As Niche is getting closer to launching our next issue, and as it is submission seasons, as it were, we thought we’d jump into the fray with a Journal Spotlight. I am very excited and pleased to invite the co-founder Anitia Dellaria of Bird’s Thumb to Niche Features. I want to take this opportunity to thank her again for taking the time to conduct the following interview.
NICHE: One thing I love about Bird’s Thumb is how welcoming it is to unpublished writers. Your header states that Bird’s Thumb is “dedicated to the discovery and publication of emerging writers.” Why was it important for you and Sahar Mustafah to launch a literary magazine that keeps emerging writers firmly in mind?
ANITA DELLARIA: Sahar and I are writers and have spent decades (collectively) teaching writing, participating in various writer groups and classes so, having had our share of rejections and successes, we came to this project with a lot of experience knowing there was a ton of great writing out there waiting to be discovered. We felt that because of our experience we could actually be helpful to emerging and new writers not just in providing a venue for publication, but in being editors and working with our contributors when we see promising work. Writers need dedicated editors and editors need dedicated writers. But I do think we were a little surprised at just how thrilling this grassroots venture is. We are not constrained by any institution or the need to be profitable. We donate our work, time, and expertise, and it’s awesome.
NICHE: I know only of a few other literary magazines that take time to work with contributors when they see promising work. Most publications ascribe to the idea that, if a piece of writing needs work, then it shouldn’t have been sent out. How do you personally feel about that opinion, and how much time do you, as editors, devote to working one-on-one with contributors? Could you speak a little more about what that work with contributors entails.
ANITA DELLARIA: First, let me say that most of the work we accept only needs careful copy editing. However, if we think a piece has promise, we’ll offer to work with the writer, and often will go through more than one re-write. I want to stress that we’re not re-writing the piece. We can’t tell the writer what to write; we can only help the writer to make it better. It’s a fine line and we walk it carefully. When we do extend an offer to look at rewrites, we reserve the right not to publish it if we can’t agree with the writer on the final version. With fiction, we might ask for more character development, sometimes a change to an ending, sometimes removing sections, sometimes rearranging things. If a piece has heart and life and is interesting and the writing is alive and engaging but just needs a little (or more than a little) work, we’ll give it a shot. All pieces — fiction, nonfiction, and poetry — get careful word by word and line by line editing. Having said that, we are more likely to reject a poem that isn’t done yet than a work of fiction or nonfiction. We believe it is the job of editors to help writers make their work better.
NICHE: You’ve stated before that you admire writers who take risks, and play with form. Can you speak a little to what taking risks in writing means?
ANITA DELLARIA: This question is harder to answer than I thought. On the one hand, to say you want work that takes risks isn’t really saying anything risky, because who wants writing that doesn’t do that? On the other hand, it’s really hard to define what taking risks means. Sometimes it’s subject matter; sometimes it means playing with form, and, in the case of poetry, actually writing formal verse can be very risky. To write honestly is probably the biggest risk there is.
NICHE: “Keep Evolving” is an interesting phrase. By this, do you mean that writers should remain open to innovative ways of writing stories audiences may have “seen before?” Or does it merely mean that writers should keep challenging themselves, pushing beyond the boundaries of their own work, whether it’s through language, form, voice, etc….
ANITA DELLARIA: Yes to both meanings you suggest. (I don’t think they’re exclusive of each other.) I think the phrase “keep evolving” together with the image of the bird with the thumb is a better expression of our sensibility. Yes, there’s change, adaptation, evolution, but also there’s also the vestigial feature. We’re not scientists, and we’re not saying that birds do, in fact, have thumbs, but we love the image: four feathers and a thumb. It’s startling, kind of funny, might make you wonder if it’s true, and definitely makes you wonder what it means. Come to think of it, that might be an editorial policy.
NICHE: A lot of the stories and poems published in Bird’s Thumb are those that seem to value clarity of image, coherency, compression, and above all, significant human moments. Is genuine emotion one of the main things you look for when reading submissions?
ANITA DELLARIA: That’s a very perceptive and accurate description of the writing we tend to favor. And yes to “significant human moments.” I’m not sure we’re necessarily looking for genuine human emotion when we’re reading but we sure notice when it’s missing. I would also add that endings are important, as are a diversity of voices, styles, and subject matter.
NICHE: You’ve written and published work yourself. Has being an editor of a literary magazine taught you anything new about writing or the writing process, and if so, what?
