Here I blog about writing, editing, reading, books, submissions, freelancing, getting published (and rejected), journalism, revisions, life after the MFA, teaching writing, and living the writer's life. Welcome. BUT -- if you are a writer: Write first, read blogs second.




Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Fridge Clean-Out: Links for Writers -- May 30, 2014 Edition

> Richard Gilbert, author of a new memoir, Shepherd, has some good advice on obtaining advance trade press reviews, over at his blog.

> This summer, three writers I'd had the pleasure of working with as students or coaching clients are beginning low residency MFA programs, and in the fall another is entering a full time program; so the advice for new graduate writing students in this John Vanderslice post is particularly timely.

> If you're not reading book coach and author Jennie Nash's How to Write a Book blog, you're missing out.

> Determined to crack that one important journal? Read how Laura Maylene Walter (finally) made it into The Sun. (hat tip Erika Dreifus)

> In the next month or so, I'll have an interview here with essayist/memoir writer Sue William Silverman, but I can't wait: her interview at The Artist's Road, about building a memoir from essays, is too good not to pass along.

> Wondering if Tumblr will help your freelance writing career? Some quick tips via the ASJA newsletter.

> Sure, I'm biased (since I'm the creative nonfiction editor) but I'll say it anyway -- there is some seriously good writing, across all genres, in the Spring issue of Compose Journal. Plus, a few excellent craft and business-of-writing articles, too.

> Perhaps by now everyone has seen the "Look Up" video exposing the anti-social effects of social media, texting, and cell phone addiction, but it's worth sharing. Extras: it's by a Brit, in rhyme, and hey, my teenager sat through the whole five minutes and pronounced it "cool". Pass it on.

> Essays that rise to the top of the submissions pile at Prairie Schooner have a few important things in common, according to assistant nonfiction editor Sarah Fawn Montgomery.

> In case you missed it, scroll down one post to the interview with Brain, Child magazine editor/publisher Marcelle Soviero...and leave a comment by Tuesday night to win a subscription and batch of recent issues.

> Finally, listen to Rosie Perez's passionate reading of the poem "Still I Rise" by the late, wonderful Maya Angelou. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Editor Interview with Marcelle Soviero, Editor and Publisher of Brain,Child Magazine

In Summer of 2012, many readers (and a huge swath of writers who value paying markets!) were upset to learn that Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers, was closing after 13 years publishing intelligent essays and fiction about modern parenting. (The ad-free magazine was often called "The New Yorker for mothers.") Its two founding publishers/editors were moving on to new stages of life and work (Jennifer Niesslein now edits an essay site, Full Grown People, and Stephanie Wilkinson established a farm-to-table restaurant in Lexington, VA.).

Just when most were resigned that yet one more print magazine was gone forever, Connecticut resident Marcelle Soviero, owner of Erielle Media LLC, purchased and revived the magazine, which is now published quarterly, plus one special teen issue per year. Soviero, a memoir author, essayist, former executive at several tech start-ups, and writing teacher, has also redesigned the magazine, expanded BC's online presence, added a Brain, Mother blog, and just recently published  a book of essays written by many of Brain, Child ‘s bloggers. Last week, I asked Marcelle a few nosy questions. (Disclosure: I am an occasional freelance editor for the magazine, helping writers to revise essays and short stories.)

Lisa Romeo:  Many people (myself included) were thrilled when you re-launched Brain, Child magazine. I believe many longtime subscribers stuck with it. Were you worried about the first issue you published being accepted?

Marcelle Soviero: Our subscriber base has grown significantly in the last two years, so that is a good thing. I worried about the first issue, but I worry about every issue – that it is the best it can be and stands up to our mission of publishing the highest quality literary magazine available.  

LR: Had you always wanted to run a magazine, or was buying Brain, Child more a matter of, "Someone ought to keep that magazine going," and then taking the plunge?

MS: I always wanted to run (or be an editor-in-chief) of a magazine since my first stint as an editor of Popular Science.

LR: In the early stages, what did you decide to keep the same, and what did you decide to change?

MS: My big push was to update the design of the magazine, to add poetry, to produce an expanded digital version, and to grow our online and social media presence. We kept the Brain, Child departments the same but created icons for each department in the print issue. And we’ve commissioned many new artists. My goal was to capture the feeling of the essay with the art as well as the words. In our digital issues we offer bonus content not available in the print edition, and we plan more and more of that in the future.  

LR: I'm thinking there has likely been some inevitable backlash to some of that evolution?

