Interview Transcripts

Robin Green: Poet, Writer, Publisher, Editor 1/27/05

Event start time:

Thu Jan 27 18:57:17 2005

Event end time:

Thu Jan 27 21:16:23 2005



Legend:
Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Hello, all!

 

Welcome to our Professional Connection interview with Robin Greene, publisher and editor of Longleaf Press.

 

Robin Greene, Associate Professor of English at Methodist College in Fayetteville, NC, is co-founder and senior editor of Longleaf Press--which specializes in publishing chapbooks from emerging Southeastern authors. Greene has published numerous poems and articles, and three books, Lateral Drift, Real Birth, and Memories of Light. Greene is married and has two sons

 

I'm glad you all could come join us tonight. It's always a treat to talk with someone who works

 

on the other side of the desk in publishing! Robin, welcome! We're so pleased to have you here!

Robin Greene

And I'm pleased to join you!

Mary Rosenblum

I'm always thrilled when I can invite publishers and editors here. I remember how little I knew of the publishing world when I first began writing

 

so I'm curious. How did you end up in the publishing universe?

Robin Greene

In 1997, my husband, who is also a colleague at the college where I teach, came up with the idea

 

of beginning a literary press that publishes poetry because we realized that there weren't many publishers of poetry out there

 

so we secured some seed money from the college, and thus began Longleaf Press, which is really a labor of love.

Mary Rosenblum

So Longleaf publishes poetry only?

Robin Greene

Yes, we had to specialize, so we've chosen to publish poetry chapbooks from emerging poets in the Southeast.

tory

This may seem elementary but what are "chapbooks?" Is that chapter books?

Robin Greene

The word "chapbook" comes from chapter, and it has come to mean a short, chapter-length volume of usually poetry.

Mary Rosenblum

You're a mother, a writer, and you hold a full time academic job. How do you manage to do all this and handle your Longleaf duties, too?

Robin Greene

Sometimes not well! I've had to wear many hats, but that's life for most writers these days.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, no kidding! Do you have any strategies to suggest for those writers out there who are juggling family and day job, too?

Robin Greene

Yes, try to not compartmentalize your life--it's not a matter of family life versus our writing life. Family issues give us the stuff of writing.

 

Many folks see only the conflict between the various parts of their life, rather than accept the chaos,

 

much of my writing comes from my family life, so while I would suggest forming writing habits, that is

 

having a certain time in which you honor your commitment to writing,  allow the stuff of life to be a part of your work.

Mary Rosenblum

So, in other words, swim with the chaos of those various parts of your life, don't try to fight them into order?

Robin Greene

Yes, exactly.

Mary Rosenblum

I have to say that as a single parent full time writer that is the only thing that saved my sanity!

 

So what kind of poetry does Longleaf publish?

Robin Greene

We try to publish work that is professional quality--that is, work that demonstrates excellent competence...

 

and work that is emotionally present and compelling--work that avoids clichés, and seems to know what it's about.

Mary Rosenblum

So you don't focus on any particular theme or style?

Robin Greene

No. We don't have a single aesthetic that we look for, nor theme or style. And we try to be open-minded

 

and look for originality.

diamond2007

Do you only publish poetry from authors that reside in the southeast?

Robin Greene

Unfortunately, yes. We are a small press and we've had to limit our range right now. Some day

 

we hope to expand the press. Right now we have only three UNPAID staff members--myself, my husband, who is the

 

managing editor, and an assistant editor. None of us gets paid for the work that we do. All funds that

 

we collect from our reading fee, we put right back into the press to publish additional authors.

tory

Wow, a real labor of love!

Mary Rosenblum

Exactly, Tory!

n0my

I've always enjoyed writing poetry, but as a 'writer wannabe', how does one know if they are any good?

Robin Greene

Yes, Tory, that's it. We believe that good authors need a venue for their work.

 

There are many poets out there, and the competition is stiff. But there are still opportunities.

 

I always suggest that beginning poets--and we've all been there--take a good creative writing class

 

so as to become familiar with the canon of writers/poetry out there, and, of course, to learn some technique.

n0my

You mean like LRWG?

