Mike Mattison and Ernest Suarez, Poetic Song Verse

If you are a poet or someone who enjoys blues music, you’ll appreciate Mike Mattison and Ernest Suarez’s book, Poetic Song Verse. As a teen, I took piano lessons from a blues pianist. Up until then, my lessons had been focused on classical music. I grew out of playing those songs and wanted to learn something more my style. I was interested in rock and roll. When I sat down on the bench in my new teacher’s studio, he began talking to me about his band. He revealed to me that he wrote and played blues music. I curled my lip a little. This was not the type of music I wanted to learn. Then he played me a piece, and I lit up with excitement.

When I was contacted about posting an author interview between Mattison and Suarez, I was intrigued to read their book. I’ll have a review posted in the coming months, but for now, let’s see what motivated the two authors to write such a unique book.

Poetic Song Verse
Genre: Poetry Literary Criticism, Literary Criticism & Theory Paperback 254 pages Published by University Press of Mississippi November 1, 2021 Get your copy here

What is poetic song verse, and how has studying and writing about it changed your appreciation of the artists who practice it?

We use the term “poetic” to describe lyrics that have literary intent and that consciously strive for aesthetic impact: linguistically rich compositions that operate on many levels simultaneously, incorporating image, metaphor, narrative, and play in ways that often deliberately correlate to broader cultural conversations. We’re talking about lyrics that seek to transcend the grasp-and-release mechanism of pure entertainment, lyrics that prick our curiosity and invite repeated visits and renewed scrutiny. Poetic song verse isn’t poetry set to music, like the Beats’ poetry with jazz accompaniment, but it sometimes takes a hybrid form in recordings like Gil Scott-Heron’s or Leonard Cohen’s. The distinction we draw rests on the symbiotic relationship that most often occurs when potent lyrics and sonics are developed together. By “sonics” we mean every aural dimension of song, including voice, instrumentation, arrangement, and production. In poetic song verse, sonics combine with verbal techniques often associated with poetry—imagery, line breaks, wordplay, point of view, character, story, tone, and other qualities—to create a semantically and emotionally textured dynamic.

The book argues that artists like Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Jimi Hendrix were transformative in the development of poetic song verse, but there were allusions and poetic phrasing in lyrics long before them. What did they do that wasn’t being done previously?

Songs from many periods and in different styles contain compelling verse, but in the late fifties and the sixties blues-based popular music and the new American poetry—especially the work of the Beats—came into close contact, resulting in a concentration of songwriters who transformed songwriting from entertainment to art-that-entertains.

Poetic song verse sprung from a confluence of the blues and contemporary poetry. Both forms emphasize the sound of the human voice. Poetry’s turn toward more accessible language and the blues’ origins in the sound of the human voice helped rock absorb poetic language and techniques, and provided a catalyst for Dylan and others to change rock into a more lyrically and sonically sophisticated art form. Think about it this way: If you were a reasonably intellectual young musician who had been turned on to the blues, traditional metrical verse, or high modernist poetry such as T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, this might provide an idea of how to use allusions in a song, or provide strategies for intermingling certain types of imagery (as in some of Dylan’s, Van Morrison’s, and Joni Mitchell’s verse). But the language in most traditional and modern poetry tends to be very different from the type of language that characterizes blues-based popular music. However, when that same blues-enthralled young musician heard Howlin’ Wolf or Willie Dixon and read and heard Beat and other contemporary poets, he or she was exposed to rich, sophisticated language based on rhythms of speech (i.e., material that could serve as a powerful source for lyrics). With different twists and turns this essentially was the case for Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jim Morrison, and many others. By examining the confluence of blues and poetry in various artists’ work, and by considering the creative practices of various seminal artists and the cultural conditions and landscapes in which they worked, we identify a relatively specific subgenre of song that’s also a form of literature.

What role did the coffee houses of the 50’s play in creating this genre? What does instrumentation add to the artform?

In the late fifties and the sixties Beat coffee houses, bookstores, and nightclubs sprang up across the United States and spread to Western Europe. Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, Jim Morrison, Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and others embraced the blues and Beat coffeehouse culture, where they encountered contemporary poetry, rural blues, and folk music. After putting rock ’n’ roll of their youth aside for a handful of years, many sixties songwriters returned to the rebellious rhythms of fifties rock ’n’ roll and wedded it with verse inspired by contemporary poetry. In the mid-sixties Dylan’s rock ’n’ roll–Beat poet persona strengthened his already active sense of the possibilities between poetry and music and led to Bringing It All Back Home (1965), Highway 61 Revisited (1965), and Blonde on Blonde (1966), albums that ignited an explosion of poetic song verse. Instead of portraying themselves as the descendants of Woody Guthrie, Bukka White, and Pete Seeger, artists returned to the theatrics of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis but retained the cerebral, self-consciously artistic emphasis that characterized songs and poetry in Beat coffeehouses. This combination released Dylan and others from songwriting conventions that ranged from the length of individual songs to how albums were conceptualized, recorded, and produced. In essence, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Doors, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, the Kinks, and others followed Dylan’s lead and expanded fifties rock ’n’ rollers’ sounds and emphasis on performance, assuming often extravagant yet artistically resonant personae that resulted in songs and albums replete with ambitious wordplay and sonic arrangements.

Is poetic song verse a uniquely American invention? How did America’s history of slavery, Jim Crow, war, and sexism affect its creation?

Poetic song verse sprung from a confluence of the blues—a quintessential American art form—and various types of contemporary poetry that developed in the United States. That said, artists around the world quickly started to write songs in this mode, largely due to blues artists’ popularity in England and other countries, and to Dylan’s influence on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and others.

The history of slavery had a profound influence on the blues, which grew out of nineteenth-century spirituals and work songs, much like those styles grew out of various African musical traditions. Nineteenth century work songs and blues songs written during the era of Jim Crow often contained “coded” lyrics that indirectly commented on topics that would have raised the ire of their oppressors. This practice melded with techniques employed by contemporary poets in the work of songwriters from Dylan to Joni Mitchell to Marvin Gaye to Bruce Springsteen to Grandmaster Flash to Lucinda Williams.

The War in Vietnam also had a strong influence on many songwriters. They often combined surrealistic imagery that they encountered in contemporary poetry with imagery from various African and Western metaphysical traditions. This combination led to songs like the Stones’s “Gimme Shelter.”

What artists do you see as the contemporary and future upholders of this new tradition?

Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Kendrick Lamar, Norah Jones, Dave Grohl, Fiona Apple, Lorde, Aimee Mann, Fantastic Negrito, Josh Ritter, Lyle Lovett, Luther Dickinson, Jason Isbell

Advanced Praise for Poetic Song Verse: Blues-Based Popular Music and Poetry

“The concept of great songwriting seems to live in between worlds. Is it literature or music? Even with Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize in 2016 there is still an uneasiness with what falls where. Mike and Ernest’s work takes that discussion quite a few steps down the road and makes a strong case for the poetic song form as its own unique genre. From W. C. Handy and Langston Hughes to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen to Marvin Gaye and beyond, they follow the roots and evolution of this relatively new art form. And like Robert Palmer’s seminal work Deep Blues the exploration of the book’s subjects only enhances your love and interest in it. I’m excited to dig into many of the songs and albums that they discuss with a new-eyed appreciation and understanding. ” —Derek Trucks, Tedeschi Trucks Band

“Poetic Song Verse is a persuasive argument for the existence of a new galaxy of literary and sound expression; a legal brief of facts, purpose, and context; and a riveting narrative that is both enlightened and inspiring. It is a new way of looking at the development and consequences of twentieth-century popular, contemporaneous music just when you thought that ground reraked, overplowed, and consigned to academia. In this book the music lives again and is forever new. ” —John Snyder, five-time Grammy Award winner and founder of Artists House recording company

“Poetic Song Verse by Mike Mattison and Ernest Suarez exposes and critiques how and why time runs the bloodline of American music—blues, folk, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, pop, funk, rap, and hip-hop—as it travels the world. And race and racism are not sidestepped in this heartfelt query. The authors not only know and show, but also feel the music; they cinch up all connections, detailing the cross-pollination, as well as venture behind the scenes timely, and existentially. Poetic Song Verse reveals the artist reckoning with music in language, whether seeking atonement or praise. ” —Yusef Komunyakaa, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet

“Poetic Song Verse secures the blues and rock ‘n’ roll lyrics’ signature place in history as a literary genre. Mattison and Suarez unravel the threads linking Orpheus, Rimbaud, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, Charlie Parker, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Strummer, Lucinda Williams, Grandmaster Flash, and many other artists. During the twentieth century, the United States’ oral history was sung, not spoken; it was written in code and camouflaged by melody and rebellious rhythms that influenced artists around the world. This book translates the people’s story as told by artists. Symbolism in work songs of the enslaved and ties between bebop and beatnik jive; between 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and segregation; between poetry and psychedelic imagery; and between soul, street funk, and rap battles are peeled back and situated in their cultural contexts. The quest for freedom is never-ending—and artists’ efforts to break down barriers and influence the world has never stopped adapting and evolving. ” —Luther Dickinson, the North Mississippi Allstars

“A deep delve into the influence of blues on poetry and songwriters, Poetic Song Verse makes a meaningful contribution to both music and poetry. Mike Mattison and Ernest Suarez explain the roots of poetic song verse and connect the past and future, outlining how poets and songwriters have influenced each other over the years. A must-read. ” —Charlotte Pence, editor of The Poetics of American Song Lyrics

Need more help marketing your book? Click to find out more information about all of our marketing packages. We look forward to working with you!

October 2021

Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws. – Barbara Kingsolver

Oh Boy!

And I say, “Oh Boy,” because that’s what my husband and I were blessed with on August 30, 2020. 

What a time we live in. A time where I had a baby and had to take a break from the site. Now that my mustache man is more independent, and I have a general idea of what it takes to keep a human alive, The Book Smuggler’s Den is back up and running. I do apologize to anyone who previously submitted to the magazine and never heard back. Please understand that juggling a baby, marketing authors, and creating a monthly ezine took me some time to figure out how to balance my computer in one hand with a baby in another so that neither fall onto the pile of soiled nappies.

Being this busy and needing something to unwind with is why I love reading and writing. It gives you a break from reality, or if you’re nonfiction, a way to release any anxieties about life. In my postpartum state, I have been writing out my feelings, sometimes even deleting what I wrote on purpose because it was too angry. Nobody needs to read too much sass in a short story or essay. Saving some of that sass makes for a great addition to your next young adult novel, right?

The Book Smuggler’s Den has had a flood of book review submissions from the writing community. It makes us so happy to see how many people are giving the world something to enjoy! So many new authors and books to add to your reading challenge as we close out the year. Our featured author, Ron Yates, was a pleasure to speak to and read his new book, Ben Stempton’s Boy. We also spoke with children’s author Inger Brown about her picture book series, The Bobbling.

We invite you to come read about these authors and other book reviews we had a chance to read over the past couple of months. And a massive shout-out to any writing mammas out there. You have one of the most challenging jobs, and I commend you for your writing success.

Remember to support your local authors and bookstores!

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 10.16.39 AM

Featured Author Ron Yates

Ben Stempton’s Boy Book Review

Book Reviews

The Machine Murders by CJ Abazis

Access Point by Tom Gabbay

On the Market by Audrey Wick

Whisper of the Lotus by Gabrielle Yetter

Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon by Eve Cabanel

The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen by Cameron A. Straughan

Earthrise by Dr. Deborah Fleming

Author Interviews

Inger Brown, The Bobbling Series

Eric D. Goodman and Sally Whitney

Yang Huang, Living Treasures

Need more help marketing your book? Click to find out more information about all of our marketing packages. We look forward to working with you!

Ron Yates, Ben Stempton’s Boy

Ben Stempton's Boy
Genre: Family life fiction, family life, American literature Paperback 448 pages Published by ‎Unsolicited Press October 8, 2019 Get your copy here

The Book Smuggler’s Den had the pleasure of meeting the author of Ben Stempton’s Boy, Ron Yates. In this new novel, Yates writes about a foster graduate who is taken in by a sweet family and the experiences he has being. a “newbie” to family life. Yates is an experienced author who previously published Make It Right: A Novella and Eight Stories. Keep reading to see what tips he has for authors-to-be.

What inspired you to write a book?

I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school as a result of encouragement from exceptional English teachers. I’d become an avid reader before that, always loving a good story. The desire to spin out stories of my own was a natural outgrowth of my love of literature and writing. I continued to read throughout college and adulthood, increasingly paying attention to the authors’ techniques and how they achieved their results. I always had the sense that I’d someday write books, and I prepared myself accordingly.

Was there a book or author that you admired that played a role when developing your book?

Ben Stempton’s Boy falls into the Southern fiction genre. There are plenty of Southern writers I admire, as well as many others outside the genre. I count Flannery O’Conner, Faulkner, Hemingway, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Yates, and Elizabeth Strout as major influences.

It is often said that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?

I think it’s possible to write commercial fiction—books meant to sell copies rather than impart insight, convey truth, or leave a lasting impression—without “believing in” what you’re doing. In this sense writing is just a job. But serious writing, like the other art forms, requires belief in the value of the project as well as the artist’s talent and ability to stick with it until the finished product is as good as it can be. In this sense I perceive “believing in” as a kind of faith.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

At present, I have lapsed into non-scheduled writing, which is a sad state to be in for anyone who takes it seriously. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by projects, politics, the state of the world, and the minutiae of daily life. But to write successfully—to actually produce enough writing so that some of it is good—one has to plant butt in chair at the writing desk on a regular basis. When I was working on Ben Stempton’s Boy, I’d rise at three in the morning and work for a few hours while the house was quiet and my mind fresh. That schedule proved to be effective for me. Writers who wait for inspiration typically don’t get much done. I think this principal holds true for other artistic pursuits as well.
Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?

