Today we have the pleasure and privilege of sitting down for virtual coffee with poet and author of In the Library James W.A. Read our review here.
What was your purpose behind writing In The Library?
Originally, In the Library actually started out as my college thesis for undergrad before it was
published as a separate book. At the time, I was graduating from the honors program at the
University of South Florida St. Petersburg and a requirement was to write and defend a thesis
related to one’s respective field of study. I was a psychology major, but towards the end of my
degree I had decided not to pursue that career further, particularly because I wasn’t really
enjoying the research side of the field.
In talking with my director about this, he recommended that I write something creative instead of
science-related, and since I’ve always loved poetry, I asked if I could write a poetry book
instead. He agreed, with the stipulation that it had to showcase some psychological
phenomenon and provide some fresh insights to it. After I graduated, I tweaked what would
become the book a little further to make it a little more readable for the average person and add
some parts I thought were missing from the original version. A few months later, I decided to
self-publish and the rest is history.
As to why I chose the story and themes that I did, it fascinated me that even though every
person suffers, there are so many different ways of dealing with said pain. The variance is
almost endless, but I really wanted to showcase both healthy and unhealthy coping
mechanisms and dig into this concept a little more. Ironically, I was going through my own dark
time, so writing the book itself was a catharsis for me and a way to vent pain that I was going
through in a productive, creative way.
What’s your favorite thing about visiting your local library?
I have fond memories as a child going to the local library and seeing a bunch of cool new
people or things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. During the summer especially, ours often had a
wide range of speakers and events (I can remember a reptile expert and a magician in
particular) that I think at a young age helped instill in me an openness to experience by being
exposed to new and creative things. That’s definitely one thing I think is important: to have an
area where ideas are brought forth and shared.
As an adult, I think what makes libraries stand out is that they’re free to the public and offer so
much. I’ve heard it said once that libraries are the only indoor venue left you can hang out at
without any expectation of spending money and I think that’s huge. With all the busyness of life
and the Florida heat, having a quiet, cool place to relax in while also learning and growing is
3. What do you hope people gain from In The Library?
As I alluded a little bit to earlier, when I was writing In the Library I was going through a bit of a
dark time in my life and that shows in the dark themes of the book. That said, the point of it
wasn’t to simply make other people suffer or elicit a sad reaction. Rather, it was my hope that
people who read this book recognize their own pain, their own sorrow, and gain the resolve to
overcome it in the best way they need.
Some of my characters, like the Child, deal with things in a healthy way, and that’s great, I want
others to learn from that. Some characters, like the Degenerate and the Captive, don’t however
and I want readers that are doing the same to see that reflection and do better or avoid such
coping mechanisms if they’re tempted. There’s admittedly not a lot of hope in this book, but
sometimes life can feel hopeless too and at the very least I want readers that feel this way, who
feel that no matter how they try to deal with their pain it’s not enough, to not feel as alone and to
know that there’s always a better way forward.
- As a poet and a writer, where do you see your career going next?
It’s funny you ask because this is something I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. It’s been awhile
since In the Library came out and I’ve put my writing career on and off the back burner at
different times. I never stopped writing though and poetry is something that I truly love and want
Lately, I’ve been really trying to get back out there and share some poetry at open mics around
Tampa Bay, especially as my writing is much more in alignment with my current headspace and
beliefs now. I don’t know exactly what the future holds for me, and I’m by no means chasing
fame, but if I can share my stories, my dreams, my poems with as many people as I can, I think
I’ll call it a win.
Any new books currently in the works?
As a matter of fact there is! It’s hard to believe it’s been a little over 8 years since my first book
came out, but in that time I’ve been fairly consistently writing more stand-alone poems. I’ve
amassed enough now and have a solid enough of a theme that I want to publish them into a
true collection, rather than write another narrative like In the Library was. I don’t want to give
away too many details yet, but I hope to announce something relatively soon and have a
release by the end of the year.
Who are some of your favorite poets?
As far as contemporary poetry goes, Billy Collins has to be my top favorite. I love how he is
whimsical sometimes and then really drives it home other times. E.E. Cummings is another,
obviously less contemporary, favorite poet of mine and actually one of the main reasons I chose
the pen name that I did. Sometimes I get the urge to read some classical poetry, in which case I
usually go back to Petrarch, whom I’ve kind of had a love-hate relationship with over the years.
- Who inspired you to become a poet or was there a pivotal moment that made you become a
There was definitely one series of events that led me to become a poet and it happened in
middle school. One day after school, I was in the library (ironically, no connection to the book)
and the school librarian recommended a book of poetry to me to read. I don’t remember the title
of the book, nor why it was even suggested to me in the first place, but I was intrigued.
In class not too long after that, we read “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes and it moved me
deeply. From that day on, I fell in love with poetry and knew I wanted to write some of my own,
to impact others the same way that poem impacted me. Obviously I had a lot to learn, I still do,
but that was the avenue I chose to express my own emotions and ideals and I’ve never really
looked back since.
- Anything else you want to share with my readers about poetry or your writing career?
I think if I had to give some kind of advice or insight into writing poetry, for your readers that are
poets or aspiring poets themselves, I would say to not be afraid to write. No matter what stage
you are at, art, poetry, is always worth creating and has a place in the world. Don’t be afraid of
rejection, of course, but also don’t be afraid of yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach into the darkest
or the brightest parts of your heart to create something that’s real and something that’s
As far as my own writing journey goes, I hope you’ll join me on it by following my various social
media outlets, links to which can be found on my website at https://thejameswa.com/ . I’m going
to be making some big changes soon to this website and there are some great things in the
works for later this year, so I would love to have you all aboard for that.
Thank you Chelsea for this space to speak about In the Library and my writing career and I