I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of the poetry chapbook, Undoing Winter by Shannon Connor Winward. It is published by Finishing Line Press and releases on June 21st, 2014.
Please find my interview with Ms. Winward below.
Did you have any say in the cover art, the title of the book, and the order of the poetry?
Yes, actually, I was fully responsible for the composition and the title. I sent UNDOING WINTER to Finishing Line Press as part of their New Women’s Voices Chapbook Competition in 2013, so when the manuscript was selected for publication it already met their guidelines.
After acceptance, I was given the opportunity to select the cover art as well. Finishing Line uses their own graphic designers, but they asked for my preferences and went from there. I’m pleased with the way it came out – “Moon Shadows” (the cover illustration) is a watercolor by artist/author Lisa Lutwyche, a mentor of mine and a dear friend. So not only does it suit the theme beautifully, it has personal meaning as well.
“Gravity” has to be my favorite from the book. Which one was your most favorite to write from the collection?
“Gravity” is one of my favorites, too. It’s a runt of a poem that always makes me smile because it never actually says what it means – which is kind of the point. But of all the poems in WINTER, I think “Session” was the most fun to write. I was chatting with a friend – another poet and Carl Jung fan – about psychology, anthropology and poetry. We challenged each other to write a poem combining the subjects, and “Session” came out of that.
Writing “Session” was like writing in a fever-dream; I found myself weaving together images from my days as an archaeology student with my own half-buried feelings and life events. It’s became one of my signature poems – quite a journey from a silly poetry throw-down between friends.
Do you feel differently seeing your poetry in book form verses in a magazine?
It’s always satisfying to find a home for a poem (or a story, or essay). It can take years, sometimes, and lots of rejection. That ultimate “yes” feels great, especially when where the piece ends up turns out to be a perfect match.
Seeing a collection published is particularly rewarding, because choosing and arranging the poems is a creative project in its own right. Having a publishing house see something worthwhile in your work, to the extent that they’re willing to represent you and turn your vision into something tangible, is extremely validating.
Describe your journey from magazine submissions of your poetry to book publisher submissions?
I had put my writing career on a back-burner for a long time, for various reasons – to finish school, to start a family. I finally started submitting in earnest several years ago, and was fortunate to see much of my poetry (as well as short fiction and creative non-fiction) accepted in dozens of venues, including some that pay professional rates. My work has also won awards and earned some small recognition. Needless to say, that’s been very gratifying.
Though this happened in a relatively short time, I have been writing seriously for almost two decades now. My style is evolving, my life is changing, and I’m looking towards new projects and ideas. So I had the desire to do a collection – something of a retrospective, a way of looking at the body of my work up to now and drawing it together in a meaningful way. I sent a version of UNDOING WINTER to a chapbook competition in my home state of Delaware and was a runner-up. That emboldened me to keep trying. I heard from Finishing Line Press a year later.
How has being a member of writing associations (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Science Fiction Poetry Association) propelled your writing?
If nothing else, community membership is a credit to add to your author’s bio – but it can offer so much more. Networking is critical to a writer’s success. You can’t exist as an artist in a vacuum. Through groups like SFWA and SFPA, as well as local writers’ groups and online community forums, I stay informed of market trends and other issues impacting the genres that I work in. I also get to know other writing professionals. Expanding my circle of industry friends has helped me improve my craft, promote my work, and take advantage of opportunities I might not even be aware of otherwise.
“I Visit Your Heart” was incredibly visual to read. How do you envision each line of your poetry as you write? Is it all words flowing together or are you painting what you see in your imagination?
I love working with metaphors, particularly in poetry. The title poem, “Undoing Winter”, draws on several underworld myths as a metaphor for depression. The trophy heart on display in “I Visit Your Heart” is a metaphor for a past relationship, as is “Beansidhe” – I’m certainly not the murderous ghost of a young drowning victim, but, seen through the filter of poetry, maybe I am! Likewise “Warren” is a metaphor for a woman’s heart, the spider in “Weaver” symbolizes the urge to write, and so on. I don’t know that I visualize the lines of poetry so much as I feel intuitively drawn to metaphors that translate personal experience into something more universal – archetypal, even. The words tend to come from there, often of their own accord. Like stories writing themselves. And a good story brings pictures to the readers mind. I’m happy if I can accomplish that.
How does writing poetry help or hurt writing your literary and speculative fiction pieces?
I think I am a poet first, which can be both an asset and a burden when writing fiction. I’m told that one of the things that makes my prose unique is its flow of language. I’m also keen on imagery and detail. Those are stylistic things that can be challenging for many fiction authors. On the other hand, poetry is often ambiguous… a poem can tell a story or illicit an emotion even if it does not make literal sense. Poetry can be very impressionistic, and that’s ok. In fiction, however, impressionism is a hard sell. Particularly in genres like science fiction or fantasy, where storyline and momentum are everything. Literary fiction can be more forgiving of the stylistic choices I’m prone to, but then literary markets aren’t always open to the speculative (genre) elements that I love. The result is that my brand of fiction can be hard to place. That said, I rather like being “between” genres, hard-to-categorize, and unique. Just like with selling a poem, finding a home for unusual fiction can be a long and daunting process – but the satisfaction of finally making a good match makes it worth it. That’s the payoff I’m working for.
Where can readers go to purchase a copy of Undoing Winter?
Undoing Winter can be preordered online at http://www.finishinglinepress.com. Click on “preorder forthcoming titles” or search for “Shannon Connor Winward” under “Bookstore”. The cost for the chapbook is $14 retail plus $2.99 shipping. All orders will be shipped after June 21st, 2014.