ANITA DELLARIA: Not so much anything new, but it has sure reinforced what I already know. Things like, good writing is re-writing. More than process, editing Bird’s Thumb the journal and running Bird’s Thumb the organization with Sahar has shown me that there are many ways to be part of a writing community.
NICHE: What is next for Bird’s Thumb?
ANITA DELLARIA: We’ve instituted an annual reading series and have recently launched a blog called “Write Here, Write Now” devoted to writing on writing. We are also in the process of planning the first in an annual chapbook series. We’re very excited about the ways we’re expanding.
NICHE: Is there anything else about Bird’s Thumb that you want our readers to know?
ANITA DELLARIA:In addition to being an online and literary publisher, we are also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which means donations are tax deductible. We depend on donations to keep running, and it takes very little to keep the doors open. So, if our readers are inclined, they can make a donation on our site (birdsthumb.org) or visit our fundraising campaign on Generosity. Also, we love for our readers to stay connected with us. Find us on Twitter, Facebook and join our mailing list to receive our not too frequent newsletter. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Anita Dellaria is a playwright and the poetry editor at Bird’s Thumb, which she co-founded with Sahar Mustafah in 2014. She lives in Chicago.
Heather J. Macpherson writes from New England. Her work has appeared in many fine publications including Spillway, Pearl, The Broken Plate, and OVS. She has twice been a features editor for The Worcester Review, and is the Executive Director at Damfino Press. Besides writing poetry, essays, and occasional fiction, Heather teaches poetry writing workshops and works part-time as a high school librarian. She is a visiting instructor at Framingham State University. She holds a Masters in Education (Library Media Studies) and is completing her Masters in English, spring 2016.
CLICK TO LISTEN TOHEATHER MACHPERSON READ HER POEM “MILEPOST 350, 2:33 AM” BELOW
CHATS WITH AUTHORS: HEATHER MACPHERSON
NICHE: I’ve always been curious about beginnings. When did you begin to write?
HEATHER MACPHERSON: I started writing when I was in elementary school, making-up stories on my own, or with my friend Allison. I have fond memories of our precocious stories, and sitting at my mother’s typewriter, pecking away at the keys. I started writing poetry in high school, but developed a more serious attitude toward the genre in college.
NICHE: How do you personally begin a poem?
HEATHER MACPHERSON: I observe and watch. Many of my poems are based on personal experiences, but also observations of others. I take a lot of ‘notes,’ recording everything and anything swimming in my brain whether it makes sense or not. Then I focus on word choice, next, the line and punctuation, play with form. I’ve come to realize that not every poem works syllabically or formally. It’s fun to play.
NICHE:How has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?
HEATHER MACPHERSON:I would say that my idea of “what poetry is” changed after constantly reading and re-reading an anthology called “The Body Electric: America’s Best Poetry from The American Poetry Review. Through that particular volume I discovered poets like Stephanie Brown, Yusef Komunyakka, and others I had not engaged with in my reading life. It was an incredible experience to discover this volume, which then led me to reading single poet collections, journals, and international poets.
NICHE: Who are you reading now?
HEATHER MACPHERSON: I am reading a few different things at the moment. I am currently at work on my thesis, which focuses on the relational discourse in some of the animal poems by Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop. I am constantly reading and re-reading those specific poems, selected letters, and other sources. Besides that, I am reading Patrick O’Brien’s novel Master and Commander. His writing has a wonderfully lyrical line that reminds me of one of my former professor’s novels, Ever and Ever. Besides, it is always fun to learn the language of a subject that is unknown to me. I don’t know anything about ships or sailing, and it’s a whole other diction to explore.
NICHE: I’m interested in the idea that there is a space in writing where poetry and fiction intersect. Which sentence from Master and Commander strike you?
HEATHER MACPHERSON: One sentence in particular that stands out for me in O’Brien’s novel is the following from chapter 10:
“The Sophie was standing in with her starboard tacks aboard, steering west-north-west; hammocks had been piped up and stowed in the nettings; the smell of coffee and frying bacon mingled together in the eddies that swirled on the weather-side of her taut trysail” (362).
Reading a novel so out of my comfort zone allows me to consider language I might not otherwise encounter, i.e. ‘tacks’, ‘eddies’, ‘trysail’. O’Brien uses sensory detail, assonance, alliteration, and the rhythm in his lines, throughout the novel, mimic the oceanic motion of the sea. There is a lot to admire and consider as both a reader and poet. I think stepping away from what typically draws us in is a good thing.