MS: We received the 2014 award for best overall design of a literary magazine from Boston Bookbuilders, which was a nice validation of our effort and the efforts of our amazing Art Directors Mike Lombardo and Nancy Anderson. We’ve received so many letters from readers saying how much they love the updated, redesigned magazine and our website and social media readership has grown exponentially and our digital products are selling really well. I can’t complain.

LR: You have been working hard to develop the BC web presence and spread the BC "brand" across social media platforms. Can you talk about some of these ventures, and why and how that's helping to support a subscriber- and newsstand-supported print magazine in 2014?

MS: We’ve decided for the most part not to include ads in the magazine for now to preserve the editorial quality and look of the magazine. We do however save space each issue for a pro bono ad for a nonprofit cause we care about. We are really fortunate in that our subscriptions support the magazine.

LR: One interesting partnership is the cross-posting of some BC content on the Huffington Post. Obviously, this brings BC to the attention of thousands, perhaps millions of readers who might otherwise not know of it. What are the residual effects of that, and is it something that your writers have embraced?

MS: We work with Huffington Post, Mothering.com, and other select content partners to expand our reach and showcase our writers. We’ve helped our writers republish their work as well, in places like The Washington Post, UTNE, and Babble. Writer Rebecca Lanning showcased her Brain, Child piece "The Nap Year" in The Washington Post; Catherine Buni just republished an abridged version of her Brain, Child feature story “Conversation Starters” in The Atlantic. And I was fortunate enough to see Claire DeBerg perform a shorter version of her Brain, Child essay “Finding Gloria” as part of Listen to Your Mother 2014 in Minneapolis.

LR: Many writers covet a byline in BC (because of its reputation and cache, and also because it's a paying market!). Can you give a peek inside the editorial process?

MS: We have an editorial team who read every submission. We receive several hundred submissions a month. We publish 20 short pieces on the blog, 8 - 10 pieces on the website monthly, and 6 - 9 pieces in the print magazine quarterly. In addition we have special issues that offer additional paid opportunities for writers. We receive submissions on an ongoing basis. Our submission guidelines can be found here. I like essays that tell a unique story or take a new angle on a common topic. I personally look for strong dialogue that moves the story along while characterizing the speaker.  And I am in love with metaphor.

LR: Can you tell me more about the Brain, Mother blog, another paying market for writers?

MS: Brain, Mother has given us the opportunity to publish more great work by incredible writers. Senior editor Randi Olin, who joined me two weeks after I bought the magazine, manages the blog and makes sure the posts are thoughtful and tackle topics mothers care about. We look for a wide range of voices and edit every piece.  One of our contributing bloggers, Lauren Apfel, just won a BlogHer award for her outstanding op-ed pieces.  We pay our contributing bloggers, those who post for us regularly. (Blog guidelines are here. - LR).

LR: Though the tagline for BC, has always been "The magazine for thinking mothers," do you run pieces by fathers and others in parenting roles?

MS: Yes. We’ve had plenty of essays by fathers – the amazing Jon Sponaas is a contributing blogger. Jack Cheng, Joe Freitas, and a dozen others have written for us. We welcome male voices, and we are not shy about showcasing voices from all types of families all over the globe. 

LR: What's in the future for BC? 

MS:  We have more books and special issues underway (we just published our first book -- This is Childhood: Book & Journal), audio and video programming are in the works, and some terrific partnerships.

LR: Has publishing the magazine turned out to be what you expected?

MS: It has been better than I ever expected. Outside of marrying my husband and raising my five children, buying Brain, Child is the best thing I ever did. I couldn’t be happier.

LR: You've published one memoir yourself, An Iridescent Life. Are you working on another book length project, or has the business of running the magazine left little time for your own writing?

MS: My writing centers me; I am always at work on new projects. I write every morning from 4:00 – 6:00 am, it’s who I am.

LR: I think contributors like to hear that you are also "in the trenches," so to speak, trying to find time in your busy day to work on your personal writing project(s). Any advice in that area?

MS: For me it was important years ago to cut out TV time and also wake up really early. I enter writing times into my calendar, and I never miss an appointment with myself. Last, if I have an engagement (lunch with a friend for example) and it gets cancelled, I steal away and write for that time instead. And I always have my notebook. I’ve written many an essay while in waiting rooms, or at sports practices!

