The Next Big Thing

 "The Next Big Thing" asks writers to self-interview about their books with 7-8 designated questions, post somewhere in the blog-o-sphere and then "tag" (5) writers for the next week to do the same. Karla Huston has been tagged by Debra Bruce (

What is the working title of the book?

A Theory of Lipstick

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Books sometimes start with an idea but often are written one poem at a time until a theme appears and/or the writer amasses a collection of publications from journals and small presses. I didn't set out to write a book of poems. I just wrote poems. Encouragement from various workshop leaders/teachers at places like Breadloaf, the Nebraska Summer Writers Conference, and Walloon persuaded me to think of my poems as more than individual pieces. I was strongly persuaded that I was indeed ready for "the book."

What genre does your book fall under?

This is a book of poetry.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a
movie rendition?

I'd want Jennifer Aniston to play me because we share a birthday, and my daughter looks like her. But no, she doesn't have enough "lip" for it. I'd certainly want my mother to be played by Gina Lollobrigida or Judy Garland. My father should be played by Pat Boone. Other characters need to be played by 40s and 50s movie stars. Bette Davis could play Lot's Wife, for example. I know most of these folks are dead but this is a movie, so it's fantasy, right?

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Blurbers say this is a book about windows and explorations of desire framed around pop culture.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

This manuscript has taken ten or more years to write. With poetry, and often with the first book, these poems were written one after another as inspiration presented itself and with little regard for how they'd hang together in a book.

I've published six chapbooks of poems, one of which won a contest. (Another chapbook is on the way in late 2013.) So many poets, whose work I've admired, have encouraged me to step out of that comfort zone and put a collection together. At first this sounded like a great idea—pull out a bunch of poems—the good ones only, please! But I'm not always a reliable judge about what is good in my own writing. So I collected poems I liked or those that hung loosely together or were well-published. I started with about 90 poems. Then I asked for the help of fellow writers and friends—Laurel Mills, Dale Ritterbusch, Estella Lauter, Diane Lockward. Lockward gave those 90 poems a shape, organized, advised, and cut the book by a third. This was exactly what I needed. Then Sarah Busse, Wendy Vardaman, Cathryn Cofell and I held an all-girl, manuscript weekend where we worked to critique and comment on each other's manuscripts. Finally, a book appeared out of the sheaf of papers, one I was more-or-less pleased with on any given day. But I stuffed it in a drawer for a year until Cathryn threatened to send it to publishers herself. Finally, after a conversation at AWP last year, Chuck Rybak gave the book a title and more encouragement. So off to a potential publisher it went.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wasn't inspired by any "whos" or "whats." Some books of poems may be written that way. This is my first full collection, so individual pieces were written a poem about subjects that interested me. I found myself fascinated with pop culture icons (no, not Madonna or Lady Gaga) like Judy Garland and Gina Lollobridgida. I love writing persona poems to explore alternate views. I love to give voice to the seemingly voiceless. I love to play with language. I'm also interested in how the lives of women have changed from one generation to the next. This is what most often inspires me.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

I'm thrilled with the cover art—done by German artist Christine Dumbsky. This is a portion of a larger painting called Summer Wine. If you look closely, you'll see a map of the world in the strawberry. Don't we want our poetry to contain "worlds?"

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The book is being published by Main Street Rag Publishing from Charlotte, NC. I've worked with editor and publisher M. Scott Douglass in the past. It was his chapbook contest that I won in 2003. Scott is invested in publishing the best books he can. He works closely with authors and produces lovely finished products. A poet himself, Scott is attuned to the sensibilities of poets.