People become poets for many reasons, but stage fright is not usually at the top of the list. When Josh Gaines was an Air Force Captain he had terrible stage fright. Horrendous. "I would almost be sick and I had to give generals reports on weapons. So, I thought of the most embarrassing thing I could do. I had these 3 poems. I began reading them several times a week in front of open mike audiences, and, one day, I thought, I could do better. I can write better poetry." So, Josh became a poet and a regular at the open mike he started attending in Oklahoma, and, then, once he left the military he helped organize and run more readings in North Carolina and, then, Chicago, culminating in a graduate degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a partnership and daughter, and a press, ThoughtCrime, where he supports the work of other writers and is supporting his desire for a better country.
"I like to say I ditched a promising military career to write books, run a profitless press, and build blanket forts with my daughter. My biggest challenge in making work since having a kid has to do with alone time at the right time. I get up, make her lunch, make her breakfast, and my wife takes her to school on the way to work. Then it's my time to write, but even getting into that head space takes a couple of alone hours for me. Then I start to stress and by the time I get to writing, I only have an hour or two before I have to run by the post office to mail books out and then go pick up my daughter. I admit I kinda quit here and there, and then I'll get to a point where I become a far less happy human and a few hours of writing brings everything back in line."
Running a press and a household gives him joy, though, "My daughter inspires me. I have a character in a novel completely based on watching her learn our language. She's also braver than I ever was, and I look to that a lot, too.
My daughter jumps into every day with her whole self, pass or fail, she's in it. How can anyone not be inspired by that gumption?
Josh's daughter comes by that gumption pretty naturally. Last April, sick of the fact that Trump protests didn't seem to do enough, Josh put out a call for the anthology Not My President. "I had never done an anthology. We got hundreds of submissions and thousands of pages at ThoughtCrime! I read them all. What I thought would be done in 3 months took 9. I was interested in the person who wrote it as much as the writing itself. I wanted to amplify the voices of those who hadn't been heard." The project has taken on a life of its own and even got the ACLU involved when a library in San Diego tried to ban it. Josh has been busy these past few weeks sending a copy to every member of Congress and the President as well.
But even with all that work he's donating the profits to various charities. "I don't like to make money off of anybody's writing and I try to pay my writers, too." Buy your own copy of Not My President and, then, check out his latest Kickstarter video to support his Lorien Prize (named after his daughter) winners: Moon Woman by Fatima-Ayan Malika Hirsi and don't get your hopes up by Courtney Marie.