Note from Lisa: One blog reader will win a free one-year subscription to Brain, Child magazine, as well as a full set of 2013 issues. To be eligible for the random drawing, just leave a comment here on the blog by midnight, Tuesday, June 3. (Must have a U.S. postal address.) 

You can find Brain,Child on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Guest Blogger Faye Rapoport DesPres on Combining Individual Essays into a Cohesive Collection


Like many gifts from the literary universe, my guest blogger today came to me via a mutual online friend.  But even before I got the email about the book Message From a Blue Jay, I was already interested in Faye Rapoport DesPres—because she's done what many say cannot be accomplished (and frankly, what I am also trying to do):  published an essay collection without first having a slew of traditionally published novels and/or a best-selling memoir to her credit.

Faye earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the Solstice Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College, and her essays, fiction, poetry, reviews, and interviews have appeared in many literary journals and magazines, including Ascent, Fourth Genre, Superstition Review, and The Writer's Chronicle.
  
Please welcome Faye Rapoport DesPres

Many writers who approach traditional publishers about a personal essay or short story collection hear a familiar refrain: “What links your collection? Can you transform it into some kind of cohesive narrative?”

I first learned about the concept of “linked collections” at an AWP panel in Denver in 2010. As a new MFA student enamored with the personal essay form, I had dreams of one day publishing a collection of individual essays. Yet one after another the panelists discussed the difficulty writers face when submitting essay collections to publishers. The current buzzword in the industry was “memoir,” they said, and if your personal essays couldn’t be marketed as a memoir, it was going to be difficult to convince a publisher to take your manuscript.

At the time I was approaching each essay I worked on as an individual piece. One essay might be about the loss of a family member and another might describe a trip to London. Taking the advice of a number of my teachers, I was practicing my craft on shorter works before attempting a book-length manuscript.

Each essay was an experiment of its own – the length varied from less than 1000 words to 5000 words or even longer. The style changed from lyric to reflective, and sometimes I framed a narrative inside another narrative. I wrote some essays in the present tense, and others in the past tense. 

I was trying out different forms and tones in an effort to see what felt right to me as a writer, and to find my own voice. I submitted some of the individual pieces to journals and magazines that seemed to match each essay’s content or form, and a number of them were published. I was so focused on making my individual pieces the best they could be that I hadn’t even thought about linking them in any way.  

Fast-forward to May 2014, and my debut book, Message from a Blue Jay has just been published by Buddhapuss Ink., by a wonderful independent press out of Edison, New Jersey. The book is an essay collection, but it also qualifies as a memoir or a linked collection that forms its own kind of narrative—the story of what I call my “middle decade,” the years between 40 and 50. 

So how did I transform my individual essays into that elusive cohesive narrative without losing my reverence for the essay form?

At first, after I had completed enough pieces to attempt to publish a collection, I found that the panel had been right: a number of publishers liked my work, but their editors felt they couldn’t market an “essay collection.” Some didn’t see how the pieces were linked, or questioned the inclusion of one or two of the essays I’d chosen to be part of the manuscript.

One editor, Lynn Vannucci of Water Street Press (a high quality new publisher out of California) liked the writing enough to make a specific suggestion: mine the over-arching themes in the work, and re-order the essays chronologically so that they form more of a memoir with a clearer narrative arc.

I didn’t quite go back to the drawing board, but I took that editor’s advice.  I thought carefully about what major over-arching themes did link my work and how the book might have a clearer, chronological beginning, middle, and end.  The essays were, in fact, as a whole representative of what can happen during a particular time of life. Once I started to re-envision my manuscript in this way, things fell into place pretty quickly. I took out two essays that didn’t add to or fit with the narrative and wrote and added two new pieces that amplified the meaning and added a sense of revelation toward the end. Then I added an introduction that spelled out in a symbolic (and perhaps poetic) way how the chapters were really part of a cohesive whole.

The re-edit did require some other changes. After ordering the pieces chronologically, I edited out any repetitive information. For example, I had to make sure that any person mentioned in the book was introduced only once. A number of the essays mention my husband’s mother, Judith, and in the original pieces she was introduced and described each time. I had to take some of that out. I also had to make sure that the timing of each essay made sense as a chronological narrative chapter – I wouldn’t want to mention my forty-eigth birthday in a chapter that appeared before “Forty-Six,” for example, which is about what happened on my forty-sixth birthday.

