Connections: chatting with Jay Sizemore

Jay Sizemore’s poem, “The value of things,” was one of the two winners of our first In Our Books prompt-based poetry contest. IOB took a few moments to chat with Jay about, well, poetry.

IOB: What was the hardest thing about writing the poem you submitted?

JS: I would say it is always a difficult task to write something about a topic larger than one’s self, and yet try and retain the feeling that the poem is coming from that place of genuine emotion. I try to do that with all my work. After I write it, I ask myself, “Is this real, or am I trying too hard to make something work?” Most of the time, I think it is a challenge hard to live up to, because when writers tackle difficult themes, sometimes you have to write outside the scope of your own experiences, and that tends to muddy the waters of the real. Often it is best to, as cliche as it is, “stick to what you know,” and let others attribute themes to your work. But it is fun to try large themes anyway, and as if you couldn’t tell by my piece, I have strong feelings about what the concept of ownership does to society.

IOB: Who is a poet you admire a great deal, and why?

JS: My favorite poet for a long time now has been Bob Hicok. When I was in college, a professor of mine, Dr. Tom Hunley, let me borrow Plus Shipping, because we were writing papers on poets from one of our text books, and I had loved his poem “Absence” so much, I wanted to read more. The paper also had to involve an interview with the poet, and surprisingly he answered my emails, and we actually talked back and forth for a while, when I was going through my borderline-stalker-obsessed-fan phase. Anyway, Hicok’s work has an uncanny sense of realism about it, which I was immediately drawn to. He has a powerful command of language, and image, almost every poem driving that sense of awe into your guts, or twisting words into a kind of hypnosis. It’s the kind of talent you just can’t fake. One can always aspire to reach that level of greatness, but it’s like singing in the shower and thinking you can win American Idol. It’s rare.

[ina notes: just read through Hicok’s Animal Soul on Jay’s recommendation. Really remarkable collection – vivid and vital imagery as well as the rhythm and flow of each work. Great stuff.]

IOB: Where can people find more of your work?

JS: There is very little of my work online anymore, as I have discovered most journals don’t like publishing things that have appeared on even a blog, so I took most of it down. There are several pieces left up on my old blog, The Ghosts of Silence, and I do plan on posting things there that have already been accepted elsewhere. Other than that, what little I have had published you can find at the respective journals, like Red River Review, Wild Goose Poetry, Emerge, Siren, and a few others. I also have gotten some things in a couple poetry anthologies put together from a fairly tight-knit group of poets who met online at Robert Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog: Beyond the Dark Room [disclosure: ina is one of the poets whose work appears in this anthology. All proceeds from this volume will go to Medicines Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders] and Prompted: An International Collection of Poetry. I have also had some short fiction accepted here and there, online in Schlock, and Scholars and Rogues, and in the anthologies No Rest for the Wicked and Fantastic Horror Vol. 4. Most of my fiction is genre-based, I feel I must warn you, but it is fun to write that stuff.

IOB: Jay, thanks so much for talking with us, and for entering our contest. We’ll be watching your future writing progress with considerable interest!

IOB will post our interview with our other winner, Daniel Ari, within a week. Stay tuned!


Monday coffee: So, remember that horse?

Remember how, last Monday, we were chatting over a cuppa about places that could help you get your work Out CoffeeFruitsShowThere ? You know, to readers? Well, if you were feeling inspired by that, one of my favorite poetic voices (the lovely Khara House) is running

The October Submit-O-Rama!

What, you ask, is a Submit-O-Rama? It’s a chance to choose a pace at which to submit your work through the course of the month. There are options from the Basic challenge (submitting  three times a week) to the Uber (30 times in the month!), with a lot of options in between.

By Zz1y (gustavo alegrias) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is a great opportunity for people who need either company or healthy competition to get back on the “submission horse.” Nice group support, and you can let other people’s success motivate you, if you’re so inclined.

If you’re the type (and many of us are, for reasons of life style, emotional security, or schedule) who prefers engaging in the publication process within a private space , this may not be the event for you. Otherwise, consider heading over to Khara’s blog to check out the options! You may even see one of us there 🙂

Friday surprise: we connect with Cara Holman

I first “met” Cara Holman on the poetry blog Poetic Asides. Robert Brewer, the editor, posts regular prompts (every Wednesday, for those of you who would enjoy a regular source of inspiration, not to mention interaction with the interesting and supportive community that hangs out there) as well as periodic challenges/ contests. When I first read one of Cara’s poems, I was stunned. I hadn’t read haiku since I was in grade school, and her poem was a revelation: the sense of the first two lines launching the reader into space, and then the third line gently landing at the poem’s end. I realized that I had missed something important about the form, and when started looking at other haiku online, gosh, Cara’s name kept appearing, as the author of one beautiful poem after another. So naturally, with a new blog that gave us an excuse to interview her, I jumped at the chance. I know after reading her interview, you’ll want to sample more of her poems, so in addition to some of the journals we discuss in the interview, head on over to her blog, Prose Posies, to read more. [ina @ IOB]

IOB: Cara, for people who haven’t yet met you, can you introduce yourself and your work?

