“The Next Big Thing” book interview project asks writers to answer a series of questions about their recent or forthcoming book, post it on their blog/web-space, and tag others for the next week. Sara Burnett will be talking about her manuscript in progress.
What is the title of the book?
There’s no title yet.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
There seems to be a couple of threads unraveling from my poems. It’s not near being a book yet so I won’t flatter myself by calling it one just yet. One reoccurring theme is my personal family history of Cuban heritage set against the backdrop of a larger political history of US/Cuban relations. Another is how inherited conceptions of race and class manifest themselves in our modern moment in the US and make questions of identity and identity-making for the individual and the group even more difficult to traverse. More abstractly though, my poems deal with memory and loss, both material and emotional, and how language (both English and Spanish) at once recovers and distorts this loss by our human inclination to recount stories and generate new meanings.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmm... I’m not really good with actor names. I can say since a lot of my family members are featured, I would need very loud, emotive acting. There are some cameos by Ernest Hemingway, Leonardo daVinci, and Castro at this point so there is a diverse range of characters. (I looked this one up: Corey Stoll is the guy who played Hemingway in Midnight in Paris. I thought he did great – exactly how I imagined Hemingway might be so I want him in it!)
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Broadly, my poems explore perceptions of self and history, (but essentially if my poems ever make it to a book, aren’t most if not all first collections “the best of...?”).
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
This is an amusing question for me because I find that impossible to predict. I am finishing my second year of my MFA program at the University of Maryland and plan to continue to working on my thesis for a third year. The creative process just takes so much longer than I ever knew – far longer than it takes to write a MA thesis in literature (which I did once a while ago). After my third year, I expect more revisions. Other writers have told me, the thesis is sometimes scraped to its bare bones for the book. I also think I’ve had this theme of personal cultural identity and history on my mind, for better or worse, from the beginning of my time in the MFA program, (and really all my life). It’s an obsession. Every poem written is for the next poem to increase my understanding of how we shape and are shaped by our identities.
In the meantime, some journals have picked up some of my poems, which is heartening for me.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Since it’s not a book yet, I’m hesitant to name names. I’ll just say generally those people, poem by poem, who have pushed me to write the “hard stuff” about identity, race, language, and class – knowing that I could easily write something that is merely pretty to hear.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This is an impossible question I hope to be able to answer someday.
Sara Burnett is a MFA in Creative Writing student at the University of Maryland where she works and teaches. Her poems have appeared in PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art and Hinchas de Poesia and she has a forthcoming publication in Poet Lore. She holds a MA in English from the University of Vermont and was a former public high school English teacher.