Q: Ah, it must have been great to get that note from your mentor. I have two questions. Did you run any drafts of your manuscript by him? As you were putting Underlife together (my copy arrived yesterday, btw!) did you have a few trusted readers, or was it, by that stage, a solo effort?
A: No, I did not run the manuscript by my mentor, Phil Levine. I felt I needed to do this on my own—at least without the help of a teacher.
In the first round, when I finally felt confident enough, I sent my manuscript to two of my most trusted poet friends. They felt it needed work. Quite frankly, I felt otherwise—I knew the answer was somewhere in the middle. So I made some revisions and sent it out again to a wider group. Round 2 included poets, writers who were not poets, and good friends whose opinion I trusted and valued. So, 10 people in all. That took about four months.
The hardest part of the writing process, I think, is trusting your instincts. How do you know when you have something worth sharing? You just know, and you have to believe in your vision. Sounds hokey, but it's true.
Thanks for the question, Jennifer.