1. With your writing, photography, all of the things you're involved with in the blogosphere plus a little person to care for, you've got a lot on your plate. How do you find a way to balance everything?
Gosh, I have no plan whatsoever. I try to keep a calendar of hard dates for certain books, but lately, it's been fly by the seat of my pants. The War blog is a toss up between Anna and myself and who has time to get some posts of reviews scheduled and linked on the reviews pages...we tried to have a schedule, but life gets in the way and we just take over for each other when the time comes. Photography is more on the back burner these days, unless its photos of the little one, and those get posted on Facebook for the families to see, etc. I miss photography, but I have little time for it, but I do take the camera out with us when we go places.
|Property of Serena Agusto-Cox|
2. War Through The Generations is such an interesting challenge. You and Anna always have so many resources for participants to draw from - how far ahead do you start working to plan the challenge for the coming year? Where do you find your book suggestions? Can you give us a hint about next year's challenge?When we started the blog, we knew the first year would be WWII and the second would be Vietnam War because those are the wars we were most interested in. For the third year, we wanted to have the participants decide and Civil War won the poll. For this year, we went with the other big war, WWI, which we figured out a couple months before.
As for book suggestions, those actually come from a number of places, recommendations from participants, publicists who email us books about wars we aren't currently doing, and our own shelves. We've also done Internet searches to find book titles, and for Vietnam, we asked a former professor from Suffolk University, who taught our Vietnam and Literature seminar, for suggestions.
We've decided on next year's challenge, but will not announce it until mid-November. We'll definitely be doing another read-a-long, but that's up in the air as to which book.
3. As the host of the Fearless Poetry Exploration challenge, are there any suggestions you might offer readers for getting the most out of a collection? For example, do you read straight through a book of poetry or do you prefer to read a few poems a day? Some people think that it's not necessary to "get" what a visual artist is trying to say in their work as long as it speaks to a person. Do you think poetry is the same way? Do you have any poets or collections that you always find yourself going back to?
I think poetry can be about getting what the poet is trying to tell you, but also about what the reader understands about themselves by reading the poem. It is a reciprocal relationship with poetry, which in its earliest forms was an oral tradition.
Collections that I often return too are Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa, which is about his time in Vietnam during the war, etc.; Blake's Poetry and Designs by William Blake, which has the original sketches he did with his poems and it includes criticisms of his work that I used when I began reading poetry before reading it in school; Delights and Shadows by Ted Kooser, a collection I love to recommend to beginning readers because he has some great observations about life and death that don't get lost in technique; A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who in my opinion was the better Beat poet; and City of a Hundred Fires by Richard Blanco, which is an excellent look at the Cuban immigrant experience through the eyes of a younger generation trying to fit in with American society, while an older generation is trying to keep traditions alive.
4. You live right in the hot bed of politics. Does your interest in books include books about politics or those written by politicians?
5. You read a lot of different kinds of books. Were you raised in a household of readers? Are there books that you find yourself recommending again and again?
I recommend tons of books based on the person's likes in dislikes, but I'll mention some of my more recent favorites in poetry, YA, short story, and fiction:
Beth Kephart's Small Damages or Undercover
Thrity Umrigar's The World We Found
Alma Katsu's The Taker and The Reckoning
Carolina De Robertis' Perla
Joshua Graham's DarkroomPatricia Falvey's The Yellow House
Sarah McCoy's The Baker's DaughterEric D. Goodman's TracksJanel Gradowski's RevengeSusan Dormady Eisenberg's The Voice I Just HeardLaurie Soriano's Catalina
Osip Mendalstam's Stolen AirErica Goss' Wild PlaceNatalie Diaz's When My Brother Was an Aztec
Not only has Serena added to my list of books to pick up, I think she's talked me into giving poetry another chance. Of course, I hope she understands that if I don't "get it," I know where to find her now! Thanks, Serena, for the interview and for all you do to make the blogosphere a more interesting place!