Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Yes, they could be a technical writer. Hahaha, I kid. I kid. I don’t think it’s helpful to say that to be a writer you have to have this list of qualities. Writing is art. It can be anything. As soon as you say you can’t do something, someone will come along and do it and make it work. That’s the beauty of it!
What other authors do you admire, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I admire anyone who has the dedication to write a book. It’s no small feat to actually go from start to finish and hit all those milestones. Some of the authors I look up to are Kathryn Harrison, for her hypnotic writing style, and Dorothy Parker, for her wit and rhymes.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I look at a lot of my poetry as separate volumes in a larger body of work. If you read them in order, you will see how a story develops between the collections. But you can also pick up one book and get a slice of where I was at the time of the writing.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would tell myself that what you’re doing is between you and the words. Everything else is just noise.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
My first book, the one we don’t talk about, was published through a vanity press. At the time, I did not have the technical skill to create this book on my own. I was years away from being able to design my own covers and layout my own format for digital and physical books, and do all of the other little things that are required to get a book published.
But paying them so many hundreds of dollars and ending up with no money left for an editor, really hit home that I needed to learn how to do what they did. Because my priorities were off.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
A good editor! Editors are the people who take your infant book and help it grow into a adult book, ready to go out into the world to seek its fortune. I can’t say enough about how key working with editors has been for me.
Sometimes I would write a poem that made perfect sense in my head and the editor would come back with, “What in the world are you talking about?” Because literally, I was the only person who the poem made sense to. Other times, they would give me insight into how a poem worked with another or didn’t and it would change how I structured the book. There are so many ways editors have helped me become the writer I am today.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
I remember reading Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’urbervilles in high school and starting the book with an eye roll because I knew it was going to be a boring and difficult read. I ended up loving the book and was actually sad when I finished it. It captivated me.
What did you do with the money you made from your first book?
I used it to travel to Arizona to meet my then-boyfriend. I was 19, he was 35, we had never met in person before, and if the situation sounds ridiculous. Well yes, it was. Arizona was nice though.
What is one regret you have as an author?
Probably Into Love and Out Again. It was my first book and I had no idea how to format a digital book like I do now. I want to redo it, but the fact that it’s one of my longer works just intimidates me. I would love to redo the cover, format it for print and Kindle, just make it really beautiful. Maybe one day when I have a lot of time on my hands. Haha.
What is your proudest moment as a writer?
Probably when I took a class at The Muse in Norfolk with the then-current Poet Laureate of Virginia, Tim Seibles. I read out a draft of “Listen” (now in Karaoke) that I had written in class and the entire room was silent. Finally, Prof. Seibles said, “Nice.” I was so happy that everyone had enjoyed it.