I’ve Got Questions for Shuly Xóchitl Cawood

Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.

Trouble Can Be So Beautiful at the Beginning by Shuly Xochitl Cawood
  • What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?

Trouble Can Be So Beautiful at the Beginning (Mercer University Press, February 1, 2021). It’s a poetry collection.

  • In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?

I write about what it means to be young, to fall in and out of love, to break and become whole again, to face tragedy and fear and come out weaker or stronger, to struggle with power, and to let go of those we love not because of lack of feeling but because of earned wisdom.

  • What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?

I write free verse poetry. I strive for my poems to be accessible to all readers.

  • What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?

“The word stunning comes to mind” was what someone said to me a few days ago.

  • What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]

This is always such a hard question. I can tell you a couple of poets I admire and strive to write like: Ada Limón and Jacqueline Osherow. But I could never say my work is like theirs. Maybe one day!

  • Why this book? Why now?

I started writing this book thirty years ago. I’ve written hundreds of poems over the years, but it wasn’t until the last five to ten years that I really picked up momentum with writing most of the poems in this collection. I wasn’t going to enter the book into the Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry contest, but my dear friend said yes, you are, so I did: I sent in the collection to Mercer University Press’s annual contest, and I was lucky enough to have it win.

  • Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?

Being an extrovert, I have always loved working with people, and years ago I worked in admissions recruiting for my alma mater, Wittenberg University. It was my favorite job—it combined people with writing (I wrote and edited some of the admissions materials). But I would say that job rivals with what I am doing now: teaching memoir and personal essay workshops and running prompt-writing sessions. I love helping other people attain their dreams.

  • What do you want readers to take away from the book?

I want them to have a glimpse into other people’s lives—whether mine or the people (real or imagined) I wrote about. I want readers to find poetry that is accessible—so many people say they don’t like poetry, and often it’s because they’ve only been exposed to poems that are more challenging to decipher.

  • What food and/or music do you associate with the book?

Since I write a lot about Mexico, maybe some taquitos, pollo con mole, and flan. Music? Mariachis! And maybe some ballads since I write a lot about love.

  • What book(s) are you reading currently?

I just finished Felon by Reginald Dwayne Betts and am now reading Barbara Kingsolver’s How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons).

Shuly Cawood

Learn more about Shuly on her website.

Buy the book from the publisher or Bookshop.

About the author

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