1. Tell us about the person behind the work.
I guess what I’d most like readers of Even Before My Own Name www.TracyKoretsky.com to know is that its author is happy. Several centuries ago, while still in my very first few months of college, I happened to be watching the evening news. There had been a study; it found that most people who have unhappy childhoods turn out to have happy adult lives. This fell upon me like a ray slipping through the edges of a drawn blind. It had never occurred to me that I’d had an unhappy childhood; I would have said I had an unhappy life. But in that instant, I understood it was over. I was on my own now, an adult, and happiness was not only possible, but mine to craft. All right, I was wrong. At the age of seventeen, I still had a fair amount of childhood left to wend, and let’s face it, it never leaves us entirely, but I was on my way, most definitely on my way.
Even Before My Own Name, I think, can be read as the history of that transition, the long insistence that despite the bad luck of a mother who died when I was twelve and a father who was mentally ill, there is still so very much to laugh at and be grateful for. I have never lost my sense of wonder about that. I sometimes find myself on a sunny day singing out loud while gazing at some breathtakingly beautiful view – the San Francisco Bay Area is so abundant with them – and I just find myself taken again by the thought: what if they could see me now. I think they (whoever the heck “they” are) would say, “Hey, I like her smile!
2. Even Before My Own Name. A huge undertaking. Where did this need for expression come from?
Writing has always been my way to drop anchor long enough to hear my own thoughts, or to play the most consistently fascinating and often hilarious games. My education angled me toward fiction, but my proclivities drove me to try everything – everything literary anyway – all lengths of fiction, plays, screenplays, poetry, journalism, criticism – everything that is, except autobiography. In a lifetime of writing, I have produced only a slim file of personal essay and that mostly in response to some assignment. Instead, whenever I did broach the “I” subject, it came out as poetry. I think this may have less to do with need than permission. Writing about myself in poetry meant writing in code. Also, the likelihood that any member of my family might come across it (and be hurt by it) was lessened if it were poetry
3. How long did it take for you to complete the book ?
I’m never good at that question. I often return to projects after writing something else for a while – sometimes a long while. For example, during the years I wrote my first novel, Ropeless www.ReadRopeless.com, I got my poetry yah-yahs from writing the voice of Danny, one of its four narrators. So the poems in Even Before My Own Name were mostly written pre-Ropeless or post-the first draft of my second novel, which I returned to before revising “Even Before…” for cohesion. So you see…a pattern.
Oh, this is all about process. Forgive me. You want to know the personal stuff. Okay. Many of the poems were first composed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during the years I worked as a guidance consoler taking graduate classes in art history and fiction writing. I begged, and I mean this – abjectly begged – to be let into a stellar community group: The Squirrel Hill Poets, http://squirrelhillpoets.org/ who were all way, way more experienced that I was, and off I went. Many of the poems woven throughout this collection were first written under their tutelage and loving care.
Fast forward a great many years and find me in one never-ending-quest-for-novel-publication exhausted moment in 2005. I slump on my bed and promise to give myself poetry for 2006. Which, let’s face it, wouldn’t have been enough time even if I’d had any idea where to begin. I recognized that I was not skilled enough to read poetry much less write it, so I began there. I thought about the kinds of stuff an M.F.A. program would include: some reading classes, including criticism; some prompt-type classes; an individual mentor; peer-exchange, maybe some magazine editorial work, some critical writing – then asked myself how I could mock-up something like that for myself. Of course I couldn’t do it as well, of course not. I’m not presuming to say I gave myself an MFA. I’m saying that I looked at what the teachers thought might help one become a strong poet and either signed up or created it myself. So, by the fall of 2009, I was ready to release the resulting book.
4. Your thoughts on turning 50?
Haven’t done it quite yet, not until this coming Thanksgiving but, hey, I’m precocious, so I gave myself my gift to myself last year! One to give away, that’s what I wanted – a piece of my life-long art that I feel is complete and satisfies me. No money involved, no competitions, or publishers, the only goal: reach as many readers as possible. After all, it’s connecting with readers that makes me happy, and this is a book about letting go and choosing happiness. I should say too, that I dedicated the book to “the girl I once was.” That girl didn’t care all that much about the judges’ opinions. I wanted to honor her.
5. You’ve led an interesting life; how’d you get so lucky?
By being a weirdo kid, I guess. And also, all my life glasses, and much of my life, hearing loss in my left ear. It kinda put me in my own world. And is it ever interesting in there!
6. Tell us a bit about ROPELESS
What I think surprises readers the most about Ropeless http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0984124217
is how much fun it is to read. They hear that the main characters are a 78 year-old balebusta http://www.asinine.com/essays/yiddish.html
from Brooklyn living with her middle-aged son, a man with Down syndrome; her obese, repressed daughter; a brilliant man whose wheel chair cost him a career; and a prissy social worker, and they think ,“dour,” or “sentimental.” All I can say is, not from this author. Uh-uh. Once again – letting go and choosing happiness. Laughter and acceptance I guess I’ve got a bit of a theme going.
7. What are you working on now?
All I wanted from poetry once the poems in the collection were locked down was for it to make me laugh. The result is a chapbook of what I call “la-la poems,” pretty, pretty nature lyrics that are fun to wrap your mouth around, with a fair amount of Japanese genre influence – that’s been a keen interest. I’ve got quite a few of those out to magazines. Meanwhile, though I haven’t written more than a few short stories since Pittsburgh, I’d like to try them again. I would do it too, if I had any idea where to begin. Alas, it seems I am not skilled enough to read them much less write, so I’m beginning there. And then, of course, as you can see, I am doing my best to share Even Before My Own Name with as many readers as possible. So many more readers than if I had just cajoled friends and family and made sad eyes at acquaintances; readers from all over the country – the world in fact. Amazing places! I can’t imagine how the story of a struggling teen-ager from Chicago’s Jewish suburbs might be received by someone from Malaysia or Iceland (and yes, my e-book has gone both places.) What can they possibly make of it? Certainly it can only be encountered by them as literature, as an opportunity for an empathy. Really, what more can a writer ask for?
8.Please provide any contact info you would like for my readers to find you/r/work.
Although you can get both books many places online as well as a free download of the poetry collection from its website, there are interesting readers’ comments on their Amazon pages. People might also enjoy the audio readings I’ve posted on the my books’ homepages, which are, once again, http://www.ReadRopeless.com and http://www.TracyKoretsky.com.
There’s an interview with me about Ropeless here http://www.wordgathering.com/past_issues/march_2007/interview/koretsky2.html) and one of me all the way back in Pittsburgh, PA here: http://www.tracykoretsky.com/EBMON/html/audio_poems.html.
The Adirondack Review http://www.theadirondackreview.com/ will publish a review of Even Before My Own Name in June. Meanwhile here is another http://bayareapoetsreview.com/fall_2009_reviews_1from the Bay Area Seasonal Review.
I write a regular column http://www.winningwriters.com/resources/critiques/urc_critiques.php for the monthly WinningWriters.com online magazine in which I critique a poem or two from contributors. Check it out April 15th for a special edition on haiku. http://www.winningwriters.com/resources/critiques/2010/urc_1004haiku.php
Clara54 was pleased to bring you this awesome interview with Tracy. Keep in touch for more insights & wonderful profile creatives like Tracy-peace.