Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
Hey, I’m Jen Rose Yokel. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and though I’ve dabbled in all kinds of writing over the years, I’ve landed quite comfortably in the world of poetry and essays. I self-published my first poetry collection Ruins & Kingdoms back in 2015 and am slowly accumulating new poems for Book #2! In the meantime, I’m blogging at jenroseyokel.com, training to become a spiritual director, and sharing life with my fellow-poet husband Chris in Fall River, MA.
What inspires your creativity?
When it comes to poetry, inspiration is all over the place. Sometimes it’s a quote or a song lyric. Sometimes it’s going for a walk outside. Most recently, it’s been overheard conversations or odd moments at the grocery store that turn into poems.
My favorite poets are the ones who capture odd little details of everyday life and get at the more beautiful, significant, funny, or even spiritual depth behind it. (Billy Collins is great at this. So is Paul Simon.) My goal is to keep growing in noticing and writing like that.
How do you deal with creative block?
I deal by… not dealing with it? Haha. But seriously, sometimes the best thing is to do something else for a while. Go for walks. Read favorite poets. Make soup. Freewrite whatever comes to mind. Go to the grocery store and eavesdrop and notice what the person in front of you is buying (in a non-creepy way). Commiserate with other writers.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Gosh, I’m so bad at titles. My husband actually suggested the title Ruins & Kingdoms for my first book. As for the cover, I just looked at a bunch of covers from similar poetry books on my shelf and tried to make something aesthetically similar with Canva.
Best advice for a cover? Look at lots of covers in your genre for inspiration, then hire someone to design it for you. Even though I consider myself fairly competent with graphic design, that’s what I’m thinking I’ll do with my next book. Also, writer groups on Facebook or can be a fantastic source for feedback!
How has your creation process improved over time?
You know, I think I’ve just learned that writing happens in seasons, and I’m not going to necessarily write every day or be productive all the time, and that’s okay. Our culture is all about the hustle, but unless you thrive on pressure and accomplishing and doing (hi enneagram 3 friends!), you can too easily burn out.
I used to feel guilty because I wasn’t writing all the time, but the reality is that’s just not sustainable for me. Learning this has helped me to appreciate the creative seasons, and then when I’m not having a lot of output, I know I can use that time to fill myself up (reading, spending time with people, etc) and work on revising, editing, or planning.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
Both, I hope! Poetry is weird because it’s this odd, personal, meditative type of writing. But I do want to write poems that will resonate with people, maybe put words to something they’ve felt but never knew how to describe. (Plus I often joke that nobody is exactly clamoring for more books from me.)
I guess I balance the two in the revision process. I’ve written lots of poems that haven’t been shared because it’s not the right time, or because I recognize it’s mostly for me. The poems that do get shared are the ones that I hope will make someone say, “what, you too?” Even if that’s just a handful of people.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
If you’re a poet, find a great filing system for your individual poems that keeps them organized and all in one place. I love Scrivener for this! I have one big Scrivener file for poetry, and whenever I have a draft that shows promise I add the poem to the document and organize them into folders by year. Let me tell you, it made organizing my first book so much easier.
What are your plans for future books?
I’m itching to get a new book out and currently in the poem selecting / collecting phase. Hoping to at least get a little chapbook put together this fall, with something longer next year. It’s time!
How can we find out when that actually happens? And how can we best keep up with your work?
Your best bet is to sign up for my e-mail list since that’ll be the first place I announce anything new. (Tinyletter.com/jenroseyokel) I’m also on Twitter and Instagram @jen_rose, if that’s more your thing.