1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
• I honestly don’t know why, but I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I have distinct memories of myself as a child, maybe five or six, writing stories and poems. I’d carry a notebook around with me everywhere.
• But what’s funny is that I was never much of a reader as a child! I had my favorites. I devoured Harry Potter and other books. But I don’t think that my drive to be a writer came from a love of reading.
• In college, I majored in English with a concentration in creative writing. As a part of my studies, I took workshops each semester, and that’s where I finally began to come into my own as a writer — developing my own voice and style instead of just mimicking other writers. I credit my professors at the time — Sharon Bryan, Darcie Dennigan, Penelope Pelizzon, Gina Barreca — with helping me find my voice.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
• To be quite honest, when I sit down to write poetry, it isn’t with a book or some greater collection in mind. All I’m doing is writing a poem. So I can’t really say that anything inspired me to write the book, because in my mind there never was a book — until there was.
• That being said, with a few exceptions, I wrote these poems during the pandemic. The early days of the pandemic were very lonely for me. I was single during the lockdown, and found myself longing for human connection at a time when it was impossible to have. Those feelings of love and longing and loss really permeate the poems that eventually made it into the collection. In that way, writing Dancehall was a way for me to make sense of the world.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
• More than anything, I want readers to connect with the poems and come away with a sense that love is universal.
• The poems in Dancehall follow the narrative arc of a single relationship from start to finish. I call the book a queer love story, because I myself am queer and I see the book as coming from that perspective. But I also made very conscious stylistic decisions so that the poems would appeal to everyone — gay or straight, single or partnered, male or female or non-binary.
• You may notice, for example, that except for in two instances the poems don’t make use of pronouns. Instead, the speaker (“I”) is talking directly to the subject (“You”). I did this so that it would be easier for the reader to put themselves in the poem — either as the speaker or the subject — and feel the immediacy of the work.
• If I, a queer man writing about queer relationships, can write a poem that allows a straight person to feel something about their own relationships, then I think I’ve succeeded in my mission. It’s kind of cliche at this point to say it, but love is love.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
• I think I was drawn to poetry because I myself read poems that triggered an intense emotional response in me, which made me realize that poetry could be powerful. Some of the most powerful poems I’ve ever read were short poems — under 10 words — and yet they had the power to conjure memories and emotions in what is really an awe-inspiring way. Once I experienced that, I knew that I wanted to learn how to do that myself. I wanted to make people feel something, and I personally haven’t found a better way of doing that than through poetry.
5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
• I have to admit, I’m terrible with social media. I use it mostly for personal reasons — staying in touch with friends, etc. But I’m starting to get a handle on it as a means of building my reader network! I’ve just begun sharing videos and pictures of my work on Instagram (timstobierski) and TikTok (tendre_croppes) and they’re definitely both powerful tools. I think TikTok has the most potential to get your work in front of millions of people quickly, but it’s also tricky to know what’s going to go viral or do well and what’s going to be a flop. I guess I’m still learning.
6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
• I think the most important bit of advice I have is to not let rejections get to you. If you submit a poem or a story or an entire book to a press and get a rejection, do your best not to take it personally. Brush yourself off, think critically about whether or not there’s a way you can make your submission stronger, and find a new press to submit to. Just because your work isn’t for someone doesn’t mean that it’s for no one.
• When I first pulled together the manuscript for Dancehall, it was very different from what the book now looks like. I was submitting it to contests and presses that wanted books of poetry consisting of 30 poems max, so that’s how I arranged the book. It wasn’t until I got my fourth or fifth rejection that I looked at the collection and thought, “Well, they keep turning me down when I send them what they say they want. I’m going to submit what I want.” I doubled the poems, reorganized the book, and gave the collection a narrative arc that didn’t exist before. And when I sent it out the next time? The book was accepted by not one, but two presses.
• The moral of it all: Rejections are a part of being a writer. So do your best to build up a thick skin.
7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
• The way I write poetry is slow. It takes time. I don’t set out to write a collection — they amass over time as I write a poem here or there and realize that a theme has emerged.
• Recently, I’ve been writing a lot about grief, tied specifically to my father’s death. I think that those poems will eventually form the body of a collection. Likewise, I’ve been writing more explicitly about my experiences coming to terms with my sexuality, and I think that will eventually form a collection
About the Author
Tim Stobierski writes about relationships. His work explores universal themes of love, lust, longing, and loss — presented through the lens of his own experiences as a queer man. His poetry has been published in a number of journals, including the Connecticut River Review, Midwest Quarterly, and Grey Sparrow. His first book of poetry, Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer, was published by River Otter Press in 2012.
To pay the bills, he is a freelance writer and content strategist focused on the world of finance, investing, fintech, insurance, and software. In his professional writing, he prides himself on his ability to help the reader understand complicated subjects easily, a quality that informs his poetry.
He is also the founder and editor of Student Debt Warriors, a free resource for college students, graduates, and parents who are struggling to make sense of the complex world of student loans.