Interview: An Interview with Poet Megan O’Keeffe

Book Name and Description: Where I Ache

Where I Ache Cover

This collection is broken up into six chapters ranging from themes such as depression, jealousy, grief, and strength. These delicate subjects can be difficult to talk about and most people avoid them because of the uncomfortable vulnerability. This collection features content that can be triggering for some. I’ve always written and shared my poetry with the hope that readers would relate and feel less alone. I hope you feel a sense of community to all of those connected throughout this collection.

This book is available on Amazon: Click Here


Love Song
By Megan O’Keeffe

When times get hard and I’m losing myself
you sing the song my heart needs to remember itself.
I hope you’ll always be here
because through the chaos you’re all I hear
even when the darkness scared my love away
you gave me yours and promised it will always stay.


What gave you the idea for Where I Ache? Or what inspired you to write it?

Where I Ache focuses on various aspects of mental health, such as depression and self esteem, which are definitely important to me and my writing. Mental health can be such a delicate topic and often gets avoided because of that. In fact, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to publish this book because I didn’t know if I could put that vulnerability out there. But then I reflected that because of the silence, people with mental illness feel even more alone, so then I knew I wanted to publish this collection, so that the readers could be their own little community of support and unity.

Tell us about your past books and stories?

My first book focused on a journey of love lost, then found. Not all poems are happy, as not all of love is. But the poetry is vulnerable, real, and honest. And in that honesty, I hope each reader can find comfort, community, and strength to continue on your own journey of love.

What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

There’s definitely an ebb and flow to my writing process – weeks without writing and then days with 4-5 poems in one sitting. I tend to think of poem lines while driving or they’ll just randomly come to me during the day, in class, in conversation, etc. The first 6 years of my writing were heavily influenced by love and now I have some more influences: like nature, mental health, and grief are also present.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I definitely think I’ve branched out my topics for my poetry more. I’m also playing with the real estate of the page a lot more and emphasizing words more for impact. Lastly, I’m working hard on getting rid of cliches in my poems, trying to be original and as creative as possible.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

I do most of my marketing through social media, mainly Twitter (@Ddateable) and Instagram (@megokeeffewriting). I’ve started working on email newsletters as another marketing tool. My best avenue is probably my blog, Debatably Dateable. I can really connect with my readers there, and have been growing that connection for the longest.

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

I really do love my piece, ‘War Cry.’ It’s in the form of a pantoum, which is hard to explain, and makes more sense when you see an example, but it repeats two lines from each previous stanza so you have to take the readers on a journey with not much material to do so. I think the creativity needed for the form could go unnoticed if you haven’t tried it before. I also love the world news topic I wrote on for that piece.

For those who haven’t read any of your poems, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?

I think Cracked Open represents the poet I started out as, which is very much the foundation of my work. But I think Where I Ache shows where I’ll be going as an artist, so I would recommend Where I Ache to new readers.

What are you doing next?

Obviously, I’ll be marketing Where I Ache for the rest of the year. But I’ve also been organizing my next collection, which I hope to publish in 2020 – but one thing at a time, haha.



Up and coming Poet, Megan O’Keeffe has been writing poetry for the past decade and published her first collection, Cracked Open, in 2018. The love and support Meg received from her blog, Debatably Dateable, encouraged her to make to make this leap yet again for Where I Ache. When she’s not writing, Meg is bingeing “Brooklyn 99” or walking her dog, Maverick. You may spot her touring the newest spot on Long Island, NY with her sisters and boyfriends…



Where I Ache on Amazon

Megan’s Instagram

Megan’s Twitter

Debatably Dateable (Megan’s Blog)

Megan’s Amazon Author Page

Megan’s Goodreads


© The Literary Librarian 2019

Interview: An Interview with Lucie Guerre

Book Name and Description: Land of Memories Forgotten, Shattered Memories, A Day for the Living, and Soulstice.

4 Covers

Land of Memories Forgotten: In the American Southwest is an antique and souvenir shop owned by the elderly Muriel Adams. When a stranger breaks into her store, Muriel is confronted with a decision from her youth. As she struggles with the important choice of her past, it is her present-day and future that hang in the balance. Lucie Guerre’s debut short story will leave you wanting more.

Shattered Memories: Vanessa and her father live in the heart of the desert, the perfect place to sell repurposed goods and forget about her mother. As Vanessa digs through other people’s memories, she never imagines her own would come back to haunt her.

A Day for the Living: Though they may look alike, twin sisters Maria and Isabel could not be any more different than one another. Maria is still mourning her mother’s death and trying to make sense of inhabiting a world without her whereas Isabel would steamroll over her if at all possible. She destroys Maria’s every attempt at keeping her mother’s legacy alive, but when the two are forced to be around each other for just one day, their emotions collide and together, they learn what it truly means to be alive.

Soulstice: A collection of poetry moving through the seasons of life, accompanied by full-color photography.

Please Visit the Links Section Below to Access Her Books.


What gave you the idea for Land of Memories Forgotten, Shattered Memories, and A Day for the Living? Or what inspired you to write them?

Honestly, my husband and I took our honeymoon out in the Southwest – Arizona, to be exact – and while he was driving, I snapped a bunch of pictures of certain scenes that inspired me: a dilapidated jewelry stand, a souvenir store, and nature. Oh my gosh, the nature out there was so unusual to me, a girl from the Midwest. Suddenly, as he was driving, I yanked out my tablet and began writing stories. Stories that just spilled out of me.


What got you into writing in this genre?

I struggled for a long time in identifying my genre. I hated calling it “Fantasy” because that didn’t seem accurate. I called it “Slipstream” for a while because that seemed to work. “Weird Fiction” also seemed to work, but it was never a perfect fit. Finally, upon re-reading some “Magical Realism,” I realized that’s what I wrote. I just like the idea of magic in everyday life. I like the idea of it running through the normal events of the day. I don’t always write magical realism. I don’t choose the genre. It chooses me.


How long have you been writing?

I began writing when I was seven years old. I was struggling to differentiate between the letter g and the letter j (actually, believe it or not, this is something I still struggle with from time to time; the word, “jig,” is a trick for me, haha), and I was practicing writing my letters. I got so comfortable writing my g‘s that I wrote an entire short story and illustrated it. It was called, “Gum Drops, Gum Drops Make me Hungry.” So, I’ve been writing for around twenty-five years, now.


Tell us about your past books and stories?

I have published a volume of poetry, called Soulstice. It explores the seasons of my life in a metaphorical sense. Each season represents a different phase of my life, but hopefully, the poems are ones that most people can relate to: love, heartbreak, loss, passion, friendship, memories. Since then, I have published my three short stories: Land of Memories Forgotten, Shattered Memories, and A Day for the Living – as described above.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

I wish I had more of a process. However, right now, I am in college, so I squeeze writing in where I can. I enjoy fitting it in early – if I can – before classes, but my most productive creative hours are later in the evening. In the early mornings, I’ll drink a cup of coffee and my dog will rest her head on my leg, and I’ll write. In the evening, I usually just fall into the story. The biggest influences on my writing are my life, itself, but various authors have also inspired my style. My life has inspired my writing in the sense that my poetry tends to be semi-autobiographical, whereas my fiction utilizes metaphors and similes. I would not use as many metaphors if it weren’t for my background. I was taught to hide my stories and my feelings, so I think part of me still hides behind metaphors like they’re security blankets, shielding me from the fire of truth.


What is your favorite book, as a reader, and why? What book has disappointed you and why? Has any author(s) influenced and inspired your work?

Absolute favorite? That’s tough. I really like Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, White Oleander by Janet Fitch, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon van Booy, and the short stories of Jeanette Winterson. I don’t like to speak poorly of other authors, but I am sometimes shocked at what becomes “popular” in fiction, whether it’s the Twilight series or 50 Shades of Gray. I just don’t understand commercial literature. Jeanette Winterson influenced my work, years ago. I had never heard of her, and a friend handed me her book of short stories, and I was enthralled. My friend compared my writing to hers – and of course, the compliment went to my head – so I read everything she had ever written and scoured her website. Similarly, I read White Oleander years ago, and I constantly re-read it. The language in it feels familiar, yet it pivots the reader into a new way of thinking. I had the pleasure of having an email exchange with the author, and she is kind and wonderful. Another influence is Laurie Halse Anderson, the author of Speak and Shout, in addition to other pieces. I was so excited this past March, when I met her and got her autograph. I listened to her speak, and she just inspires me as a human being and an author. She does so much good, and someday, I want to write, instead of from my imagination, something that comes from the heart. I want to write something to change people’s lives.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

My style has improved so much, over the years. I have tightened it and honed it. When you write poetically, as I do, sometimes, it comes across as purple prose, and I wanted to avoid that. So, to make my writing more succinct, I had to practice. It’s still not perfect, but there are certain pieces that I look at objectively and am proud of. Also, my basic mechanics of novel-writing have greatly improved. I am in a few writing groups on Facebook, and their tips challenge me to be a better writer. I am still learning to incorporate more of the senses, but I think my writing has a lot of great creativity.


What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

  • Access to a good dictionary
  • An open mind that’s always willing to learn
  • A story to tell
  • The Emotion Thesaurus
  • A good support system that believes in them
  • Also, a good group of critics that teaches them how they can improve


What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

“The thing is, the average reader doesn’t care about how a book is written, only that the story is good.  If you do both, you’re in great shape.  They won’t know why they love it so much, only that the story is so compelling.” That’s advice on balancing lyricism and telling a good story, directly from Janet Fitch. Although I’m sure I have other gems saved on my phone, that’s the first one that popped into my head.


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

I’m not the greatest at self-promotion (raised not to brag, and promoting myself feels a lot like bragging), but I do post excerpts and graphics relating to my content on a lot of social media. I usually use Twitter and Facebook, but sometimes, I use Instagram, as well.


What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

I’d have to say, I am really proud of my volume of poetry, Soulstice. A lot of heart and soul went into writing those poems. I cried over some of them, and it is amazing to me to see how strongly others react to the poems. My favorite is the first poem in the whole collection. It’s called, “Arson.”


For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?

A Day for the Living, my most recent work, best represents my work. It has compelling characters, a good balance of plot and lyricism, and an interesting story … in my opinion.


What are you doing next?

I am working on finishing my novel. It’s with my editor right now, and then it’s up to me to fix what needs revising. While I am sending that off to publishers, I plan on working on a second volume of poetry. I already have part of it started. I’m organizing it, as we speak.


What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Read, read, read. Don’t take rejection personally. If the story is important for you to tell, for God’s sake, find a way of telling it. Don’t give up. Never give up. It might feel like Hell, but finishing it is so rewarding.


Bio: Lucie Guerre is a pseudonym. Lucie is derived from a Latin word meaning “light”, and St. Lucy lost her eyes either through her own volition, through torture, or due to an admirer’s liking of her eyes. I personally love the idea of my writing providing vision to the blind.  Guerre stems from the phrase “nom de guerre”, which essentially means a name of war. Generally, it comes from names chosen in times of combat. Idiomatically, it is another word for a pseudonym. My pseudonym is used mostly with pieces I’m too ashamed (or too afraid) to write under my real name, but I feel like I am stepping into war with a pen as my weapon when I write.

This is where my pen rests as a sword. This is where I do my best to snuff out the shadows and make darkness light.


OR (“If you prefer a more traditional bio,” she says, chuckling):

Lucie Guerre Author PictureLucie Guerre (born in 1987) was raised in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. She began writing at the age of seven, starting with her original work, “Gum Drops, Gum Drops Make Me Hungry and Other Stories.” She has been married to her wonderful husband since September of 2017. They enjoy hiking and cooking together. Lucie enjoys discovering new music and creating collage art and pen-and-ink art, in addition to reading and writing. Since 2017, she has published a volume of poetry and three short stories. She hopes to release her novels, soon.



Lucie’s Facebook Author Page

Lucie’s Twitter

Lucie’s Website

Lucie’s Instagram

Land of Memories Forgotten on Books 2 Read

Shattered Memories on Books 2 Read

A Day for the Living on Books 2 Read


© The Literary Librarian 2019

Interview: An Interview with JP Meador (Author and Poet)

Books List:

JP Meador has written over twenty books. A small portion of them are listed here: The Wagon Wheel, Strada Almaden, 32 Ounces of Wisdom, A Place I Call Home, Are You Supposed to be Taken Seriously?, Love Unfolding, Observing What is Not Seen, The Atrium, Off the Top of My Head, Subterfuge, No Need to Bleed, The Light Stream, and more.

See the Links section at the bottom of this interview for links to these works, a link to JP Meador’s listings on Amazon, and the link to his Facebook author page.


What made you decide on Strada Almaden as an author name?

