Interview with Peter LaBerge

peter laberge

Peter LaBerge is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Hook (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015) and Makeshift Cathedral (YesYes Books, 2017). His work appears in Best New Poets, Crazyhorse, Harvard Review, Iowa Review, Pleiades, Tin House, and elsewhere. Six years ago, he founded The Adroit Journal, a quarterly online literary magazine that showcases poetry, prose, and art by those emerging in their fields. He recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in English (Creative Writing) and a minor in consumer psychology.

Q: What writing have you had published? How did you accomplish this: a collection of your own, magazines, or something else? What was the process like?

A: I’ve published a wide range of poems, stories, essays, reviews, interviews, op-ed’s, and art. I think the most simultaneously exhilarating and challenging aspect of professional literary development is that there is no one way to achieve it. No two writers have the same story of development and maturity, of ascension. I would say, for better or worse, it’s a matter of persisting and being truly relentless. I view rejection as inevitable and acceptance as a nice surprise. You have to see beyond personal implications of rejection in order to make it as a writer. You really have to grow a thick skin. Suddenly, one high-tier publication comes, and then eventually another, and as you keep writing & keep reading & keep living, the distance between each successive point shrinks a bit. And then you’re on your way! Though honestly, affirmation from publication is sort of hollow. Necessary for some, but also hollow. It can’t sustain you — your heart has to be truly, unabashedly in the art.

Q: What advice would you give to young writers who are trying to get published, especially with full collections of their own work?

A: I’d caution you against publishing your first collection unless you truly think you’re ready. I thought I was ready for years, but I wasn’t. Furthermore, there are a ton of first book prizes that help a lot of writers along their way.

I’d also definitely just say that we as writers & human beings don’t feature our failures and rejections the way we showcase our publications. I don’t know a single emerging writer whose acceptance count outnumbers their rejection count. It just doesn’t happen — particularly, like I said, at the beginning. I’ve submitted probably about 800 places. Looking at my CV with that knowledge probably makes it look less impressive, but that’s the point. Like I said, it’s all about persistence and relentlessness.

Q: What is unique about the publishing world for young people in particular?

A: Young writers are truly some of the most brave writers out there. They aren’t afraid to ruffle feathers. They also aren’t afraid to experiment.

When taken seriously, young writers can truly make a difference. The frustrating thing that I’ve found & witnessed is that for so many young writers it’s being legitimized that is harder than writing work worthy of legit recognition and affirmation. People only really give young writers the time of the day when they’re tricked into it. This is why I founded the Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program — the more time emerging and established writers spend together, the better both will be.

Q: What did you hope to accomplish by founding both Adroit and its mentorship program? You’re a relatively young writer yourself — do you think that fact makes Adroit especially accessible to a younger generation?

A: I founded the journal to broaden the opportunity and accessibility high school writers (and college writers!) had to the professional world of writing. When I started out writing in 2010, I found a lot of high school journals/resources/etc. for high school students, and a lot of adult journals/resources/etc. for adults, but not much in the way of crossover. Particularly when we live in a world that consistency demeans non-STEM pursuits, I thought this was a missed opportunity for engagement and education. In that way, I think it was more the mission than my age specifically that made the journal appeal so strongly to young writers around the world — though my age probably helped, too!

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