With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer/blogger Cherise Hensley present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with author Loren Kleinman
In addition to writing, you also run a blog through IndieReader.com, featuring interviews with publishing professionals. What has been your favorite part of this experience? How do you decide who to interview?
I love connecting with writers at various stages in their careers. With IndieReader I’m specifically interviewing indie authors as well as hybrid authors (both indie and traditional published). There’s something very special about the interview. Yes, it’s about finding out more about their careers and all the killer stuff they’re doing, the books they wrote, their bestsellers, but it’s also an opportunity for me to stretch out national conversations about writing, especially the indie community. I still think there’s a stigma associated with indie authors, like their work is less than that of authors that choose to traditionally publish. This is a bunch of b.s. There are plenty of books, everywhere that suck and are equally excellent regardless of who publishes where.
You see, the real aspect of indie, that I love so much is not just representative of self-publishing. To me, indie has always been about staying true to oneself, and whether that’s deciding to self-publish or traditionally publish, that’s a personal decision. My goal of any interview is to show the audience how that author celebrates their authentic self. So, not only am I interested in authors that sell thousands and sometimes millions of books, I’m interested in their journeys and how they connect with their readers. It’s up to the reader to decide about their authenticity and discover how they connect with their readers, their audiences, their writing and themselves.
Can you tell us about the benefits authors may gain from joining IndieReader? Your book Indie Authors Naked tackles the world of independent publishing. How do you think indie publishing has changed the world of book publishing?
Authors don’t join IndieReader (IR); it’s more about helping readers/consumers find out about the best indie publishing. On one side, IR showcases indie authors, but on the other side, it’s about connecting indie authors with readers. IR is the definitive site for anyone who ever wants to find out more about indie authors. I also think it might’ve been the first to ever help readers discover an indie author through our IR Discovery Awards and Indie Bestseller List.
I love the fact that it really widened the playing field for many types of authors that might’ve been undiscovered or unrecognized by the traditional publishing community. I mean, not every book is rejected based on quality, and really, who the hell judges that besides the reader. For example, let’s say you have a great book about spiders and then the publishing house you want to publish with already published 50 books about spiders, well your spider book might not make the cut, but you can still self-publish your spider book.
But seriously, thank goodness for indie authors. I think we wouldn’t have some of the best literature of our time if it weren’t for indie authors sticking to what they believe in. At the end of the day it’s about the work, and if someone rejects your work they’re probably not your audience, but that doesn’t mean there is no audience.
Just check out this article by David Vinjamuri over at Forbes called “Publishing Is Broken, We’re Drowning In Indie Books – And That’s A Good Thing.” I love that Vinjamuri points to some indie authors who, later in their careers, have gone on to sign some pretty big time contracts with publishers. The point is they didn’t wait for someone to publish their book. They believed in it, regardless of the outcome. That is the true spirit of indie.
You also publish personal essays in magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Seventeen, and Cosmopolitan, and you blog regularly for The Huffington Post. Do you have any advice for writers looking to get their pieces published in these arenas?
Hustle. I spend hours a day combing the Internet for opportunities, networking with writers, editors and publishers. It’s important to have pitches ready to go and to study the style of the publication. I pay close attention to what each magazine publishes and then review their guidelines, and take a chance. For every article I publish, there are ten more that have been rejected. I just get back on the track. I can’t stop running.
The other side of this is sometimes luck. Not every piece I pitch gets picked and sometimes the ones that I think have a shot are the ones that get rejected. I’ve done my best work when I just let go and write from an honest place, when I don’t write what I think people want to hear. Again, be true to your voice and submit as much as possible. You should always have something you’re working on and at least ten to 25 submissions out there in the universe.
The more you do, the more build you create, the more energy you create. Something turns up, eventually. But, I always tell people wanting to publish anywhere, to read, to study and research what that publication is interested in. You have to put in your time, and part of that is to learn not to waste your time.
Can you tell us a little more about National Translation Month, which you co-founded with Claudia Serea? What inspired you to create this celebration of translation?
We literally started National Translation Month (NTM) on a whim when I asked Claudia to write about current translation trends and invite fellow translators to interview on various topics of translation. The blog did so well that we both decided to build it out.
So far we’re in our third year with at least six readings planned across the country for 2016 and a possible anthology we’re looking to publish. Our hope is that more people begin to celebrate writing in translation. It’s not just for academics. Translation is for everyone and we want to bring works of translation from writers of all levels into the eye of the general public.
Wordsworth once said that poetry is all about emotional outpouring, a “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”. Do you agree? Can poetry even be defined?
Wordsworth’s work was so incredibly powerful, and I think he was one of the best at preserving that emotion in the poem. Poetry seems to come out of nowhere; it wanders as lonely as a cloud. There is spontaneity, but there’s also the part where you harness that emotion, where you write from the feeling rather than writing the feeling.
My best poetry came after I had a safe distance from events in my life, where I could write objectively, or invent or reinvent myself through the language. Poetry doesn’t have to be true. The poet is the inventor. But what we invent needs to be believable, needs to showcase an authenticity.
