Tawnysha Greene invited me to participate in "The Next Big Thing: Authors Tagging Authors." Below, I've answered some questions about my current project.
What is your working title of your book? Small Chimes
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The book has seen a lot of forms and titles over the past few years, but the main theme came from my search for honesty about the experience of motherhood. I had always heard funny and joyful stories about raising children, but had never heard the other side. I was put on bedrest with my daughter at 33 weeks and later wondered why we never talk about the reality of childbirth and parenting: its fragility and difficult moments. Of course, if that’s all we talked about, no one would ever want to be a parent, but it was meaningful for me to look at every side: the difficult and frustrating, the joyful and inspiring.
One of the ideas for this book came from reading biographies about writers. There was a point in my reading where I realized that no biographer could fully capture the entire person this writer had been. I would never know the real people these biographies showed me because I would never see all sides of them, only the ones they offered to others. People are more complex than the stories about them reveal. It’s this kind of complexity that I think is important when telling any story, even one’s own.
While I was writing the poems for this book, I decided I would not only write about the experience of motherhood but also the experience of being part of a family. This also has a difficult and joyful side, and I didn’t want to leave it out. Our relationships with family members are very complex, but these people model persistence and strength through the struggles they share. Through them, we learn how to cope with our own challenging moments.
What genre does your book fall under?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The anxiety of motherhood
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The book is currently making its rounds to contests and presses.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft, which had a different title, took two years to write. I work very slowly, which is the only way I can work.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Though this poetry collection is about motherhood, it’s also about family. The collections that have been written about family are all very different because of the poet’s style and experience. Here’s a short list of books I admire by poets who have written about this subject:
Coming to Rest by Kathryn Stripling Byer
Family Gathering by Fred Chappell (Midquest, a book by the same author, also contains some wonderful poems about family)
No Eden by Sally Rosen Kindred
Love and Other Collisions by Joseph Mills
The Last Uncle by Linda Pastan
Cold Spring Rising by John Thomas York
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I read Mysteries of Small Houses by Alice Notley in 2005. At that time, my daughter was 2 years old, I did not live near family, and knew few mothers who had small children. I felt very alone. Notley’s poem from this book “A Baby is Born Out of a White Owl’s Forehead, 1972” was what made poetry click with my experience. When I read the lines “My baby is quiet and wise, but I’m / a trade name and I’m / chaos,” I felt that Notley knew exactly what I was going through. I found a voice I could trust and at the same time, found inspiration for my own poems.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Even though the book focuses mainly on motherhood and family, there are also creatures from the natural world included. The daily lives and habits of animals, insects, and birds can teach us a lot about how to cope with our own lives, but can also mirror where we are and what issues we face at a certain moment. I won’t deny that Mary Oliver has influenced me in this regard.
Read what other writers have to say about their Next Big Thing. Click on the writer's name to follow the link.