Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dirt Road Dreams: an interview with Susie Clevenger

Susie's first book of poems was published in December 2012.

Greetings Garden Dwellers!

This week I continue to explore the world of publishing.  Some of those in our midst have struck out to put their work into a printed product: a bound and decorated object called “books”, and I am here to share those experiences with you all. 

Today we will visit with Susie Clevenger , poet and blogger.   We know Susie from her poetry blog  Confessions of a Laundry Goddess (she performs spoken word and does photography too, check out her website – linked above for more information).   Last year, Susie worked tirelessly to produce a book of her own.  Join me now Toads as Susie tells us all about her journey and how she made one of her long time dreams a reality. 

Izy: Your book Dirt Road Dreams was published in December 2012.  First of all congratulations on the endeavor!  How did you select the theme?

Susie:  Thank you! I went through several ideas for titles, but finally settled on Dirt Road Dreams. It came from a poem of the same name. I was an oddity in the farming community I grew up in and the poem expresses my feelings at the time. With a fast forward to the present that title made perfect sense. I was fulfilling a dream to see my work in print.

Izy:  I can imagine how rewarding it must feel to have a finished product which can rest on a bookshelf!  How did you know you were "ready" to publish your poems?

Susie:  I had several people tell me I should publish a book of poetry. I am my worst critic and fought the idea for quite a while. I have spent most of my life encouraging others to pursue their dreams without really having one of my own. In January 2012 I decided it was going to be the year of “me” for a change. I then began the journey to create the book.

Izy:   If I were to come to you and say, "Susie, I put all my poems on my blog, so why should I publish a book of my poems..." how would you respond?

Susie:  If you were to seek a book publisher, they would want totally new material. In the case of self-publishing poetry that has been on a blog I have a totally different view of it. Although you have a regular readership on your blog, the world is a big place with plenty of people who have never read one of your poems. If you own a poetry book, do you only read it once? Just think of the times you return to a poetry book to reread it, because it speaks to you. In the grand scheme of life you don’t know who will buy or read your book, but it just might be the person who really needed to hear what you had to say.

Susie decided to make 2012 the year she
published, and she made it happen.
Izy:  I see!  In terms of speaking a new and larger audience, was it difficult to pick which pieces would go in?  And were any poems left out that you wish could have been included but weren't?

Susie:  At first it was going to be a compilation of poetry I had on my Confessions of a Laundry Goddess blog. I have a large amount of work there so trying to decide what to put in the book was a little overwhelming. The more I looked through my work the more I felt the urge to write new material along with including some work I had previously posted. In the process I began to feel the connection and flow between the old and new pieces. There are a couple I wish I would have included, Yesterday’s Immortality and Feathers of Poe.

Izy:  How did you select the order of the poems?

Susie:  I had divided the poems into sections, Barefoot on Gravel, Kicking up Sand, and Dancing in Dust. That seemed simple enough, but I still had questions as to flow and which section should go first. I asked a friend, Mouton Bazile , to help me with it. He was such a blessing. His wisdom directed the final order of the poems.

Izy: How did you turn a stack of poems into an actual book?  In particular what was the publishing process like for you?

Susie:  I didn’t know a thing about publishing a book. I wasn’t even sure who to ask, but luckily Mouton was able to answer a lot of my questions and point me in the right direction. We worked hard on formatting the book, but ran into some difficulties which led me to hire, Marvin Cloud Marvin Cloud, to do the final formatting of the book and cover. I had a Houston area printer do the printing.

I must say it was a scary process for me since I was going in blind so to speak, but I am not one to let a challenge stop me from achieving whatever goal I set for myself. Holding a published book of my work was my dream and I kept working my way through the obstacles until it was completed.

Izy:  The business of books involves a lot of self-promotion in order to get people to buy, can you speak a little to this.  What types of self-promotion have you done to get the word out, have they been successful, etc.

