Monthly Archive for February, 2012

Corbin Lewars on rape, miscarriage, sex, marriage, divorce, and writing what you really feel

Two weeks ago, The Fertile Source published an excerpt, “Losing Sweet Pea,” from Corbin Lewars’s memoir, Creating a Life, now available as an e-book.

When writing about devastating moments in our lives, like miscarriages, it’s tempting to hold back. Can you talk about the process you go through as you decide what to share and how much to share?

I’ve been keeping a journal since I was a child and use it primarily to rant and grieve when I’m struggling with an issue or person. I often warn my boyfriend and kids, “If you read my journal, know I only feel that way about you sometimes.” For me, writing about something is a way to stop holding back. Memoirs that are constrained or where the narrator is removed or stoic are painful for me to read. I continually shout at the pages, “But how did you really feel!”

Readers want to relate to the struggle and the more specific the author is, the wider range of readers she’ll draw. As Jung says, “That which is most personal is most common.” Maybe some of my readers haven’t had a miscarriage, but by describing my sense of feeling like a failure, the hopelessness that I would never have what I wanted, my fear, and frustration with the medical community, I am appealing to emotions and struggles the reader has experienced.

When going through a difficult time, such as my miscarriage or divorce, I write, talk, write again, talk more, and walk a lot while contemplating and grieving the experience. The first few rounds of writing are explosive drafts. I vent and cry on the page, with the sole purpose of getting the words out and not caring if they are eloquent or make sense. All the while, I tell myself, “No one will read this, this is just for you.” I do this to get myself to be as honest and brave as possible. It takes several drafts to get there. A great exercise I learned from Natalie Goldberg is to stop midsentence and say, “What I really meant to say was…” This helps cut through some of the fear and pretenses.

All emotional writing needs time to percolate. While writing Creating a Life, I finished a draft and paused. I told myself, “You told the story, now you need to feel the story.” I gave myself a month off from writing and instead spent the time remembering and feeling that time in my life. Then, I was able to deepen my draft with more courage and willingness to reveal my emotions.

I feel I owe it to my readers to be completely honest when sharing my thoughts and feelings about a hardship. In order to be comfortable doing so, I tell myself every step of the way, “No one will read this, it’s merely for my process.”

Do you have a personal threshold where you have decided, “Okay, I won’t go there and I won’t share that”?

If I’m going to share something, I share it all the way. Until I’m ready to do that, I keep it in the draft, walk, talk stage or merely let it percolate in my brain for a while so I can formulate how and why I want to share it. I don’t share merely to titillate or shock, I share so other people can stop feeling as if they are alone. Miscarriage, rape, sex, these are topics people shy away from. Yet feeling isolated during hard times only makes people feel worse. 

You are a woman writer who specializes in memoir. You’ve written a book about becoming a mother, and taking charge of your own life as well as the birth of your first child. You also write about motherhood, divorce, parenting, and sexuality through both your columns for two Seattle area newspapers and literary journals. Who are your readers? What do you think they’re looking for from your writing? What are they plugging into and why is it important?

I was joking with a friend that my readers must think I live a tumultuous life because so much of my writing is about my struggles. In actuality, my kids are at a great age—independent enough, but still want to be with me–my writing is flowing, my partner supports yet challenges me in ways I’ve never experienced and I love the classes I’m teaching and my coaching clients. “But no one wants to hear that,” I laughed to my friend. “That’s boring.” 

I was exaggerating, but in general, my readers gravitate towards me because of my willingness to reveal myself, my flaws, and my deepest fears and insecurities. And I do so with humor. I’ve been asked several times to write an advice column, to which I shudder. I don’t want to tell people what to do, but I do hope to inspire them to make the changes in their life that they desire, yet are frightened by.  

