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The Importance of Being Connected–Workshop on Making Your Life Easier, Jan. 25

January 13, 2020

Regie Cabico (Capturing Fire), Sean Murphy (1455), Nina Murray, poetry workshop

I’ve tried a few clever titles for my workshop, and this one seems pretty apt: Come to my workshop, and I will walk you through practical steps you can take to make your creative life easier.

This is going to be fun! It is also free. Register here: http://bit.ly/2Th4fKQ

I’ll see you there.

Fifty-six North: Poetry E-books and Where to Find Mine

January 10, 2020

It has finally happened: I have joined the ranks of independent authors.

I published my first collection of poems, Fifty-six Northas a Kindle e-book.

I finally made the decision after listening to this episode of the Creative Penn podcast. Basically, the conversation confirmed my suspicion that I had the right instinct about e-books: back when they first became possible, a decade ago.  At that time, I was still a fairly recent alum of traditional publishing, whereas I’d had a front-row seat to the anxiety wrought upon that industry by the launch of e-books. The ultimate verdict was that the judgement and taste of editors will remain a value self-published authors cannot match, so good books will remain produced by publishing houses.

One problem with that logic is that in order for something to be of value, the consumer (i.e. the reader) has to be willing to pay a premium for it, and, as we all learned, there are plenty of competent writers out there whose readers do not need/require the mediation of an editorial and production teams. Let’s face it: You can proofread your novel into proper English yourself. I’ve done it on every book I translated.

Another problem with the self-publishing-is-a-kiss-of-death attitude is that the regular arguments barely apply to poetry.  Unless a poetry collection wins a prize, or the author has earned significant name recognition, the number of readers the book is likely to reach is not really higher when a small press gets behind it versus the author alone.

The third consideration is time and effort. It takes time and effort (not to mention reading fees) to submit a collection to chapbook publishers. This time and energy are better spent on thinking new things and writing new poems.

This, then, is what I did: with two traditionally published collections (and another one in the works–stay tuned!), I built a Kindle home for my first collection.

The title, Fifty-six North, refers to the latitude of Lithuania, where the light looks like this. I hope you like it.

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Yours Truly — on a Podcast!

January 6, 2020

Regular readers of this blog will recall the launch of my interview series with Jessica Mehta, poet, novelist and (writerly)20200102_184454 hustler extraordinaire.

So when Maggie Ball, of the invaluable Compulsive Reader, suggested I send her an interview for her podcast, I could think of no better interlocutor than Jessica.

And so it was: Jessica interviewed me (and a little bit the other way around, of course), and you can hear the conversation here.

We talk about writing, being married to a writer, not having a traditional writing career (whatever that is), putting poetry collections together, and converting data into poetry. I mean, who would want to miss that?

I read a couple of pieces from Alcestis in the Underworld, of course.

Give it a listen! I’ll be happy to answer any questions we didn’t cover in the interview here in the comments.

A Poet’s Year… of Hustle

December 30, 2019

As the new year (and—gasp!—decade) nears, many of us, I’m sure, look back at the year past and attempt to locate progress that has been made, identify some quantifiable accomplishments, and anything else that might make us feel like we haven’t been lazy, unproductive, and unfocused.

I tend to berate myself for being lazy and unproductive on a regular basis, and I’m not humble-bragging here—try being an only child first.

My particular area of improvement for myself this year has been to focus on connections with other people, and let people do things for me (as opposed to me by myself attempting to be the author, the publisher, and the promoter all at the same time). Of course, this means putting oneself out there—physically—and offering, in no uncertain terms, to do things for others, such as review books and interview folks for this blog.

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So, here’s a quick summary of highlights—definitely makes me feel better about myself!

– Helped judge a contest;

– Had a book published!

– Organized a panel discussion for the National Poetry Month at the library where I work;

– Recorded video of myself reading my poetry and then captioned it, which resulted in a new poem.

– Found a venue for my long-read on Walt Whitman in Russia.

– Served as a poet-in-residence at a summer program in Tbilisi.  It was really hot, and the people were amazing!

– Reviewed a whole bunch of books.

– Went to Montana Book Festival and Elizabethstown Book Festival and got accepted to Virginia Book Festival for the next year!

Interviewed a bunch of really awesome people.