CH: After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2006, I was looking for a way to reclaim my life when I discovered a stack of flyers in my oncologist’s waiting area, announcing the formation of a writing group for women cancer survivors. It seemed very serendipitous. Never mind that I had not written a word, besides journaling, since college. Never mind that my undergraduate degree was in mathematics, and I did graduate work in computer engineering. And never mind that I had no idea what I wanted to write about. I just knew that this was something I had to try. Our facilitator guided us into writing gently, with prompts that were sometimes visual, sometimes a word or phrase, or sometimes guided imagery. And somehow, in that very nurturing environment, the words just flowed. Every session began with us reading poetry, round robin, from one of the Garrison Keillor anthologies, and soon, I found myself writing poetry, in addition to narrative prose. I stayed with that group for almost four years. Sometime in 2009, I was poking around online looking for sharing sites, when I discovered Poetic Asides. It’s been a wonderfully supportive community for poets, and I can’t say how grateful I am to have discovered it. Around the same time, I also tapped into the online haiku community, and am now totally hooked on haiku, senryu, haibun, rengay, and the occasional tanka. This is where I focus most of my writing efforts these days, but I still try to keep my hand in prose poetry and creative nonfiction as well.

IOB: Is there a poem that you’d be willing to share with us here?

CH:  I wrote [this] back in August of 2010 for a poetry sharing site called Big Tent Poetry.

Pineapple Summer by Cara Holman

The secret of pineapple upside-down cake
is that the pineapples have to start at the bottom
in order to end up on top. Eventually.
Life can be like this. Or not.
Some things start at the bottom
and stay at the bottom. Like fish.
Some start on top and fall. Like Humpty Dumpty.
Others just drift. Like milkweeds on the breeze.
Or summer days, which slide one into the next,
smooth as corn silk.

IOB: This is beautiful; thank you for sharing it with us. What inspired you to start writing poetry?

CH: I received my first poetry book as a gift from my cousins, when I was 5 years old—I still have that book, in fact, although it is a bit worse for the wear. It was the Big Golden Book of Poetry, and I delighted in the poems of Rachel Field, Robert Louis Stevenson, Hilaire Belloc, Lewis Carroll, and others.

I also remember reading John Ciardi’s You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You, Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, and a big green poetry anthology we owned, whose name I unfortunately don’t remember. My 3rd grade teacher had us memorize poetry for recitation, and also copy out poetry for handwriting practice. So poetry was always a constant force in my life. In high school, we had a wonderful poetry unit in AP Lit where we read a tremendous amount of classic poetry, and I encountered The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock for the first time. It wasn’t until I joined the writing group, though, that I actually tried my hand at writing any myself.

IOB: I recently read a post by Tien Ansari  on the blog Write Anything” in which she says

I’ve pointed out before that the medium is part of the message, and the form is part of the content; if we didn’t believe that, we wouldn’t write poetry in the first place. The same argument applies to writing formal poetry: You use a form when the form is an appropriate part of the message.

You specialize in Japanese forms (including haiku and haibun) – what is it about these forms that attracts you? How do these forms help you to write, or to communicate ideas, or do they provide you with something completely different?

CH: You know, I think I was initially attracted to haiku because the 17 syllable count was very precise and mathematical. However, I was soon to discover that syllables are rarely counted anymore in contemporary haiku. Still, there is something very clean and precise about haiku: a haiku generally consists of two images juxtaposed in a certain way. While I’ve certainly read some very “poetic” haiku, haiku poets, in general, tend to avoid overly flowery language. Instead, they focus on capturing images or feelings, without overtly expressing them, while still leaving something to the reader’s imagination. It fascinates me how in 6-12 words, so many different possibilities can be generated, and yet how each can still faithfully reflect the poet’s voice. I also admire the brevity inherent in the Japanese forms, and enjoy the challenge of keeping the prose and poetry crisp.

IOB: How do you combine your working life with your writer’s life?

CH: Well, sometimes I don’t, very well! However, being a mother for almost 27 years has honed my time management skills and self-discipline. I am learning to juggle all the components of my life (home, work, volunteering, and writing, which is not my profession, but rather, a hobby). Submission deadlines for haiku journals tend to fall quarterly, and at the end of a month, and those times can be very hectic, especially when lots in going on in my life, as it is now. I have had to cut back on some of my writing and other commitments. My family is always my highest priority, so I adjust other aspects of my life accordingly. I’m very excited to not only be attending, but also to be a presenter at, a local haiku retreat next month, which means that there’s lots of non-writing things I need to get under control before then, so I can go with a clear mind.

