How a Book Happens with kathryn l pringle by Kristi Carter

Click below to listen to kathryn l pringle read from her book “fault tree.”

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This is the second installment of our new series in which Kristi Carter, our Book Prize Coordinator, speaks with book prize winners to discuss what goes in to the preparation of a manuscript, how winning affects the life of the writer, and the life of the book.

To submit your fiction or poetry manuscript to this year’s Prairie Schooner Book Prize contest, click here.

Today, we’re featuring her interview with kathryn l pringle who won the 2011 Omnidawn First/Second Book Prize, for her second poetry collection, fault tree.

How many times was the manuscript submitted for contests and publication? Were there any exciting milestones prior to winning the Omnidawn First/Second Book Prize?

fault tree went to four places, was rejected by two & when I heard from Omnidawn I pulled it from another. Bits and pieces had been published along the way but mostly the milestones came in the writing of the manuscript—those moments of being in the writing so deep & knowing in yr gut you were getting across exactly what you wanted to. My favorite part of writing is writing—whether I’m sitting there for 8 hours waiting for some words to come out or so far into the writing that I’ve disappeared from it—those are the markers I value most.

In an excerpt from the section book2/THE END WORKED THE IDENTITY, the speaker is reminiscing on his life before entering the war. He describes looking at the “upturned dumpster’s neckline.” Would you tell us how you chose this language, specifically the word “neckline”?

Have you ever had the kind of day where everything, even a dumpster, looks beautiful for what it is? I was having one of those days. Nothing was perfect but everything was beautiful. I was wandering around downtown Oakland and saw this dumpster filled with garbage and covered in graffiti & it looked so beautiful to me in that moment that the lip of the dumpster looked as elegant as a woman’s neckline. So when the narrator of fault tree has this moment of clarity, when he feels particularly connected the world outside of him and the reality of what he’s about to do… this dumpster I saw in Oakland was in my memory as representative of such a moment… & it made its way into his story, too.

If your book was a room, how would you hope people feel when they walk into it? How would they leave? What color are the walls? 

I like this question a lot because it makes a place out of the space of writing. This book is a little bit outside of the usual “room”—unless we’re talking Dark City “rooms” here.  The space of fault tree lends itself to the creation of two larger places: our world & the narrator’s world. Time functions differently in each. Rules about what it means to be human or what it means to be a citizen at war share some symmetry.

The truth is it is up to the reader to decide what the room looks like & how to enter or exit it.

How has winning changed your life?

O wow, I’m much much busier as a poet than ever before and I don’t mean writing. I have always juggled a few different manuscripts at once and given readings here and there, but when fault tree came out the requests for work from journals increased by a lot and I literally ran out of work to give them. I received a grant from the Fund for Poetry out of the blue and I had no idea that could even happen. I have given more readings in the last two years than ever in my life.  I have heard from a lot of students who are studying fault tree or writing about my work in general & I never expected that at all. I really love hearing how they’ve pieced the book together. I actually learn a lot about the book myself that way. It has been a lot of fun.

What are you working on now?

Well, my third book (Temper & Felicity are Lovers) won the Besmilr Brigham Award for Women Writers last year and will be out from lost roads press by early summer, so I’ve been busy with the proofs for that. I just finished another po ms & I hope that one finds a home, too. Right now I’m writing a poetry ms called the survivalist (so far that’s the title anyway) & I have about 160 pages of a novel written. I guess you can say I’m back to the writing part of being a writer & that is where I most love being.

If you were a natural disaster what kind would you be and why?

An earthquake.

Because landscapes constantly shift & that is just the truth of us.

kathryn l. pringle is the author of fault tree (Omnidawn, 2011), selected by C.D. Wright for Omnidawn’s First/Second book award & Lambda Literary Award finalist, RIGHT NEW BIOLOGY (Heretical Texts/Factory School, 2009) & The Stills (Duration Press, 2006). Her book, Temper & Felicity are Lovers won the 2013 Besmilr Brigham Award and will be published by Lost Roads Press in 2014. Her work has also been included in the anthologies Conversations at the Wartime Cafe: A Decade of War (WODV Press), I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women (Les Figues), and The Sonnets: Rewriting Shakespeare (Nightboat Books). In 2013, she was the very grateful recipient of a gift from the Fund for Poetry.