Tyler James Russell knows from experience the importance of patience and of honing one’s writing craft. Read the lessons he learned as he worked his way to publication.
1. Tell me briefly about your latest book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
To Drown a Man is my debut poetry collection. It came out of a transition point that resulted in me embracing vulnerability in a different way, in both my life and my writing. There’s not much formal inventiveness here, it’s a fairly plainspoken style. I’d come to a point where I was recognizing a lot of the barriers that I’d put up between myself and other people, and wrestling with how difficult and even painful it was to pull those down. Writing was, unfortunately, one of those barriers. I wanted people to see me as smart, clever, etc., and so I tried to write in a way that was smart, clever, etc. and not in a way that really touched on honest, vulnerable states of being human. So, I ended up setting writing aside for a while (and this is after writing regularly for more than 10 years) as I walked through that. Some of the poems in To Drown a Man are the first things that emerged when I started writing again.
2. How have your sales been?
I had a friend send me a postcard just before launch with a Don Marquis quote: “Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.” I laugh at that quite a bit. If that’s true at a normal time, it’s probably doubly true during a pandemic.
That being said, I’ve been really humbled by the amount of people who’ve not only bought the book but also taken the time to reach out to me about it. Both people in the literary world and people who I’m pretty sure don’t interact with poetry much at all. So much of that has come out of simply getting comfortable telling people about the work I’m doing, because I think anything that comes off as at all “salesy” doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s something I’ve had to grow into.
3. You’ve decided to use a traditional publisher for your book. Why did you choose this versus self-publishing?
This is my first book, and with the amount of factors I had to get my head around, I really wanted to leave it to the experts. Unsolicited Press is amazing, and I’ve been so happy to let them do their thing while I do mine. Continue reading