An Interview with Poet Trista Mateer

Photo by Caitlyn Siehl courtesy of Trisha Mateer’s website.

Lauren Ablondi Olivo, Interviews Editor

Spilled ink. It’s a term that’s been popularized within the last few years, especially on social media sites such as Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram. Writers, especially poets, have taken to the internet to “spill” their work with the world, rather than going through more mainstream channels of publishing. For many, this has worked in their favor, and there is no one more exemplary of this than Trista Mateer, whose eponymous Tumblr skyrocketed her writing career. I recently had the chance to ask Trista a few questions for the Long River website; we talked about her start as a writer, diverse voices in the industry, her newest collaborative work, and what she has planned for the future.  

Hi Trista, thanks for speaking with me!

You first got your start by posting your work on your Tumblr. How do you think social media platforms give unheard voices their chance to shine in a literary world that is just beginning to expand, allowing diverse voices to come through?

Getting into publishing is hard, period. It’s even more difficult if you don’t have connections. It’s even more difficult if you fall under the “diverse” umbrella. I can’t speak too much on that because I’m queer but when I’m not struggling to get a book of blatantly bisexual poetry picked up, I pretty much present as a young, white woman in the industry and that’s definitely not the hardest position to be in. I have it easier than a lot of people and it was still difficult for me to get published. The doors that have opened for me have opened because of social media. Social media platforms help level out the playing field. No matter who you are or what your connections are, you have a shot at convincing people that you’re saying something worth listening to. It’s like building an interactive portfolio that immediately shows agents and publishers how well you can market yourself and how much people are paying attention to your work. These platforms give you access to millions of users at the touch of a button. They make poetry and literature and art accessible and adaptable. In my opinion, platforms like Instagram are crucial for helping to raise up diverse voices who have been overlooked by the industry. Nikita Gill, for instance, was rejected by publishers hundreds of time. She started a Tumblr blog and then an Instagram account and now she’s amassed over five hundred thousand followers and is signed with one of the big five publishers. Social media helps and I think it’s almost necessary right now but it’s not necessarily an easier route to take to publishing. It’s just a different one.

“No matter who you are or what your connections are, you have a shot at convincing people that you’re saying something worth listening to.”

Our magazine is geared towards up and coming writers in university or those who have not yet been published. What is your advice for those who are just embarking on their writing career, and do you have any words of wisdom or tricks of the trade?

You have to read and you have to read more than just the stuff you like. Get out there and see what’s working for other people in the field you want to write in, and why.

Beta readers/editors/critique partners will save your life.

Always read your contracts thoroughly and be completely aware of what you’re signing.

Depending on what you’re writing, you don’t always need an agent to get a book deal but it’s still good to find one. You need somebody on your team who goes to bat for you.

Even when you’re studying the popularity of other authors in your field and you’re adapting to be marketable, even when you’re treating writing like a business instead of a hobby, you still need to find a way to be writing for yourself first and foremost. If you’re not interested in what you’re writing, no one else will be either.

It’s okay to take breaks even while people around you seem like they’re constantly busy accomplishing things. Creative burnout is way worse than noticing when you need to take a break and allowing yourself that time.

Not everything you write has to be for public consumption. It’s okay to just write something because you like it, to experience that joy without finding a way to capitalize on it.

Not everything you write has to be a masterpiece. Writers you love write tons of things that suck. They just don’t see the light of day. And everyone’s first draft is complete trash. You can’t really fairly compare your unfinished work to someone’s polished, published pieces.

Creative blocks are normal and you have to find ways to work through them or around them or over them or under them.

You don’t have to be creating constantly to be a real writer or a good writer.

Writing can be an incredibly lonely career because the majority of the work is done alone. Community is very important to helping stave off that loneliness and isolation. Find yours.

Self-publishing is a totally valid way to get your work in front of people and to show publishers you can market yourself.

Everyone looks back on old things they’ve written and feels like their older work isn’t good enough or could have been better or needs to be changed. If you keep changing the old work, you’ll never write new stuff. Once it’s published, it’s done and you just have to let it go and move onto whatever’s next.

If you’re writing full time and working from home, it can be super helpful to set up specific working hours so that your life still has some semblance of separation between public and personal or between work and home. You don’t need to be answering work emails at midnight.

What is your favorite, and least favorite, part of the writing process?

Honestly I know it’s most people’s least favorite part but I love the editing process. It helps me turn all my weird ramblings into actual writing. I hate pitching though if that counts as part of the writing process. I always have such a good idea of what my work is supposed to be and supposed to look like but once I have to sell it to someone else, it’s like all the words fall out of my brain.

Your most recent work, Drangonhearts,  is a collaboration with two other strong poetic voices of our generation, Nikita Gill and Amanda Lovelace. What was the inspiration behind the concept of fairy tales and myths as the driving force of this narrative, considering the subject matter of feminism, sexuality, and self love?

Fairy tales and myths are kind of where all of us got our start as readers and these topics already tend to deal with issues that feminism seeks to work on or draw an eye to. There are a lot of tropes present in these kinds of stories that are being rewritten these days and we wanted to try our hands at that. There’s something so nostalgic about being able to dive into something you grew up reading and to change it, to make it newer or better for someone else.

What is your favorite poem or piece in Dragonhearts?

My favorite of my own pieces is either “She of the Woods” or “Don’t Let The Old Tales Fool You” (which was co-written with Nikita). Unfortunately picking a favorite from everything in the book would be too hard for me because so many of the poems are so personal to us and our relationships with each other.

Something I like to ask all the writers I interview: what are you reading at the moment?

The Wicked King by Holly Black (YA fantasy) and I Gave Birth To All The Ghosts Here by Lyd Havens (poetry).

And finally, what can we expect from you in the next few years?

More poetry. A novel or two. Maybe a graphic novel. Some short stories. Lots of art. I have my hands full and every day I’m adding more things to the list. The next immediate solo release is my mixed media poetry project, Aphrodite Made Me Do It, which hits shelves October 1.

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