MF 381 : Writing series: Megan Prikhodko ("Leap")
Updated: Jun 16, 2022
Megan Prikhodko returns to the podcast to talk about her collection of poetry: Leap. You'll also learn some important practical considerations before publishing your poetry. More at www.bemovingforward.com.
Megan is an extraordinary individual who I met in business school along with her husband. I had the pleasure of working with both of them, separately and together, in many group projects. Megan is a consummate professional: detail oriented, sharp, pragmatic and one of the best writers and editors I’ve ever worked with. There’s a line in the original 1978 Superman, in which Daily Planet Editor Perry White explains to reporter Lois Lane that he’s hired a new recruit named Clark Kent. One attribute he emphasizes is Clark's "snappy, punchy prose style." That would be an apt description of Megan's writing acumen. Business school is 80% group projects, including presentations and papers. Megan’s ability to communicate ideas on paper is one of her biggest strengths and has served her well in the corporate world.
Megan’s career spans across many different spaces. She is a former c-level executive, and has experience running corporate marketing and strategy departments. You can listen to our conversation about some of her past career highlights on MF 032.
Today, Megan focuses on operations in software development and business development. Recently, she became director of partnership innovation solutions at Wiley, a major publisher. She is also a wife and a mother of two. What I've learned just recently over the past few years is that there’s a whole other side to Megan. Poetry has been a significant part of her life; starting from her youth and into her college years. In late 2019, Megan published an anthology of poems called Leap. While it may surprise you to learn that this business world phenom loves poetry, as Megan notes, they‘re both innovative fields.
“I like innovation. I think of poetry as being a very innovative medium.” -Megan Prikhodko
Making the leap
Although Leap was released in November 2019, it was a project 15 years in the making. Through Leap, we get to peek inside Megan's world, starting from her teenage years right up to the period; just days before publication. It’s not often that we get to experience this kind of time-lapse window into an author's life.
The book is divided into three sections. As Megan explains, using a physics analogy, Leap is comprised of a starting force, a friction force leading into momentum, and a landing.
“I was trying to break apart and organize the poetry, not chronologically, but by how the moments and how the feeling of the poems are in time.” -Megan Prikhodko
I once read that novelist Stephen King has a trunk filled with writings that go as far back as his high school days. Legend has it that one of his novels was produced simply by dusting off one of his old stories, making some tweaks and sending it to his publisher. A running joke I have with Megan is that she has a "trunk" filled with poems. As she shares in our conversation, the image isn’t that far off. However, the “trunk” is spread out in different parts of her house, including journals from middle school, an old laptop from high school, multiple thumb drives and one or two virtual storehouses. Notably, Megan was an OG “open diary” user, in which a lot of her poetry resided online. During these early days of digital publishing, Megan developed a following through her poetry, long before the days of Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
“I had followers! People who I didn’t know who would write comments about my poems.” -Megan Prikhodko
Given that Megan’s "trunk" was spread out in pieces like a mythical Harry Potter artifact, she had to do a lot of scavenging and organizing to bring Leap to life. Moreover, she had different iterations of her poems, some with first drafts scratched out on paper with subsequent drafts typed out and saved online.
As noted, Megan’s process was part archive retrieval and part new creation. Thus, much of the heavy lifting had been done, albeit over a span of a decade and a half. Megan’s main job was to select the pieces representing different times in her life and that fit into one of the physics components mentioned above. The other big task was to finish pieces that were started but never completed. As a result, Leap contains works that are not tethered to one period in the author's life but started by one version of Megan and finished by another.
“I had the raw materials. It was just more about cleaning and organizing them than it was actually writing them.” -Megan Prikhodko
A lifelong love affair
Naturally, I was curious to learn more about this side to Megan. During our conversation, she reveals that she wrote her first poem in first grade. She wrote several poems, and one in particular impressed her teacher who told the principal. This led to Megan's first poetry reading at age six or seven over the intercom. It didn’t dawn on her that meant reading her poem to the entire class! Sometimes it’s better not knowing what you're getting into until after the fact.
“It was my first attempt at slam poetry.” -Megan Prikhodko
Poetry remained a steadfast part of Megan’s life, well into her junior high and high school years. During high school, Megan stretched her literary wings by joining a school literary magazine, taking on the role of poetry editor. As editor, she would oversee poetry submissions from students and workshop them for publication. This experience built up her confidence and further cemented her love for the medium. In college, Megan double majored in philosophy and English with a specialization in creative writing. This meant she could load up on a lot of poetry and creative writing courses. As Megan explains, this was a healthy balance of studying classic poems and writing new ones.
The leap to a book
Interestingly, Megan didn’t pursue a fulltime writing career afterward. She candidly shares that college didn’t really teach students how to leverage and apply creative writing to make a living out of it.
“No one really said this is how you get published, this is how you end up with a book deal.” -Megan Prikhodko
Megan had only a vague impression of how to transition from student to professional writer, which seemed to be a complicated process and largely out of reach. Moreover, the process is even more regimented with greater hurdles for poets. Megan explains that poets spend years submitting their work to many publications to build up a "writer's resume." The process is tedious and rejection is the norm. Moreover, poets are expected to build up a following, much like Megan did with her “open diary” days, and more so today with social media. Instead, Megan’s career path took her in a different direction which honed her writing and critical thinking skills in the business world.
