Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Special Guest: Elise Skidmore



I know you've come to expect a camel post from me on Hump Day, but this week I have something even better: an interview with someone who's helped me over a lot of humps in my writing life. (Heh-heh. Bet you didn't see that tie-in coming.)

Don't worry. You'll still get your camel pic, too -- at the end of the post.

I've known Elise Skidmore for years, and consider her a close friend, though we've never met in person. It's odd to think of that, really...how can you be friends with someone you've never even seen in person? Well, you start by meeting online at website for writers (Books and Writers Community, though it was still called the Compuserve Writers Forum back then) and you chat. The chat leads to banter, and a whole lot of writing exercises, and before you know it you've made a writing buddy for life.

Elise is one of my beta readers, and her belief in me has never wobbled. From the time I first started sending her my feeble attempts at prose, she always said "when you're published...," never "if." Told me she had a "feeling" about it.

Frankly, I used to think she was full of...um, let's say "it," shall we? since it rhymes...when she made assumptions like that. But it turns out she was right. Also, that she's not above saying "I told you so." But good friends are allowed to do that.

One thing I've always envied about Elise over the years is her gift with poetry. She can take a handful of simple words and mold them into images that pluck out a melody on your heartstrings. (See there? That metaphor just proves I suck at it. *envy, envy, envy*)

So now Elise has a beautiful book of poetry out, called Poems from the Edge of Spring, and I get to interview her, which is a true pleasure.

(BTW, isn't the cover gorgeous? Trust me, what's inside is even better.)

Q: You've written poetry for as long as I've know you. Why poetry, why a book, and why now?

A: I have been writing poetry since I was a kid. It's always been a way of putting feeling thoughts and feelings into perspective, even though I was very shy about sharing what I'd written for a very long time. I think, like most writers, I lacked confidence. Poetry is very personal to me, much more so than prose, so I worried about what other people would think and how it would reflect on me, in much the same way a parent feels their child's actions reflect on them. While I believe the way poetry is taught in school makes most people shy away from it, I have to thank my 8th grade English teacher, Miss Jarmol, for introducing me to two of my favorite poets,  T. S. Eliot and Edna St. Vincent Millay.  They brought emotion and story to life in their poetry, sometimes with only a single line or image.  Not that I think I'm anywhere close to their brilliance, but I love finding those tantalizing words or phrases that spark the idea for a poem brewing. Sometimes they'll follow me for days before the spark kindles, but it's a wonderful feeling when it does.

So that's why poetry. As for why a book and why now, well... Over the last 17 years I've been involved with online writing groups and made friends with some very talented poets from all over the world. Having poets whose work I admire and respect praise my poetry (as well as offer constructive criticism when it was needed) led me to believe that there might be a wider audience out there who would appreciate what I had to say. For years those poetic friends have urged me to put together a chapter book, but it's a sad truth that even famous poets don't make much money for publishers. So other than marketing a single poem here or there, the only way to have a poetry published is to self-publish, which has its own stigma to it, not to mention, expense.

Then last April, I completed a "poem a day" challenge, which yielded what I thought was some of my best work, and was again encouraged to make it available to a wider audience.  Coincidentally, another long-time friend, Lisa Norman, had just started a small press publishing company called Heart Ally Books. With the recent increased popularity of e-books, she suggested we try e-publishing first, and if it worked out, we could do print later. For me, it's never been about making money from poetry, it's about getting the poems out there to as many readers as possible, and this seemed like the most cost effective way to do that.

Q: The table of contents lists the poems in order by date. Did you really write each poem on the corresponding days?

A: The answer is yes and no.  Let me begin by saying that titles are my nemesis, whether we're talking prose or poetry.   A great title strikes a chord that stays with you long after you've finished reading. All of the poems in the April half of the book were written on their corresponding dates, but April's a short month and I felt if we were selling a book it should have more to it than 30 poems, plus I wanted to include some of my earlier poems that I especially like. That's when the title, Poems from the Edge of Spring came to me. The first day of spring being March 21st, I thought using the days of March as markers for the "extra" poems, followed by the April set, it would be perfect. As for the dates without titles, like I said, titles are tough for me, so with poems I sometimes leave them untitled rather than force something I don't really like. Also, when I'm writing some of the shorter Japanese forms like the tanka or haiku, I don't give them titles as a general rule.

Q: Under the product description at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble is one of my favorite poems of the collection: 

Mosaic of Joy

Piecing together
a mosaic of joy
from shattered tiles
scattered around her,

she picks up
their first kiss
and declaration of love
and snugs them between
the light in his eyes at long ago reunions
and furious lovemaking on an ugly orange rug.