I don’t want people to be confused. I am Jon Meador, JP Meador and love every aspect of Almaden so my author page is Strada Almaden. Strada Almaden means in Spanish, the road to Almaden. JP sounds much better than Jon when you publish books so I use JP. How can I explain this, Strada Almaden is similar to a metaphor, my poems and stories open the door to the memories I carried while I lived in Almaden. I still live there, even though I live in Fresno. Most of my family live there still, I go back whenever I can. I have walked on the roads and cleared many trails in the foothills that many people have hiked in Almaden. I may be absent from Almaden but I still call it home.

What made you want to write?

What gave me the inspiration to write comes from singers and songwriters. I am a poet first and foremost. The ideas that I get for my books comes from my personal experience.  

What got you into writing in this genre?

I have always enjoyed listening to songwriters and I wanted to write just like them. Poetry just arrived naturally. Poetry came to me like Pablo Neruda wrote in his poem, “Poetry.” I believe poetry is born within a person rather than practiced. It takes a while for that part of a person to be known. It may sound strange but I’m still developing as a poet.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for the past twenty years. I wrote my first poetry book in sixth grade because it was an assignment and I didn’t know anything about the subject. I didn’t pick up a pen and write another line of poetry for eight years.

Tell us about your past books and stories?

The first book I ever wrote was called, The Darklight Café. I spent a lot of time writing about girls and my experience with relationships. Then I grew out of that and wrote about other subjects that mattered to me at the time. I feel that the world wants you to be something other than what you were meant to be. I don’t like being under a label and I find myself misunderstood by other people. I am poetry but don’t know any other way to explain it.

What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

The process of writing can’t be forced. It will arrive when you least expect it. I’ve learned you need to have a pen and paper with you at all times. I used to walk to work with a small notebook because you never know when true inspiration will strike. It begins with a funny line or a thought than you put the time into it and it will transform to something you can use in a poem or it may stand alone as a storyline for a short story or a novel.

As I said, my influences are not from literary figures but songwriters. I just think they are more interesting and real.

What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why? What book disappointed you and why?

I have always been interested in autobiographies because people interest me. The book that caught my attention and couldn’t put down was a book written about Jim Morrison by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman called No One Here Gets Out Alive. I read a lot of books about famous celebrities like Elvis but I also like reading books from Lee Child and his character Jack Reacher. Those types of characters interest me.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I no longer think about what may or may not be interesting to the reader. I just write what interests me the most.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?     

Stephen King covered what tools you need to be a successful writer was a vocabulary and good sense of grammar. I would add to the list that a writer must have a great imagination as well.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

I learned from David Whyte that you need to feed your longings and desires.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

I market my work on my author’s page on Facebook.  The best way to advertise is the traditional way, doing readings and word of mouth.

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

I feel I’m still growing as a poet and a writer. If there was a work I’m most proud of, it would be the book, Observing What Is Not Seen.

For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?

Observing What Is Not Seen is a book of poetry and I feel it reveals more than what was written. It was dedicated to my late brother Gregg who taught me the importance of observing the world around you and to appreciate music.

What are you doing next?

I have published two books in July. I wrote a book on understanding poetry called Poetry Abounds and another book called Creative Joys that talks about writing and the need to keep at it. My next book I’ll publish will be three short stories called, Bound to Nowhere.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

The advice I would give aspiring writers would be keep writing. Don’t ever give up. Listen to your instincts and be careful who you ask to look at your writing.

Favorite Quote:

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


JP Meador has worked as park aide, security guard, computer technician and federal contractor. He was born and raised in Almaden, located in south San Jose, CA where he developed and indulged his interests in poetry and American History.

His first poetry book was called Forgotten Sentinels published in 2012 (now titled, A Place I Call Home) poems about abandoned military installations along the West Coast, which he visited throughout the decade of the nineties.

Since 2012, he has written over twenty books of poetry, novellas and a memoir called, “Are You Supposed to Be Taken Seriously?

He’s been married twelve years to his wife Debbie. They live in Fresno, CA with their grandson Matthew and a German Shepard pup named, Sasha.


The Wagon Wheel

Strada Almaden

32 Ounces of Wisdom

A Place I Call Home

Are You Supposed to be taken Seriously? 

Love Unfolding

Observing What Is Not Seen

The Atrium

Off the Top of My Head


No Need to Bleed

The Light Stream

Complete Amazon Books Listings for JP Meador 

JP’s Amazon Central

JP Meador’s Facebook Page


© The Literary Librarian 2017


Interview: An Interview with Poet, Trish Hopkinson

Book Name and Description:

Footnote (a chapbook of response poems) –

Footnote is a collection of response poems by Trish Hopkinson written as an homage to some of her favorite artists.


Praise for Footnote:

“She holds a handful of earth— / she must say it to understand it.” This scene, from a poem that engages Rainer Maria Rilke as well as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, is a gorgeously emblematic and enigmatic moment in Trish Hopkinson’s Footnote. This collection is obsessed with the miracle of words and the mouths that say them, the bodies that carry them out and back in, deliciously, deliriously. From Emily Dickinson to Amiri Baraka to David Lynch to Sylvia Plath to Pablo Neruda to Janis Joplin, these poems perform erasures, palimpsests, collages, ventriloquisms, haunted monologues, dreams in which the physical dances with the metaphysical so that the stormy dream of language can enter us. And then we see how “we are driven by our own ceremonies, / by whirling words.” Hopkinson understands that the best conversation is a transformation, in which the words one has inherited are reinvented. Footnote reminds us that the act of saying is something we may never fully understand—and that is cause for whirling joy. 

–Chen Chen, author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities

Footnote can be purchased here: Lithic Press: Footnote


Waiting Around

by Trish Hopkinson, after “Walking Around” by Pablo Neruda

It so happens, I am tired of being a woman.
And it happens while I wait for my children to grow
into the burning licks of adulthood. The streaks
of summer sun have gone,

drained between gaps into gutters,
and the ink-smell of report cards and recipe boxes
cringes me into corners. Still I would be satisfied
if I could draw from language
the banquet of poets.

If I could salvage the space in time
for thought and collect it
like a souvenir. I can no longer
be timid and quiet, breathless

and withdrawn.
I can’t salve the silence.
I can’t be this vineyard
to be bottled, corked,
cellared, and shelved.

That’s why the year-end gapes with pointed teeth,
growls at my crow’s feet, and gravels into my throat.
It claws its way through the edges of an age
I never planned to reach

and diffuses my life into dullness—
workout rooms and nail salons,
bleach-white sheets on clotheslines,
and treacherous photographs of younger me
at barbecues and birthday parties.

I wait. I hold still in my form-fitting camouflage.
I put on my strong suit and war paint lipstick
and I gamble on what’s expected.
And what to become. And how
to behave: mother, wife, brave.

–original published by Wicked Banshee Press


What gave you the idea for Footnote?

In 2015, after teaching a community poetry writing workshop on response poetry, I realized I had quite a few response poems of my own. So in this case, the collection was a surprise waiting for me in already completed work.


What got you into writing in this genre?

I’ve always loved poetry. My mother read me nursery rhymes when I was very young and gave me my appreciation for verse. I wrote my first poem when I was 5 or 6 and haven’t really stopped since. I set it aside for a while when my children and work and such took over my life in my early 30s, and quickly realized I am not content without writing poetry. When people ask me why I call myself a Selfish Poet, that’s exactly why—I write for me, the rest is just a bonus.


Tell us about your past books and stories?

The topics and forms of my poems vary, but most seem to have a feminist tilt. Several of my poems have been published in literary magazines, journals, and anthologies. My first two chapbooks were early projects and I share those on my web site. The first is a self-published collection entitled Emissions. It received an honorable mention award in the Poetry Anthology category in the League of Utah Writers annual writing contest. The original art included was created mostly by my son, with one by my daughter. The second is entitled Pieced into Treetops, finished summer of 2013 for a local 30 Poems in 30 Days contest. These 30 poems were based on daily prompts and placed second in the competition. The cover art is a photograph taken by my daughter. I hope to collaborate more with my son and daughter in the future; both are exceptional artists.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

I seem to be most productive in the evening, but I usually write my blog posts in the morning. I probably spend equal time running my blog, submitting poems, and writing poems. The writing process is typically to get the initial draft into a document—then I look for ways to revise and finish the poem. Often revision means trying new forms, adding in another metaphor, researching details for a metaphor, workshopping with my local poetry group, or just letting the poem sit and simmer for a while. Some poems pour out nearly complete with the first draft, while others take several revisions and sometimes months to become finished. I say finished lightly, because finished may never really be finished.


What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why? What book disappointed you and why?

I’m a Sylvia Plath fan. Ariel was life changing for me when I discovered it in my early teens. I still have “Daddy” memorized. Ginsberg’s Howl is another favorite.


What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

I think the most important tool is community—at least that’s the case for me. I think it’s difficult to improve as a writer without feedback, encouragement, and learning from the experiences of others. Sure, you can probably get all that from reading books on your own, but it’s not nearly as rewarding and I think it’s a lot harder to be a writer alone. I love the local and online communities I’m a part of and I’ve made some incredible connections and some even better friends.


What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

Read. Reading will make you a better writer. See what’s out there; see how you measure up; see if you can create something new. I get the most of my inspiration to write from reading other poets.


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

Aha! Now we’re getting into my specialty. I run a poetry blog where I share information on how to write, publish, and participate in the greater poetry community. I post almost daily and share no fee submission calls for literary magazines, journals, and other markets, as well as free poetry contests. I started my blog as a way to keep track of the places I wanted to submit to and other writing tips and resources. What I found is, a lot of other writers are looking for those same things, so when I started sharing my blog posts on social media, I got a lot of positive feedback and I’ve been blogging almost daily ever since.

Marketing my new chapbook Footnote has been a bit different. It definitely helps to have a blog with followers to sell/promote new work, but I’ve also done a couple of readings and have another scheduled in November. My plan now is to get a press kit together so I can approach the local indie bookstores in Utah and try to do readings there as well. Since I sometimes travel for my day job, I may check into readings in those areas as well in the future. I also set up a little online store and have promoted the book by offering other perks, such as signed copies and poetry critiques. So far it’s going well!

I always jump at the chance to be interviewed or to exchange guest blog posts with other writers and honestly, some of those experiences have been the best part of this whole poetry adventure.


What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of my poem “Waiting Around” which I wrote in response to a Neruda poem entitled “Walking Around.” It’s been published several times—more than any of my other poems, and won awards as well. It’s also included in Footnote.


What are you doing next?

I’ve been working on poems about my childhood as well as poems about my son and his recovery from an accident that nearly took his life. I’m also working on the materials and lesson plan for my next free community poetry workshop. Utah Humanities makes it possible for me to teach these once a year as part of their book festival and part of the workshop includes publishing a collection of poems written by the participants. I’m also working on the third annual issue of Orogeny, which is a collection of poems written by the members of my regional poetry group, the Rock Canyon Poets.

I’ve always got a lot going on and wouldn’t have it any other way. Poetry nourishes me.



Trish Hopkinson has always loved words—in fact, her mother tells everyone she was born with a pen in her hand. A Pushcart nominated poet, she has been published in several anthologies and journals, including Stirring, Pretty Owl Poetry, and The Penn Review; and her third chapbook Footnote was published by Lithic Press in 2017. Hopkinson is co-founder of a regional poetry group, Rock Canyon Poets, and Editor-in-Chief of the group’s annual poetry anthology entitled Orogeny. She is a product director by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and their two outstanding children. You can follow Hopkinson on her blog where she shares information on how to write, publish, and participate in the greater poetry community at



To buy the book: Lithic Press: Footnote

Poetry blog

Trish’s Facebook Page

Trish’s Twitter: @trishhopkinson

Trish’s Tumblr 

Trish’s LinkedIn

Trish’s Google+

Trish’s Amazon Author Central (for other books listings)


© The Literary Librarian 2017

Interview: An Interview with Daniella Levy

Book Names and Descriptions:

By Light of Hidden Candles

(Kasva Press, coming October 2017; historical romance/new adult): In 16th-century Fez, a dying woman hands her granddaughter a heavy gold ring—and an even heavier secret. Five hundred years later, Alma Ben-Ami journeys to Madrid to fulfill her ancestor’s final wish. She has recruited an unlikely research partner: Manuel Aguilar, a young Catholic Spaniard whose beloved priest always warned him about getting too friendly with Jews. As their quest takes them from Greenwich Village to the windswept mountain fortresses of southern Spain, their friendship deepens and threatens to cross boundaries sacred to them both; and what they finally discover in the Spanish archives will force them to confront the truth about who they are and what their faiths mean to them.

By Light of Hidden Candles:
Available for Pre-order for print and Kindle on Amazon: Click Here.
Available for Pre-order for print on Kasva Press: Click Here.

