Interview with Scott Thomas Outlar
Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, live events, and books can be found. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Scott was a recipient of the 2017 Setu Magazine Award for Excellence in the field of literature. His words has been translated into Albanian, Afrikaans, Persian, Serbian, and Italian. His books include: Songs of a Dissident (Transcendent Zero Press, 2015); Chaos Songs (Weasel Press, 2016); Happy Hour Hallelujah (CTU Publishing, 2016); Poison in Paradise (Alien Buddha Press, 2017); and Abstract Visions of Light (Alien Buddha Press, forthcoming in 2018).
01. Tell us a bit about yourself, what you write, how you got started, etc.
I’m going to take this back to the beginning. Some of that old school rock ‘n roll that soothes the soul. I burst forth from my mother’s womb with ink flowing through my blood and the spirit of the holy word embedded deep in my genetic structure. In fact, my grandfather was the editor and head sports writer at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 30 years. So the DNA was always looming in the background, peeking out from the shadows occasionally. But it wasn’t until I graduated from high school, tossed aside my baseball glove, and decided to pick up a pen that I really started to develop the craft.
Cut to 14 years later, after having poured ten or so thousand hours of practice into the effort, and that is when I began seriously submitting my work for publication. The past three and a half years since then have been concentrated on that same pursuit.
My first essays appeared at Daily Anarchist and Dissident Voice in the spring of 2014. They were focused primarily on political, cultural, and social subjects. When I discovered that DV also had a poetry page I sent a piece to the editor, Angie Tibbs. She accepted it, and from that moment forward I’ve been a weekly contributor on the Sunday column ever since.
From that initial publication I was launched headfirst at 170 mph with a newfound passion and enthusiasm to run straight toward the poetry scene, of which there are countless cliques, circles, and communities. I’ve since had work appear in close to 300 different venues, and the opportunities I’ve been offered, along with the great people I’ve met, have provided some of the most rewarding experiences so far in my life.
02. How do you push your work? Online, poetry readings?
I have a central hub where links to all my published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, live events, and books can be found. It’s a WordPress site called 17Numa. I also use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
I currently live in the area just outside of Atlanta, Georgia and have been attending as many readings as possible each month. I recently gave a 30 minute featured performance at the UUCA: Wine, Cheese, and Spoken Word event. The night was an absolute thrill. Videos of all my readings are posted and archived on YouTube.
I’m planning on moving to Texas later this year which has me excited beyond measure. I will be making a concerted effort to explore what I know is a cool poetry scene further down south by familiarizing myself with all the different venues.
03. What is your writing process like? Are you sporadic or do you like to plan a piece out?
Generally speaking, poems just pour out of me once I actually sit down with the intention of writing. There might be a certain topic I have in mind (such as being madly in love with a heart set on fire; or wanting to witness the destruction of decadent institutions as they topple and crumble to the ground), but the actual content usually arrives spontaneously from the mysterious ethereal spaces of the subconscious realm.
There are a few particular spots I like to settle into when it’s time to let the groove start flowing. On a bench in the woods at Mountain Park, on my front porch listening to the birds chirp, or sitting in bed with several tabs open on the internet before me as I desperately try to turn away from all distractions so that something more pure can pulse forth.
With essays and short stories the script is completely flipped. I’ll let ideas circulate for days, sometimes weeks at a time, before catching a scare by an approaching deadline and finally being forced to actually get down to brass tacks and do the work.
Variety is, after all, the sweet spice of life. Or hot if you prefer. Life is short. Get your kicks however you can!
04. What are some of your favorite publications to submit to?
This is the most difficult question because there are so many amazing venues with editors who give their time and energy toward the effort of making sure new voices are able to emerge. I’ll try to narrow a large list down to just a few.
Tuck Magazine operating out of Canada has been very kind to my words for years now. They publish a wide array of global content from both established and new writers.
GloMag is an ekphrastic journal published out of India. I collaborate with a different painter or photographer each month, writing responses to their art.
CTU Publishing offers opportunities for print anthologies throughout the year, as well as other periodic challenges and contests.
05. You have published four books to date. An amazing accomplishment! Can you tell us the process of putting them together?
Thank you! It has been slightly different with each successive book. The most collaborative effort so far was with my most recent collection, Poison in Paradise, released in 2017 through Alien Buddha Press. I worked closely with the publisher, Red Focks, going back and forth on the manuscript to incorporate 25 full color photographs that he and Jay Miner took during their different travels across the United States.
The process of working on each book has been a beneficial experience. I’m fortunate to have aligned with publishers who all care deeply about promoting poetry and creating aesthetically pleasing works of art. That includes: Dustin Pickering and ZM Wise at Transcendent Zero Press, Weasel Patterson and Emily Ramser at Weasel Press, and Raja Williams at CTU Publishing.
06. Are you working on a fifth book, or do you have other plans for 2018?
My next book, Abstract Visions of Light, is set to be released at the end of February through Alien Buddha Press. The collection touches on themes such as the purity of artistic expression, surrealism, spirituality, personal loss, and discovering new love. The book will also include a series of black and white photographs taken by Red Focks in Slab City, California. The final draft is being worked on presently.
A few other plans for the rest of 2018 include finding a good home for another poetry manuscript that is currently being worked on, performing at as many live events as I can possibly attend, and enjoying time with the love of my life.
07. You have mostly worked with Small Press publishers. What has your experience been like in the small press world? What do you wish were different?
My experience with the small press scene has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m an eternal optimist at heart, and so I tend to look at situations from a slanted angle of high hopes. I fully realize that not everyone shares such sentiments. There is definitely an unhealthy amount of jealousy, bitterness, and ego-driven resentment in some people. But that type of drama bores me to tears and so I avoid it like the plague, remaining focused instead on new ways to become more uplifted. The main difference I would like to see in the future is for great writers to begin gaining more recognition with a wider audience.
08. What are your top three small press books in the poetry community?
OK, I changed my mind. This is actually the most difficult question. Too tough to answer so I’m going to jump ship on it. I’ll simply recommend reading anything by Alan Britt, Heath Brougher, or Matt Duggan.
09. Where can people find your work?
These are the best three links:
10. What advice would you give emerging authors looking to dive into publishing?
Love what you are doing. Develop a thick skin early on in the game. Never take an editor passing on your work personally. Unless it is, then seek revenge like a feral raccoon balanced on a live wire, ready to leap down and slice souls with swift precision. Also, be well versed in hyperbole and sarcasm.
Realize that what you’re writing is a creative expression being birthed from your own inner depths, and believe in that fact first and foremost. Meditate. Do yoga. Drink a lot of water and fresh juices. Eat living foods. Go for walks. Count sheep and stars. Turn off the televised news. Take trips to the mountains. Breathe fresh air, often. Jump in freezing cold water. Take hot showers. Buy a pet. Pet your pet. Fall in love. Realize that love is more important than your writing. Realize that your writing will get better when you are in love. Realize that all existence is a paradox. Kiss the person you love. Fall asleep peacefully. Dream deeply. Live a lucid life. It’s all going to be OK!