Mary Rosenblum

LRWG doesn't have a poetry course. Where can people find good poetry classes, Robin?

Robin Greene

Any forum is good  in which students have someone who "knows the ropes" so that it's not the blind

 

leading the blind. You need to have someone who understands poetry basics and can give good criticism and direction.

Mary Rosenblum

So you really want to look for a workshop or course that's taught by a well published poet?

Robin Greene

Absolutely.

paja

Hi, Thanks for coming. How many pages or poems are normally in a chapbook? Are they selected by theme, form, or by random from the author's stash?

Robin Greene

Chapbooks range from 18-40something pages, depending on the publisher. A full volume is usually considered to be

 

anything 48 pages or longer. No they don't have to be linked by theme, but there should be something

 

that makes the collection feel like a book. I often think of a book as a sort of journey in which there are

 

many landscapes that are traveled through.

Mary Rosenblum

So your chapbooks are usually poems by several authors, or a single author?

Robin Greene

Always by a single author. And, I'd like to add that if there is anyone from the Southeast online now

 

we will extend our Longleaf Press Chapbook Contest deadline for those folks.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, please do tell us about that...I was going to ask you shortly.

Robin Greene

We are currently running this year's chapbook contest and will accept manuscripts from online LRWG

 

participants if the manuscripts are postmarked by February 4th. Please check out our guidelines at the

 

Methodist College website: http://www.methodist.edu/longleaf/contest.htm  and in your cover letter, please mention...

 

your connection with Long Ridge.

Mary Rosenblum

That's very generous of you, Robin. And just to forestall the thirty questions I'm about to receive...:-)...could you define 'southeast' for us?

Robin Greene

Yes, we include: NC, SC, VA, TN, FL, and GA.

Mary Rosenblum

So this is open to anyone from LR who is in those states.

Robin Greene

Yes.

paja

If I can pull up enough poems, I'll send them to you. Thanks for the opportunity.

Mary Rosenblum

Paja is from NC, Robin.

 

I suspect you'll be hearing from her.

Robin Greene

Great. I look forward to receiving additional manuscripts from the group. And please keep in mind that even if you don't "win," your manuscript will be read very carefully. Some winners have sent us manuscripts for a few years, and then they win. One guy sent us three manuscripts in a single year.

gail

What criteria does Longleaf apply when deciding on which poetry to publish? And, are the choices made "by committee" or do you each have your own area of expertise/interest?

Robin Greene

We now have three readers, each of whom independently read and rank all submissions. Then

 

we narrow the finalists and continue to read until we are in agreement. Each of the readers (and I'm one) is a poet

 

who has published. We are as fair as we can be. The entries are read "blind," or without names on them.

Mary Rosenblum

As long as we're talking about contests, Robin, how do new writers know when a poetry contest is a scam --

 

one of those contests where all they want is an order for the anthology and they accept everyone?

Robin Greene

I'm glad you mentioned this subject. Yes, unfortunately, some contests are rigged, that is the judge

 

knows one author and has pre-selected that author to win. But there is often no way of knowing this

 

as this kind of favoritism is considered a no-no, though it's done all the time. I've heard of this through other writers

 

and know of a poet who won a major contest because he had studied under the judge. Sometimes by talking to other

 

writers, you can find this dirt out. But again, no one is making public announcements!

gail

How diverse are your contest-readers' interests? For instance, is one more concerned with imagery, another in the rhythms and stresses, or tone, etc.?

Mary Rosenblum

Gail also has some good advice for checking on the legitimacy of contests...and this is good for fiction contests and...

 

publishers, too:

gail

Editors & Predators  http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/   offers some good info on "vanity" presses. So does WritersWeekly.com http://www.writersweekly.com/  

starynight

I am a creative writer and I am wondering how I can get published in fiction. I don't know where to start.

Robin Greene

Gail, yes. And you do want to stay away from vanity presses. But some legitimate presses also have some dirty dealings that are harder to get good info on.