I appeal to men and women who are in transition and thinking about what they want out of life. Although my memoir is about pregnancy, I heard from numerous men who related to the book because it’s also about creating a life for yourself. Ten years later, I’m still writing and still creating the life I want for myself. Readers like to know that’s possible, that they’re not stuck and don’t have to settle on what society, their partner, or parents told them they should do.  

Many of our readers are also writers who might want to explore publishing short things or books for e-readers. Can you talk about what prompted you to turn Creating a Life into an e-book? What’s been the response? 

Being a Luddite, I resisted making Creating a Life an ebook for over a year. I assumed my readers were grassroots people like me who wanted to hold a book in their hand, not read it on a screen. I was wrong. By making it an ebook and selling it for $2.99, I was able to reach a larger audience than I was reaching by giving readings, speaking about the book and writing about it. With an ebook, Amazon (or wherever you choose to sell it) does the marketing for me, so I don’t have to. And since the price is significantly lower than a print book, more people are willing to purchase it and give it a try.  

The response has been tremendous. It was number one in the pregnancy and motherhood section off and on for several weeks and remains in the top 100 best selling ebooks in these categories. 

Please tell us about your memoir in progress. 

After a year and several hundreds of pages, I decided my memoir needed time to percolate. I started it with the intention of it being about my divorce, but it’s ending up being about my strained relationship with my mother; my family’s struggle with addiction and denial; and falling in love and maintaining perhaps the first adult relationship I’ve had with a man. The continual growth and learning I gain from my relationship with my partner plus my mom’s cancer knocked my second and third draft sideways, until I finally told myself “You are living this memoir, you can’t write it yet.”

While I live these experiences, I am writing a guidebook for women, particularly moms, who are going through a divorce. I offer not only my own experience of navigating an amicable yet still heart-breaking divorce without lawyers, as well as references from experts, and countless of other women’s experiences. It’s light on the advice and in tone. The main message is, “Yes, this sucks at times, but ultimately, you can grow and flourish from this experience.” My story and the other women’s stories are proof of that. A mid-size press has expressed some interest and if that falls through, I’ll probably publish it as an ebook by the end of the year.

Accolades for This Thing Called The Future

J.L. Powers

I’m proud to take a moment to put Catalyst Book Press and Fertile Source founder and editor Jessica Powers in the limelight for recent accolades for her book, This Thing Called the Future (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011). Not only listed by Kirkus as a Best Young Adult Book of 2011, This Thing Called the Future appeared this winter on the Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YLSA) 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.
Here’s what Kirkus had to say about This Thing Called The Future:
Set in an impoverished South African shantytown where post-Apartheid freedom is overshadowed by rampant AIDS and intractable poverty, this novel takes a loving, clear-eyed look at the clash of old and new through the experience of one appealing teenager. Khosi, 14, lives in an all-female household with her sister, Zi, and frail grandmother, Gogo, subsisting on Gogo’s pension and Mama’s salary as a teacher in the city (she comes home on weekends). Everyone in Khosi’s world is poor. Where the struggle to survive is all-consuming, family loyalty trumps community.
Clashes between Zulu customs and contemporary values further erode cultural ties and divide families. A scholarship student, Khosi loves science, but getting to school means dodging gangs and rapists hunting AIDS-free virgins. After a witch curses Khosi’s family and Mama falls ill, Khosi and Gogo seek aid from a traditional Zulu healer, which Mama dismisses as superstition while fear and poverty keep her from accessing modern medicine. As stresses mount, Khosi’s ancestors speak, offering her guidance. Supported by them, her family and classmate Little Man, Khosi vows to create a better future by synthesizing old and new ways, yet the obstacles she faces—some inherited, others newly acquired—are staggering. A compassionate and moving window on a harsh world. (glossary of Zulu words) /(Paranormal fiction. 12 & up).
For a closer look at Jessica’s writing process, read the interview with Jessica that we ran last year at The Fertile Source as well as an earlier interview hosted at Feral Mom, Feral Writer about her tri-part focus at that particular time as press founder, editor and author of The Confessional.
Congratulations, Jess. I’m so proud to work with you.

