Richard Krawiec is a writer. And an editor. And a teacher. And he runs Jacar Press. It would be easier to list what Krawiec doesn’t write, but, like any other day, I’m up for a challenge. Krawiec authors novels, poetry, magazine features, short stories, YA biographies, course reviews, essays and stage plays. In fact, one of his plays will be produced in the near future by the Common Ground Theatre in downtown Raleigh. (Plus, you may remember his moonflowers from an earlier post.) His work has appeared in top journals like Shenandoah, Witness and The Florida Review. Krawiec’s latest book, which I just pre-ordered and picked up at the post office, is a collection of poetry provocatively titled She Hands Me the Razor (Press 53). He believes you need to “write stuff that’s going to outlast you.”
What you may not know about Krawiec is that although he’s published two novels, he’s written four. A rep from Penguin Putnam said of one of his unpublished manuscripts, “It’s the greatest first-person novel since Camus’ The Stranger.” But, that novel faced the fate that so many do: the editor didn’t find it marketable. The publishing industry is changing so much that quality literary work is being overlooked. I had coffee with Krawiec and discussed how writers can increase their chances of having their work read as well as his process for writing his latest book.
200 Words with Author/Editor Richard Krawiec
Write Naked: You review a lot of work being an editor and running your own press. What’s your top tip of advice for a first-time novelist’s query letter?
Richard Krawiec: I do a lot of editing and almost always get my writers read. Most stuff about query letters is wrong. It has to be as compelling as the book. Never go over a page. It has to be a quick summary, precise marketing pitch and why you’re qualified to write it. If a writer is having trouble with their query letter it means their book is not finished.
WN: Writing in so many different mediums you wear many writerly hats. What’s your preferred medium?
RK: No preferred medium. Certain material needs to be told in certain forms…you run into trouble if you try to force it where it doesn’t belong.
WN: She Hands Me the Razor is a provocative title and has such a compelling cover–especially for a book of poetry. How did this collection come about and how long did you spend writing, compiling and editing it?
RK: 10 years. I printed out all my poems and had about 3 books’ worth of material, but some really good poems just didn’t fit. Even though they had been published in very reputable places, they were not good. Some people believe “more is better,” but you’re not six anymore. Everything you write is not equally valuable. Each theme in the book runs into another. It explores trust, limits and boundaries–in an emotional order, not chronological.
WN: As always, my salute to James Lipton’s Q&A tradition: What sound or noise do you hate?
RK: Well, it’s too cliche to say nails on a blackboard. (laughs) I’d say, the sound of shuffling papers when a writer gets up to read. It shows they’re clueless. Even if your work is horrible, you owe it to yourself to be professional.
Check out Krawiec’s She Hands Me the Razor from Press 53.
If you know of someone you’d like to interview, you’re welcome to be a guest blogger. Read more here.