Previous book: Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism (Guiding Light Press, 2016; nonfiction/Judaism): It began as an extraordinary correspondence across the Mediterranean. Josep, a secular Catholic from Barcelona, wanted to learn about Daniella’s life as an American-Israeli Orthodox Jew. Her enthusiastic response to his curiosity resulted in this collection of entertaining and enlightening letters. With nuance, candor, and warmth—and a liberal dash of humor—Daniella paints a vivid picture of observant Jewish life. She explains complex concepts in a manner so unassuming and accessible that even the most uninitiated can relate—but with enough depth that the knowledgeable will find new insight, too. Whether you’re a curious non-Jew or a Jew hoping to expand your knowledge, Letters to Josep will charm, inform, and inspire you.

Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism:
Available for print and Kindle on Amazon: Click Here.


What gave you the idea for By Light of Hidden Candles?

Like many of the wonderful things in life, it began with another book.

Well, sort of. I think, as with any creative work, it’s impossible to pinpoint every factor that contributed to it, but if I had to point to one of them, it would be The Spanish Jews by Felipe Torroba Bernaldo de Quirós. I received the English translation as a gift from my then-new friend Josep (of Letters to Josep), who knew about my long-standing obsession with the Jews of Spain and the Spanish Inquisition. It was the first real history book I had consulted on the topic, and I read it with great interest. (Now that I’ve read a lot more, I would not recommend it as a resource for several reasons, but that’s for another time.) As I read about the “reconquest” of Iberia by the Christians and the subsequent migration of Jews toward ever-shrinking Muslim areas, an image formed in my mind of a Jewish family fleeing the advancing Christians and eventually ending up in Morocco. I wondered about relations between Christians and Jews during that period, and imagined a Christian family helping the Jewish family, much like “righteous gentiles” during the Holocaust.

The idea further developed inspired by a particular Judeo-Spanish folk song, “Hija Mia,” about a daughter who wants to throw herself into the sea “to save her from love,” and her mother who is trying to convince her not to. Like many Ladino songs, it’s kind of melodramatic and dark, but it got me thinking about the overwhelming power of love that sometimes forces us to make very difficult choices. The lyrics to the song are featured in the book’s epigraph, and appear at key points in the story.

I’ll elaborate more on how the book came to be, below.


What got you into writing in this genre?

Simply put, I’m a history nerd—particularly Jewish history, and particularly Spanish Jewish history. This was my first time writing historical fiction, but it seems to me now that it was rather inevitable that I’d end up in this genre. The worlds recreated in historical fiction are not only completely different from the one I know, but they actually existed—and left evidence you can read, touch, and smell. Of course, this also means it requires a ton of research, and that’s very daunting; but when it’s a period that fascinates me, I’m going to be reading about it anyway!


How long have you been writing?

Since I was four. Literally. That’s when I taught myself to read and write, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer.


Tell us about your past books and stories.

So, I wrote my first “chapter book” in a school notebook when I was in fourth or fifth grade. It was called To Keep the Peace and it was a ridiculous and adorable tale starring myself and my British friend who travel the world to stop a war (by visiting world leaders and asking them nicely, of course). This was a short time after my family immigrated from the USA to Israel, and writing was a powerful coping mechanism for me.

When I turned twelve, I used my bat mitzvah money to buy my first desktop computer, and the first thing I wanted to do with it was write a full-length novel. So I did! I completed my first novel at age 14, and my second (which I had started in the meantime) a few months after that. I averaged a novel a year throughout my teens.

I sent my first query letter at age 15, and spent a large portion of the next five years trying to find an agent. I did better than you’d expect for a teenage wannabe, but nothing ended in a contract. By the time I was 20 I was burnt out and discouraged; it was around that time that I first had the idea for By Light of Hidden Candles, but I felt unequipped to write it at the time. I took a long break from writing fiction that lasted about six years, during which I started and quit college, got married, and had three kids! In the course of that dry spell, I hardly even thought of myself as a writer. I considered writing novels a sort of teenage hobby, not necessarily something I’d do as an adult.

Then, in August of 2013, I was putting my youngest son down for a nap when the idea I’d had for By Light of Hidden Candles just… hit me like a freight train. I have no other way to describe it. I was sucked into the world I hadn’t yet created, drawn deeply into the emotional lives of the characters in a way I hadn’t been in years. I dug up the beginnings of a draft I’d written years ago, and added some touches here and there, but I didn’t really think I’d get back to it. After all, I was an adult now; I had commitments and responsibilities and three little kids running around… I couldn’t write a novel! But then a series of other strange coincidences led to a conversation with a dear friend of mine, where I confessed that I’d been thinking about this idea for a book, and she told me in no uncertain terms that I had to write it. So I did! In a little over three months from that point, the first draft was done.

It took a very, very long time to find a publisher, and in the meantime, I started pursuing other projects, one of which was my blog, Letters to Josep, which eventually turned into my first published book. I self-published Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism as a sort of experiment; for the longest time I’d been so stuck on the idea that I needed to have an agent or at least the approval of an editor for my work to be proclaimed worthy of publication. Self-publishing was a sort of declaration that I no longer needed that approval. Paradoxically, it was only once I shed the need for external validation that publications began accepting my work. First, my short story Immersion was published by the Jewish Literary Journal; then, The Olive Harvest by Reckoning Magazine; then, Shattered Glass by Newfound Journal; then, The Wedding Dress by Rathalla Review. (My short story Scarf Sisters is going to be published by arc-25, the literary magazine of the Israel Association of Writers in English, but they’re running behind schedule and I have no idea when it’ll come out.)

My short stories tend to explore closer to home: contemporary life in Israel and the Middle East conflict. For some reason, I find it easier to write about those topics in short fiction.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like?

I’m a bit of a rebel. I’m aware of the common wisdom that we need to be structured and disciplined about writing, not only writing when we’re inspired, but I just can’t work like that. I write when I’m inspired, and given the fact that I’ve already written six novels, a novella, a nonfiction book, more than a dozen short stories, and countless poems, and that I’m still regularly maintaining two different blogs, I think it’s fair to say that it works for me!

My writing process involves a lot of daydreaming. And talking to myself. Preferably in the shower. Much of the work is done away from the computer, when I’m doing dishes or driving or otherwise spacing out. That’s convenient, because I’m a work-from-home mom, and I don’t have unlimited, uninterrupted time to just sit and write at the computer!


What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

I think in terms of life experience, making aliyah (moving to Israel) with my family as a child had a very deep impact on my inner life. I explore grief and loss a lot in my writing, and I used to think that was strange, since I didn’t experience the actual death of a loved one until relatively late in life. But the truth is that I’ve experienced a great deal of loss, not least of which was the loss of the first home I remember, my friends, my community, the relative proximity to my extended family, and the identity I had and left behind when we moved here. I noticed recently that many of the main characters in the stories and novels I’ve written are immigrants or children of immigrants. In By Light of Hidden Candles, Manuel Aguilar—the modern Christian character—is a Spanish immigrant to the US, and the main character of the historical narrative, Míriam de Carmona, is forced to leave her home not once, but twice. Their characters and experiences were certainly influenced by my own immigrant experience.

In terms of writing style, I was completely obsessed with the Harry Potter series as a teenager, and I’d like to think that my writing was influenced by J. K. Rowling’s style—particularly the subtle humor of her dialogue. I am also inspired by the work of writers like Amy Tan, who submerge their readers in their culture in a very engaging and relatable way, and particularly Jewish authors who do that effectively. I like to say that I want to be Dara Horn when I grow up.


What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why?

This is like asking me which of my kids is my favorite. I love them all uniquely and for different reasons, and I can’t possibly compare! If I had to choose one of the books I’ve read in recent years, I’d pick The World to Come by Dara Horn. I think her later books were “better” artistically, more compelling, etc., but it’s The World to Come that I find myself coming back to and rereading passages from again and again. I think it’s because of the deep way the book explores that topic I am so drawn to—grief and loss—as well as the relationships between parents and children, and what death and immortality mean, what love and trust are made of… all from a very Jewish perspective.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I think I’m only just beginning to discover myself as an adult writer. Even By Light of Hidden Candles was first conceived when I was still barely out of my teens. I’m finding myself torn between the teenager who loved lighthearted, humorous banter and the adult who is drawn to a more serious, “literary” tone. My hope and prayer is that I’ll be able to synthesize them. I think I bring those two tones together to some degree in By Light of Hidden Candles, but they still remain mostly distinct, the former dominating the contemporary narrative and the latter, the historical narrative. I hope to make it more seamless.


What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

Something to write on. That’s about it. A laptop, a notebook, a granite slab, whatever you’ve got! Nothing else is really necessary.

That said, I personally cannot live without a thesaurus (and I use it all the time. For everything. Even, like, Facebook comments); I’m perfectly happy to use for this purpose, with occasional forays into I have done an unbelievable amount of research using Google and YouTube. The Internet is an amazing thing.


What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

When I completed the manuscript of By Light of Hidden Candles, I wrote to author Naomi Ragen to ask for advice about submitting it to agents, since her book, The Ghost of Hannah Mendes, is in the same genre and explores similar topics. She wrote back very promptly and started with: “Congratulations! Writing a book is a tremendous accomplishment.” She reminded me that no matter what happens, whether I end up publishing it or not, the fact that I completed a manuscript is something to celebrate and be proud of.


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

I’m still blundering through this, so I wouldn’t claim to know what works at all, let alone best! This is an area that is particularly challenging for me. So far, people have found me primarily through my blogs or through social media (mostly Facebook; I hate Twitter, and I’m only just getting the hang of Instagram). Occasionally I write articles for popular Jewish platforms like Kveller or The Forward and those get shared around. I just try to be myself and put out compelling content that people enjoy reading and that helps them get to know me.


What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

This is also like asking me which of my kids I’m most proud of!

My passion has always been fiction, but I think I’ll take this opportunity to mention my second blog, The Rejection Survival Guide. I started writing it after publishing Letters to Josep and while I was still trying (and abjectly failing) to get my fiction published. The Rejection Survival Guide is the fruit of a very deep and important process I went through in learning how to be truly resilient in the face of years and years of rejection. Many writers are told they have to have thick skins and that they shouldn’t get their hopes up about their chances of having their work accepted. This didn’t work for me, and frankly, I don’t think it really works for anyone. You can’t selectively numb your feelings, and when we suppress hope, we can’t use it to inspire us. Numbing ourselves to rejection isn’t resilience, it’s denial and emotional suppression.

The Rejection Survival Guide takes a radically different approach to coping with rejection. I advocate facing the tough stuff head-on, cultivating hope, redefining what success means to you, and recognizing and rewarding yourself for your acts of courage even when they don’t bear the fruit you would have liked. Most of all, I try to help writers and artists find and nourish the little voice deep inside them that whispers, “I believe in my work.”

I’m proud of the blog because it’s bold, and unique, and an expression of a personal revolution. I think it would have helped me tremendously if I’d read something like it several years ago.

Since this question is about a particular piece, I will point to this post, which is an elaboration on what I call the “Creative Resilience Manifesto,” a set of affirmations that express the core philosophy of the blog: The Creative Resilience Manifesto: How to Stay Strong in the Face of Rejection and Criticism.


For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?

This is tough because I feel that my work is still evolving. If I had to choose one short story that represents my work well, I think The Wedding Dress is it. It’s got some humor, some whimsy, some heavy stuff, a main character who’s a child of immigrants and struggles with grief and loss, and a sort of indirect exploration of issues of race, prejudice, and politics in Israel.


What are you doing next?

I’m working on something a little unique: a collection of short stories revolving around the evacuation of a fictional Jewish settlement in Gaza during the disengagement in 2005. Each story is told from a completely different perspective: from a left-wing journalist who reluctantly covers the evacuation, to a Holocaust survivor settler haunted by memories of his past; from an ex-religious soldier who must evacuate his long-lost love, to a mother of four who must accompany the body of her murdered husband to a new grave. The result I’m aiming for is a kind of sweeping panorama of many different, and sometimes conflicting, perspectives on this wrenching historical event that seems to have been forgotten by most of the world. I have seven stories written at the moment.


What advice would you give aspiring writers?

I’m going to quote from a post on The Rejection Survival Guide called Someday Your ‘Yes’ Will Come, which I wrote when I finally found a publisher for my novel:

“Keep going. Keep doing what you love. Keep listening to yourself. Keep creating when that is right for you. Keep engaging with your work and embracing constructive criticism and opportunities for growth. Keep taking breaks when you need to. Keep your mind open to other possibilities and solutions—and be humble enough to try ‘lower-prestige’ opportunities. You gotta start somewhere. Keep trying new things. Keep putting yourself out there. When you do this, when you are persistent and flexible and in love with what you’re doing, eventually, magic will happen.”



