Not long ago we had the pleasure of featuring poet, Maya Ganesan here and she was also gracious enough to provide a copy of her debut collection, Apologies to An Apple for our Summer Madness Giveaway. Tonight, I'm pleased to share an interview with this impressive artist.
I read that your parents hired a writing coach for you when you decided you were serious about your poetry. Tell me about your coach and what you’ve learned from her.
Maya: Her name is Katherine Grace Bond, and without her I couldn't have even come close to publishing Apologies to an Apple. She introduced me to so many new poets I'd never heard of before, helped me through the process of getting published and requesting blurbs, and showed me how to revise and fine-tune my work. I'm so grateful for her help and glad that she was there to lead the way into a place I'd never been.
What came first: the overall theme of the collection you wanted to put together or selecting your best work?
Selecting my best work came first, definitely. The whole concept of a theme half-formed while I was picking and choosing what I thought were my best poems--I think I started rejecting more serious pieces because I wanted more of a lighter, whimsical feel to the collection. I actually reworked one of the pieces, which was about death, to make the poem less depressing.
Once we'd decided that we wanted three separate sections, I split the selected poems into the three smaller themes I'd seen emerge. One group of poems had more of a nature theme to it, another group involved some interaction between nature and people, and the third group was focused on people.
What were your expectations for Apologies, your vision? Did you achieve what you set out to accomplish?
I can't say that I achieved my expectations because I honestly didn't know what to expect. I'm just extremely thankful for all the support. So many reviews, recommendations, mentions, interviews...thank you to everyone who's been encouraging and spreading the word about Apologies to an Apple. It really means a lot to me, and the fact that I've only received positive reviews so far and that everyone who's read it has loved it is just so incredible. I don't know what kind of response I was hoping to receive, but I'm thrilled with the response I'm getting. It's been amazing.
What was the most rewarding part of putting your collection together? What was the most challenging aspect of putting your manuscript together?
The most rewarding part of putting my collection together was, of course, writing the poems. It was one of the most exciting things ever. Writing Apologies to an Apple was so cool because it's somehow way more fun to write for a collection than it is to write a handful of poems when you don't know where they're going to end up: the trash, a journal, or your next collection.
I don't think any part of the writing or publishing process was challenging. There were definitely some sticky times, when I either had a craze to keep editing or we just couldn't decide on the cover (that decision took us several weeks). I was surrounded by people who were very kind and helped me through the whole procedure, so I didn't have much of a challenge at all.
How did you find an agent or publisher? What was the process of getting published like?
Katherine introduced us to a local publishing company, Classic Day Publishing, which agreed to publish Apologies to an Apple (which was untitled at that point). I wrote a lot of poems and edited them until I thought they were perfect. Also, designing the cover was so fun! Getting published was exciting, and I really enjoyed the process.
Let’s talk poetry in greater detail. You’ve said that one of your favorite poets is Mary Oliver. What draws you to her work? Do you try to emulate her in any way? You’ve also listed Kelli Agodon as a favorite poet. Tell us about the appeal of this poet’s work for you.
I try not to emulate other poets, but I've been told it slips up a little in my writing. I'm drawn to poets who bring a fresh perspective. It's nice when a poet can take something obvious and make it seem less blatantly factual, which is what I think Kelli is so good at. She can take something "normal" and transform it into a poem with so much substance and depth to it.
Mary Oliver can bring simple moments into the spotlight in a beautiful way. Plus, the imagery in her poems is so vivid.
Revision. That dreaded ‘r’ word for some poets. How do you approach it? Describe the difference of revision versus editing for you. And speaking of editing, in working with your coach, how did you feel about critique and feedback? Can you explain to our readers what a critique is?
For me, editing is more grammatical, spelling, typos, punctuation, capitalization, etc. Revision is changing up the content of the piece. I try to target the sections of a first draft that I don't like. Once I've figured out what I don't like about those parts, I pretend like I'm in the situation that the narrator is in and try to rewrite the weak sections. Sometimes I'll end up rewriting and reconstructing the poem because my fixes ended up stronger than the rest of the piece.
After some initial advice from Katherine, I started to rewrite and revise my poems more confidently. I love feedback and input; to me, the more, the better. Once I finish a poem, I always want to know what people think of it, so occasionally I'll post my poems up on my blog because I know I'll get some pretty solid feedback. I host collaborative poems on my blog for the very same reason -- I think it's really cool to have a lot of people's minds come together on a project.
And a critique is basically just that -- feedback. Critiques are so helpful because having that input makes a poem so much better. Also, you have the freedom to reject what people tell you, especially if that feedback changes the poem in a way you dislike.
Who are you currently reading? Have you discovered any poets you want to read more?
I'm reading Ted Kooser's Delights and Shadows, but I read most of my poetry online simply because it's easier to access a wide range of poems that way. I like visiting poets' blogs since they quite often post poems up (a few notable blogs being Poet Mom, Book of Kells, and Beth Kephart Books). I haven't "discovered" any poets recently, but if you have any recommendations, I'll take them!
When you’re not reading or writing poetry, what do you read? Any favorite authors?
When I'm not reading poetry, I read fiction, fiction, fiction -- as much of it as I find time to read. I like a little bit of everything, frankly: I love House of Dance and The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart, Wintergirls and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (powerful books), Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Permanent Rose (and the rest of the books in that series) by Hilary McKay, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley...the list goes on and on. Long story short, I like variety in what I'm reading, but I do tend to dislike some of the "popular" books out there (The Hunger Games, Twilight, etc.).
Thank you! It was a lot of fun answering your questions.
Thank you, Maya. Having the opportunity to learn more about you and your take on poetry has been my pleasure. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.