Often we take for granted things we should put on the “I’m so grateful for” list. When I submitted my poetry chapbook manuscript to Finishing Line Press for the second year in a row, my only concern was having the press accept my book for publication. My mind did not take me further than the day an envelope would arrive in my box with my acceptance letter.
I had sent the wrong copy of a poem, and at the last minute, Leah exchanged it, without complaint, for the correct poem. In fact, she did everything I asked for my book. I am proud of the finished product. My family and my friends tell me they think the book is lovely. Some of my friends, Glenda Barrett, Janice Moore, Mary Ricketson, and Brenda Kay Ledford also had poetry chapbooks published by Finishing Line Press.
The information sent to me by Finishing Line Press helped me with promoting my book, and Leah has helped in other ways on Facebook.
Recently, I asked Leah if she would take time from her busy schedule and answer a few questions for me. Even though she had been ill for a week, she responded. Below is my interview with Leah Maines, Sr. Editor of Finishing Line Press.
GB: How long have you been writing and why did you start in the first place?
Leah: I started writing in college. I'm not sure why I started writing. I was working on the Licking River Review as their business manager. I loved reading the submissions. I started writing.
GB: Who or what inspired you to write?
Leah: The first few poems I wrote in college were really terrible. However, I had a friend who saw some glimmer of talent in them in spite of the "O, how I love thee" in one stanza. He told me I should keep writing, and he handed me a copy of Poetry. I turned to the poem "Splitting Wood" by Billy Collins. That single poem changed my writing life and got me forever hooked on poetry. My friend's kindness led me to the poem. He didn't tell me to forget poetry; he just gently led me down the right path.
GB: What would you say is the hardest thing about writing?
Leah: One must keep writing. Sometimes the writer loses his or her voice. This is what we call "writers block" and it can become difficult to find it once you have lost it. Life tends to get in the way once one falls into that trap. I've found that keeping a journal helps, and not putting high expectations on the craft.
GB: What do you enjoy most about writing?
Leah: The release. Just the letting go of the words. My poems tend to come to me early in the morning. They wake me from my sleep and won't allow me to go back to bed until I put pen to paper. It's the release of the words that gives me some peace and satisfaction. I don't care if anyone ever reads them now. There was a time in my life when I had to prove something--when publication meant everything to me. It doesn't matter to me anymore about my own work. I'm happy to help other people get published now. I get the same satisfaction.
GB: What advice would you give a struggling new writer or poet?
Leah: Keep submitting, and don't allow rejection letters to get you down. Everyone gets rejection letters -- everyone. Just keep at it and keep writing. And keep reading good contemporary poets. Learn from the best, and then find your own voice. Then write and keep writing. You will find publication if you don't give up.
Leah Maines served as the Northern Kentucky University Poet-in-Residence in 2000, funded in part by the National Endowment for Humanities and the Kentucky Humanities Council. She served in the position with poet Joseph Enzweiler. Leah’s book Looking to the East with Western Eyes (Finishing Line Press, 1998)was a Cincinnati/Tri-State regional Bestseller. Another book, Beyond the River (Kentucky Writers Coalition Press, 2002)was the winner of the Kentucky Writers’ Coalition Chapbook Competition.
GB: Thank you, Leah, for giving us your time and answering questions for www.netwestwriters.blogspot.com