Interview: Emily Rose Cole, Sandy Crimmins Poetry Prize Winner

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headEmily Cole is this year’s winner of the Sandy Crimmins National Prize in Poetry. She was kind enough to sit down with us and answer a few questions about her process, plans, and love of poetry and music.

Congratulations on winning the Sandy Crimmins National Prize in Poetry for your poem, Self-Portrait as Rapunzel. Can you tell me about what inspired you to write this poem?

Thank you! “Self-Portrait as Rapunzel” is, in many ways, a family poem, so it’s mostly inspired by my relationship with my mother, and, of course, from the fairytale itself. However, one of the poem’s most direct influences is the book The Unexplained Fevers, by the wonderful Jeannine Hall Gailey. The book features a lot of Rapunzel poems and I was reading it just before I drafted my own Rapunzel poem. My poem is not a direct response to any of Gailey’s, but there’s definitely a visible influence.

I thoroughly enjoyed the language of Self Portrait as Rapunzel. I found it playful, yet challenging, and enjoyably metaphorical, but without sacrifice to narrative. When you write, do you tend to focus on any one particular aspect over another? Whether it is tempo, sound, story, structure, etc.?

Absolutely. Before I was a poet, I was (and am still) a musician, so the music of language is always the first thing I focus on when I’m writing. One of my favorite things about poetry is the way poets pay such careful attention to sound in their language. Sound is always one of my first considerations. Narrative though – that’s harder for me. Much of my work has to go through a lot of drafts before I can tease out a consistent narrative. Fortunately, Rapunzel lent itself very well to narrative, since the poem is partially modeled on the fairytale.

When did you first discover your passion for poetry?

This is a hard question to answer! I’ve loved reading poetry since I was a small child and I’ve been writing it for as long as I can remember. I was always writing poetry during free writing time in elementary school, and all my study halls in high school were more devoted to sonnets than to textbooks. I didn’t really become serious about writing poetry until my last year of college though, and now that I’m in an MFA program, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

If you could control the affect that your work has in the reader, what affect would that be?

I’m a firm believer in the power of art – any kind of art – and its ability to inspire empathy in its readers (or viewers, or listeners). I think that poetry, given its compressed nature and attention to beautiful language, is perfect for showing us reflections of ourselves and helping us empathize with one another. So that’s what I’m going for when I write: I want to inspire empathy, or, at least, powerful emotion. Ideally, that emotion will lead readers to produce some art of their own.

As both a poet and a songwriter, how do your approaches differ in respect to each medium?

I adore both mediums, and they definitely inform one another – my musical knowledge helps me with sound and rhythm and narrative tension in my poems, and my background in rhyme and meter are invaluable in my songwriting. However, I think of these two mediums as very distinct from one another. I like to think of poetry as something closer to a two-dimensional medium and music as more three-dimensional.

In poetry, I’m concerned with sound and line breaks and the way it looks on the page, but all I have to worry about is words. In songwriting, though, I have to think about lyrics, melody, layering and arranging the other instruments… It’s a very different thought process. I think that, in general, lyrics are easier for me to write because I usually build them around a backbone of melody and I don’t have to worry so much about the individual sound structure, since the music and phrasing is generally more important. That’s the wonderful thing about songwriting – poetry is pretty static unless you change the words, but music can be rephrased and reshaped; it’s different every time.

What are your plans after completing your MFA at the University of Southern Illinois?

My long-term goal is to become a creative writing teacher. This year, I have the privilege of teaching one section of Introduction to Creative Writing and I absolutely love it. First though, I need to work on my poetry thesis. I’ll be entering the final year of my MFA next fall, which means I’ll need to produce a book-length thesis. I haven’t quite decided on the exact shape of the book yet, but it’s likely that “Self-Portrait as Rapunzel” will be included!

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Interview: Eric Smith

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Eric smith headshotEric Smith will be one of the “speed date” agents attending the Push to Publish conference. Click HERE to read more about the kind of work Eric is looking for.

Eric is an author, blogger, gamer and publishing geek living and writing in Philadelphia. He is co-founder of the blog Geekadelphia as well as Philadelphia Geek Awards, a ceremony honoring local geeks. He recently transitioned into Young Adult fiction with the January publication of the novel, Inked.

Congratulations on your latest publication, Inked. Can you tell me about this project? 

Thanks Jon! Sure! Inked came out back in January, and is a YA fantasy novel about a world where tattoos are mandatory, magic, and determine your destiny. The story focuses on Caenum, a teenager who doesn’t want to be ‘inked’—and told what he’s going to be for the rest of his life—and his friends as they take off from their hometown in search of a place that’s safe from the ruling power of the Citadel. Along the way they discover the origins of the magic Ink, revealing a huge secret that threatens to tear apart their realm. It came out with Bloomsbury Spark, a digital imprint of Bloomsbury. It’s the first in what I’m hoping will be a series. The second novel is done and I’m fixing it up with my agent right now. The audiobook is due out sometime this year as well.  

As a frequent blogger and writer of essays and articles, what inspired you to branch out into the realm of young adult fiction?

Well, a few years ago I had to work on the marketing for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a YA novel by Ransom Riggs. But before diving into promoting it, I wanted to get familiar with the genre. As I read and read and read… well, I fell in love. 🙂 And I wanted to give it a shot. I’ve always wanted to write novels and that book helped steer me in the right direction. Thanks Ransom!

