Secure Your Own Mask

Time flies. Nine years ago I invited Shaindel Beers here to talk about her first poetry collection, ‘A Brief History of Time‘ – those of you who’ve been around me for the best part of that decade will know how much I loved the book and how HA has been a favourite poem of mine ever since I first heard it.

And Shaindel’s back. Nine years and two more books later (her latest is Secure Your Own Mask). And I’m delighted to her have her here to talk to us all about what’s changed for her in writing over this past ten years. So, Shaindel, what has changed…?



I think the biggest difference between being a writer with one book out (when you first interviewed me) and three books out (now) is having a different level of confidence. It’s not that I necessarily feel that I’m a better writer (though I certainly hope so!). It’s more that I don’t feel so desperate to get work published anymore. I’ve learned that if a poem is really good, someone will publish it. If a manuscript is worthy, it will turn into a book eventually. It’s an incredibly privileged position to be in, so I’m really hoping your readers aren’t swearing right now or chucking their laptops out a window.

As a young writer, it’s easy to feel that nothing will ever happen. That no one will ever read your writing. That you’ll never have one of your books out in the world. The important thing is to keep writing. Keep trying. Keep sending work out. In a lot of ways, it’s a numbers game. If you throw spaghetti noodles at a wall, some of them are bound to stick. With that being said, be open to improvement. You’re still learning. If an entire workshop group doesn’t understand your poem, or thinks a plot is unbelievable, it probably needs work. The willingness to change is what leads you to grow, what leads to better writing. So, back to that metaphor. The spaghetti noodles need to be boiled first. Make sure they’re boiled. Follow the directions on the box. See what other writers before you have done.

Once you’ve reached a position as an editor or an author with some sort of “prestige,” you have to give back. Read the first-time authors who submit work to you. Look over a poem a young writer emails and give them encouragement and a word of advice. I think that that is the biggest change. Ten years ago, I was a young writer who needed help, and now I’m happy to be of service to new writers. It’s like that adage around social media, “Be the adult you needed when you were a child.” Be the writer you needed when you were a new writer.



Shaindel Beers is author of the poetry collections A Brief History of Time (Salt Publishing, 2009), The Children’s War and Other Poems (Salt, 2013), and Secure Your Own Mask (White Pine Press, 2018). Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is currently an instructor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, in eastern Oregon’s high desert, and serves as poetry editor of Contrary. Learn more at

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