DB: As a poet, I find that titling my work is one of the hardest parts of finishing a piece. How did you come up with your title in particular?
SFW: I had many working titles of the book before Soft became the title. In my life the word soft has held multiple meanings. I have always been soft-spoken and in childhood, I didn’t always speak up for myself or demand to be heard. Very early on, writing became my avenue for engaging the world outside of my own head. Soft signifies my preference for showing empathy and understanding. However, our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness. My empathic nature gave me the desire to adopt and nurture children who had been in foster care. At the same time, highly empathic people are more likely to find themselves connected to those with narcissistic, sociopathic, or otherwise abusive tendencies. A significant portion of my book deals with my desire to break free from such a connection. In addition, Soft tells pieces of my coming out story. As I embraced my identity as a lesbian, I recognized my need to experience the softness of another woman.
DB: Softness of another woman. I like the sound of that. I’m wondering about your journey through publishing. What did you take away from it?
SFW: To find a publisher, we have to become organized around that process. There are lists everywhere including websites, The Writers’ Market, The Writers Chronicle and Poets and Writers. Understand who you are sending your work to by knowing the kinds of books they’ve published in the past.
Also, it takes time to develop an audience for your work. This begins well before there is a book on the market. It helps to be an active contributor to the literary community: host events, curate readings, blog, publish excerpts of your book in literary journals and accept offers to read.
Seek out resources. In particular, the Loft Literary Center offers classes that deal specifically with getting published. As writers, we need to educate ourselves beyond the craft if we want to have fruitful careers.
DB: Do you have any advice for other struggling writers like myself?
SFW: When you start a story, do not give up on it easily. Fight for your stories before you decide to let them go. Self-doubt has a way of creeping in and questioning our every move. Move anyway. Write anyway. Eventually, you will have a finished product.
Create the physical space and mental space needed to write. Be intentional with your schedule. Every writer must give their book space to bloom.
Write as often as possible.
Participate in an affirming writing community. It is great to receive feedback on your work. Most importantly, it is necessary to receive encouragement. Writing can be a long and lonely journey. We need the support of others to sustain us.
Soft by Sherrie Fernandez-Williams can be purchased at the following independent bookstores: Ancestry Books, Birchbark Books, Boneshaker Books, Common Good Books, Eat My Words Books, Magers & Quinn and Subtext. It is also available at Amazon.com. To find out more, visit her website by clicking here.
Meet the blogger:
Deziree Brown is a 2015 BFA graduate of Hamline University. She often claims to have been born with a poem written across her chest. She has been published twice in The Fulcrum, and is quickly making herself known in the literary world and planning to stay a while.