Interview with "First Book Interviews"

Thanks to Keith Montesano for interviewing me for the First Book Interviews series online and for giving me the chance to discuss the process of assembling and submitting the manuscript for my first book, Praise Nothing.

The interview series, originally started by Kate Greenstreet in 2008, was a critical research database for me as I determined where (and how) to send out my manuscript for the first time a few years back. First Book Interviews was also a source of encouragement and hope during a emotionally-draining process of significant financial expenditures, publication and prize near misses, and, of course, rejection letters.

Reading these interviews, I knew that if I just kept the faith and persisted, the manuscript would find the right home. And I'm blessed to say that the poems certainly did fine the right home in the University of Arkansas Press, a place I could only have dreamed of when I started out.

Some of my favorite interviews: James Allen Hall, Dan Albergotti, Sandy Longhorn, Michelle Bitting, and Bobby C. Rogers.

Here's an excerpt from my interview:
What was the process like assembling the book? How many different versions did it go through as you were sending it out? 
Wash, rinse, repeat
I finally arrived at the closest approximation to the book’s current form when I had the chance to leave Tennessee and return to Lawrence, Kansas, for a period of concentrated work on the manuscript during the summer of 2010. Before moving to Knoxville, I lived and worked in Kansas for a few years and I yearned to get back to the Sunflower State.
For two weeks: just me, the stack of poems, a tiny loaner cottage, and the Kansas summer heat. Getting to the final order took a process of spreading all the poems out on the living room’s dusty hardwood floor, assembling a draft, and then reading and rereading. Wash, rinse, repeat. And repeat and repeat. 
In many ways, the assemblage process was similar to my poem revision process: making pass after pass over the draft, tinkering with the count and measure, culling superfluous lines, improvising and moving the puzzle pieces around until I finally recognize the picture. I was also fortunate to have a few poets read the manuscript and offer their affirmations that I was heading in the right direction.