Welcome to the five hundred and seventy-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with poet Kellie Elmore. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Kellie. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Kellie: My name is Kellie Elmore, I live in a small town in East Tennessee with my husband and my son. I began writing when I was young but, did not pursue writing or publication until a few years ago when I began sharing my work on my blog.
Morgen: Blogs are great, aren’t they. Do you write poetry to form or as it comes? If to form, what are your favourites? Are some easier than others?
Kellie: I definitely write as it comes. It’s the only way I know how to write. Anything I have “forced” never comes out right or “feels good”. I do enjoy playing with form poetry however; I love the freedom of prose. However I am feeling, remembering, seeing or hearing it is how it plays out on the page.
Morgen: I’ve never been taught poetry and write very little of it, but have enjoyed the lighter forms: Fibonacci, haiku, sestina, doggerel so maybe a prose poem is a compromise for me. Do you generally write rhyming or free verse?
Kellie: Free verse is my preference. I have attempted rhyme many times, but I never could work well with it unless I was able to use slant. I have had a couple successes with rhyme and they are included in my book.
Morgen: Which leads me nicely on to my next question: what have you had published to-date?
Kellie: My very first collection was released April 1st with Winter Goose Publishing; it’s titled Magic in the Backyard. I have a new collection will be released in March 2013. Yay! And a third collection of prose titled “Candy from Strangers” coming in November 2013.
Morgen: What great titles. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Kellie: I have, and they are never an easy thing to deal with. The mere bravery it takes to put your work out there for the world and then to have it shot down is definitely upsetting but, that comes with it. For me, I just continue to tell myself that not everyone is going to just love what I write. Just like not everyone will love my new hair-do…you just wear it the best you can.
Morgen: Absolutely. It’s just the right thing for the wrong person. Do you go to poetry slams? If so, could you tell us how they work?
Kellie: I have not been to a poetry slam as of date but, I have a book-signing coming up and there will be several poets attending that will be performing. I’m really looking forward to it.
Morgen: You’ll have to let me know how it went. Do you deal with publishers directly or do you have an editor / agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Kellie: I am very lucky to work closely with my publisher. WGP maintains their position in making authors comfortable and treating them like family. It has been an awesome experience thus far.
Morgen: That’s so great to hear and I have found in these interviews that the author / small press experience works. Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process?
Kellie: They are. I was able to be in on the entire editing process including the creation of the cover. Beginning to end, I was included in making my book the best it could be with the help of a wonderful team at Winter Goose.
Morgen: That makes sense because you are the person who knows it best. Do you think eBooks will change poetry? If so, how?
Kellie: I see eBooks changing literature in general. The novelty and ease of downloading a book and taking it with you without carrying a bag full of paperbacks is certainly something that appeals to readers. I myself prefer turning actual pages. I love the smell of an old book and the fresh, crisp feel of a new book.
Morgen: Most people still do but it’s great having the choice. I tend to read paper at home and have my iPad whenever I go away. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Kellie: I do a lot of “relationship building”. That’s my way of marketing. I talk to people who reach out to me and that has been the “success” in my branding for the most part. There is a lot of competition out there especially since self-publishing has begun to play a bigger role. With so many authors promoting their work, communication is key. You can throw your links and promos out there all day long but, until you let them know you’re human, and take time to interact with people, it won’t get you anywhere. At least that has been my experience. (and I love to talk so, it works well for me)
Morgen: It does make a difference. I’ve seen people on Twitter have nothing else to say other than “buy my book” and wonder why they get defollowed. Do you have a favourite of your poems or topic to write about?
Kellie: Though I wouldn’t consider it a “favourite” topic, most of my work has been on the subject of loss, as I really began this journey into writing when I lost my great-grandmother. It was a part of my healing process and has helped me develop my writing in terms of evoking feeling from my readers.
Morgen: Writing is very therapeutic. I wrote a novel late 2010 which I didn’t plan to see daylight but I really liked the end result so will de-real it (especially the names, which is a shame because they’re perfect!) and eBook it. Presumably you choose the titles of your poems – do you get to keep them or are you ever overridden?
Kellie: I have yet to be overridden on my titles and was actually told that titling being a difficult thing to do, I have done pretty well with it. It’s one of the things I am most picky about. A title makes all the difference.