Jessica with Nesta (five months)

Losing Sweet Pea

an essay by Corbin Lewars

When sex with your husband involves thermometers, charts, and sticking your legs in the air afterwards, you know it’s no longer about your burning desire for him. It’s now all about your burning desire for a baby. I have reached that point and beyond. I have needles poked in me, chart my temperature twice a day, seek advice from a variety of specialists, follow this advice even when it entails chanting to my womb, all in hopes of seeing the two pink stripes on the EPT.

After years of waiting for my husband Jason to say the magical words, “I’m ready” and months and months of cheering “swim, little guys swim,” to his sperm mid-coital, I am finally rewarded with the pink stripes. After jumping for joy and hugging Jason, I place my hand on my belly and say, “Hello there.” The chanting has paid off and by now I am quite used to talking to my womb. I name her Sweet Pea and converse privately with her throughout the day. For now, she is mine, all mine, and I do not share news of her with anyone besides Jason.

Around my tenth week of pregnancy, my back throbs intensely while I am at work. My mind flashes to Sweet Pea, but I quickly dismiss that concern. I’ve waited for her for too long to lose her now. I stretch and reposition myself, but nothing alleviates the pain. After urinating, I see bright red drops that shouldn’t be in the toilet. Panicking, I run back to my office to call my group of midwives.

“I see you’re about ten weeks along, is that correct?” the midwife asks.

“Yes,” I reply, while lying on the floor to ease the pain. She asks me to describe the feeling in my abdomen (menstrual cramps mixed with food poisoning), the amount of blood (a light period), and the lower back pain (agonizing). A long silence follows before she says the words I’m dreading hearing, “You’re miscarrying.”

“No! How can I stop it?”

“I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do. A large percentage of women miscarry in their first trimester and there’s no way to avoid it. Sometimes, it just wasn’t meant to be. Or perhaps the baby wasn’t viable. All we can do is wait and see,” she says.

I hang up the phone and burst into tears. I was patient for so long and every month when I got my period I told myself, “That’s all right. Maybe next month it will happen.” And then it finally did and I was instantly attached. I am attached. I talk to her every day, I have clothes for her, I love her.

I decide to ignore the midwife’s words and tell myself Sweet Pea will stay with me. She wants to be with me as much as I want her. This comforts me for an hour, but then the pain in my lower back becomes too great to ignore. I give up on trying to get any work done, write “Gone home sick” on the white board outside of my office, and drive home.

Once there, I leave a message for Jason and call the midwives a few more times. One of the midwives on call is optimistic about my situation and I cling to her every word. The other midwife on call has given up on Sweet Pea and after talking to her I have to crawl into bed and curl up into a fetal position. Once I’ve shed all the tears I can shed, I turn off my brain. I’m afraid thinking about bad things will give them more power and validity, so if I don’t think about the miscarriage, maybe it will go away.

Jason comes home and finds me in bed hiding under the covers. “Is there anything I can do?” he asks while rubbing my back.


“What did the midwife say?”

“I’ve talked to a couple of them. One is really sweet and hopeful. She says I may just be spotting and that if I rest, I could stop bleeding. The other one told me to come in for a D & C.”

“What’s that?”

“They scrape my uterus.”

“Like an abortion?”

“Yeah.” I pull a blanket over myself.

“Are you going to do that?” he asks.

“No, I hung up on her.”

He asks more technical and logistical questions, but I am too tired to answer them. I know he is only trying to understand the situation, but there are no answers. All we can so is wait and see. I find waiting impossible, so I sleep and hope when I wake up I’ll realize it was all a nightmare.