There are slabs
for the lives they created together,
the children who once quickened inside her,
who even grown have the ability to move her.

She fills in the cracks
with happy surprises
and hands held under pre-dawn stars,

certain that grout made from love
will last forever.


To me, it epitomizes the theme of collection, so good choice! Is there any significance to the March 22nd  date on which you wrote it?

A: I wish I could say there was, but no. There are poems where the date is significant, "Counting," for example, but not that one. "Mosaic of Joy" is just one of the favorites I wanted to include in the collection. The title was just one of those phrases I mentioned earlier that got stuck in my head and I walked around for days piecing it together. Some poems are like that, coming together a little at a time. Others spill out all at once.


Q: How would you describe your adventure in e-publishing? Would you do it again? Would you recommend it to others?

A: Overall, I had a very good experience with it. My publisher has done all the hard stuff--Techies 'R' NOT Us.  Thankfully, Lisa took care of all the formatting problems, explaining the difficulties step-by-step, and showing how things would look before the book was put out there.  Anyone who's used an e-book will tell you one of its best features is being able to adjust the size of the text. However, changing the size of the text changes margins and line breaks, which is not a good thing when you're dealing with poetry. With form poetry, it makes your meter and rhymes look wonky. With free verse, lines breaks are often chosen for effect, and if those breaks change it can change the intended meaning.  Lisa did her best to ensure that the poems would look as close to what I'd intended, even with the various changes, and I think she did a terrific job.  While I don't think print books are ever going to disappear, I believe e-publishing is here to stay and I love my Kindle. (And that comes from someone who usually doesn't take on new technology until it's considered old.) If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would--as long as I had someone I could trust to take care of the technical aspects of it.

Q: Why aren't there any dirty limericks in the book? (Sorry. But this is me doing the interview -- what did you expect? *grin*)

A: LOL. The honest/serious answer is that I have trouble writing limericks; trying to keep the meter, rhyme and be funny all at once is hard for me. On the other hand, I did contemplate including some of the erotic poetry I've written, but decided for my virgin book offering it might be better to hold back a little.

Q: If you had a dream interview question, what would it be? (I'm guessing it's not the limerick one.)

A: I don't know if I have a "dream interview question" since until recently I never entertained the idea that I'd be interviewed (LOL!).  Maybe something like: What's been your favorite reaction to the book so far? The answer would have to be: "I'm not a big fan of poetry, but I love the poems in your book." I'm not sure if that's a compliment of my poetic talents, but I love knowing someone loved reading what I've written.


Thank you, Elise! For the interview, and for a marvelous book of poetry that both entertained and moved me.

Poems from the Edge of Spring is available in both Kindle and Nook formats, for the bargain price of $2.99. Heck, you can't even get a decent cup of coffee for that anymore, and this book lasts way longer than java. And by later today or tomorrow, it should be available at the iBookstore, too. Cool, huh?  

And now, as promised, for the camel groupies:


She's (looks like a girl, huh?) so happy because she's a poetry lover. :)

29 comments:

Sarah Pearson said...

What a lovely interview. And that poem was beautiful. Even better than my camel fix (although she's kind of cute too!).

Kristina said...

Love the poem and love the camel pick - both are precisely what my day needed! :)

Anne Gallagher said...

Love Mosaic of Joy. Simply beautiful. Thanks so much for interviewing Elise, Linda. Great job. And all the best to you Elise with your book. If Mosaic of Joy is anything to go by, it sounds wonderful!!

Michele Shaw said...

Beautiful poem and obviously a beautiful person. How lucky you are to know her, Linda! Great interview:)

Adriana said...

Nice interview, Linda! Not a single inappropriate question :)

Elise, huge congratulations to you! I love this line from Mosaic: "the children who once quickened inside her." Beautiful!

Trisha Leigh said...

Great interview. Even better poem. Those people who believe in you are priceless :)

Teri Anne Stanley said...

Gee, I'm not normally a big fan of poetry, but I really like the one posted here....

But seriously: I often have a hard time "getting" a lot of poetry (why do some poets think they have to be obtuse to be profound?), but I think I might have to give the genre another chance (as a reader, not a writer. ya'll REALLY don't want to see that).

Linda G. said...

Sarah -- It is a beautiful poem, isn't it? And that's one camel that looks like it would never dream of spitting on you.

Kristina -- Yay! Always happy to provide. :)

Anne -- The whole book is full of equally great poems. Elise puts me to shame.

Michele -- I am lucky to know Elise. Thank goodness for the internet!