 

Starynight, I would check out Poets & Writers online classified.  http://www.pw.org/

Mary Rosenblum

And...to toot LRWG's horn a bit here

 

there are quite a few published people who hang out on the website and share news of who buys what.

happyboy

Are all those poetry anthologies printed, or does it depend on the money orders they receive?

Mary Rosenblum

These are the scam type, I assume he means.

Robin Greene

Happyboy, there are these huge anthologies--and I can't remember names--that are a scam.

 

They publish everyone's poem, for a price, then print copies to sell back to their published poets, so that they'll have a credential.

Mary Rosenblum

Yep...I have quite a few students who have done that.

hedwig

Can you say a little bit about the current trend in poetry right now? Which are best: poems that rhyme, narrative poetry, or free verse, etc ?

Robin Greene

Hedwig, yes, most rhyming poems that are successful are poems that "break the rules," that is

 

they understand the formal requirements, then break the genre's expectations. Most poets these days are lyric, narrative, or both.

Mary Rosenblum

Do you see poetry as an evolving medium...are the 'rules' changing?

Robin Greene

Absolutely. And that's why poets have to read constantly. I'd recommend APR--American Poetry Review

 

as a good starting place. Also POETRY and FIELD and many of the more academic journals. A poet always needs

 

to read because poetry shifts in minute ways seemingly every moment.

gail

I, for one, miss the "melody" of rhyme and meter. Am I just being old-fashioned, or is there still some niche market out there publishing that type of poetry?

Robin Greene

In much rhymed poetry, gail, the line will exist for the end rhyme. So rhyme becomes obvious and pulls a reader's

 

attention away from the other stuff going on it the poem. Most venues favor free verse, except for

 

those which look for the "new formalist" poetry. And again, that's poetry that knows the rules and then breaks them

 

in conscious and well-crafted ways.

Mary Rosenblum

Which is really true in fiction as well...know the rules and then go beyond them.

Robin Greene

Yes, art is about knowing the rules and finding ways to successfully break them.

happyboy

I would love to send my poems in to magazines, etc. - do I need to "protect" the copyright first?

Robin Greene

Happyboy, no. It's the mark of a rank beginner to try to copyright. There's a lot of good stuff out there,

 

and no one will take your work!

Mary Rosenblum

And I'm assuming that copyright law for poetry is the same as prose

 

and you own your copyright as soon as the words are written

 

whether you register it or not.

Robin Greene

Yes, usually, when a poet publishes in a small literary journal, the publishing or copyright reverts back to the author.

happyboy

What are the "rules" - I never think of rules when I write.

Robin Greene

Happyboy, the "rules" are the conventions of each genre. Then, there a term called "creative ignorance"

 

and that recognizes that when we write we sort of "forget" what we know, but our "unknowing" is always

 

informed by a tutored intuition, which is really the knowledge accumulated about your craft,

 

what you've internalized through your training as a writer.

Mary Rosenblum

So once you have learned those basics, they tend to guide your creation, even if you don't consciously think about them?

Robin Greene

Yes. In fact if you were to try to bring to consciousness all that you know AS YOU WRITE, well

 

good luck. That's a recipe for not writing!

Mary Rosenblum

It's a recipe for writer's block!

Robin Greene

Yes. I once studied with Galway Kinnell, the famous poet, and he said that he thought of himself as

 

guiding sheep, like a shepherd. He would allow the sheep--his words, thoughts--to walk out in front

Rob

of him, and he just tapped them to get them moving forward, but they led. His conscious mind just followed.

Mary Rosenblum

Nice image. :-)

Robin Greene

Yes, it was a wonderful experience to work with Galway.

margieh

How much do you, as editor, edit a poem that you accept?

Robin Greene

Margieh, that's a good question. Usually, we accept a manuscript "as is," but then we DO EDIT, and hope that our poets will take our suggestions

 

so we actually edit quite a lot. And this makes us a bit unusual--at least that's what we hear from our poets.

Mary Rosenblum

That's interesting. Individual words carry so much importance in poetry...how resistant are your poets to the suggestion of change?

