Today’s featured Writefest speaker is J. Bruce Fuller, a poet and acquisitions editor at Texas Review Press. He is a Louisiana native. His chapbooks include The Dissenter's Ground, Lancelot, and Flood, and his poems have appeared at The Southern Review, Crab Orchard Review, McNeese Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, and Louisiana Literature, among others.
Fuller has received scholarships from Bread Loaf, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Stanford University, where he was a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry. He received his MFA from McNeese and his Ph.D. from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He currently teaches at Sam Houston State University where he is Acquisitions Editor at Texas Review Press.
How has being a poet influenced you as an editor?
It helps me to remember that there is an artist, a real person, and their work, at stake. Publishing can be a very business-oriented atmosphere, and when I am working on a project it helps that I know what it feels like to be on both sides of the table. I consider myself to be a writer-friendly editor, because I am a writer too, and that is how I want to be treated.
Poetry too, prepares us to engage with heightened language and metaphorical language, so even when evaluating fiction, nonfiction, or scholarly prose, I am always looking for the work that is operating in the realm of heightened language.
What would you tell your younger self?
That list is too long to go into here, but I remember as a 17-year-old, thinking that I wanted to be a poet, and I would say to myself repeatedly, “1998 is going to be a big year for me…”
Looking back, I laugh because it was so ridiculous in a way. I thought I was ready to have a book out, and that I was ready for all that comes along with that. I was a kid, sure, but what I didn’t realize was that it would take another 20 years of working, studying, and disappointment to achieve just a fraction of what I used to daydream about as a teenager. I’m afraid if I told my younger self these things I would have been too discouraged to continue. So I probably wouldn’t tell him anything.
What keeps you inspired to write day after day?
A professor once told me that it is easy to be a poet before you’re 30. I was 31 at the time. This idea struck me because I had read many of the statistics of how many people quit writing post-MFA and at the time I had just finished my MFA, so I was concerned that I would fall into the same problem. It is understandable why this happens, and there are many factors, but often it boils down to life getting in the way. Because I had been warned of this I have tried to remain vigilant about my writing time. Between work and kids and daily life I often have to force myself to take the time to just sit and work on my writing. There’s no magic pill you can take; you just have to make writing a priority, however that works for you. I was lucky to have many good role models.
Setting aside the time to write is not always enough, and when poems are not coming easily I often read. Reading always works for me because it is so inspiring to read great work and it makes me want to join that conversation and make my poems just as good. I love seeing what my colleagues are doing, and even if no poems come to me, and hour or two reading great poems is time well spent.
Want to hear more from J. Bruce Fuller at Writefest? His schedule will be posted on our website soon. He will also be taking pitches during our pitch sessions!
Be sure to secure your tickets to Writefest if you haven't already!