Thursday, March 28, 2013

True Originals Apply to No One: an interview

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 I present a very special brain snack:  an interview with not one but three Toads whose latest book is so new, the ink has barely dried!  Our very own FireblossomMama Zen, and Hedgewitch have published a book of poems, and they were kind enough to answer some of my questions about the publishing process.  Scroll downward to learn how they came together, let Fireblossom do what she does best (formatting?), and ended up with a book of their own..... 

Izy:  The three of you have very separate styles, what drove your decision to collaborate and conjure forth a book?

FB:  Kelli goosed me about getting something together to try to get it published, and I had the idea of doing something together. It means more to me because we are all in it, than a solo effort would have. 

HW: First of all, the credit for this project really should go to Shay and Kelli, as being published comes on my list of enthusiasms somewhere between learning how to do sculptures from clothes-dryer lint and being nibbled to death by ducks. As far as why do this together, other than  being online friends, for me, it was primarily that we just seem to understand and relate to each other's poetry on a real and primal level. Neither Kelli nor Shay has ever gotten any of my poems wrong--and their poetry always seems to strike a chord in me that just instinctually hits me where I live (not to mention, makes me say "I wish I'd written that')

MZ: Honestly, it just kind of occurred to me one day that we could.  And, it sounded like fun.

Shay Caroline (a.k.a. Fireblossom)

Izy:  Tell me a bit about what it was like to collaborate with other poets?  How did you arrive at a cohesive theme, tone, etc.?

FB: It was easy because we each have our own separate sections. I was the one to bang out the manuscript, so I chose my own poems, Kelli asked me to help with choosing hers, and Joy chose her own and sent me the doc by email. Then we all had some typos and what-have-you to clean up, and there it was. It was Joy's idea to do the cascade poems at the end.

HW:  Shay was the driving force behind this project as far as my motivation was concerned, and she kept us between the lines by making it very simple and clear-cut: we each were going to put so many poems in the collection, and we had so many days to assemble them for her to transcribe. She helped me out with a list of her favorites of mine, and I mentioned some of my favorites of hers, but our final choices were personal. She also really made this happen by having a stringent deadline. If I'd had more time to dither, my part probably would have taken years to get done, if ever.

MZ: The book is definitely a collaboration, but it's presented as three distinct voices.  We each had our own section to play with.  That format lent itself to ease of design and pretty much eliminated the need for any hair pulling. 

Izy:  Did you each get input on what the other was including?  Did you help revise and improve each other's work?

FB: No one revised anyone else's work. I think that's a boundary none of us would presume to cross. However, there *was* input about which poems to include. I helped Kelli choose her poems, Joy made some suggestions for me, including "Mission" and "House Of Wax", and I urged Joy to include "Hedgerider's Lament."

MZ: Hmmm . . . let me just sit for a moment and imagine myself trying to revise one of Hedge's poems . . . not gonna happen! On the other hand, without Shay, I would still be thumbing through my poems and trying to make selections.

Izy:  The title is (I am assuming) your three birth signs....what is the significance of the title in relation to the poems?  

FB:  Yes, our sun signs. Kelli came up with that. I think our signs show in our writing. 

HW: While I'm not a foamy, New Age-y devotee of astrology, I have found it a useful and interesting way of looking at personalities over the years, and I do think there is some relationship between our signs and our styles--in my  case, I know I draw on the historical poets and on traditional forms a lot more, as well as being drawn to the dark side of things. (Edgar Allen Poe was a Capricorn, after all.)

MZ: The title seemed to fit the theme of three views and three voices.

Izy: How did you decide on the order of the poems, the layout and design?  Did one of you take this on or was it a group effort?

FB: Blame me for that, entirely. It was partly just a matter of what arrangement would fit the most poems in, in a pleasing way. Also, I tried not to put poems together that didn't mesh well together. Joy did give me her design for the three sections her poems are divided into, and I chose the sequence within each section.  I paid particular attention to the first and last poem for each poet. 

HW:  Shay, along with doing all the other hard work, made the final decisions on things, but we each made our own selections. Being the Capricorn in the group, I did choose to group my part of the book into three themed sections, and to do it I used three of my blog tags, which is how I associate my poems in my head. I had a section called Witchlight (love poems) one called Casting the Runes, (for my poems about myth and so forth), and finally a group of assorted form poems I tagged Dancing Doll. We also discussed including poems of different  lengths--short medium and long--and breaking up the book that way as well for variety, so you'll find you aren't reading page after page of long poems all lumped together.

MZ: Shay gets all the credit for anything related to manuscript design.  The woman is a machine!

Joy Ann Jones( a.k.a Hedgewitch)
Izy:  What have initial reactions been to the book, and now that the book is out there, what are your plans to promote the work?  Are you going to do readings, etc. I know a guy who sells tamales from the trunk of his car at night clubs.  He makes a killing and may be looking to get into the book selling biz.....?