The concept of style is hard to pin down. It involves voice, tone, mood, imagery (or the lack of it), along with the use of a variety of literary techniques. I’m a careful writer, striving for clarity while paying attention to the music of each line. I look at words, phrases, and sentences as building blocks that must be carefully chosen for sound, connotation, denotation, symbolic value, and pacing. I write very carefully in an attempt to make the writing not sound like writing but something that naturally spools out from my pen into the reader’s brain.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing? What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

Adequately imagining a scene is very difficult, and vivid scenes are important if the work is to unfold like a movie in the reader’s mind. The bedroom, kitchen, office, riverbank, bar, or whatever must become a hard reality in the writer’s imagination if she is to convey it convincingly to the reader. This requires a kind of energy that I think is often misunderstood. Revising—which is just as important as the initial imagining—requires a different way of thinking and is therefore easier, but still difficult because the writer has to step back from the work and view it objectively. There is really nothing easy about writing.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last? Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

I believe that for most of us “writer’s block” is a form of avoidance. Because we know that sitting down and creating something that didn’t exist before will be difficult, we, perhaps subconsciously, devise ways to avoid the discomfort. There will always be something else that needs attention. We might say to ourselves, “I’ll work on that chapter after I clean the oven.” Then, when we sit down to write, we are still thinking about the oven or the other things that need doing that only require a mechanical energy, and nothing comes to mind. This is where faith comes in. We have to believe that our calling to write is legitimate and the work worth pursuing in order to overcome our natural aversion to pain.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

Don’t read junk. Find the best authors and read them incessantly. Follow a writing schedule. Become your own harshest critic. Revise. Read your work aloud as you revise. Learn that less is often more. Don’t underestimate your readers by doing too much of the work for them. Instead, let them take part in the process of making meaning.

Are you working on something new at the moment?

I have some ideas for a memoir of sorts that will explore a broad theme by weaving in personal narratives, essays, and observations. At this stage, sadly, I’m lingering in avoidance mode.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I hope anyone who’s read this far will continue the journey by checking out my website—https://ronyates.net. There are blog posts there about culture, the writing process, creativity, food, and the making of Ben Stempton’s Boy. Readers who’d like a signed copy of either of my books can order directly from the website. The books are also available through major online retailers.

Thanks for reading, and please remember that authors appreciate honest reviews, wherever they are posted.

Need more help marketing your book? Click to find out more information about all of our marketing packages. We look forward to working with you!

The Bobbling Series

Inger Brown, The Bobbling Series

The Bobbling Series
Genre: Literature & Fiction for Children Paperback 36 pages Independently Published August 20, 2021 Get your copy here

I’m so excited to introduce to you all Inger Brown, author of The Bobbling Series. The Book Smuggler’s Den doesn’t get to speak to many children’s authors, so it was a pleasure to learn more about writing a series of picture books for kiddos to enjoy. Inger sent me a copy of The Bobbling and The Dragon and we felt it was the cutest story. I showed my son the pictures and he gave me a big smile. Looks like we found our new favorite bedtime book!

What inspired you to write a book?

I have released two books this year “The Bobbling and the Dragon” and “The Bobbling’s Christmas Nutcracker”. The first book I have always wanted to do a book with dragon’s so I finally managed to fit one in with my Bobbling series. The second book “The Bobbling’s Christmas Nutcracker” is quite special as it is my first chapter book and it was inspired obviously by the ballet. I am a big Nureyev fan and I saw his Nutcracker on DVD, it was awe-inspiring and then this story came from seeing that. My book is nothing like the ballet though apart from a whippet being in a tutu haha…

Was there a book or author that you admired that played a role when developing your book?

I take inspiration from a lot of places, soaking it up from all over whether it is music, film and articles, books or even a conversation that you have with someone can trigger inspiration. I do obviously look at other children’s books Dr Seuss is amazing, he is on another level. I love the fact that he writes with rhythm, it is something that is very hard to do but he nails it every time.

They say that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?

It is true in everything you do in life. If you don’t believe in yourself who will lol. I think you have to believe that your project has a place in the world, if you don’t believe in it then you cannot put your best into your project. So yes I truly believe The Bobbling has a place in the world even if just to make people laugh for a moment.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

I write when I feel inspired or when a story is formed in my head. As an illustrator I have set days/ evenings that I draw. Like everyone in the world, I get very tired as I work full time. If I am too tired I do not create very good work and this makes me very frustrated and angry so I limited myself to when I am well-rested.

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?

Writing for very young children can be difficult, you do need to keep things fairly simple in that you cannot expect the audience to know or assume they understand something. You need to be direct in your story, with adults I think you can leave storylines open for them to decide and you can assume they understand things.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing? I hate admitting to the fact I am dyslexic but at the same time, I should be open so kids realize the door to being an author is not shut to them. But sometimes I find grammar and absolute mind field, especially as one person says one thing another person will think another on the matter.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last? Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

Yes Everyone does! don’t believe them if they say otherwise haha… The best thing to do I find is to not dwell on it and do something else. Go for a walk, watch some TV soak up other things in life and don’t just do it for an hour and expect it to go away, writers block lingers. Leave it for about a week and then when your mind is elsewhere and you have cleared it something will come along when you come back afresh.

Inger brown
Genre: Literature & Fiction for Children Paperback 86 pages Independently Published September 29, 2021 Get your copy here

Are you working on something new at the moment?

Yes, I have already started the next Bobbling series book. He is my guy, I love doing stories for him, we can go anywhere and do anything the possibilities are endless. I have moved into doing these highly illustrated chapter books so I have a bit more scope for being able to do a longer more interesting story which I am enjoying at the moment.

Thanks for giving us insight into what it means to be a children’s author Inger! You can follow Inger online to stay up-to-date about the Bobbling Series and be sure to visit Austin Macauley Publishers for further information and to purchase your copies.

Instagram @the_bobbling
Facebook @thebobbling1
Twitter @thebobbling
TickTok @thebobbling

Need more help marketing your book? Click to find out more information about all of our marketing packages. We look forward to working with you!

Let’s Chat with Author S.B. Julian

Hello Book Smugglers!

Today we had the chance to speak with S.B. Julian who is the author of Women Who Made the World. In Julian’s book, she provides snapshots of the lives and careers of over 50 accomplished women. Keep reading to see what Julian has to say about being a published author and the inspiration for, Women Who Made the World.

Genre: Non-fiction, history, biography Paperback 86 pages Published by Ninshu Press, 2018 email orcamonth@gmail.com to get your copy today

What inspired you to write a book? 

I don’t know, I’ve been writing since I first learned to read and write in childhood. I’ve always worked with books, as a librarian and a bookseller. I think being a life-long reader tempts one to cross over to the writing side.

Was there a book or author that you admired that played a role when developing your book?

I kept reading articles which mournfully claim that women were somehow silent, excluded and invisible in past times, which seems to dismiss unfairly the brilliant fore-mothers who wrote, invented, created and founded the works, movements and institutions that make up the modern world. I collected examples from various fields: scholarship, science, arts, literature, theology and social justice, and decided to present them in a short handbook of biographical sketches of women who co-created the world along with men. I think girls and students need to know this, that it is more inspiring for them than is a victim narrative, and that to ignore the accomplished and highly educated women of past times is another form of misogyny, part of our general ignorance of history.

It is often said that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?

Yes, it must be hard to write about something you’re not excited about or to write without enjoying yourself.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

I write on a schedule, starting early and alternately writing and researching all day, and taking beach-walk breaks in between. I’m lucky enough to live near woods and streams.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing? What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

The hardest thing about writing is “marketing” it, and learning the ever-changing technology we have to use in order to produce and share it. Writing itself is the easy part.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last? Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

I haven’t had a problem with writer’s block. (Writer’s diarrhea maybe …) I work sometimes as a Memoirs Coach with seniors in community centers, and recently found it exhilarating to collect printed memoirs of post-WW2 immigrants to Canada as a Readers Theatre script of monologue and dialogue, which has been performed for enthusiastic audiences. I’m interested in personal storytelling as a way to convey history, and in exploring taking writing from page to spoken word.