IOB: Sometimes I see what I think are glimpses of your life or the lives of those around you in your work – how does real life influence your work? Do you have any advice for poets and writers on how to balance reality and creation in one’s writing?

CH: I think everyone’s got to find their own way, but for me, my direction was suggested by the way I got into writing in the first place: for its therapeutic value. I almost exclusively write from my own life, and observations of the world around me. I of course tweak details of my writing for privacy—my own, and others—but everything I write has intrinsic truth and I try to focus on publishing only those things that I think others will find relatable. Most of my haiku, for instance, focus on the natural world around me, my cancer journey, dealing with my parents’ deaths, and raising kids. The more universal the theme, it seems, the more feedback I get on my writing, and the more dialog it generates. The other upside of writing from reality is that everything I do becomes fodder for my writing, so I am always thinking of what to write next while I am at the grocery store, the gym, driving around, and even at home washing dishes and doing laundry. I carry index cards with me everywhere I go so I can jot down ideas when they occur to me, and I get some of my best ideas at night as I am falling asleep and have released my conscious mind, or first thing in the morning, before I have to start my day.

IOB: A lot of readers, having read the poem you’ve shared with us, are going to want to see more of your work – where should they look ?

CH: I discovered early on that tracking submissions and publications is often more work than writing them in the first place! Thus, I trained myself to become very organized about tracking my publications. On my blog [Prose Posies], I keep a comprehensive list of all my publications, organized by type (Anthologies, Haibun, Poetry, Haiku, Rengay, and Tanka). These categories can all be accessed from the top level page of my blog, and contain live links for my online writings.

IOB: Can you direct readers to other places on the web where your work is available?

CH: Online journals that I have been published in include The Heron’s Nest, A Hundred Gourds [note from ina: one of my personal favorite online journals], contemporary haibun online (cho), Daily Haiku, Haibun Today, Notes from the Gean (which is sadly now defunct, but the archives still exist), Four and Twenty, Sketchbook, Prune Juice, and Multiverses. Links to the actual issues can be found on my blog pages. I also have a dedicated page on The Haiku Foundation’s Haiku Registry.

IOB:  What do you have planned by way of future poetic projects?

CH: I periodically assess the journals I read and submit to, and make adjustments accordingly. This year, I finally felt brave enough to submit to cho, Daily Haiku, Haibun Today, Acorn, and Modern Haiku. I’m pleased to have work appearing (or that will appear) in all of them. I also periodically re-adjust my writing focus. I started writing rengay and renku (collaborative verse) last year, and this is going to be a big part of what I focus on this year. Also, haibun. I have (literally) hundreds of short pieces that I wrote while in writing group, that I want to come back to with fresh eyes, and see if I can’t adapt some of them to haibun. And of course putting together my first haiku chapbook someday has long been a dream of mine.

In addition to actually writing, as I’ve become more involved with the haiku community, I have looked for ways to give something back. This year, I took on the role of maintaining the Haiku Oregon blog and also created a Facebook page for it. I plan to make the Seabeck Haiku Retreat an annual event, and look forward to attending my 2nd Haiku North America conference next year. There is always something new on the horizon…

Thank you, Ina and Andrea, for allowing me to be interviewed for your blog, and for your thoughtful and probing questions.

IOB: Cara, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat virtually with u s- it’s a pleasure to introduce others to your work.

Getting (back) on the horse: where to start?

Every creative writer I know has two “things”: their non-writing gift and their hang-up. I’m really fortunate in that the bad fairy at the christening only left me a garden-variety case of “I don’t know what I’m doing! I have no talent!” by way of hang-ups. But by way of gifts, she compensated by my being fairly fearless about getting stuff out the door – usually, I sulk for a little while, have my “I don’t know what I’m doing” freak-out, and then get back on that horse. StateLibQld 1 180751 Stockman prepares to mount his horse, 1910-1920

So one of the few pieces of writing advice I ever feel comfortable giving is where to find places to send out work, and I want to share them with you.

1) Duotrope: My favorite source for listings. Duotrope is an online source that’s free to join (and free to stay on – though I try to throw them a little $ once in a while to keep them going) and easy to search – they list places that publish poetry and fiction, and they also have a beta version of sources for creative non-fiction They tell you whether the source pays, and give statistics on likelihood of publication and how fast you’re notified about whether your piece(s) have been accepted. You can also request a weekly digest of new sources that have been entered (it also includes places that have closed temporarily and permanently).

2) Writer’s Digest: Writer Digest’s online location is a good basic source of information on everything from how to write query letters to poetic forms to what turns editors on/off about submissions. For our purposes,though, they publish a series of books annually on where to publish, including but not limited to the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market and the Poet’s Market. These books are updated annually and don’t just list tons of markets – they also tell you about whether a market is a “new/beginner’s” market or for more seasoned (or very seasoned) market; they get direct info from editors (as does duotrope) about what they like and don’t like in terms of submissions, and where to find more info about each publication site.

