Release Interview: LITTLE VICTORY by Elizabeth Kuelbs ’12

Tell us about your book. 

Little Victory is a poetry chapbook for adults inspired by the tenet of chaos theory that small changes in initial conditions can spark great consequences. The poems evoke intersections of the environment, politics, and mothering, and hope to offer energy to face big problems by celebrating little victories of connection and wonderment.

Where did the inspiration for writing this book come from? 

I live at the edge of a canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains where the threat of wildfire has become a daily worry, and I’m an animal lover and a mom. So the poems in Little Victory come from wanting to call out dangers of the denialism of the last administration, while sharing moments of hope we can create by tending to each other, and by paying attention to the amazingness of tardigrades, orcas, tangerines, and the whole natural world.

Tell us a little bit about your background before VCFA, and how you came to decide to enter our program. 

I loved creative writing as a kid but put it aside to study computer science and business, and then pursue a career in management consulting. When I had my own kids, reading with them rekindled that spark, which led me to take a terrific UCLA Extension class on writing for children from WCYA alum Gretchen Woelfle. I tucked her praise for the program in the back of my mind, kept writing, fell in love with books for young readers, and, happily, found my way to VCFA.

What year did you graduate from WCYA and what was your class name? 

I graduated in July 2012 as a proud member of the marvelous Secret Gardeners, who are out there making so many projects bloom!

Was there one lecture in particular that you can recall an a-ha moment that reinforced that you belonged in the program? 

Yes! For me it was Amanda Jenkins’s funny, irreverent, fascinating lecture “The Dragon: A Discussion.” She talked about how there are as many approaches to writing as there are writers, which made me feel especially welcome as someone who writes across genres. And her concept of  “The Dragon” as the creative impulse that compels you to start a story and power through revisions was so intriguing. She suggested that however “The Dragon” first comes to you—as an image, a line of dialogue, a character, whatever—that force already contains all the elements of your story and it’s your job as a writer to tune into them with mindful attention. It made me eager to try that mindfulness and excited to learn more.

Do you have any VCFA connections that affect your career right now? 

Oh, definitely! I have regular writing meetups with my wonderful VCFA roomie that make work fun. I’m in an inspiring picture book critique group with several VCFA alums. I get daily energy and industry insights from staying in touch with my classmates and the VCFA community online. And I treasure the lasting friendships I’ve made through VCFA connections.

What’s forthcoming for you and your writing life? 

For adults, I’m excited to have poetry forthcoming in journals and in another eco-oriented chapbook coming soon from dancing girl press. For young readers, I’m working on a YA historical fantasy and polishing up picture book manuscripts in preparation to query agents.

Tell us one thing that’s not on your official bio. 

I’ve started learning to play cello and am reveling in the joy of doing something just for fun, and newly appreciating my family’s high tolerance for noise!

What indie bookstore do you want WCYA to support in the purchase of your book? 

Being bite-sized gems, poetry chapbooks tend to be sold at readings or online rather than in bookstores. However the fabulous Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena will stock Little Victory, and it’s available online from Finishing Line Press.

We are heeding the Brown Bookshelf’s call to action and raising up BIPOC authors. In the vein of “if you like my book, you may also like this book,” what is the name of a book by a BIPOC author that you recommend or are interested in supporting?

Camille T. Dungy’s Trophic Cascade is an exquisite collection of poems that bear witness to environmental degradation, racial violence, motherhood, love, loss, and more, while offering unforgettable natural images and a commitment to hope.

LITTLE VICTORY by Elizabeth Kluebs is published by Finishing Line Press, October 1, 2021

Elizabeth Kuelbs writes poetry, fiction, and non-fiction for children and adults, often with an emphasis on bringing attention to the natural world and our place within it. Her work for young readers appears in Spiderthe caterpillarCricket, and elsewhere. Her work for adults can be found in Kissing Dynamite, Poets Reading the News, The Children’s Writers Guild, The Timberline Review, Minerva Rising, and other publications. Her poetry has won awards from the California State Poetry Society and the Ventura County Poetry Project, and her fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a Master of Science in Information Systems Analysis and Design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Elizabeth is the author of the poetry chapbooks Little Victory, available from Finishing Line Press, and How to Clean Your Eyes, forthcoming from dancing girl press.