In this interview with Trish Hopkinson, Diane Lockward, poet and founder of Terrapin Books gives detailed insight into the publication process, how her craft books came to be, and Terrapin’s upcoming full-length manuscript call for submissions. Learn more about what happens behind the scenes, her editorial process, and what she’d like to see more of in the literary community.
Trish Hopkinson: [00:00:00] Okay, welcome back to Tell Tell Poetry submissions interview series. Today. I’m super excited to chat with Diane lock word award-winning poet and founder, publisher, and editor of Terrapin books. Diane is the editor of the strategic poet honing the. The practicing poet writing beyond the basics and the crafty poet want to, into her publications include for full length collections of poetry.
And most recently the eaten carrots of atonement with when publications in 2016, she’s also the author of two chapbooks and her poems have been anthologized and appeared in such journals as Southern Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Prairie Schooner, and so many more. She’s also been featured on Poetry Daily Verse Daily and Writer’s Almanac.
And her awards include poetry fellowship from the New Jersey state council on the arts, the 2006 Quintin R Howard Poetry Book Prize first place in the 2012 Naugatuck Review [00:01:00] River View Poetry Contest and the 2013 Woman of Achievement Award. So formally welcome, Diane.
Diane Lockward: Thank you.
Trish Hopkinson: Yeah, it’s lovely to see you and get to chat, uh, virtually in person.
So I did recently receive my copy of the strategic poet, which has such an incredible lineup of poets, giving craft talks and providing model poems, commentary prompts, like this is just loaded, full of goodies. Um, I’m curious what your process is for soliciting or finding poets that you include in those books.
Diane Lockward: Well, I’ve been doing a poetry newsletter once a month for the past 12 years. And all four of the craft books have evolved out of the newsletter. Um, so the poets who are in this book, For the most part, how it’s, who were part of an issue of the [00:02:00] poetry newsletter. However, this time I wanted the craft talks to be more focused on specific strategies and past craft talks from the news.
Didn’t always fit that plan. So I, I used a few of the craft talks, for instance, uh, Diane susis appeared first in my newsletter and now in the book, but there were quite a few that I went out and solicited, but in many cases, Poets. I knew from a passbook or an anthology or from Facebook or Twitter, something like that.
And then the model poems. We’re all from the newsletter. So I just had to get permission from those poets, which was pretty easy. Everybody said yes. And the prompts I had already written and past newsletter. So I used those to brought those. And then I wanted to [00:03:00] have some commentaries from individual poets on their poems on specific aspects of craft.
So there are three model poems and prompts in each of the 13 sections. So I asked one poem. Uh, from each section to do a commentary. And again, they all said that they would do it and they all came through for me. Then I also have a bunch of sample poems written to the prompts. Those I got by putting out a general call for submissions.
And when you do that, you always sort of worry. Maybe nobody’s going to respond, but that never happens. Flood gates opened up and the poem was the sample Palm started. Floating in. So I rather easily got all of those together too. So it sounds like a big job. And I guess it is a fairly big job, but it worked, it wasn’t that onerous and I only had with, [00:04:00] there are 114 poets in the.
I only had one poet who declined to do a craft talk because I couldn’t pay her. I just don’t have the budget to pay all of those poets. Although I did send each one, a complimentary copy of the book. Sure.
Trish Hopkinson: Well, we all have different goals. Right. And we have to, you know, just set up our boundaries and, and hers certainly has helped me anyway.
I definitely have to put some guard rails in. I think it’s fantastic when, you know, we can, we, if you start something and then you can sort of use that to spin off into something bigger and you know, more tangible like books. Like I love hearing that it all started with the newsletter. And then just these other connections that you have with poets, kind of bringing that altogether in this really incredible.
Project these books that you do that are just so helpful. I’ve used them, you know, to teach workshops and other [00:05:00] things, um, over the years. And I just, I love the, the format and the ease of which you can really apply, you know, the principles and how much you can learn. From the book. So thank you for doing those.
Diane Lockward: I think are a number of schools now, colleges and universities, which are using, um, my craft books, uh, in courses. And of course that’s just thrilling because I never contemplated that that would happen. And when I started the newsletter. Uh, 13, 14 years ago, it was just to do the newsletter. I never envisioned that down the road somewhere.
