Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Inkpot Interviews: Anne Schwab

Anne is a Winter 12 graduate of the MFAC program. In June of this year she worked with Polaris Press to self-publish her YA novel in verse, Capsized. 

Please describe the book.

Music and poetry intertwine in this teenage drama, cresting and dipping through waves of tension and romance, action and humor. Dealing with serious issues such as underage drinking and illicit parties, the main character of Capsized struggles to stay afloat in her sailing obsessed family by writing poetry to her injured uncle. This is a story told in a series of poems, a realistic teen drama swimming in heartache, headache and finally, hope.

As the story progressed from inception to copy-edited version, what were the major changes? How did those changes come about? When did you first begin work on it? When did you finish?

This book began over ten years ago but since then has undergone major shifts in plot, voice, form and format. The process of growing from a middle grade prose novel into a young adult verse novel paralleled in many ways the process of puberty with all its emotional high and lows and spikes of doubt, worry, angst and drama! The major shift from middle grade to young adult occurred while I was working with an agent back in the day. She encouraged me to dig deeper and add more emotional intensity, and the result of that was a deeper exploration into the hearts of the characters and an added layer of romance that had before been only peripheral. Unfortunately, due to family circumstances, the agent had to take a leave of absence and soon after that, I decided to put the story aside for a while, relegating it to a back corner of  drawer to mature and settle a little bit more.  During that time, I enrolled in Hamline’s MFAC program and dove into the joy of writing and revising in a variety of styles and forms. It was at this time that I grew to truly appreciate the beauty and power of stories told in verse and began to wonder what if… What if the story that had grown from middle grade innocence to young adult angst were to be retold but this time entirely in verse? Could it be done? Did I dare? The answers, I decided were yes and yes! And so for my final thesis, I pulled out the old manuscript, read it over a few times and then put it aside and began again, writing a new story, based on the old story, but this time as a story told entirely in poetry.

You self-published Capsized.
Tell us about the process of finding and working with the publisher and designer.
It was quite a process indeed!  After the retooling and poetic revisions of the story as noted above, I was ready to begin the fun of resubmitting, but the more I shopped the story around, the more I realized that this quiet little poetic piece was having a hard time finding her place in the big world of young adult blockbusting action, adventure and romance. I received a variety of ‘good’ rejections from agents and editors (you know the ones—handwritten notes, encouraging remarks, positive feedback but ultimately ending with something along the lines of “...but not quite right for me…”), but despite the nibbles, no bites.  Meanwhile, I was reading more and more about the world of self-publishing and about authors ranging from completely unknown to the very biggest names in the business taking this path with their own work, and I began to wonder, why not?  With the idea in mind and my story in hand, I began to research routes towards self-publication. Wow! There are a LOT of self-publishing opportunities out there!  Some seemed too good to be true, some were more experienced than others, some offered only e-books, some offered only print, some offered a one-time publication blast, some offered post-publication support.  After exhaustive research including checking out reviews and blogs and feedback from many, many other authors, I narrowed it down to a handful of possibilities. From there, I emailed my finalists, asking for more specific personalized details and then ultimately made my decision. The publisher I decided to go with is a publishing arm of a local publishing house, a small press that specializes in Minnesota authors and one that is especially friendly towards poets.  Not only did they give me amazing editorial assistance and feedback, they designed my cover, offered me set up and publication support, hooked me into a network and a community of other local authors and continue to be there for me whenever I am in needed of assistance or simply have a silly question or two.

What research was involved before and while writing the book?

Lots of verse novel reading and critiquing and ruminating, lots of poetic form research and many, many years of sailing!

Did you ever workshop this story at Hamline?

Yes—in my very first year but then not again after that.

What was your critical thesis on?

Epic poetry.

What was your creative thesis?

This book!

Did you discover and fall in love with any books while in the MFAC program?

I discovered novels in verse and fell in love with nearly every book written by Helen Frost.

Without naming names, tell us who your first readers are (e.g., live-action writing group; online writing group; editor; agent). When do you share a piece of writing?

Depending on the piece, my first readers range from one of my children to my writing group to a trusted advisor to a forever friend who lives across the country from me.

What’s your current favorite jolly word?

I don’t know if it counts as ‘jolly’ but the word that I’ve been repeating over and over these days to myself and my mayhemic (is that a word or did I just make that up? :-) household of children is Namaste. 

For more information about Anne and her book visit her website.

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