The Hermit Poet

June 23, 2008

On Writing an Author’s Statement

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 2:17 pm

I’ll probably go into more detail once I’ve finished working on my own (which is turning out to be more complicated and involved a process than I expected).  For now though, here are some of the things I’m learning as I study other writers’ statements and my own earlier written comments on this book and my writing in general.

From Heidi Lynn Staples (author of Dog Girl – Ahsahta Press):

What I enjoy most in an artistic statement are an account of the writer’s process and descriptive comments illuminating the work. What I dislike most are divisive assertions of aesthetic allegiance and grand proclamations.

I think this is good counsel.  Statements which move into the grandiose or partisan tend to divide and alienate.  People don’t care about your allegiances (at least they shouldn’t), they should be brought into the world of the author and the making of the book — and feel some connection there.  An author’s statement reveals the human side of the author and sheds light on how the book came to be or the concerns which guided it into existence.

Ethan Paquin in his author’s statement for The Violence (also from Ahsahta Press) begins by noting his own dislike of discussing his own work, but follows up with this passage:

All my poetry owes to bigger and better things than poetry: the natural world, painting and sculpture and architecture, spirituality. All my poetry is informed by things deeper than poetry: love, loss of love, ruinous relationships, redeemed relationships, the bond between a landscape and a man, between a man and his children, between a man and art.

This is illuminating for me.  From this brief passage, I already know to expect these elements and themes in Ethan’s work.  And, where not apparent, to know that the poems on some level are engaging these ideas and may require further contemplation.

What is an author’s statement?  It’s what accompanies the book when it’s sent out for reviews as part of the press kit.  It’s your chance to say why and how the book was written, how it’s changed you, and perhaps where you and it may go from here.

It need not be long or complicated, but the process of coming to a good statement can be difficult.  It’s humbling.  Perhaps it means saying those things you haven’t even admitted to yourself yet.  Certainly it requires you to have some perspective, to be able to stand outside of the text you’ve dedicated so much time to and spent so long inside.

More to come.

2 Responses to “On Writing an Author’s Statement”

  1. Robert Says:

    Met David St. John here in Oregon, who speaks very highly of your manuscript. Kudos!

  2. heidi lynn staples Says:

    ach! an author’s statement! what a difficult genre and you have to make it your own and ach and ache and how. i really struggled with the self-reflexive documents required by publishers. but also learned from. cheers! heidi

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