Michelle Shy – SnarkyKu

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

SnarkyKu is my first published book. It’s short attention span poetry for the disgruntled: cranky, grouchy, snotty and mean haiku.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am a comedian, performance artist and writer because a career counselor once told me I would never be able to hang onto a straight job.

Waaaaay too many pets live with me. I have 10 cats, 4 dogs, 4 birds, 1 fish, 1 rabbit and 2 lizards. Some of these pets are already dead; they reside in Tupperware in the back closet. The remainder reside right in the middle of my bed. Tomorrow I hope to get 2 more dogs.

If you meet me in person, you will think, “Hmm…gorgeous. Nuts. And a pain in the butt.”

I’ve been fired from 79 jobs, among which were: machinist, actor, filmmaker, software engineer, acting coach, executive management consultant, film festival director, envelope stuffer, chicken plucker, stripper, pothole counter, necktie folder, reporter, cookie packer, tool & die maker, and comedy traffic school instructor.

The stories from these weird and wonderful jobs found themselves expressed in sad comedy routines with elements of insanity…oh, yes, and slasher screenplays–which are in discussions to be acquired by film producers–and now, nasty poems.

What inspired you to write this book?

Poetry originally was an excuse to procrastinate re-writing a screenplay. I tried lots of procrastination techniques: petting the cat, Twitter, making lists of things to buy when I get rich. When I hit on short-form poetry, I found it to be more than a procrastination tool. It flowed so easily; it gave me a sense of completion; the structure was familiar (haiku really has a three-act structure, just like a screenplay) and it was emotionally satisfying because I wrote about my real life. Writing haiku kept me “in the moment,” in that creative space, in the zone for such long periods that not only did I write hundreds of poems but also got un-stuck on three screenplays and was able to finish them.

I woke up from the zone after a couple years of haiku-ing to the realization that I had enough good words to make 6 books. SnarkyKu is the first; the rest will be published in a few months.

How did you choose the title?

It came from a silly Twitter discussion among a few haiku and senryu poets. We were all in a crabby mood and were kicking around a possible new Twitter hash tag to share our cranky, ironic venting. We didn’t decide on anything (the rest of them went back to their normal good moods) but the name SnarkyKu stuck with me.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

Having listened to my writer friends for years about agents and publisher and sales and queries and then having read about the indie and self-publishing and DIY and eBook movement growing, I became convinced that self-pub was the way to go after reading a series of articles by New York Times bestselling author Barry Eisler and indie author JA Konrath, who have both eschewed print and publishers entirely. So, I decided to go strictly self-pub and strictly eBook for SnarkyKu.

Thus, my obstacles were technical ones having to do with the publishing platforms. And my upcoming obstacles will be marketing ones.

How did I overcome the technical obstacles: stubbornness, curiosity, unwillingness to lose, plus a health background of dealing with the evil intestines of technology.

Ditto the marketing obstacles: I’ve learned enough from my straight gigs in the business world to develop a full-fledged zero-cost marketing plan, though how successful it will be I won’t know for a few months.

What about the cartoons?

Yes, aren’t they fabulous? John Crowther is a multi-talented artist. He’s an actor, he writes stage-plays, he paints, he cartoons and he teaches acting and painting. John’s cartoons belong in The New Yorker and I don’t know why those blind fools haven’t published him yet. His work is the perfect complement to mine. Little bites of words and little bites of pictures.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

It’s all about communication. Acting, stand-up, monolog routines, one-woman performance pieces, screenplays, indie films. It’s all about sharing common human experiences, distilling them through the medium of the artist and playing them back, enhanced, to the community, to the audience, to the reader. I’ve always been a communicator of some sort.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I tried to set regular hours for writing and other hours for business, but that doesn’t work for me. I can’t schedule creativity. So, I write when I must and I keep writing till I am dry. It could be an hour a day; sometimes it’s not for six months; sometimes it’s 72 hours without sleep.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book?

E-publishing is nothing to fear. It is not that difficult.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Yep! DogKu, CatKu and WhatHaveU: snappy little senryu by and about animals is coming out in November 2011. PoliticKu: the world is a ** mess and I’m writing snotty haiku about it is coming out in December 2011. AngstKu: depression, pain and death–have fun reading it is coming out in January 2012. After that, MadKu: a crazy cat lady speaks to her imaginary friends in February 2012 and Demented Dialog in March 2012.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Write your heart. Do not pay attention to those best-selling authors or those business people who tell you to first find your target demographic and then write to that market. Crapola. They all wrote what they wanted to write and it happened to be what people liked. You can never guess the market, so feed your soul. Secondly, work as hard as you dare; and then work harder. If you have fear, write your way through the fear. If you are blocked, write nonsense syllables for hours till you become unblocked.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

My best feedback has been from two audiences. The first are geeks and nerds of all ages. They seem to dig the haiku style and they definitely like snark. The second audience is academics and artists in middle-age. The ironic twists and word-play makes the academics happy and the raw emotions make the artists happy.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Thanks for asking. You can learn more at my web site http://www.michelleshy.com and Twitter @michelleshy.