For the most part the chapters are in actual chronological order, so that wasn’t a problem, but in one or two cases I had to edit out information that would have been confusing to the reader time-wise. I also had to introduce the move from Colorado to Boston early in the book, so I used the essay “Walden, Revisited,” which talks about my connection to Boston and return there, to do that. It took some careful re-reading to get it all right, but by the end I felt so much happier with the manuscript that I wished I had never sent out the original.

In the meantime, however, the forward-thinking editor at Buddhapuss Ink, MaryChris Bradley, a 30-year veteran of the publishing industry, had already decided that she loved my manuscript and wanted to publish it. She was going to suggest similar changes, but she had so much faith in the future of my book that she was ready to sign it even before seeing the final, more chronological manuscript.

 The end result is a book we both love, and that I hope readers will enjoy.

I still love the individual essay form. At the same time, I’m happy with the way Message from a Blue Jay will be published, as a memoir-in-essays. What I have, in the end, is a book I’m truly proud of: a nod to the personal essay and to memoir all at once.

 Tomorrow, Faye's Virtual Book Tour takes her to Mariam Kobras's blog. Her publisher is offering a personalized, signed copy of Message from a Blue Jay (plus swag) to one winner of their Virtual Tour Giveaway. Simply comment below to enter. For more chances, visit the Buddhapuss Ink or Message from a Blue Jay Facebook pages and click the Giveaway Tab!

You can follow Faye on Twitter and connect on her book's Facebook page.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday Fridge Clean-Out: Links for Writers -- May 9, 2014 Edition


For your weekend reading, skimming, rooting, bookmarking pleasure...

> ASJA (the American Society of  Journalists and Authors) has made two audio recordings from panels at their very recent annual conference available at no charge to the public - one on copyright, the other on writing about trauma survivors. Check it out.

> Soon-to-be debut novelist Beth Cato weighs in on what she did when she know in her gut that a crucial piece of feedback, from a well-qualified source, was all wrong for her story.

> Over at Wordserve Water Cooler, Lucille Zimmerman sums up the five marketing surprises -- pro and con -- she didn't learn until after her first book was published.


> Want to know how to get published on McSweeney's (like my writing friend Candy Schulman did today)? A McSweeney's editor has tips (and it's not, contrary to popular thinking, (only or at least all) about coolness and hipster cred).

> At SheWrites, learn how one writer created a life crammed with books and reading.

> Ever daydream about starting a very small press?  Spenser Madsen did and he's (bruised but) not sorry.

> Frustrated over how slowly your (here it comes, I'm going to use that dreaded word, get ready, and I apologize in advance) *platform* seems to be growing?  Alexandra Franzen has some incredibly good advice on adjusting our perspective.

> Finally, one of those very cool, ever so slightly awful Buzzfeed lists, this time "33 Amazingly Useful Websites You Never Knew Existed."  I saved you some scrolling time -- definitely useful, or at least, interesting to writers:  the Online Etymology Dictionary; Practical Typography (everything blessed thing you want to know); WriteWord's Word Frequency Counter (for when you suspect you overuse certain words; you're usually right, by the way); Mathway (it will solve anything; because we writers do words, not numbers); and PrintWay (for when you absolutely want to print it, but without all the ads and other website wonkiness).

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Author Interview: Grace Bauer, on her new poetry collection, Nowhere All At Once

I have written here before that the way I came to truly appreciate poetry was one poet at a time. There was never a moment or period of time when I can say I began to love poetry, but there are many precise moments when I can say I fell in love with particular poets – and their poems. Grace Bauer's poetry found me about three years ago when I embarked on a joint blog project with the journal Prairie Schooner, where she's a senior reader.

While prose writers and poets often think of what separates us, in Grace's poems, I find so much kinship between memoir and imagery, story and metaphor, the lyrical and narrative. I'm so pleased to feature this interview with her today, in which I ask about her newest poetry collection, Nowhere All At Once (Stephen F. Austin State University Press), her writing and submitting process, how she groups poems, and more.

Lisa:  I believe this is your fourth full-length poetry book, right on the heels of your fourth chapbook (Café Culture). How and when do you realize that the poems you are working on at any given time are destined for one or the other?

Grace:  Putting together a collection is always a long process for me. First, of course, is the writing and revising of each individual poem. How they then come -- or are put -- together varies.

Two of my books (The Women At The Well and Beholding Eye) are what I call, for lack of a better term, “concept books,” composed of a series of interconnected poems. The Women At The Well is all monologues spoken in the voices of women from the Bible. (I’m happy to say it has just recently been presented as a play in New Hampshire). Beholding Eye is all ekphrastic poems (poems based on visual art, in various ways).

