Next Big Thing

I’ve been tagged by my dear friend Marilyn Bousquin in the Next Big Thing, a blog chain letter of sorts to talk about what’s happening in your writerly life and then to tag five other women writers to hear their stories.  I met Marilyn a few years ago through the Ashland University MFA Program.  She runs Writing Women’s Lives, a mentorship program for women who want to write about real life.  She’s working on a memoir called Searching for Salt.  I can’t wait until this fine book finds a home!  I am so grateful for this woman’s support and friendship.

ANYWAY, onward!  My Next Big Thing is two things, both in early, early draft form.  I just started the MFA program at Ashland in nonfiction. I’m working toward a collection of essays oriented around family and relationships.  I’m toying with the idea shared by Jerald Walker of taking the essays and rewriting the collection as memoir, but first I need to have a collection of essays instead of a handful of pieces.  My goal is to have a polished collection by the time I am done with the MFA program. 

The other Big Thing I’m working on when the mood hits me is assembling another collection of poems.  Since this is a little closer to completion in that the stuff is actually written, I’ll answer the questions for it. 

What is the title of your book?The operating title is, “My Big Cheesy Book of Poems about My Kids and Winter and Light. And Gardening, Again.” Catchy, right? I’ve also thought about “The Fullness of Things,” which might be a little bit more realistic. But anyone who can read would know right away what my book is about with the first title.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?…my big cheesy book of poems about my kids and winter and light. and gardening, again.  🙂  But really, the poems in the collection are playful, bright, mini-celebrations of life through the natural, familial, and spiritual worlds in which I spin.  The collection is more…feminine than my first, which felt more gritty and relational in a father-daughter kind of way, whereas this collection includes many more mother-daughter poems and poems of femininity.  I think.

What genre does your book fall under?

Where did the idea come from for the book?Since Pruning Burning Bushes came out, I’ve been looking at all of the new poems I have and the poems that didn’t make it into the first book, and the trend I saw most was this need, this desire, to examine the world for its glory and its shine, even in the shadows.  Once this thought lodged in my mind, the poems I’ve generated since then have been in the same vein.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?Most of the poems in the binder-clip right now were written in 2012, with a dozen or so pieces that came into being in earlier years.  It’ll take me a while to settle on any kind of order and then to weed out the not-as-good filler poems and replace them with better ones.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?I think this collection is primarily inspired by my daughter, Lydia, who radiates delight in all things, but it is also fueled by my relationship with my mom. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?I haven’t decided whether I want to try to win a contest to publish this book, to send it to other publishers for consideration, or to return to Wipf and Stock right away with a new manuscript.  Since my other book just came out in 2012, I’m not sure what steps to take with this next collection.  I’m not in a hurry to get another book out, but I also have enough poems that I am in l-o-v-e with that it’d be fun to see them all communing together.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?
Hmmm.  I’d like to think I’m striving for similar goals as what Brian Doyle does in his work, even though this is a collection of poems and not essays.  Although I’m not writing a lot of formal poems at the moment, I’d also say my poems rub elbows with Rhina Espaillat.  And I also hope to achieve the accessibility and tight, lyrical quality of Todd Boss’s work.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
It’d be so fun to have a movie of poems!  I think Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts, but only because they are my favorite favorite actresses.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?I hope that the collection of poems will tell a story.  I love storytelling, and I want each poem to speak to each other and then carry the reader through a fire-ring kind of narrative about the “fullness of things.”

As part of this post, I get to tag other authors who I think will be the Next Big Thing. Sooo, without further ado:

Grace Curtis: author of a chapbook, The Surly Bonds of Earth

Callie Feyen: mama blogger and MFA student

Joan Hanna: author of Threads, a new chapbook from Finishing Line Press

Jayna Murphy: mama blogger who says she “keeps pretending she can write,” but seriously, she’s a writer and she just needs to get over it. 🙂

Leslie Nielsen: recent MFA graduate

I realized as I made this list that I know lots of gals that I think are the Next Big Thing, but many of them aren’t blogging (or they were already tagged in this fun game)!  What is that all about?!  Tania Runyan, Ginny Taylor, Jen Kindbom, Valerie Due, Jen Ochstein, and on and on, I’m looking at you!  Stop doing “serious writing” and start blathering on a blog like the rest of us!

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

One thought on “Next Big Thing

  1. I LOVE the title of your next poetry book! 🙂 And oh my goodness, I LOVE Brian Doyle. I heard him speak at the Festival of Faith and Writing last spring and was so sad when his talk was over.
    I wonder if in our MFA studies, we will end up at a similar conference one day. I hope so. I have been working on essays about family and childhood and just recently thought that maybe I could tie these together in a sort of book. It's the first time I thought of actually putting a book together. It'd be fun to hear your process and thoughts about your essays.
    I am honored you would tag me in this. I will have to think about what my next big thing is. 🙂 And also check out these other bloggers!


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