Are you working on something new at the moment?

I’m writing some plays, a children’s story in verse (a new departure – I decided to play in a different sandbox for a change), and an informational chapbook for readers and writers on law and customs around censorship and freedom of speech in Canada and the world.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Just to salute my tribe! I hope the upcoming generations like books as much as we do, and as much as they like their smartphones.

Women Who Made the World is available in print or as a pdf file from orcamonth@gmail.com. You can read further about Julian on the Penisula New Review.

C.B. Anderson, Roots in the Sky, Boots on the Ground

Book Smuggler Den contributor, Carol Smallwood had the chance to speak with C.B. Anderson about his new book available on Amazon. Smallwood is a literary reader, judge, and interviewer who recently published a poetry collection Patterns: Moments in Time. Let’s see what Anderson had to say about being a writer and his new book!

Genre: Poetry, Paperback 107 pages, Published March 29, 2019)by Kelsay Books Find it on Amazon here

Smallwood: Joseph S. Salemi commented on Roots in the Sky, Boots
on the Ground: Metaphysical Poems: “On the one hand it aspires to a
high level of intellectual seriousness, but at the same time, the book
maintains an unbreakable link to our terrestrial limitations.”

Its cover and format make it a very attractive book. Many (besides
me) will recognize you from the very popular PBS television series of
over twenty years, The Victory Garden, in which you were the head
gardener. What is some of your other background?

Anderson: Well, I matriculated at Wesleyan University in Middletown CT, where I had an opportunity to study poetry under Richard Wilbur. Alas, I did not take
advantage of this, because I did not know then what I would be doing some
forty or fifty years later. For three years I lived in a mountain valley in rural
Arizona, where I worked for the local ranchers as a cowboy. I later continued
my college education at Harvard University Extension, where I finally earned
my bachelor degree c. 1988. While there, I took courses from Calvert
Watkins, the greatest American Indo-Europeanist, which still informs my
tendency to borrow from other languages in the family, which include
Sanskrit, Farsi & Tocharian A & B. I grew up in a small town in eastern
Pennsylvania when there were still many woods around to wander in.

Smallwood: How did you come upon metaphysical poetry? It makes
me think of grad classes and difficult poets to understand like John
Donne! You have a lot of courage to use it.

Anderson: I think I read my first John Donne poem for a high school English
class. Back then you could still get a decent education in a public school.
Why do you say that John Donne is difficult to understand? His language is a
bit archaic, but his themes seem fairly modern. It didn’t take courage on my
part to cozy up to him. The man was a straight shooter, as I myself would
wish to be considered.

Smallwood: What are some popular subjects of classical
metaphysical poets and how do they compare with yours?

Anderson: There is always present the contemplation of the divine and what it
might mean for those of us who live within the sphere of the created
world. And then there is erotic love, or sex, which is the eternal subject
around which the world revolves. In many respects, not much has changed in
the past four hundred years.

Smallwood: A conceit is a metaphor that compares two very dissimilar
things and metaphysical conceits are usually bold and complex.
Please give an example of a conceit in one of your poems and why
you selected it.

Anderson: Let’s take “Escrow”—the conceit, in the normal sense of the word, is
that I can address God as a peer, as an equal, in other words. This is clearly
absurd, but the Lord is merciful and metes no punishment to those who take
liberties with conventional etiquette and reverence. The reason I selected it
has to do with the fact that in the past few years a number of my oldest closest
friends have passed away.

Smallwood: Which of the 80 poems in Roots in the Sky, Boots on the
Ground: Metaphysical Poems, was the most difficult to write and why?

Anderson: The most difficult to write? Maybe “Who” owing to the fact that I don’t
write a lot of blank verse, and that I felt I was putting myself at risk for a
fatwa. But honestly, “Goats” might have been the most difficult in a technical
sense, because it’s hard to turn a rhyme every two beats.

Smallwood: Did Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder use your gardening

Anderson: Who can say? If I wrote any poems where plants are mentioned, the
answer is obvious. Incredibly, in neither of these two volumes do any of my
advertently horticultural poems appear.

Smallwood: What are some links to your poetry and prose in Society of
Classical Poets for readers?

Anderson: It’s not necessarily exhaustive, but it serves the purpose.

Smallwood: Around 700 of your poems have appeared internationally
in such magazines as Lucid Rhythms, The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg
Review. What are a few of the most recent ones?

Anderson: Most recently my poems have appeared in Snakeskin, Better than
Starbucks, and Expansive Poetry Online. They should be fairly easy to find if
one is willing to undertake a concerted search.

Smallwood: Are you working on another book, and do you also write
fiction, nonfiction?

Anderson: For the most part, I write nothing but poetry, though I did publish, “How to Write an Alexandroid” at Society of Classical Poets. I sometimes wish I
were able to write good science fiction, but so far I am only proficient at
reading it.

Need more help marketing your book? Click to find out more information about all of our marketing packages. We look forward to working with you!

Let’s Chat With Eric D. Goodman and Sally Whitney

The Book Smuggler’s Den had a fantastic author interview submission from Eric D. Goodman and Sally Whitney. Eric and Sally were first published together in the 2007 anthology, New Lines from the Old Line State: An Anthology of Maryland Writers. Sally’s second novel, When Enemies Offend Thee, was released by Pen-L Publishing in March 2020, and Eric’s fifth book, The Color of Jadeite, was published by Loyola’s Apprentice House Press October 2020. Both are interested in the other’s work, so they wanted to get together and talk about their new novels, writing processes, and what comes next.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I’ll be compensated at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I love! More info here.

Sally: In The Color of Jadeite, your descriptions of the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace and other locations are vividly detailed. I know you travel a great deal, and I think you’ve been to China. Have you visited the locations you describe or did you rely on research? Also, why did you choose to write about these particular locations?

Eric: Yes, the Chinese locations featured in The Color of Jadeite are all places I have visited. We spent a little more than two weeks exploring China, focused mainly on Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an with stops in Suzhou and Hangzhou. The architecture and culture seemed so exotic to me that even as we were touring I found myself thinking, “this would be a great setting for a novel” or “I have to set a scene here.” The Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, and the Terracotta Army—these were all places that simply amazed me when we were there taking it in, and they left an impression. That impression shows up all over this novel. I sometimes jokingly call this a “novel in settings” because part of my goal as I plotted out the novel was to get the characters to all of these locations I wanted to use not only as colorful backdrops but as pivotal parts of the story.

Now, a question for you: When Enemies Offend Thee is your second novel. Did you change your writing process for book two, or did you find that your writing habits were very much the same?

Sally: I didn’t really have a writing process when I started writing my first novel, Surface and Shadow. I had a setting that was important to me, a character who was important to me, and a nugget of a plotline when I plunged right in. As a result I had to make a lot of changes not only with revisions but as I wrote the first draft. I had to combine a couple of characters and add a character who became critical to the story. I also deleted a lot of scenes. With When Enemies Offend Thee, I did much more planning before I began writing. I didn’t do a detailed outline, but I did have a much greater sense of where the story was going and how. I didn’t know how either book would end when I began writing, so that part of my process didn’t change. And even with the increased planning of the second book, it took me the same amount of time to write it as the first.