3) Absolute Write: Absolute Write has one of the best forums for writers that I know of. I lurk there not for the listings of places to submit work to, but because the writers on it give great advice. For those of us who aren’t just starting out, this is often a better source of advice than WD, which – while I love it – seems to tend more to the basics. Besides, it’s a community. Doesn’t cost to join, but like Duotrope, it’s nice to toss a few bucks in to support a worthwhile endeavor.

4) Creative Writers Opportunities List Group on Yahoo. You’ll notice that there’s no clickable link here. This is a yahoo group you have to join through yahoo. Once you do though, the daily digests are To Die For. New sources, new contests, new anthologies, nearly every day. It’s admin’d, I believe, by the incredibly talented Allison Joseph (phenomenal poet, see Rhino Poetry magazine if you’re curious about her) and the daily digest into my inbox is a constant source of inspiration.

5) New Pages : Though they aren’t my “thing”  a lot of people I know and trust swear by them, and they do have an extensive listing of literary journals, genre publications, calls for submissions, and a lovely contest listing. My main issue with their website is that their search engine is what my programmer spouse would call “primitive” so I don’t find it a good place to look when I’m looking to place a specific piece and want to find a place that will be a good fit for it. However, their contest listings are great – at the least, consider checking them out.

Lastly, I cannot go without talking about the FB groups to which I belong. For me, they’ve been a source of community, information, and lists of places to submit to (not to mention that’s kind of how Andrea and I first “met”!). If you aren’t on a FB writing group, yet, hunt around – there’s undoubtedly a group that will be perfect for you.

These are only my go-to sources; there are tons of others. If you have a great resource for places to publish, will you share it here? We all get by with help from one another

I’m now going to make a confession – I have not submitted anything for publication in at least three months. And I don’t have the excuse of not having anything to submit – I got a ton of stuff back a couple of months ago, have re-edited/re-checked, and am now just being lazy. Having written this post, though, I feel inspired to get back on that horse…are you ready to submit too?Descriptive Zoopraxography Horse Jumping Animated 14

So much beauty

Japanese poetess and her listeners. Before 1902We almost couldn’t do it. We got so many phenomenal poems that it was hard for In Our Books to decide on a winner for our first prompted poetry contest: “Money, money, money.” Each poem had so much that was special and striking about it:  imagery, idea or philosophy,  message, form (including pantoums, triolets, and limericks), narrative, and voice. We can’t thank you all enough for contributing so much wonderful work.

In the end, we finally managed to settle on not one but two winners between whom we’ll split the prize. The two winning poems are “The Value of Things” by Jay Sizemore and “this glamorous profession” by Daniel Ari. We will be posting short interviews with each of these poets soon as well as the list of runners up. We thank all of you, readers and participants, for sharing with us and one another -we’re so lucky to be in contact with so many terrific writers.

Jay Sizemore’s “The value of things”

Coins pressed into palms like silver stigmata
turn hands into the heads of venomous snakes,
their poisoned fangs penetrating the flesh
of all that is touched or owned.

The whiter the teeth,
the better the slave,
to feed and to bathe,
to whip with the tongues
of black ties like nooses untied,
deciding who lives, and who dies,
distended stomachs, and mouths
full of flies.

These elections are for slugs squirming
under flags faded by light,
pushing past bearded and dirt-caked faces
perched above cardboard signs,
a trail of slime ten miles wide,
waiting for the ambrosia
to trickle down,
mistaking the salt for snowflakes.

These snakes swallow houses whole,
jawbones unhinged, mine mine mine
whispered between meals and flickered
fork tongues, dead eyes wishing
that the sun was for sale.

Daniel Ari’s “this glamorous profession”
after Patrick Sokas, M.D.

Bill took an interest in my suit.
“Where did you get it?”

I looked at my feet and mumbled.

“I have one just like it.”

I glared. “This was my only suit, a mail-order suit.”

“You probably saw a picture on a model.”

“It looked good, though it was probably pinned up in back.”

“You said, ‘I want that suit.’”

“Actually I said, ‘I can afford that suit.’”

Bill took away my notebook,
and he played reporter for a while.

Friday surprise: connecting with Pearl Ketover Prilik

IOB would like to introduce you to the multi-talented Pearl Ketover Prilik: author, poet, and editor of two international poetry collections.

PKP: I always see things on a multiplicity of levels: my point of view, what I imagine is “the other’s” point of view, what perhaps is some objective reality and how all of this fits into some grand scheme of things.  So that being angry at another human being is virtually (no pun intended) impossible. In fact during some eight hundred (I mean literally!) hours on analysis  I was often chided for not “exploring my anger.” I believe most strongly that anger is an understandable but completely nonproductive emotion – in personal relationships as well as in large global conflicts such as war – which inevitably at some point lead to peace with between the poles of which lie a trail of senseless death.  There are few exceptions to my inability to anger ;those involve the red outrage of which I am fully capable combined with an urge bordering on compulsion to speak up and take action when someone commits a grave injustice against an innocent, or I am called to action when there is an imbalance of power or extreme unkindness.  Perhaps, because I truly believe that all is connected somehow, I cannot tolerate as a potential part of myself such ugliness and must do whatever I can in my power to stop its course or at the very least to strongly bear witness.