Daniella Levy is a mother of three, rabbi’s wife, writer, translator, self-defense instructor, bridal counselor, black belt in karate, and certified medical clown—and she still can’t decide what to be when she grows up. Her short fiction, poetry, and articles have appeared in popular and literary magazines such as Writer’s Digest, Reckoning Magazine, Newfound Journal, the Jewish Literary Journal, Rathalla Review, and Pnima Magazine, as well as online platforms such as The Forward, Kveller,, Ynet News, J-Wire, and Hevria, and in the international poetry collection Veils, Halos & Shackles. She was born in the USA and immigrated to Israel with her family as a child, and currently lives at the edge of the Judean Desert.



Author website

By Light of Hidden Candles (Kasva Press)

By Light of Hidden Candles (Amazon)

Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism

Letters to Josep (the blog)

The Rejection Survival Guide (blog)


© The Literary Librarian 2017

Interview: An Interview with Poet, Elaine Reardon

Book Name and Description:  

The Heart is a Nursery for Hope – a chapbook of poetry

Cover3 copy 2

The overarching theme of Elaine Reardon’s poetry chapbook, The Heart is a Nursery for Hope, is life’s transmutations, life in all its quirkiness, from small moments in the day to life- changing events. Whatever the heart holds can nourish and transform. 

This book is available on Amazon: Click Here.
This book is also available on Flutterpress: Click Here.


Canning Jars
By Elaine Reardon   

I had need of the old jars this morning
went to the cellar to retrieve them
from the bottom shelf
the empty jars still had bits
of your faded handwriting

Twenty two years ago you sat with me
writing lavender, thyme, anise hyssop
on stickers with neat calligraphy
a row of garden for the herb shelf

It was difficult to loosen faded labels
to fill the jars with something new
they now sparkle in the dish drainer
aside from rust on the hinges

Like what changes the heart
what charges iron to rust
can’t be removed easily


What gave you the idea for The Heart is a Nursery for Hope?

At the center of things, for me as well as for so many other folks, is hope.  We have difficult situations in our lives, and we need to cope, to get through the difficulties. Kind of like after a big snowfall, one shovel-full at a time – soon you can get down the stairs and out the door.

And somewhere in that process, you may notice how beautiful the snow is, how the flakes stick, and how the moon-shine lights the landscape.  I’m a practical optimist!  Also, I’ve noticed that perspective can change how we feel about things.  Many people have told me they feel spiritually inspired by the poetry.  That both pleases and inspired me, because that feedback has come from folks of many differing religions.


What got you into writing in this genre?

My Dad is from the old country (Ireland).  I grew up in the oral tradition of story and song… Every day was a wonderful story.  Even his WW2 stories about getting ready for D-Day on the moors of England, were fashioned for a child’s hearing.  I remember one story of how he saved a chocolate bar from his rations, but the mice got to it before he did.  He could bring a sense of wonder to the mundane. And I don’t think I’ve ever lost that sense of wonder.  If I could carry a tune, I might be singing!

How long have you been writing? I began when I was four, but I couldn’t actually write, yet.  I then took it up again in the second grade.  Again, my teacher dashed my hopes, as she wanted me to do math instead.


Tell us about your past books and stories? 

I’ve been published in Three Drops from a Cauldron Anthology, and in their journal. They have an interesting website to explore.  Also, I’ve been “Poet of the Week” on, and featured on,  Halcyon Days Journal, and Poppy Review.  I’ve directed the work for and edited a Vernal Pool Poster, published by Vernal Pool Association. As an educator, I’ve been published by University of Massachusetts Press, as part of a book about global education.  Finally, I have a picture-book that I’ve recently submitted to several places, and this is another first, for me.  I’ve had support from my local Society of Picture Book Writers and Illustrators as I’ve worked and revised.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

My family started off my life with song, story, and nursery rhymes, and these have been a large influence. My mom and her sisters loved to croon along with old jazz tunes and big band favorites.  My critique group meets monthly, and that kind of support is wonderful, so I’m always learning to refine.  My writing day is a bit like riding on a see-saw!  I usually begin trying to get email submissions and glancing over journals and online communications early in the day. But then, other days I dash off to yoga first. At some point, I need to go outdoors and be in nature. To listen, walk, or work.  My days are not as organized as I’d like.


What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why? What book disappointed you and why?

Poetry books: Night Walker by by Thurston. Her poetry is just gorgeous. Very simple, very deep. Every line is in place, both technically and emotionally. Billy Collins, for his searing commentary, observations, and humor. I’m enjoying Horoscopes for the Dead right now.  Also, A Moment in the Field, by Margaret Lloyd.   Books are sacred things to me, and reading is a sacrament.  In writing this, I realize I have the first book my grandmother gave me, of fairy tales, before I was old enough to read it, and the second and third books given to me, when I turned eight years old.  One is poetry, and one is about Paul Revere.  It’s interesting that history and poetry have journeyed through my years with me.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I take chances, and listen to wise insight from my poetry elders.  I think it’s a responsibility to birth what you can into the world.  You do what you can to better the world.  I’m new at painting, and have been in some local shows. I dash around taking photos when I write my blog, to pair pictures with words. Twelve years ago, I wasn’t doing any of this! I also became a solar coach for my town, and learned a lot about solar /alternative energy. Every day brings new possibilities.


What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers? 

For me, a laptop.  I’m a messy writer – I need a dictionary and quiet. Also, books to read, writer friends, and a sangha to meet with.


What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author? 

The idea that we are always evolve, it’s through all the experiences of writing that we see how we can refine our work. Writing is like learning a language, or math, or riding a bike.  You have to do it for yourself.


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre? is my blog, I have a Facebook page for the book, and an author page on Goodreads.  Marketing is tricky when you are published by small presses. I’ve done readings at libraries, bookstores, poetry venues, and literary festivals like the Brattleboro Literary Festival, and the Orange Garlic and Arts Festival.


What piece of your own work are you most proud of? 

Ha! Perhaps my unpublished children’s story, The Star Keepers.  Two of my poems were finalists in contests, Memories of Vietnam, and Thanksgiving.


What are you doing next?

My neighbor recently found some primary documents, letters from the man who lived where I live, on this land, before we were a country, in the late 1700s.  Reading them makes history come alive for me, from a serious hailstorm, to the Boston Tea Party.  I’ve downloaded some historical documents and want to begin to research and write about James Ball, and that time-frame in my town. I can almost feel him here, and can almost see him looking into the stream.


What advice would you give aspiring writers? 

Write, read, don’t self-judge – not everything will be wonderful. Put writing away, and look at it in a couple weeks. You’ll see what to tweak.  Find a sangha of writers be connect with.



Elaine is a poet, herbalist, educator, and member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Her chapbook, The Heart is a Nursery For Hope, won first honors from Flutter Press. Most recently, Elaine’s poetry has been published by Three Drops from a Cauldron Journal, MA Poet of the Moment, Nature Writing, and  Elaine lives tucked into the forest in Central Massachusetts and maintains a blog at



The Heart is a Nursery for HopeAmazon

The Heart is a Nursery for HopeFlutterpress

Elaine’s WordPress

Elaine’s Twitter

Poetry Host: Mass Poetry Poem of the Moment

Poetry Host: Nature Writing


© The Literary Librarian 2017

Interview: An Interview with Poet Kai Coggin

Poem Name and Description: “hoUSton” 

Covers 2

“hoUSton” is a poem that I wrote as the horrors of Hurricane Harvey were unfolding in my hometown.

by Kai Coggin

In the middle of Houston, there is US.

My city became an ocean overnight,
floodwaters drowned thousands of homes,
swallowed whole neighborhoods with one rising gulp,
brackish brown bayous
and rain,
so much rain,
a trillion gallons
pouring from the broken open sky,
this is what unfathomable looks like,
6.5 million people wondering if they can float,
people swept out of their lives
in the currents of swirling water,
where do you go when your whole world sinks
to the bottom of a hurricane’s slow dance of doom?

In the middle of Houston, there is US.

I watched for days
from too far away
to do anything but pray
as the water rose over the places of my youth,
I put a golden dome of light around my mother’s home,
texted her through tornadoes overhead
as she hid in the closet,
visualized her safe and dry,
safe and dry,
safe and dry,
and she is…
but how do I not cry
for the 32,000 Houstonians sleeping in shelters tonight?

In the middle of Houston, there is US.

This indiscriminate life breaker of a storm
ravaged the poor, the rich, the middle class
with no thought of separation,
hispanics, asians, whites, and blacks,
christians, muslims, republicans, democrats,
these false lines we use to divide ourselves break down
until all we can see is human.
How can I help another human being survive?
Where can I take my boat, my canoe, my kayak and float
to a family with water rising to their necks,
arms flailing from water level rooftops,
street rivers, trapped cars,
and the mental emotional scars
that have not yet come our from under the rubble
of this unprecedented disaster.

In the middle of Houston, there is US.

A friend of mine lost 99% of her possessions
in a house she moved into two days before the storm.
She posts her gratitude on facebook for
the man she loves saving her and her three dogs.
Another friend’s little boy is always a little chatterbox,
she worries because he is so quiet since they were evacuated,
his eyes looking at the passing water.
Another friend walks five miles with her little girl in a floaty,
hitchhikes on the back of a truck,
jumps on a boat to get to a shelter accepting survivors, she praises dry socks.
Another friend, former student, is now a police officer,
teenage boy turned gladiator diving into harm to truly protect and serve.
Another friend and another friend and another friend
millions of stories because Houston
is a city of stories,
Houstonians helping Houstonians
now more than ever before,
a Navy of Neighbors knocking on every flooded door,
finding their own humanity on the other side.

In the middle of Houston, there is US.

There is a reflection of all of US in this tragedy,
it unfolds on this national scale
in the fourth largest city in the country
to remind us that we are stronger in our togetherness,
we are better when we care for our neighbors,
we are greater when we open up our hearts instead of build walls,
when we are stripped down of everything
but the rain-soaked shirts on our backs
drowning in overtaking oceans,
we reach out our hands from under the water
just wishing someone…
another human being…
would grab hold and say
“I’ve got you.”
“You’re safe now.”
“You’re going to be alright.”

Our hands are out to you Houston.

In the middle of Houston, there is US.


Kai Coggin, 2017

What gave you the idea for “hoUSton”

I am a Bangkok-born, Houston-raised poet, who now lives in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. My mother still lives in Houston, and there is always a huge soft spot in my heart for my hometown. Watching The Weather Channel’s coverage a few days before Hurricane Harvey hit, I knew that Houston was going to be in tremendous danger from the slow stalling of the storm that was projected to occur. I watched religiously as the continuous coverage started on Friday – as the storm barreled into Rockport and Corpus Christi. The outer bands began to pummel Houston, and the rain started, and didn’t stop, and didn’t stop, and didn’t stop. I was on the phone with my mom as she ducked in the closet while tornadoes swirled overhead. Houston was going to flood, and The Weather Channel kept throwing around words like “epic,” “catastrophic,” “unprecedented,” and “we have never seen a storm like this.”

I visualized my mother being safe and dry, kept texting her every few hours to make sure she was ok, and kept praying that my city would be okay through this never-ending rain. I felt helpless watching this all unfold on TV, while hundreds of my old friends and former students on FB were updating, live, the devastation that was occurring. I couldn’t just sit on my hands and watch in an anxious state; I had to write. That’s what poets do in times like these; we write.

On the Saturday of the first pourings of torrential rain, I visualized the word, “Houston,” in my mind’s eye and the “US” stuck out to me like this: hoUSton. I posted a FB graphic with the blue background and two hands holding across the bottom with the word “hoUSton” in the center. It was like a prayer, a visualization, a meditation for all of us to see the humanity of US in what was about to happen to the fourth-largest city in the country, Houston… and to hold them in our thoughts.

That is how the poem was born; from that image. A few days later, as the waters swallowed the city of my youth, I wrote the poem. My mother stayed safe and dry – miraculously – and I finally had a moment to process what was going on in my poet heart. The line that circled in my head and kept repeating was “In the middle of Houston, there is US.” The rest of the poem flowed together in one sitting as the waters continued to rise.


What got you into writing poetry?

Poetry was a means for survival for me, and didn’t truly emerge as a pillar in my being until I was about 18 – even though I had written stories and poems for most of my young life.  I was going through some extremely difficult circumstances, and I felt completely alone in the world. Poetry was my diversion from suicidal thoughts. Poetry was the safe, in which I could lock away my secrets. Poetry was the heart that could answer back my unrequited love poems. Poetry was there for me in every way, in those days, but I took from poetry more than I gave. It was a sounding board and a shoulder to cry on and the one I ran to when the darkness enveloped my thoughts.

Now, I give to poetry. I give my whole heart and listen to what bounces back. Poetry is a medium that allows me to microscopically view situations, people, and moments, and dissect them with precision, craft, and beauty, to offer perspectives that others may simply miss. I always try to offer a silver lining, a ray of hope, a deeper meaning in my poems. Though I write many poems on social activism, political poems, environmental poem (all poems that seem like they would be somewhat depressing), I always leave the reader with something to think about, a call to action, or a call back to what matters most: love.


