Sunday, March 21, 2021

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Courtney LeBlanc

Courtney LeBlanc is the author of the full length collections Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart (Riot in Your Throat) and Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press). She is also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and a soy latte each morning. Read her publications on her blog: Follow her on twitter: @wordperv, and IG: @wordperv79.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

My first full length collection, Beautiful & Full of Monsters, was published the week COVID-19 rocked the planet and brought everything to a screeching halt. I had a launch party, readings, and a book tour that all got cancelled. So I’ve definitely learned a lot about marketing during a pandemic. =) This collection has poems that focus on relationships – abusive, dangerous relationships, and then breaking free from that and finding hope and a bit of happiness. This collection feels pretty contained – I wrote many of these poems during my MFA program and so I was writing these poems as I worked toward my degree, my thesis project was an early version of the manuscript that would become Beautiful & Full of Monsters. My first chapbook focused on familial relationships so this full length collection is quite different as it focuses on romantic relationships, even if they’re not always pretty or kind.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

Poetry is the thing that makes sense to me. I’m a voracious reader and I always wonder about how fiction is written – what is plot? How is dialogue written convincingly? Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about any of that in poetry.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

For a poem itself the first draft almost always comes in one writing session. After that I’ll do editing and workshop it a bit. Most of my final drafts look close to the first drafts.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

I read a lot of poetry and I love it when reading a book inspires me to write. I also take writing workshops when I’m able. One good thing to come out of the pandemic is virtual/Zoom workshops that I can now participate in regularly. I find those really inspiring.

I’m always only working on individual poems and eventually I’ll pull them together and see what fits as part of a manuscript.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I love doing readings and because my book came out this year I had a lot of readings planned. The pandemic changed that obviously and all of my readings have either been cancelled or moved online via Zoom. I both love and hate Zoom readings. I love that they give me an ability to connect with friends and readers from all over the world – I once did a reading and had friends from New Zealand, Hawaii, and Alaska all logged in. But they’re not the same creative energy or vibe as in-person readings so it’s harder to connect with people.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

I honestly just go where the writing takes me. Sometimes that means I’m inspired by current events and sometimes I’m writing about something personal in my life. I try to let my writing go where it needs to go and not force it in any specific direction.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I think it depends. Poetry, like all forms of writing, can address things going on today or it can address personal things or it can be a combination of the two. I think each writer gets to decide for themselves what the goal is of their writing – if they want to engage with current events they can, if they chose to not write about those things, they can do that too.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

Absolutely essential. I have a writing group and every month we exchange work and give edits and feedback on each other’s work. It’s wonderful to have other eyes on your work, to point out what’s working and what needs a bit of tweaking.

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

My day always begins with a soy latte while I check email and the day’s schedule. Then I do a workout, get some work done (my day job) and in the afternoon I break to take my dog for a hike. The evenings are when I write or work on writing-related projects. On the weekends I love writing while I have my morning coffee and the house, and the world, is still quiet.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

I always turn to other books of poetry, whether it’s a new book I’ve purchased or an old favorite from my bookshelf.

16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

My day job is very different from my job a as a poet. I’m in International Acquisitions and so I get to use both my left brain and my right brain. My day job is very challenging but very different from writing which I like. It allows me to put my creative energy into writing and my logical, business-focused energy into my work.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

For me there was never really any question, writing is just who I am.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

I’m a voracious reader, I’ll read over 300 books this year so there are lots of great ones to list. But I’ll give just one in each genre:

Poetry: Boat Burned by Kelly Grace Thomas

Fiction: And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories & Other Revenges by Amber Sparks

CNF: The Reckonings by Lacy M Johnson

I only watch movies on planes and while I usually travel a lot, 50% of the time for my job, the pandemic has kept me grounded this year. So I haven’t seen any movies in quite a while!

19 - What are you currently working on?

I have a couple of projects I’m working on – my 2nd full length manuscript is submitted to several publishers and I’m waiting to hear back; I’m writing a lot of new poems and am working on a new chapbook; and perhaps most exciting – I’m launching a new independent poetry press, Riot in Your Throat. The press will officially launch in January 2021 and I’ll begin publishing full length collections of poetry. I’m really excited about this new venture and can’t wait to see the first round of submissions (opening in January)!

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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