I would get a book out of it, but then after three years or so of doing that newsletter, I started to think, gee, I got a lot of material here. What would happen if I put it all together? So I broached the subject with my publisher at the time and he was on board for it.
Trish Hopkinson: Right. [00:06:00] Well, I mean, it’s such a great model, really? Why not continue it? And, um, and that was, that was one thing that I was going to ask about is really, you know, the format and the concept of the crafty poet books. I mean, it sounds like all of this. Spun out of the newsletter, but the format itself, you know, the way that you present the, the model poems and the examples and things like that, that was that from the newsletter too or did that evolve on its own?
Diane Lockward: Well, the newsletter has always had categories, but. Sat down to do that first book. That was the hardest one for me to do, because I didn’t have an overall concept in mind of how I was going to organize it. So I remember just sitting at my kitchen table, I printed everything out, all the craft, uh, talks all the, uh, model poems and the prompts and I paperclipped each [00:07:00] group together.
Each piece together. And I just sat there for days staring at that mountain of paper. Thinking, what am I going to do with this? I have all this material about how am I going to put it into some coherent hole. Then I tried a couple of plans that didn’t work and just kept thinking about it and working on it.
And eventually I got a working model in mind. Now, once I did that, both the subsequent books were easier. They fell into place faster and the most recent one, the strategic poet, that was the fastest for me to put together because I started with a structure instead of trying to find a structure from the material I started with the structure and then plugged in the material.
Trish Hopkinson: Yeah, that makes sense. And that is. Having so much material that allows you to, you know, play [00:08:00] through it and come up with something is, is kind of a good problem instead of having to go find the material. So hiding button intimidating.
Trish Hopkinson: Yes, I was going to say as a poet, who’s not very prolific. I always feel like I need to write more before I can put anything together. I love that app. You know what I mean? It’s exciting. Um, to hear that you just had, you know, you got so much to work with. Like that really is, I mean, that’s a great place to begin, even if it does take a lot of time to figure out what to do with it.
Diane Lockward: Right. Of course I didn’t write all of that material. Sure, sure. I would have been right. I forget through this.
Trish Hopkinson: Well, I’m also interested in terrible books. Of course. So what was the original inspiration for creating terror, Terrapin books? I mean, how did you get us to.
Diane Lockward: Well, I had always thought as I started getting into publishing my own poetry, [00:09:00] that it would be kind of cool to be a publisher, but I never thought that I would do it.
But then I had. First four books of my own poetry published by wind publications and a wind publications. Also did the first craft book that I was working on a second craft book, the crafty poet too. And at that point it had started to become clear that my publisher was winding down. And so I started thinking I better get some other options in mind.
And then as it turned out, he, he did retire and shut down the press. And that was like from one day to the next. But I had been anticipating that this was going to happen. So I’d been forming an alternate plan. I thought. Maybe I’ll submit it to another publisher, the crafty poet. True. But then when I saw the years of [00:10:00] submitting and waiting for responses, I just didn’t want to let all that time go by.
So I thought maybe I’ll self-publish it. Then as I started to research the possibilities for that, I realized that that was going to be a lot of work. And it occurred to me that if I was going to do all that work setting up for one book, maybe I should realize that earlier little dream and start a publishing press for a small press, uh, exclusively for poetry.
So I went ahead and I did that and published. Following three craft books with Terrapin. Now I would never publish my own poet poetry book, uh, with cherubim, but it, it seemed okay to do the craft books because I don’t have any work in it, except for doing the prompts and putting it together. But it’s the work of other [00:11:00] poets.
So that seemed okay. And then it kind of just went from there. Once I got the name and all the essential paperwork done. Just kept going and now it’s been six and a half years.
Trish Hopkinson: Oh goodness. Yeah. You know, that’s, that’s incredible. What do you think has surprised you the most about running the press?
Diane Lockward: Well, initially that anybody submitted.
I didn’t have a track record of being a publisher, but I think it did help that I had been doing the newsletter, the poetry newsletter for 12 years, and I had a. Well over a thousand subscribers to that. And then I’m pretty active on social media, so, and belong to a number of groups. They’re writers’ groups.
So not a lot of people knew me from there. And then I knew a number of different advertising places to publicize that I was opening my [00:12:00] door for publishers. But when I got opened it and the submission started coming in and coming in and coming in, I was like, wow. And I still felt then, and I still feel kind of amazed and very grateful that people are willing to trust me with their work.
