4 Questions with James F. Miller

1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

I am an outdoorsman, survivalist, recovered addict, musician, father, and so much more. I began writing in elementary school as song lyrics. This changed to poetry around middle school. I have been in and out of multiple colleges with various majors since the late 1990s. My range of interests is exceptionally large. Music management and live sound were my life for many years after I concluded my 8th semester in college. It was on the road, in the steady presence of excess that I found my weakness. My first book A Footnote for Tomorrow was about my struggles with addiction and my journey along the way to recovery. My second book is about the decline of society, morals, and values as both a broad spectrum and as it applies in the building block of society, the modern relationship.

2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

I promote via social media, occasional advertisements, and have a lot of help from outsourced marketing people to assist with my promotional activities. I could not say that it eats much into my time, because the bulk of my sales come through random meetings and conversations or successful marketing campaigns. I don’t really spend as much time writing as I spend on rewrites and editing of those hour or two here there writing sessions.

3, What projects are you working on at present? 

Presently, I am finishing up what will be my third full length collection, A Lesser Man, it’s a collection of poetry about person’s battle to find their way and identity in life, romance, career and especially faith. Those ups and downs turn arounds and revisions that we make along the journey that is defining us finding our own definition.

4, What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry is that first big, deep, fresh breath of air that starts our days off. Without its release, I am not sure I could have been able to keep my composure to make it as far as I have in any aspect of my life. It’s as vital as water and food, it is the sustenance that sustains us.

James Miller is a poet from the Midwest. His passion for writing began to burn for him once he learned to write in cursive.  Putting pen to page is what makes him feel alive.  His book, A Footnote for Tomorrow, has held the No. 2 spot on Amazon Top New Releases list and remained in the top 10 for two months.  He has been published in the Tecumseh Review (Vincennes University, Indiana), in 2000, as well as various anthologies between 1997 and 2000.

Jim was born in 1970s in a small town in northern Indiana.  His early life was spent between Indiana, Florida and the New York area. After his many years in college, he took to the road and travelled the country in a quest to find himself and some meaning or purpose in life.

During his academic career, James studied English, creative writing, journalism, advertising, philosophy and music/audio recording. During that time, he attended several smaller community colleges including Vincennes University where he studied English-Creative Writing, Journalism and Music-Audio Recording.  During his time at VU he held an editor position on the school’s newspaper, The Trailblazer, for four semesters. 

When he is not writing, working on the family business or at the auto factory, Jim likes to throw on a backpack and hike or load up the kayak and head out into nature. He’s a curious man who will speak to anyone willing to have a meaningful conversation. 


Today poetry collection House of Weeds is released ‘Weeds and humans overlap in this prickly-sweet fusion of poetry and illustration, painting tales of society’s outsiders’ Here is an interview with its author Amy Charlotte Kean.

1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

I’m on a journey to become as weird as David Lynch. I’d say I’m about 3% of the way there, so this may take a while. Most of what I write – my columns, my poems, by books – are about being yourself and accepting your weirdness. Some of us are more capable than others, because being yourself is an extremely brave act. Weirdness is feared intensely in the world, often by insecure people.

 
My first book The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks is about being completely, unapologetically yourself and not worrying what people think. I try not to be cliched about mental health. In the book, the main character Elodie-Rose deals with a constant buzzing and whirring in her brain whenever she decides to give zero fucks for something the day has thrown her way; like bullying or sexual harassment or even being told she’s too loud in debating class. Eventually, when she decides to live life as she chooses, the whirring stops. And in my upcoming poetry book, House of Weeds, every character has been labelled an outcast by society. The poems are about rebelling against norms and embracing your strange. Making peace with it.

I’ve been influenced by the oddest, most magical content: Jim Henson, Roald Dahl, The Mighty Boosh, The Worst Witch, horoscopes, Ella Frears, Anne Carson and Michael Rosen. There will always be a dark humour in my work, because I believe even the saddest, most terrifying situations need laughter.

2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

Every single waking second of every day I spend working, with my laptop open. It’s ruining my eyesight. And I live on Twitter, despite how angry it makes me. I write a lot of comment pieces on the themes of my books and have a regular column for a magazine called Shots, which is designed for the creative community. I’m known as outspoken, which is weird in and of itself, because I only talk about what I believe. In the book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson talks about how we’re cultivating a society where only the bland will thrive. I try and remember that when I write.