How might your promotion plan differ from this book as compared to your other projects?

It differed a lot. As a digital book, it’s kind of tricky to get attention and traditional publicity. So I worked with bloggers a lot. Bloomsbury sent out digital galleys everywhere and I put together a blog tour, pushed out an excerpt, etc. I suppose it’s a lot of the same kind of publicity that a physical book gets, just with a heavy emphasis on the Internet.  

As Social Media & Marketing Manager of Quirk Books, what advice do you offer to your authors? What are the most important things authors should do to help their books get discovered? 

Having an online platform is important. It’s a home base where your potential fans, current fans, and people that will be interested in selling or sharing your book (booksellers, teachers, librarians, bloggers!) can find and interact with you. It won’t sell your books, but it’ll help endear you to the community. Being part of the community is important.

You are also the co-founder of the blog Geekadelphia, as well as co-founder of the Geek Awards, a ceremony honoring Philly geeks. What is it about geek culture that you love and find most interesting?

I love how passionate the Philly geek scene is, and how… maybe helpful isn’t the right word? Altruistic? We’re a caring bunch. We all work together to help one another. Sure, you’ll see some people competing for attention in the same space quite frequently. But that never stops us from helping each other out and I just adore that.  

What’s next for you? Any projects in the works?

Fussing over a sequel to my YA book, and writing for some new places!

Can I Really Impact My Work-Life Balance?

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By Julie Cohen, who will be presenting a session on “Write-Life Balance” at the Writers at Work Conference on March 22. Click here to register.
Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

I don’t need another article or blog post about work-life balance to tell me I’m overwhelmed. Do you? The media continually reminds us that our modern lifestyle is not sustainable for a sane and satisfying life. This isn’t news to me, my peers or my clients. In working with hundreds of professionals over the past 15 years to make positive and impactful changes to their career and life, I have met very few who weren’t struggling with some aspect of work-life balance. That’s why I’m inspired to share my thoughts about how you can impact your work-life balance during World at Work’s National Work and Family Month.

While most of us are competent problem solvers at work, we tend to be so mired in the craziness of our day-to-day lives that we feel helpless to make change there. While it is unrealistic to expect to go from working 60 hours a week, singlehandedly managing your home and barely sleeping to the serene, organized and efficient operating model about which we fantasize, change is possible.

Right now, schedule a time – actually schedule it, on your calendar, in ink — when you can step back, consider the following questions and start the process.

What is driving my current choices?
If you are dissatisfied with your work-life balance and haven’t already taken steps to change it, there is likely something you gain from your situation. Be it financial security, leadership, prestige, survival, accomplishment or a host of other reasons, this represents something you value. Once you determine what drives your current choices, it is easier to consider changing or to accept that it may be too difficult to do so at this time.

For example, if you determine that prestige is driving the current intensity of your life, you get to decide if what you gain from your prestige at work is worth the stress it is having on you and your family. If it’s not, you can begin the work of change. However be open to the possibility that the choices you’re making are tied to something that is non-negotiable to you. If that’s the case, you can choose to accept the intensity of your current situation. Many of my clients have achieved satisfaction without making any changes to their work-life balance, by simply gaining awareness as to why they are working the way the are.

What am I willing to do differently?
I have many clients who are unhappy with their work-life situation and are not willing to make any changes. Often, we are so invested in the life we’ve created that the idea of doing anything differently feels impossible, pointless or scary. Yet, we’ve all heard Einstein’s quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Think about what you are comfortable doing differently. Could you leave work on time one day a week? Say ‘no’ and risk disappointing a friend or colleague? Submit a first draft that really is a first draft? Delegate real work? Experiment with just one or two new ways to do things that give you more autonomy over your own time and energy.

What might I have to risk?
With change comes risk. When you do something differently, it’s likely to have an impact. The colleague you say no to may get angry; skipping dinner with a friend to work out may disappoint your friend; asking for help from your partner may feel uncomfortable to you. In most situations, we overestimate the risk, and gain far more than expected. However, the more aware you are of what you might risk, the easier it will be to measure it against the potential benefits.

What will I gain?
Clarity about what you will gain is the best motivation for incorporating successful new behaviors into your life. Take some time out of your busy schedule – 10 minutes is enough – to define what you will gain if your work-life balance situation becomes better, more manageable, more sane, more enjoyable…you decide what you want to be different and how you want to feel and what at least one benefit could be.

These questions are not tips and they’re definitely not a magic wand. Making any type of change requires self-assessment, choice and then a commitment to actually make the change. Once you’ve done the above work, you really can make a work-life balance change and experience the benefit.

Philadelphia-based leadership/executive coach Julie Cohen, PCC, is the author of Your Work, Your Life…Your Way: 7 Keys to Work-Life Balance. Cohen provides organizations with training programs and executive coaching to enhance work life balance satisfaction, professional effectiveness and leadership development. Learn more about Cohen at http://www.7KeysToWorkLifeBalance.com. Follow her at http://www.facebook.com/7Keys or @jccoach on Twitter.

Julie Cohen, author of Your Work, Your Life … Your Way: 7 Keys to Work-Life Balance, is a Career and Personal Coach who helps her clients clarify and achieve their professional and personal goals. In this session, Julie will present a highly interactive program designed to help writers find that optimal mix of professional and personal priorities.
Follow Julie Cohen, PCC on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jccoach