How long have you been writing?



Tell us about your past books and stories?

My debut collection, Periscope Heart, was published in 2014, after my manuscript won a contest put out through Swimming with Elephants Publications. The poems in Periscope Heart deal with love, body image, spiritual striving, metaphysics, and more. It is the first sounds of my essence truly spilling out into the world. My second full-length collection, WINGSPAN (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2016), contains poems that reflect “fight” or “flight” themes reflected in many different personal, community, global, and sociopolitical realms.

In February of 2017, I recorded my first spoken-word album, SILHOUETTE, complete with musical accompaniments with talented friends I have around the country. I did it all on the Garageband app on my mac (the recording, mixing, layering, editing, and producing). It was such a fun and different creative process than putting together a manuscript.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

I am stimulated by heart. My writing follows suit. I am inspired by beauty or destruction, pain or pleasure, life as it unfolds every day. I do not follow a strict writing regimen, but write when I am moved by something I cannot contain, until the passion around a thought bubbles out of me.

There is a time every year that I really strictly write, and that is during National Poetry Month every April, where I lead a 30/30 challenge in my poetry community, to write 30 poems in 30 days. Some of my best work comes from this time every year.


What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course)?

I love anything by Jeanette Winterson or Paulo Coelho.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I evolve constantly, always, in relation and response to everything around me. As a poet, I like to become a deep part of whatever I am writing about. I give myself to the subject, to reveal the voice that the subject contains: the humanity waiting to be revealed, the divine spark waiting to be lit with recognition and acknowledgment in poetry. If you write with an open heart, you will continue to evolve, to grow, to understand the many facets of life all around you.


What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?         

An open heart. A keen eye for observation that notices tiny nuances others would ignore. Courage.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

Sandra Cisneros, internationally acclaimed author of The House on Mango Street, leaned over her kitchen table, over the Corona we were sharing and the steam rising from the quesadilla she made me, and told me, “Tell your story. Someone needs every word.”


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

I shamelessly market myself on social media. I believe that if you are not excited to share your work, no one else will be. I use Facebook more than other platforms, and it has been a really successful way for me to sell my books and CDs. There is a plateau that is ultimately reached, though, and I haven’t figured out the solution for that yet. I also do readings and book signings that get my work out there into the community.


What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

I am proud of every piece that I create, even the half-done, wonky pieces, the epic poems that shoot straight to the heart, and the sappy, longing, love poems. Everything is something that I birth into existence with my thought. It is an act of magic, really, this process of making something out of nothing, simply by stringing letters together and breaking lines and building pictures out of words. I love it. I am proud of everything that I create.

As for my poem, “hoUSton,” I am really thankful that The Weather Channel and The Houston Chronicle shared the poem, only because I feel like there are millions of people who need to hear the message that is intended in that poem; “In the middle of Houston, there is US.” It is the idea that we are all reflected in this tragedy and what is shining so brightly about Houston is its people coming together and helping one another.  We all need to hear of unity and togetherness during this time of divisive political agendas and hate on the rise.  This current administration will not be the end of us. We must come together with our hope for a better tomorrow for our children, and we must create that in our actions and in our words. We are still all Americans, humans, citizens of the world.


What are you doing next?

I will continue going into every day, armed with my open heart and my words, to bring, share, and spread Light with my poetry.


What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Don’t quit when someone tells you “no” or when you get a rejection letter. Keep writing, even if it is just for you. Your story is important.



Kai Coggin is a former Houston Teacher of the Year turned poet and author, now living in the valley of a small mountain in Hot Springs National Park, AR. She received her B.A. in English, Poetry, and Creative Writing from Texas A&M University. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Sinister WisdomAssaracus, Calamus Journal, Lavender Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Luna Luna, Blue Heron Review, Yellow Chair Review, and elsewhere.

Kai is the author of two full-length collections, PERISCOPE HEART (Swimming with Elephants, 2014) and WINGSPAN (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2016), as well as a spoken word album called SILHOUETTE (2017). Her poetry has been nominated twice for The Pushcart Prize, as well as Bettering American Poetry 2015, and Best of the Net 2016.


Links:    If you would like to order signed copies of my books or CD, please order from the first link below, and they will go straight from my hands to your heart. Thank you!

Kai Coggin’s Official Website

Kai’s Facebook Page

Instagram: skailight

Twitter: @skailight



Review of PERISCOPE HEART – Yellow Chair Review

Review of WINGSPAN by Erica Charis – Yellow Chair Review

SpokenHeard Radio Show Interview about WINGSPAN
If you would like to read more poems by Kai Coggin, here are some links to a selection of publications in which her work appears.

“ten thousand wishes” – Elephant Journal

“Paris Accord” & “surrender” – Calamus Journal

“The Pulse of a Rainbow”- Crab Fat Magazine

“Keys” – Luna Luna Magazine

“Déjà vu,” “How to be Fat and Beautiful,” and “Once in a Blue Moon” – Dragon Poet Review

“palette” – Rise Up Review 

“grey horse” “this is a painting” “this is how to eat your past” – Anti-Heroin Chic

“Every black boy is a Lion” – Yellow Chair Review

“There Will Be An Orchard / I Throw Fruit into the Gully” – Drunk Monkeys

Dad & The Dalai Lama – ELEPHANT JOURNAL

“Becoming Vapor and Rain” & “You Become Me Become You” – Women’s Spiritual Poetry


© The Literary Librarian 2017

Interview: An Interview with Mary Langer Thompson

Book Name and Description:  Poems in Water, and How the Blue-Tongued Skink got his Blue Tongue

Poems in Water (Poems that make the ordinary extraordinary), published by Green Fuse Poetic Arts of Loveland, Colorado.

How the Blue-Tongued Skink got his Blue Tongue, published by Another Think Coming Press.  (“Traveling a hero’s journey, Dinky overcomes bullying, tries to save us all, and gains a unique blue tongue in the process,” Loralie Pallotta, Preschool Owner, 26 years)

Poems in Water is available on Amazon: Click Here.
How the Blue-Tongued Skink got his Blue Tongue is available on Amazon: Click Here.


Poem in Water
by Mary Langer Thompson

By Lingering Lake
I watch a Chinese poet
with sweeping brush strokes
write characters
in water
upon the pavement.

Disciples follow in silence
under the willow trees
reading retextured liquid,
the path an impermanent context.

I can’t decipher the message
of this groundling poem,
but feel unmoored
then embraced, bent and baptized,
evaporating verse
washing the dust from my heart.


What gave you the idea for Poems in Water?

The book is a collection of my poetry going back to about the mid-90s. I taught poetry for several years as a secondary English teacher. Poem ideas and lines began to “descend” on me after I left the classroom. The title comes from one poem, “Poem in Water.” While visiting China, I observed a poet write a poem on pavement with a brush full of water. A crowd surrounded him. I was very moved by his effort, because this verse would evaporate soon. It reminded me of the transiency of life and while we in the west strive to get published, here in China attention was paid to this moment making art, with an acceptance it would be gone in moments. So I look at all my poems in this collection as most likely transitory, like life, yet hoping a few will survive because they’ve touched people. My mother, June Langer, who is in her 90’s, painted the picture on the cover.


What gave you the idea for How the Blue-Tongued Skink got his Blue Tongue? 

That book was a convergence of several ideas. On a business trip with my husband to Australia in 1980, I looked all over for children’s books for my then 7-year-old son, Matthew. There were few, and one about a dingo dog scared him silly. I decided someday I might have to write my own. Years later a friend told me he sold his rare blue-tongued skink to make a house payment. I looked the animal up and discovered it was a lizard native to Australia. Then I was teaching Steinbeck’s The Pearl to a 10th grade class and no student knew what the reference to The Garden was. I got upset. They knew all the myths but not this story? How would they appreciate or understand any American or English literature? So my tale is about a skink, native to Australia, set in a garden, similar to the one in the Bible.


What got you into writing in these genres?

I wrote a poem or two and took a class. The instructor invited me into his critique group that met bi-weekly. I was hooked. My children’s book sat for a number of years, and when I moved to the high desert there were no poets at that time in my California Writers Club branch. I dusted off the Dinky the Skink story and they loved it and asked me to read it at a Barnes and Noble reading. Both books won Indie Excellence Finalist Awards.


How long have you been writing?

Since 1974, the year my son was born, on my maternity leave. I published the first educational article I wrote and wrote more. But I soon discovered it wasn’t going to help pay my mortgage (and I had no skinks to sell), so I went back to teaching, which continued to inform my writing even to this day.


Tell us about your past books and stories?

In my schooling, I never was taught fiction, so decided to teach flash fiction to 7th graders and it was a lot of fun. Teaching is a great way to learn if you take it step by step (or bird by bird as Anne Lamott would say). I kept reading and writing and I have had some short stories published, many poems and have completed a memoir and two young adult novels that I need to start pitching.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

I’m retired but I volunteer, teaching writing workshops in schools, colleges, and prisons, so I budget my time carefully for writing every day. I’m in a critique group for poetry that I founded, the Poemsmiths, so I need to come up with a poem every two weeks. I write book reviews for and San Diego Book Review, and those have writing deadlines. My schedule gets a little crazy sometimes and I have to remind myself I’m retired and need to take time with my family. But then, they give me writing ideas!


What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why? What book disappointed you and why?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is my favorite because I taught it to high schoolers, and it’s such a beautiful book that teaches empathy, even while exposing students to racism, all from a child’s point of view. Scout goes from innocence to experience.

The sequel, Go Set a Watchman, in 2015 was a disappointment. I loved Atticus too much to see him portrayed as a racist.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’m more disciplined and intentional about my own work, and because I’ve read so many other writers’ work in critique groups, I’m more willing to take risks with different forms and even rhyme in poetry and try different genres.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Prompt books when inspiration is lacking, time management skills to balance writing and living, and the willingness to ask for help from computer, editing, and marketing experts.


What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

You can’t write for the money. You have to write because you can’t not write.


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genres?

Each genre has its own culture and groups of people who love that type of writing. Find those people and reach out to them. Join groups like Society of Children’s Books and Illustrators, read journals like Poets and Writers, be on Facebook, Twitter and read, read, read, and write book reviews, look up the authors, and communicate with them and ask them for book reviews. I used to think teachers were the kindest people on earth; now I’ve added writers to that group. We understand the struggle.


What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

Right now, my children’s book, which is also available in Spanish, because others have become enthusiastic about it. When my illustrator, Samantha Kickingbird, first showed me her drawing of Dinky the Skink, I fell in love with him. His anti-bullying message and message about the importance of choices is basically what I want to say to children and the world. So, Go, Dinky! It’s also been a lot of fun to have family members and friends get involved. My son suggested kids eat a blue raspberry Tootsie Pop while they read so their own tongues turn blue, and my husband became my publisher with Another Think Coming Press. Friends who spoke Spanish (Thank you, Brad Langer, Spanish professor, and Rebecca Galonski) edited the Spanish version and I would use my illustrator again and my translator, Ana Morris.


For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?

I published a short story called “The Cut-ups” that shows a young man about to graduate high school who tries to get in touch with his junior high English teacher who inspired him to write, to invite her to his ceremony. He finds her on Facebook, but discovers she’s dead when he goes to her house. Her husband wants him to write a poem for the eulogy, a poem made of cut-out words, a found poem, at her funeral. He doesn’t want to grieve on his own special day. Now what? The teacher of course is me. I hope I’ve inspired both young and older writers to write.


What are you doing next?

I’m editing my young adult novel about Mary Lou who moves with her family from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1958 along Route ’66. She learns a lot about our country, family secrets, and herself along the way.


What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Don’t give up your day job, and don’t be disappointed when your book isn’t an instant best seller. Go on to the next one. Keep writing.



Mary Langer Thompson’s award-winning poems, short stories, and essays appear in various journals and anthologies. She is a contributor to two poetry writing texts, The Working Poet (Autumn Press, 2009) and Women and Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching (McFarland, 2012), and was the 2012 Senior Poet Laureate of California. Her children’s book How the Blue-Tongued Skink got his Blue Tongue was recently released by Another Think Coming Press. A retired school principal and former secondary English teacher, Langer Thompson received her Ed.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. She continues to enjoy conducting writing workshops for schools, prisons, and in her community of the high desert of California.



Poems in Water on Amazon

How the Blue-Tongued Skink got his Blue Tongue on Amazon

Mary’s LinkedIn

Mary’s EarthLink

Mary’s Facebook Page

Mary’s Twitter


© The Literary Librarian 2017



Interview: An Interview with Marjorie Maddox

Book Names and Descriptions – New Releases:
What She Was Saying
True, False, None of the Above
Wives’ Tales
Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems + Insider Exercises


What She Was Saying: collection of short stories, flash fiction, and micro-essays all told from the points of view of women of diverse ages, backgrounds, and experiences (Fomite Press, 2017).

