Sapling Interviews Anna Scotti!
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Sapling: Tell us about the process of getting your book published. Did you enter contests? Open reading periods? What transpired between sending the manuscript out initially and its acceptance by your publisher? Anna Scotti: My story is probably a little unusual, because I’ve been writing and publishing poetry for about fifteen years, but Bewildered by All This Broken Sky is my first collection. It takes me a long time to get a single poem to where I want it - I write it, edit it, let it cool, take another look - sometimes I work on one poem for months. In the bio on my book cover it says “ten years in the making” and that’s not an exaggeration. I entered the Lightscatter Press Poetry Prize - their first contest - and won! That was a thrill. They are a new press with some really out-there ideas...my book will have QR codes embedded in the pages! Anyway, yes, to answer your question, I love contests and think they are a great way for a poet to get the work out there, get some encouragement, and pick up a couple dollars, too. My family jokes that I am one of the highest paid poets in America because I got paid a few hundred bucks for writing poetry last year. Sadly, it’s probably true! Sapling: What was your experience with the editing of the manuscript? Did you have an opportunity to make revisions either at your own suggestion or at the suggestion of your editor? How involved were you in the design aspects of the book's production (cover image, design, etc.)? AS: I had the best experience possible. I’ve spoken with a lot of poet friends, and no one can believe how happy I have been with the publisher, Lisa Bickmore, straight through the process. We got to know each other through long telephone conversations over the summer, and she had gathered a pile of about ten or fifteen poems that she wanted to ask questions about or suggest minor changes to. A comma here, a line break there. Small stuff, but so important in putting together a collection. She guided me through the process of sequencing the poems - always a challenge, I think, for any poet. She also consulted me about the cover - it’s gorgeous - and included me in lots of design and production decisions. It’s her baby - her press’s first book - and it’s my baby, too. We both have a lot of our hearts invested in this book, so we took our time and got things right. Sapling: Did you publish any excerpts in literary journals or other periodicals before the publication of your book? If so, did this seem like a necessary part of the process for this particular project? AS: Actually, most of the poems were previously published, in periodicals ranging from tiny student-produced journals to The New Yorker. I have been publishing for about ten years. Many of my poems first appeared in Chautauqua and The Comstock Review. There were a handful in Nimrod, and a couple of my favorites first appeared in Yemassee. I do suggest that newer writers try to publish in journals first, before attempting a collection. And read the journals you submit to. You’ll see what’s happening in the world of poetry, instead of living in artistic isolation, as many poets do. I have an MFA, but my real education in poetry came from reading every journal I could get my hands on. Sapling: In what ways have you been involved in the publicity and promotion of your book thus far? In what ways is your publisher helping you with marketing your book?
AS: We are just getting started with that, and I’m fortunate in that the publisher is letting me be quite involved. I just went through the process of releasing a book through a small press - in this case, it was my young adult novel, Big and Bad. It was released in April, just at the start of the pandemic. Well, the pandemic was a book killer - not just for me, but for a lot of writers. I wrote Big and Bad 16 years before it was picked up by the publisher - and yes, via a contest! So, it was a thrill to have it between two covers. But it has sold very few copies so far because for the first nine months of the pandemic, everything stopped. Readings, signings, festivals, conferences - all cancelled. Bookstores closed. Copies couldn’t ship. Despite all of those challenges, or maybe because of them, I have learned a lot about publicity and promotion. I have a friend who is a publicist and she gave me a lot of tips and help. Big and Bad got a rave review from School Library Journal, and was even mentioned in The New York Times Book Review as part of a round-up about pandemic-releases. Slowly but surely, it is starting to sell on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and in independent bookstores! I’ve been able to apply a lot of what I learned to the publicity for Bewildered by All This Broken Sky. I’ve learned to be proactive - get the book out there to potential reviewers before it is published, not after! Find out about post-publication prizes. And tell your friends and family no, writers don’t get unlimited free copies. They have to buy the book! Sapling: What are some things that surprised you about the process of getting your book published? Is there anything you wished you'd known beforehand about putting a book out into the world? AS: You might have to ask me that again after Bewildered is released on April 30. So far, the experience has been a delight in every way. It is such a joy to see this collection that I have labored over for so long, finally coming into the world.