IOB: Beyond The Dark Room, An International Collection of Transformative Poetry. One review contains this  description: “This book could be your gateway through healing to hope.” How is that?

PKP: The simple answer is that I believe that poetry is a window into the unconscious. Since I was a child I have found writing to be tremendously cathartic and organizational when dealing with stress and in working through intrapsychic issues.  As a practicing clinician, I often found that poetry was a medium which permitted articulation of certain felt understandings and explorations and have both written poems to patients and encouraged them to write on their own.  There is a freeing quality in the rhythm of poetry, in the ability to express experience in a multiplicity of layers that is quite simply lacking in everyday, linear language.  The poems in Beyond the Dark Room describe the various stages in the journey from trauma through empowerment and ultimately to a place of either transformation as the subtitle implies, transcendence or in many cases to acceptance of circumstances which cannot be altered but where perspective can be radically transformed.  I believe that poetry is not so much an ‘art form’ although undoubtedly it is, but is also a variation of communication using a deeper level of thinking and allowing for the articulation and the ultimate so-called working through of difficult issues.

IOB: Several authors contributed to Beyond the Dark Room.Please tell us about the poets. [IOB full disclosure: ina Roy is one of the poets whose work is included in this volume]

PKP: The poets who contributed to the Beyond the Dark Room are perhaps a grouping of the most dedicated, talented and, quite frankly, delightful human beings I have encountered.  For a complete listing of all the poets involved please visit Beyond the Dark Room’s page:

Beyond the Dark Room on Facebook

There is also a biography of each poet at the end of the book. There is a great deal of diversity in terms of where people live, from the country-side in Australia, to Canada, back across the “pond” to the UK, back to various points in the United States.Despite the diversity, there is a  unifying commonality of  poetic vision, a sense that we are all somehow ‘connected’ on what I like to call this “blue marble,” and that somehow we met at a poetry site and decide that this project was one in which we had a deep personal interest.

IOB: What was your role, Pearl, in conceiving, organizing, and publishing this collection?

PKP: I am the principal administrator of a the Facebook group/page for poets.  This group came together initially as a social group comprised of poets who knew each other from Robert Brewer’s  “original”  (before the latest updates) Poetic Asides blog which I often refer to as “The Street.”   We had become familiar with one another’s work through various challenges and many of us had been writing and commenting on each other’s works on a more or less daily basis for years.  Last year one of the members floated the idea of perhaps writing a collection “someday.” Frankly, in my ‘other life-time’ as a teacher of English responsible for perhaps 150 students’ writing on a daily basis, putting together an anthology of poems with some forty adult poets didn’t seem an insurmountable challenge.  I simply selected out a heaping handful of popular prompts from the Poetic Asides blog and we voted on ten which became the ten chapters of that book. I had to get permission from Robert to use the prompts which apparently were “owned” by Writers’ Digest.  I went as high as the new editor and suggested the idea of an anthology.  Robert was then able to get permission for us to use ten prompts.  Poets simply self-selected those that they thought were their best examples of these prompts that had been shared on the blog.  I wrote an introduction, asked Robert if he would write a Foreword, and kept following up with him tracking him down in his extraordinarily busy life. Many of the poets are wonderful photographers and we chose from a collection of submitted photographs using Survey Monkey which one of the participating poets set up and tracked to select an especially beautiful photograph for our cover. One of the other poets Michele Brenton’s husband Andrew is a printer/publisher and agreed to print the book and off we went, in what felt like a collective effort that mirrored my philosophy of all being connected very satisfyingly.

The second project, recently published, was a bit different.  I floated the idea of a collection perhaps about abuse or trauma and the incredibly capacity that human beings seem to have for moving “beyond” such assaults to their sensibilities.  (I am always awed and have the deepest respect as a human being and a therapist for the ability that some individuals have for not only surviving but thriving beyond trauma and all sorts of life challenges.  A small but vocal minority of poets took an immediate dislike to the project and at times it seemed to me!  Of course, all of this was sorted out with a wonderful open, vigorous dialogue and led to the twenty (twenty-one including myself) poets that decided to participate in the latest anthology.  I created a separate page for communication and voting on various stages and off we went.