In these powerful stories, What She Was Saying softens the already thin line between hope and hopelessness, between perseverance and despair, between what can and cannot be said. Throughout the collection, diverse women startle, question, comfort, and proclaim, compelling readers to confront a company of others. A finalist for the Katherine Anne Porter and Eludia book awards—as well as a semifinalist for Black Lawrence Press’s Hudson, Eastern Washington University’s Spokane, and Leapfrog Press’s book prizes—What She Was Saying gives voice to the lives we all need to hear.

What She Was Saying is available on Amazon: Click Here.
What She Was Saying is available on FomitePress: Click Here.

True, False, None of the Above: poetry (Poeima Poetry Series, 2016; Illumination Book Award Medalist)

True, False, None of the Above poetically explores what it means to write, read, and teach literature in a world that—at turns—rejects, embraces, or shrugs indifferently at the spiritual. This is a book on the intersection of words and belief, on how books mark and mirror our lives, and how sometimes the journey we experience on the page leads us to faith. 

True, False, None of the Above is available on Amazon: Click Here.

Wives’ Tales (Editor’s Series, Seven Kitchens Press, 2017)

This chapbook is divided into two sections: “The Tales,” retellings of fairy tales in the same vein as Anne Sexton’s Transformations, and “The Wives,” poems told from the points of view of the wives of famous men named Peter (Peter the Great, Peter Pumpkin Eater, Pete Rose, St. Peter, and the like).

Wives Tales is available on Seven Kitchens Press: Click Here.

Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems + Insider Exercises (Schoolwide, Inc.)

Welcome to a world of mind-doodling, eye-dazzling, ear-bending, new-fangled, old-fashioned fun! Inside Out teaches writing (and reading) to 4th through 9th graders from inside the poem, with plenty of tips and tricks for everyone inside and outside of the classroom. Chat with personification, dance with iambic, fish for sestinas, and text with a triolet. In twenty-seven poems plus eight Insider Exercises, this book will jump-start your writing. This book is marketed to teachers and their students across the country through Schoolwide’s new Zing program.

Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems + Insider Exercises is available on Marjorie’s Website: Click Here.

On Defining Education
By Marjorie Maddox

Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond;
cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”
-Mark Twain

Isn’t the seed better,
its tough, hard case
beneath the juice?
Flesh? Just so much puffing up,
skin gone soft with too much rouge.
Better to be tossed out than consumed,
lusted after by the colon.

Or what of that lower-class cabbage
shredded to bits, thrown haphazardly in soups?
Whole, she’s the Cinderella that steals the show
for the truly hungry.

Nobody likes cauliflower
cowering on fine china,
the ugly sister decorated
with a sterling ladle’s worth of cheese.

Please, feel free to confront.
I’m not talking about who you should be
but are. Let’s start with the essence of seed
and see what sprouts from there.

Marjorie Maddox

What gave you the idea for your books?

What She Was Saying

Although primarily a poet, I have always been fascinated by the blurring of boundaries between genres. This collection of short fiction, flash fiction, and brief creative nonfiction allowed me to explore in a new way power, silences, and spirituality through the voices of thirty-three women of diverse backgrounds, ages, and experiences as they face the struggles and successes of being female. What, the collection asks, are women saying about careers, art, health, religion, relationships, strength, survival, childbirth, infertility, parenting, aging, and care of elderly parents? What do these women also tell us of perseverance and hope? Ultimately, What She Was Saying is both about finding your voice and listening to the voices of those women who’ve gone before you.

True, False, None of the Above

As a professor of English, I believe literature has very much to do with our daily lives. It is not an escape from, but rather a confrontation with reality, a reality that includes the overarching struggles of the soul. Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write to discover what I know.” Joan Didion echoed, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” True, False, None of the Above examines how writing, reading, and teaching lead us to discovery by bringing us face-to-face with the world we live in and the world to come. Many of the poems in the collection are responses to texts I teach in the classroom, and, in turn, what such works have to do with our lives here and now.

Wives’ Tales

I’ve always been fascinated by the dark underside of fairy tales. Such stories instill fear but also wisdom. The first section, “The Tales,” allowed me to retell the familiar in an unusual, often feminist, sometimes humorous, and hopefully thought-provoking way. The second section, “The Wives,” allowed me to look into the lives of the women married to famous men named Peter. How, I asked myself, would the stories of these husbands be told differently from the wives’ points of view?

Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems + Insider Exercises

A fun collection to write, for this book I drew on my experiences of both writing and teaching (in addition to my college position) as a visiting author at elementary and middle schools. The Table of Contents will tell you a lot about this book—poems on how to see, smell, hear, taste, and touch a poem; an English sonnet on how to write an English sonnet, a villanelle on how to write a villanelle; a Frankenstein poem on personification (and much, much more), plus a helpful glossary and detailed writing exercises for in and outside of the classroom.

What got you into writing in this genre?

I write poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and children’s literature. All writing is creative. Composing in several genres gives me different ways to approach a topic or audience.  Plus, it’s just plain fun to switch things up a bit!

 As far as the children’s books (my most recent venture), I owe that to a children’s librarian! I was giving a poetry reading at Penn State University, after which the head children’s librarian, Steven Herb, loved the way I “played around with words.” He encouraged me to write and submit a book for children to Boyds Mills Press. Soon after, with Steven’s encouragement, I wrote, submitted, and had published Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems and (on collective nouns) A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry.

How long have you been writing?

I was fortunate to grow up in a family where writing was encouraged. My mother used to type up my poems and stories into little “books” when I was young. My first “publication” was in Campfire Girl Magazine when I was eight. (It was pretty bad!) I’ve been writing ever since and went on to get a Masters with a creative thesis at the University of Louisville (where I worked with the fiction writer Sena Jeter Naslund) and an MFA in poetry writing at Cornell (where I worked with A. R. Ammons and Bob Morgan). I now teach English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University.

Tell us about your past books and stories?

Each of my books has a slightly different focus.  My first book Perpendicular As I , which won the Sandstone Book Award, explores identity and relationships. Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation, which won the Yellowglen Prize, examines my father’s unsuccessful heart transplant. Weeknights at the Cathedral  details my spiritual journey. Local News from Someplace Else looks at living in an unsafe world.  The children’s book A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry centers on collective nouns like “a school of fish.” I love Philip Huber’s powerful illustrations! Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems  poetically describes various baseball terms: balk, strike, double-play, grand slam, etc. I live in Williamsport, home of the Little League World Series, and wrote these while sitting in my former backyard, which overlooked a ball field.

There are other books as well. Please see for descriptions and reviews.

What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

As a university professor and director of a creative writing program and reading series, I have a very busy schedule. Add to that the roles of wife and mother, and the large slots for writing disappear quickly. Before having children, I fiercely protected several days as “all-writing” days. That just didn’t work with the added role of mother. However, I find that I get almost as much written these days over winter and summer breaks. The ideas are always percolating in the back of my brain and bubble up once a larger block of time is available.

Once I do have that time, my preferred place is in my house (without distractions) on our sun porch, where I can look outside and let my mind wander. I often compose out loud, so it can help not having someone else in the room or someone nearby needing my attention.

My other preferred place to write is anywhere where I am anonymous: a coffee shop, an airport, etc. In these spaces, I am not tempted to procrastinate by doing anything besides writing…

But now we are empty-nesters. It will be interesting to see how that will affect my writing.

The biggest influences on my writing? I am particularly intrigued by the intersections of body and spirit both in my everyday life, in my relationships, and in what I am reading and discussing with others, including my students.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I think most writers keep coming back, in different ways, to the same themes. I do think, though, that it has helped me grow as an author by experimenting with several different genres. It’s helpful to keep pushing your writing self in different directions and beyond sometimes self-imposed boundaries of theme and style.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

For me: time alone, time with others, a cup of coffee, a laptop, Submittable, some good books, some good music, and a place to stretch your legs and your mind.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

Not sure about the best, but here are some that come to mind:

You can’t be a writer unless you actually write.
Take risks with your writing.
Don’t be afraid to let your writing sit for a while before you come back to it.
Be persistent. Don’t give up. (This one is really hard.)

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

I’ve always been able to switch between the business-of-submitting-writing-hat and the more important actual-writing-the-writing hat. (More often than I care to admit, the submission process occurs when I am procrastinating and unable to face the harder task of composing.) I am even good at teaching these necessary “business” skills to my students.

But now there’s the added hat of marketing.  I am not a cocktail party conversationalist. I am not good at hobnobbing.  It’s not part of my personality. Walking into a large room where I know absolutely no one still terrifies me. At heart, I am an introvert.

And yet, I am very comfortable (and animated) as a teacher. I direct a reading series and am good at marketing others’ work. I love to give readings of my own work and interact with others. I am an email junkie; I like the one-on-one correspondence. It has to do with rapport and connection, I think.

These days writers need to market and promote themselves. I prefer to first build the relationships and let the rest follow. That’s not always, though, how the world works. And so, I’m becoming braver. Just this past year, I came very late to the game called Facebook. I should have tried it earlier. I’ve already learned some strategies from others about marketing.

I see where the writers I most admire publish their work, and I try there. I see where they give readings, and I write an email to the host. I use Submittable. I take more risks. I try not to let it bother me when I am rejected or when I never receive an answer. I give readings where 50 people show up and where 5 people show up. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. Sometimes I am sorely disappointed. Often it is hard to predict which event will lead to something wonderful; I try to see all as opportunities to meet other writers and readers. Because writing is such a solitary act, it can be invigorating and encouraging to connect with an audience.

So I’m learning to put on the marketing hat, too.  I’m even having fun.

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

That depends on which day you ask. Because it is my very first collection of fiction, these days I am excited about the publication of What She Was Saying.

In addition, my book Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiationwhich is dedicated to my father and his transplant donor—is especially important to me. My father had his first heart attack when he was 39; as one poem’s title puts it, “Growing up Dying” was part of my childhood. He died at the age of 65 after an unsuccessful heart transplant, and the book addresses this on medical, physical, emotional, metaphorical, and spiritual levels.

As a teacher, I’m also excited about True, False, None of the Above as it pulls together poems about my day job—that great joy (and sometimes tribulations) of discussing literature and writing with students. I was excited that this collection was an Illumination Book Award Medalist in the field of EDUCATION!

And there’s some humor in there as well!

For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?

Books on baseball, relationships, faith, medicine, teaching and writing—all of these “interests,” of course, make up who I am. Perhaps the more important question might be, what most interests the reader? I address a large range of topics and interests, so I hope there’s a little something for everyone.

What are you doing next?

This past summer I wrote a number of poems and book reviews. I also, as part of my visiting author position at Chautauqua Institution, wrote a long essay entitled “Confronting This World One Poem at a Time.” Writing is a process of discovery, so I am always discovering more about the world, others, and myself. That, in turn, gives me other ideas for writing new poems, stories, and essays. Writing and reading feed more writing and reading.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Most people, I believe, grow up loving words—the rhythm of a story, the music in the nursery rhyme. That love and passion can be encouraged (and I was fortunate in this aspect) or, unfortunately, sometimes squashed. Too many times, I’ve heard even teens describe the arts as impractical. But the opposite is true, isn’t it?  Literature has very much to do with our everyday lives.

My philosophy: stick with your passion. Find a way to make it work. It may or may not be the same as your “day job”; you may or may not have the support of family, but find a way to develop that interest and talent. Advice? Most writers will tell you the same: Read! Write! Read! Write! Revise! Revise! Read! Write! Give yourself the foundation of strong and diverse literature. To paraphrase Emily Dickinson, see what makes you feel as if the top of your head were taken off.  Write something like it. Write something completely different. Get together with others and talk about it. Write some more.

