Sarah Frances Moran will share the feature stage with Jenuine Poetess for the 2nd Thursday Poetry Reading and Open Mic at BookWoman (5501 N. Lamar) on Thursday, February 11, 2016 from 7:15 to 9:00 p.m.
Sarah Frances Moran is a writer, editor, animal lover, videogamer, queer Latina. She thinks Chihuahuas should rule the world and prefers their company to people 90% of the time. She was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Writing for her came out of a desire to help others and has evolved into full blown insistence on changing the world. Her aim is to poetically fight for love and harness the type of tender violence needed to push love forward. She strongly believes that words have immeasurable power.
She is the founder/editor of Yellow Chair Review whose inaugural issue is out in June 2015. Her work has most recently been published or is upcoming in FreezeRay Poetry, Thank You For Swallowing, Drunk Monkeys, Rust+Moth, Maudlin House, Blackheart Magazine, Red Fez and The Bitchin’ Kitsch. Her chapbook I Am A Terrorist is forthcoming with Dark Heart Press.
Her work is equal parts frustration, hope, anger, advocacy and love. At the heart of it, she’s a stick-a-love-poem-in-your-back-pocket kind of poet. She’s a huge advocate for animal welfare and works daily to combat pet overpopulation. Spay and neuter your pets, people. She resides in Waco, Texas with her partner and their small menagerie of small 4-legged critters.
CH: When did you first begin to identify as writer? as a poet?
SFM: I began writing in middle school but not seriously. I mostly just kept a journal (as most middle school girls do.) It wasn’t until my sophomore year in High School that it occurred to me that it was something more than journaling. I began seriously writing poems towards my last two years of High School and I’m pretty sure that’s when I self-declared myself “poet.” I realized it was serious when I started caring more about jotting poems down than taking notes in Chemistry class.
CH: What first drew you writing? How does writing influence your life?
SFM: Song lyrics were the first draw to writing for me. I was always far more interested in what a singer was “saying” rather than singing or melody. I was also always an avid reader. My mother was big on making sure we did a decent amount of reading and it was never a chore to me. I would run through novels like crazy.
Every major idea and occurrence for me has come through reading and writing. I read Alice Walker’s Everything We Love Can Be Saved in High School and it was a huge influence on my ideology. It changed the way I viewed the world, religion and everything really. A lot of the ways I still view humanity stem from that one book.
Being someone who isn’t great at articulating my feelings verbally, writing has always been a way for me to get things out. If it weren’t for writing I don’t know what sort of mental state I’d be in. It’s a release. I take Zoloft now to curb my anxiety but writing was really my first anti-depressant, anti-anxiety medication. It has saved me certainly.
CH; I know you have a chapbook, I Am A Terrorist, forthcoming. Tell us about it.
SFM: I Am A Terrorist is a culmination of poems written about my sexuality and about how beautiful love is. The title comes from the title poem I Am A Terrorist which is a satire piece written in response to Pat Robertson’s declaration that homosexuals are promoting their terrorist agenda. If love is terrorism then I gladly wear that label. I have a tendency to use humor for serious issues and this poem showcases that.
CH: How long did you send out I Am A Terrorist before finding a publisher for it? What advice would you give other poets who are working on getting a chapbook published?
SFM: I began sending it out in May of 2015. It got a lot of rejections (20+) before I found a home for it. The title seemed to be a huge turn-off to a lot of publishers. I refused to change it. I was originally entering it into contests. As I do this more and more I’m finding that the contest format is so highly competitive and difficult to break into. I continued however submitting it to contests but also began researching presses that were just accepting unsolicited submissions. I even sent to some that said they were full on manuscripts for the time being. I figured if it wasn’t a no and just a “we don’t have time right now” then I was ok with that. I ended up sending it to Kevin Ridgeway over at Dark Heart Press in September 2015 and he almost instantly responded with an acceptance. Persistence is key. It’s scheduled to come out later this year.
CH: You’ve had a good deal of success getting poems published in various journals. How do you decide where to send work? What is your submission process?
