How has your first book changed your life?
22. Jen Tynes
I started writing the poems that made The End Of Rude Handles during the summer of 2005, mostly finished messing around with it in spring 2006 and started sending it out that summer. I sent it to four or five contests and to Red Morning Press (which I'd heard about through one of Brown University's Lit Arts mailing lists). I received a couple contest rejections during the summer; Red Morning Press accepted the manuscript in October or so, and they planned to have it in print by spring 2006. By that point I had a revised draft of the manuscript to send them; it all seemed very fast.
What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?
My book came back from the printers just a few days before AWP, so the first time I saw it was actually at the book fair in Austin. I was nervous and felt for some reason like I shouldn't go search my book out first, so I actually walked along through the book fair, table by table, until I got to mine. Luckily for me, it was in the first aisle I walked down. So that was weird. I am very nervous about self-interest--ashamed to be caught looking in a mirror--and I was embarrassed to be seen drooling over my own book, so I checked it out briefly (commenting on things like how well everyone else did in designing it) but didn't get a good look and read til I went back to my hotel room. It was exciting. So "real"-looking. I love chapbooks and DIY projects, and I am a big fan of handmade things that look handmade, but the perfect-boundedness of it really got to me. I spent a lot of time looking at the margins, how the poems look perfectly placed on the page. I know margins aren't that hard, but I was thrilled by it.
Were you involved in the cover design?
The RMP guys asked for my suggestions, and I made three. I asked that they use some photos by my husband, that the cover be black, and that some of the text on the cover be a readable blue. They ended up incorporating all my suggestions into a cover design that I really love.
Before your book came out, did you imagine your life would change because of it? How has your life been different since?
I assumed that if I was going to make writing a focus, and I was half-decent at it and I tried to be published, I'd eventually publish a book or two, but it was theoretical and I didn't expect it to happen so quickly. I knew that I wouldn't become rich or famous or anything like that, but I imagined that a book would provide "proof" that I am really a writer--to people who aren't writers, of course, because people who are writers know plenty of fabulous and real writers who don't have books. But I imagined--and it is true--that a book would be a thing my parents could brag about, that I could present as a concrete example of "what I do."
To me a book suggests some time spent, some sustainability. And I want to stop being an adjunct teacher and start being a full-time teacher; I hear that books are sometimes helpful with that, though I don't have any evidence of that yet (and will be teaching an overload of composition courses in the fall). Also, I tend to write in series, larger bodies of connecting works--The End Of Rude Handles is really a book-length poem--so publishing it meant that it finally gets a chance to be read the way I intend, in its entirety. Occasionally someone will ask me to contribute work or do a reading, or a stranger will know my name when I introduce myself, and sometimes that will be because of the book, but it's probably just as often because of other publications, or because everyone else they tried to get was busy.
Even though I'd been told otherwise, I imagined that having a published book would make the next book (writing it? publishing it? I'm not sure) easier. However, the second and third books I'm working on are just like starting over, absolutely no similarities in structure, no better sense of how to organize a thing or know if it's "right," and while my first book was being printed, whenever I tried to write I found myself comparing the two, imagining what they "meant" together, totally unproductive.
What have you been doing to promote the book, and what are those experiences like for you?
I have tried to do as many readings as I can, but the cost is prohibitive. We sent the book to dozens of places for review, but there's only been one full-length review so far that I know of. These poems are on one hand very vocal/aural, on the other hand a little dense and inaccessible in a read-aloud, so giving readings has been a mixed experience for me. I am socially awkward and ambivalent about public relations.
Once I got through the nerves, having the book finished and published helped me move on to the next one. There are some quirks to The End Of Rude Handles that most people who read it, before or after it was published, have pointed out. At first these comments were mostly negative, and the quirks were very important to me, and I let the reactions worry me. But the more I wrote, the more people who read it seemed to trust that I knew what I was doing, and I started trusting myself more too. This book is proof, to me, that I can follow a thing through to what I believe is its true and accurate conclusion, and then I can start the next thing. I guess that's the thrill of completing a manuscript, but the publication--at least for me, I know plenty of people who feel otherwise--means that it is "done." I don't have the manuscript pages lying on my desk anymore. That is very influential.
Green leaves appear to nod and define.
When I snap pictures tender soars apart at the roots,
Each other's bodies described
we make do with using well.
Fine white hairs on short green leaves.
When I speak of you some object is
I enfold the brimming object to you.
Or, another way to talk about collage: I'm constantly having a conversation with the person across the field.
Leave things out and watch the neighbors.
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next interview: Stephanie Young
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