The Stories Behind the Stories by Ken Waldman

            I’ve just had my twentieth book published.

            From 1990-1992, I lived in Nome, Alaska, a small community on the Bering Sea coast where I taught college writing classes, mostly over phone. I also traveled to villages where my students lived. I wrote extensively about my experiences and in 1996 met a publisher at a conference who invited me to send a poetry manuscript. Two years later he returned it, with suggestions. A month later I resubmitted it. In 2000 it was published.

            Sometimes it’s this slow, steady process.

            The same publisher brought out another book in 2002. That was quicker and easier.

            By then I’d had hundreds of poems in literary journals. A second publisher noticed, and asked to read every poem I’d ever written.

            But after he found a book’s worth of poems and we agreed on a cover design, he stopped returning emails and didn’t answer his phone. I called a third publisher for advice.

            The third publisher said he’d do the book—all I had to do was withdraw it from the recalcitrant publisher.

            But when I wrote to withdraw the book, the second publisher threatened to sue me—he ended up publishing the book a few months later. The third publisher? He offered to do a book anyway if I quickly sent him a different set of poems. That was easy.

            Then came the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth books.

            When Donald Trump was elected president, I started writing sonnets the next day. Mid December. I called the publisher of my sixth book, and read a few of these new ones on the telephone. He accepted it, my ninth book, and we had it out for the inauguration. Since then that publisher has brought out seven more Trump Sonnets volumes.

            Fall 2020, I received an email from a publisher in India who who wanted a collection of poems. I did my research; it was a legitimate publisher and request. I submitted a collection that I didn’t think would get published otherwise.

            When the same publisher asked for another book in 2021, I sent this novel, Now Entering Alaska Time, which I started in 1989, finished in 1997, and had been occasionally revising since. The publisher was happy to accept.

            Sometimes publication comes fast. Sometimes, it’s slow. And sometimes, like this novel, it takes decades.

            Every publication is a triumph. And story.


Ken Waldman Bio:

Ken Waldman combines original poetry, old-time string-band music, and smart storytelling for a performance uniquely his. Since 1995 he’s appeared from the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage to the Dodge Poetry Festival to the Woodford Folk Festival (Queensland, Australia). 20 books consist of 16 full-length poetry collections, a memoir, a creative writing manual, a kids’ book, and a 2022 novel, Now Entering Alaska Time, published by Cyberwit Press of India. Nine CDs include two for children. Current projects include the ninth in his ongoing www.trumpsonnets.com series. More? Go to www.kenwaldman.com and get yourself lost (though while you’re there check out https://www.kenwaldman.com/the-writing-party or if you’re a sports fan, https://kenwaldman.com/sports-page). Says the Austin Chronicle: “Feels like a Ken Burns movie . . . Always recommended.” Says Ken Waldman: “Somebody’s got to be doing all this.”

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