Tupelo Press Authors Offer Tips on Crafting a Manuscript

Jennifer Militello

Jennifer Militello, Author of The Pact

“As you build, treat each section like a book all its own—with a hook at the start and an arc along the whole. Within that frame, press the reset button each time the energy lags, via a shift in tone or variety of form.”


Iliana Rocha
photo: Vernon Ng

Iliana Rocha, Author of The Many Deaths of Inocencio Rodriguez

“When crafting a book-length manuscript, I consider it a process of chasing my obsessions. In this case, The Many Deaths of Inocencio Rodriguez chronicles my family’s recurring preoccupation with the shooting death of my grandfather in 1971. Since there is no definitive version of why he died, various iterations of his death emerged over the decades since his passing. All these narratives were the consequence of such an obsession, an obsession that ended up keeping him very much alive. The urgency of this collection, its sustaining force, is the capability of such a fixation—and while its origin is in the personal, its thematic relevance has wider sociopolitical implications. Once I had grounded the collection with the titular poems that function like a backbone, I could then identify other places to which my grandfather’s story was either directly or indirectly tethered.”


Brandon Rushton, Author of The Air in the Air Behind It

“Symmetry and balance are the two most important elements of focus, for me, when crafting a book-length manuscript. Are the book’s sections symmetrical – is the table of contents symmetrical? Are the sections shaped in a way that complement, contradict, and construct each other? I try to remember that content has to take a shape and the shape it takes determines the entire reading experience of the work.”   


Xiao Yue Shan, Author of Then Telling Be the Antidote

“When I was finalising the pages of Then Telling Be the Antidote, I just happened to have moved into a new apartment. The space was bare, the walls open and unlined like the pages of the future, the floorboards buffed smoke-grey. For weeks the living room stood empty save the printed carbons of my poems, tiled one by one across in perfect rows. What I want to say is that it was, after all, a paper-method. The physical evidence of poems in a spatial reality, where the narrative, the kinetic, the painterly nature of poetry learned from the cartographic arts. Then it was only a matter of wayfinding—which, luckily enough, is simply being lost until you are no longer.”


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