When I was readying Blameless Mouth for publication, I was absorbing a lot of advice from other writers and publishers about how to market a book well. This is not something they teach you in creative writing graduate programs, nor is it a skill that is developed in a writing practice. In fact, I would argue that marketing a book runs counter-intuitively to many writers. So I was grateful for all of the expertise out there, in fellow self-publishers and traditional publishers.
One of the recommendations I heard was to gather blurbs for the book, to put on the back cover and use in promotional material. It’s a lovely idea, because it prepares readers for what to expect in your book and gives a different perspective for your material. The only problem is that this requires asking others for help. Personally, I am rotten at asking for help, as a writer and a human being. Frankly, it took me a while to screw up the courage to ask for help in the form of blurbs. As I mentioned here before, I was only able to do so once I realized that I was asking for help on behalf of the manuscript. Somehow, that made it easier.
Of course, the people who I asked were exceedingly generous and they provided some lovely feedback about my work. I thought it would be interesting to share these blurbs and tell a bit more about how I know each of these writers’ work.
The first blurb comes from Jeannine Hall Gailey. She wrote:
“Using retellings of the familiar stories – Grimm’s fairy tales, Adam and Eve – Fox-Wilson investigates the female body, its appetites and injuries, the relations between fathers and daughters and between a woman and her own image. Obsessed with violence and its repercussions, these poems imagine an alternate creation myth in which a woman struggles to take control of her own destiny.”
I became familiar with Jeannine’s work several years ago, through mutual online acquaintances. I had written a poem for Poetry Thursday about Wonder Woman shopping at a Wal-Mart. In the comments, Jim Brock had mentioned that this poem reminded him of Jeannine’s work and he recommended that I buy her book, Becoming the Villainess. I read it and fell in love with her work. I felt like I found someone who is engaging in a similar project, in lifting up our cultural stories and telling them from the woman’s point of view. Pretty soon, I was reading Jeanine’s blog and we became online friendly. Once I needed a blurb, I knew that she would be an excellent reader of my work. I am so grateful for these types of online relationships where virtual strangers are supportive of my work, simply because we have common creative callings.
The second blurb comes from Darci Schummer, a local fiction writer and poet. She wrote:
“Jessica Fox-Wilson’s poetry casts seasons of light on what it means to be human. She elevates plain spoken story to elegance, seamlessly weaving narratives to create a lovely kaleidoscopic image.”
Darci is an incredibly talented short story writer and I am honored to call her a friend and writing buddy. I became friends with Darci through my husband, Aaron, as he and Darci took graduate classes together at Hamline. A little over a year ago, Aaron decided to form a writer’s group for us, because we were both finding it difficult to fit writing into our lives. Darci has been a consistent member of that group and her support of my writing has pushed me to become a better writer.
Finally, the last blurb comes from my thesis advisor, Deborah Keenan, who wrote:
“Jessica Fox-Wilson has written a ferocious, elegant, tough-minded collection of poems. Her exploration of what it means to be hungry, of what the culture asks of its girls and women, compels the reader’s attention and a kind of allegiance with the fierce voice of the narrator. Braiding myths, tales, and sacred texts with her own compelling present-time narratives, we travel with a poet unafraid to speak truth to power, wherever that power resides, however evident or hidden. In the poem where she explores the definition of the word, lacuna, the poet gives us this definition: an empty space, a missing portion, in something which is otherwise continuous. I think of the deep and continuous traditions of poetry, and I think Jessica Fox-Wilson has filled an empty space, a missing portion, with her exceptional, beautifully crafted poems. Buy this book. Consider it food, a full portion which will leave you satisfied and inspired by her gifts as poet.”
Deborah is the author of many books, most recently Willow Room, Green Door. She is also, quite possibly, the most generous teacher I have ever had. While I was in graduate school, Deborah spent an inordinate amount of time reading and commenting on my poems, pushing me to make them better. She never imposed her own aesthetic on my work. Instead, she encouraged me to develop my own and remain true to my vision. After graduate school, she’s remained in touch with me and always asks about my writing. Considering the sheer number of students that she works with, I am always in awe of her generosity and kindness.
If you’ve never had reason to ask other writers to say really nice things about your work, I would encourage you to seek these opportunities out. Personally, I learned much about my writing and my work in this process and I am grateful that I had to step outside my comfort zone and ask these fine writers to speak for my book.
If you want to stay connected to my progress with bringing Blameless Mouth to publication, I hope that you will join the Blameless Mouth Facebook page .
If you would like a copy of Blameless Mouth of your very own, I hope that you will check it out on Lulu.