Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Introducing Poet Nancy Denofio

If someone told you to tweet to get noticed by publishers, would you?

Or would you just laugh?

If you tell me you'd laugh, I'd ask you to sit down to hear a true story.

* * * * *
. . . my words fill my mind as paper fills the floor where I work.
I find words unending — what we create comes from deep inside
of us, and each artist shares through expression without hesitation.
~ Nancy Denofio

Poet Nancy Denofio was on Twitter one day this past March, alternating passionate tweets about health care reform with posts of urls to her homepage and a blog, when she received an e-mail from someone who'd followed her links, read a bit of her work, and expressed interest in her poetry. Ironically, Nancy tells me in an interview I conducted with her by e-mail, the first piece of work the individual had read was "What Brought You Here?".

The e-mailer, Donald Odom, publisher, Dystenium LLC, asked Nancy to put his name on her list to send him more work. "I told him I did not have a list," Nancy says, adding that she had never sent a formal manuscript to any editor or publisher, although she did have "a lifetime of writing in boxes" and drafts all over her office. Nancy directed Odom to the online sites where she posts her poetry and prose. Very soon thereafter, she received another e-mail from Odom, who this time asked her to send him additional work because he wanted to publish her poetry.

"At first, being online and receiving something like this — a request to publish — I thought it was a scam, so I investigated by searching his name." On learning that Odom had considerable experience in publishing, including a stint as executive editor of Oxford Journals at Oxford University Press, Nancy says "my heart then started beating a little faster." After talking with a few close friends and her husband, who was urging her to send her work to Odom, Nancy still wasn't so sure. "What [my husband] never understood," Nancy confides, "was that writing is like a child, very hard to give away — [especially] to a stranger. And [to] someone who found me through Twitter. . . why me?" Nancy asks. "My close friends told me to stop saying it's luck, although I believe it was, and to believe it's [my] writing" that led the publisher to her.

Nancy's debut collection of poetry, What Brought You Here?, was published in paperback May 30 and is available on Amazon. Each of the 70 poems is complemented by a photograph. Nancy tells me that plans are for two more soft-cover books (the second already is in the works) and then a fourth that will be a hard-cover comprising a selection of poems from the first three books plus new poems.

"I am so thrilled, knowing how difficult it is to be published," Nancy says.

* * * * *
The Night Before
   by Nancy Duci Denofio

A glorious red balloon
it's how he told me
my mouth felt.

The night before he left
he stared at flesh—
no words exchanged
he wanted me to think
kissing was good, and
took his fingers, closed
my eyelids, told me
"It was alright to breathe."

Wondered if men gave
out candy here?

The wrong he did was so. . .
casual for him—
as if he took apart another
puzzle — so singular. . .

People say birds are exotic.
He compared me to a bird.
Wondered if I could have flown?

A bird twists silently out from
its nest of twigs.

My body settled into summer.
Birds gathered at a feeder.
I feel stillness all so ordinary,
suddenly you are naked—
thinking, the entire
world sees you pass

It is morning and I am again,

I think of how birds
flew — out there, in the open.
© Nancy Duci Denofio. All Rights Reserved.
* * * * *
I've never met Nancy in person. My first introduction to her work was via the networking site SheWrites and, later, FaceBook and Twitter. Because her backstory interested me and because I believe in supporting other women who write, I asked Nancy to "sit" for an e-interview. What follows is my edited selection of Nancy's responses to my questions about her writer's life and her experience of being published.

Maureen Doallas: Nancy, how would you describe your experience of publishing a collection for the first time?

Nancy Denofio: To be published for the first time by such a well-known publisher seemed impossible. At first I [just had to] take time to sit back and ponder, and when the silence wore off, . . I wanted to share the excitement with everyone. . . I never expected to feel the excitement a child would feel, as if dreaming. . . perhaps there isn't a word for my feelings at the moment.

MD: What would you most like readers of your poetry to know about you?

ND: I believe my poetry reflects life on a universal level. I want readers to feel, see, hear, touch what I have and to experience my trip up a mountain, my fear as a child, and my life looking at their lives and how we touch one another. I want readers to hear the music, feel the words, and at times be surprised when I twist the ending [of one of my poems].

MD: You're a fan and avid user of social networking sites (Nancy uses SheWrites.com, FaceBook, Twitter, Hudson Valley Writers and Authors Group on FaceBook, Blogger). How are you using social networks to promote your book?

ND: Promoting my book on social networking sites is like being [my] own agent. . . I have [through networking] built up a community of friends, writers, and authors, and many people who are interested in what I do and perhaps may become fans.

MD: Would you share the names of some of the publications in which your poems have appeared?

ND: My work has appeared in many journals, magazines, and newspapers, including Mediphors: A Literary Journal of the Health Professions, The Poet's Touchstone [a publication of The Poetry Society of New Hampshire], Psychopoetica, The Poetry ShowcaseEye on Saratoga, Poetry SoupMidwest Poetry Review, and Lucidity. As a teenager, I was a writer for Seventeen magazine.

MD: Have you studied poetry writing formally or participated in poetry writing workshops?

ND: I've attended workshops at Cafe Lena in Saratoga Springs, New York, and annual conferences of the International Women's Writing Guild. [Nancy told me that she joined the IWWG in 1987 and became a workshop director in 1995. During the  group's annual conference, she teaches the "Author and Writer Presentation" workshop at Skidmore College.]