Retreats & Recognitions and now, Nowhere All At Once are more eclectic collections of poems written in a voice (or voices) that one might see as some version of my own, and based in personal experience or observation. The eclectic collections are always more of a challenge. I’ll generally have a pile of poems that I spread out all over the floor and, quite literally, walk around in, looking for connections and links and echoes – recurring themes, motifs and/or formal similarities.

My goal is to weave the poems together in a way that makes the whole add up to more than the sum of its parts. I obsess a lot about ordering the poems, even though I know full well that many readers will hunt and peck their way through the book instead of reading it from cover to cover. It’s something I feel compelled to do for myself. Since I tend to be working on many things at once, there are always poems that seem finished but don’t quite fit into the manuscript at hand for one reason or another. I consider those poems possible “seeds” for the next collection.

Q.  Along the way (to a chapbook or collection), how do you decide which poems to submit to individual journals? How much time and energy do you give to that submission/journal publication process?

A. I send stuff out to journals fairly consistently – or at least I try to.  Sometimes the demands of my day job get in the way of those good intentions. It’s always a struggle to find – or make – the time to do the creative work and/or the “practical” work (I’m not sure you can really call submitting to literary journals “practical”) you have to do to get your writing out in the world. 

For me, both writing and submitting often go in spurts, but I try to practice what I preach to my students and do at least a little something directly related to my writing most days of the week.

On the days I don’t teach, I “show up for work” in my study first thing in the morning and put in as many hours as I can – either writing or revising or submitting or corresponding. By the time I’m putting a book together, most of the individual poems have been submitted to journals and, with any luck, many of them have been published.

Q:  You teach in English, Creative Writing, and Women's Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and work with Prairie Schooner, and its annual PS Book Prize. How does all of that reading and thoughtful consideration of others' writing affect you – as a writer and a teacher?


A: My reading for the journal has been intermittent the past few years because I’ve been working with so many undergraduate and graduate students (that also means a lot of reading), but I have served as a Senior Reader for the Prairie Schooner book prize since its inception.

Each year I read a short list of manuscripts that have already successfully made it through a previous round of screeners. I made a vow to myself early on that I would read each manuscript in its entirety – cover to cover -- and I have stuck to that. I’m hoping that rustles up some good karma in the poetry universe for my own manuscripts. Most, if not all, of the manuscripts I read are of publishable quality – or getting close to that point, so the reading is both inspiring and humbling. I’m looking for the two or three that distinguish themselves in some way; these I send on to the next level of judges.

All this reading reminds me that I have to work very very hard – on individual poems and a manuscript as a whole – to try to make it stand out in the crowd. And I pass that idea on to my students.

Q.  One of the endorsements (dare I say "blurbs"?) for your new book is from Naomi Shihab Nye, and says in part that your poems display "…a compact flow of narrative…"  When you are writing and/or revising, how much are you aware of a need, or perhaps I should say, a desire for the force of narrative in a poem?

A. I don’t necessarily begin a poem with a desire or need for narrative – or anything else. A poem, for me, usually begins with a phrase or an image that just sort of arrives, or presents itself, to my consciousness and/or my ear. My job is to take that originating inkling and see where it takes me. I recognize, of course, that I have a tendency toward narrative. Why? I don’t know exactly. I know I’m drawn to the musical possibilities of common speech, the cadences of voices. I like thinking about how poems can work on the page and orally/aurally.  

Q. I'm a huge fan of writing prompts. In a blog post at Ploughshares, you noted that a classroom prompt provided by a student, led you to write "Crime Scene," which appears in your new book, and I was struck by this:  "I was writing fast, never knowing what I was going to scribble down next. Any of the first three lines could have been an opening."  Many writers fear that sense of not knowing where something is going, or are wary of trusting that a writing prompt exercise, with no expectations, can lead to good work. Can you comment?

A. As I suggest in the previous answer, I never know where a poem is going to end up when I begin. If I already know the ending, I don’t see the point of writing it. It’s the old “no surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader” thing. I’ll write with my students in class when possible – which it isn’t always, for a variety of pedagogical reasons. Prompts don’t often lead to full-blown poems, as this one did, but sometimes lead to at least a good line or two.

