It’s fitting to think about how I put order to Anything That Happens. Since its publication, my daily life has unraveled. I’m scattered, or is it that I’m feeling pulled in different directions. It’s summer. Post(?) pandemic. In my family sphere, there is a lot of movement and growth around me as I remain stationary. I also feel some America Gone Wild vibes. After a year at home, the world seems to move in fast forward. And I’m drawn to clean out my closets. (Obviously, something I didn’t do last year.)
I also realize writing about the car crash was part of my identity. The story fits differently into who I am now that anyone can read it. Now that I talk about it. Now that I created something from the experience that will outlive me. I’m not comfortable in my new outfit quite yet.
My approach: relaxing into the disorder. It’s not like I have control over it anyway. And I’ll get some clean closets out of it.
More virtual book launch questions answered.
How did you decide which experiences (besides the accident) to include?
One part of decision-making was by process of elimination. Fear of sharing my story loomed over every draft of the manuscript. In earlier versions, I had poems about the role of architecture and a friend’s death by suicide. At one point, I wrote 242 pages of a memoir, a process that proved invaluable to the finished poetry collection. I added, cut, and rearranged many times. With every revision, I learned not to be stubborn while putting together a poetry collection.
Other decisions were more straightforward.
My mother’s illness and death allowed me to step up in a way I never had before. It was a time when I tapped into all of my experiences, including what saved me in the aftermath of the crash. There was a full-circle element to caring for her, and it made sense to have that experience as a large piece of the book.
Becoming a mother inspired me to become a happy, whole person. My eldest son is integral to my story of self-forgiveness.
After the crash, I tried to figure out how I came to make a grave decision. Naturally, I reflected on my childhood. I also became a mother, prompting further dissection into the relationships I had with my parents. I never wanted to write about my father–he didn’t deserve my attention. But his absence is something I had reckoned with during my twenties. The book became a fuller, focused story with him in it.
How long does it take you to organize a collection of poems? Was this process vastly different from your other projects?
Anything That Happens is my first book-length project. It took many years and iterations to get it right, including the 242-page memoir draft. If I were to consider the first draft of the final product–the one I sent to editor Tom Lombardo–the answer is two years. I sent Tom a rough draft in June 2018 and my final draft in July 2020.
I believe this project is different from future projects. It is the story I had to tell, and it was emotionally draining to write. Now, I get to tell the stories I want to tell. I have a focus and direction that I never had with this project. And what I have learned while completing the book will help me streamline my process.
Quote and photo by author. (From “Remember” in Anything That Happens.) All rights reserved.