It’s very gratifying.
Trish Hopkinson: Absolutely. Well, and I think the craft books helped a lot too, because they proved, you know, How great you were, I don’t know your work ethic and your capability to really pull projects together.
Diane Lockward: Like yeah. Why not send you a man? That makes sense. Yeah, I think so for craft books, for in solid cheese with Terrapin and about three dozen, maybe a few more individual collections by individual authors. Right.
Trish Hopkinson: That’s really quite a [00:13:00] bit considering that it’s only been six years, so that’s okay. Pace, especially for a small press and, and everything else that you’re doing within the community. So, um, so Terrapin has two reading periods for full length manuscripts.
Uh, one’s coming up here, uh, January 24th through the end of February. And then again in the month of August.
Diane Lockward: Correct? Right. Um,
Trish Hopkinson: Can you tell us a little bit about your publication process and how. Do that difficult task of selecting your manual?
Diane Lockward: Okay. Well, I have people submit, uh, through Submittable and as the manuscripts come in, I start reading them.
I don’t wait until I pile up. One of my goals when I started the press was to do it efficiently, not to keep people waiting for months and months and months to get a response to their submissions and not. [00:14:00] I accepted manuscripts waiting for years to get published. So I start with, uh, the manuscripts as they come in.
I read them, I don’t read each one in its entirety as they come in, but I read a dozen or so poems and the ones that seem promising I put into. Marked with a yes. That, yes. Doesn’t mean yes. Accepted. It means, yes. I’m going to give this a closer look and then some get marked maybe and some get marked. No.
Then after the end of the submission period, I go back through the yeses and I read each of those manuscripts carefully from beginning to end, sometimes more than once. And I take a second look at. Once in the maybe folder, occasionally one will make it out of the maybe folder. So then I usually have maybe [00:15:00] six to eight in the remaining in the yes.
Folder. By the time I get through with that round of reading, then I have to narrow it down. I don’t want to take on more work than I can comfortably handle. Another one of my commitments is to. Editing the manuscripts. I don’t just publish them as they come in. I want to go over them and think about the structural plan.
Are these palms arranged in the best order or could I suggest a better order? Something a little different are all the poems in here? Essential. Are they all up to par? Are there some homes that need to be removed? So I think about which ones are going to require a ton of editing, right? If so, and it’s still like, and then I’ll give some feedback and say, try me again.
Next time. The ones that I feel are fairly close to done, those become the final yes. Poems. And then two to three weeks after the end of the [00:16:00] submission period, I will notify people.
Trish Hopkinson: That is really fast. That is super efficient. Uh, I definitely, you know, sent out my sheriff manuscripts and some of those will sit in churn for.
Diane Lockward: You know, a year, I say, I say, oh, it’s complaining about that all the time on Facebook, they’ve been waiting a year or more to get a response on a manuscript where even submissions to journals, which is even harder to believe when they’ve submitted only a handful of poems. And then the other thing is another one of my goals in the efficiency department was I wanted to be able to get the books out, published within a reasonable amount of time.
Frequently see somebody very happy because I just had a man, my manuscript accepted look forward in spring of 2024. Yeah. If we’re all still here in 2024. So I’m committed to getting them out in under a [00:17:00] year and it’s usually six to eight months.
Trish Hopkinson: That’s. Yes, that’s really, I appreciate that very much. We definitely need, we need more of that.
And you would think with technology, you know, that, that some of these efficiencies would be easier for presses. And I do know that, you know, a lot of them are, are similar to yours where you’re essentially. You know, it’s a labor of love and you’re volunteering your time and it, you know, um, there’s really not a lot of money to be made or to hire additional staff, certainly understanding that.
But, uh, the approach you take to really just saying, okay, this is what I can handle. All my goals are to get it done. And this amount of time, it really sounds. You know, the ideal situation for a small press. So hopefully more will start to look for those efficiencies and, and apply some of those apply some of that to what they do as well.
Um, well, uh, what else would you like to see more of [00:18:00] in the literary community? Certainly, uh, you know, speeding up the time, which it operates would be fantastic, but what,
Diane Lockward: What do you think you’d like to see more. Well, I would to be rather crass about it. I would like to say poets buying more of each other’s books.
