Friday, July 12, 2019

Tobi Alfier - Susan Tepper, A Good Literary Citizen

Time is on Your Side – Yes it is!!!

Let’s not talk about work, or listmaking, deadlines, doctor’s appointments, or insomnia.  Let’s talk about being a good literary citizen. I’d like to introduce you to someone who exemplifies this in a wonderful way.

Meet Susan Tepper, here with her dog Otis. Susan is a poet and fiction writer. She currently has a new book of fiction out, entitled “What Drives Men”. The Amazon description is “Susan Tepper's new novel is a picaresque romp. A Gulf War vet battling PTSD is tricked into chauffeuring millionaire country music legend Billy Bud Wilcox from Newark to Colorado. Everything goes wrong. Tepper expertly skewers a vast collection of characters on a wildly entertaining road trip from hell.”

Robert Olen Butler, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, said What Drives Men is classic Tepper: lean, smart, ironic, rich in subtext, and darkly resonant.”  How totally cool to have your writing style be “classic” you. And to have something described as that, in a good way!

As we ALL have to do, Susan is marketing the heck out of her book. The first week she put different pictures of “thank you cookies” on Facebook. Now she’s starting to post thank you’s for reviews that are going up on Amazon. If you have a new book up, and you’re not sure what you should do, watch Susan’s page. It’s a master class.

In addition to marketing her new book, Susan’s daily life includes workmen all over her house, and running back and forth into the city to pick up Otis. This would be enough to have anyone yell “Uncle”.

There’s more!

A few weeks ago (March 24th) I wrote about The Gibson Poems by Simon Perchik. This is a book of 216 poems published by Cholla Needles. Si writes every day in cafes and restaurants in New York. Susan is great friends with Si, and when there’s something about him he should see, she makes sure to pass it on to him.  Si is 95 years old. He doesn’t have social media because he’s busy writing!! I know he appreciates that Susan keeps him in the loop. That’s time she’s taking away from her own book, and she does it with a smile.

There’s more!

April 19th I wrote about Sanity Among the Wildflowers the first chapbook I made in 2005. Back in those days, I would buy 100 copies from a local press and when they were gone, they were gone. Rich from Cholla Needles graciously reprinted it, which gave me a chance to edit all twenty poems, get an ISBN, and theoretically market it, although compared to Susan, I shouldn’t even say I marketed it at all. Rich put it in the Joshua Tree independent bookstores and I am thankful for that. Someday I’ll tell you an editing story about this book. For now, let me just say that if someone offers to edit a book for you, make sure they know what they should be looking for (I ended up writing “damn it, it’s a hard lesson” by hand, on a hundred copies of the book)!

Sanity Among the Wildflowers

My lover’s teeth are gray from lies.
Spitting the poison out has darkened
them around the edges.
Her smile reminds me to be wary.
I remember a doctor smiling
as he holds a shot behind his back—
that is how it feels today.

Our neighbors destroyed
a row of cypress trees
between our properties.  I
am helpless in the blinding 
sunlight and cannot ignore she is
untruthful. Her thoughts are a mosaic
I cannot parse, and so it goes.

I am an uncomplicated man,
I am not a hero.
I spread a blanket in the field,
ease into her journals.
There is no epiphany—I know
I will never make her happy.
Only temporarily, as an orphan waits
anxiously along the edge
of a darkened train station
for rescue, she waits with me.

She squeezes an orange,
her hand shakes. How long
will this farce be played out?
It is very quiet in our house, civil
to the casual eye, never joyful.
Her teeth are gray from lies.

So many lies.

Susan not only bought the chapbook, she took the time to read it, and put a review on my Facebook page, a Facebook review group she’s in, and on Amazon. She wrote almost 300 words! She wrote “There are certain poets who can pull their guts out onto the page.” No one has ever said that about my writing. She wrote “This book is a prime example of the beauty that exists in the everyday pains and pleasures we humans endure.” I’m just little old Tobi, who’s still as insecure as she was at the eighth grade dance! I never thought I’ve been a prime example of anything! I walked a little taller that day, for sure.

There’s more!

Mine is not the only book Susan has reviewed. She reviewed four books in June alone, including mine. And they are full-on reviews, no “half-assed I don’t have time reviews” at all.

Susan and I are on different coasts and I am embarrassed to say I never think about the time difference. Every time I emailed her, especially when I was writing about Simon Perchik, she was nothing but kind. I can imagine what it’s like to have your house crawling with workmen, yet she always had time for me. And remember, this was while marketing her own book, which should have been the most important thing.

She has reminded me that even if you’re not asked, if you take the time to read a book, take the time to put a review on Amazon. That will mean a lot.

I am very thankful for Susan Tepper, her bright smile and her kind ways, and I really wanted you to meet her too. I think we all go through periods of insecurity with our writing. She made me feel proud of mine, and for that I will always be grateful.

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.


  1. Tobi, this is so very nice!!! It made my day brighter, that's for sure. I showed Otis his photo and I think he wagged his tail, but it could be that he contemplated eating again at his fave café (shown here) where they make him bacon and eggs in a tin foil plate!

  2. I'd take bacon and eggs over my blog too :-)

  3. Did you know that Tepper was Marilyn Magaram's maiden name. Wouldn't it be weird if they were somehow related?


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