…with Shannon Curtin

Ariana:

We’re taught in Introduction to Literary Analysis never to assume the author is the narrator. Is anything in File Cabinet Heart based on Shannon?

Shannon:

I’m so glad this is the first question, I think when authors write poetry instead of prose it’s easier to fall into the trap of assuming the narrator and the author are one in the same. In fact, the majority of the poems in File Cabinet Heart are kernels of my truth encased in fiction. They might stem from actual events but they have definitely been fictionalized in some degree. Some poems, like “Spring Cleaning,” “An Affair,” and  “Neo-colonized” are pure persona poems.

Ariana:

Could you recommend any other books exploring similar themes to File Cabinet Heart to a reader who fell in love with your collection?

Shannon:

If you enjoy File Cabinet Heart,  I’d recommend my favorite poetry book of this year–Cristin O’keefe Aptowicz’s The Year of No Mistakes. It’s a beautiful book with a similar theme which manages to be both heartbreaking and humorous at the same time. I also highly recommend Sierra DeMulder’s The Bones Below, it’s stunning and gritty and leaves me breathless; and I can’t not mention my favorite poetry book of all time, Jeanann Verlee’s Racing Hummingbirds. I read it in one sitting and then immediately turned to page one to read it all over again. It is that good.

Ariana:

Do you think readers might have any misconceptions about File Cabinet Heart?

Shannon:

I think the biggest misconception about File Cabinet Heart will probably be that it’s autobiographical. I dislike that we as readers are willing to accept that fiction writers can successfully tell a story they haven’t lived, maybe even from a body that they don’t inhabit, (Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone comes to mind), but poetry is almost automatically assumed to be autobiographical.

Ariana:

How long did it take you to write File Cabinet Heart? Were there any little struggles or triumphs along the way?

Shannon:

File Cabinet Heart is the culmination of almost three years of writing, editing, and workshopping. I’ve had a few of the poems published elsewhere, but the collection didn’t exist until a few weeks before the mini-collection competition deadline! Compiling the collection and ordering the poems  to tell a story was probably the smartest decision I made, but was also the most challenging part of the process. Doing so made it impossible to include some of my favorite poems and newer work I feel especially proud of, but there’s always book two!

Ariana:

If you had to go back and change anything about the collection, would you? Why or why not?

Shannon:

I don’t think I would. I really like the collection as it stands. I structured it in such a way that I feel it tells a story and I’m proud of every poem.

Ariana:

If you could be a pair of jeans, which style would you be and why?

Shannon:

Ooohh, a jeans question! Funny story, my best friend and I have a long-standing joke about how men are like jeans. I can’t remember the details, but basically it boils down to sometimes jeans you initially liked  stop fitting right, but everyone has one favorite pair that they’ll continually patch or stick in the back of the closest. I’d have to say if I were a pair of jeans I’d be dark rinse, boot cut, with a little lycra built-in. Flexible, flattering, and easily dressed up or down.

Ariana:

Does Prince Charming exist?

Shannon:

I sure hope not. Prince Charming seems like a bore.

Ariana:

Are you the kind of person who makes the bed in the morning or do you see it as pointless?

Shannon:

My bed is a time-saving device. As much as I like climbing into a made bed, I just don’t care enough to make it a daily habit.

Ariana:

How did you feel when you received your acceptance and ultimately winning the competition?

Shannon:

Honestly, I was watching the Facebook page and my email like a hawk that whole week! When I finally got the email I literally had chills and did a little dance in my chair. My heart was beating out of my chest, I was so excited! It was a dream come true.

Ariana:

What advice would you give an emerging writer, particularly one getting ready to submit their first manuscript to a contest like ELJ’s?

Shannon:

I’m a huge fan of the workshop experience. If a poem isn’t sitting right with me, I take it to workshop. Another reader doesn’t have the same blind spots I do and I can’t begin to explain how helpful it is to run a nearly finished poem by other poets. One simple word change you hadn’t thought of can shift a poem from “eh” to “wow.” aThe second bit of advice I’d give to authors planning to submit their first manuscript is do your due diligence. Research the press, become very familiar with the submission guidelines and deadlines, polish your work to the best of your ability and then send it out and forget about it. Every “no” is not a failure, it’s a stepping stone to a “yes.”

 

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