Since I was interested in the interplay between the therapeutic value of the potential collection and the entertainment/educational value, I used some of my understanding and observation about ten typical stages that individuals most often pass through after trauma– and it was these ten passages (Stunned, Anger, Fear, Shock, Depression, Empowerment, Calm, Trust, Confidence, and Love/Happiness/Fulfillment/Peace of Mind) that became the chapters.  I wrote the introduction and solicited someone who was primarily involved with trauma to write the Foreword from a professional list-serve of psychoanalysts.  I was absolutely delighted when Dr. Nurit Nora Israeli responded and we are both still reeling from the synchronicities in our experience, perhaps most notably the fact that Dr. Israeli was involved in a workshop involving loss and moving “Beyond”  and is a poet in her own right using some of the very same words in her own poetry.  Our group included some staggeringly talented photographers who submitted photographs for our cover upon which we voted in almost one voice for a view from inside a dark room onto a beautiful flower garden taken by Jane Penland Hoover [IOB: more of Jane’s work can be found at her blog] that seemed painted to describe this collection.  Another of the poets, Laura Hegfield [IOB: more about Laura here], who herself is a beacon of inspiration in living her own personal challenges with grace, altruism, and sparkling beauty suggested some noted writers who might want to take a look at the book – they did and returned some wonder-full reviews – a portion of which you quoted as part of one of your questions.

I can say without braggadocio that I am extraordinarily proud to be part of this wonderful collection and that it has been one of the joys of my life to be able to collect, organize, and synthesize the poems of this talented and essentially kind group of poets into an anthology that will be dedicated toward bringing hope and light to the dark corners of others.

IOB: Is it possible to see an excerpt of the book somewhere?

PKP: [here is a link to the book] Beyond The Dark Room edited by  Pearl Ketover Prilik

It is difficult to excerpt poetry – except for the introduction and/or foreword which would seem self-serving and not particularly descriptive of the extraordinary talent and individual voices of the collected poems.  As far as where the book can be acquired, it is easily accessible on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in the US and the UK.  As part of our agreement as a collective of writers we again chose a charity to receive all of our royalties directly.  In the case of Beyond the Dark Room, An International Collection of Transformative Poems  all royalties are being donated to Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).  This organization was voted upon and chosen by an overwhelming majority as they have a mental health branch as well as medical services offered worldwide.   It is our hope that Beyond The Dark Room… will serve as agent of healing for those in need.

IOB:  In addition to an editor, you are a poet in your own right. You share many of your poems on your blog, Imagine; where else can  readers find your poems and writings?

PKP:  I have recently been published in several online and print publications.  I suppose that it would make some sense, since I am now comfortable with the ins and outs of independent publishing to collect my poems and publish them in a collection of their own – I’m not quite sure that I’d know how to work unilaterally without taking a vote on how the cover would look or goodness knows accepting any royalties that came my way.  Of course, I‘m only joking, but seriously, poetry began as a distraction, I had always written as a way of personally marking an occasion or event with my family, friends and/or patient,s and then as a way of decompressing while thinking about my “real” writing as a would-be novelist.  How delightful, to discover that I – while I have been searching for the “real writer” within – may have always been what I am only discovering that perhaps I am: a poet all the while.

IOB: You’re an author of a number of non-fiction works in your capacity as a therapist. How is your writing process different when you write professional non-fiction work from when you write poetry?

PKP: I believe I anticipated your question and so I’ll just continue.  Professional writing  is clean and easy:decide what I want to write, or accept the assignment offered, outline, research, check research, interview, add anecdotes, as I would teach children:

  1. decide what you’re going to tell them
  2. tell them
  3. tell them what you told them.

 Poetry, unlike other writing such as short stories and those novels simply comes from someplace else; I’m not quite sure where it is coming from, but most times what I write (and I mean no grandiosity here because there are no claims to quality)most of what I write comes to me immediately and is, if edited at all, edited as I go – I more often feel than I am “transcribing” the writing of someone else – in fact if I should forget to save something – what I was writing is often gone as a dream. I claim no ownership of the poetry I write, for I do not know from where it comes.  It holds no stress, because of this lack of ego involvement – instead it contains limitless surprise and relief of stress.   This is the kind of non-personally directed poetry I’m writing nowadays – greatly stream of consciousness – whose stream I am not certain – but definitely filtered through my own consciousness.

IOB: Would you share one of your poems with us?

I recently had this poem published in a wonderful print literary magazine titled “scissors and spackle.” I’m not quite sure where the poem came from and why it is one of my favorites but it is. I hope you enjoy it as well:

Girls in Plum Sweaters

what can girls in plum sweaters
be expected to know of loss
as they pass the shovel among friends
unorated letters on pretty stationary drift
in the wind – as earth hard-hits the coffin
inside sweatered pruning friend on white satin
outside they, fresh as dropped stitches
from a single skein of yarn
creating a forever hole
in matching plum sweaters,
dirt under fingernails
cold wind in their fresh washed hair

IOB: Where do you see your writing heading in the future? How can we help you achieve your goals?