Robin Greene

Most poets we publish are professional enough to want to publish the best "version" of their poem. Part of being a professional is realizing

 

that it's the WORK that counts. And they're pleased to have the input. Being a pro means taking criticism and wanting the best

 

of your work out there.

margieh

Can you give an example?

gail

In your editing, are you sensitive to the poet's use of sound devices such as alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia, etc.?

Robin Greene

Not a specific one. But sometimes, we'll suggest that the poem should end on the next to the last line

 

so we will ask that the actual last line--the whole line--be deleted.

 

Gail, yes, we are sensitive. And I read all the poems aloud many times.

happyboy

- I have learned that Walt Whitman sort of "broke" some rules with his non-rhyming poetry and then to prove to some that he could rhyme , then wrote "Captain, My Captain" - one of his more famous poems so it seems that he was aware of his consciousness just as you said?

Robin Greene

Walt Whitman, certainly broke the rules. In fact, many of his contemporaries thought his poetry was NOT POETRY! He did write

 

some more traditional stuff, but his work is really considered the beginning of modern poetry. Emerson, however, was always a fan and admirer of Whitman's work.

n0my

Can you suggest any methods to increase ones ownership of words? My vocabulary of familiar words far exceeds those I truly know, which exceeds those I use with confidence.

Robin Greene

n0my, I would suggest taking risks, use a word and see how it feels. You might want to use a thesaurus

 

but that's tricky. It might be a matter of reading a lot, seeing words in different contexts so that you really know them. We usually discuss this as our "reading vocabulary" versus our "speaking vocabulary"

 

and it's important to find a mechanism to transfer one word stock to the other.

gail

FYI:  www.alphaDictionary.com   (Dr. Goodword) sends out "daily word" emails that are terrific and fun learning tools.

Robin Greene

Gail, that's a good suggestion. Everyone is different. This method might work for some. For me, I'll find that I use a word

 

that I'm not sure about--it just shows up--and then I'm surprised to look it up and find that I've used it correctly.

Mary Rosenblum

That unconscious knowing again?

Robin Greene

Yes. Writers trust their unconscious; they have to!

Mary Rosenblum

I’m really convinced that much of writing goes on in our right brains and is not a conscious process. Took me a long time to learn to trust it and simply wait until that part of my mind sorted out a story problem.

Robin Greene

I agree.

 

Yes, I find that's true of writing poetry and nonfiction as well.

Mary Rosenblum

I'm curious here to see how prose and poetry stack up...one thing I see as a writing teacher

 

as well as from my own experience...

 

is that impatience is a real enemy...rushing to get something done, not waiting until everything works... What do you think?

Robin Greene

Yes, in fact, some poetry writing teachers suggest that you never finish a draft in a single sitting. Holding on to it in our subconscious mind allows us to process

 

the piece's elements, and there's a kind of tension that will be productive if courted.

Mary Rosenblum

I agree. I find this to be entirely true in fiction, as well.

hedwig

Is there a connection between all writing? For example if you learn to write poetry will it help you be a better fiction or nonfiction writer or visa-versa? You teach poetry and nonfiction, right? Is there a connection?

Robin Greene

Yes, the teaching of writing is both the teaching of craft and the teaching of process.

 

Hedwig, absolutely. Techniques that I learned in poetry have helped me with writing in other genres. There is certainly much cross-over.

Mary Rosenblum

I totally agree.

 

I see writing as a spectrum

 

with book length work at one end and poetry at the other

 

and as you approach the poetry end of the spectrum...short short fiction, etc...each individual word

 

carries more weight.

Robin Greene

Yes, each medium has a different center of gravity.

hedwig

How do you teach process?

Robin Greene

We talk about it. I ask students to discuss their own writing process and then try to support that process. In part

 

my job is to "hear" them as they hear themselves. Everyone, perhaps because writing is such a solitary process,

 

seems to believe that what they go through is unique. But as a group, we can see that however unique

 

there are similarities--for instance, writing is recursive; there's often this throat-clearing; ends are often redundant, etc.

gail

I agree that letting a primary draft "ferment" works wonders. But, what about "epiphany" poetry. I've only had two of these occur -- poems that came to me as if I were merely taking dictation. I'm reluctant to "mess with" those ones. Any thoughts?

