Up next in our blast from the past is an author who has fought her hardest not to stay in the past. Kristin LaTour, author of poetry collection What Will Keep Us Alive, is no stranger to the world of publishing. As the author of four other chapbooks, one being an e-chap published in December of 2018, LaTour has certainly had her highs and lows in the past few years, and she graciously spoke with intern Lauren Sutherland about what she has learned and how she has kept moving forward.
Sutherland: What has changed for you since What Will Keep Us Alive was published?
LaTour: Looking back over the three years since What Will Keep Us Alive was published, some things have changed, and others haven’t. I still write free verse poems which tend to focus on word choice around sound and that have themes around marginalized people or current events. I’ve been trying more experimental forms like erasures and footnotes to real texts. I think my reading has become wider, even though I still read mostly female poets. Since I’ve stopped having the time or energy to go to readings around my area, I find that instead of hearing the same voices at readings every month, I’m forced to read, and that gives me more options in whom I choose to read or hear. Sadly, I am submitting fewer poems to journals, but maybe I’ll make that a goal in the coming year—to send more work out.
Sutherland: Has the publishing of What Will Keep Us Alive altered your perspective on the literary community?
LaTour: Overall, people were very supportive of What Will Keep Us Alive when it came out. I had a big release party and some smaller readings around my area. I was also having health issues that made promoting it difficult. I think the glow was off about six months after it was published like it was time to move on to the next thing.
Sutherland: Was your rise to publication smooth or a struggle? What obstacles did you face?
LaTour: Publishing was, and is, hard. I graduated from my MFA program in 2007 thinking my thesis was a fully-formed manuscript. It took a couple of years of it being rejected for me to realize it was not. I kept writing, revising, sending out individual poems. I published a couple chapbooks. I lost time teaching at a community college and being braindead from grading papers so I couldn’t write much most of the year.
I stopped sending out a manuscript for a couple of years. At AWP in 2014, Kristy Bowen, who published my third chapbook, Agoraphobia, asked me to read at a joint event with Sundress Publications and Hyacinth Girl Press. Erin Smith approached me after the reading and asked me to send her a manuscript. I was elated but also cautious, knowing her request didn’t guarantee publication. I went home, worked on the neglected manuscript, and put together my best effort. It was accepted later in 2014 and then published in 2015. Altogether that’s ten years if you count the time in my program writing toward my thesis. I think if Erin hadn’t asked for my manuscript, I would have kept writing, publishing, and getting rejected, but her request was a huge boost to the dismay of being rejected for seven years.
Sutherland: What is something worth noting about being published that you would want unpublished writers to know?
LaTour: Not much changes after getting a full-length book published. You have to start from zero again: writing new poems and getting them published, which also means getting rejected. There is some consolation in knowing that I did it once so I can do it again, but the work is still there.
I would say my advice to unpublished writers is to not take for granted that because your manuscript is published, your job is done. I worked with Erin for months in 2015 leading up to the book coming out. We reordered poems, argued about section headings, figured out where the “holes” were in the book. That meant I had to write more poems.
Writers should be very nice to their editors who are working for little to nothing to make the best book they can. However, writers should also stand firm for what they believe in their work. They need to be ready to compromise and cooperate.
Sutherland: Have you published other full-length works or chapbooks since being published at Sundress?
LaTour: I have published a very short chapbook with Sundress as an e-book with drawings from a friend. I wrote the poems in 2014, and Angel Perez did the artwork in the same year. Since it was artwork and poetry together, I looked for publishers who worked with that kind of collaboration, and the chapbook was rejected by about 5 of them. I let the file sit on my computer a while, and then I realized Sundress might be a good fit for them. Sometimes it’s right under my nose. Again, I didn’t expect Sundress to automatically accept the work, but I was so happy when I got a positive response. The book came out in December of 2018 and is called Mend.
Sutherland: What are you working on now?
LaTour: I have a lot I’m working on. I’m sending out a second full-length manuscript, The Whaler’s Wife. It’s been rejected several times too. Every time, I tweak things, making it better. It’s a series of narrative poems that tell the story of a New England couple who meet as kids, fall in love, and struggle to be together and build a family.
I’m working on a non-fiction book for lay people on how to appreciate poetry.
Teaching at a community college, I meet a lot of reluctant learners. I think there needs to be a book for people whose friends drag them to a poetry reading so they can enjoy what they hear and maybe be encouraged to read some on their own. Most “how to read a poem” books are very academic, long, and not exciting. I’m trying to write a short, fun book.
Not to ignore my poetry, I’m working on a third manuscript inspired by sideshow performers from the early-mid 20th century, when the traveling carnival was starting to fade, and people weren’t as comfortable paying to see “freaks.”
Kristin LaTour’s most recent collection, Mend, illustrated by Angel Perez, is available as an e-chap at Sundress Publications. Her full-length, What Will Keep Us Alive, was published in 2015 with Sundress. Her work has been included in anthologies, three chapbooks, and many online and print journals. She teaches comp and literature classes at Joliet Jr. College and has a loving home full of pets, a husband, and books in Aurora, IL.
Follow these links to find more of Kristin’s recent work on the web:
“October 15, 1834” on Tinderbox Poetry Journal‘s website
“Writer’s Block,” a craft essay, on the Sundress blog
Lauren Sutherland is a recent graduate of Lee University in Cleveland, TN and proudly has a Bachelor’s degree in English with a writing emphasis and a deaf studies minor. Lauren enjoys reading and writing poetry, but her ultimate passion is for editing. She has been an intern with Sundress since July and loves getting the opportunity to have a hand in the literary community.