Morgen: It certainly can. With my flash fiction, unless I have an idea straight away I write it then a phrase usually leaps out at me. I think that’s a nice way of tying it back in. Do you show / read your poems to anyone before you submit?
Kellie: I do, my son and my husband will occasionally read them before I post them. I make them read them out loud to me so I can hear how it flows and make adjustments in my line breaks. It’s a big help.
Morgen: I’ve heard (or seen on LinkedIn) say they don’t need a second opinion, but apart from spotting errors (and there will usually be some) they can come up with some great suggestions. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Kellie: I have two manuscripts in the works actually. A second collection of poetry / prose and a novel I have been writing for quite some time now. Having never attempted a novel, it is a learning experience and I am taking my time and reading a lot in hopes to get it “right”. =)
Morgen: I hadn’t until NaNoWriMo 2009 and I’m hooked ever since. I’ve just written my sixth and love the fact that I can do the bulk of a first draft in a month, although I know that’s when the hard work starts, which is why I’ve only got one novel up so far, although the second (a mystery) shouldn’t be long. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Kellie: It comes in spurts for me. I am a firm believer in not forcing your pen so if it isn’t just flowing, it isn’t getting written.
Morgen: Sometimes it’s just your brain’s way of saying it’s tired. Why do you think poetry is such a difficult market to break into?
Kellie: I think the biggest contributing factor is that people have a pre-conceived notion about poetry. That it’s something that they will not understand or “get”. Therefore, poetry is a very hard sell so, publishers do not want to take the risk.
Morgen: Often, yes. I’ve found the same with short stories. It’s a tame circle; it’s not in wide circulation so people aren’t reading it so publishers aren’t investing in it. Are there any tips you could give to someone wishing to write poetry?
Kellie: Just write. Poetry is an art, a creative form of expressing yourself. Don’t get caught up with the rules of form when you are beginning, just write what you feel. From there, you can begin to develop your own unique voice which will eventually lead to your own unique style…and pay no mind to critics. Period.
Morgen: Do you write any fiction, non-fiction or short stories?
Kellie: Yes, I actually have written several shorts that I hope to be included in the next collection.
Morgen: Oh great, my favourite format. Do you do a lot of editing of your poems or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Kellie: I rarely edit. I know that sounds crazy but, if I begin to change something, I end up breaking the whole mood and feel of the piece as it was originally intended to feel and at times, it has become something totally different. The most editing I do is change up my line breaks if it isn’t giving the effect I’d like it to.
Morgen: Not crazy at all. If you’re happy with it, it’s the most important thing. I used to write a lot of 60-word stories and found the more I wrote the closer they came out to the word count. It’s obviously not a direct comparison but do you find your poems come out at similar lengths, or do they really vary.
Kellie: They vary I suppose, for the most part but, I do think the majority of my work is quite short. I like to say what I feel and leave it alone. If I drag it out, it loses its “influence”.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
Kellie: There are a couple pieces that I have written with specific locations in mind in which I wanted to dig a little bit to make sure I named them correctly, other than that my poetry comes from personal experiences and requires little research.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Kellie: Oh yes! I have some that I wrote in Junior High School that will never! Lol!
Morgen: I only started writing (apart from odd bits at school, most of which has long gone) seven years ago and do plan to revisit those as I’m sure I have the experience now to buff them into a gleam. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Kellie: The muse… Oh, how commanding she is. She says “write!” and I say “where’s my pen?” She goes on vacation, I sit twiddling my thumbs waiting for her to decide to return. You are at her beckon call.
Morgen: I like that image. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Kellie: That would have to be Mark Twain, Mae West and Zac Brown. I think it would make for a fun evening =)
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Kellie: “Make time to write. Get everything on paper – leave something behind – the most remembered things in history have been words.” – Kellie Elmore
Morgen: I like that. I have a writing / dog-walking friend who writes very little and needs to be given a nudge so I’ve said I want her to write 2,000 words a week. She looked horrified until I told her that 300 words a day = 100,000 words a year then I could almost hear the cogs whirring. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Kellie: Writing plays the biggest role in my life professionally. Aside from work…I spend time with my family, usually fishing. =)
Morgen: Perfect environment; quiet, and all you need are a pen and paper. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Kellie: We love the outdoors. Camping, fishing, swimming, summer time is our pick of the seasons. I also dabble a little in photography in which case, Spring and Fall are superb especially in East Tennessee.