Susie:  I have never been good at being my own cheerleader, but I am learning. I have actively promoted my book on Facebook and Twitter. I have been blessed to be part of Real Toads and the members have been so supportive in sharing information about my book and purchasing it. Kerry O’Conner has included it on the blog’s bookshelf also. I am part of the New World Creative Union whose goal is to support and promote fellow artists’ work. The members have shared it through Facebook and Twitter. NWCU has a blogtalk radio show, The Nexus Cafe, hosted by Roger Allen Baut and Natasha Head. They have given promotion for my book on their program. I also have an upcoming guest spot, April 11, 2013, to talk about my book. Joanne Young Elliot, who is a member of NWCU, helped me tremendously on creating an effective internet presence to share who I am and information about my book. Through her guidance I have tweaked my author’s page as well as any site where I share my profile.  I highly recommend her. You can find her at Social Sprite Media Services.

Laurie Kolp asked me to speak at her writing group, Texas Gulf Coast Writers , which allowed me to share about my writing process as well as gave me an opportunity to speak about my book and to provide books for sale.

Other avenues of promotion have been a podcast interview on Ben Ditmars and Amber Jerome~Norrgard’s Lyrical Versification . On March 17, 2013 I will have an iTunes interview onTweepNation, hosted by Dionne Lister and Amber Norrgard. Also I hosted a Goodreads giveaway for my book in which over four hundred people signed up for a chance to win a free copy. My husband, Charlie, is one of my biggest supporters. He has sold numerous copies to his co-workers. My youngest daughter, Carrie, works for the Tulsa Ballet and she is selling and promoting my book for me there. My friend, Mike Zito, who is a blues musician, has shared my Amazon link on his Facebook page. On October 11, 2013, I am attending IndieVengence Day in Dallas TX, which is an event coordinated by Author, Amber Jerome~Norrgard, for independent authors to meet, read, and sell their books. 

Izy:  What has the response been to the book?

Susie:  The response to my book has been really positive. I have gotten good reviews on Amazon and personal feedback from friends and family. There have been several people who have told me they are looking forward to my next book!

Izy:  What were some of the challenges that come from publishing your poetry that you were not expecting?

Susie:  I didn’t expect so many details would trip me up. Frankly I was rather naïve about the whole thing. It didn’t take long for me to realize I needed to learn how to swim or I was going to drown. Since I didn’t publish my book through Amazon’s Create Space I had to open an account as publisher/author. I provided everything from the IBSN number to that wonderful feature “look inside” which wasn’t easy to figure out. My husband sat through many tearful fits during the whole thing.

Izy:  What were some of the rewards that you were not expecting?

Susie:  I knew I would be overjoyed to hold a finished book in my hand, but I didn’t realize how it would totally change my life. I didn’t even dream a year ago that I would speak in front of other authors nor have a guest spot on someone’s radio program. I cherish each person who has purchased, read, and promoted my book and my other work on my blog.


Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

I published 2 books and it was hard work.

Janine Bollée said...

Izy and Susie:
Thank you both so much for this interview post. It is such an eye-opener to see what Susie has gone through in order to get that little 3D non-virtual treasure in her hands. And I am not even talking about the hard graft of writing.
Congratulations and I hope it will give many people pleasure to read and own.

Isadora Gruye said...

You said it Aprille...this is part of why I wanted to run this series. The craft of writing is hard enough, and then add on top of that the "craft" of publishing.

I want to thank Susie for her time and efforts to complete this interview! Susie it was so fun getting to peak inside your universe for a while. Thanks for all you do!

Gail said...

A enlightening interview...will have to check this book out.

Wishing you much success.

Marian said...

fantastic! your book is SO wonderful, Susie... so real, somehow, the dirt road right there in your hands, i just love it and am so happy for you and proud of you, too.
i've also been really impressed with the way you promote yourself, and how you must get good energy for yourself from that process. it's great!
congratulations again on the publication of your wonderful book! xo

Susan said...

Thanks for this informative interview, Izy! I love having Susie's book in my hands even though I read her on my bog and on Facebook! I have just arranged 21 poems of my own into a chapbook format, and I see that I have just scratched the surface of bringing it to publication.

Unknown said...