3, What projects are you working on at present?

 
House of Weeds, published by Fly on the Wall Press, is coming out on 17th May. As soon as the world is back to normal and it’s appropriate to do so, me and the book’s illustrator Jack Wallington are staging an immersive exhibition in Peckham, so you can go straight to the scene of the book, and live like its characters. I couldn’t be more excited. I’m also writing an audio sitcom and am in the final stages of a novel about the dark, exploitative side of the volunteering industry, set in Kenya.

 

4, What does poetry mean to you?

I struggle with the inaccessibility of poetry, sometimes. So many regular people simply feel they “don’t get it.” What a tragedy! I don’t want poetry to be a secret club, for English grads from redbrick universities who use the same words and voices. It defeats the object of the world being gifted this unrivalled art form that allows people to rip out a piece of their ridiculous brains and throw it on a page to see what happens. When I started writing poetry I was stunned at how much I could get away with, how much I was able to speak my mind, but do it beautifully, with wit and surprise. Poetry is therapy, genuinely. It’s becoming more accessible over time, and when my friends say to me “I don’t get it” it makes me sad, because they don’t realise that all you have to do is try.


Amy photo

Amy Charlotte Kean is an advertising strategist, innovation consultant and writer from Essex. Her first book, the number 1 bestselling The Little Girl Who Gave Zero F*cks was published in 2018 with Unbound. Amy’s rants, reviews, short fiction and poems have been published in The Guardian, Huffington Post, Disclaimer, Glamour, Abridged, Burning House Press, Poetry Village and many others. She was shortlisted in the Reflex Flash Fiction competition and was an Ink, Sweat & Tears poet of the month. Her second book, House of Weeds, is out in May with Fly on the Wall Press.


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An Interview with Elfie, author of the chap Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her?

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Buy Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her?  on Amazon


1. Tell us a little about your chapbook Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her? and the inspiration behind it?

 

Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her? is my first published book and I am so proud to have it out in the world! It is a retrospective look at the sapphic experiences of my youth and my inevitable queer realisation. I originally wrote it as a tool to come out to my family, hence the title, but it also addresses friends and God too.

2. What experiences or people have had a significant impact on your writing?

 

I am very fortunate to have had a writing buddy for literally all of my life. My friend Ebony and I were born on the same day, in the same hospital, and have grown up together. We are both very creative and it has been really inspiring to have someone so talented and passionate close to me. I genuinely don’t know what I would be doing without her support. There are also a lot of incredible people in the writing community on Twitter who have inspired and encouraged me so much! Imani Campbell, Juliette Sebock, and Lenee H all have such distinct voices and reading their work is a delight. There are so many amazing writers in this world! As for experiences, they mainly seem to be negative ones — experiences that I need to process, confront, and reflect upon. Writing can be very therapeutic.

3. Since you started to write how do you feel you have changed, and your writing developed?

 

I started writing when I was in a depressed state and it really helped me to understand what I was feeling and gave me a chance to express those emotions in a safe way. It is emotional looking back on poems and seeing how my perception of the world has changed over this past year and how my mental state has improved. I also became very interested in poetry in general and read as much as I could – especially from online literary journals – and my understanding of language and style has made me a lot more self-critical. I want to put out my best work, the poems that I am really proud of.

 

4. Which period of your life do you write about most often?

 

A lot of my poems in Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her? were about my teenage years and crushes on girls that I developed but refused to acknowledge, and subsequently by late teens and early twenties when I was involved in serious relationships and finally realising my queer identity. Now, I tend to write about recent experiences as a way to process them as I go through them.

5. What did you edit out of your book?

 

With a chapbook, you have to be very selective with which and how many poems you include. I wanted to create a narrative that readers would be able to follow while staying true to my own perception of events and the order they happened. Some poems were removed because they confused that narrative, and other poems were taken out because I didn’t feel like they were strong enough. All of my beta readers suggested changing the order of the poems and I think that made the collection so much better.

6. How many hours a day do you write?

 

It changes every day! I usually begin each day journalling and then turn some of those thoughts into poems. Sometimes a poem takes a minute, sometimes I agonise over it for week.

7. In terms of receiving feedback for your writing who or what do you use for a sounding board?

 

I have been very fortunate to make connections on Twitter with some truly talented writers and editors, so I send my poems and manuscripts to them for their opinions. Poetry is very subjective so I get a mix of responses. I think it’s important to go with your gut but feedback is definitely helpful.

