Sunday, May 14, 2006

some thoughts on my first book

I've been reading the interviews at kate greenstreet's blog with great interest. She has been posting interviews with authors who talk about their first books----how they thought their lives might change, how they lives actually changed (or not), how their writing changed or did not change, and things like that. Shanna Compton said something that made sense---that it was nice, when asked if she had a book, to be able to say yes.

I don't know how it will change me, but I'm certain it will in some way. How could something I have worked on/for/with/against for six years not change me? I was friends with the late-great Andres Montoya, whose first book the ice worker sings and other poems won him the American Book Award posthumously, and Andres once said that the second book is harder than the first. Is that true, for those of you who have published a second book? In what ways was it harder or easier? I don't think the fact that I have a book coming out has really hit me. I've tried to downplay it a lot to friends because I don't like to get too full of myself. I just don't know what to make of it. Maybe there's nothing to make of it at all.

Something else has got me thinking---Korean American poets and Korean adoptee poets. I know Ishle Yi Park and am familiar with Ed Bok Lee's work and have read a little of Geraldine Kim's blog. I bought the AAWW's anthology Echoes Upon Echoes (New Korean American Writing), even though they rejected my poems after directly soliciting some from me. But does anyone know of any other Korean adoptee poets with a book? I can't be the only one. I'm just curious. Let me know who you think of.


Two Korean writers I hope to meet before I turn 50---Chang Rae Lee and Nora Ojka Keller. Lee's novel Native Speaker, remains one of the finest novels I have ever read.


I hope the mini in Seattle is a blast. I hope to see you all someday sooner than later.


Hui Jeong said...

all my google searches turned up your name. there are a lot of memoirs and anthologies by Korean adoptees, but you may be the first one to publish a book of poetry!

jenni said...

Congrats on your book! I think it's fantastic. You know, I've had friends tell me the second book was harder, and I've had other friends who told me it was easier--that getting the first book published was a relief in a way and a source of inspiration for them.

Lee Herrick said...

hmmmm...I wondered if that was the case, hui jeong. I figure there has to be one or two out there, but I couldn't think of any either. Maybe he or she will contact me, and if that person doesn't exist, then I hope others will soon follow. I'm glad there will be another Korean adoptee voice added to the bookshelves.

jenni, thank you. i'm definitely stoked about it. i've heard it both ways, too...that the first one was harder to place or have accepted, but that the second one was harder to write for any number of reasons. i'm finding myself writing different poems now. we'll see what comes of it.

Mudeng said...

Congrats, Lee! It's been lovely to read your blog, since I have been connecting with Ji-in, etc.

Do you know Sun Yung Shin? Amazing poet in Minneapolis. Her first book of poetry is coming out from Coffeehouse Press this year. Also has a children's book ... editing the anthology Outsiders Within: Adoption Politics and Racial Crossings. Check out her site:

Lee Herrick said...

mudeng, i don't know sun yung, but i have read around on her website before. that's awesome she has a book coming out with coffee house! i just wrote her an e-mail introducing myself, so maybe we'll exchange a few thoughts.

btw, i love your blog. that entry on the word "gross" made me laugh out loud. hope you don't mind that i linked you from mine. i think yours is the neatest looking blog there is, btw. thanks for saying hello.

Lyle Daggett said...

My second book of poems was maybe a little more difficult to write than the first book was, because I put together the manuscript of the first one by just sorting through poems and picking some; whereas for the second book I deliberately wrote the poems as a (as least theoretically) coherent manuscript.

From the standpoint of getting each of them accepted for publication, as it happened I personally knew each of the publishers, which made it much easier to get my foot in the door, as it were. Overall I'd say that having published a previous book can only be an advantage in publishing another one.

Certainly it helped to have been through the give-and-take process before, haggling out all the details of typeface, cover design, paper stock, etc. I realize authors aren't always involved to a great degree in the nitty-gritty of making the book, but I've enjoyed that part of it.

The thing I've found most useful, in general, during the process of bringing the book into the world, is to persist gently and relentlessly in communicating with the publiser, and to remain absolutely cool and infinitely patient. So far so good, anyway.

Mudeng said...

Hi Lee! Thanks for your nice comments about my blog. It's just a template from Wordpress, but I like it because I am one of those crazy, green-loving, organic-eating people.

Glad you introduced yourself to Sun Yung. She is quite the poet. Ed Bok Lee is great, too ... he's out there all the time, doing readings.

Can't wait to read your book.

