I mentioned. But, very quickly, the stories of other women who had similar experiences or suffered even greater losses wanted to be told within the same narrative. Essentially, the book is inspired by any woman who has a body that has “failed” at the one thing that is supposed to be most natural for it to do. It is a unique and tender kind of failure.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It has Roman numerals! And bird references. A poem that disses Billy Collins. A poem comparing my teenage son to a snake.
If that’s not enough, I believe that the individual poems, as well as the collection as a whole, speak to the very human reactions to failure, change, and discovery to which any person can relate.
Thank you again to Kathleen Kirk for tagging me – her Next Big Thing is here!
And now, so that the chain is not broken, I give you the following lovely people who will be telling you about their next big things:
Carol Berg at Ophelia Unraveling also discussing her upcoming chapbook Small Portrait and the Woman Holding a Flood in Her Mouth.