8. What are the aspects of writing that you find challenging?

 

A lot of my writing surrounds my own experiences, mostly to do with traumatic events, so I have found it difficult to decide what to put out into the world and how to word things so that certain individuals can’t be identified, in respect for them and myself. It is also really difficult sometimes to figure out if a poem is done or not. You can keep tweaking and tweaking forever but at some point you have to let it go.

9. Other than your writing, what else occupies your time?

 

I have recently gotten back into playing the piano! I started around ten years ago but stopped due to anxiety. It feels really good to be back sat at those black and whites keys that I loved so much! I also love wandering through nature and taking photographs.

Thank you so much for this interview! I have really enjoyed it!


 

Find Elfie @ElfieinBloom on Twitter & Instagram and their website https://www.elfieinbloom.co.uk/

 


 


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An interview with Beth Gordon. Author of chapbook Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe, published by Animal Heart Press.

 

Bio Photo - Beth Gordon 6.19.19

 

 

Beth Gordon Bio:

Beth Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother, currently landlocked in St. Louis, MO. Her poems have been published in numerous journals including Riggwelter, Into the Void, Five:2:One, SWWIM, Verity La, Califragile, Pretty Owl Poetry and Yes Poetry. She is the author of the chapbook, Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe, published by Animal Heart Press. She is also Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn.


 

  1. Tell us a little about your new book and the inspiration behind it?

My new book published by Animal Heart Press is Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe. Since 2014, my poetry has been informed by loss, grief, and realizing that I live in a world where my experiences of loss are shared by more people than not. The poems I wrote 2014-2016 were explicitly about death and grief. The poems in this book were mostly written in 2017 and 2018 and are about what survival looks like, what life looks like after loss, how to find joy in a life that will end. And how to think about that juxtaposition of joy and death/tragedy on a more universal scale.

2. What experiences or people have had a significant impact on your writing?  

The most significant experience that impacted my writing over the past five years was the death of my granddaughter at the age of seven months – November 2013. And in the 9 months that followed her death, I also attended five other “significant” funerals. In the middle of the “year of the funeral” I met another writer, John Dorroh (JD) who has become my writing partner (and muse). Not only did he help me as a friend during the darkest time in my life; he led me back to writing.

 

3. Since you started to write how do you feel you have changed, and your writing developed?

 

I’ve been writing poetry since I was seven years old, so I’ll speak more narrowly about changes in my writing over the past five years. I would say that like many writers, I was very attached to the subject matter of my work, especially when I began writing about my granddaughter’s death. I relied heavily on the emotion of that subject matter. Over the past five years, through a willingness to let my work evolve, I’ve tried to rely more heavily on my craft…on the art of writing…to carry the weight of each poem. If I’m successful, the emotion will surface through a more deft use of language.

 

4. Which period of your life do you write about most often?

I tend to write about the present. I may pull in elements of past experiences, but usually I’m writing about recent experiences and external events. If I write about the past, it’s because it is relevant to a certain theme.

 

5. What did you edit out of your book?

 

This book started as a full-length manuscript, with a section that included some older poems that were peripherally related to the other poems in the book. I decided to pull out that entire section. I thought it would be hard to do, a kind of emotional amputation. But I was happily surprised to find that what was left was so much tighter and powerful. I’m a brutal self-editor as it is…I have no fear of ripping apart poems and re-assembling them…which is what I did with the book.

6. How many hours a day do you write?

For four years, I know I wrote at least an hour a day during the week (I have a fairly demanding day job) and 4-8 hours a day on weekends. I would say now I write about 10 hours a week, on average.

7. In terms of receiving feedback for your writing who or what do you use for a sounding board?

My main sounding board is my friend and fellow writer, JD. If we are both in town, we get together every Friday night (and sometimes Saturday night). We share what we’ve written the week before and spend focused time writing new poems. I’ve been asked if we are writing collaboratively, i.e. are we creating poems that are co-authored. Except for one poem recently, the answer is no. What we do instead is read our work out loud…which is so important. I hear so many things I would not otherwise notice if I’m just looking at words on a page. It’s easy to become self-absorbed and convinced that no editing is required. But I hear glitches when I read out loud and can also get a sense of how the poem is being experienced by the listener. I’m also part of a writer’s group in Carlinville, IL and get feedback. And I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some poets along the way (both through social media and “in person”) who are willing to read/critique work in progress.

