Entries open for The Aryamati Poetry Prize. Win publication, books & critical feedback on your writing

Hello. Here to share a contest where you can win publication and books. Courtesy of one of my favs Fly on the Wall Press. If you see the thread below you can find out all about it.


 

 

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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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Goodreads

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 Tianna G. Hansen. Author of Undone, Still Whole published by APEP Publications.

 

 

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

My new book, “Undone, Still Whole”, from APEP Publications, (https://www.apeppublications.com/product/undone-still-whole/) chronicles my journey to recovery and healing from trauma, guided by divine feminine figures along the way. It is a very personal body of work, discussing both my mental illness which I have had my entire life, as well as my PTSD and trauma triggers from sexual abuse. It explores what it means to feel like you are a broken being, finding the strength and resilience to carry on and to discover wholeness again. I was very inspired by witchcraft throughout as well as Greek mythology goddesses as symbols of strength and overcoming. The book (https://www.creativetianna.com/undone-still-whole) evokes Persephone, goddess of the Underworld, who embraces the darkness; Artemis, hunting trauma and triggers to relish their destruction; Calypso, feeling passion like the waves of an ocean growing, allowing one to consume and be consumed; Hecate, Three-Headed Goddess of Witches, who evokes the idea of crossing over, a silent witness to pain and suffering. This collection asks “what am I?” A woman undone, but still whole, a body that has been battered by the hands of time, by men and abusers. A woman not broken but who does not feel whole – this collection attempts to make sense of that feeling, of living in the aftermath of trauma, embracing womanhood and the moon as a muse for being whole in every phase of life.

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

Since my book deals with many of the traumatic experiences in my life, they are a significant influence, but I also took a lot of inspiration from what I have learned. I wouldn’t change a thing if I could about my past, because it has all helped me become the person I am today. The people who have been part of those experiences have obviously had an impact on me, but this book is largely about overcoming the burden of feeling like anyone can have such an effect on me. It’s about discovering self-love and acceptance just as much as finding a way to heal from my past.

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

When I first started to write, I was a little timid to incorporate anything so blatantly personal in my writing, but I just read an interview with the writer Maggie Smith who I admire very much and she described the feeling perfectly: “I think sometimes it’s easier to write a hard truth than to speak it.” I have always felt worried about what my family or friends will think when they read my honest work, and that’s something I am (still) growing out of. But my family and close friends have been so receptive to this book, it has been inspiring. My writing has taken on a strength of its own. Once I finally passed that boundary within myself and started to allow the words to come as they needed to, I discovered my voice. It began with writing creative nonfiction essays about my mental illness and trauma, which then inspired me to write poetry. I have developed a strength in finding my unique voice, allowing it to speak without feeling I must keep it inside. After I released the need to be careful with what I write, I found my writing grew into a new entity, took on its own form. My writing has always come from a deep emotional focus for me and as an empath, I am never out of emotions to fuel this. I love to challenge and push myself, though, and to see where else I can take my writing. It’s a growth in itself to feel this freedom with my writing, and see where it takes me. I feel my voice grow stronger each time I allow myself to write with this open and honest outlook, and I know I will continue to change and grow as time goes on.

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

I have found myself writing from all periods of my life, but with “Undone, Still Whole” I focused on the present, on trying to work my way out of the traumatic influence of the past, and how I am still in the long process of healing today. Most of the poems in the collection are focused on this present state of being and there are many raw emotions behind each piece. I’ve noticed I also like to write about a period of my life where I felt a deep innocence, especially after surviving so much trauma. I’m no longer afraid to go to the very dark and negative periods of my life, either, where I often felt I was drowning or like I would never make it out alive.

What did you edit out of your book?

There was one poem meant to be the “ending note” of the book, which I scratched. Looking back, I’m not 100% sure why I did. It was a happy, positive poem about my life with my husband now. A love poem, which is somewhat rare for me to write. But as I was working on the edits of the book, it stuck out as a sore thumb to me. Not that I didn’t want any love poems or to have the positive note of how I am living now – focusing on the good, simple moments – but the rest of the poems deal intensely with the emotions I am working to overcome on a daily basis, a reclamation of my soul and self, as well as my passions and my body. As a sexual trauma survivor, I often struggle to engage myself in sex and in wanting that passion again. I think that poem may have fit in there, but I also wanted the piece to exist on its own. It was such a cozy poem about living in happiness and as I was editing my book, it felt like I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that these things are connected. I wanted each poem included in the book to focus on my singular experiences, rather than those joined with anyone else. To show that I do not need anyone else to discover or define my happiness. It is really a book about claiming this on my own, bringing out the strength in my womanhood.

How many hours a day do you write?

I try to write for at least half an hour every day. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but between juggling my day job and working on editing and running my small press, Rhythm & Bones, trying to find time to focus on my own writing can be difficult. I want to carve out more time in the near future. I try to at least write one or two poems a day and crave more of a structured writing routine.

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

 
I’m fortunate to have a strong community of writers behind me. I have a writing group and I recently joined up with a collective who are very supportive and wonderful. It’s so important as a writer to have a community, to have a group of people who are willing to read and give feedback on your writing and support you. For this book, it was vital to have my editor at APEP, Jeremy Gaulke, as a sounding board for each poem. He really helped me refine each piece of work and pull out of me what I wanted to express. Having a good, devoted editor can make all the difference, especially with such personal poems like the ones in “Undone, Still Whole” where I think I could get to a certain point and not really know how to voice what I wanted. It is all very raw emotion. I also love the support I’ve found through the literary community on Twitter, and I’ve made many friends who support me and the work I’m doing. It’s a lovely feeling.

What are the aspects of writing that you find challenging?

I find it challenging, as I mentioned, sometimes expressing my emotion in a concrete way. I have always loved strong imagery, but I also have a large focus on the emotive aspects of my writing. Finding a balance between the two can often be a challenge, but one that I enjoy. I also love to do research, and this was a large aspect for “Undone, Still Whole” as well, making sure I channelled each goddess correctly. It’s a challenge sometimes to mix the personal with something that is true for everyone, but I have a dear writing friend who always reminds me “the personal is universal”. I hold this now as a focus as I create.

Other than your writing, what else occupies your time?

When I’m not writing, I’m editing. As previously mentioned, I founded and work as editor-in-chief of my small press / lit mag, Rhythm & Bones Press (www.rhythmnbone.com). It is very rewarding work, focused on the idea of turning trauma into art and giving a platform to authors who have survived trauma they wish to portray to the world. I’ve run R&B for a year now, and we already have a large catalogue of stunning books which mean a lot to me. I’m excited to continue growing as the years go on and see where this takes me. I also work at a small community newspaper as my day job, and when I’m not working, I spend time outdoors, gardening, and enjoying the company of my husband and playing with my cat, Stella.


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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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