Popular Reviews for Marjorie’s Books:

For What She Was Saying:

“From the ingenious title to the last story, What She Was Saying is a study of the gap between the covert and the overt. Alienation, isolation, desperation are here writ both small and large; their echo is a humanistic plea for inclusiveness, community, friendship, and simple love and kindness, one to another. Wonderfully crafted, honest, and bold, Marjorie Maddox’s work always brings her readers to new levels of perceptiveness about the big picture as well as minute moments.” –Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife and The Fountain of St. James Court, or Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman

“This collection reveals a beguiling new voice in contemporary fiction. . . . Maddox s stories open up unexpected, little noticed corners of our world. . . . Some read like fables; some surprise with bold humor. All celebrate the mystery of the familiar, the strangeness of the ordinary, and the humanity of marginal lives.” –Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek

“These are luscious stories, packed with unflinching honesty and the earthshaking kind of beauty that makes us brave.” –Fiona Cheong, author of Scent of the Gods and Shadow Theatre

For True, False, None of the Above:

“In True, False, None of the Above, Maddox offers us a brilliant, witty, and vulnerable garland of poems. Here is the voice of a teacher, a poet, a mother and wife, a woman of faith bearing witness to a deep and lasting Truth, summoning–among others–the likes of Dante, Hopkins, Dickinson, Eliot, and Frost, each calling out to the other, often at scintillant cross-purposes, all set choiring to this magisterial teacher’s gentle bidding.” –Paul Mariani, University Professor of English, Boston College, author of God and the Imagination: On Poets, Poetry, and the Ineffable

“In the preface to her book True, False, None of the Above, Maddox describes the experience of literature–whether reading, teaching, or creating it–as a ‘confrontation with reality.’ And her poems indeed confront a range of uneasy truths, from adultery and natural disasters to tooth extraction and raising teens. Maddox builds on the shared imagination of writers and readers, richly and deftly, to deepen and challenge our spirits.” –Tania Runyan, author of Second Sky

“In some of these poems, Marjorie Maddox riffs on the poetry of other writers. Sometimes she sings like an angel, even about illness and death. She wields forms brilliantly, and she tells delicious stories about what goes on in her classroom. Everybody who relishes good poetry should buy this book. But if you’re a teacher–or if you’ve ever sat in a classroom anywhere–True, False, None of the Above will make you laugh out loud.” –Jeanne Murray Walker, Professor of English, University of Delaware, coeditor of Shadow & Light: Literature and the Life of Faith

“In poem after poem, Marjorie Maddox creates a rich environment in which the best teaching (and she is always a teacher) takes place in dialogue, even though conversations are not always neatly resolved. But she also consistently and convincingly points to what we need: ‘The real, the spiritual, the Real.’” –Jill Baumgaertner, author of What Cannot Be Fixed


Sage Graduate Fellow of Cornell University (MFA) and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published eleven collections of poetry—including True, False, None of the Above (Poeima Poetry Series and Illumination Book Award Medalist);  Wives’ Tales (Seven Kitchens Press); Local News from Someplace Else (Wipf & Stock); Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award); Weeknights at the Cathedral (WordTech); and Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize and runner-up for Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes)—and over 500 poems, stories, and essays in journals and anthologies. In 2017, Fomite Press published her story collection What She Was Saying, a finalist for the Katherine Anne Porter and Eludia book awards.

In addition, Maddox is co-editor, with Jerry Wemple, of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State Press) and has three children’s books: A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry, Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems  (Boyds Mills Press), and Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems + Insider Exercises (Schoolwide). She is the great grandniece of Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson. For more information, please visit her web site at


Marjorie’s Official Website

What She Was Saying: Amazon

What She Was Saying: FomitePress

True, False, None of the Above: Amazon

Wives’ Tales: Seven Kitchens Press

Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems + Insider Exercises

Poetic Lines: Marjorie Maddox – YouTube Video

© The Literary Librarian 2017

Interview: An Interview with Poet Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Vrenios

Book Name and Description: Special Delivery

Screen Shot 2017-10-01 at 3.39.23 PM

This is a book about the loss of our son on the Pan Am 103 Flight that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988, the events surrounding it that impacted the family, and our grieving process.

This book is available in print on Amazon: Click Here.


Back at the Music School Office after Christmas Vacation
by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Vrenios

I climb from the car,
stretch my legs like a wintered spider,
and blink to accustom myself
to the new slant of  light.
The leaves in the parking lot rush to greet me,
brush against the tops of my shoes
and swirl around my ankles.

As I push through the heavy glass doors,
I see the secretary’s desk
too early for her arrival.
No sound
save the driving arpeggios
of a lone pianist in the distance.

Only a month gone.  Who am I?
Who is this grey mouse
who drags her wet wooly heart behind her,
and now tiptoes down the long hallway
as if walking were a sacrilege
and breathing a sin?
When did the block walls fade to grey?
When did the rooms grow so far apart?

The last month has curled up and tumbled away,
yellow giving way to brown,
to black,
leaving me startled at the jumble of unopened letters,
the piles of red-pocked term papers
stacked on my desk,
the tethered phone
blinking incessantly.

I remove the sign on my door:
and scrape off the sticky remnants
of tape that still outline the now empty square.
I take down the helter-skelter posters,
and the out-of-date notices
that jostle each other for attention,
leaving the nude cork raw,
stubbled with thumbtacks.

The clock snaps to attention at 9:00.
The students begin to arrive
in streams of loopy yellow,
barging through the front doors,
red knots of giggles
and unintended rudeness.
I feel ragged and soft,
unfamiliar in this familiar world,
still trying to shake off  images of a burning plane,
and a fog-shrouded bagpiper climbing the hill
next to an empty hole in the ground.

How strange it is to be here,
for I have returned  like a prodigal daughter
from a distant shore,
having been garroted by the cruelty of the world. 

The first student of the semester
knocks sharply on the door and as she enters
lowering her self-conscious eyes,
I swallow deep into my bones.
I straighten my skirt,
look up
and smile.


What gave you the idea for Special Delivery? 

Special Delivery was a result of the experience my family went through when we experienced the Pan Am 103 crash over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.  It has taken me many years to be able to speak about the tragedy and to write about our experiences beginning with his phone call before we left to pick him up, through experiencing the tragedy, watching the reactions in the airport and dealing with the overwhelming crush of press and grief we experienced from those around us. Originally  we thought the loss was completely ours, but discovered very quickly it belonged to the world.  The title comes from the discovery of a large picture of Nicholas, which miraculously escaped the fire, explosion and torrential rain that accompanied the crash, only to be snatched from the air by an Umbrian hunter 300 miles away and sent to Lockerbie.  The picture is on the cover – a self-photo of Nicholas sitting on a precipice of a Scottish crag,


What got you into writing in this genre? 

One day, a few years ago, I participated in a group conversation in which the question was asked, “What would you be in your next life?”  People answered in the usual way: “I’d be a famous tenor who gets all the girls”, “I’d be a famous movie star” etc.  I thought a bit, and astounded myself when I answered “I’d be a poet.”  Everyone laughed, but I began to think: “Hey, I’m not dead yet!  Why not?”  That is when I began to seriously put myself on a self-study campaign to take classes, read poetry voraciously, and write every day.


How long have you been writing?

I have written all my life, but not seriously – I was a musician -a singer who taught and concertized all over the world. When I was a little girl – about 5, I believe – I wrote what I think was my first poem – written while I played the chords on the piano. “Cracking nuts by Candlelight, on the very darkest night.  It’s so fun for me you see, because it’s by our Christmas tree.” I wrote poems secretly in diaries but hid them as they expressed my personal thoughts.  As a singer I always felt I was a re-creator, singing other people’s poems and thoughts, but always wanted to be a creator, expressing what I felt in my own words.


Tell us about your past books and stories? 

I began to write about being raised in Northern California in the 50’s and about my mentally ill, abusive mother.  I collaborated with my brothers in this memoir in a book called Party Line.  This is a collection of short stories – before my full transition to a poet.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing? 

Whew!  Those are three big questions in one!  My writing process has to come first from silence.  I need full quiet and solace to fully access what I have to say.  The stiller I am (and the earlier in the day I access this) the easier the words appear.  I begin my day with coffee (!!!) and sit to read whatever new poetry book I have garnered.  I usually read for about an hour or more and then begin to write in my journal.  I don’t try to write poetry – just whatever is in my mind, and in whatever form it decides to appear.  I try to write without stopping – sometimes for a half hour, sometimes longer.  I put this away to return to later.  I always write a “bad poem a day”,  perhaps 5 or 6 lines – a free write, giving myself permission to be crazy.  These I return to periodically for ideas as well.  Later in the day, I peruse some of my past writing to see if I can garner an idea for a poem.  I spend some time every day editing something – either someone else’s poems, or my own. The evenings are reserved for reading sites on the computer and sending out poems.  The biggest influences on my writing have been Bach, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Lorca, W.A. Merwin, Seamus Heaney, Billy Collins, Ellen Bass, Ocean Vuong, Paisley Rekdahl, and sometimes the last poet I have read.


What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why? What book disappointed you and why? 

This is perhaps the most difficult question you are asking.  It is like asking a chocoholic her favorite bon bon, or picking out your favorite tune when you love music passionately.  It often is the latest book I have read, such as the latest issue of Rattle, Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay or Black Country by Liz Berry. Then I pick up Jane Hirshfield or  Brigit Pegeen Kelly or Hailey Leithauser and I am in love all over again. Books that disappoint are those that purposely obscure meaning for a posture or an experiment, or those which employ self indulgent writing by poets who don’t give the reader the benefit of the doubt that we will feel something.  I enjoy well-crafted poetry just as I enjoy well- crafted music.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? 

I have studied and read extensively, taken many writing courses, (I try to remain in one constantly),  write daily and have begun to be more observant of the wonder in the world around and beneath me.  I have learned economy, brevity, color and form.


What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers? 

I truly appreciate writers who have craft and who can write emotionally without being self-indulgent, employ image and metaphor that move me beyond the words on the page.  Craft is essential – to have control over meter, music, internal rhyme, know what a volta is, how to begin and end a poem,  how to break a stanza and when to use punctuation and when not to use it.  Tone, color and voice are important as well.  Tools are important in any craft – the more you have, the subtler you can be and the easier you can induce the reader to feel what you feel. As a matter of fact, the more I write poetry, the more I realize how integrated all art is – these qualities are important in music, art, and sculpture as well.


What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author? 

Let go of your little darlings.


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

At the moment I am seeking publication through the journals on line and submitting as much as I can.  It is important to have an audience if you write – and acceptance or rejection helps me to perfect my voice.  The more often the voice is “out there” the more people will begin to seek you out, and the more you may have a reason to write.  We cannot express art in a vacuum.  I now have many friends on Facebook who follow my poetry – a huge surprise, given that no one knew I wrote until a few short years ago.


What piece of your own work are you most proud of? 

At the moment it is my chapbook – but there are numerous poems that (self indulgent as it may be) I truly enjoy.  Perhaps the work I am most proud of at the moment is my son, Christopher who is finding his creative life writing words and music and producing in the Reggae vein.  It is a great privilege to observe a beautiful blossom.


For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?

Heavens – much of my work are on e-sites.  Some is in print in anthologies (but I am not so certain about those) and for goodness sake – don’t read Party Line.  At the moment – the work I am most proud of is Special Delivery because it reaches into my depths of feeling about loss and how I was able to come up on the other side after losing my 20 year old son.  People have said that it helped them through their own grieving process.


What are you doing next?

I am compiling a book about my abusive childhood.  I have several projects in mind and that is what drives me to work every day.


What advice would you give aspiring writers? 

Write! write! write!  Study the masters and find your own voice and style.  If you have something to say – say it!



Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios’ poetry has been featured in such online poetry columns as Form Quarterly, NILVX , Passager Journal, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Hollins Critic, Foliate Oak, Scissors and Spackle, and in issues of Poeming Pidgeon, Unsplendid , Stories of Music and The Edison Review. Her prize-winning chapbook, Special Delivery was published by Yellow Chair Press in the spring of 2016.  Elizabeth is a professor emerita from American University in Washington DC, having chaired the vocal and music departments. She has taught workshops throughout the US, and is well known for her interpretations of contemporary music, having premiered  over 100 works, many of them composed for her. Vrenios’ solo recitals throughout the United States, South America, Scandinavia, Japan and Europe have been acclaimed. As the artistic director of the Redwoods Opera Workshop in Mendocino, California, and the Crittenden Opera Workshop in Washington D.C. and Boston, she has influenced and trained students across the country. She is a member of the international Who’s Who of Musicians, and is the past National President of the National Opera Association.



Elizabeth’s Facebook 

Elizabeth’s Official Website 

Special Delivery on Amazon


Links to Poems:

See Saw Marjorie Day  

Practice Makes Perfect 

Spring’s Birth Announcement Issue 50 on HaikuJournal Collaborative Poem

Two poems on Beltway Poetry Quarterly

Two More Poems: Practice Makes Perfect and Communion

Alternate Truths 

While Eating an Apple

Dark Star 

When Death Splits the Air, Dandelion, Hi, Noon

Elegy for Mother 


Singing Villanelle to a Collage of Pleated Cows

Piano at Five (Contributor)


Ode to a Purple Onion, also on


Poems without Direct Links (only viewable by members of these sites):

I Hold My childhood Picture is on

Song of the Suomalainen is on

The Oldest Living Thing in Maryland is on

Sealed Casket is on

Darling Icarus, Diabolical Clock is on

The first Year Without You is on

Every Other Thursday, on


© The Literary Librarian 2017

Interview: An Interview with Poet Lynne Viti

Book Name and Description:  Baltimore Girls (2017)

Baltimore Girls - Lynne Viti (1)

The Glamorganshire Bible (forthcoming 2018) poetry collection with a focus on my maternal grandmother, and my mother’s family in Cumberland Maryland and Baltimore from the late 19th century through the 1950’s. 