 

8. What are the aspects of writing that you find challenging?

The biggest challenge is making sure that I continue to evolve. I go through phases where I become proficient at writing a certain kind of poem – whether it’s form or subject matter or both – and then I explore that “type” of poem for awhile. Eventually, it becomes too easy to write multiple version of the same poem and I know it’s time to switch things up. That period of time when I push myself to improve my craft…for me, it feels like I’m lifting something very heavy. Pushing to the next level is difficult…then I’m there and writing feels “lighter” again. Until the next plateau.

9. Other than your writing, what else occupies your time?

I have a job that often takes up 50-60 hours of my time (weekly) and I spend as much of my “non day-job” time writing. I also like to spend time with my family which includes a son in St. Louis, a daughter in Richmond, VA, a daughter, son-in-law and 3 grandkids in LaBelle, FL, a brother, sister-in-law and nephew in Winchester, VA and parents in Asheville, NC. If I can find time, I also like to travel for fun. This year I’ve been able to spend several days in Portland, Oregon for the AWP Convention and I’m wrapping up a week in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi (on the gulf coast).


 

 

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Author Interview with Shelby Leigh. Talking about her new poetry collection changing with the tides.

 

 

 

1, Tell us a little about your new book changing with the tides, and the inspiration behind it?

changing with the tides is my newest poetry book, inspired by my own journey and experience with anxiety and insecurity. It’s broken into two parts, the anchor and the sail, to depict the things that have held me down in the past and how I’ve overcome them.

2, changing with the tides is your second book, it starts like this was your debut. You chose to self-publish both books. What were the reasons behind this decision?

I put together my first book after I wrote a poem a day for a year on my blog, and readers encouraged me to self-publish. It wasn’t something I had ever considered, but once I researched it, I decided it was a good fit for me. I think self-publishing is an amazing path for writers to consider. While I would love to go the traditional publishing route one day, self-publishing has allowed me to be in control of the process and learn a lot about writing books along the way.

3, What have been some of the positives, and some of the negatives, you have experienced with self-publishing?

There are definitely both pros and cons to self-publishing! I like that I am in control of how my book turns out. I can follow my own timeline and work with an artist to create the cover I have in my mind. At the same time, when you self-publish, you do it all on your own. Of course you can hire outside editors and designers to help, but you have to pay out of pocket for those services. Additionally, you have to do the marketing on your own, and you won’t have as wide of distribution when you self-publish.

4, How do you feel that your writing has developed, and changed, between the writing of it starts like this and changing with the tides?

I’d like to think there’s a big difference between my first and second book, in terms of both my writing and my personal growth. This new book is a lot more honest and vulnerable, so even if there isn’t a big difference in my writing style, I think I’ve grown a lot in my ability to share more personal details. In terms of publishing itself, I’ve also learned a lot. My first book is a collection of favorite poems from my year-long writing challenge, whereas the poems in my second collection were written specifically to tell a story.

5, Which period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)

My first book is about my teenage years because I was 19 when I published it. Now, I write mostly about my young adult life so far, with the occasional childhood/teenage poem thrown in there too!

6, What did you edit out of changing with the tides?

There were about 20 poems eliminated from the collection in total. These were either poems that I felt weren’t strong enough, didn’t fit well into the narrative, or poems I wasn’t yet ready to share. I also had 4 beta-readers who gave me feedback and helped me decide which poems I needed to keep and remove.

7, How many hours a day do you write?

Sometimes zero, sometimes a few! I can go weeks without writing, or I can write every day for months. Even if I’m not feeling particularly motivated, I try to write at least a little each day, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen (and that’s okay!)

8, Which other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you, in terms of feedback and marketing?

I am so fortunate to have many friends in the writing community who inspire me and help me. My beta readers included Amanda Linsmeier, Marya Layth, Adelle Woods, and Sasha Temerte– all wonderful poets themselves! Cheyenne Raine was a huge help with my website. So grateful for these poets and many, many others!

9, What is your writing Kryptonite?

Experimenting with new styles and formats can be hard because I’ve gotten comfortable with the same writing style for a while now. I definitely challenged myself in my new book to experiment and get out of my comfort zone, which I’m proud of.

10, Who designed the covers of your books, and how much input did you have with their design?

Islam Farid designed the cover for changing with the tides and is a very talented artist. He came up with the initial idea and I provided feedback so we could create something we both loved.



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