Girl Years (Matter Press, 2012)
How did you decide on the arrangement of your chapbook?
I’m very visual when deciding on arrangement. I have to see the physical pages. I print everything out and spread pages onto the floor of my small writing room. I put pieces in a particular order, then simply stare at them for quite a while. Eventually, something clicks, and when it does, it feels a bit magical.
A question from Curtis L. Crisler: Did your chapbook start out as something larger whose parts you made into a chapbook? Or, if it started out as self-contained, is it something that can be changed into a full manuscript?
Girl Years consists of pieces taken from my full-length memoir The Girl Factory, which was published October 1, 2013 by Globe Pequot Press. The pieces in the chapbook are mostly the origin pieces – the writing that inspired me to write the memoir. I have always been drawn to flash writing. Many of my scenes naturally end after a page or two, so I thought it would lend itself well to the chapbook form.
What advice would you offer to an aspiring chapbook author?
Read chapbooks, of course. There are many great writers publishing chapbooks today – in print and in digital form. We have a lot to learn from each other’s work.
Do you have a favorite prompt or revision technique? What is it?
If I’m stuck on a poem, one of my tried and true revision techniques involves fooling around with line breaks. Again, I’m very visual, so I like to see all the possibilities. Because of this, I’m grateful for modern-day word processing.
A question from Karen J. Weyant: If you could have a soundtrack for your chapbook, what songs would be playing?
The soundtrack for Girl Years would have to include songs from my girlhood in the mid-1980s. Duran Duran, Wham, Hall & Oates, lots of Madonna, lots of Whitney Houston.
A question from Weston Cutter: Did you write this chapbook while listening to anything, or do you listen to anything when you write in general, or is it all silence?
I don’t enjoy working in absolute silence, so music is essential. I have some go-to artists for writing – Conor Oberst is first on my list. I can listen to anything by him and feel inspired. It’s hypnotic.
A question from Travis Mossotti: What do you find to be the most difficult and/or rewarding part about the writing, revising, publishing, and promotion process?
The most difficult of the process is the promotion process and the feelings of icky-ness that sometimes come up. I feel vulnerable when promoting my own work, as I’m sure many writers do. And then there’s also the realization that not everyone will fall in love with my writing. That’s a thought that’s kept me awake on a few occasions. You just have to work through it. I’ve always believed there should be a specific field of therapy that focuses on treating writers. We have a unique set of emotional concerns.
A question from Jane Wong: What are some chapbook presses you admire and why?
Of course I admire the presses that have published my work – Matter Press, dancing girl press, and Finishing Line Press. But there are many others publishing fantastic work: Hyacinth Girl, Eastern Point Lit, and Ravenna Press are three that immediately come to mind. I admire all small presses, many of them run by just handful of dedicated individuals who are committed to bringing diverse voices to literature.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a full-length poetry collection, and also a novel. So far, the novel is winning the contest for my attention. I always participate in National Poetry Writing Month in April, so I’m planning to finish a draft of the poetry collection then.
Karen Dietrich is the author of The Girl Factory: A Memoir. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Joyland, Bellingham Review, Weave, PANK, and elsewhere. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Anchor Glass and Understory. Her flash nonfiction collection Girl Years won the 2012 Chapbook Award from Matter Press. She lives in Greensburg, PA.
from “Challenger” in Girl Years
I am in school when it happens, so I don’t see the y-shaped cloud in real time, the way the people in the bleachers look confused, Christa McAuliffe’s parents holding each other. I see the scene repeated on the news that night, on 20/20, my favorite show. I can trust Barbara Walters and Hugh Downs. I can trust the theme music, its authority. I can trust the way the date is displayed on the screen during the opening credits, proof that we are all on the same calendar. We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us, Ronald Reagan says in his near whisper.
At the lunch table in school, Jonathan Wilson tells dirty jokes about Peter Pan, mean jokes about starving Ethiopians and Christa McAuliffe. “What color were Christa McAuliffe’s eyes?” he asks me, and I know the answer, picturing her image on the news, her smile through the glow of the television screen.
I can hardly stand to be around my mother right now because it’s all she wants to talk about, the poor teacher astronaut who exploded in seventy-three seconds, ten miles off the ground.
“What color were Christa McAuliffe’s eyes?” Jonathan Wilson asks again. He is agitated now. I give up.
“Her eyes were blue,” I say. “One blew this way, one blew that way.”