Adroit Profile: Peter LaBerge
Hi readers and writers—we’ll be posting a Q&A with Adroit staff members every few weeks to give you a sneak peek into what goes on behind-the-scenes and what we’re really like (no we’re not story-eating robots, we swear!). First up is Founder/Editor-in-Chief Peter LaBerge, of Connecticut.
Peter LaBerge, Editor-in-Chief
Height? Tall enough to be on Cloud Nine. (6’ 2”)
Most-recently read novel? “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein. Amazing book.
What do you think must be the most overdone story you see at Adroit, subject matter wise (i.e. old guys in bars, the like)? As far as poetry goes, I’ve seen the dream/love/death poems about a thousand times (literally), and I’ve seen stories about medical death a lot as well.
What are you excited about seeing that you haven’t seen? Something that I’m very excited about seeing is hopefully a few new, less traditional forms of writing! We have just opened up a third category for adults and young writers, entitled “Other.” This includes almost everything—dramatic scripts, creative non-fiction, lists, experimental pieces, etc. As I said, almost everything. I can’t wait to evaluate these pieces—although I can’t complain about poetry and fiction. I really do enjoy reading any good piece of writing, so I’m excited to see the next batch of those submissions for the Winter 2012-2013 issue!
What do you, personally, look for in a submission? Do you find yourself making the same comment over and over? I’m a proud sucker for imagery, but I do look for plot as well. Imagery cannot be constricting to a story—that is to say that imagery can’t be the plot. Imagery can be decoration—great decoration, at that—but it cannot drive a story forward in terms of events and actions the way plot can. I find that this is one of my most frequent critiques as I’m reading through submissions. A lot of times, writers—especially young ones, but hey, it is what it is—think that poetry is a smattering of pretty images and that’s it. But actually, I find that poetry is a lot more like a story than upon first glance—it contains narration, plot, and sometimes even dialogue. A good poet knows how to balance the three aspects and form a beautiful construction of language.
I don’t mean to neglect the fiction side of things; I’m just more of a poet. In terms of fiction, we look for realistic events and dialogue, command of language through the narration and the prose itself and, possibly most importantly, originality. I can’t tell you how many pieces we’ve read that are well-written, but just not striking because we’ve seen the story or the exact same style elsewhere many times before. As more and more people are able to share their works on the Internet and receive a wide distribution, there is much more effort to innovate new styles and ways of storytelling through poetry and prose. That’s what I’m finding, at least.
When did you know that you wanted to dedicate at least part of your life to the written word? Hmm, good question. I never really had a deciding moment where I said, “I’m going to write and publish for the rest of my life, and it’s what I want to do.” It was much more subtle than that—it sort of crept up on me as the journal, and my own personal writing, began to take off and receive actual acclaim.
In fact, I didn’t even start writing until two years ago, and even at my beginning, I wasn’t sure if it was what I wanted to do. The first time I got published was the Summer of 2010, and it was in one of those buy-the-book-publish-most poetry scams. I was so excited to be sharing my work with others in that format, so I started writing more and sending more pieces out for publication. Six months later, I had received a Gold Key from the 2011 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and I had become the runner-up for the 2011 Elizabeth Bishop Prize in Verse, sponsored by the Walnut Hill School for the Arts. At that point, I was starting to get the wheels turning on my writing ‘career,’ and I was growing confidence in the writing scene.
At this point, Adroit was also heavily in the works. I did not have a staff though, so it was just me, and it was really challenging. In fact, there was a point in time last summer that I wanted to give it up, but instead I acquired a staff of writing friends and acquaintances, and since then I have had the time of my life evaluating and editing work with people from literally all over the world that share the same interests. It’s been such a gift to know my staff members and work with them, and the experiences I have acquired definitely have been, and will continue to be, a driving motivation for breaking into the study of writing and business (publication) in college and beyond.
What’s your favorite poem? Poet? Short story? Author? Hmm. Well, when it comes to writing, my favorites change like days of the week. But at the moment my favorite writers are probably Mary Oliver, C.D. Wright, Amy Hempel, and Chloe Honum. My favorite poem is probably “Alone With Mother” or “Spring,” both of which are by Chloe Honum. I really admire her handle of imagery. My favorite short story, off the top of my head, is either “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried,” by Amy Hempel, or “Capers,” by Edith Pearlman. I also have to sneak in the fact that I have a massive crush on Toni Morrison’s writing—“Beloved” is intense, but it remains one of my favorite novels.
What was your favorite book as a child? I loved reading fantasy when I was a child. A lot. I loved the Harry Potter series (though I never got around the reading the seventh book!), and I also loved Rick Riordan’s “The Lightning Thief,” and Bruce Coville’s “The Monsters of Morley Manor.”
When you’re not writing, what else do you like to do? When I’m not writing, I’m likely publishing either Adroit or my high school’s literary magazine, of which I am the Editor. And when I’m not publishing, I’m likely doing homework. But when I’m not doing any of those things, I’m likely singing in my a cappella group, of which I am the Vice President, or participating in various theater productions at my school.
What’s it like being in charge of a staff of over 40? It is really quite interesting. At times, it is great fun, but oftentimes it is very overwhelming. I find myself feeling like a sheepdog trying to herd all the staff members in the right direction and making sure that everybody is staying afloat. Especially with nominating for Best New Poets and the Pushcart Prize, there is a lot of effort for staff members to get their voices heard, and so that can get a bit confusing.
What would you like to see happen for Adroit in the future? I would love for Adroit to keep blossoming and keep growing in all the wonderful ways it has been. Specifically, I’d love for Adroit to be represented among the winners of the upcoming Best New Poets and Pushcart Prize competitions, but, hey, we all can dream.
Hey guys, this is my “boss” haha/also one of my favorite friends and I love him to death! :)