APKY/AMP: Hello Donna, good to have you here. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer. What inspired you to write your first book?
I am a poet (three books) and children’s author (15 books). I wrote my first poem at age 8 and submitted my first children’s book at age 10. (Surprisingly, neither was published…) I began to take writing more seriously in college when I won an award for poems published in our college literary magazine and a children’s lit. professor told me I should think about submitting my stories to children’s publishers. Still, it took years before that first book was accepted.
APKY/AMP: Surprisingly indeed! What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
I began with magazine articles about education and parenting and then moved on to children’s books and teachers’ guides. While I enjoyed that and still write children’s books, my focus has been on poetry for adults the past few years.
APKY/AMP: Most people, yours truly included, agree that poetry is a tough genre. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My first three poetry books are part of the Poetry for Tough Times series, dealing with emotions related to issues such as unemployment and serious illness. There is no specific “message,” but I do hope people going through difficult days feel less alone when reading my poems.
APKY/AMP: Right. And do you have any advice for other writers?
It’s as much about persistence as it is about talent.
APKY/AMP: That’s true, even if these days miracles happen in the publishing industry without any talent behind it. Why should we buy your book?
If you’re not familiar with my work, you may just find a new poet you like!
APKY/AMP: Right; poetry is not everyone’s cup. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
I don’t have a lot of marketing money, so I take advantage of every free opportunity I can, such as: getting the word out on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.); posting on my website (www.DonnaMarieBooks.com) and blog (http://blog.donnamariebooks.com); giving away books on LibraryThing and Goodreads; doing readings at libraries, bookstores, and literary events; participating in interviews, including online ones like this one (thank you!); and handing out small, promotional items, such as magnets with the title of my book.
APKY/AMP: Looks like I could learn much from you. Trouble is, I write in English but live in Germany – I can only read to groups or clubs. Now, have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
I have won Teachers’ Choice Awards for my children’s books, but nothing to date for my poetry. But, yes, I think awards, while not the ultimate goal (which is producing your best work, whether recognized by the outside world or not), can help to validate a writer’s work and interest readers.
APKY/AMP: That’s enriching to any writer. Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?
I love, love, love to write by the water. Anything I’ve ever written while sitting on a beach has been published. There is just something about the serenity that helps the words to flow. That being said, writers have to be able to write anywhere. I will write on a lunch break (yes, I hold a day job, especially for the health insurance), at my kitchen table, in bed, while waiting at a doctor’s office…
APKY/AMP: Never tried that, Donna. You just gave me the idea, unless writing by poolside can fit in the beach class. J Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
My children’s books were written under the name Donna Pitino. I got divorced and remarried before my first collection of poetry was published. “Pitino” is not a pseudonym, but I do like the fact that the two names distinguish the two genres I write. I think in the case of distinct genres, pseudonyms can be helpful, but are not entirely necessary.
APKY/AMP: You’ve said it. I’ve a name both too long and too hard to pronounce so I’m sort of changing it to A P von K’Ory! That should be help readers say “I just read a book by von K’Ory…” Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
It’s a catch-22: you can’t get an agent unless you’re published and you can’t get published without an agent… I didn’t have an agent for my children’s books until I had sold many manuscripts on my own. I worked incredibly hard to sell those books, beginning with establishing my credentials by writing for magazines and doing many freelance projects. Most poets, however, do not have agents (unless they are huge names). Are agents vital to an author’s success? No, but I do wish I had an agent for my poetry as it would free up time I spend researching publishers and submitting and give me more time to write. And, many publishing houses will only accept work from an agent.
APKY/AMP: That’s what we scribes get when art is turned completely into commercialism. What are you working on at the moment / next?
I have finished a fourth collection of poetry and have begun submitting it. I am also working on two other manuscripts.
APKY/AMP: Wish you all the best with those, Donna. Now, do you manage to write every day?
Unfortunately, no. I do manage to READ every single day and meditate every single day, which I believe are both a necessary prelude to my creativity.
APKY/AMP: You’re right, they actually are. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
There is a poem about that in my fourth collection! You’ll have to wait until publication to see it…I will say that everyone (or most everyone) gets stuck sometimes. If you can’t work on your primary project, work on something else. The key is to keep writing. Shred the bad stuff, but keep writing.
APKY/AMP: Hmm, agreed. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Each poem goes through many revisions before I am satisfied.
APKY/AMP: Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
I write poetry with a pencil and paper. For other things, such as magazine articles and this interview, I write directly on the computer.
APKY/AMP: Okay. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
I’ve used all three, depending on what the poem is trying to say.
AMP: Now, could you tell us what you like to read?
Everything! I read a lot of poetry, but I also read picture books, middle grade and young adult and adult fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction, book reviews, fantasy…
APKY/AMP: Wow, you beat me there – I can’t stand the so-called paranormal, especially paranormal romance: urgh! What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
I like to take walks, spend time with my husband, spend time with my children when they’re home from college. And sleep. I like to sleep—probably because I don’t get as much as I need. I do my best writing when I feel refreshed.
AMP: We share both the long walks and the sleep. Where can we find out about you and your work?
You can get my latest poetry book, What’s Wrong with Ordinary? Poems to Celebrate Life at http://avalonpress.co.uk/newrelease.html
APKY/AMP: Thank you, Donna. I now invite you to include an extract of your writing:
by Donna Marie Merritt
from What’s Wrong with Ordinary? Poems to Celebrate Life © 2012
Perhaps your job is
not boring but I want to
run screaming in pain
I need rescuing
from tedium; helium
poetry lifts me
APKY/AMP: Thanks once again, Donna.