And glad you liked the Gross entry! I enjoy gross things, but it's rare to find another who does, as well.

Would like to link you, too. OK?

Lee Herrick said...

mudeng, i imagine you know soon-young (vegan)? we're trying to eat more organic these days, and i feel better for it. i don't mind at all if you link me, btw. i look forward to staying in touch!

lyle, thanks for your insights. i'm really early in the process still, but i have started thinking about a second book. i am hoping to write steadily this summer and winter, although it will be the first summer in a few years that i won't be in latin america, so i'll have to readjust my writing habits.

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

Congrats, Lee. Very excited for you!

Lee Herrick said...

thanks, dana!

Michael Parker said...

Congrats again on the publication of your first book. I have signed up to be notified when it is published. I'm very excited for you.
Regarding your questions and thoughts: I feel all major experiences change us, for better or worse, though I feel we have the ability to control the negative aspects of change. If you are concerned about growing an ego, which doesn't seem part of your nature, then start now at learning how to keep it in check or to tame it.

Lee Herrick said...

Michael, I think I'm most curious how my writing processes might change. As it is, I write in heavy waves, where I may go a few months without writing and then I'll have a few weeks where I'll write a lot. Lyle Daggett said something I can already see occuring---where my second manuscript might follow more of a theme or early unified direction as a collection instead of a collection of somewhat disparate poems.

Michael Parker said...

LOL. There I go again, mis-reading and discussing a theme totally irrelevant. Sorry.

I think it is very normal for writers to pick themes for manuscripts after the first one. I'm thinking of two poets right off the top of my head here.

Consider this year's Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Claudia Emerson, who one day decided to write poems about her divorce and her husband's first wife's long fight with cancer. (The work is titled "Late Wife.")Her method for keeping the theme in sight was to write a poem and then hang it on her wall at her office or home.

And Britain's David Harsent's eighth book of poetry, "Legion," which was last year's nominee for the prestigious Whitebread nomination. He commented that Legion's theme of war originated from an editor's request. I wrote about him back in December and this is how he explained it to the Guardian:

"In 2001, Jo Shapcott asked me to send her a poem for an anthology she was editing for the Royal Institution. Contributors were to take as a subject any lecture recently given at the RI. I chose 'From metals with a memory to brilliant light-emitting solids', not least because the commission was obviously a challenge and it seemed the least hospitable subject on offer. We were bombing Afghanistan at the time and images of that conflict were everywhere. My poem changed, under my hand, from something chipper and defiantly inconsequential to a piece in which 'metals with a memory' were smart bombs whose targets (people) became 'brilliant light-emitting solids'. It was an ambush; I'd never written anything like it before."

Now, whether these themed manuscripts are hard to write I would not know. It seems that if your heart is into it, it wouldn't be an arduous writing process. I think the challenge of it might seem daunting; but I find challenges exciting, adventurous. I think you will be absolutely fine. Again, I'm thrilled for your success.

Pris said...

I'll add my congratulations, too. I've not had the fortune of being in your position, but I have spoken to first time book authors about this. I think what Michael said about personality differences makes sense to me, ie the first book can be seen as a doorway to more or as pressure...maybe even both.

I'll be watching for your TENTH book:-)


Lee Herrick said...

Michael, I know exactly what you mean, and your eariler post was perfectly on point also. No need to apologize! I really appreciated your post about Harsent and Emerson, whose books I've yet to buy, but I know I will at least be buying Emerson's soon. I also still have to get Gilbert's book. After reading your review I went to the bookstore and read the first few poems and was blown away.

Pris, that "pressure" is what I was initially referring to and that Michael mentions. It's what my friend Andres meant, I think. I have had two separate ideas to focus my poems----where each title would be the title of a song I grew up with or love(d) more recently, i.e. "Tangerine," (Zeppelin), "Pinball Wizard," (The Who), "Manic Depression," (Hendrix), etc. I doubt I'll go that route, though. Nick Hornby has a book of essays called "Songbook" that follows this format. The other idea was to write one long poem in parts about all the questions I have been asked over the years about being adopted.

I have a feeling I might end up doing what poet C. Dale Young does, which is to just write individual poems as they come to him and then hope they coalesce somehow later. That seems to be my motus operandi so far. We'll see. Like most things, I suppose I will start writing to see what I am thinking.

santoki said...

was just wondering if it was possible to add G.O.A.'L as a link to your site? G.O.A.'L is the only adoptee organization in Korea with the status of an NGO/NPO.