I see a lot of verbal support for each other’s books. Good for you. Way to go and sell, and a lot of cooperation with zoom readings and so on. But I don’t think that poets are buying each other’s books as. Faithfully as they ought to be. So I kind of have the golden rule, take care of other people’s books in the same way that you would like them to take care of yours.
Do you want your book to be reviewed then maybe you should do a couple of reviews of other people’s books. You do one or two reviews a year. If you can’t do a full length review, maybe you can do good [00:19:00] reads reviews. You can do Amazon reviews. Would you like other people to buy your book? Do you want your book to sell and you really ought to invest in other people’s books, uh, at the same time.
So what you put in to the poetry community, your problem. Going to get back or you will deserve to get it back. If you’re putting in, uh, you know, some good cooperation and support of other people’s works. So maybe a little bit more just, um, buying other people’s books that keeps us all going.
Trish Hopkinson: Yeah, absolutely.
Diane Lockward: . I, I, I really, um, that’s something I encourage as well. Certainly just participating in any way you can, and there are, you know, plenty of low-cost or no-cost ways that people can support each other’s work, just like . So, yeah. And that’s absolutely important now when people are on, because of COVID.[00:20:00]
Are still unable to do in person readings. I had hoped that we’re getting back to in-person readings, but they shut down almost as soon as they had reopened, uh, with the variants coming around. So it’s really just more important than ever that we support each other’s work and keep. Books alive. Uh, one of the ways we keep our books alive is through the in-person readings of book, launch, and signings and sound and people haven’t been able to do that.
Trish Hopkinson: Yeah, absolutely. That is, I mean, that’s even with my past Chatbooks, that was really the main way that I was able to that’s when I sold the most books, um, was doing readings and, and being in-person and it certainly slowed way down. After the pandemic hit. So that’s a, that’s a really great point, especially where there’s so many of the readings [00:21:00] and other things are no cost, you know, they’re there, you know, there’s some opportunities there to maybe divert.
You’re not, you don’t have to drive somewhere. Uh, you don’t have to, you know, buy food or a coffee, uh, you know, because you’re in a cafe listening to a reading or, or what have you. So maybe take that little bit that you would have spent.
Diane Lockward: You know, the night, very easy to justify sure. Some money on books.
Trish Hopkinson: Absolutely. Absolutely. So what are you currently working on with your own writing or what’s the next project you’ve got queued up?
Diane Lockward: Well, one of the negatives of starting my press is that I have far less time for my own writing and I often feel like I use up my creativity on other people’s. Poems nowadays.
So I do still write, but not as much as I used to. I’m working on several books that I accepted the last open reading period. [00:22:00] I have one that is about it. It’s coming out February 8th, Rob filmings house bird, uh, Theresa Burns. His book is next in line. That’s close to done. And then I’m, I’ve just started working on Eric Nelson’s book, a horse Nazi, bruh.
So that should bring. Yeah, that should be coming out in the spring. And then I have, uh, one more that will come out probably early as summer. I haven’t started on that one yet. Then the open reading period starts January 24. So that’ll give me something to do. I do have an anthology idea in mind, but it’s not a good time to do what.
I’m just not going to do it now until. The pandemic is totally over an anthology. Absolutely has to have an in-person party and her hopefully several, um, given by, uh, people [00:23:00] who participate in the book. So I’ll hopefully get to that within the next year or so, but as it gets in.
Trish Hopkinson: Congratulations on all of this great work, honestly, I just am always so impressed, um, with, you know, how, how much you do.
And also, um, just now that I know even more about your process, I’m thoroughly impressed. So I hope that others will watch this and, you know, pick up on some of those great things that, that, um, you’ve started, uh, with the. You know, tear up and books and how you’ve been managing it. So, so carefully and thoughtfully, and really responding to, you know, what you’re hearing from the literary community, what they, what they really need and want.
And I think that’s really terrific. Um, so speaking of Terrapin Books, how do people sign up to get updates? What’s the best way for them to just stay in touch?
Diane Lockward: I can sign up for my newsletter. Um, I not sending at [00:24:00] not sending it out on a monthly basis at this time, but I still keep the list and I send out a call for submissions or updating people about the book so they can sign up for that or they can follow me on Facebook or Twitter.
Trish Hopkinson: Perfect. Perfect. Well, just a quick reminder. So the full length manuscript call opens on January 24th and runs through at the 28th. And if you’re not quite ready, it’ll be open again for the month of August, but I thank you so much for joining me today.