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Exploring Emotion: An Interview with Rowan McKiernan, author of Trauma

Rowan McKiernan

Rowan is a 25-year-old poet. She currently attends Adelphi University on Long Island, NY, where she is studying to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. She has been writing poetry since High School as a way to indirectly express her feelings. Poetry provided Rowan with a voice when she felt like she did not have one. She is inspired by everyday events and nature.

You can buy Trauma here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.


Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The title for my book Trauma wasn’t that hard to come up with. All the poems that I had compiled for this book were written to help me process or cope with a feeling or situation that made me feel unsafe. It was a way for me to say how I felt or call out a behavior or situation without directly responding to it. The title was easy to pick, finding the courage to actually follow through with using that title was difficult.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

It was an amazing and surreal feeling. I had been wanting to write my own book for a while but never actually thought it would happen. Holding my own book in my hands was like a breath of fresh air. I was finally able to say I did it.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

For my book, most of the poems are already a few years old. Only a few were written within a few months of my compiling the manuscript. I submitted the manuscript because we are currently experiencing a mental health crisis and I wanted people to have something that would help them feel without telling them how to feel. I was hoping people would use this book and its subsequent poems as a way to feel, just like I did. I wanted people to be able to understand the way that I felt when I was going through tough times while also being able to see that I made it through and that things do get better.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

Currently I work for the Office of Mental Health, but while the book was being published I was working as a crisis intervention specialist at a group home for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I am also a co-founder of a school organization. I was a co-chair at the time of putting the book together but now as a graduate student I am no longer able to be a part of e-board. The organization that I co-founded had a mission of facilitating activism through art. Since art is universal it can be expressed, interpreted, and understood by all.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

The most rewarding part of publishing my book was knowing that I followed through on something that I wanted and something that was important to me. Despite my fears, I did something important and while it may not matter to other people it matters to me.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

I would not tie any specific songs to my book. I feel like it is up to the reader to tie a soundtrack to a book, not the author.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I hope readers take away a feeling of peace and understanding. I hope this book helps people feel their tough emotions in a safe way. I hope that it gives them a better understanding of themselves.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

Currently I am working on a poem for an organization that I volunteer with to be used in their Annual Holiday Drive. I am also working on some more poems and preparing for the October poetry challenge on Instagram. I have never actually finished the month and it is a goal of mine this year to do a new poem every day of October using the prompts. Halloween is my favorite holiday.

How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?

Working with Atmosphere Press was an amazing experience. I had help every step of the way and every single person that I worked with was extremely knowledgeable in their field. Publishing my first book was a nerve-racking experience seeing as I have never published a book before and did not know the first thing about publishing, but Atmosphere Press calmed all my worries. They always had the next step planned and were there to answer any questions along the way. When publishing this book I was working full time plus overtime, going to school full time and maintaining a 4.0, running a school organization, and volunteering. I was able to do all that and publish a book because Atmosphere Press made the entire process a smooth and successful one.


You can buy Trauma here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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