Robin Greene

Gail, most poems I draft and revise endlessly. But there have been a few exceptions. One poem, like the kind

 

you describe, seemed to come whole, like dictation. One in particular, I wrote in an hour, barely revised, and won a major contest with!

Mary Rosenblum

Exceptions to every rule!

 

Before we run out of time, Robin

 

I'd like to ask you to talk about your books.

 

I'm especially

 

interested in your book about women and birth.

 

Want to tell us a bit about that?

Robin Greene

Yes, I published REAL BIRTH, WOMEN SHARE THEIR STORIES in 2000, after working almost a decade on it.

 

I had this idea that birth was actually a threshold experience for women, and that we needed to hear the stories of women as they passed through that threshold.

 

I focused on the emotional and psychological experience of birth and interviewed 200 women from around the country. It was quite a project.

 

There are 36 stories in the book, and they read like narrative, though they began as interviews.

Mary Rosenblum

Wow, I'm quite impressed.

 

This wasn't published through Longleaf was it?

Robin Greene

Yes, poetry is so full of the self, that for a while I was hungry to listen to the voices of others. It was a learning experience for me.

 

No, I had a NY agent, quite well connected, and I lost her by submitting the book myself to someone I had met at a writers' conference.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, ouch. Yes, that sure can happen.

Robin Greene

So, this book is published with a small publisher up in Durham. And I never regretting going with a small publisher. Doubleday was interested

 

in my book, and we were talking about some big money. The small publisher didn't have the big bucks to offer, but they had other stuff.

Mary Rosenblum

Good for you for going with what worked for your book rather than the size of the check.

 

What about Lateral Drift and Memories of Light...are these books of poetry?

Robin Greene

Yes, I had much more creative control and the small publisher promised to never remainder my book.

 

Memories of Light was published as a result of my winning a poetry chapbook contest with the North Carolina Writers' Network. Lateral Drift was published by my nonfiction publisher, just under another one of their imprints.

Mary Rosenblum

It's a poetry chapbook, too?

Robin Greene

And that was another one of the benefits--I developed a relationship with my publisher so when I was looking for someone to publish my

 

poetry, she stepped up.

Mary Rosenblum

Yes, it's a lot easier to have a relationship with a small publisher than a Random House!

Robin Greene

In fact, large publishers will often accept, and thereby own, your manuscript and never publish it. They'll have too many titles.

 

Also, you're often working with perhaps 3-10 editors, rather than one.

Mary Rosenblum

So where can people find your books, Robin?

Robin Greene

Sorry, Mary, I didn't see your question. You can buy my books through Amazon.   Also by contacting Generation Books, you can order my birthing book.

writeaway

What does-- remainder a book-- mean?

Mary Rosenblum

Last question, and then we'll hold our drawing for your very generous donation of books!

Robin Greene

Writeaway, it's when they pull your book off the shelf and then put it in the remainder pile, that's the sale books they want to get rid of.

mmolly

GASP! They can buy your book etc. and own it yet never publish it?

Robin Greene

Yup! And that's the chance you take. You can spend a decade on a book, have a big publishing house buy it and then never see it in print.

Mary Rosenblum

You generally have a clause in your contract that prohibits that, mmolly...or you PUT it into your contract.

 

Thank you so much, Robin!

Robin Greene

Mary, it's been my pleasure. And quite a lot of fun!

mmolly

Thank You Robin, It’s been wonderful to have you here!

Mary Rosenblum

I agree.

Robin Greene

Mmolly, thank you for joining! And good luck with your writing!

Mary Rosenblum

Please do join us tomorrow for our Friday After Hours Forum..

Robin Greene

Good-night all!

Mary Rosenblum

Good night, Robin!

 

Thank you all for coming!

 

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