Thursday, April 21, 2011

Interview with poet Donna Marie Merritt

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 Today, my guest is poet, Donna Merritt, talking about her two releases.

1) Tell me a little about your book.
With so many people affected by financial and health hardships, I wanted to offer words of support and encouragement. These two books are part of a new series called “Poetry for Tough Times.” The third volume will be published in 2012.

2) Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I’ve been both. Most of my adult life I’ve held a full-time day job. It’s hard to fit in writing then, but, as writers know, you feel like you have to write, so you find a way. I wrote on lunch breaks, composed out loud when driving or in the shower (and then tried to remember it!), wrote at night when the house slept…whenever I could.

But, I love the times in my life when I am able to make writing my whole day. I get up in the morning, meditate, feed the pets, walk or practice yoga, have my breakfast, and then sit down at the computer to take care of any business-related items. Once all the have-to’s are done, my mind is free. I sit outside in nice weather with a pencil and paper (or cozy up in our oversized chair in winter), eventually transferring a poem to the computer once I feel it is in good shape. (After that, it usually goes through several revisions over the next few weeks. And, if I can’t make it say exactly what I want, I hit “delete.”) After a morning of writing, I take a break for lunch and some reading, then perhaps write/revise again in late afternoon. Then we have dinner and I spend time with my husband and children. To me, that’s a perfect day.

3) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I was in first grade when the teacher took us into the library. The library was the center of the school. All classrooms surrounded it and connected to it (that’s quite a tribute to literacy, don’t you think?). When I saw all those books, I wanted to “do that,” too! I read as much as I could and started writing poetry at age eight, but no one told me that being a writer was a real possibility until college. A professor in my children’s lit class took me aside and said that I could write for a living. I was shocked. Do something I loved for a career? How incredible is that! And, still, I taught for a number of years before I devoted my full attention to writing because I was insecure about my work.

4) What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
I hope it helps comfort people, that they will know they are not alone when facing the most difficult of life’s moments. But I also hope that the poetry will be enjoyed for its own sake, that readers will take pleasure in the sound of the words. Poetry is a gift to the soul. One of my favorite definitions is by Keats: “Poetry…should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost as a remembrance.” If I can touch a reader in that way, I’ll be a happy poet!

5) Why are you drawn to poetry?
That’s a hard question. There is just something about it that speaks to my heart. Have you ever just read a poem and thought, “Oh, I love that!” or cried because someone put a personal experience you’ve had into words? Poetry can evoke emotions in a way that not much else can.

6) Would you say poetry is easier or harder to write than fiction and why?
Whether I’m writing poetry, children’s books, teachers’ guides, essays, or magazine articles, I want every word to be “right.” But for me, poetry is the toughest to write. I choose each word with the utmost of care. I don’t want too many adjectives or even articles. I don’t want to explain as I might in a story. I want the poem to speak for itself. In other words, I try to get out of the way and let the poem do its thing.

7) What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
A blank page! Every time I finish a poem or some other piece of writing, I worry that it’s the last thing I’ll write, that I have nothing left. There is always this sense of dread. The only way to get past it is to pick up a pencil.

8) Is there anything in your poetry based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.
To some extent, I think all writers and poets base their work on real events. This series, though, is completely autobiographical. Each volume stands on its own, but if you read them in sequence, it tells the story of an extremely difficult period in my life, beginning with unemployment and my husband’s cancer and ending with more “normal” events such as raising children and facing menopause.

9) What about your poetry makes it special?
Readers have shared with me that my poetry is just what they needed, that it’s accessible, that it has changed their perspective. When someone can read my work and take something from it, I think that’s special. That goes for anything that makes us look at life differently—poetry, music, art…When anything creative reaches us on a deeper level, it’s magical.

10) What is your marketing plan?
Word of mouth! I’m not a big name. There is no marketing money, no publicity. I am dependent upon readers who like it to share it with others. I’ve held signings and will do more wherever I can. I’ve sent the publisher’s sell sheet to every independent bookseller I could find in every state (many hours of Internet research for that). I interviewed with the local paper. I announced it on social networking sites, including Facebook, Goodreads, LibraryThing, LinkedIn, and my own site. I also had promotional items created: an instant ticket scraper/keychain with Job Loss, A Journey in Poetry printed on it (if you’re out of work, you might be buying instant tickets!) and a notepad with Cancer, A Caregiver’s View printed on it. To each of those, I attached a poem with the name of the publisher and Web site. And, then, of course, there are marvelous bloggers like you helping me to find an audience!

11) Where can people learn more about you and your work?
You can learn more about me at To order either book, click on Order USA: (book title: Job Loss or Cancer)/Add to Cart at

12) Any tips for new writers hoping to write poetry?
Read, read, read! Read poetry, fiction, nonfiction, more poetry…Keep reading! When you like something, read it again. Try to figure out what it is that strikes you. What techniques are these writers using? And, write, write, write! The only way to improve is to read and write. Simple advice. Challenging to follow.

In addition to the practical worries that result from unemployment, the emotional toll on individuals and families can be overwhelming. Donna Marie Merritt uses both serious and humorous poetry, traditional and more experimental pieces, to explore this timely topic. The poems in this collection are for the poetry lover in general and for everyone whose lives have been affected by financial difficulties.

This collection begins where Job Loss ends. With the discovery of cancer in Donna’s husband, the lessons learned in struggling to find sense after being laid off attain an even more poignant meaning as a deeper journey begins.


  1. I agree about poetry. Because of
    the "concentrated" aspect it can be more difficult.
    But a novel or short story usually gets tedious when you are constantly re-writing.
    Enjoyed the interview, learned something.
    Thank You.

  2. Anthony, thank you for stopping by and glad you learned something from the interview.

  3. The blog is very good!

  4. Nelson, glad you like the blog. Hope you stop back often.

  5. Penny, thanks for having me on your blog. I enjoyed your questions! :)

  6. Donna, it was my pleasure. I know more people stopped to read than left comments. I hope you've found some new fans.