The Story of My Book: Gail Thomas

Published periodically, “The Story of My Book” posts bring our collections to life through a series of five questions we ask all of our poets that highlight what makes every book unique and why Perugia is the right home for each of them (and may be for you and your book too).

Gail Thomas on Finding the Bear (Perugia, 1997)

1. What was the genesis of your Perugia book?

My first book, published when I was 47, was a collection that I had been submitting and revising for at least ten years. I was working full-time and raising two children as a single parent. I felt discouraged because one-third of the poems were accepted and published by well-known journals, but the manuscript remained unpublished. 

2. How did you find out about Perugia Press?

I was very fortunate because my book was Perugia’s first, before the contest was initiated. Susan Kan, who became Perugia’s founder and director, was a member of my writing group. She championed my poems as well as my persistence and worked hard to bring my work to a wider audience.

3. Can you describe an experience that confirmed Perugia Press was a good fit for you?

It was affirming to have someone believe in my writing, as well as invite my collaboration on the book’s design. For example, my daughter, a budding photographer, provided the cover art.

4. How have you changed as a poet, writer, or creative person since your book came out?

I have published three more books, won several national prizes for my work, been awarded writing residencies and given many, many readings. I enjoy teaching poetry workshops through Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshops and working as a consultant to poets who are assembling their first books. Perugia was a wonderfully stable launching pad, door opener, and confidence boost.

5. Other than poetry, what moves and motivates you?

The beauty, fragility and sacredness of the natural world, always. I am inspired by working with immigrants and refugees through the Center for New Americans, bringing books to shut-ins as an outreach volunteer for my local library, and working with my dog Sunny in libraries and schools as a Reading Buddy through Bright Spot Therapy Dogs. I am motivated by the power of each of us to make our communities more equitable and inclusive, and to fight for the life of our planet. It moves me to be part of my grandchildren’s lives. Some favorite things: music, novels, gardening, camping with my sweetie and our dog, spending ordinary time with family and friends.