PKP: I think it is the height of lunacy that I have not edited the two novels that I have completed. Both of these books, through my nonfiction connections have been read by major NYC publishing house editors with kind helpful comments even though they passed.  I was thrilled by their readings and their encouraging words and then SET THEM ASIDE!  My writing goals, the epitome of this chapter of my life would be to get my novels edited and published.  I think that this wonderful blog could be helpful to me and I am certain to others by providing a forum where partners could cheer each other on and provide a framework and focus for their daily personal goals such as the healthy competiveness of the NaNoWriMo challenges.  I am not suggesting the I would need anyone to read my work or I them, but the simple fact that I was in a sense “responsible” for editing a set number of pages of words a day and that I was not alone in this endeavor would be extraordinarily motivating.

I want to thank you Andrea, and Ina, for this opportunity. and for this wonderful blog which has the potentiality of being a major resource for so many writers.  I wish you everything that you hope to achieve and I already know that you have and will continue to bring as much joy to others as you have brought to me.


By Australian National Maritime Museum on The Commons

A big thank you to the writers and readers who came by to contribute poetry and read the terrific submissions for our first prompt contest! The contest is now closed – can’t wait to read all of these again (suspecting it’s going to be tough to choose between them!).

Thanks again – we look forward to “seeing” all of you  at future prompts!

Wednesday Alert


Did you hear the bells on Wall Street?

We hear them every day, all over the world – only today, the sound should remind you that our contest here on will soon be closed.

You have about 8 hours to join in.

And you might come along and enjoy some great inspiring poems posted here already.

Again, if you have the words, please share them with us.
The bells are ringing.

Monday Coffee: money? prompted contest

Have you ever seen a 100 Danish Kroner note? If not, here is your chance. We’re running a poetry contest here on In Our Books, and the winner will receive a 100 Kroner note, as well as having their poem and a short interview featured in a future In Our Books post.

Write a poem in any form, of no more than one page in length. The prompt: Write about money – is money a token of love? Or is it just the opposite? Or something altogether different. You tell us!

Please post your answer in the comments for this post* by Wednesday, September 12th, 2012, 11:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Savings Time [that’s only three days from now!]

We will post the winning poem and a short interview with the poet in a future post!

Thanks for joining in!

*if you prefer to enter non-publicly please use the contact form available by clicking the “contact us” link at the top of this page. Please note that if yours is the winning poem, the poem will be posted publicly here at In Our Books.

Friday Surprise: connecting with Regina Swint

For our inaugural interview, we’ve had the privilege of interviewing the talented Regina Swint. A creative writer since childhood, Regina hails from beautiful Rome, GA, and is an alumnus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Colorado Technical University. Swint is currently serving in the U.S. Army. Her book, The Other Side of 30,  has received praise from many reviewers, including:

IOB (that would be In Our Books, aka Andrea and ina) jumped at the  chance to ask Regina about her book, her interests and how writing happens in the midst of real life in the military. – Editor [ina]

IOB: Regina, for people who haven’t “met” you yet on the internet (yet!), can you tell us about your background as a person and as a writer?

RS: I’m from a large extended family with a lot of creative people.  I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was very young.  I grew up writing in diaries and journals, and I took many writing courses in college.  My undergraduate degree is in English Literature.  I’m currently serving in the U.S. Army, stationed in New York.  I hope to retire from the Army in about 2 years, so that I can pursue my writing career a little more.  Although I have published one book of fiction, and it is enjoying moderate success, I am still relatively new to the business of writing and publishing.  I’m learning a lot from many of the writing groups and forums that are out there.

IOB: What inspired you to start writing?

RS:  I wanted to be a writer because my uncle Harvey was a great poet in my eyes, and I wanted to move people the way he did.  Also, when I was growing up, my grandmother used to tell a lot of great bedtime stories, many of which I was sure she made up, or that were passed down to her by word of mouth.  I wanted to one day capture some of her stories on paper.

IOB: What  genres of fiction do you  enjoy reading?

RS: I mostly like literary fiction and women’s fiction, but I also enjoy reading an occasional mystery.

IOB: Please tell us about your writing successes.

RS: I don’t believe that I’m in a place yet to call myself a successful writer, but I’m trying to stay the course.  When I published my first book, The Other Side of 30, in 2010, I was very pleased.  The story was about three years in the making, and another seven years or so to finally get up the nerve to self-publish.  I received a lot of encouragement from friends and family, many of whom I met on the Internet, via blogging.  Others were old friends from high school and college, some of whom helped me to get my book into the university bookstore for sale on campus.  That’s a great big deal for an unknown and self-published author.

I’m now in the process of learning the publishing business, and I’m planning to re-release The Other Side of 30 as a 2nd edition by Christmas.  I’d like to think of it as a new and improved version, with a new cover and tighter editing.  I’m also putting together a special book project with multiple contributors, which will be sold for charity.  The book will be called Up from Here.  Ideally, that book will be released around the holidays, too, and it will serve to launch my publishing house, New Renaissance Ink, LLC.  More about my projects and special projects can be founds at my websites, Write on Time, and New Renaissance Ink.

