#PoetryWeek – poet Heather Grace Stewart

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My Path to Print On Demand Poetry

By Heather Grace Stewart

I’m a poet. Okay, I trained as a journalist and have worked as an associate editor for four national magazines. I’ve heard all the jokes and stereotypes about poets, so I didn’t have the courage to call myself one until I was 33. I was a new mother who had seen enough late nights, early mornings and yellow baby poop that it didn’t matter anymore if everyone laughed at me when I told them how I was going to try to make a living.

I don’t make a living writing and publishing poetry books, but it makes me a life. It’s a large part of what brings me joy every day. As a work at home mother, I make some pretty good ‘college fund money’ (for my daughter) and ‘shoe money’ (for me) reading poetry and speaking about being a poet, selling printed and recorded poems to international text book companies, and writing a freelance column for my alma mater magazine, the Queen’s Alumni Review.

None of that would have happened if I hadn’t chosen to self-publish my first poetry collection as a Print on Demand (POD) book with Lulu.com in 2008. I chose Lulu and POD because it was inexpensive and environmentally friendly. I’d been sending out my manuscript to Canadian publishers for many years with no luck. I wanted to touch more people with my words, and do something worthwhile with any money my poetry could make.

Where the Butterflies Go has since sold in paperback in at least 10 countries that I know of, and because I decided to give half the proceeds to UNICEF, it has given four children educations and helped pay their teacher’s salary for a year. These are kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend school. My company, Graceful Publications, has also been able to donate pencils to an entire school four times since 2010. When I realized my poetry could make that kind of lasting change in the world, I kept going.

POD has opened doors to even greater opportunities. WTBG and Leap, my second collection of poems and colour photographs, were selected by Lulu (at no cost to me) to become some of the first Canadian poetry ebooks in the iBookstore. In the summer of 2011 and again in the fall, they ended up hitting #1 and #2 in Bestselling Canadian Poetry in iBooks. I shopped my third poetry manuscript around, and a small but impressive traditional publisher (who use POD to cut costs and be environmental) in California signed me on. Carry On Dancing was #1 in Bestselling Canadian poetry on Amazon.ca and the #1 or #2 Hot New Release in Canadian Literatuare on Amazon.com for most of April 2012, the month that I turned 40. Quite the birthday present!

Now I’ve published my fourth collection, Three Spaces.  I’m thrilled to say it’s my best-selling Kindle book to date. It’s also up there on the Kobo Poetry Bestsellers list, but not as good as my ‘first baby,’ Where the Butterflies Go, which had a high of #8 in Poetry Anthologies.

What means far more to me than sales or rankings is people I’ve met, and hopefully touched, along the way. For instance, I’ve had complete strangers write me and tell me they are saving all four books to pass down to their children.  Emails like that keep me from sleeping in. They motivate me to get up at 6:30 every morning and pour my heart out onto the page.

Would I change anything if I could go back in time? Do something differently? Sure. When, at a party, someone asked me what I did, I’d have introduced myself as a poet a whole lot sooner. Because I’m a poet.

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When I Finally Make Starlight

When I finally make starlight,
with wired words they will write
my legacy, and get it wrong.
Look for me out in the night.

My legacy is that first song
I sang for you at misty dawn.
You were only two days old;
now sing it to your little fawn.

And the stories that I’ve told,
they will warm you in the cold,
and calm the baby in his room,
and his baby when he’s old.

When I reach the yellow moon,
do not say I’ve gone too soon.
Sing, and I will shine in tune.
Sing. I will be in the room.

 from Carry On Dancing (Winter Goose Publishing, 2012)
by Heather Grace Stewart

fancy lineAbout the Author:

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Heather Grace Stewart is a Canadian magazine writer, author and poet. Her first poem was published in her school newsletter when she was five, and she’s been hooked on writing ever since.

Born in Ottawa, she lives with her husband and daughter near Montreal.

In her free time, she loves to take photos, scrapbook, cartoon, inline skate, dance like nobody’s watching, and eat Swedish Berries — usually not at the same time.

Find more about Heather at:

3 responses to “#PoetryWeek – poet Heather Grace Stewart

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