Café Culture, for instance, grew out of – not a prompt, per se, but an assignment of sorts, which was to go to a coffee shop or café or diner or whatever and eavesdrop and/or spy on people till something caught my attention and then I’d just start scribbling. Most of what I came up with was junk, but eventually I had this small group of poems that I thought might make a fun chapbook. I sent it to Dan Nowak at Imaginary Friend Press, and he agreed. So again, prompts, assignments, schedules. Anything that gets and keeps you writing is a good thing.

Q.  In a post over at Hayden's Ferry Review's blog, you wrote, "One thought leads to another; one word to the next. Wave-like and wandering. Wondering. Sometimes sound for the sheer pleasure of it. And so, sometimes, poems are made."  I wonder how many of your poems begin this way – wondering, wandering around on the page for pleasure, and how many others begin another way – maybe with a kind of insistence or need, perhaps even the opposite of pleasure, a way to work something out?

A. Well there’s pleasure. And there’s torture. And, maybe tortuous pleasure and vice versa. A need to “work something out” may be the impetus for a poem, but even then, there’s a kind of pleasure – or satisfaction – that comes from working with the language – sound, rhythm, the aha of finding a word or image that seems right, that captures an impression or perception or feeling or whatever and also works musically and/or suggests layers of meaning. I believe you can write a poem about pretty much anything, but the so-called “subject matter” of the poem is only part of it. As a reader, I go to poems not just for what they may be “about,” but for how they go about being a poem.

Q.  You mentioned to me that Nowhere All At Once is an "eclectic collection which revolves around recurring themes, motifs, obsessions and plays around a lot with perception -- how we look at the world around us, at ourselves and each other. How PREconceptions affect what and how we see". This truly describes what I found reading it!  I'm curious, was this apparent to you as you were writing the individual poems, or does this reveal itself as you assemble them into the collection?

A. Definitely the latter with this book. The poems in Nowhere All At Once were written over a span of time – some older poems that didn’t make it into Retreats & Recognitions and some much more recent work. It goes back to your first question about how I assemble a book – many of these connections and recurrences were discovered as I walked around those poems spread out on the floor. Once I had a rough version of the manuscript, several friends – Hilda Raz, Jane Varley, Liz Ahl – looked at it and gave me their invaluable suggestions on individual poems and on the overall arrangement.

That’s something I’d recommend to anyone at that point in the process – to get a set of fresh eyes looking at the work.

Q. I begin my nonfiction classes by reading a poem, to transition from everyone's busy day to the world of words, language, story. One miserable New Jersey winter day, we read "Slacker's Prayer," which to me celebrated the upside of bad weather and cancelled plans. Everyone in the room – all ages, backgrounds, lives –instantly nodded.  And, we especially loved the final lines:  "..Curse only/the fact that such days are too rare/and pass too quickly. Then praise the work/you will rise tomorrow to do. And know/that giving praise (for nothing) is work too."  Perhaps this is a naïve question, but can you remember how this poem came about, and whether or not its traces back to a particular day, storm, feeling?

A. As you know, there are several “prayer poems” in Nowhere All At Once. I couldn’t give you an exact date or anything, but I recall the general feeling of the day this poem began. I have fibromyalgia and am very seasonally affected. I hate winter and if I never saw snow again in my life I’d be perfectly happy, so usually a blizzard would fill me with fear and loathing. 

This, as you might imagine, is not exactly convenient for someone living in Nebraska! So I often try talking myself into appreciating the world as it is in winter. Usually I fail. But this one day I was at home and just found myself praising things as they were – mostly because I didn’t have to go out in it. Next day, out came the shovel and I was bitching about it all per usual.

Q.  You've said the book is made up of "several little' mini-series'  -- the prayer poems, the 'against' poems, poems about female characters" and while I understood that while working my way through the book the first time, it also seemed to me that there were so many connections between these – prayer poems that had an 'against' vibe, poems about women that felt like prayers, etc.  When assembling a series or sections, do some poems seems to straddle lines? How do you finally decide where to place them?

A. I’m happy to hear that all those connections came across for you as a reader. Many of those connections evolved on their own; a few were deliberate. For instance, I had the “against” poems and several of the prayer poems, so I very deliberately set out to bring those together in the poem “Against Prayer.” I could, of course, have clumped each “mini-series” together, but I thought it might make for a richer reading experience (at least for that ideal reader who reads cover to cover) if I intermingled the poems instead. I was going for a weaving more than a patchwork quilt kind of effect.  I like what Daisy Fried says in her blurb/comment about the poems looking inward and outward and being “praise and agitation.” The way I see it, the world warrants a bit of both.

Note:  You can follow Grace on Twitter