An Author from Ohio is part of ‘Let’s Talk with the Authors’, a series of interviews with authors who have worked with editors4you or WriteDesign Publications. The promotional opportunity is also open to other authors. Contact us for details.
An Author from Ohio: Grace Curtis
Promoting Your Books
Around Christmas 2019, I offered my authors a simple way to promote their books through an author interview.
As we writers know, it’s one thing to write a book. It’s quite another to promote it. Writers tend to shy away from promotion, but it’s vital to kick the shyness habit and get our books out there in the big wide world.
In this fifth interview in the series, the profiled author is Grace Curtis, an author from Ohio who has published several collections of poetry. The Surly Bonds of Earth, a letterpress Chapbook, was selected in 2010 by American poet, Stephen Dunn, as the winner of the Lettre Sauvage contest. In 2014, Dos Madres Press, Cincinnati, published her first full-length collection, The Shape of a Box and in April 2019, they published her third poetry collection, Everything Gets Old.
Grace retired in 2011 from full-time work in healthcare administration in Ohio so that she could write. She was awarded a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from Ashland University in Ohio in 2010. She lives in Waynesville, Ohio, a small village in Southwest Ohio.
In An Author from Ohio, we talk with Grace about her third poetry collection, Everything Gets Old.
The blurb of Everything Gets Old was written by Pauletta Hansel. It says, ‘Everything does get old, including the speaker of these poems and the inclusive “we” to whom they are often spoken… Is it that simple, that literal? What in your mind are you concerning yourself with in these poems as related to the title?’
The title of the book is taken from the second poem, ‘Everything, Including Us, Gets Old’. In part VII of that poem, the last few lines read:
We started thinking the thought
about not thinking,
about giving in
and how it hangs
like after-sex, a detente,
as if settling in or giving up fear
for the first time….
that everything, including us,
The it here refers to the thought about not thinking, or a sort of giving in to the reality of the fact that everything, including people, get old. The passage addresses the idea that over time, perhaps a lifetime, the speaker arrived at that realisation and acceptance.
But, and this is important, while the notion of a person or persons getting older is front and centre in this specific poem, the book throughout directly, and often indirectly, addresses the idea that all sorts of life events represent that idea, and that aging or a routine getting old, for example, is neither negative or positive. It just is.
Can you say more about that?
Well, I seek to find middle ground in my poetry, where the idea of negative or positive, good or bad, is not a part of the concern. It’s simply poetry of witness and of observation. I try to make it nonjudgmental and apolitical in the common sense. That to me is where lyric poetry, at least my lyric poetry, most often resides, or where I want it to reside—in a place of observation, or maybe simply in a place of artistic expression.
In fact, several of the poems do specifically address age or aging as a concern: ‘On What We Keep’, ‘What if Old People Dress in Camouflage’, ‘The Sun by Another Name’, ‘Battleships’, and others. Many do not.
Some of the poems, like ‘The Choices We Make’, ‘Godbye’ or ‘Autonomy’ feel like meditations, meditation being defined as discourse expressing your considered thoughts on the subject. Does that description ring true for you?
Yes, I would say that statement is accurate. There are a number of poems in addition to the ones you have mentioned that would fall into that category, for instance, ‘An Ostinato on Winter Solstice’, or ‘The Orthography of Wind’.
Some of the poems in the book take on a very personal nature. There are two poems related to my sister’s illness and subsequent passing. The same is true for the long poem near the end of the book, ‘Definitions/Parts/In the Beginning’. This poem is dedicated to my daughter, Samantha, who as a nine-year-old child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It’s fundamentally a poetic conversation about our early journey with that disease.
In our efforts to be exact
create exact failure.
fumble with exact. Back
and exact to the store
for the exact supplies.
exact the syringe
I wanted to express the sense of frustration that occurs when trying to manage type 1 diabetes with an exactness that is impossible to achieve, and to capture the idea that it is an ongoing struggle. I wanted to tell an old story in a new way. Perhaps, selfishly, it was less about the art of poetry and more of an act of catharsis for me.
What was different about writing this book compared to the others?
I struggled for a long time with this collection of poems because I wasn’t clear about the direction. I’ve always envied poets who set out with a clear-cut purpose in mind. Once I wrote the title poem, I knew what I wanted the title of the collection to be and I found the poems from my stash or wrote new poems that fitted that vision. I can’t say it was easier or harder than the first full-length collection, but it took less time. Anyway, I write slowly to begin with.
What’s next for you, Grace?
I am currently working on a collection of prose poems. Someone told me they fit into what might be considered lyric prose. These are more meditative, more observational than anything I’ve ever written. You can read a sample poem, ‘Even-Turn’ in the Galway Review.
What advice do you give to aspiring poets who are trying to get their first book published?
I recommend they stick with it and not get discouraged. Here are some specifics:
- Read several collections cover to cover and ask yourself, what is the collection doing? How is it held together? What overall impression does it create? What is the poetic arc of this book and how was it created?
- Edit, edit, edit. And then, find a good copy editor for a final edit. A lot of small presses that publish most of the poetry today do not provide intense copyediting services. A clean, error-free manuscript can’t help but impress a publisher. It’s well worth it to have a professional look it over, otherwise, you might find yourself with an embarrassing typo that lives on and on in your book. Poetry can be hard for someone else to edit, but a good editor can work with you in all your poetic quirkiness. I struggle with commas, for example. It’s nice to have someone question my decisions.
- A publisher once told me to submit to ten presses. If I got ten rejections, then consider some rework of the manuscript. I am always tempted to try to rework the poem or manuscript after I get even one rejection. But don’t. Editors have preferences and it might not have anything to do with the quality of your work. Once you decide to do some rework, ask yourself things like, Does it need a new title? Do the poems need to be sequenced differently? Should some poems be swapped out for others?
- You can always consider self-publishing. Leaves of Grass by American poet Walt Whitman was self-published.
To find out more
You can purchase Grace Curtis’ latest collection, Everything Gets Old at Dos Madres Press.
Grace’s contact information follows:
We hope you have enjoyed reading about Grace, the first author from outside of Australia interviewed for this series.