Monday, July 24, 2023

TBR: Liveability by Claire Orchard

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?


An ode to the eccentricities and occasional sorrows of the everyday, Liveability is also a joyous and witty celebration of the otherworldly.


Which poem/s did you most enjoy writing? Why? And, which poem/s gave you the most trouble, and why?


Given its subject matter, “When I bring up advance care planning” was surprisingly entertaining to write. I enjoyed capturing the voice of the older woman, having to deal with being badgered about what she wants or doesn’t want for her end-of-life experience. The increasing exasperation of the adult child was fun to write too. The poem was inspired by multiple conversations I’ve had with my mother. Who, I might add, despite my best efforts, has an advance care plan that remains too sketchy by far!


A number of the poems had their challenging moments, but the one I worried about most when publication rolled around was “Unravelling things.” It’s a bit of a rambler of a poem, with long lines I wasn’t sure were going to fit across the page. In the end, we managed to shoehorn it in!


Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.


With my first book, I spent a lot of time obsessing over organizing the poems so they worked together as a coherent whole.  Liveability, in contrast, came together much more organically. I think with the passage of time I’ve become more confident to just keep on with the writing and not concern myself so much with how poems will sit alongside each other. I can honestly say I haven’t had any lows with this collection, which has been refreshing!


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?


I like Grace Paley’s characterisation of the writer as “nothing but a questioner”. It serves as a useful reminder that it’s not my job to neatly tie up every loose end.


My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?


The way a pile of poems written, in some cases, several years apart came together to function as a collection without extensive scheming on my part. I’m a planner from way back, and was startled when this book quietly managed to arrange itself.


How did you find the title of your book?


My original title was The Great Outdoors, a smug in-joke about my loathing of the enforced hiking and camping trips I endured as a child. No doubt it would have led potential readers to expect a book about the joys of hiking and/or mountaineering. They would have been sadly disappointed. Ashleigh Young, an extraordinary writer I was lucky enough to have on my editorial team, gently suggested Liveability, which is a far better choice.


Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)


I mention gingernuts in the first poem in the book, which I think may be similar to ginger snaps in the US? They are a small, super hard biscuit you need to dunk in a cup of hot tea to soften, or risk breaking teeth! I grew up not far from the local Griffins biscuit factory and the advertising tagline went “There’s no gingernuts taste quite the same, ask for Griffin’s Gingernuts by name!” I tried this recipe, and it comes pretty close:












DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.