A few hours later, I’m still bleeding, but not heavily. The “hopeful” midwife is pleased to hear this and says if the cramps and backache subside, it probably means I’m spotting. I am thrilled to hear this and am finally able to get out of bed. I gather two white candles and light them as a way to protect Sweet Pea. Coming from an atheist family, yet wanting to believe in something, I am forced to make up my own rituals. And candles often serve as my chalice and host.  As do the stars. I walk over to the window and say the words I’ve been chanting since I was a little girl, “Star light star bright, the first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might have this wish I wish tonight.” I close my eyes and hope for Sweet Pea to stay with me.

After another day of intermittent bleeding, and many hours spent in bed sleeping, the hopeful midwife convinces me to get my blood drawn to check my hormone levels. “It will be good to know either way,” she convinces me. I write down the directions to the after hours lab and wait in various cubicles to have my blood drawn. Once the procedure is over, I ask when I will know the results.

“Monday morning,” the technician responds.

“But that’s three days away!”

“Yup, we don’t do labs over the weekend.”

It’s the worst three days of my life. I don’t want to talk to anyone, not even my husband. I’m locked in my own despair and turmoil. When I cry, I feel guilty that I’m giving up on Sweet Pea. But how can I ignore the fact that I may lose the baby I sing to every day and can picture so clearly in my brain? I can’t, so I spend the majority of the weekend lighting candles to protect Sweet Pea and sleeping.

First thing Monday morning, I call the lab. A cheery nurse says, “Oh yeah, here’s your chart. Everything looks fine.”

“Thank God!” I race upstairs to tell Jason. We hug each other and cry. Words fail us. All we can do is smile.

I tell people at work I had the flu and no one seems to question my story. I work on the newsletter that it has taken me far too long to complete until I remember that I missed my first prenatal appointment with the midwives during the turmoil. The receptionist asks me to hold for a moment when I call the offices to reschedule. The non-hopeful midwife comes on the line and says, “Corbin, are you trying to schedule a D & C?”

 “Why would I do that?”

“Didn’t the lab call you?” she asks.

“Yeah, I called them. The nurse said everything is fine.”

Long, long pause.

“I don’t know why she would say that. I have your chart right in front of me. You’re not pregnant anymore, you miscarried.”

I stagger at her words and sit down on the floor. The room is spinning and I have to shake my head to clear it.

“No, I didn’t. I hardly bled at all and the cramps went away after a few days. I’m still pregnant. I know I am, I feel it.” Instinctively, my hand rests on my belly and I start to rub it in a circular motion. I’m sure the midwife is wrong and wish she would put the receptionist back on so I can make my damn appointment.

“No dear, you’re not. Sometimes our bodies aren’t aligned with our brains. Your brain may think you’re still pregnant, but I can tell by looking at your hormone levels, that you aren’t. Now about that D & C. You really should come in and have it soon. Otherwise you may get an infection that could…”


I hang up the phone and lie on the floor again. Once again, I tell myself she is wrong and that if I hope for it hard enough, I can still have Sweet Pea. When doubt creeps in, I stagger into my friend Jennifer’s office for reassurance. “I bled, but not that much, the nurse told me I’m fine but the midwife says no, I lost the baby, but I don’t think I did. I still feel Sweet Pea, I know she’s still with me….”

Jennifer deciphers some of my babble and calls the midwives herself. Unsatisfied by the midwives response, she decides to call my general practitioner. “If your doctor is the one who first validated your pregnancy, then she is who I should call. What’s her name?” she asks.

            I cry on Jennifer’s floor while she tries to penetrate the impenetrable medical system. No one wants to answer her questions or tell her how or why I would have been told I’m still pregnant if I’m not. Everyone refers her to someone else. After the tenth phone call, I finally let the midwife’s words sink in. “Don’t call anyone else,” I tell Jennifer. “It’s over.”

I return home again and crawl into bed. I remain there for several days, only emerging to go to work, and then returning to my bed. I refuse to have the D & C, but my body continues to bleed expelling the baby it’s own way. For weeks I am a shell of myself, doing the bare minimum at work, and avoiding all of my friends and family. People try to comfort me with, “You’ll have another baby” or “Maybe it’s for the best,” but this only angers me. I don’t want another baby, I want Sweet Pea.