FB: I think it may be too soon for reactions, but people have certainly been very positive about the fact that there *is* a book. Marian at ALL CAPS promoted us on Twitter and Facebook and at Real Toads. All of us have promoted the book on our blogs. I do readings very occasionally, and if I do one, I'll take some copies along. 

HW:  I'll do readings when I am personally asked by Sean Bean, Viggo Mortenson or President Obama. But I could use a good tamale.

MZ: So far, people have been really positive and excited for us. 

Izy: You are published under the ALL CAPS imprint, a collective which helps authors self publish their work, why did you make the decision to self-publish?  Shay, you've previously published, how did you find this experience to work in contrast to working with a conventional poetry press?

FB: Fuck a bunch of leaving it to editors who want what they want for any of a million reasons. Our work is strong, it deserves to see print and be read, and this is how it got done. I'm pleased as can be with the whole thing. My girl Emily Dickinson had her poetry maimed by editors for decades; men who thought they knew how to improve the little lady's work. Please. Finally, her work is available as she intended it, and it's so much stronger that way. I took a lesson from that. 

When I was submitting to magazines and all of that, one had to go through these gatekeepers, each with their own biases and needs and egos. I think my writing is as good as anyone's. Anyone's. I don't need someone to stamp their approval on it, or change it or tell me how I ought to have done it. My feeling is that Kelli and Joy are true originals and they need apply to no one. Here is our work. It's fucking fantastic. It needs to be out there and available. Personally, I couldn't care less about compiling some list of publications or bonafides. The work is the thing.

MZ: Self-publishing has become a viable option, particularly for poets.  We have a strong, vibrant community, we support each other; why shouldn't we work together to get our work out there?

Izy:  What were some of the obstacles you faced?

FB: Oy! Figuring out how to make the book look nice, get the poems to fit nicely where i wanted them, and to navigate all the steps necessary to create the finished book. It wasn't easy. There were times when I was fit to be tied, trying to figure it all out, but Marian had a knack of always having the wise word when I needed it, and the book got made. I'm very proud of it and very proud of *us*. 

HW: The hardest part for me was picking between my poem children--rejecting some and elevating others as a mother should never have to do, and I only hope they forgive me for playing favorites. 

MZ: Talking Shay off the ledge when the formatting wasn't going well?  I'm kidding, but Shay really was the point woman on the grunt work.  I think that she did a tremendous job, and I can't thank her enough.

Kelli Simpson (a.k.a. Mama Zen)
Izy:  What were some of the rewards of the writing/ publishing process?

FB: To me, writing something worthwhile is its own reward, but the rewards of this book, for me, have been to see each of our sets of poems all in one place, looking good, something that can be held in the hands and enjoyed and kept and shared. That's just such a kick.

I used to have all these unwieldy bookmarks on my computer for both of my co-authors' poems that I liked the best, but now they are all together. I love that. And mine too! 

For differing reasons, it has seemed unlikely that any of the three of us would ever be sitting here with a book of our poetry in our hands. It just thrills me silly that now that's been made real, against some daunting odds. All of us quit writing for years at a time. It would be criminal if Kelli and Joy had remained silent. I think that the opportunities of blogging and self-publishing were critical to all three of us picking up our pens again.

HW: The biggest reward for me is knowing we've accomplished something tangible, being able to hold a real book in one's hand and say--hey, my poetry is in here. That, and  hearing all the kind words, encouragement and support from others, especially our fellow poets.

MZ:  The writing is its own reward.  Always.  Still, holding a book of your work in your hands is an undeniable thrill.

Izy:  How long did it take you to put the work together?

FB: It happened pretty fast.

HW: You mean, besides a lifetime of agonizing or ecstatic experiences distilled into verbal expression through long soul-searching and peripatetic inspiration in the wee hours of insomniac months and years? 

Actually, about 24 hours, because I was late to the party and the last one to get organized, so I raced through my blog on the fly, cutting and pasting like a fiend. This was a good thing , as I said earlier, or  I would probably have spent months agonizing, re-writing and over-editing everything. 

MZ:  It didn't take long at all!

Izy:  Where can I get my hands on a copy?


MZ: We're on Amazon.  And, I have a couple of copies sitting here on my desk.  Call me; I'll hook you up!

Get your mitts on your own copy of Gemini/Scorprio/Capricorn  here


hedgewitch said...

This was such fun, Izy! I love how my answers are longest, cuz--I'm the Capricorn. :_P Shay as always tells it like it is, and Kelli has the one-liners. Gotta love it! Thanks so much to you, ma'am, and to Real Toads for spotlighting us, and all the individual toads for their warm support and kind words about this project.

