rubi (rubicon) Mon 27 Nov 06 17:17
And if you didn't get a chance to hear it, you can find the KPFA interview here: tp://www.kpfa.org/archives/index.php?arch=17357
Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 27 Nov 06 17:21
thanks, everyone. I mentioned this interview on the air. Maybe we will get some listeners who will join in.
asparagus before librarians (katecat) Tue 28 Nov 06 05:34
oh I'd love to hear these poems in your own voice! thanks for that link, rubi I know most of the AA Milne poems by heart as well. They are a great teacher of rhythm I believe, and certainly taught me to care about poetry. Now I want to find the influences in yours. I'd like to hear how you got your first book publiched as well. But also, rubi has asked me to pass on this question, Mary, which will take you from your first book to your next: "What kinds of projects are you currently working on? What are some themes you find yourself dealing with now that didn't concern you as much at earlier times in your life. How about your future plans? new novels? new poetry? What's in the works."
Hoping to be a goddess, but settling for guru (paris) Tue 28 Nov 06 11:00
And, not to pile on the questions, Mary .... I wonder if there is something related to writing or the writing process with which you still struggle? Is there anything, after all these years of writing, that still presents difficulties for you?
Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Tue 28 Nov 06 14:38
(hollow laughter here from another writer)
Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 28 Nov 06 21:15
More insane laughter from here. I struggle with all the things every writer struggles with, because the more you know, the more your realize how much better the work could be and the more you demand from yourself. When I first started out, I had problems with basic things; now I have problems with very complex things. I learn new things every time I sit down to write. Actually, Im not sure this could be called a difficulty since I love the discovery so much. I think it must be a little like an athlete who jumps a bit higher each time. Theres a lot of satisfaction in that.
Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 28 Nov 06 21:17
By the way, I apologize for taking so long to reply today. I have been on an airplane since early this morning and have just reconnected with a computer again. I am on dial-up so I may be a bit briefer than usual. The net lag is ferocious.
Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 28 Nov 06 21:27
I connected to one of the editors of Marsh Hawk Press because she also edited an anthology I had a piece in (Bearing Life ed. Rochelle Ratner). She asked to see the manuscript because she wanted to read it, not because Marsh Hawk had any openings (they were full for the next 2 years). I gave it to her and went off to the backlands of Brazil. The next time I logged in to a computer, I found an email from her saying she loved the poems, wanted to publish them, and that a poet who they had scheduled for this fall had dropped out. You dont get better news than that, so I said yes and spent the next 6 weeks working with Tom Fink (the wonderful editor Marsh Hawk gave me) by email. Sometimes I was actually doing the editing in a bamboo hut in the middle of a tropical downpour. The whole thing was a total surprise, but its been a great relationship.
Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 28 Nov 06 21:34
Marsh Hawk is a juried collective. Besides publishing poetry by established poets, they run a contest each year. The winner gets his/her manuscript published for free by the press. The press also emphasizes fine art covers, so their books are always beautifully designed. They have excellent distribution, send out a lot of review copies, and in general are a pleasure to work with. Everyone at the press is also a poet, and the body of their work is, to say the least, impressive. I particularly liked working with an editor who was himself a poet. It makes a big difference to talk the nuts and bolts of craft with someone who is involved in the same process. (To find out more about Marsh Hawk and get a look at the covers of the MHP bookswhich are an art gallery in themselvescheck out www.marshhawkpress.org)
Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 28 Nov 06 21:44
Right now I am writing some screenplays with Renee De Palma which I cant talk about in public because thats the way screenwriting works. They are powerful, all-absorbing, and if I say another word about them I will get into big trouble. Im also in the very early stage of working out a plot for a new novel. As I said earlier, Putnam/Berkley Books is publishing The Notorious Mrs. Winston this spring (pub date is now setMay 1st). I just finish proofreading the galleys so Im once again at that confusing but wonderful crossroads where I can take off many different directions. Right now I am doing a lot of reading and research and a lot of staring off into space. Like many writers, I never talk about my work in progress (even to my husband) because it take the energy out of the creative process and freezes it in ways that are hard to work around. You might say that having written The Notorious Mrs. Winston, I am becoming (at least for a while) The Mysterious Ms. Mackey.