NICHE: I noticed that you’re also a scholar. Most recently, you wrote a paper entitled, “The Impenetrable Wood: Gender Identity in Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Moose”” It was published in Parlour: A Journal of Literary Criticism and Analysis. Congratulations on this recent publication! I got my degrees in English Literature and creative writing, and I found that, as a scholar, I was taught to look at writing differently than I do as a writer. Do you believe that viewing poetry as a scholar enables you to write poems better? Or do you feel these pursuits are separate?
HEATHER MACPHERSON: Quite honestly I have difficulty separating poetry writing from analytical and critical writing because, for me, I think there are ways when both areas are complementary to each other. I definitely think my poetry writing is influenced by scholarly work in the way ideologies are examined and I often include a silent commentary in a poem whether it is about gender identity, politics, or one of poetry’s favorite topics, love. Although I love writing both poetry and essay, I love the challenge of brevity in poems and what I can get away with. You can break rules in poetry that you cannot in other genres and I like that rebellious nature of the writing process.
NICHE: You’re also an editor. You’ve been a feature editor of the Worcester Review twice. What do you, as an editor, look for in a poem?
HEATHER MACPHERSON: As a features editor at The Worcester Review I looked for poems that made solid connections to the features topics and also to the essays accepted. Typically a features section for that particular journal requires ties to the Worcester County area. I am actually working on a third features section on screenwriter John Michael Hayes who was born in Worcester and went on to write screenplays for Alfred Hitchcock among others. He also adapted Peyton Place. Submissions are open for the features section….I need submissions!
HEATHER MACPHERSON: Damfino Press is a concept developed by my partner, Lea C. Deschenes and I. We were ready to create something of our own focusing on poetry and essay and we also wanted to publish print books. We have our Five Poem chapbook series, and so far we’ve also held our Annual Afternoonified Poetry Chapbook Contest, and we’ve received outstanding submissions. We also host workshops. We have a weekend workshop coming up with Ilya Kaminsky in August, but this year we are really going to focus more on marketing. Submissions to our journal are open through September 1st and then we’re taking a brief hiatus to overhaul our website. Writers can submit to the feature section by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org Submissions remain open! Send us your writing! Everyone!
NICHE: What advice would you give to aspiring poets?
HEATHER MACPHERSON: Don’t give up. In 2015 I received over 200 rejections. You have to keep going. Every once in awhile I have moments where I don’t think I can take another “your poem just isn’t the right fit for us” but the best thing you can do is turn your rejection around and send it to someone else. Also, read a lot, find your inspiration don’t wait for it, get into a supportive and constructive poetry workshop if that is of interest, and be a strong observer. Explore areas that may not be of interest because you never know what you’ll find. Be fearless in your writing and have conviction.
NICHE: Can you expand on this idea of being a “strong observer” and exploring interests? This particular idea/philosophy, if you will, seems important to you. You said, for example, that you’re reading Master and Commander in part because it allows you to explore a different type of diction. I’d think that opening yourself up, or having access to new language, words, diction would be very important to any writer but poets in particular, right?
HEATHER MACPHERSON: Observation for any type of writer, I think, is crucial. When writing fiction you observe your characters as if they are real people, watch their development, eavesdrop on conversations. As a poet you must be willing to observe with all the senses and take in what is around you whether it is uncomfortable or not. I spend a lot of time people watching, listening. I wrote “Milepost…” after stopping at a rest area at 3 AM. I walked in and this young person is watching an instructional video on youtube; it was fascinating, but at the same time I felt intrusive. The moments in that experience, passing by the individual and catching everything I could see, and then stopping at a nearby sink allowed me to observe and capture moments that reminded me of another experience from many years ago, which is why I attempt to play with time in “Milepost”. Twenty years ago I worked in a bookstore, stepped into the restroom and a beautiful transvestite was applying lipstick in the mirror. The connection between that memory from the bookstore restroom and the more recent rest stop experience drove me to respond in some way.
NICHE: What are you working on now?
HEATHER MACPHERSON: Well, besides my thesis and a features section for TWR, I have a few poems in the works, and I have an idea for a chapbook collection, although I likely won’t flush the concept out completely until my thesis is done. I’ve also submitted a few conference proposals so hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to participate in one of those, but we’ll see. If not, I’ll try some others. I also recently interviewed poet Stephanie Brown, which was very exciting, and I’m looking to place that piece and I’m sure it will happen eventually.