Is this your first novel in which the story started with setting, or have you used that approach before in writing novels or short stories? I know setting frequently inspires my stories. What aspect of story-telling most frequently inspires your ideas?

Eric: Although setting is usually an important part to a story, often being sort of a character in itself, I normally don’t start with setting as I did with Jadeite. Most often a story or book sparks from either an idea or a scene. I’ll have a sort of vision of dialogue between two people, or think of a situation that seems interesting, and a story evolves from that. As an example, my novel Womb began with me pondering the most unusual narrator I could think of, and once I thought about the idea of an unborn narrator, the story grew from that simple idea. Setting the Family Free began with the real news story and then me imagining how the story unfolded differently for different people. Some of the stories from Tracks began with snippets of dialogue between people in certain situations that grew into stories and, ultimately, a novel in stories. I guess a story can come from anywhere, but for me it’s normally either an idea or a specific scene.

You mentioned that setting often inspires your writing. Both of your novels take place in small towns. Is this a reflection of your own affinity for small towns, or a desire to introduce small towns to big-city-dwelling readers?

Sally: Surface and Shadow is set in a small mill town because part of my inspiration for the novel was to preserve the small-mill-town culture that flourished in the United States from the late 19th to late 20th centuries. By the year 2000, most small mills had been sold to larger manufacturers, and jobs were moved to larger cities or overseas. I grew up in that culture, and I wanted people to know what it was like, because once the mills were gone, the towns changed. In When Enemies Offend Thee, which takes place in 2011, I wanted to explore the ways the towns changed when the largest employer was no longer there. In the novel, the mental unease caused by lack of jobs plays an important role in shaping the characters and the plot. In both novels I also hoped to use the culture and customs of a single town to express a larger universal experience.

The Color of Jadeite is a noir detective story, which makes it different from your other novels. Why did you decide to pursue this type of fiction? Is it a genre you read often? What were its most challenging aspects to write?

Eric: Writing in this genre and voice was a fun challenge. I tend to read more literary fiction and mainstream fiction than noir detective novels, but I always did want to write an adventure story of this sort. The biggest challenge for me was probably plotting it out. Often, although I know where I’m headed, I feel my way through a novel. For this book, I had the entire thing plotted out in order to get the characters to each place, and coordinate who was where when (and who was alive or dead). With drama or literary fiction, I think there’s more room to let your characters take you where they want. But with a thriller that involves multiple places and characters, I felt the need to map everything out ahead of time. That said, there was still room for unexpected dialogue and character traits to evolve unexpectedly.

Characters who “cross the line” after you fall in love with them can be fascinating. In When Enemies Offend Thee we follow Clementine as she begins going down a dark path, making decisions she never would have considered at the novel’s start. How did you navigate that path without sacrificing the readers staying “on board” with her decisions?

Sally: This is a great question because it goes to the heart of probably the biggest challenge I faced in writing When Enemies Offend Thee. I wasn’t sure of all the things Clementine would do when I began the book, but that was one of my inspirations: to explore how far a person would go to right a wrong that had been done to her. My goal was to make her motivations so moving and believable that readers would understand her actions even if they didn’t agree with them. I also used a lot of interior monologue to show what was going on in her mind, that she didn’t come to some of these decisions easily. Her state of mind is critical to the story as she becomes more desperate when each plan fails. I wanted readers to feel empathy for her, and maybe a little respect for her courage, rather than judge her.

Eric: You certainly did a good job of putting us in her mind and making the reader understand her thought process as she made her decisions. In this way, I think she judged herself before the reader thinks to.

Sally: Thanks for your comment about conveying Clementine’s state of mind. So far, most readers who’ve posted reviews did understand and empathize with her. A few, however, shared the concerns of one reader who said, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS WOMAN?” in all caps just like that. Guess that was to be expected.

The plot of The Color of Jadeite includes searching for intriguing clues such as “where the chicken hangs, the frog bleeds” and objects like the cricket cage and coin. What process did you use to create the clues and decide on the objects? Were they part of your original plotting or did they come to you as you were writing? Do you have a favorite clue?

Eric: Yes, coming up with the clues was a fun and sometimes challenging part of the plotting. Most of the clues and the items they led to were part of the plotting, before the writing. Some didn’t appear until my later drafts, or evolved from one thing to another. I tried to tie as many as I could to actual items we saw during our time in China that otherwise would not have made it into the plot—pet crickets and cricket fighting, clay barrels of rice wine, penjing trees in gardens, and terra-cotta warrior factories. I think my favorite clue was the last one, which managed to involve a misinterpreted translation, an image on Chinese currency, and a historic landmark all in one.

You describe Clementine’s antique shop so vividly that you can almost see, feel, and smell it. Did you have an actual shop in mind when writing? Did you find yourself going to antique shops more often to help with the descriptions?

Sally: Creating Clementine’s antique shop was one of the easiest jobs I’ve ever had in writing fiction because I knew exactly how it looked, felt, and smelled. I’ve been an avid antiques collector for most of my adult life and have lingered lovingly in antique shops throughout the eastern and midwestern United States, as well as in Anchorage, Alaska, and on Portobello Road in London. I’ve often thought about how much fun it would be to own my own shop, so I indulged that fantasy through Clementine. The color of the walls, the selection of items, and the arrangement of items in her shop are very similar to what they would be if the shop were mine. I totally felt her love for her shop.

Each of the four main characters in The Color of Jadeite is distinctly different from the others. Why did you choose this particular mix of personalities? What does each contribute to the story?

Eric: That’s an interesting question. I mentioned that the plot was well mapped out for this novel, but other areas evolved as I wrote. These characters are a good example of that. In my first draft it was just Clive and Wei Wei as the main characters, and Mackenzie remained in the states as a friend Clive called for help with the clues from time to time. I needed more interplay in the scenes, so in a later draft I brought Mackenzie in from the beginning and introduced Salvador. He was initially meant to be comic relief, but turned out to become a beloved character. And Mark is a fifth character who plays a larger role in the last half of the book. When there wasn’t tension in the action, I tried to create tension between the characters: romance and uncertainty between Clive and Wei Wei, brother-sister-like love between Clive and Mackenzie, a sort of sibling rivalry between Salvador and Mark, a love-hate two-way street between Mackenzie and Mark, and a sort of sidekick loyalty between Salvador and Clive. These sometimes tricky relationships not only helped make the dialogue more interesting, it created opportunities for the characters (and readers) to place blame and suspicion.

Speaking of characters: Both of your novels feature strong female characters who have to fight their way through the challenges of a male-dominated society. What do you think makes a strong female character? To what degree do you feel women are challenged by these types of burdens today?

