TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe.
We don’t expect an elevator pitch from a poet, but can you tell us about your work in 2-3 sentences?
Share the Wealth is a funny-dark exploration of the interplay of luck and abundance. Life is constantly throwing us curveballs – sometimes delightful ones, and sometimes totally crappy ones. These poems try to find the beauty in the world’s both uncertainty and its too-muchness.
What boundaries did you break in the writing of this book? Where does that sort of courage come from?
Before writing this book, most of my work was in series. My first two books were of poems all drafted around a single idea or theme, and with specific formal restraints. When I started writing the poems that became Share the Wealth, I focused on trying to recover my ability to write poems that would stand up on their own. Ironically, I think that writing a book-length poem or series is for many people far more unusual or intimidating a project than trying to organize singly-written poems into a coherent manuscript. For me, it was the opposite. And of course, when I actually did start organizing all of my “one-and-done” poems into a book, I found that many of them did touch on similar ideas or themes even if I wasn’t consciously aware of the connections when each poem was written.
Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.
Share the Wealth went through what I think is probably a very familiar road to publication, at least for books of poems: seemingly endless submissions to contests and open readings! And all the while, revisions. I took poems out, I put others in, I rejiggered the ordering, I line-edited the individual poems.
The lows of the contest/open-reading process are well-known. With many presses and contests charging submission fees, it can feel like you are spending a lot of money without knowing if your manuscript is being taken at all seriously. Some contests don’t even notify submitters of the eventual results. When you’ve been submitting a manuscript for a long time without getting any traction, it’s easy to get discouraged.
But when a manuscript does get picked up by a press, oh, what a feeling! I actually had to sort of sit with Veliz Books’ acceptance of Share the Wealth for a few days before responding. I kept reopening my inbox, sure that the acceptance email would have disappeared in a puff of internet smoke.
What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?
I’m a big fan of trying to write every day. Not that I take my own advice – not all the year-long anyway. But several times annually, I set myself month-long challenges where I draft a poem every day. I typically spend the first seven days or so writing a lot of very obvious poems, after which I run out of “normal” ideas and the very weird and interesting stuff starts coming out.
My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?
The inspirational value of snow. I started writing the poems that became Share the Wealth after moving to Maine. Before that, I’d lived almost my whole life south of the Mason-Dixon line, in areas where any snow that does fall melts quickly. Here, not only does it snow a lot, it keeps piling up until spring. But the landscape doesn’t feel bare, somehow. Winter in Maine is at least as lush as summer, in a funhouse mirror kind of way.
How do you approach revision?
I approach revision . . . slowly. My first draft of a poem is often 90% of the way there, and then I spend 90% of the total time working on the other 10%. Often, the part that is trickiest for me is the ending, and especially trying to resist an ending that is too pat and tied-up. There are at least two poems in the book for which I only was able to find the final lines two or three years after drafting the rest of the poem – which remained unchanged.
I also revise in small doses at a time. I rarely sit down and try to do a wholesale re-write of a poem. It’s more like having a jigsaw puzzle where you try to slot in one of the loose pieces every time you walk by, rather than sitting down and doing the whole puzzle at once.
Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)
There’s a lot of food in the book, particularly fruit. While there’s a pear on the cover, I cook more often with apples. So, here’s a recipe for one of the easiest and best apple cakes I know: https://smittenkitchen.com/2012/01/apple-sharlotka/
READ MORE ABOUT THIS AUTHOR: https://www.maureenthorson.com
ORDER THIS BOOK FOR YOUR OWN TBR STACK: https://veliz-books.square.site/product/share-the-wealth-by-maureen-thorson/58?cs=true&cst=custom
READ A POEM, “Beautiful Now”: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/753667/pdf