Sidney Taiko is the Editor-in-Chief of Storm Cellar, a literary Journal. She is the recipient of several creative writing awards including the John L. Rainey Prize in fiction, the Junior Quinn Award in poetry, the Thatcher H. Guild American Academy of Poets Award, and the Florence L. Healy Scholarship. She graduated with an MA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she was the recipient of the Ellen Hunnicut prize in fiction. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming in Sage Hill Press, CutBank, PANK, Comstock Review, and Montage.
CLICK TO HEAR HER READ “JORIE HAS A HEAD INJURY”
CLICK TO HEAR “JORIE IN THE HALLWAY”
CHATS WITH AUTHORS: SIDNEY TAIKO
NICHE: Welcome back to Niche. So I like starting at the beginning. Can you talk a little about what draws you to flash fiction or flash nonfiction?
SIDNEY TAIKO: Thank you so much for having me back! I think the root of what draws me to flash is the sheer challenge of such a compact form. The writer really has to get right at the heart of things and I think that’s extremely difficult to do with a restricted word count. I feel like getting at the heart of things (if I can just call it that and hope people know what I mean) is so difficult and usually takes a ton of words until a writer can arrive at the heart. Maybe all that writing is necessary to understand what the heart even is. Flash seems to just jump right in, which requires a specific skill. Though, flash can also be episodic when it’s part of a collection, which works a little differently – still compact, but you have more bursts of that compactness. The control of flash really appeals to me. It’s such a concentrated this-is-exactly-what-I-want-you-to-see media. It requires a hyper-focus, which is just hard. But when you can pull it off, it’s killer.
NICHE: The two shorts appearing in Niche, “Jorie Has a Head Injury” and “Jorie in the Hallway” are written about the same female protagonist. Are these shorts part of a collection?
SIDNEY TAIKO: These are part of a collection, yes, though I’ll admit that in the beginning, I had no real plan for them. The Jorie shorts in particular, were originally a product of blogging – or, rather, early-20s Sidney’s emo brain broadcasted on the net. Blogging was this accountability thing for me and I was trying to do the write-every-day thing at the time, because I wanted desperately to be a writer and because I was told that was the way to do it. (I don’t write every day now. It’s not for everyone.) So, I was young and earnest (naïve) and working on my degree at UIUC and trying to be a writer. (It’s so uncool to admit that, right? And I never would’ve at the time, but c’mon, it must be said.) I had my blog and was doing these little Jorie bits every day for a semester. They dropped off eventually, as graduation got closer and my attention was more divided, and they were basically put in a file on my computer and forgotten about. Flash (ha) forward a few years and I’m watching the TV show Girls. I know people have mixed feelings about the show, as do I, but what I absolutely love about it is the painfully honest portrayal of the young-20-something’s blundering psyche. Yes, the show is glammed up (that’s a very nice 2-bedroom apartment for a part time barista’s salary), but the shit these characters pull is incredibly real. The narcissism, the flailing, these are emotional trash people – and you know what? It made me feel so, so good. Who isn’t an emotional trash person at 23, etc? I have all this guilt for how I behaved and how I thought and felt when I was in my early 20s. People talk about how teenagers are shitty, emotional and hormonal nutbags, but I hadn’t heard squat about how that infiltrates your early 20s. You don’t wake up at 22 and leave all that behind. Watching Girls made me feel so much better for 20-something Sidney. Like, oh girl, you weren’t so bad. Millions of people watch this show and identify with it, so shelf your guilt and move on. You weren’t alone. At some point, the show made me think of the Jorie shorts and how they were written back when my life was basically a one-girl audition for Girls, but low-budget and in the Midwest. I went back to them and read them, cringing often. Some are just really, really bad. My initial thought was to close that file and leave it be, just as I had before. But the more I thought about them, the more I thought, why do I feel like I can’t explore this? Jorie is young and flailing. She’s melodramatic, fluctuates between sincere and glib, and wants desperately to be taken seriously. We’ve all been there. I took some of the Jorie shorts and patched them up a bit, and in the process, started to have vague ideas about a collection. Since then, I’ve added threads of three other girls/women. The pieces are episodic, can be tied together in different ways depending on the reader’s interpretation, and, of course, have yet to be finished! For me, these particular flashes have to happen when they happen, which I’m both cool with and completely frustrated with. Maybe I write four in a day, then none for months. That’s not very productive, right? Then again, what am I rushing toward? We all want to be published, absolutely – but when I’m writing about these women trying to navigate the varying degrees of mess in their lives, there’s no room for forced conclusions or wrapped bows. Or, you know, maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself to feel better about being a leisurely writer. Not sure yet. Probably both.