Sally: A strong female character is the same as a strong male character only more so. First of all, she’s a human being with personal integrity and alliance to who she is. She’s on a passionate journey to change the world or herself, even though she may not realize it. She has flaws that may make it difficult for her to accomplish the goal she seeks, but she also has the courage and wisdom to rise above those flaws. The reason she has to be more so than a male character is that society expects less of her and throws more obstacles in her way. Fortunately, this is less true now than it was in 1972 when Surface and Shadow takes place, but, as evidenced in the 2011 world of When Enemies Offend Thee, these problems continue, and they still exist today. While, unlike Lydia, married women today are able to get library cards—and credit cards and bank accounts—in their own names, they still make significantly lower salaries than their husbands and assume a greater responsibility for child care. Until these and other restraints are removed, women and literary heroines will have to fight harder for their accomplishments and to be the people they want to be.

Of all your novels, which was the hardest to write and why?

Eric: That’s a tough one. Each novel has had its own set of challenges. For the novel in stories, it was finding as many subtle connections between the characters and stories as I could. For the novel in utero, it was the limitations of the perspective itself. For my last novel, Setting the Family Free, it was finding a multitude of different points of view for telling the story. But I would venture to say The Color of Jadeite, although my most traditional A-to-B novel, was the most challenging. This was in part because of the need to plot everything out ahead of time, and trying to keep the interactions of the characters and their logistics in balance. I found the organization of navigating the characters from one place and one clue to another to be challenging at times. But I’d do it again in a Shanghai second.

Your books are both entertaining and enlightening. They have strong characters, plots, and messages. Which of these elements spark the beginnings of a book for you—the seed? Which is most important when finishing a novel–the result?

Sally: Looking back at their beginnings, I feel like my stories were sparked by a swirl of ideas, but I realize that at their core, they started with a character. For Surface and Shadow, I wanted to write about a woman in the 1970s who wasn’t sure whether the Women’s Movement was a good thing but who knew something was wrong in her life. The 70s were a turbulent time for some women, and I wanted to explore that angst. For When Enemies Offend Thee, I wanted to write about a woman who realized nobody was going to help her right a terrible wrong that had been done to her. The events and additional characters that came to be the novels grew from those two women. At the end, the initial characters were still most important because they were the ones who conveyed the message.

The Color of Jadeite is a mixture of exciting action, luscious settings, and interesting history. What do you hope readers remember most about the novel?

Eric: It’s funny, but I’ve gotten similar questions before worded in a different way and gave different answers. But because of the way you asked it, I realize that I should focus on the original inspiration for the novel: I hope readers come away with an appreciation of other cultures and a desire to learn more about the history and culture of new and exciting places. That, after all, is what inspired the novel to begin with—exploration of China and its culture and history and a desire to share it through a story. On a more basic level, this is a thriller, and I would be happy if readers simply come away feeling like they’ve had a good adventure, an enjoyable read, and gotten to know some interesting characters. Maybe some of whom they’d like to spend more time with in the future.

When Enemies Offend Thee is an interesting name, sounding almost like a quote from a poem or book. What inspired the title?

Sally: One of my favorite characters in the novel is Pete Ritchie, who owns the hardware store down the street from Clementine’s antique shop. Pete is a somber fellow with a long, thin face, and his first reaction to the shop is that it’ll never be a success, although he later becomes a supporter. One of his quirks is that he likes to quote Bible verses, most of which he misquotes. When he finds Clementine fighting back tears after an unpleasant encounter with Gary a few weeks after the assault, he tells her, “You know, it says in the Bible, ‘Tears wash misery from the mind, just as water washes dirt from the body.’ It’s good to cry every now and then.” Before he leaves the shop, his parting words are “The Bible also says, ‘Rise up with might when enemies offend thee. From the depths of retribution spring resolution and respect.’” He doesn’t know it, but he’s summed up much of Clementine’s state of mind throughout the rest of the novel.

Eric: Yes, I remember that—I enjoyed his biblical-sounding quotes that were sometimes in no way biblical.

Sally: Final question: What are you working on next?

Eric: I’m finishing up rewrites on a short novel, or novella, called Wrecks and Ruins. It’s sort of an anti-love story that ends up correcting itself. You may remember my short story that was published—along with your story—in the anthology of Maryland writers, New Lines from the Old Line State. My story, “Cicadas,” was about a playboy who was resisting settling down during the cicada infestation of 2004. Recently I had been planning to write a story about a husband and wife who still love one another but aren’t in love and who decide to divorce but remain friends. As the idea germinated, I realized not only that the next 17-year emergence of Brood X was coming in 2021, but that the characters from that story would be ideal in age and personality for the telling of this story. So although it began as an original idea, it ended up being a sequel of sorts. My ambition is to have Wrecks and Ruins out next year, with the actual cicadas serving as a backdrop.

How about you? What are you working on next?

Sally: My new novel explores the reactions of a group of parents when the best player on their sons’ eighth-grade basketball team, who also happens to be the only Black player on the team, is seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver. Was the encounter strictly an accident? Or was it the result of community resentment against the newcomer who’s overshadowing the town’s native sons? Was one of the parents involved? It marks a return to Tanner, N.C., where Surface and Shadow and When Enemies Offend Thee take place, but this time it’s 1984, and the townspeople are dealing with different kinds of changes.

About Eric D. Goodman

Eric D. Goodman is a full-time writer who lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife and children. He is author of Setting the Family Free (Apprentice House Press, 2019), Womb: a novel in utero, (Merge Publishing, 2017), Tracks: A Novel in Stories, (Atticus Books, 2011), and Flightless Goose, a storybook for children (Writer’s Lair Books, 2008). More than a hundred of his works of short fiction, travel stories, and articles about writing have been published in literary journals and periodicals. When he’s not writing, Eric loves traveling, and most of the settings in The Color of Jadeite are places he has visited. Founder and curator of Baltimore’s popular Lit and Art Reading Series, Eric can be found at Facebook, Twitter, and www.EricDGoodman.com.

About Sally Whitney

Although Sally Whitney has spent most of her adult life in other parts of the United States, her imagination lives in the South, the homeland of her childhood. Both of her novels, When Enemies Offend Thee (Pen-L Publishing 2020) and Surface and Shadow (Pen-L Publishing 2016) take place in the fictional town of Tanner, N.C. The short stories she writes have been published in literary magazines and anthologies, including Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest 2017 and Grow Old Along With Me—The Best Is Yet To Be, the audio version of which was a Grammy Award finalist in the Spoken Word or Nonmusical Album category. She currently lives in Pennsylvania and can be reached at www.sallywhitney.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Need more help marketing your book? Click to find out more information about all of our marketing packages. We look forward to working with you!

Douglas Cole, The Blue Island

Hello Smugglers! Douglas Cole joins us here in the den to talk about his collection of poems, Blue Island. His poetry ranges from fine lyrics to long narratives, showing a true appreciation for life. You’ll find so much here, so don’t miss out on what Cole has to say about being a writer and a poet.

Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 11.08.35 AM
Genre: Poetry, Paperback 105 pages Published 2019 by Kelsay Books Find it on Amazon here

What gave you the desire, impetus, to write your latest
collection of poems which you divided into such sections as Ascent to
the Gallows?

