Tuesday, August 06, 2013

"Better To Travel" turns 10

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the publication of my first poetry collection, Better To Travel. After spending years and untold sums of money on contests, I received a small grant from the Friends of the Fayette County Library (my hometown library and first employer when I was just 15) and self-published the book through iUniverse.

In 2003, print-on-demand was in its infancy and still called "vanity publishing." I knew self-publishing the book would mean struggling for book reviews, readings and general acceptance by the poetry community. My lack of MFA and "credentials" in the poetry world would relegate me to hobbyist or put me on par with greeting card writers. The truth is, none of those things happened, perhaps by sheer force of will or refusing to let the "po'biz" crowd shut me out.

Almost immediately, articles and interviews appeared in all the local media. There were positive reviews, including a big one in the old Lambda Book Report (it was even mentioned on the cover) and I drew a bigger audience to my launch gig at the Atlanta Book Festival (the forerunner of the Decatur Book Festival) than Nicholas Sparks. I doubt that will ever happen again, but those nearly 200 people who showed up, danced along to the tunes from the Jennifer Perry Combo and bought every copy that night (125 in one go) meant that Better To Travel was not going to flounder for an audience.

In an age where selling 300 copies of a poetry collection is considered a success, Better To Travel has tripled that number and remains for sale via iUniverse and on all the online bookstores. There's even an eBook version now.

Of course, the poetry in Better To Travel is "young" poetry, written from around 1992 up to 2002. The poems have a different texture, a different rhythm and a lack of personal pronouns that I now find irritating. I was going for that "everyman" appeal and didn't want to sound overtly gay, so all the he's and she's went out the door. The poems are also too loose, some have terrible line breaks. And, yet, I can still see my voice in those poems, what it would eventually become as I grew as a writer. Despite its flaws, I'm still proud of the book. Some writers completely disown their early work, but it took me a lot of years to get to Better To Travel and I'm still happy it's available and that, every now and then, a royalty check appears.

1 comment:

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

I love this book, and I think the poetry's very good, even if your work has matured since. It's also a very good production physically; doesn't shriek 'self-published' - in fact I'm surprised to learn that it was. It deserved to do well and I'm glad it (and you) did.

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