Available on Amazon for Print: Click Here.


What gave you the idea for Baltimore Girls?

About six years ago, I joined several poetry workshops at the Boston Public Library, with poet Sam Cornish, then poet laureate of the City of Boston. Some of the prompts Sam gave us inspired me to write about my family. Sam entered one of my family poems in a juried competition, and my work was selected for an exhibit at Boston City Hall.  Sam encouraged me to begin sending out my work, and I was astonished at the result—within three years I had three dozen poems accepted for publication, and had won two poetry prizes.


What got you into writing in this genre?

The short answer is that two of my high school teachers, Sister Augusta Reilly, RSM and Sister Carol Wheeler, RSM, inspired me. They required me to write poetry as part of a Creative English class in my senior year of high school. I wrote in college and into my twenties, and published a few poems. But it was only after my children were grown and on their own that I wandered back into writing.


Tell us about your past books and stories?

In the beginning of my late-in-life writing career, which began about five years ago, I wrote mostly about the deep past. Lately I have situated my work more in the present, often with poems about nature or people I observe in the moment.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

I try to write a poem a day, as my best poet-friend Heather Bryant does, but I rarely meet that challenge. I am a teacher, and during the school year, there is so little time, so I don’t write each morning, as I do in summer and on semester breaks. My goal is to write a poem a week. If I can do that, and if I can revise until I’m satisfied with the poem, I feel I am being as productive as I can be.

Biggest influences range from the poets I studied in school—Donne, Yeats, Plath, Lowell, Sexton, William Carlos Williams, Spender, Auden, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, —to contemporary poets, both obscure and famous. My current favorites are Alice Notley, Louise Gluck, and Frank Bidart.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

In my twenties, I was so self-focused  and the poetry was  hard for almost anyone else to relate to. Now I think—I hope— that my work has a broader appeal—across genders, ages, countries.


What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?    

That room of one’s own to retreat to, as Virginia Woolf said. Some notebooks. A few first readers who will give honest feedback on early drafts. A day job, to pay for food, shelter—and those reading fees. A small, faithful audience of readers who will buy your books and show up for your readings. Venues for reading one’s work—libraries, book clubs, coffee shops that hold poetry readings, community centers, poetry festivals.


What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

You have to believe in your work. Once you’ve revised and revised and know it’s as done as it will ever be, send it out. If it’s rejected by a publication, send it out again. And again. If you receive feedback from an editor, take it to heart, see if more revising might be in order. Eventually, it will find a home.


How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

Poets and Writers, Facebook groups listing submissions opportunities, writers groups, workshops, libraries, open mics, suggestions from fellow poets.


What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

Right now, I’m most proud of the first section of my forthcoming collection, The Glamorganshire Bible, the poems that focus on my grandmother and her Welsh forebears.


For those who haven’t read any of your stories, what story/book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?

For fiction, “Tony Bennett, Aldous Huxley, and Eddie,” my short story, published in Connections Literary Magazine. I think I capture what it was like for people in their late teens just as the late ‘Sixties  were blowing the doors off traditional sexual mores.

For poetry, Baltimore Girls.


What are you doing next?

I’m working on a set of poems about the summer and the winter solstices and the way in which gardens reflect these points in the calendar year. I’m especially interested in light and darkness and their effect on human emotions.


What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Keep writing. Send out your work. Read it aloud in any venue that will have you. Ask for feedback. Enjoy participating that great body of human effort we call poetry.



Lynne Viti is a senior lecturer in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. Her first chapbook, Baltimore Girls, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017.  Her second, The Glamorganshire Bible, will be released in early 2018. Her writing has appeared most recently in The Maynard, I Come from the World, The Thing Itself, Stillwater Review, Bear Review, In-Flight Magazine, Tin Lunchbox, Lost Sparrow, and South Florida Poetry Journal.   She was awarded Honorable Mentions in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Competition and the 2017 Concrete Wolf Louis Chapbook competition, and was named a finalist in the 2016 Grey Borders Wanted Works Poetry Chapbook Contest. She blogs at



Lynne’s WordPress

Wellesley Writing Program

Baltimore Girls on Amazon


© The Literary Librarian 2017


Interview: An Interview with Poet Sarah Nichols

Book Name and Description: She May Be a Saint

2016-11-26 14.28.39

She May Be a Saint is a chapbook of centos (poems which use lines and phrases from the work of other poems to create new poems), which use the work of C.D. Wright and Sylvia Plath as sources. It was published by Hermeneutic Chaos Press in December, 2016.

This Book is Available on Hermeneutic Chaos Press: Click Here


What gave you the idea for She May Be a Saint?

I discovered the work of C.D. Wright in 2013, while reading the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry. There was an excerpt from her book One Big Self,  a project in which Wright traveled to Southern prisons. She utilized the voices of inmates for this book, but also used her own. When I read, a line, “I had a head full of bees,” jumped out at me. I thought of combining her words with words from Plath’s “Bee Sequence” poems that appear in Ariel. I started with the one poem that came from that encounter, and every now and again I’d decide to create more Wright/Plath poems, but most did not have my voice in them—they belonged too much to Wright and Plath. In May or June of 2016 I submitted some of these poems to Hermeneutic Chaos (the journal), but they were also turned down. However, the rejection letter from the Editor in Chief, Shinjini Bhattacharjee, was so loving and encouraging. Ironically, that message cleared the way for me to write more poems; ones that sounded like me.


What got you writing in this genre? 

I’ve wanted to be a writer since childhood, but I never saw myself as a poet, and, I think, there is still that part in me that says “what are you doing ?” In 1998, I entered a college writing contest with a poem about Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. The results were posted in the cafeteria, and I had won first prize. I was stunned. I had a creative writing teacher at the time who encouraged me to go forward with poetry. That was the beginning.


How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since childhood. I don’t have any stories or poems or journals; I destroyed a lot of what I wrote in adolescence, and I regret that. Keeping a journal as a teenager sustained me. I don’t keep a journal now. This is something that I’ve wanted since I was 10 or 11. I wanted to see my books in libraries; to be published. It took a long time to figure out how that happened, and once I did, getting through the fear of sending work out. I remember I sent a short story out to a magazine when I was 16 or 17, and it was rejected, but it was encouraging; the editor told me to keep writing.


Tell us about your past books and stories?

My first chapbook of poems, The Country of No, published in 2012, came from a dark and wounded place in me. It’s a chronicle of loss, I think, and it’s hard to look at those poems today. My second chapbook, Edie (Whispering): Poems from Grey Gardens, was published in 2015. It’s a collection of found poetry taken from the transcripts of the 1975 documentary, Grey Gardens, which chronicles the daily lives of Edith Bouvier Beale, and her daughter, also named Edith. They were the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy, and they lived in a decrepit East Hampton mansion known as Grey Gardens. It was also occupied by raccoons and cats; uninhabitable. But there they were, living their lives, and being filmed. The way these two women spoke and interacted with each other, and spoke to the camera alone has a cadence. It sounds like poetry. This is a movie that I’ve known for a long time, and it came to me while watching it: I have to do a book of poems on this. It was the easiest thing I’ve ever written.

It didn’t feel like work at all. I don’t have stories, but I do have flash essays that were written for an ongoing online project, The RS 500, which is a collection of micro essays and stories inspired by, or in direct conversation with, Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of all time. I’ve been lucky to write on some of my favorite albums and artists, from Depeche Mode’s Violator to David Bowie’s Low. I started writing for it in 2016, and I will have other essays with them. I had never written about music (but I had wanted to) before then. The project’s editor, Brad Efford, gave me a wonderful opportunity. I have also, sporadically, been a film critic.


What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?

I would say that my process is haphazard. I metaphorically throw things at the wall to see what sticks. If I find something that I can work with, I tend to get obsessed. I have to step away. I would also say that a typical writing day looks like writing in long hand, making notes, looking for the right line or word. I don’t plan to have a writing day; it’s more when it strikes, and I have to be there, and use it. My biggest influences on my writing so far are seeing other women writers do the work of telling their stories. This ranges from being a part of a community of contemporaries, to looking at Emily Dickinson’s or Sylvia Plath’s work and processes.


What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why? What book disappointed you and why?

This may be the most difficult question !  My favorite book is Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates. It is his first novel, and it is perfect. It is so tightly written. It is also an extremely painful book. Yates condemns the demands of mid-century American culture, setting it in 1955 Connecticut. He writes about the absence of love, and the missed connections of damaged people. In some ways it reminds me of Ingmar Bergman’s movie Scenes from a Marriage, where this seemingly happy, bourgeois couple fall apart under a seemingly merciless camera eye. You need to be in an okay place in your head to read it. It never gets stale.  There have been many, many books that have disappointed me, but I’ll go with one; The Humbling, by Philip Roth. I find myself in a curious position of being a feminist and yet liking a great deal of his canon. American Pastoral is one of the great American novels; however, The Humbling is a failure after a brilliant first paragraph. It is self pitying and miserable, and asks the reader to believe

problematic (at best)  sexual situations that are laid out. I want to warn people away from reading it, that’s how much I hate it.


How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I still write about parts of myself or my life all the time, but I come at it differently than when I started. I use persona in my poems. As one who writes a lot of found poetry, I look at other authors’ words to write my experience. I have a forthcoming book that is all ekphrastic poetry, using the work of Diane Arbus as inspiration. I think I’m more determined to see a project through. The Arbus book, for example, had been brewing in me for a long time. I would look at her photographs, and wonder about the way “in.” I felt like it would never unlock for me, but then it did, and it got finished. I did not write any poetry from 2002 to 2007. That’s a long time to be silent. I take breaks between projects. I experience burn out, just like everyone else, no matter what they do. I’ve gotten better at knowing when to stop.


What is the best advice you ever received from another writer?

In high school, I was able to meet the novelist Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, who lived in my hometown. She inscribed one of her books with this: “Write all the time even when there is no time.” I don’t know that I understood it then, but I understand it now. I’m writing in my head, or making notes on my phone; bits and scraps that somehow turn into a poem. I might not be doing the physical act of putting words on paper, but it is happening.


How do you market your own work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

I market my work largely through social media. I belong to several writing groups on Facebook, and I share links to recently published work, or my books, which have been published by small presses. I’ve gotten better at promoting my work through Twitter. I think the next step is creating an author page on Facebook, or a website. I actively seek out people to review my work. That, I think, is the most difficult part of promoting my own work. I have a feeling of “who would want to review my work, and what if they don’t like it ?” I did nothing to promote my first book. No reviews; nothing. That has changed as I’ve gone forward.


What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

In 2015, I had a poem accepted for the anthology Emily, which was published by Porkbelly Press, and was inspired by, and in conversation with, Emily Dickinson’s work. My poem, “Recipient Unknown,” is a found poem in three parts, using Dickinson’s “Master” letters as source material. I revere Dickinson. It made me happy to have a connection to her. It was a poem that resonated with others; writers and people close to me who aren’t poets. It’s a gorgeous book, not only for my piece, but also for the other writers included in it.


What are you doing next?

My next project, which started today (October 1st) is a month long collaborative project called The Poeming. It is the second year that I have been a participant and an administrator. This year, 35 poets are making found poems out of the novels of Anne Rice (there is a writer for every one of her books.) It is entirely online, using Tumblr and Facebook. Last year, we used the novels of Stephen King as source material, and the results were incredible. One writer made gorgeous erasures using collage. Another used glitter to make erasure poems. So many of the poems written in that have been published. I can’t wait to see what this year brings.


What advice would you give other writers?

Tell your story. If you are true to it, it will come out in some way. Don’t be in a rush to get a book out. It’s wonderful when it happens, but it’s better to build solid work. It will be ready when it’s ready. It’s not going to adhere to your timetable. It has its own.



Sarah Nichols lives and writes in Connecticut. She is the author of five chapbooks, including Dreamland for Keeps (Porkbelly Press, forthcoming, 2018) and How Darkness Enters a Body (Porkbelly Press, forthcoming, 2018). Her third chapbook, She May Be a Saint (Hermeneutic Chaos Press, 2016), was selected for the Chapbook Exchange collection associated with the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University. She also serves as co-editor of Thank You for Swallowing, an online journal of feminist protest poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared in Luna Luna Magazine, Rag Queen Periodical, Thirteen Myna Birds, Calamus, Rogue Agent, and the RS 500. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015.



She Maybe a Saint on Hermeneutic Chaos Press

Edie (Whispering): Poems from Grey Gardens on Dancing Girl Press’s shop, a small press that publishes only women writers.

Sarah’s Essay on David Bowie’s Album, Low, at the RS 500

The main Tumblr blog for the Poeming project, going on for all of October, 2017.


© The Literary Librarian 2018