After weeks of grieving and raging, I decide I have to let Sweet Pea go. I can’t live my life in bed hoping when I wake up, she’ll still be with me. She’s gone. I lost her. Pretending otherwise won’t bring her back. Nor will trying to understand what caused the miscarriage. I’ll never know and all the speculating does is make me feel bad about myself and my body. I assume it’s something that I did or that my body is a failure at baby-making. All this line of thinking does is make me want to crawl back into bed.

Once again, I seek out a ritual to help me. I gather all of the remnants that remind me of Sweet Pea and place them on my bed. The cute baby outfits I bought and the pregnancy book, I put in one pile to send to my friend Jill, who is pregnant. I pause while folding an adorably, fuzzy yellow snow suit. Instead of adding it to Jill’s pile, I hold it to my face and cry. It’s too heartbreaking letting it go, so I keep it. I don’t have to give up hope entirely, I just have to let go of Sweet Pea.

I find the nub of one of the candles I lit for Sweet Pea and the cork I saved from the champagne Jason and I drank on Valentine’s Day, the day she was conceived. I buy a hosta plant in remembrance of Sweet Pea. I dig a hole in our garden and Jason and I place the candle and cork in it and the hosta on top. We hold hands in silence for several minutes and let the tears fall. At the same time, we break the silence by saying, “Good-bye, Sweet Pea. We love you.”



“Losing Sweet Pea” is an excerpt from Corbin Lewars’ memoir, Creating a Life (Catalyst Book Press, 2010) which is now available as an ebook. Corbin’s essays have been featured in Hip Mama, Midwifery Today, Mothering, and A Wild Ride and several anthologies. She is a writing coach and instructor based in Seattle, where she lives with her two young children and a thriving hosta, which she calls Sweet Pea. To learn more about Corbin and her coaching practice visit

Read the interview with Corbin Lewars conducted by Jessica Powers, Corbin Lewars on rape, miscarriage, sex, marriage, divorce, and writing what you really feel.


Exploring the Fictional Worlds of Poet Tasha Cotter

Headshot for Tasha Cotter, Writer

Tasha Cotter

Your prose poem, “A Lack of Power at the South Central Women’s Clinic” opens with a clean, crisp image of “men in hard hats dart[ing] like bats in a gray air.” Can you talk to us about your process of writing this poem? How you decide when to use the prose poetry form? (Or to blend traditional stanzas with prose poetry, as you do in “Description of a Figment and a Letter to Imagination?”)

