Susan J. Erickson: Poet Interview

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Please join me in welcoming Susan J. Erickson to the Poetic Asides blog! As many of you may know, she's been a regular here in the past, especially for April PAD Challenges.

Susan J. Erickson happened on poetry. After vowing to stop talking about writing a long-intended mystery novel, she enrolled in a poetry correspondence course offered by Western Washington University reasoning that even an alternate genre would stimulate writing. It did. Now, she's the author of the chapbook The Art of Departure and the collection Lauren Bacall Shares a Limousine. Learn more and read sample poems at www.susanjerickson.com.

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Susan J. Erickson

Susan J. Erickson

What are you currently up to?

The business of promoting a book takes energy! I had/have much to learn about the process. My current focus is to establish a balance between promotion activities and returning to writing regularly.

How did Lauren Bacall Shares a Limousine come together as a collection?

I realized I had several poems about women. I read and was inspired by Julianna Baggott’s book Lizzie Borden In Love: Poems in Women’s Voices and decided to concentrate on writing persona poems. I converted some third-person poems to first person. I did lots of research and study of the lives of the women I wrote about. While the tone of Baggott’s book is dark and tragic, I wanted my collection to have both serious and humorous pieces.

Were there any surprises in the publishing process?

The publication process went smoothly. I was surprised that despite multiple readings of the manuscript a misspelling escaped our scrutiny. I also learned that even if the book publisher has lined up a distributor (Baker & Taylor) they might not fully support distribution of certain books. Ingram also distributed the book so only those buyers who ordered from a single channel were affected.

Have you done anything to promote the book since publication?

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The publisher sent out postcards to a list that I provided. I had to hustle to find addresses and it was time consuming. Hint: keep your snail mail address list current.

I had a by-invitation book launch that was a fun event where a friend came as Frida Kahlo (there are several poems in Kahlo’s voice in the book) and a male friend read as Andy Warhol who appears in a poem in the voice of Marilyn Monroe. For every book purchased I offered original collage cards made with postage stamp images of some of the women appearing in the poems—see my website (www.susanjerickson.com) for examples of the cards.

Since the launch I have scheduled readings at the local independent bookstore, a retirement home, a branch library and a bookstore further afield.

Early on I organized a BookLift group (patterned after a group organized by Seattle poet Susan Rich) whose members help one another in book promotion and book publication activities.

I had business cards made with the image of my book cover. The card has a link to the video book trailer (that link is also on my website) that a talented friend created. I hand out a card and ask people to go online and view the book trailer to help me get 1,000 views. I hand the cards out and tell people I am practicing promoting my book. Such an approach is easy but I suspect I need to learn to just ask for the sale! Learn to say, “I’d be honored if you would buy my book.”

It, of course, takes several poems to get a collection together. Do you have a writing routine?

I tend to write “on demand.” I have a writing group that meets twice a month, so it creates a regular demand for new work. I like to work in series, so after writing one Frida Kahlo poem there were others I wanted to write. Sort of like the one potato chip phenomena.

Many of the poems in your collection were previously published in other publications. Do you have a submission routine?

Some publishers expect submitted manuscripts to have at least half of the poems published. Keeping that goal in mind provided an incentive to submit poems on a regular schedule. I usually submit a group of poems to three publications and keep a list of other possible places to send the group when rejections come in.

One poet that more people should know: Who is it?

Cindy Hunter Morgan.

If you could pass along only one piece of advice for other poets, what would it be?

Be active in, support and establish connections with the local poetry community as well as the wider community.

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Robert Lee Brewer is the editor of Poet’s Market and author of Solving the World’s Problems. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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