NICHE: You’re a published poet. Has your work with poetry influenced how you write longer works?
SIDNEY TAIKO: Poetry started it all. I was a bookworm as a kid, but it was just my preferred form of entertainment until I was 15, not much more than that. I’ll never forget walking into my English class on the first day of my sophomore year and the teacher had the ee cummings poem “l(a” written on the board. Once I read that, I was done for. That poem said everything my little 15 year old self could not articulate about my entire life up until that point. It’s almost embarrassingly sweet to think about, but don’t we all have one or two of those moments? I remember how tight my chest felt and how afraid I was that I’d cry in front of my classmates. That poem beat the shit out of my heart. Our teacher sent us home that day with a packet of CD Wright poems that I still have. After that, I was reading poetry constantly and trying to write it as best as I could.
Flash forward several years, and I’m transferring to UIUC from Columbia College. It was the summer before classes started and I was all set to write poetry, but I wanted to meet with a faculty member to learn a bit more about the program. All the poetry folks were gone for the summer, but John Griswold (a prose writing faculty member) was around and agreed to meet with me. He was incredibly informative and kind and mentioned that giving prose a shot might be a good idea. I was so intimidated by the idea of writing a short story, never mind anything longer. A poem felt feasible, good or bad, brevity was my friend. There’s so much more room to fuck up in a short story. And being green as I was, fucking up was like, the worst thing that could happen, right? I think on some level I felt indebted to Griswold for meeting with me and giving me the scoop on the program and maybe a bit like he had presented me with a challenge and ignoring it would prove some sort of weakness on my part. I had no idea how to write or critique a story. But I took Griswold’s class and by the time I got to grad school I was studying fiction instead of poetry. A lot of credit also goes to David Coyoca, another faculty member at UIUC. He gave me the right authors to read, asked the right questions, and assigned the best writing prompts. His classes were a glimpse of what grad school could be, which really pushed me to aim for getting into a good grad program.
For me, it’s necessary to write both poetry and prose. They do different things for me and I suppose you could say I feel more whole having them both. Eventually, poetry became something I did, and fiction became what I studied. This shouldn’t suggest that I felt like I didn’t need to study poetry, but for the purposes of my academic learning, I felt the need to use that space for prose. For me, poetry is an impulse. I write a poem and other than maybe a few minor tweaks, I’m done with it. That doesn’t mean it’s a successful poem – it just means that I’m shit with poetry revisions. Because, well, I can’t revise an impulse, right? I can only have another, one that maybe works better in terms of publishing. So, with this in mind, it made much more sense to me to study fiction when I went for my Master’s. Prose is much more of a process, where there’s a lot of room for error, where the tools are more concrete perhaps, and my objective as writer is perhaps more clear. I’m sure not everyone thinks of it that way, but this is how it’s worked out. Poetry and prose seem to fulfill two different but equally important aspects of what writing does for me and what I hope it does for readers. How the two come together is often a delightful surprise. I want to say that the intense focus on image in poetry is very helpful for prose. The language-play that I like to do in poetry can make for some exciting lines in a piece of fiction, though an exciting line that comes to me while I’m writing a story might be better placed in poem – might give way to a poem on its own. Most recently, I had a really badass experience where a prose poem I wrote actually turned into a short story. I could maybe say that while I felt that the prose poem was definitely finished, I wasn’t quite finished with those characters and the position they were in, so I gave them some more space and it turned into a short story. Each piece is still very much its own thing, but now I feel like one doesn’t exist without the other.
NICHE: This is somewhat related to the previous question. What’s imperative for a short piece that’s different in a longer piece?
SIDNEY TAIKO: Oh man, that’s the question, isn’t it? This is what I’ve been thinking lately: let’s take character for example. You need to create the impression, in a very limited space, that this character has a great big life outside of this glimpse we’re getting in the flash. We even need to feel like we can see some of that life without being told exactly what it looks like. Or, maybe we have two characters in some sort of relationship. We need the right details, we need them to say the right words in the right way, to show us who they are and what they mean to each other. But it needs to be so carefully crafted – the right things told and untold – and done in such a condensed space that we give the reader room. It’s like that cummings poem. Four words and I know exactly what I need to know, but I also have the room to wonder and to interpret. Flash is like this exciting balance between showing us what we need to see and blasting interpretation wide open. It feels dangerous and I love it. Some of the pieces I love the most are of these incredibly odd, but real moments – like, take the literary out of literary realism. What you’re left with is this condensed piece of writing that makes so much sense, but also doesn’t, which just fills you with wonder. And you can’t stop thinking about it and trying to figure it out. There’s a difference between significance and meaning. And knowing is the word bubble that floats above the two. I think it’s imperative for a short piece to play with those three words, but with significance and meaning in particular. A longer piece needs to tell us a story and guide us through a change. A short piece presents the story, but the change is something that happens to us after we’re finished reading.