Mary Mackey (mm) Tue 28 Nov 06 21:52
As for themes that concern me more now than they did a decade or two ago: I think I am still working with the same themes but they have become more complex because many of them have risen to the consciousness of many people (so I am not so alone with them): ecological issues; men and women and equality and the search for a balanced life; friendship and betrayal; secrets; the consequences of lieslove, death, nature, all the staples of lyric poetry. Perhaps the greatest change is that I have a better sense of what time can do to people. The young and promising can end up corrupted or insane; people who seemed foolish can become wise; strange kindnesses can appear out of nowhere.
rubi (rubicon) Wed 29 Nov 06 07:57
I can hardly wait for May and "The Notorious Mrs. Winston". Those have been the concerns of a century, haven't they? How wonderful to be so much a part of thier rising to our attention. Thank you, Mary. Thank you for a fascinating interview.
Mary Mackey (mm) Wed 29 Nov 06 10:02
It's been my pleasure. I've really enjoyed this. As a last comment, I just realized that I can tell some a little about what I am working on now. The Notorious Mrs. Winston is partly based on stories I heard as a child about my two great grandfathers who fought on different sides of the Civil War. One died for the Union at Shiloh and the other was a Confederate army surgeon. The new novel I am thinking about will probably be based on other family stories. I seem to have a strong emotional connection with first-person accounts of things my relatives did long ago.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 29 Nov 06 10:33
Can't wait for the book -- and the inkwell.vue visit if you grace this event again. I bet a lot of people have family storeis they'd love to cite in the conversation... thanks for being here!
Hoping to be a goddess, but settling for guru (paris) Wed 29 Nov 06 10:52
Am looking forward to the book, Mary! It was a real gift to read so much about the inner workings that result in your wonderful work.
Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Wed 29 Nov 06 11:37
Wait, wait! One last question. Every writer has milestone books--maybe they're commercial breakthroughs (so you know another publisher won't laugh in your face) or they're personal milestones. Have there been particular books of yours that were such for you? Can you say more? Do you have a favorite among your own poems? (We won't tell the other poems if you do.)
Mary Mackey (mm) Wed 29 Nov 06 13:51
My milestone book in terms of publishing was "A Grand Passion." It sold over a million and a half copies and made the New York Times best-seller list. On an artistic level, I think "The Notorious Mrs. Winston" is the best thing I've ever written. Favorite poem? That's a really hard call. I think right now it's "Lynchburg" but "L. Tells All", "Breaking the Fever," and "When We Were Your Age" are right up there, and I love the images in "The Breakfast Nook."
Mary Mackey (mm) Wed 29 Nov 06 13:53
Thanks to Gail and the conference team for getting this together, and special thanks to rubi for her astute guidance of the conversation. I'd love to return, take off my poetry cap (soft velvet) and put on my novelist's hat (civil war cap with brim, half blue half gray) and talk about "The Notorious Mrs. Winston" in particular and writing novels in general. until then . . .
David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Wed 29 Nov 06 15:25
Thanks, Mary and Carol. This has been a great conversation. We'd love to have you back!
Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 19 Mar 07 22:11
On February 15 and 16 of this year (2007) Garrison Keillor read two of my poems on his morning program Writers Almanac. If you go to www.writersalmanac.org and click on Feb 15 and then on Feb 16 you can hear him read "Chicken Killing" and "My Methodist Grandmother Said".
Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 19 Mar 07 22:11
In the last month (thanks to Garrison Keillor), my new collection of poetry, "Breaking the Fever" has gone from amazon's 500,000th something best selling book to 313,699. Wow, with a climb like that, I figure it will less than three months before I make number 1 . . .
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 20 Mar 07 10:28
Wow, congrats on having Keillor read some of your work on the Writers Almanac, and on the boost it gave to your sales at Amazon, Mary!
Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 25 Mar 07 16:30
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 30 May 07 12:53
I saw this announced elsewhere and I wanted to spread the word: This Friday, June 1st, at 7:30 p.m., Al Young and Mary Mackey will read their poetry at Escape from New York Pizza, 333 Bush Street (at Montgomery) in San Francisco. The reading is a benefit for After the Storm: The Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund, and is co-sponsored by the Berkeley Poetry Review and the NAACP. Al Young is the Poet Laureate of California. A small donation ($5) entitles you to free pizza. Every dime you give goes to Katrina victims. It's a wonderful opportunity to help those who are still suffering in the aftermath of Katrina and to hear some excellent poetry. Plus, pizza!
Jennifer Simon (fingers) Thu 13 Oct 11 10:16
Here is another older conversation that is still a delight to read.
Members: Enter the conference to participate
Non-members: How to participate