I’ve got a couple of readings coming up this week and next. If you’re in the Chicago area, come check them out!
Need something to do next Monday at lunch time? I’m reading with Sacha Siskonen and Kristy Bowen at Harold Washington College. Monday, March 4th at 12:30-1:45, 30 East Lake St., Room 1115.
(Bring a photo ID, please! You’ll need one to get in.)
The Next Big Thing interview series is sweeping the interwebz. I was lucky enough to get tagged by the lovey and hilarious Sacha Siskonen, and the timing is rather serendipitous because this just happened. That’s right, folks, my first book is finally going to be published! I’ve been away from blogging for a few months, but this is just the thing to bring me back. Here’s my interview about the book.
What is the working title of the book?
My book is called Some Kind of Shelter. It had many working titles before I settled on this one. Most of them were awful.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had a lot of ideas about what my first book should be, and Some Kind of Shelter is an amalgamation of all of those. I think when I set out to write my MFA thesis, I intended to focus on family—the mythology that gets passed down from one generation to the next, the tension and complexity that exists within a nuclear family unit, the fear of illness, pain, and death—but that became a smaller and smaller part of the book as it evolved. I was also very interested in joining the ranks of working class poets like Philip Levine and Jan Beatty who write about people like the ones I grew up around: men with grease under their fingernails, women in aprons and bandanas, people who celebrated payday by with a case of Strohs and a carton of Marlboros. Accidentally, along the way, I wrote a whole lot of poems about the men I had loved or lusted (many of whom had dirty fingernails and Marlboro habits), and those relationship poems began to fill in the space between the work poems and the family poems. The book that exists today was a manuscript before it was a fully formed idea.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh! I so, so love this question, but I find it really hard to answer. Okay, just because I can: I want Jensen Ackles to play one of the dudes. Maybe Harper. Yes, Harper. And Matthew Gray Gubler would play Donny. The third main dude in the book, who never gets named, would be played by Matthew McConaughey.
For the girls: People say I’m crazy, but Jennifer Aniston totally reminds me of my sister Carla, so that’s that. The same actor would play the speaker and Stella because they’re twin-ish. Maybe Samantha Barks (she played Eponine in Les Miserables), but she’d have to wear blue contacts. I’d need two little girls to play the younger versions of these characters, too, but I’m coming up completely blank there.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Set against the crumbling backdrop of the Rust-Belt Midwest, the poems in Some Kind of Shelter explore the relationships that guide (or misguide, as it were) a young woman’s coming of age.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The oldest poems in the book were written in 2006. The most recent poems in the book were written in 2012. The true first draft was finished when I finished my MFA in December 2007, but it took six years for the book to really become what it wanted to become.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I can’t help but write about relationships—they keep me up at night, they motivate me, they shape who I am. I used to think that when I used the word “relationship” I was talking about couples, but what I realized as I looked back over my body of work that the definition is quite a bit broader. I’m talking about family and friendship as much as, if not more than, I’m talking about falling in and out of love.
I don’t think I realized it when I began writing these poems, but the relationship that most influenced this book is the one I have with my sister Carla. I often talk about Stella, the main persona in the manuscript, as an extension of myself, but she’s also Carla. It’s complicated. Carla shows up in the book as a sort of magical version of herself in “Ornithology” and “Rookery,” and as well as a not-so-magical version of herself in “Summer of Hammers and Whiskey” and “Two Wombs.” If you tried to trace the three girls: the speaker (me—sort of), the speaker’s sister (Carla—sort of), and Stella, the speaker’s cousin through the book, you’d have a hard time; their stories overlap and intersect and even I don’t know sometimes who is who. But I do know that the bond that Stella and the speaker share, and the frustration the speaker sometimes feels about Stella, are absolutely inspired by my experience of being a sister.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
A friend once said if my book had a scent, it would be cigarettes, whiskey, and bleach. So, there’s that.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Some Kind of Shelter is forthcoming from Misty Publications. The indefatigable Susan Yount, who has been a huge supporter of my work since I submitted to Arsenic Lobster several years ago, will be publishing it at the end of 2013.
My tagged writers:
Since I’m late to the game, I think everyone I know who has something coming up has already been tagged. (Want to be tagged? Let me know!) Instead, here are five poets I’m excited about who have already interviewed themselves:
Folks, I’m teaching another online workshop at The Rooster Moans this coming February. “Bad Dates, Break Ups, and Broken Hearts: The Ugly Side of Love Poetry” starts on February 4th. Click on the link to sign up. If break up poems aren’t your thing, check out these other excellent workshops:
From Lissa Kiernan, Artistic Director
Are you brave enough to plumb the depths of your psyche, and confess what gets coughed up? Is there a broken heart you need to mend? A skin you’re dying to slip into? A fascination with the grotesque, the horrific and fantastic? Or do you ache to get ekphrastic?
But wait – there’s more! We still have six seats available in each of two wonderful 2012 workshops:
In November, Maureen Alsop takes us to the 6th dimension, reaching beyond the cerebral and into the sensory.
In December, Melissa Studdard reminds us that, in the words of Greek lyric poet Simonides, painting is silent poetry, and poetry painting that speaks.
So shake a tail-feather and reserve your seat early – our workshops fill up fast!
Artistic Director, The Rooster Moans
Workshops that work.
It started with Dear Sugar. And then there was Wild. And then everything else I could find on the internet that she’d written: interviews, essays, facebook posts. Now, I’m slowly devouring Torch. But I always come back to Dear Sugar. I love “Tiny Beautiful Things” (and desperately want someone to buy the book of the same title for me for my birthday (hi mom!)) like I loved Letters to a Young Poet the first time I read it. These three paragraphs are kind of all the advice I’ll ever need:
Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.
