An Interview with Joan Colby
Describe what you write in 10 words or less.
Poems that reveal to me things I'm curious about.
What is a day in the life of a writer like for you?
As I have been retired for over a year from my long-time job as editor of a trade magazine, I have more freedom to manage my time. I continue to function as senior editor for FutureCycle Press and as associate editor of Good Works Magazine which involves evaluating submissions of both books and individual poems and stories. I am also a judge of the monthly Goodreads Poetry Contest which attracts around 300 submissions. The computer makes it possible for me to accomplish this without leaving my home. I live on a small farm with my husband and an 8-year-old German Shepherd. For many years, we bred, raised and trained Thoroughbred horses; now our pastures harbor wildlife and our barns are empty. Still, we enjoy country living. Typically, I write every day, but not according to schedule; just as an idea for a poem or story strikes. My husband has serious health problems, so much of our time is taken up with doctor appointments. Our living arrangements have always been: he cooks, I clean up. We frequently breakfast with friends, keep up with current events and belong to a progressive discussion group that meets monthly. We have three grown children and six grandchildren.
What book are you reading now?
I just finished Ulrich Raulff's, Farewell to the Horse, in translation from the German, a scholarly look at the interdependence of man and horse through the ages which changed drastically with the advent of the industrial revolution. Next on my list is Edward Abbey's essay collection, The Journey Home. I think I have read all of his books now. Focusing on poetry, I finished Selected Poems by my friend the poet David Chorlton, a great observer of the natural world. I am reading The House of Lords and Commons by Ishion Hutchinson which I highly recommend.
What is the best advice you can give writers who are trying to get published for the first time?
published happens when your work is good enough. My advice therefore is to keep
working, revising, experimenting, and of course, reading. All writers stand on
the shoulders of those who came before-the worst mistake a writer can make is
to avoid reading for fear of being influenced; indeed what you want is to be
influenced by excellence. In the act of writing, you will eventually find your own unique voice.
Join workshops, form a community with other writers, immerse yourself in
literature, and if your writing is worthy, publication will follow. Don't be
discouraged by rejections, and more importantly, don't take them personally.
There are numerous reasons for a journal to reject work. If, however, you
receive the same criticism from a number of respected people, give it serious
Which do you prefer-paper or computer?
I write all my first drafts in longhand on paper, revising as I write which means lots of cross-outs, substitutions and so forth. The final draft (which may not really be final, as I tend to continue revising until I'm satisfied or simply can't do more) is typed on the computer, then tucked into my poetry file where it will be on ice for awhile so that I can further assess it before submitting it. The mindset for revision is different from the mindset of composing, the latter involves the excitement of creation which can be misleading.