IOB: The Other Side of 30 has some themes that many of us can relate to: the unexpected places we find (and don’t find) love, how to understand what we want in our lives as we move through adulthood, and what we’re willing to do to get what we want. How did Sebrina Cooper’s story come to you and how was it influenced by things you’ve experienced?

RS: Sebrina is composite of many people, with some personality traits and quirks similar to my own.  Her story came about as a writing experiment that just developed into a longer piece of work.  One of my writing professors used to encourage us to write from the perspective of someone else, and to write without judging the character.  I tried to write Sebrina as a person with many flaws, but with many good qualities, too; and I hope that there was some balance.

IOS: How do you combine your working life with your writer’s life?

RS: My daily work life takes up most of my time, and I don’t spend as much time writing as I would like.  I usually only get to read and write for pleasure on the weekends.

IOB: How do you manage to keep up conversations with writers who write in different genres, and may be of different ages and nationalities?

RS: I’m fortunate that I can reach out to other writers via the Internet, and that there are so many forums available on many sites, including blogs, and sites like She Writes and Facebook.  It is possible that because of my military background and lots of exposure to people of different cultures, nationalities, and age groups, that I’m able to communicate comfortably with other writers as people, and without regard to where they are from or what they write.  In my experience, the other writers are very gracious and always willing to offer feedback and share their insight.  Because I don’t speak any other languages, I find myself very fortunate, because the writers who are of different nationalities have been kind enough to communicate with me in English.

IOS: When sitting out in Afghanistan, what did you read or  write?

RS: When I was in Afghanistan, I wrote a lot of random thoughts, but nothing very formal.  It was mostly just notes and emails to family and friends back home in the States.

IOB [Andrea]: I guess that many readers, including many readers new to your work, would be interested to read about your time in Afghanistan – well, me for a start. Have you considered writing about your time in Afghanistan?

RS: I have considered writing about my experiences in Afghanistan, but I have not developed anything yet.  Many of the thoughts and memories are very fresh, and I’m sure it would be very difficult to share any more than I have already shared in my notes, blogs, letters, or essays.  If I write extensively about my experience, I will want to do justice to the story I plan to tell, and to do justice to my comrades who have had experiences there, too.  Their feelings are very important to me.

IOS: What you would tell other writers about the pros and cons of self-publishing?

RS: There are many pros and cons to self-publishing.  I think one of the greatest pros would be that there is a nearly-instant gratification to seeing your work published and available to the world.  Self-publishing also means that you have a lot of, if not all of the creative control of the work.  Everything is done according to what you like, when you like and how you like.  And there is also some flexibility in the pricing for self-published authors.

I also think there are many cons to self-publishing.  Probably the greatest con is that the ability to self-publish can lead many writers to do too much too soon.  While it is very exciting to publish, distribute, and sell on your own terms, it can be exhausting to try and cover so many details without any help or guidance.  I think self-publishing requires a lot of energy, and should be considered carefully before one makes the decision to self-publish or to use a print-on-demand (POD) service.  There are so many options and services out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, and even to be taken advantage of by some less than honorable service providers.

It’s tempting to rush through it, but rushing can lead to making mistakes and delivering a product that’s not as good as it could be.  As a self-pubbed author, you have to even harder to ensure that you’re providing a high quality product, because self-published books tend to have a reputation for low quality with poor editing and poor development.  I think the best thing to do when considering self-publishing is to be careful and do plenty of research.  Ask questions and learn from the experience of as many others as you can before making a decision.

IOB  [Andrea]: You are a hard-working woman, and I admire you for your fresh and direct style, your energy.  Have you any advice you’d like to share?

Thank you very much.  Yes, my days get very long, sometimes, and I find myself wishing there was more time to just write and relax.  As for advice, I try to share this same advice whenever someone asks me about writing.  Just read as much as possible.  Read, read, read!  Read books, not just magazines or sports articles, or something on the Internet.  The more you read, the better and stronger your writing skills will become.  When you write, try to write honestly and without inhibition.  Take time to develop your writing voice and practice using it.  Write because you enjoy it.  Write for love of the craft.

IOB: About your work: What links or what reviews would you like us to refer to?

RS:  I’ve received some very kind reviews of The Other Side of 30 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and from a few bloggers.  Here are a couple of links:

IOB: How can we help you to move forward with your writing?

RS: Allowing me to participate in this interview has been very helpful, and I appreciate your kindness.  I would appreciate any support that you can offer, including sharing my work with others, and helping me to generate as much buzz as possible about me and my work.  Word of mouth is a great way to spread the word.  Thanks, so much, for inviting me to this interview.

IOB: Regina, thank you so much for sharing your time, thoughts, and writing with us!