When she decided to compile her work in 2019, she had a decision to make. She could trudge through the complex tapestry of the traditional route or self-publish. Being pragmatic and with limited time, Megan chose the latter.
Merging two worlds
Earlier, I mentioned how Megan saw the common ground between poetry and her work in the corporate world, both valuing innovation. Megan’s approach of adapting and updating legacy poems, collating them according to a physics theme, then self-publishing them was imaginative, bold, and innovative.
“My goal was not to become wealthy or famous or anything of the sort. It was really just to be able to do right by the writing and to put it out there in the world and see if it resonated with people.” -Megan Prikhodko
Megan now uses poetry as an expressive outlet for her current life; expressing her feelings, reflecting on any given situation, be it on a plane ride, a classroom, or boardroom. Poetry isn’t simply lofty and esoteric pieces about sitting under a tree. Megan has written poems about business meetings, and other everyday events that are common to all of us.
Moreover, Megan’s experience working in operations enabled her to come up with a unique process when it came to curating the poems for Leap. This meant categorizing and reviewing many different books, notebooks, hard drives, thumb drives, and scouring old online crevices. It also meant matching up different versions of poems that existed across different platforms. In essence, Megan was a human “track changes” on Word! Oddly, for someone so organized, Megan admits she was not that organized when it came to her poetry. Thus, Leap was another leap forward in "Marie Kondo-ing" her written work.
Inevitably, a lot of Megan's poetry didn’t make the cut. Part of her culling process included reflecting on the period in which she wrote them. She discovered that some pieces that she wrote in junior high, which were so visceral back then, didn’t have the same impact or context today. Similarly, other pieces from her college years were highly polished and peer reviewed; thus easily made it into the selection. As for more recent works, including ones she wrote right before publication, it was about being vulnerable enough to share those intimate thoughts and words publicly. Each and every poem had its own unique vetting process.
“When you write poetry, you’re exposing a bit of yourself and you’re exposing how you feel about things and so, putting that out into the world and having other people see it is a bit scary.” -Megan Prikhodko
Poetry isn’t written in a vacuum
In speaking with Megan, I learned that for such an intimate medium, poetry involves many people. As mentioned, Megan’s college works were peer reviewed in a classroom setting. Her earlier works from childhood were heard by many people as they aged. For her recent works, Megan sought feedback from people within her trusted circle, including a close friend with a similar world view, and her husband.
“I think poetry is something anyone can learn and ultimately, if you pick up a poetry book and you read a poem, and it makes you feel something, then that’s what you start with.” -Megan Prikhodko
Sharing it with the world
Megan reveals that it’s one thing to have your poems peer reviewed or read by a close friend or spouse but another to release them to the public. What ultimately convinced Megan to press "publish" was reminding herself that she needed and wanted to do this for herself. Moreover, she felt an obligation to “do right by the writing,” and not leave it hidden within the proverbial “trunk.”
“There’s a reason why the book is called Leap. A lot of the theme of the book is taking leaps of faith.” -Megan Prikhodko
Finally, Megan experienced an unexpected gift with Leap. Her two kids were extremely proud of her work, and word spread throughout their school. What Megan started writing in her youth was now being read and shared by a whole new generation. Megan’s work has since been written about in a newspaper, but more than the article itself, she is proud that the article is displayed in her kids’ daycare.
Writing tips (for poetry)
“Start a system of saving all of your poems and keep them organized.” Additionally, develop a circle of people you trust to read and give you honest feedback about your work. When it comes to publishing poetry know the ins and outs, and try different things. With respect to new poetry, Megan is submitting them to publications, trying out the traditional path. It’s hard and takes a lot of patience. Moreover, Megan shares an important consideration: poems you decide to submit to traditional publications can’t be published online elsewhere; meaning a book, collection or even on an Instagram post. Knowing this will help you choose the right path for your work.
“Keep every poem you’ve ever written. Even if you think it’s terrible now, just keep it because you might return to it years later and realize 'Wow, I was really on to something or you know what, this is really half of a poem and I know what the other half is.' Don’t throw any of that stuff away because it’s golden!” -Megan Prihodko
Megan got her book into Locally Crafted, a boutique showcasing products and artwork from local artists. Getting a self-published book into a store can be a huge challenge. Megan recommends that authors get to know their neighborhoods, especially boutique stores that are interested in local artists and creators. Megan took a chance, applying to a store that was focused on arts and crafts, thinking they would not be interested in a book. However, to her surprise, the owners wanted to carry her book because she is both an artist and creator in her own right. This opened the door for Megan to expand her Leap brand with bookmarks. You never know what may happen unless you put yourself out there.
Connect with Megan:
Watch the video of our conversation on Facebook
Listen to our prior conversation on Megan's past career highlights and leveraging an English degree in the corporate world
Check out the Moving Forward mini-series collection
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