You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.
Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
I’ve read this column maybe 1000 times. Every time that sentence: “Acceptance is a small, quite room” hits my like I’ve never read it before. How did one woman get to be so smart and so articulate?
But right now, it’s the “Write Like a Motherfucker” column that is haunting/taunting me. In it, Strayed talks about writing her first book (what she calls the second heart beating inside her) — and writing all the things that came before the first book. She says she wrote stories, assuming that they’d magically come together and create a novel. But they didn’t. She writes:
But I was wrong. The second heart inside me beat ever stronger, but nothing miraculously became a book. As my 30th birthday approached, I realized that if I truly wanted to write the story I had to tell, I would have to gather everything within me to make it happen. I would have to sit and think of only one thing longer and harder than I thought possible. I would have to suffer. By which I mean work.
I, too, thought my first book would happen by the time I was 30. And now that I’m almost 32, I’ve been quietly, secretly starting to feel like I’ll never have the first book. Which is entirely possible because it’s been at least a year (longer?) since I’ve submitted my book to a contest or a publisher. I couldn’t have told you a week or a month or certainly a year ago why I wasn’t sending my book out anymore. But today I can say it’s because it isn’t a book. I’ve been going around writing poems and thinking they’ll magically form a book. But they won’t. I have to actually write the book. It’s why my chapbook got published — I sat down and I worked really hard and I wrote 26 pages about a girl named Stella. I wrote those poems with a specific end product in mind, and it worked. I haven’t yet figured out what the full length book looks like, what story I have to tell. The poems I’ve written in the last five years are all over the goddamned place. They don’t work together. They’re sure as hell not a book.
So, I have to write a book. Not just a bunch of poems. And I guess this is how I’m going to do it:
We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor. I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce.
A little something different for you, dear reader. No gnashing of teeth, no tired, old hashing out of the same tired problems. Today’s post is entirely about daydreaming. I woke up an hour before my alarm is scheduled to go off, so I figured I’d do something good for my soul.
You know, if you’ve been following along, that I’m harboring some pretty grandiose travel fantasies. Today, I’m going to list them. I will not call it a bucket list because 1) I don’t want to think about when I die and 2) a bucket can get filled up. Instead, it’s my laundry list. There’s always more laundry to do.
Sara’s Big Smelly Laundry List of Travel Fantasies
In no particular order, I want to:
The list will grow, I’m sure. Right now, Asia isn’t on my list at all (and neither is Africa). That might change. I mean, why not just go everywhere? But for some reason, those parts of the world don’t excite me like Europe does, and there’s so much to see and do in the US before I worry about conquering all the continents. Check back for strikethroughs. It’s time to get moving.
Hey! I noticed that there are a lot more of you around here than usual, liking things and following my blog. I just wanted to say thanks for reading. I’m pretty bad at staying in touch with other bloggers, but I am so appreciative of you and will try to do better.
This past weekend was my last with the outfit. There was crying (a lot of crying), and drinking, and a sharing circle on the front steps of a dingy Kentucky hotel called the Rodeway Inn. There were also sparklers and champagne.
I didn’t know leaving the Outfit was going to be so hard. I had been ready to make my exit for a while, but I wanted to fulfill my commitment to the league. I knew 2012 would be my last year…so I was just speeding up the inevitable, wasn’t I? This whole thing as felt a lot like the end of my last serious relationship. I knew he wasn’t the guy for me, but I kept putting off the break up because I felt like it was the right thing to do (I thought we should break up in person, not over the phone with 360 miles between us). When I finally did break up with him (over the phone…turns out it is really hard to pretend you’re still in love with someone), I was devastated. I cried for days. I thought I was over it/over him, but making the break official was awful. It’s been like that with the Outfit.
But here’s the thing: about a year after we broke up, that guy got married to someone else. And now they have a baby. And I’m here, kickin’ it in Chicago and living a really great (though sometimes frustrating) life that I couldn’t have if I was still dating this guy. Just because it’s hard to leave a part of your life behind doesn’t mean it’s the wrong decision.
And leaving derby has created space for not one, but two summer jobs! I started teaching a summer class for incoming freshmen who have placed into remedial writing courses yesterday. This course will allow them to (possibly) place into regular Freshman English in the fall. It’s just about the coolest thing ever — no grades, just learning. The second job starts tomorrow with paperwork and a drug test (I’ve never had to take a drug test before! Good thing I’m a square.) and then I get to go through Man Overboard training. Yes, that’s right, I’m working on a boat. I’ll be bartending catered events and architecture tours. How awesome is that???
Anyway, despite the emotional roller coaster, I’m glad to be moving on to a new phase in my life. Roller Derby has brought some amazing people into my life, and taught me a lot about myself, and has in a roundabout way gotten me to commit to fitness, so even though it’s been hard and super painful (I hope to never break another bone), I’m really glad I did it.
I so often write here when I’ve got something to bitch about, so I thought today I’d tell you something nice. I had the perfect afternoon. I took my friend’s dog on a nice long walk, and then I walked to the park (I was going to walk to the beach, but on the way to the lake there was a big open field that reminded me of Ohio so I went there instead). I read Catching Fire and ate cherries and tried to take a nap and got a little sunburn on my nose. I stopped in an ice cream shop that was too cute to walk by on my way home, and ordered a strawberry float because I haven’t had any cream soda since 1986. But they were out of cream soda, so the girl behind the counter gave me a free ice cream cone instead. Salted caramel pecan for the win.
Sometimes, living in Chicago isn’t so bad.