Guest Post for The Next Big Thing: Kristin LaTour

Last week, I tagged Kristin LaTour in The Next Big Thing cycle, and her post is now here! Enjoy Kristin’s musings on her manuscript, and don’t forget to visit Kathleen Kirk (who tagged me) and the other fine writers listed previously (both linked above). And now……here’s Kristin! 

What is your working title of your book (or story)? What genre does your book fall under? What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The book manuscript that I have out now is titled “An Inventory of Scars,” after a poem included in the manuscript. It pretty much sums up the tone of the collection, an examination of the ways we are hurt or hurt others, how we heal and the scars we carry.

Where did the idea come from for the book? How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’ve been working on this manuscript since I graduated from the Stonecoast Writers’ Program in 2007. At first I just used my thesis manuscript with a little editing and rearranging, and only sent to a couple of contests. I let it sit for a couple of years, kept writing new work, and put together a newer version in 2010. That went out to about 9 contests and publishers. I let that sit again, and I focused on getting individual poems published, and majorly overhauled the poem collection in 2012. Most of what was in the original thesis manuscript is gone with the exception of a few really strong poems, the title poem being one. I’ve focused more on the individual poems I’ve had published and gone with newer poems that are stronger and more evocative. I also had the blessing of having several well-published poets read the manuscript in earlier versions and help me find a center and get rid of a lot of deadwood.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

We poets don’t get all the fancy people helping out that novelists do, like agents, at least not until we are very well established and making a profit for a major publisher. But I think it’s easier this way. A novelist has to shop to an agent, and then the agent has to promote the book to a publisher. We cut out the middle people.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A couple of the poems in the collection are really early, written when I first started teaching college level writing in 2000. Others are only a few months old. I know if it isn’t taken this year, in 2013, then I’ll probably let it some more and rework it again in 2014. As a full manuscript, I didn’t even attempt one until I was working on my Master’s thesis. By then I did have two chapbooks under my belt, but being much smaller and having all the poems focused on one theme didn’t apply in the same way as a full 40+ page manuscript.

I take comfort in the fact that I have friends who took 20 years or longer to get their first manuscript accepted. I’m still relatively young as far as writers go, since we never really retire. And I’m happy that individual poems are finding their way to readers via online and print journals. I supposed that if I get to be 85, I may consider self-publishing book for friends and family. But that is a long way off.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m not really comfortable comparing my work to other’s, but I can say who my influences are, and they show through in my work. I have always admired Marge Piercy for her forwardness and casualness in her poetry. She has a message, and the messages come through her imagery. I almost didn’t go to an MFA program because of her poem “For the Young Who Want To,” but I kept it in mind when I was studying, to keep my own voice and not become a disciple of any one teacher. I love the sounds and imagery in Amy Clampitt’s poems. I like the formal poetry of Reginald Shepherd and the sardonic tone in Jack Wiler’s work. There are a lot of international poets I look to as well, Eamon Grennan being one and Babette Deutsch another. I also write political/protest poems and look to Denise Levertov, Martha Collins and Lesléa Newman for inspiration.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I had the privilege of having Jack Wiler read an early version of my manuscript, and we spoke over the phone about it. He said, “You know, most of these poems are about mothers,” and I was taken aback. I hadn’t even noticed how much of my work revolves around motherhood, being a daughter, women’s lives together. I also want to remind readers that poems are not all autobiographies. Even if there’s a kernel of my own experience in a poem, most of what comes out in the poem is heavily embellished and fictionalized. Even a first poem like “Inventory of Scars,” has a lot of made up pieces that move the poem forward. So in looking at the poems overall, I’d say that being a woman in the world, a daughter, a woman who chose not to have children, and respecting those who do raise children, both their own and other’s, is what greatly inspired most of the poems in the book.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I don’t write for other poets, and most poets don’t. I write for people who have similar experiences and want a new way to look at them. I write for people who want to see another way of viewing the world. I write for people who are in love with the ways words sound and how a clear image can make the brain’s synapses light up and tingle. I think there’s something for everyone in my work. There’s humor and sarcasm, sex and beauty, anger and sadness. My poems are accessible, but not juvenile. I hope that anyone could pick up my poems and get enjoyment out of them.

Kristin has tagged Anna Leahy at her blog – watch for Anna’s post next week.


One thought on “Guest Post for The Next Big Thing: Kristin LaTour

  1. Pingback: The Next Big Thing | Put Words Together. Make Meaning.

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