Even now A Lack of Power at the South Central Women’s Clinic seems strikingly different from much of my other work, the language and scene feels more raw and exposed. The poem came about when I was in a lobby, waiting to get a physical (it was a requirement before I could work with kids in the schools). Like so many of my poems, I used one element of reality to begin sketching a fictional world. For me, it feels like taking the essence of something and building a world to anchor it.
The poem began like this: I got a journal out and began braiding threads together–segmented thoughts and abstract concepts all started fitting together. The man at reception, the discomfort that arises from the most trivial things. I asked myself what if you were very scared? I tend to be a very discreet person, very secretive too, and so I used a voice much like my own in this prose poem–a form I associate with Baudelaire and the french, that’s being reimagined and redefined by contemporary poets like Sarah Manguso, Laura Kasischke, and Ann Carson.
I sat there scribbling for a while, hoping that I didn’t seem too strange, lost in my frantic little world in the Professional Park Plaza. It was rainy and cold out–a combination that always puts me in a gloomy mood. I remember feeling better once I got most of the poem on the page. It felt like I’d had a parallel anxiety that only found relief once there was something on the page. Odd, I know. The whole business of writing continues to alert me to aspects of myself I didn’t know existed….
You preface “Description of a Figment and a Letter to Imagination” with a few lines by poet Sarah Manguso. Can you talk to us about what draws you to Manguso’s work?
Sarah Manguso has been a very important influence on my own work. My two favorite books of hers are “Siste Viator” and “Captain Lands in Paradise.” I still remember how I felt after first reading her poem “Address to Winnie in Paris.” Dickinson said that she knew poetry by the sensation of “her head being taken off” and whenever I read Sarah Manguso’s work, that’s how I feel. My other two favorite poems of hers include “What we Miss” and “Love Letter (clouds).” The world gets re-ordered when I enter her poems and that’s what I look for in poetry. I was always drawn to the surrealists and the dada movement in Paris always captivated me for that same reason. I love Man Ray’s work and Duchamp’s—when I view their work it’s like something in me is being fed. Poets like Rusty Morrison and Ilya Kaminsky are other poets who just continue to inspire and astound me. They infuse my life with beauty and so I return to them again and again.
The poem Description of a Figment and a Letter to Imagination is something I’ve been working on for about three years now. It’s one of those poems you put away for a while and re-visit every six months or so, tweaking a line-break, checking the language, and basically improving it incrementally. The poem arrived too fast–I’m always suspicious of anything that comes about too easily, even if it feels nearly right. I don’t know where the idea for the poem came from, but when I re-read it a few months ago, I had a new take on it–it felt spacious and airy.
The white space seemed to operate like stage lighting for the beginning half of the poem. For some reason I kept imagining a white landscape when reading the poem–a blank modern shell of an apartment that comes off as distant and cold. The poem seemed to defy intimacy and inhabit it all at once. Now, more than ever, I see the poem being about the possibility of fertility–there’s something about life giving rise to life that seems so mysterious, so unexpected to me. Sometimes I just sit and meditate on what feels magical in an effort to understand it better: the notion of birth, some technologies, computer languages… I am endlessly fascinated by these things.
One of my favorite lines in “She Shouts at the Absence,” is the one that suggests, “Talk like a cowgirl who has chased an animal / For days, in a lonesome expanse of burnt orange country.” How did you arrive at this image? Any desire to discuss the writing of this poem?
I wanted to begin with a directive of sorts. I’d seen it done before and I liked the effect of pulling the reader into this world. I begin with “Go to a party…” and I wanted to continue building this world and guiding the reader. At the time I was living out west, surrounded by a burnt orange landscape. Mountain sage grew wild. I’d never seen anything like that vastness—it’s an image that still stays with me because of how compelling it all was—it just made a big impression. I was living in Colorado and I couldn’t help but think about how land—spectacular places like that—have this ability to minimize all other preoccupations and really transport you out of yourself and out of all that is human. You can’t help but feel small and a little awestruck. You start to question the great mysteries when you’re living in the shadow of a mountain range.
It’s that feeling I was trying to capitalize on when I was writing the lines you mention in your question. When you’re facing something that vast—when you’ve lost something that could by now be anywhere—you can’t help but feel lost and a little hopeless, but it doesn’t keep you from searching, even if what you need remains unreachable. I’ve always looked to the land for contrasts in my work. Naomi Shihab Nye has this line in her poetry about inheriting the ability to stand on a piece of land and stare. She’s not changing it, not transforming it, but looking as if to find something—to receive something just by that gesture of being present. I grew up in the rural south—I’ll always crave a certain amount of distance between myself and the rest of the world.
