Interview with Carly Joy Miller

carly joy miller

Carly Joy Miller is the author of Ceremonial (Orison Books, 2018), selected by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2017 Orison Prize for Poetry, and the chapbook Like a Beast (Anhinga Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Rick Campbell Prize. Her work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Blackbird, Boston Review, Gulf Coast, West Branch and elsewhere. She is a contributing editor for Poetry International and a founding editor of Locked Horn Press.

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 poems in about 20+ magazines since 2014. The process for offering my work for consideration (I love that phrase) is that I spend a lot of time reading journals I’m interested in. I also look at the “Acknowledgments” sections of writers’ books to learn about journals, then read through whatever I can find on the Internet/in the archives.

2017 has been really exciting in regards to publication: My chapbook, Like a Beast, won the Rick Campbell Prize from Anhinga Press and was published in June 2017, and Carl Phillips chose my full-length collection, Ceremonial, as the winner of the 2017 Orison Books Prize in Poetry and will be out in 2018. I’ve been working on the full-length collection since 2014, and would submit it to contests then revisit it every year to consider how my new work could fill in some of the holes or gaps in the manuscript, or replace some of the poems I wasn’t as thrilled with.

The chapbook emerged through my participation in the Tin House Summer Writing Workshops in 2015. I went the contest route with the chapbook shortly after the workshop, and the first year the chapbook was a finalist in three contests (including Anhinga, where they encouraged me to submit again if it didn’t get picked up—and look at where that led!) The chapbook was vital toward completing the manuscript, and I sent out the version that Carl chose from September 2016 until it was picked up in May 2017.

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

A: Don’t rush. Do as much research as you can about the venue that you want to be published in. And once you’re ready, just press “send”—the worst that can happen is “not this time.”

And I think pairing “don’t rush” with “have patience” is important to say. I’m happy that I began sending out my work when I did because I had been reading journals and following writers I admired for years, and sometimes I offered work to a journal with them accepting a piece the first try, and other times it took a few rounds to get “yes.”

I also have to especially emphasize patience with my full-length collection—I’ve heard so many poets say that it’s taken upwards of 10 years until theirs were picked up. So what do you do? Continue writing. Continue reading. Rinse and repeat. There’s a lot about timing, too, so I just kept trying. Depending on who is reading, something may click, and when it does, it was the right piece with the right reader at the right time.

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

A: I think the digital age has really made it possible for young people to discover writers, venues and opportunities in a more accessible way. I learned based on what I was exposed to in the classroom, and while that led to me reading more journals and discovering more writers, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to reach out and discover other writers or ask other people unless I met them in my classes. Now, with programs like the Adroit Mentorship Program and journals/Twitter accounts like Adroit, The Shallow Ends, Ellis Review, Glass, Kaveh Akbar, Rachel Mennies (she posts amazing writing benedictions), Luther Hughes, and so, so many others, we’re being exposed to a variety of writers at various stages in their careers. There’s a feeling like there’s more connectivity, and all you need to do is jump in at a level that feels comfortable to you: Read, write, read some more, edit, share work you love, reach out, connect. Publishing is one of many ways you can get your voice out there—connecting and sharing works you love with humans who are invested in writing is another.

Q: As director of the Adroit Mentorship Program, do you feel you have any more advice to give that might apply to specific young writers you’ve met? What about the Adroit program made you want to become involved?

Yes: Find your community. Your community is built around the people you know, the people in your classes/workshops, and people who are interested in reading your work and vice versa. They’re the ones supporting you, but also the ones whose ideas and suggestions are clicking with you. If you love a writer, let them know. If a suggestion someone made to a piece was super helpful, let them know how much you appreciate it. If you read something and you loved it, let that person know.

I joined the Adroit Mentorship Program as a mentor in 2016 because I truly wish something like this existed when I was in high school. It’s also a wonderful way to act as a literary citizen—outside of being a teacher in a physical classroom, editor, writer, we’re able to dedicate time and focus on having conversations with young, brilliant minds who are curious and enthralled with language. It honestly brings back so much joy about discovering and rediscovering poems I love, and being able to share that with someone is a beautiful thing.

Learn more about Carly:

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