Sandra Marchetti is the author of Confluence, a full-length collection of poetry from Sundress Publications (2015). She is also the author of four chapbooks of poetry and lyric essays, including Sight Lines (Speaking of Marvels Press, 2016), Heart Radicals (ELJ Publications, 2016), A Detail in the Landscape (Eating Dog Press, 2014), and The Canopy (MWC Press, 2012). Sandra’s poetry appears widely in Poet Lore, Blackbird, Subtropics, Ecotone, Southwest Review, and elsewhere. Her essays can be found at The Rumpus, Words Without Borders, Mid-American Review, Barrelhouse, and other venues. Sandy earned an MFA in Creative Writing—Poetry from George Mason University and is a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at Aurora University outside of Chicago.
TBL Author Q&A Series: Sandra Marchetti
This is one in a series of brief interviews with a diverse array of writers, editors, and other industry professionals. Check back over the coming months for more!
What first drew you to writing? What is it that makes you a writer?
When I was a kid I drew cartoons and portraits. I was also into book arts—I made little handbound books with illustrations and shared them with my family and friends; my parents even helped me make them. I eventually found out visual art wasn’t for me—even though I still draw cartoons of my husband! I’m a writer because I’m still chasing that expression and audience. I think I first found that through visual art.
What amount of schooling did you experience for this career?
I have an undergraduate degree in English—Writing and an MFA in Creative Writing—Poetry. Some of the poems in my undergraduate thesis were the first ones I worked on in grad school, and many of my MFA thesis poems ended up in my first full-length poetry collection, Confluence. So, some of those poems took ten years to complete!
What is your writing style?
It’s difficult to classify! A few years ago, I would say I was a solidly metrical poet. Before that, I might have categorized myself as a lyric poet! Now? I’m writing some of both of those types of poems, but also some narrative poems. My current project is a book of poems about The Chicago Cubs—being a fan, listening to baseball games on the radio. It’s also a memoir of my father and me, so I’m working in that narrative vein now more than ever. I’m even writing prose poems for the first time since I was forced to in grad school!
What themes and topics entice and inspire you most?
This is something I grapple with—I often wonder if my subject matter is “important” enough. I write a lot about the Midwestern landscape—the environment and the Midwestern character. I also write poems paying homage to other poets and their poems—my current muses include Li-Young Lee, Elizabeth Bishop, Nate Marshall, etc. Another core subject of mine I mentioned above—sports poems!
What is your writing habit? Do you write daily in a strict routine or when the words appear?
I rarely write—I’ll admit it! I mostly write on breaks from teaching—over Christmas and in the summer. I honestly don’t know what I did before I was able to go on writing residencies—they have helped me further and finish multiple manuscripts. I do submit pieces for publication and revise during the school year. Occasionally I will draft something during the school year, but it may not be revised and polished for a while. I am not very prolific—I probably write about 20 poems or less a year, and maybe 2-3 essays.
How has your writing evolved throughout the years, especially after being published?
My writing has evolved after publication—literally! Sometimes a poem of mine will be published in a journal and then I will tinker with it again before it is published in an anthology or collection. Sharon Olds does this too, if you look at old editions of her books (does that make it okay?). I would say my work has become more polished over the years and my ear for sound has definitely improved.
What is writer’s block to you? What does it seem like or how does it manifest? What do you do to fight it?
Writer’s block happens when life gets stressful, or when writing feels less important than other things in life for one reason or another. Sometimes my writing/revising/submitting time on the weekends is usurped by freelance work or family obligations. When I haven’t written in a while though, I feel this full feeling—it’s almost like I’m about to burst with words. At that point I’ll pull over the car, or stop whatever I’m doing and write a poem draft. This semester, I’m leading an open creative writing workshop for anyone on my campus who can’t take a regular creative writing class, and we are doing writing exercises at the beginning of each session. That’s helping me write more!
What do you look for in good writing? What qualities or characteristics must it have?
My tastes are purely my tastes. Some folks really like urgency, messiness, timeliness, even lots of nouns! I really like high levels of craft—poems that are almost like puzzles, with repeating rhymes, refrains, etc. However, those poems also need some sort of story for me to be satisfied as a reader. It could be the story of a moment, even. I also like strong verbs, and some element of timelessness in a poem.
You’ve been published in some literary magazines and recently released a poetry collection. Can you walk us through that process? How did you react to it all?
Thank you! At this point, I’ve been publishing for over 10 years. What I’ve learned through the process is that it’s important to talk to editors, learn about their publications, and even send fan mail to those magazines! Also, don’t be afraid to send out a bunch of submissions, presuming you’ve already read the websites and back issues of the publications that you love. Right now, I’m learning about the ebb and flow of it all. My full-length collection came out in 2015, and now I’m shaping two new books. I’m in quiet mode and though it’s a nice place to be, I’m not used to it! It was kind of fun waking up every few weeks to a new online review of my book. We all need those generative spaces though.
Because you have yet to write for a living, what do you do for a living?
I’m a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at Aurora University. I teach classes that work through a variety of disciplines to tackle big subjects like justice, what it means to be a human being, and how technology impacts our society. My classes focus mostly on literature, philosophy, visual art, theatre, business, and the social sciences. I am also the faculty advisor for our university literary magazine.
What advice do you have to give to people just discovering writing? Trying to get published? Trying to finish their novel/collection?
Don’t stop. Keep writing, even after the rejections. Even after 100 rejections. Keep writing after a bad workshop where no one gets what you’re trying to do. You will feel your way. Sometimes it happens in the quiet, alone. It may not happen the way you want it to, or on your timeline, but your voice is important, you will hone it, and you will find your audience.
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