Another great look into the behind the scenes work involved in publishing a book. Lots of hats to wear and lots of tasks to master, and Susie seems to have done it all!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Susie! How nice to have that finished product. I can't imagine doing it completely on my own!

Kerry O'Connor said...

Phew! Hats off to you, Susie. I admire your tenacity, not only in the production of your book but also in getting it out there. You are an inspiration.

My thanks to Izy for bringing this interview to us. You know which questions to ask, and I always come away with something to think about.

Mary said...

Congratulations, Susie! I enjoyed very much reading about your process.

Herotomost said...

Wuwie, I am a big fan and need to rectify the fract I have not YET bought the book. I will this week for sure. Congrat5ulations on all of the hard work and rock on a level that I wish I rocked on. Great job Girly Q and a great interview here.

Susie Clevenger said...

Thank you Izy for asking me.You were great to work with! I had never really talked to anyone about the whole process of creating my book.

A large part of my growth as a writer has come from Real Toads. I am thankful for each person I have come to know through meeting them here in the garden. I am so proud to be a part of Real Toads.

I am now going through the process of doing spoken word recordings of my book. My brother-in-law is legally blind and he asked me if I would do it for him.

Again thanks everyone. I am truly blessed to be part of such a fantastic community.

Maude Lynn said...

I took notes through this whole interview! Excellent, ladies!

Margaret said...

Fascinating. A created my own hardcover book through my Macs computer. I gave one each to my parents and in-laws and one for my home. It is thrilling to read it and see my words and photos in print, i must admit. I'm sure I will never publish but every writer does dream... I must get a copy of this book soon. Thanks for this insightful interview.

Kay L. Davies said...

Izy — I'm so glad you interviewed Susie. Good job!
Susie — I'm so proud of you. You've done a lot of work in addition to writing and choosing the poems. You are so fortunate to have a supportive husband and family, as well as helpful friends.
I recently gave up the idea of having a book published. My blog was started as a place to dry-run An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel in order to bring out a book one day, but now the mere idea of the whole grueling process exhausts me. I could never do the whole promotion thing. The thought of it makes me want to take a nap.
Good for you. Keep up the good work.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Awesome interview and congrats, Susie. I love you AND your book. I applaud your perseverence in the work it took to produce it. I so enjoyed this interview! Am waiting for your next book too.

Mixi said...

Izy - Well done on the interview! Thank you so much for doing such a great job of leading the conversation!

Susie - I've been following your blog for a while now and have been overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of your ideas and expression. It was enlightening to learn of the challenges you faced while publishing your book, not the least of which was choosing which of your many, many brilliant pieces to include in the collection! :) Wishing you success with your book as well as all future endeavours!

hedgewitch said...

Great interview as always, Izy, and I also am proud of and happy for Susie--there is a long road--(and most of it is not paved ;_) ) --from blog to book and it takes a lot of work to get to the end result. Many congratulations, Susie, and your book is on my list.

Scarlet said...

Thank you for the interview Izy ~ This was a very informative process and I applaud you Susie for your determination to see it through ~

My initial thoughts are..that publishing and promoting takes a lot of work and energy. I wish you luck Susie ~ Cheers ~

Fireblossom said...

What a terrific interview with a terrific poet!

Susie Clevenger said...

Again, thanks everyone. I so appreciate your input and support. I am so thankful to walk in the light of those who have gone before me and those who walk beside me with such passion for poetry.

Unknown said...

This glimpse of being published is very enlightening.

Ella said...

Bravo Susie on your courage to continue and the fruits of your labor! I hope to walk in your footprints, someday~
Congrats and I love how you have been embraced, as this journey continues~ :D

Laurie Kolp said...

Susie, you did such a fantastic job speaking at our meeting. To hear you read those wonderful poems in person was such a gift! I'm so glad I had the chance to meet you and look forward to seeing you again. Great interview.

Anonymous said...

Susie - thanks so much for sharing all of this information. It is very difficult to self-publish! k.

LLM Calling said...

just so excited to see your work, can't wait to get my hands