Well, it’s definitely different from the collections that came before. Looking back, I can see that Interstate is inspired by driving, the road, and the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. It’s a kind of travelogue, both external and internal. Then, Western Dream came about as a sort of comedy set on the West Coast. I wanted humor to be a strong part of the personality of that collection. The Dice Throwers is a mythologized autobiography, and Bali Poems is a dreamy collection I wrote on a trip to the island of Bali. The Gold Tooth in the Crooked Smile of God is a set of snapshots over five years, made up outcasts, misfits and characters on the fringes of society, with a strong Alki flavor. In contrast, The Blue Island is theatrical, cinematic, the way “Ascent to the Gallows,” is a kind of movie. I was glad the folks I asked to read it for blurbs caught on to that. Not that I’m attached to readers seeing the same way I do, but The Blue Island is a quadruple-feature. I’ve always wanted to make films, studied film in college, thought and dreamed in technicolor. So, among the other books, The Blue Island comes most specifically from the desire to make a movie….

Has being a resident of the state of Washington influenced this collection?

At first, I thought, no. But that’s only true in regard to the “Ascent to the Gallows” section, which is largely set in Paris, France. However, that’s only because that section is a movie within a movie based on the Louise Malle film as I dreamed it (without watching it), based solely on listening to, riffing on, and extrapolating from the Miles Davis Soundtrack. But when I look again, think again, I see details that come straight out of the Northwest landscape. The other sections, too, have definite details, locations and images that are specifically Northwest. I have to admit it, the landscape of the Northwest is all over my writing.

You’ve published other poetry collections such as The Gold Tooth in the Crooked Smile of God. When did you begin writing poetry and have you had other genres published?

I began writing poetry right off the bat. Always. I love it, love the freedom of it. But I also write and have published fiction and non-fiction.

What work won the Best of the Net Award? Nominations for a Pushcart and other awards?

A poem called “Trunyan,” from Bali Poems, was nominated for a best of the net. A poem called “Rattlesnake,” from Interstate, was nominated for a Pushcart. And a story called “Flight,” which is an excerpt from a forthcoming novel, was nominated for a Best of the net and a Pushcart.

How would you describe your writing style?

It starts as a stream of consciousness, a mind movie. When I decide to make it public, I think I go through a process of making anything like style transparent, so that you just read and get lost in the dream. If you wake up and think, oh, that was beautifully written, that’s my ego getting in the way.

What are 5 magazines in which you appear among so many?

Well, five journals I’ve published in that stand out because they’re pretty well known (at least to publishing writers) are Midwest Quarterly, Mid-American Poetry Review, The Chicago Quarterly Review, Chiron, and Bitter Oleander. Those were journals I wanted very much to be in and sent a lot of stuff to over the years. But there’s another five that stand out for me even more because they were the first to publish anything of mine when I didn’t have any publishing credits: Raven Chronicles (now closed) published a poem of mine I submitted when I started sending work out thinking that a few publications might help me get into graduate school; that journal was just starting out and was located in Seattle. I felt very proud to be in that journal. Then there was Slipstream, which was the first glossy, perfect bound journal I was in, and then Jeopardy, Louisiana Literature, and a journal (I don’t think it’s around anymore) called the Mandrake Poetry Review, which was published somewhere out of Prague…I think it was? I can’t remember, but they took seven poems of mine, and I just felt like a superstar. That was a fun moment.

How does being a writing teacher relate to being a writer, as I can see it being both good and bad.

I’ve only experienced it as a positive relationship. If I say something as a writing teacher, like, for example, ‘you should be ruthless in revision,’ I apply it to myself. It’s good to practice what you teach.

Do you have social media to share?

You can follow me on Facebook and Instagram. I also have these publications for sale available on Amazon. Please visit https://douglastcole.com for more information about my publications and to see further reviews of my works.

Need more help marketing your book? Click to find out more information about all of our marketing packages. We look forward to working with you!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, How To Do It Frugally Series

Today we have a very special interview with author Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Johnson is the author of the multi-award-winning How To Do It Frugally Series. Johnson develops and shares new approaches for book promotion. Here series is great for all the indie authors here in the Den.

Genre: Advertising, business, financing Paperback 416 pages Published August 25, 2011 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Find it on Amazon here

 I’ll begin with your award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won’t. What led you to develop it?

Mistakes. I made so many promotion mistakes with my first book, the award-winning novel This Is the Place! Even with a background in publicity, marketing, and journalism. Not least of which were these two nearly universally false assumptions:

1. Your publisher will assign you a publicist and all your book’s promotion will be taken care of.

2. Once an author realizes that she must take her book’s promotion in hand, a publicist is essential and one book publicist is about as good as the other.

Naturally, Carol, I had to share my experiences. I guess I’ve got that sharing streak that most teachers have in my blood. Oh, then there was that little thing: I wanted to share all my booboos and lessons with other authors so I applied to do a class at UCLA and they accepted. And, yep, there I was with tons of marketing books—none of them that addressed the special needs of authors!

 What is your favorite way for poets to promote?

My favorite is, of course, that anyone, even the shyest can promote. There are lots of ways to do that and resources discussed in The Frugal Book Promoter.

What is unique about you is your belief that authors should work together to promote their work. Tell us a little about your experience in helping and sharing your knowledge.

Awwww. It isn’t that unique. I studied publicity at USC (University of Southern California). It wasn’t my major,  but I had a fantastic professor, head of the publicity department there. He was a former president of a big airline. He taught us that one of the first rules of real publicity is that it shouldn’t be proprietary. My way of rewording that principle is, “the universe is so full of opportunity there is plenty to go around.” My other favorite is, “What one can do, two can do better.” Thus cross-promotion is one of the best ways to make one’s efforts do double duty. No. It’s a way to make one’s promotion efforts take quantum leaps. An example of how that works is a new blog I started. The New Book Review (www.thenewbookreview.blogspot.com) is something that takes me only minutes when I post a new review. Anyone can submit one. Reader. Author. Reviewer. After they’ve submitted and I post, they let their contacts know about it and that benefits them, me, and also all of the other authors who have ever participated on the blog. Submission guidelines are in a tab at the top of the home page and in the left column lest anyone should miss them. Following them exactly allows me to keep doing it free.

What would you say is the unique selling point of your book compared to similar ones that are on the market? 

It’s fun to read. And everything in it is based on my own personal, practical experience. Not pie-in-the-sky marketing principles. It also addresses the fears that many of us have about anything to do with marketing.

I know you have written other books, too. Can you tell me a bit about them? 

Well, the next one after The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won’t is The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. (http://bit.ly/FrugalEditorTogether they comprise the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. There will be more to come.

This Frugal book is also based on practical experience. One of the classes I taught at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program was on independent editing. Between that and the query and cover letters and media releases that I get across my desk (I also consult) I kept seeing the same errors over and over again. It feels as if little gremlins were picking at the possibilities of these author’s success. They often weren’t big things, nothing a high school teacher would pick on. But they were instant tipoffs that these authors weren’t yet professional or hadn’t done their homework. That’s a big disadvantage when these gatekeepers—people like editors, producers, contest judges, publishers, agents—have many hundreds such documents move across their desks every week. They may toss something that is very promising based on a bad mood coupled with an inane comment like, “I always wanted to write.” Think! One has one page (maybe even only the first paragraph of that one page!) to convince a gatekeeper to keep reading. I bet 90% of new authors use that writing line, and usually in the first sentence. And it doesn’t really say much. So The Frugal Editor takes a writer through anything from the first contact with a gatekeeper through the final manuscript. Mind you, I don’t encourage a writer to edit his or her manuscript on their own. I do know that the more a writer knows about editing, the better partner she or he will be for any editor, any publisher.

