Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Interview Week 21 : The Julie Book

What kind of book you have there?

My most recent book is really a trio of pieces in a collection released by ( through Winter Goose Publishing (
The Inspiration Speaks ( project, which benefits ColaLife (, features a cast of talented poets and artists whom I admire and look up to, so I was honored to be included among them.

My chapbook Tracks ( is a collection of personal pieces from a transition period of my life—emotionally and geographically. The pieces were written in California, the United Kingdom, and the Mediterranean, and the book reflects the quick, dramatic changes experienced as we set off on our own into the world and find love, loss, adventure, and finally ourselves.

Why do you decide to get published?

I self-published my first book, Tracks (, because I wanted to put out a poetry collection while my grandmother was still alive. She always supported my artistic endeavors, from music to dance to poetry, and I wanted to give her something she could hold in her softly wrinkled hands. If I had known she would live to be 103 years old, I might have waited and tried to find an outside publisher for the book.

I decided to submit to Inspiration Speaks ( because of the challenge: write a poem based on a piece of art in the ( collection. I often struggle to write poems from a prompt like this. I still struggled a bit—my accepted poem ended up being based on two pieces by artist Eric Olson (

How long have you been writing?

When I was young, I tried and failed to keep a journal or diary; I’d write for a few weeks and then set it aside. But the words of other authors jumped off their pages, and I wanted to remember them. So I started to keep notebooks of quotes, doodles, and eventually, my own poems. They aren’t diaries, because I let anyone pick them up, peruse them, and even contribute. A friend dubbed them Juliebooks when we were in high school, and the name stuck. I’ve been keeping some version of them ever since.

Do you have previous publishing experiences?

Several of my poems have been accepted to literary journals over the years, but my main published work has been journalistic: I spent several years writing community news, features, and music criticism for The Orange County Register in Southern California, among other newspapers and magazines. I have also edited and designed literary journals, nonfiction journals, and newsletters. I now earn my living as a freelance editor focusing on nonfiction books and articles.

What is the reason you choose the host of your publishing?

I enjoy performing poetry as much as writing it. Sharing a piece aloud helps me find flaws and strengths in its flow, and the audience’s reaction tells me when it sings to others. But I don’t want to create on-the-spot art; I want to fine-tune my pieces and make every word count so that the poem can be read as well as heard.

My blog ( lets me share both forms of a poem, and I regularly post clips from readings of the poems that are on the site. I chose WordPress to host my blog because it allows me to create a free, clean, attractive site for my work.

Which part of the book do you you believe most charming to readers? please include 2 or 3 poems in your book.... for fiction, please pick out a paragraph to share.

When I read at a venue for the first time, I usually start with “next” (

because I’ve read it so often it helps me get out the jitters of stepping up to the mic. It’s also a longer piece, so I know the audience members are with me if they stay captivated through it. “free bird” (;

Free Bird

Sometimes I feel I’ve failed
Lost my title of artist
of objective
Lost my ability to see
what sits under a mask
I feel I’ve failed
when I can’t see the beauty of
a few pieces of metal and rubber
stuck at a standstill
peeling in the sunlight
I don’t understand what is attractive
about seeing the pavement
through floorboards
I feel no need
 to pull greasy parts from under the hood
or scuffle on my back behind a tire
I just want to move
smoothly and swiftly
curling up between your shoulder and the gear shift
cozy and close and free

—Julie Laing
© 1999

video clip here: is a favorite among local listeners and readers because it has many elements people in Montana can relate to: old pickup trucks and traveling empty backroads with someone you care for. And when I first released Tracks (,

Blond Boys

Little one
Disturbs my sleep
With screams in the night
From monsters running
Inside his head
Trying to capture
His body
His heart
His mind
Until he can’t breathe
His blond hair
Lies damp and tangled
Over his forehead
And he imagines he’s drowning
Until he weighs down the nightmares
With his own voice
That carries from below
Into my ears
Until I open my eyes

Big one
Disturbs my sleep
With dreams in the night
And questions running
Inside my head
Still long after torment
My body
My heart
My mind
Until I only see
His blond hair
Cut close and smoothly
Next to his skin
And I imagine I’m drowning
Until I’m weighed down so I can’t
Hear my own voice
And only his speaks
Into my ears
Until I open my eyes

—Julie Laing
© 1999
my little cousin and his parents were excited that he had a place in the collection as the younger of the “blond boys” (video clip here: with nightmares about monsters.


