You know her. You love her. And she is indeed one of our own. A very recent grad of the Wilkes MFA program, Amye Archer has just launched her chapbook, A Shotgun Life, to rave reviews. Amye took a few minutes from her busy schedule to chat about this well-deserved publication. Without further ado…
Amye, congratulations on the publication of A Shotgun Life. Can you tell us a little about the themes and ‘story’ of this collection?
This collection deals with my struggle to find my place among the mothers of the world. As you may have guessed from the title, my pregnancy was a bit of a surprise. I went from getting divorced and thinking I could not have children, to being the mother of twin girls and having a new husband, all within two years. In this collection I wanted to capture the difficulties of instant and unexpected motherhood. Those maternal instincts are not always as automatic as you think. I once left my kids with the Eater Bunny at the mall. I forgot I had them. Thankfully, he was a decent Easter Bunny and he returned them.
What was the journey like for you, to document so many personal experiences and then step back from the personal to put on your objective editor’s hat? Who did you turn to for support in this process?
I have never been shy about splashing myself across the page. I don’t know if my self-humiliation gene is clicked off, or what happened, but I’m easily able to read self-depricating, or very personal things about my life without flinching. However, that doesn’t always translate into being a strong writer. The Wilkes poetry faculty helped me overcome that hurdle. Christine Gelineau helped me recognize my writing style: Like a sculptor, I overwrite, and then chip away what is not the poem.
Tell us about working with Big Table Publishing, the publisher of your chapbook. What was the process like, from acquisition to publication?
A few years ago, Robin Stratton, the woman who runs Big Table and Boston Literary Magazine, accepted a few poems from this collection for publication in her magazine. At that time, I sent her the manuscript. She liked it, but felt it lacked a narrative arc. And THAT… is where Tony Morris comes in. Tony, a poet in the Wilkes University Creative Writing Program, gave me great advice as to finding that arc. He told me to print all the poems out, and scatter them around my living room floor. Something will emerge, he assured me. (ala A Beautiful Mind style…) Once I found that arc, I revised, and resent to Robin. This time she loved the manuscript.
Now that you’ve finished up your MFA with Wilkes, what is your writing life like? What fills your day and what do you find most challenging without the ever-present community surrounding you? Or, is it like you’ve never left?
I graduated? Oh crap. Well, it will take more than a degree to get rid of me. (a restraining order maybe?) I still hang around the office trying to absorb the energy of the new students coming into the program. I’m very lucky because I live close enough to do that. I think the Wilkes community is what you make of it. Either you take it with you or you don’t. I’ve taken it with me. My cohort and I are tight, and I have made lifelong friends. I also started a reading series, Prose in Pubs, which ensures I will forever be surrounded by enormous talent, at least every other month on a Sunday night.
How did the Wilkes program help you become the writer you are today? What do you think was most influential in your development as a writer?
I aways say, if you learn nothing else in this program, you learn how to live like a writer. I was always a writer, but fancied my talents as just a hobby, something I did for fun. Wilkes connects you with like-minded individuals who transform your writing from pastime to passion.
What are your plans now? Is there a memoir to keep our eyes out for?
Well, I’m working with an agent on revising my memoir. One of two things is going to happen with my memoir: You are either going to see it for sale someday, or it will perish in a fiery blaze in my fire pit. It can go either way right now.
Finally, where can readers find you online and in person?
I have created a blog where anyone, stalkers included, can find out anything they need to know about me: www.amyearcher.com. You can find Prose in Pubs on Facebook. In the upcoming weeks we have some big names reading for us starting with Jason Carney, a national performance poet, and fellow student in the Wilkes Program.
Be sure to visit Amye’s page dedicated to A Shotgun Life here.