How long you’ve been writing and what made you get into the literary field? 

I started my journalism career in high school. All the cutest, smartest, most talented boys were on the newspaper staff. I finally wrote the novel I’d always wanted to write when I got cancer and realized that if we keep putting off our heart’s desire, we may never get a chance to do what we consider most important. Writing is a healer. I’ve been cancer-free since I started writing my novel—twenty-five years ago.

Who are the people most instrumental in your growth as a writer? 

If I started naming names I might forget someone. Let’s just say that creative writing is nothing like journalism, copywriting, or other kinds of writing I had done. Without UCLA’s Writers’ Program (http://www.uclaextension.edu/), I may never have gotten that first novel published. Of course, I taught thereafter I took those classes and published. It felt as if I was passing along the love.

From your experience, what key ingredients do new writers need to succeed in the book industry?  

Curiosity and a lack of pride. The false kind of pride. We’ll never become great writers unless we have open minds and an awareness that we don’t know everything. 

Do you have a website where readers may learn more about your work? 

At http://www.howtodoitfrugally.com there is a page for each of my books including my creative nonfiction, my poetry, my novel and more.  But there are also lots of pages of information. Resources for writers and readers, a free article page, etc.

Are you working on new material?    

I am always working on poetry. I am very proud of my most recent poetry book, Imperfect Echoes. (http://bit.ly/ImperfectEchoes). Writer’s Digest gave it an honorable mention. 

Do you have any appearances planned?

Always. My next is a Writers Conference headed by Kathleen Kaiser in Oxnard, CA. Learn more on my SharingwithWriters blog at: https://sharingwithwriters.blogspot.com/2019/09/805-writers-conference-announce.html

What are some resources for writers that you would recommend? 

They aren’t my own, but I do a “Back to Literature” column for MyShelf.com and love to recommend the entire site for both readers and writers. I also contribute to WritersontheMove.com blog. A book I always recommend to my consulting/editing clients is Tom Chiarella’s Writing Dialogue. (http://bit.ly/Chiarella).

Need more help marketing your book? Click to find out more information about all of our marketing packages. We look forward to working with you!

Yang Huang, Living Treasures

living treasures
Genre: Asian American Literature & Fiction Paperback 318 pages Published by ‎ Harvard Square Editions October 23, 2014 Get your copy here

Hello again Book Smugglers! I had the chance to speak with award-winning author, Yang Huang. Huang is a jack of all trades writing fiction, screenplays, and essays. Her most recent novel, Living Treasures discusses the perils of Chinese motherhood seen through the eyes of Gu Bao. Becoming a mother myself in 2020, this is the read I was looking for. The character dynamics and timely matter of the subject bring more understanding of what Chinese culture is like. I juggled my sweet 11-month-old son while reading Living Treasures. I couldn’t put it down!

You were raised in China and now are raising a family in America. In all your books, including MY GOOD SON, you bring this dual perspective to family life across generations and continents. How has your personal experience shaped your writing process?

I grew up as a Chinese daughter. The family I grew up in was parent-centric, meaning that the parents’ expectations dominated the relationship. We strove not to let our parents down. My children were born in Berkeley, so I became a mother to American boys. My own American family is child-centric. We tiptoe around our teenagers and try to understand the world through their eyes.

My personal experience doesn’t make its way directly into my fiction but rather provides a background for family drama. I am sensitive to the effect of one’s actions on the fabric of family dynamics. We are products both of our families and of the society at large. Understanding, embracing, and eventually healing from the aftermath of our families of origin is an integral part of maturation and finding one’s place within the family and in society.

This story is very much about the push and pull between generations — the older generation wants security and the younger generation wants freedom. Do you think that’s a universal dilemma, or is there something uniquely Chinese about it?

It is universal for parents and children to experience the push and pull…it is the glue that holds the family together. But of course, every child and parent relationship is unique. And their interaction has consequences. Parenting is not a perfect science because humans are fallible. They are also resilient. A single mistake, made either by the parent or child, doesn’t have to sever a bond. The negotiation between the parents and children, the constant push and pull, is a fluid dance of giving and receiving love and letting go—it is life itself.

For Mr. Cai, what does the promise of America represent?

Mr. Cai has very limited knowledge about America. His view is representative of his generation, which regards America as the land of opportunity and a beacon of hope and freedom. He turns to Jude in desperation, because Feng appears to be a failure, but a father cannot give up on his son. Feng is a creative person and craves freedom, which is not a top priority for most people in China. In a sense, Feng was born into the wrong family, and in the wrong country, to boot. But neither Mr. Cai nor Feng knows this; they just muddle along until Jude comes to their door. Jude brings the prospect of a larger world, but in a way, the world that Jude connects them with is also a small world with its own set of problems, as Jude struggles with his father’s acceptance. So these people have some common ground, and the playing field is leveled for each to make a contribution to help the other.

Mr. Cai has weighed his preference for a Chinese or American university. In both countries the quest for a good college is determined by many factors. The U.S. college admissions scandal exposes some of the weakest links in college admission. Is Mr. Cai aware of the perils of his extraordinary effort to help Feng?

In China, college admission is based on the entrance exam scores. During the year when I entered the university, the admission rate was 1% in Yangzhou. The competition was less brutal in metropolitan cities such as Shanghai and Beijing with numerous prestigious universities, where the cut-off scores averaged 5-10% lower than a provincial town like Yangzhou. Feng would have passed the exams easily if he were a resident of Shanghai or Beijing.

In America, college admission policies are changing with the times, and exam scores are only a part of the application. This leaves room for interpretation of what is fair. For example: a surprisingly high percentage of the Caucasian applicants accepted at the Ivy League Schools were either athletes, legacies, or the children of donors and faculty. When these legal shortcuts weren’t enough, some parents broke the law to bribe admission officials for their children’s seats at the elite colleges.

Mr. Cai would condemn these greedy parents, but he understands their motivation—that animal instinct to put one’s offspring ahead of the herd. As Mr. Cai jumps through some bizarre hoops in order to secure a future for his son, he begins to see the toll it takes. He asks himself, “Was parenting an arms race to amass privilege for your child, so that he could rise while others sank? Was this kind of parenting morally corrupt? Yet, what other choice did you have in order to give your offspring the best chance to survive—even thrive in a cutthroat society?” Strictly speaking, fairness in college admission is an unattainable ideal. In both the U.S. and China, there are tiers of privilege, legal and otherwise.

About Yang Huang

Yang Huang grew up in China’s Jiangsu province and participated in the 1989 student uprisings. Her novel My Good Son won the University of New Orleans Press Publishing Lab Prize; her linked story collection, My Old Faithful, won the Juniper Prize for fiction; and her debut novel, Living Treasures, won the Nautilus Book Award silver medal in fiction. Her essays, stories, and screenplay have appeared in Poets & Writers, Literary Hub, The Margins, Eleven Eleven, Asian Pacific American Journal, The Evansville Review, Futures, Porcupine Literary Arts Magazine, Nuvein, and Stories for Film. Yang lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and works for the University of California, Berkeley. Learn more about Living Treasures and all of Huang’s works on her website: https://www.yanghuang.com

Need more help marketing your book? Click to find out more information about all of our marketing packages. We look forward to working with you!