Morgen: Designing my own covers have made me think more about photography. Whenever I take shots now I think about where the title and my name would go. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Kellie: I started out on this wonderful website called All Poetry – www.allpoetry.com. There I met some beautiful people who helped me in finding my voice and were so helpful to me in the early stages of my pursuit of poetry. I recommend it to anyone, old, young, new or established.
Morgen: I’ve just been amazed by the support of other writers and readers and have made many (albeit online) friends since starting this blog and getting ‘out there’. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Kellie: I have this quote, “Poetry will die when love and pain cease to exist.” Though, this pertains to writing in general. Until we as human beings become completely numb, there will always be writers…and even then, we can find a way to write about what it feels like to be numb.
Morgen: That’s what I love about writing, even the simplest things can spur. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Kellie: My website is http://kellieelmore.com or you can visit the Winter Goose Website and stay up-to-date via my author page: http://wintergoosepublishing.com/authors/kellie-elmore
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Kellie: When I’m not writing / blogging, I spend time on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you! http://twitter.com/kellie_elmore
Morgen: We follow each other. Lovely to meet you again here, thank you, Kellie.
I then invited Kellie to include one of her poems and she said…
This is the first poem in my book, Magic in the Backyard. You can read this and the rest of the entire first chapter on Amazon, FREE by following this link and then clicking on “Download First Chapter” in the right hand column: http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Backyard-Kellie-Elmore/dp/0985154829
When I was young, growing up in this town with nothing much to do, my Grandma said, “You will appreciate this when your older”
I didn’t believe her.
This town of churches and dreams.
This town I thought I would lose myself in, with its backward ways and winding roads leading to nowhere
But I found myself instead.
I found myself driving through the country eating a July watermelon with uncle and smelling sweet honeysuckle in Tennessee’s fresh, country air. Stopping at Ballplay Spring, drinking in freedom from an empty milk jug, oh, how good it was.
In the mountains, leaping off Steel Bridge into Bald River,
baptizing myself in redeeming waters, waters that knew where they had been, where they were headed, and lead me to happiness.
In a little white church, kneeling before the altar in complete surrender, asking forgiveness. Rising up, as sure as the northern star
and brighter than the morning sun, into salvation.
In this town, where all roads lead home and the train cries a lonesome song for the fallen whose faces are remembered in flags on the courthouse square. Where every smile you pass is family, familiar and embracing. Where your word as well as your name, tells of your raising and spends like money, but worth much more.
Where play on a summer day is the rope swing off the willow tree
and poppin’ tents on the bank at night. Days are long and time is passed from an old porch swing, with nothing much to do.
This town of churches and dreams, where preacher convinced me of Jesus, and uncle taught me to drive. When I was young my grandma said, “You will appreciate this when your older”,
Now, I believe she was right.
Magic in the Backyard COPYRIGHT © 2012 by Kellie Elmore. Excerpt appears courtesy of Winter Goose Publishing
I then invited Kellie to include a synopsis of her book…
Growing up in a small town, Kellie Elmore learned of love and loss within her humble “backyard” surroundings. Weaving stories inspired by these emotions and the vast nature of the East Tennessee foothills has become her passion. You will feel the enchantment at the center of this collection of prose and poetry as you are completely taken in by the allure of Magic in the Backyard.
Kellie Elmore is a Southern writer who believes self-expression is most beautiful in its pure, raw and unedited form, transforming the simplest words into something you can feel.
Kellie finds inspiration in nature and in the humble surroundings of her “backyard” – Southeast Tennessee. Through poetry and prose, Kellie writes freely about cherished and magical moments as well as tragic losses. Her goal is to take readers back, rekindle a memory or elicit a feeling.
Kellie’s book was recently featured in Southern Writers Magazine and the reviews have been consistent, all agreeing that Magic in the Backyard is a must read. Her poetry was also selected and included in the Voice Your Verse project, an anthology titled “If the World Were Your Classroom” by shesthefirst.org, a cause which helps fund girls education.
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