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Welcome, JoAnna Novak!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired in 2020. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you JoAnna Novak, author of the poetry collection New Life, which will be published next year.

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our November Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies), anthology proposals, and translations from German. Also, our Big Moose Prize for the novel is currently open to early bird submissions.

The Author

JoAnna Novak’s debut memoir Contradiction Days will be published by Catapult in 2022. Her short story collection, Meaningful Work, won the 2020 Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Contest and will be published by FC2 in 2021. She is the author of the novel I Must Have You and two books of poetry: Noirmania and Abeyance, North America.

Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, and other publications. Her essay “My $1000 Anxiety Attack” was anthologized in About Us: Essays from the Disability Series of The New York Times. She is a co-founder of the literary journal and chapbook publisher, Tammy

 

On Writing New Life

I found out I was pregnant in 2019 and shortly thereafter fell into a bad depression. It was disarming and frightening, especially on top of the physical changes my body was undergoing. Usually, running is my go-to to mitigate dips in my mood, but I wasn’t running, I couldn’t run: I was pregnant. I felt extra ashamed of feeling depressed because the friends around me were so happy for me––and when I was around them, I sometimes felt happy, too. Maybe I could just harness their excitement forever. 

What happened, though, is with two of my good friends I watched a very melodramatic film called Castaway––not the Tom Hanks-volleyball story. Castaway (1989) is based on the true story of a young woman who answers a personal ad by a writer who wants a companion to go with him to a remote island for one year. I remember all sorts of generic island music and some clunky acting, but something about the story, the idea of enlisting in this extreme banishment––resonated with me. I went home that night and wrote the first poem for New Life. That was in Los Angeles, in March 2019. I wrote poems––all under that title––for the next two months, as I grew more pregnant, as a semester of teaching ended, as my husband and I drove across the country to spend some summer in Illinois. This was the first poetry manuscript that I worked on with the focus of a novel: every morning, I spent two hours with the poems. I went this way for several drafts, getting readers’ notes in between. Throughout, I stayed focused on a few themes: the romance of isolation, the rich symbolism of islands, the wildness of preparing to issue a new life.  

Excerpt

 

N is for Nature
 


Bloom star magnolias
fast first, beneath scalesia
seeds. Trying

not to be sad
—a bust.


—oohkay, Galapagos
repose: angle mirror
below my daisy
while moms glow,
show O-maws,
perineals.

Naturally, I die
by butterfly
needle, lie on my
Love-Me, Love-Me
-Not petals—
kink straws,
suck black parasols.
Eat the orchid
in my ear, baby
boy, if nothing else
nouveauté, nuisette,
novena.
 
(A natural cycle,
emerge and collapse:
The fish grows to fit his pond.)