Our “author conversation” today is with Mary Harwell Sayler, author of Living in the Nature Poem
Writers-Editors Network: What inspired you to write this book?
Mary Harwell Sayler: Since I’ve lived in rural areas most of my life, I had written and placed many poem over the years on various aspects of nature and a natural lifestyle. When the editor of Written River, a journal with an environmental emphasis, accepted a couple of my poems, I discovered he also co-edits and publishes environmentally-aware books. So I searched my files to see if I had at least 100 poems on natural topics, then asked if he might be interested in a book. He said yes, and Living in the Nature Poem came into being (Hiraeth Press).
Writers-Editors Network: Do you plan on writing more books with a nature theme?
Mary Harwell Sayler: Yes. An amazing assortment of birds and variety of plant and animal life surround my home, often evoking poems.
Writers-Editors Network: Where is your favorite place to write books?
Mary Harwell Sayler: Sometimes I wake up with the first line or two of a poem and go write down whatever came to me and see where it goes. Other times poems begin with a musical line or phrase that catches my attention while I’m sitting on our deck overlooking our small lake.
Writers-Editors Network: Do you usually outline a book first? Or just start writing?
Mary Harwell Sayler: I just write whatever poems come to me, but for full-length fiction and nonfiction, I think things through first. For a novel, I write a synopsis in two or three pages, present tense, as though the story were happening as I watch. For nonfiction, I investigate the need for a topic, gather resources for research, and write an outline.
Writers-Editors Network: What was the biggest challenge in bringing this book to publication?
Mary Harwell Sayler: Over the last 10 years, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to have a book of poetry published, but the options just didn’t feel right. Since poetry books are hard to place, and I did not want to self-publish, the challenge came in waiting for the right publisher and me to connect. Thankfully, that happened!
Writers-Editors Network: Do you have any writing rituals?
Mary Harwell Sayler: Yes, I try to begin each day with some idea of the project I plan to work on, then immediately begin with my cup of coffee beside my desk. If I’m unsure, I might edit or revise a previous day’s work, usually reading each page aloud – for poetry, of course, but also fiction and nonfiction.
Writers-Editors Network: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Mary Harwell Sayler: Shortly after I learned to read! Books were great friends in our house, and I grew up surrounded by them as naturally as I am now by wildlife.
Writers-Editors Network: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Mary Harwell Sayler: Read poetry; critique poems or short manuscripts by other poets and writers; take a walk in the woods or on the beach; dabble with something I want to concoct in the kitchen; or flop out in front of the TV with a good movie.
Writers-Editors Network: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Mary Harwell Sayler: Find topics that really interest you and list your life themes to tell in stories, poems, or nonfiction. Take nothing for granted though! Look up everything – even facts or data you’re sure you know.
Writers-Editors Network: What’s next?
Mary Harwell Sayler: I love reading the Bible in almost any English translation I can find, and often, poems and poetic devotionals come from those readings. Trying to find a publisher of Bible-based poetry, however, is almost impossible, so I’m giving my options some thought and, yeah, prayer.