Marcoantonio Arellano (Nene) said...

This collaborative publication is a pleasure for me, one who follows the three of you on blogspot. Bought the ebook through Amazon. Would like a hard copy, though, in an attempt of replenishing so many of my books lost in a flood.

Thank you mi amigas

Kay L. Davies said...

Wow, you three, plus Izy, make for a compelling blog-read.
I just love all of you (I feel I must have been Shay's mother or big sister in another life or something) and I'm thrilled to think of a book containing a distillation of your best work.
Now that I'm past the scared-witless OMG-identity-theft part of having my wallet stolen in Italy, I am thinking of putting a toe into shopping again, and can't imagine a better way to do it than to purchase this book.
Three toads venture out of the garden to face the real world...doesn't get more exciting than this.
Best wishes and love and hugs and all that,

Susan said...

Love your book. Good interview, Izy.

Fireblossom said...

Thanks for doing such a great job, Izy!

Marian said...

good lord how on earth did i miss this! i guess it was all that ranting in support of gay marriage that distracted me. YOU WOMEN ROCK! i mean ROCK AND ROLL! yayayyyy!!! what a great inspiration!

Sabio Lantz said...

Fascinating interview on the collaborative project. I got a feel for attitudes toward poetry, the world and yourselves. It is fun to hear conversations I may never otherwise hear. Best wishes on marketing. But most of all, congrats on the fine product? May I ask: What types of costs are involved in self-publishing? (pure curiosity, I rightfully have no such ambitions).

Unknown said...

Congratulations on your book - very exciting!

Hannah said...

Oh my goodness!!! How stinkin' cool is this...the book and you guys here together to discuss!!! Such a treat, truly!

First I have to say that you all are so inspiring and make this daunting process look like a breeze so that's encouraging in its own right. Thank you.

I love this:

"to see each of our sets of poems all in one place, looking good, something that can be held in the hands and enjoyed and kept and shared. That's just such a kick."

I look forward to holding a copy of you gals labor of love!!

Cheers and smiles to you all!

Thank you for this interview, Izzy! :)

Maude Lynn said...

Thank you so much, Izy!

Kerry O'Connor said...

This whole project and reading about the process behind it makes me just so damn happy!

What a band of sisters of the written word you are!

Margaret said...

My girl Emily Dickinson had her poetry maimed by editors for decades; men who thought they knew how to improve the little lady's work.

Loved that Shay... the way that paragraph started, I'd love to see you on a talk show being questioned!! ha ha

HW...picking between poem children... oh, that is lovely and yes, it would be so difficult.

...and I had to smile... MZ is the briefest, even in an interview :)

I'm of to order now...

Lolamouse said...

Firstly, CONGRATS to 3 of my favorite poets! I've been wishing for collections of poems from several people, and this book answers my wishes! I've ordered my copy (I'm an old fashioned book gal, no e books for me!) and I'm waiting with baited breath!

Helen said...

Delightful interview Ms. Izy ... even without names to identify their responses, I would have known them. This old gal has the book downloaded on her new age reader!

Scarlet said...

Thanks for the lovely interview Izy ~ All your hard work ladies are paying off in one precious collection ~ Love each of your thoughts and reflections in the process of coming together ~ All the best to your book ~


hedgewitch said...

Thanks again to all the toads for their appreciation and support, and for being willing to invest a little hard cash, too!--I think that anyone who loves poetry will find something to like in the book, because of the three-pronged approach. If my convoluted verbosity gives you a headache, you can read Kelli's killer short poems, and if you want something totally different, Shay will rock your world. Thanks to Izy and Kerry for spotlighting us, and thanks for all the everyday visits and kind words so freely given from you all.

Marian said...

i also feel compelled to concur with Joy: Viggo Mortensen could tell me to do any damn thing and i would do it. JUST SAYING.

Margaret said...

I "opened" the book to the first page on Amazon and Fireblossom made me laugh with her first line.

An easy decision to purchase! :)

Gloria Baker said...

what nice and intetesting post!!

Fireblossom said...

Figures...the lesbian had to Google Viggo Mortenson!

Margaret said...

Ha ha. Fireblossom. So did I .... but I was pleasantly surprised! :)

Ella said...

Congrats! Viggo for President...oops~

Wow, I'm impressed-you gals rocked it....Off to Amazon! It sounds like the stars aligned ;D

Susie Clevenger said...

So glad you worked together to create such a marvelous work of art. I have mine already and have been reading through it with such joy!! I feel humbled to be a part of the garden with three amazingly talented writers/authors!

Unknown said...

Love the interview, Izy. Feels like sitting in a room with the four of you. Time to order the book!

Anonymous said...

Many many congratulations! I have the book! It looks great. k.