But, I feel like someone is bound to poke holes in everything I’m saying… I don’t think there are hard and fast rules that draw a firm line between short and long pieces. I think it’s about more subtle manipulations of the “rules” that apply to all prose in general.
NICHE: You’re very good at writing images that work toward layered meanings. What advice would you give writers seeking to craft images that are doing work on both the literal and the metaphorical level?
SIDNEY TAIKO: Simply put? Write poetry and prose. You don’t have to study both, you don’t have to publish both, but try writing both. Read both. Examine how a poem interprets a situation or a feeling and compare that to a piece of prose that does the same. You’ll find layers there. Be patient. It takes time. I’ll be working on this forever. Pay attention to the little things, which is increasingly difficult with screens and other distractions every where. Take a break from being plugged in for a day. Use that day to just think and write. Good readers can pick out forced or insincere meaning from a mile away, so take the time you need to come to a real conclusion. There are pages and pages in my various notebooks of me working out layered meanings – simple little exercises, like such-n-such is the image I’m literally looking at. Now here’s a list of metaphors for how I interpret what I’m seeing. Does that sound silly? It does real cognitive work, though. Ideally, it helps make your writing better. At the very least, you’re going to learn some shit about yourself.
NICHE: What do you look for in flashes when you’re reading for your own literary magazine, Storm Cellar?
SIDNEY TAIKO: In some way, big or small, I want to be surprised. There’s no singular way to explain how that works. It could be something as small as the imaginative repurposing of a single word. It could be as big as an entire plot that feels fresh and new to me. Maybe a character behaves in a way that’s exciting – let’s use character as an example again. Short stories and novels are full of characters looking at something or each other meaningfully. That’s not a bad thing per se, sometimes it’s necessary and we’re all likely guilty of doing it at one point or another. It has a time and a place. But in all the flash reading I’ve done, I notice less of the meaningful gaze. Again, I think brevity forces writers to get down to business. Lingering can be great – I’ve been reading novels of 600+ pages lately, which has been truly lovely – but it needn’t be the thing. Sometimes, though certainly not exclusively, longer pieces have this tendency to solve a character. I don’t always want that. Flash is a bit more like, here you go. Now deal. It makes the reader do more work, perhaps. So when reading for Storm Cellar, I want to be surprised and I want a piece of flash to inspire me to do some real cognitive work with it.
NICHE: What are you working on now?
SIDNEY TAIKO: Right now it feels like I’m being pulled in a few different directions. I work on the flash collection as ideas come to me. In some ways, the flash collection is like playtime. I don’t mean that to suggest that I don’t take it seriously. It’s just that I can’t force it, so waiting for things to reveal themselves to me can be a bit fun. Low pressure.
I’d also like to put together a chapbook of poetry relatively soon, but I have a lot to learn about putting together a cohesive collection. Right now, my shit is all over the place.
My main focus is a novella I turned in as my graduate thesis back in April. If I’m being brutally honest here, I wrote a novella because I was afraid to write a novel. Afraid and just not sure how to do it (as if there was some way I could possibly know ahead of time??). I mean, I had just barely managed to make my way around a short story. I was intimidated by the scope of that kind of project, so I tried to put things in terms that were easier to stomach. 80-120 pages isn’t so bad, right? My advisor, Liam Callanan, was so supportive and helpful through that process. I think he knew, the whole time, that I was afraid. He fully supported the novella idea and worked with me accordingly, but looking back, I know he knew what was up. He very subtly pushed me forward, though he nodded along with me the whole time I was chanting novella novella novella. Then I defended and my whole committee was incredibly positive about the work, each of them asking if I had plans to turn it into a novel. That was my duh moment. The whole time, this was the beginning of a novel. I knew it and was lying to myself. Liam knew it and was letting me figure it out on my own, which was necessary. So, that’s my real focus now, finishing this novel. Even just saying that now makes me squirm a little, because I have a lot of nerves about it. But, I’m still riding the small confidence high of my success in grad school. It feels a bit like now or never, even if that’s just what I tell myself so that I’ll get to work.