[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
I wrote a book, and it's scheduled for publication on Amazon November 3rd. It will be available in hardcover, paperback, and as an eBook. I'm planning to create an audio version as well, which will be available on Spotify, Amazon, and about 40 other distribution channels. My book is a poetry collection called Dirt Girl and will be my third foray into the world of self-publishing.
"Why would anyone read poetry?" you might be thinking. That's a fair and pertinent question. Most people don't read poetry or go out of their way to buy it, which is one reason I plan to make an audio version. I can't speak for other poets or poems, but here is what I do know: poems are stories, and the best poems are not so ambiguous that nobody knows what the hell is going on. The best, most memorable poems in the literary canon are the poems we all know and recognize. "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou, "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, "We Wear The Mask" by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, or "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas. I once bought a book of poetry from a cute little bookstore in San Francisco and had no blessed idea what the author was writing about or even what emotion they were trying to convey.
I am not comparing my poetry to the aforementioned literary giants, but what I am saying is this: my poems will not leave you wondering what I meant. They are not flowery or vague or highfalutin. Maybe I don't like flowery, insipid poems, or maybe, I'm just not that smart. At any rate, my poems are each separate stories with a through line connecting them. They are written primarily in the first person, and although I draw heavily upon my life experience, they do not constitute a memoir and should not be read that way. My stories are rooted in truth, but that does not mean every word is autobiographical.
If you have followed me for any amount of time, you know that I was born and raised in Northwestern Wisconsin. My hometown is small, with a population of roughly 1,200 people. When I was in high school, the county I grew up in had the highest rate of meth use in the state. A few years ago, over 40% of the kids in the school district were on free or reduced lunch. Drugs and low income are common in rural America, but I didn't realize that until I left. I love my home, but I didn't know how much I loved it until I left, either.
From my hometown, I went to Peoria IL, then Chicago before landing in the suburban sprawl of Orange County, CA. Leaving rural life required that I learn how to exist in new places and helped me better understand the enormous gulf between rural and urban populations. I hadn't left the country, but I had left a culture. The culture here in Southern California was both both dazzling and heroically dumb. I didn't understand how people could spend so much time and money trying to look younger, trying to seem important, and chasing a bottomless chasm of success. When, I thought, is enough ever enough?
In acclimating to a new home and new people, I leaned heavily on the morals and values of the place where I was raised. Family mattered most, hard work was an ideal, and good character was valued over material things. The tiny, Midwest farming town where I was raised is full of salt-of-the-earth people and Southern California buffed the rough edges of my naivety. The longer I live here, the more I grow to love it, not in spite of all its imperfections but perhaps, because of them. As I write in a poem called Moving Day: people are the same, a thousand miles away.
Dirt Girl is a book about the inherent disparity between urban and rural America and the dissonance of being at home in two places at once. I know I am not the only person to exist in the in-between, and my hope is to find common ground with as many readers as I can.
The book in all iterations will be released Friday, November 3rd. The eBook is available for pre-order on Amazon here, and the audio version will be available shortly after the print version goes live.