– Helped represent Ukrainian literature at the Frankfurt Book Fair and, oh yes, translated 41yrsiq+sFL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_pieces for and edited this: Your Ad Could Go Here: Stories by Oksana Zabuzhko.

And, of course, I have talked about all this, or most of it, here on this blog. In the interest of full transparency (and generating more content), I will next write a list of things I didn’t get done this year :)

What’s on your “done” list? Do share!

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Writer: Amie Whittemore

December 26, 2019

NM: I know you as the intrepid book review editor at Southern Indiana Review, so let’s start there.  How did you land this job?

Amie Whittemore: I feel like Ron Mitchell (Southern Indiana Review’s Managing Editor) will wish I had a more poetic response to this, but he wrote me an email with an offer to head the reviews column and I said sure and here we are, almost two years later. At the time, I was writing/publishing a review or two a year and working my full-time job as a Lecturer at Middle Tennessee State University (which is where I currently work; the Reviews Editor role is a side gig). I suspect Ron reached out after reading some of these early reviews, but only he knows the real answer to this question. 

NM: Why even bother publishing reviews of poetry – who reads poetry anyway? :)

AW: I feel like this idea, of poetry not being read, is largely perpetuated by people who don’t read poetry (it’s kind of like vegans sitting around at a vegan restaurant wondering why no one is eating meat); I think all signs point to people do read poetry, and that those of us who do are many and enthusiastic about it. 

Photo by https://richtarbell.com/

Photo by Rich Tarbell

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Southern Indiana Review and Poetry

December 11, 2019

Why should anyone bother to review poetry books?

I don’t know. But I do.

One reason is the good and dedicated people behind Southern Indiana Review and its prolific online section called The Meter Reader.

Amie Whittemore, the editor, has found a great formula: seasonal roundups! Reviewers can get assignments from Amie or read through their own stash of recent poetry titles, and produce a single mini-essay that comments on the books they’ve read—and sometimes their personal reflection on the season.

I really enjoy writing for Amie.

As someone who is no longer in the academe, I really appreciate having someone else give me the structure of deadlines and assigned readings. Beyond the discipline, I trust Amie’s taste and her editorial talents: her comments on my drafts invariably strike at the precise—and miniscule, I tell you! miniscule!—instances of intellectual laziness or rhetorical obtuseness.

In the latest installment, I report on Whitney Jones’ debut The Old Works (Heartland Review Press, 2018), two collections by Ted Higgs, and Jessica Mehta’s latest, Bad Indian (Brick Mantle Books, 2020).

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Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Publisher: PM Press with Joey Paxman

December 6, 2019

PM Press, as it states on its website,

“is an independent, radical publisher of books and media to educate, entertain, and inspire. Founded in 2007 by a small group of people with decades of publishing, media, and organizing experience, PM Press amplifies the voices of radical authors, artists, and activists. Our aim is to deliver bold political ideas and vital stories to all walks of life and arm the dreamers to demand the impossible. We have sold millions of copies of our books, most often one at a time, face to face.”

 

I met Joey Paxman in the process of PM’s face-to-face book sales—at the Montana Book Festival in Missoula.  He had a copy of Emma Goldman’s Anarchy and the Sex Question which naturally drew me in—during my time in Lithuania, I was fortunate to support the translation of Goldman’s (who was originally from Kaunas) essays back into the language of her home country.  A bit of women’s history recovery, that. 

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Louie the setter. Courtesy of Joey Paxman

Joey and I struck up a conversation, and I left with a stack of books to read and review. The breadth of PM’s list is truly impressive, and the quality of the production is unimpeachable. At the same time, their team is spread over several time zones, and Joey hauled books to the book festival himself to do face-to-face sales.  Clearly, this was uncommon enterprise, so I just had to do an interview!

NM: Joey, could you introduce yourself and tell me what you do at the PM Press? 

JP: My name is Joey Paxman and I am a production coordinator/editor at PM Press. Everyone here at PM performs a wide variety of duties. Most days I’m at my desk working with our authors (via email, Skype, or phone) and reading manuscripts as they come in. Let’s see… I also maintain a number of direct bookstore accounts and travel North America each month selling our books face-to-face at conferences, book fairs, concerts, and elsewhere. Some days are spent crafting sale emails or new book announcements for our email list serve.

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