Professor Eric Gansworth’s new book, “Apple: Skin to the Core,” was chosen for the National Book Award Longlist for Young People’s Literature. It’s the twelfth book that he has written over 22 years of writing.
For nearly ten years he wrote this book, and it appeared very different, but had the same foundational ideas. “I had opportunities for publishing it at that time,” he said. “But they never felt like the right fit.”
He began redeveloping the book in the summer of 2018, and established what is now the final copy. He discussed with his editor and publisher after the June 2018 issue of POETRY was published, and that was the first time they saw his work in the form of poetry. This led to them discussing the idea for his new book.
“A work with that long a development process often has many different entry points and eventually, they merge,” he said.
A lot of the poems he writes he claims are autobiographical, or based on personal experiences. He was also working on other individual pieces at the time. He began working on paintings to honor the Beatles and the end of their time as a group.
“They had incorporated their own label, calling it Apple Records, and I was partly interested as ‘Apple’ has negative connotations in indigenous communities, concerning identity,” he said. “I wanted to merge those ideas and the deeper you get in a project, the more you discover the meaningful connections about the component pieces.”
The work stemmed back to his grandparents’ experiences in which they were forced into off-reservation government boarding schools when they were young, though he did not intend for the work to stem back that far. “But that’s the exciting thing about creating new work,” he said. “You never really know what you’re going to discover in the process.”
He claims that coming up with the title was a compromise. He had a different title during the early stages of writing the book, and claimed that at the time, the book was meant for adults and would not have appealed as much to younger readers. It was a challenge for him to come up with a new title in a short amount of time. “Probably, it doesn’t roll off the tongue, but it has multiple thematic sentiments, which is always a goal for me as a writer,” he said.
Gansworth was shocked to find out that he was chosen for this award. He explained that all writers hope their work gets recognized.
“As the creative writing faculty also teach literature courses in the English department, you are keenly aware of the awards in looking for work to teach, but you never really dream of your work appearing on those lists. I should say that I don’t,” he said. “It was a delightful surprise to me to have the National Book Foundation recognize my work in any capacity.”