SFM: I keep this very detailed spreadsheet. It has five tabs on it: Work Out For Consideration, Work Accepted, Work Rejected and Places To Submit. I make sure I keep 20 submissions out at a time, minimum. In 2015 I was just ending work out whenever I had the time. In 2016 I’ve begun to do what I call Submission Sunday. I aim to get 3-5 submissions sent every Sunday and I do a post on Facebook to get others involved. It’s fun.
In my Places To Submit tab I keep a running list of journals I come across that interest me. I find journals that inspire me, that publish work that I admire, that have themes I enjoy and that seem to have organization. I tend to not send to places that don’t accept simultaneous submissions simply because I always have a lot of my work out at once. I have to really really want to be in a publication to hold work for them like that.
The biggest thing is I’m persistent. I send again to places that reject me. That’s why I keep a rejection tab because I am most definitely going to send to those places again. Unless they’ve said to me “do not ever send us work again” they’ll see more of my work. I think that’s the biggest mistake writers make. They get discouraged and they never try again. That’s where folks go wrong.
CH: Tell us about Yellow Chair Review. What inspired you to found it?
SFM: That’s a good question. Initial inspiration was boredom. I ran a little literary journal when I was in High School that I would send out via email. It was at the dawn of the internet (giving away my age a bit) before blogs and the boom of the online literary world. It was a small email compiled of writing by friends and acquaintances I’d met online. I was also the editor of the school literary magazine. I’ve always had the desire to do that again and after sending out my own work to a myriad of places I began seeing patterns of things I wanted to do better. I’m certainly under no illusions that I’ve done anything revolutionary with Yellow Chair Review. I simply wanted to create a space for writers and artists that is diverse and approachable. There’s elitism everywhere, and there’s a ton of elitism in the literary world. I don’t want YCR to ever be that.
So I sat down and wrote the pros and cons of doing this (I’m a serious list maker) and determined the pros outweighed the cons. I wanted to make sure this was something I did properly and did in a way that made folks proud to have their work be a part of it.
CH: How has your work as editor and publisher of Yellow Chair Review influenced your writing?
SFM: I think reading is a huge influence on writing, period. So I’m certainly now subjected to a ton more reading. I read more poetry now than I ever have. So it’s influencing in that way that reading is. I’m also a huge believer in community. My community since starting YCR has grown exponentially. There’s motivation there and accountability. All of these things have made me a stronger writer and community member.
CH: I know that as an editor, you receive and read both chapbook collections and poems. What is your advice to poets who are looking for more publication success?
SFM: I’m going to go back to persistence and not getting discouraged. It is rare that I see a name pop up in the submit box again once it’s been rejected. That’s the mistake. I don’t believe that a rejection means forever. I think it means that work at that particular moment wasn’t a good fit. Maybe it was the editor reading, maybe it was a bad day, maybe if you’d sent it a week earlier it would have worked out. I know that sounds terrible like, if it’s good it should find a spot, but it isn’t always so simple. So keep sending it out there. If you believe in it, someone else will.
Ok, my motivational speak ends there!
CH: Where do you see your writing taking you in the next five years?
SFM: I don’t know. Everywhere? I simply want to continue getting my work out there, see more of my own books published, publish more books for others. Just get words out into the world. I have two chapbooks coming out in 2016. I can’t even imagine what 2017 will bring. Two years ago I wasn’t even sending work out to be considered.
CH: Please name three influences on your poetry. What is the most recent book of poetry you’ve read?
SFM: Stevie Nicks, Vivian Moran and Iva Montgomery. Stevie because she’s the reason I fell in love with words. Vivian and Iva because they’ve been constants in my corner pushing me to have faith in my ability and talent.
Last poetry book that I read that wasn’t a chapbook submission was Logen Cure’s Letters To Petrarch. Hauntingly beautiful! Truly one of the most beautiful books of poetry I’ve read in a very long time. Sometimes those hidden gems are there in the small presses. Support small press!