THE NEXT BIG THING: WENDY CHIN-TANNER

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As part of The Next Big Thing self-interview series, Wendy Chin-Tanner was tagged by the excellent writer, Nick Ripatrazone, author of This Darksome Burn. Wendy’s full-length collection of poetry, Turn, will be published by Sibling Rivalry Press in March of 2014.  (Photo by Cally Conan-Davies)

1. What is the working title of the book?

Turn

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

When my daughter was about one, I started writing poetry again after a ten-year bout of writer’s block. The original few poems that gave rise to Turn were written without any conscious intention towards writing a book or even publishing. But poems about my childhood in New York City, my Chinese American family, my husband, and my daughter kept spilling out. As I continued to accumulate poems, I could see that I was writing around certain threads and themes that built on one another, and by and by, I showed my work to several writers and teachers I trusted and they convinced me that the sheaf of paper I had in my hands was a book.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Since the three main characters of my book are myself, my husband, and my daughter, this is a super tough question. After much thought, however, I think I would cast Meryl Streep as myself (because she can do anything), Chris Pratt (from Parks and Rec) as my husband, and my daughter would have to be computer-animated as a sort of amalgamation of Shirley Temple and Eric Cartman.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Turn is a memoir in verse divided into three chapters representing childhood, young adulthood, and mature adulthood.

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I compiled the poems for the first draft in the course of about nine months, but the manuscript has undergone countless revisions thanks to my obsessive tendencies and the extraordinary patience of my writing partner, Eric Norris.

7. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The birth of my daughter revealed an entirely new poetic perspective by opening a space in which I can witness the past and the present as they touch and overlap, for better or worse, through the prism of parenthood. That constant tug of war between self and other in parenting also works as an active metaphor for the tug of war between self and other in the writing experience.

Another inspiration came from my background in sociology and my fascination with Hegel’s dialectical materialism: the notion that history is the product of class struggles following the pattern of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. It occurred to me that on an individual level, our lives follow a similar pattern: an endless cycle of action, reaction, and resolution. Hence, the title Turn.

8. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Turn touches on a variety of issues, many of which are, I think, pretty universal: the legacy of immigration, identity, abuse, betrayal, rage, sex, love, marriage, birth, parenthood, joy, grief, illness, forgiveness, and death. I hope there will be something in there for everyone.

9. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Turn will be published by the wonderful Bryan Borland at Sibling Rivalry Press in March, 2014.

10. My tagged writers for next Wednesday (February 6th) are:

Quincy Lehr, whose new poetry chapbook Shadows and Gifts is forthcoming from Barefoot Muse Press.

Matthew Hittinger, whose poetry collection Skin Shift was published in 2012 by Sibling Rivalry Press.

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