Adriana -- I tried to restrain myself. Wasn't easy. ;)

Trisha -- You got that right. :)

Teri -- Honestly? I'm not a huge poetry fan (other than my beloved dirty limericks), but Elise's poetry is accessible. It speaks to me in comfortable way I find remarkable.

Carol Kilgore said...

I so admire poets. A friend of mine is an amazing poet and he sends me at least one poem every day. I look forward to seeing them in my inbox each morning. Nice to meet you, Elise. Thanks for hosting her, Linda.

abby mumford said...

a grand interview by grand women on a grand topic. this wednesday is complete.

Kimberly Sabatini said...

*Waves* Hi Elise!!!! Love, love, love that poem!!!!! Writer friends are the best of friends!

Elise Skidmore said...

Thank you Linda for that really lovely introduction and for giving me the unique experience of being interviewed. It was fun, and even more so to see all the lovely comments posted here after. You're a good friend--and I only say "I told you so!" for good stuff, like knowing you'd be published someday. Mum's the word on anything you'd really regret. (g)

And a big thank you to everyone for the nice comments. It's wonderful to meet you all. I hope you'll all enjoy the book and spread the word.

PS to Terri--Your comment made my day. I love hear that people who aren't poetry fans enjoy my poems.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Wow, now you're showing a whole new Barbwa Wawa side to you. Great interview, and great interviewee. Loved that poem.

Isis Rushdan said...

I haven't written poetry in years. I admire all poets and I loved the poem. What a wonderful interview.

Patsy said...

Beautiful poem and I agree the book cover is gorgeuos.

Nice camel too.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Very entertaining interview, Linda! :-)

I thought that poem was absolutely lovely as was reading Elise's answers. Best of luck with her book!

Elise Skidmore said...

Thanks again! BTW, Linda didn't mention it but all the photos in the book were taken by me too, so it's wonderful to hear how many of you like the cover shot.

Also, the book is now available in all digital formats, so you don't need a particular e-book reader to enjoy it. Happy reading!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Congratulations on the book! And I know all about having best buddies you've never met in person. I'll bet everybody visiting here does!

Poetry was always my nemesis in high school, although since I HAVE to teach it to my fifth grade students, I've come to appreciate it more. ('cause I get to pick which ones we study)

Elise Skidmore said...

Dianne, you know my 5th grade teacher also pushed poetry as penmanship practice. Some of those rhythms still live in my head. Try to let them enjoy it. Make it a gift instead of torture. :-)

Elise Skidmore said...

And I don't know why the "thank you" I included in the last comment didn't show up, but thank you.

Bess Weatherby said...

A lovely, elegant camel to round out a lovely, elegant interview! Thanks for sharing, both of you!

Barbara said...

Linda, thanks for re-introducing me to Elise. The poem was beautiful; I understood it, which doesn't always happen, and related. Good to see you again, too.

Linda G. said...

Carol -- My pleasure. Glad you enjoyed it.

Abby -- Always happy to complete your Wednesday.

K-pop -- So true!

Elise -- That's a good distinction. You're right -- you never "I told you so" the bad stuff. And we all appreciate that. *grin*

Susan -- LOL! Linda Gwimes, maybe? ;)

Isis -- Thanks! :)

Patsy -- Yeah, I thought that was an exceptionally pretty camel.

Jennifer -- Thanks! Elise is easy to interview.

Dianne -- Getting to choose the poetry you read makes all the difference.

Bess -- You're so welcome. Thanks for dropping by. :)

Barbara -- Hi! Good to see you, too. :) And that's what I love about Elise's poetry -- I GET it.

Tara said...

Elise, that poem is beautiful - so relatable. Did you post this news in B&W? (If so, how did I miss it?!) Congratulations!

Elise Skidmore said...

Tara-- Thank you so much. I did post a notice in B&W back in July when it was first released in Kindle format, but I'm not sure if I reposted in the thread when the Nook version became available. That's why it's so wonderful that Linda's shared her blog there just as the iTunes version was released. Now everyone can get a copy, no matter what their digital preference. I hope you enjoy the rest of the book as much as that poem.

Deniz Bevan said...

Wonderful interview, you two! Thank you for the sneak peek of the poem, too. It's lovely Elise - just the right combination of memory, imagery and emotion.

Elisabeth Black said...

That is a lovely poem. Is there anything better than a beta who believes in you?

Sun Singer said...

Cool interview with a cool lady that I also "met" many years ago when the Compuserve forum was called Lit Forum.

Best of luck with the book, Elise.

Malcolm

Elise Skidmore said...

Thanks again to everyone and I hope you'll all enjoy the book!