If you’ve reviewed Poetry’s Possible Worlds in a magazine, or on Goodreads, Amazon, or your blog–or if you can post a review, even a brief one, in any of those venues in the next month or so–I’d be glad to send you one of the beautiful broadsides Ecotone commissioned after awarding my poem “Unsonnet” the Bradford-Niedermann Broadside Series Prize last fall. If you’d like one, just say where the review is and message me your address. A resplendent purple, the broadsides were designed and printed by Jessica C. White. The poem itself is about a wish to wind back the years; time tends to be on my mind. Whether or not you wish to add to your broadside collection, I’m very grateful for your support in any venue.
This summer, as my day job eased its clutches for a while, I’ve been thinking about time in relation to book publicity and reception. For me, the main pleasure of a review is hearing from a reader: I worked for a decade, put the book out there, and wow, someone was moved to answer! Further, although I’ve been lucky in magazine reviews for all my books, I am receiving more backchanneled notes about Poetry’s Possible Worlds than I ever have about poetry collections. I wonder if it’s a genre thing. Poetry gets pretty personal, too, but most people are less confident responding to it. Or is Poetry’s Possible Worlds simply my best book? Part of the difference is almost certainly due to hiring a publicist for the first time. Yet, like most people, I can’t see the big picture when it comes to my own career.
Maybe this sounds paradoxical, but it was actually more emotional than lucrative for me to see Poetry’s Possible Worlds on the Small Press Distribution May-June top 10 bestseller list for nonfiction. It’s gone to a second printing!!–the first time that’s happened for me anywhere near this fast. We’re not talking huge numbers; this is small press stuff, remember. But it means that a boatload of work has made some difference: organizing events, pitching op-eds, querying podcasts, biweekly Zoom strategy meetings with Heather Brown, and more. Many authors fight hard for a couple of sales here and there, whether they publish with indies or the Big Four; every famous author I’ve ever talked to can describe traveling for miles to give a reading to two people. Even a little success makes me feel less discouraged about all that effort, though–less mystified, more philosophical.
It was a privilege, this July, to read and talk with talented poets at Hugo House and Mother Foucault’s Bookstore (which you should visit for vibes as well as interesting stock if you’re ever in Portland–it’s weirder than Powell’s, and that’s a compliment). I also had a really good experience at the Cascades Writers Workshop for speculative fiction authors. The first pages of my second novel garnered affirmation and lots of useful advice. Bonus: a comic based on those pages, pictured above, from my workshop mate Natalie Leif (the second novel is sort of a Weird portal fantasy). Meanwhile, a couple of new event and interview requests came in. Plus, although it’s a little dizzying to be traveling again just days after returning from the Pacific Northwest, I’m looking forward to speaking at another sff gathering, Confluence, in Pittsburgh this weekend. Plenty of good stuff happening.
Yet in spite of, or because of, the goodness, there’s a significant part of me that doesn’t want to publish another book, at least for a long time. I love to write and share the writing. But I now know more about what serious work it is to make even a tiny ripple, and I can hardly imagine rowing this hard AGAIN. Maybe I’m just tired? My excitement has always rekindled after a while, but I’ve also never invested this much time and elbow grease. I’m even more in awe of the folks who do way more: what fierce will that must take!
Time is on my mind in another, intersecting way. Since my mother died in spring 2021, I’ve thought a lot about my years being finite and what I want from them. NOT constant work. I love travel, for instance, and energy for its rigors runs out, even when a person’s health and mobility are good; you can’t put off your dream trips forever. Then there’s climate apocalypse and economic precarity–I can travel now, but I don’t know if that will always be feasible. I was very conscious of those constraints on this lovely journey: will this be my last time on the dramatic Oregon Coast? I could be happy living in the PNW, I think, but I don’t know if that’s in the cards.
In that spirit, some pics below of loved people (and me) gazing into the distance.