So yes, poetry can be defined and it can’t at the same time. Sometimes I think I begin to see the poem after revision, after I begin to peel back its skin.
Where do you find inspiration for your poetry? What does your writing process look like when you’re working on a poem?
I’m always inspired. That’s the problem—and a blessing. My brain is always getting swept away in the littlest things—from the clouds to the worms to Mars. I think of a line or read something that sets my wheels turning and then I just write.
Sometimes I just fill notebooks and my phone with lines, and then go back to those notebooks and notes and just pick something and write from there.
I’m also a voracious reader. I have to read while I write; it sort of gets my engine burning, so to speak. The point is to always read and write and then think about the reading and writing. The key is to think about writing always. Writing is 50% thinking about writing and 50% actually writing.
This other aspect, this revision process is where the work actually happens. Someone once told me that writing is the honeymoon and revision is making the marriage work. I so wish I could remember who told me that, but it really makes a strong point and a great image. Revision is the part where you get to see if you’re really cut out for this writing thing because it can be a real bitch. Especially if you have tons of re-writes. This is the process. And if there’s no blood, sweat and tears you’re probably doing something wrong.
As the author of three poetry compilations, how do you decide which poems fit in each collection? Are you involved in the ordering of each poem in the book?
I don’t worry about what fits into a collection until I have a significant body of work and then I try to pay attention to any reoccurring themes. If I notice a theme keeps rearing its head then I pay attention and begin to write more based on that theme. I also work very closely with my editor, Claudia Serea and we work tirelessly to hone in on any subject and the build that subject out.
When I’m about half way done with the collection, I spread all the pages of my book out on the floor and then begin to see which poems jump out to me and order accordingly. I always, though, try to order my work into some sort of a story. Each collection should have some story to tell. It shouldn’t seem out of order. But each poem has a place for a reason; they are all turns in the story I’m trying to tell.
Your most recent poetry compilation, Breakable Things, is described as “a rattling tribute to the fragility of consciousness and memory.” In terms of technique (rhythm, meter, etc), how do you try to convey that fragility on the page?
I do this with images, but not to the point where it gets hokey. The reader needs to feel like your sharing some kind of a truth, like you’re letting them into your world. I love using nature to suggest such fragility.
There’s nothing more fragile than love, than the world around us, than the world that makes us. So what happens when these things are taken away from us? What happens when nature turns inward? How do we live our lives trauma, after we lose everything?
I use the line to tell these stories. Short lines and long lines combine to suggest emotional fragility, to take the reader in and out of love, to give and take from them, to make them cry and laugh. I use the lines to show these contrasts, to show the other side.
Some of the poems in Breakable Things have very concrete, physical elements to them, as seen from descriptions of items scratching skin or the feeling of dirt beneath one’s feet. What is it about the tangible that makes for such effective poetry?
I love reading a mix of the concrete and the surreal, and I think concrete elements allow the reader to connect with the poem: they can touch, taste, and hear. I want to bring my reader into the page with me, I want them up front, not to look away, and so I use the tangible for this reason.
If the poem is too abstract, I’m not interested. I don’t want to spend so much time wondering what the author meant that it distracts me from the poem. I don’t want distractions. I want the poem. I don’t care for being shocked either.
I use these images so my reader can walk bare foot with me, through my reinvention.
Your collection of poems Flamenco Sketches borrows its title from a Miles Davis composition, and the collection deals with the relationship between love and jazz. Are you always aware of the rhythms in your work, whether in poetry, prose, or editorial? What do you think that inherent musicality says about us not only as writers, but also as a species?
I am. I mean, I have my voice, which holds true throughout my work, but depending on the medium, the flow of the writing will change. Poetry is completely different from fiction, from non-fiction; all forms are completely different animals.
But, that’s not to say I don’t write most of my work like a poem first and then restructure. I think in poetry, which at times is great and other times, I’m like, shit, Kleinman just tell the damn story.
So back to the question, though. I think Walt Whitman talks about this inherent musicality best in his poem “Song of Myself”:
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the pass-
ing of blood and air through my lungs,
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean…
We are the song. Everything we do is a mirror of nature, is natural. Poetry just happens to capture this musicality the best. Like no other.
You have several new projects in the works, including a novel and a collection of prose poems. Can you share some details about these projects with us, including titles and release dates?
Right now I’m finishing up my first prose poetry collection called Stay with Me Awhile, a collection of essays about my search for normalcy called The Woman with a Million Hearts and a novel, This Way to Forever about a 20-something American poet who falls in love with a visiting Polish student.
The prose collection should be out March 2016 through Winter Goose and I’m hoping the novel will be out in 2017 once I find a home. The essay collection will take me some time as it’s in the early stages, but it’s shaping up to be a quirky and sexy collection that I’m hoping anyone can pick up and enjoy and get inspired from.
Thanks for the interview, Loren!
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley is currently pursuing her M.A. in English at the University of Idaho, where she teaches composition courses. She graduated from Whitworth University with a B.A. in English and marketing and also has a copy editing certification from UC San Diego. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is an editor and a writer, and loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.