Some say it’s necessary to find “one’s voice” in their work. They work and work until something stabilizes–the voice, themes, language. To an extent, I understand what they mean. But when I look over my own work there are several personalities present: contradictory theories on life and lots of literary forms at play because I’m constantly experimenting. Maybe there’s a common denominator that I’m missing, I don’t know. The truth is I pay little attention to genre, focusing almost entirely on whatever it is I’m trying to communicate. I’ve written a three page poem before and I’ve written a hundred word story. As a writer, it feels like society wants to find a label for each piece of writing, though I think journals are getting more comfortable with accepting pieces whose form is irregular and resists classification.
Any mentors you’d like to share with us?
I was an undergrad at the University of Kentucky when I met Nikky Finney, who was a hugely important figure in my life. I took two of her courses—Poetry 407 and 507. She was a constant inspiration. She made me think of myself as a writer, constantly treating me like I was a peer. I’d never met anyone like her. Her comments and feedback on my work were exactly what I needed. I remember she had us all keep a word journal in which we were to turn in ten new words each week—a short definition and a sentence on why we chose each word.
I kept my words in a black moleskin journal—I still have it. I remember I logged a lot of hours at the William T. Young library that semester, trying to find the most interesting, most poetic words to include in my journal. I still have that journal—it’s like a treasure chest. She motivated me to think differently and to observe everything. At the time my poetry was rather cryptic, not anchored to the ground at all. She opened my eyes to narrative and accessibility in poetry. I was thrilled when I heard she received the National Book Award in Poetry—it couldn’t have gone to a more deserving poet.
For a long time I called poetry home, though I never, ever called myself a poet. I didn’t even like the term writer. I surrounded myself with books by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Plath, and Joyce growing up, so I don’t think I’ll ever feel right referring to myself as a writer or poet. I remember in June of 2006 getting a package of books in the mail from Nikky–(all by Guy Davenport) she’d written ‘Poet’ after my name on the front of the package she’d mailed to me. I’ll be honest: seeing that title after my name thrilled me, but, despite being immensely flattered, I rejected the whole thing, opting instead to identify myself as teacher, educator, advisor. Anything but writer. Anything but Poet.
What are you currently working on?
For the last two years I’ve been in the midst of writing fiction. When I heard that The Fertile Source wanted to feature three poems, I felt a bit like a prodigal daughter, finally home after a very long trip away. I re-read the work and began to recall the choices I made. I remember who I am when I return to my old surroundings. There was poetry, waiting for me though I’d been away for some time. There was something comforting about being back–after all, poetry was what started it all for me. It has personally defined me for so long now. It’s been a lens I’ve used to give shape and meaning to my life.
Right now I have two full-length poetry manuscripts in need of a publisher. I’m not very good about entering contests–the whole thing can get pretty costly in no time, so I’ve been doing research on small, independent presses. Although I’m mostly working in fiction, I almost always have a poem I’m polishing–at this point it’s an act that I’m convinced is bound up in my identity. I like the element of understanding and the process of discovery comes with trying to capture the nuance in what I see and what I feel. In terms of publishing, I try to always have some of my flash fiction or poetry circulating among the literary journals. I’ve found that having a background in poetry can be a very useful skill-set for a fiction writer. I’m convinced that working in more than one genre can only improve upon the other.
And Tasha, for fun, we noticed the guitar in the photo on your website. Is music part of your poetry?
The picture on the website was taken at Normandi Ellis’s PenHouse Writer’s Retreat in 2011. It was an open mic event. I will say, though, that the idea of flight and music play a big part in one of my poetry collections. I’ve always been fascinated by bird imagery—Booth published a poem of mine titled “Goldfinches” last year. Some of my work seems to orbit both of those elements. It’s also true that I listen to music a lot when I’m writing. Right now I’m listening to Bon Iver, Lana del Rey, Vetiver, and The Shout Out Louds.
I want my work to be sonically pleasing. Without fail I always read my poems aloud as I’m editing them. I want the sounds to sort of inform each other. If a line feels clunky, or I leave out a word when I’m reading the poem aloud, I know something needs correcting and I’ll work to smooth out the language.
Tasha Cotter’s work has recently appeared in or is forthcoming in Booth, The Rumpus, Contrary Magazine, and elsewhere. Her fiction was recently nominated for a story South Million Writers award, and her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net Anthology 2011. You can find her online at

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