Sometimes I think I (still) love you
Some days I think I never did
But mostly I think I loved you once
And that time has slipped away with the miles
Only recorded as the soundtrack in my head
On cassette, not CD
So I can never skip past a song.
As I punch at buttons with one hand
Hold the wheel with the other
It makes me think of the way you held me
Pushing my buttons with your free
Hand feeding me with words.
Now they only seem like empty calories
But the lines were filling at the time
Until I was so bloated by the words
I couldn't see my own feet of clay
Any more than I could see what you meant.
But I walked that time away with the miles
Shedding the empty weight with every step
Until I could see my own feet carry me
Until I could see you had gone.
Sometimes I think I let you (go)
Some days I think you let me
But mostly I think I loved you once
And I don't know why I feel nothing now
Not even the horrid, color-draining numbness
That froze me, and chilled me
When I found myself alone before
Because now I see how the first time
It was I who lost the boy.
And so now I know that the second time
It was the boy who lost me
Who has felt me wandering the streets
Listening to the songs that fill my head
Listening to many empty words
Wondering which ones I'm supposed to feel.

Sometimes I think the happy (lines)
Some days I think the bitter cries
But mostly I think—well, I don't care
'Cause after so many miles
After so many days and nights
I have come back into this room
Where I can see traces of you
Where your photos make me laugh
Your letters make me scream
I don't even need to
Change the shape of my mouth
As I look from your face to
Your empty promises
Weighing me down with
"I will support you"
"I'll be there for you"
"We'll have plenty of time."
Sometimes I think you meant them (words)
Some days I think you never did
But mostly I don't want to think at all.
And instead I scream because the first time
It was I who lost the boy.
And now I laugh because the second time
It was the boy who lost me
And I wonder what charm I need
To survive a third round
What charm I need for wings
To make these clay feet fly.

—Julie Laing
© 1999

Do you have any hints on how to get published?

Try—and keep trying. Know that just because you aren’t accepted to a journal doesn’t mean your piece or collection is bad, and submit it again to another publication or publisher. But before you do, look critically at your work and get as much detailed feedback as you can from other writers and readers. Poems pack so much detail into so few words that even a slight change can affect how a piece is received.

Do you have a favorite author?

I'm passionate about music, so some of my favorite poets are also songwriters, including Patti Smith, Ani DiFranco, and particularly Leonard Cohen. And although many songwriters do not publish poems, I find a lot of poetry in their lyrics if I listen closely.

What are your major inspirations?

Much of my poetry is personal, so I find inspiration in my own experiences and those of others. If I can tell one of my stories in a poem and someone else finds his or her own story in it, then I’ve just received the greatest reward I can imagine for my work.

What’s your writing plan for the future?

I recently went through another emotional period in my life: divorce. I am putting together a new poetry collection focused on the transition from the darkness of a crumbling relationship, through the grays of self-doubt and questioning self-worth, and into the light of self-sufficiency that leads to new love. I have several pieces ready for the collection and am fine-tuning and writing others to round out the project.

Julie Laing


Bluebell Books Twitter Club said...

Julie, the information you provide here is so rich, well done.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bluebell, for posting this! For any readers who happen to be in NW Montana for the holidays: I'll be the featured poet at a reading at The Cottage Inn in Kila on Dec. 22 for a winter solstice celebration, sharing pieces from "Inspiration Speaks" and other poems.