My experience as a public speaker, up and down the East Coast, has given me experience, confidence, and the ability to teach others.

MD: Who are our favorite poets?

ND: Walt Whitman [and] Bob Dylan. I will always love Bob Dylan. . . he inspired me, and still does, each and every day of my life. . .  I continue to listen to him as I create my work.

MD: What is your favorite bit of advice to poets and other writers?

ND: A poet is a poet — if you "feel" the music, the bounce in your words, and you "see" a story or touch something as simple as a leaf, or walk a path and it generates a feeling to write, then write it down, because poetry is a part of you. Those instances when you hear something deep inside are the words that make poetry and you, a poet. From the darkest moments to the happiest days of your life, from childhood to this very day, you will connect with life or with the child and the child lives again. Poetry is what matters, it's inside of you; do not let those words slip away.

Always have a small pad and pencil in your bag, and if you're waiting in a parking lot, leaning against a car, notice all that you see and write. I find "fast" writing is the best; you can always go back and refresh it later. And never toss away something you think is no good; remember: you can change anything, or add anything to what you write. Writing poetry is similar to writing stories, or music; when [the feeling] hits you, and the words start appearing on paper, continue to write without hesitation. Don't worry about rules or lessons; just write!

MD: How would you describe your "typical" day of writing poetry? Do you need particular conditions (solitude, a room of your own, etc.) to write?

ND: No writing day is "typical" for me. . . if I get a notion, a feeling, a clue to something lost or new, I have to write with pen and paper and then return to the computer to finish it. I have never written something new without a pen and paper. For some reason, the words are inside and slip easily through my arm to my fingers of my left hand and I just write and write. I sometimes look at a scene on television for 30 seconds and then write a poem about what I have seen. Other times I sit and make lists of things I recall from childhood, take a word, and write. Many mornings on nice days, I am on the porch writing.

I know I will never stop writing, especially in early morning, my best time of day [when] my head is clear and I see things clearly. I love the morning, when the sun is rising and the birds are singing and the dew is on the flowers. Even when I attend writing conferences, I am writing with the birds' first songs. Some days I plug in at the library. . . another spot is the coffee shop [where] I usually meet friends and we write on the spot, giving each other five minutes and comparing the differences one prompt can make.

My days vary but I am always writing, and always online, seeing what people are doing, what's changing, and how I can promote my work.

Thank you, Nancy, for taking the time to let us peek into your writer's window.

* * * * *
A Red Light Warms My Soul
   by Nancy Duci Denofio

Rubber hits ice, air escapes
like a bursting balloon
pulling me sideway then

down, as if a giant hole
in the pavement sucked
me into darkness.

Horns muffled and water
rushed inside, touching
my feet, rushing up
to my knees, as cold as
autumn air. I
taste sharp cracks
in ice as if a razor blade
cut my skin.

I can hear the six o'clock plane
heading west, and the bells
of Saint Agnes. Like the
flushing of a toilet, pulling
down through a drain, sucking
all that is. . .

I hear the wind cut through
bare branches
of a tree, as bodies swarm
on top of me, on ice. My teeth
clenched, my head touching
the steering wheel. Then
a red light warmed my soul.
© Nancy Duci Denofio. All Rights Reserved.

Nancy lives in Saratoga Springs, New York, and can be found on the first Wednesday of every month at Cafe Lena, where she reads her work at Open Mic. She's been a spoken-word artist since 1987. She's planning a schedule of readings to celebrate and promote the release of her book, and at the beginning of July will be taping an interview with NBC Channel 13 for its "Forum" program.

Nancy was interviewed earlier this month by Spotlight Newspapers in Saratoga: "Woman's Poetry Has Publisher a-Twitter".

Resources for Nancy's Work

Blogs: Poetry,  Quick Poetry, Short Poetry, Poetry Nancy Duci Denofio, Children and Grandchildren Creative Writing

Poems and Photographs of Nancy Denofio

Nancy Denofio on She Writes

Nancy Denofio on FaceBook

Nancy Denofio on Twitter

Nancy Denofio on Dystenium

Nancy Denofio's Webpage on RoadRunner


M.L. Gallagher said...

How fascinating!

I love the idea of meeting another writer at a coffee shop and using a prompt for a five minute writing spree and then comparing takes.

Very cool!

and inspiring!

sherri said...

WOW! I am thrilled for this writer.

Duane Scott said...

OH how is exciting! Some would call it luck. I call things like that fate.

Thanks for sharing.

Kathleen Overby said...

Elegant interview on all fronts, Maureen. You both shine. :)

Bonnie Rost said...

My goodness Maureen, what a lovely read. I must commend you on your interest, pursuit, and interview with Nancy Denofio's story of how her chance discovery by a publisher led to publication of her book.

I love to hear inspiring stories such as these. I do not believe anything is happenstance - it was time for Nancy's début. Thank you for sharing this great story about Nancy Denofio.

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic post. I Twitter and blog very often and am always hoping I may get noticed and have someone publish my novel. How very exciting for Nancy, and her beautiful poetry so well deserved of its recognition.

CJ xx

Anonymous said...

well done, maureen and nancy.

i really enjoyed this interview and all of the extra info.



sarah said...

wow, that is every blogging writer's dream come true!

Claudia said...

wow - what a story - and what a writer!!
thanks maureen for the interview!

Shashi said...

Loved reading her experiences and her thoughts on writing and poetry..
Her advise to the writers is great.. Liked it... thanks for sharing Maureen...

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