The Creator of Quarter Life Poetry Talks Inspiration, Book Deals and Building a Following

By Maryann Yin Comment

Samantha Jayne (GalleyCat)Happy National Poetry Month! We recently spoke with the creator behind the Quarter Life Poetry project, Samantha Jayne.

Through her instagram and tumblr pages, Jayne (pictured, via) explores issues and struggles that people in their 20s tend to face. Her new collection contains more than 130 illustrated poems.

Q: How did the idea for quarter life poetry first come to you?
A: I started Quarter Life Poetry as a way to deal with the daily frustrations of being in my 20s. There are so many moments of second-guessing, confusion, and weirdness at this age that I find the best way to not get too consumed by it is to make light of it. I used to think I was the only one feeling this way, but I’ve realized through posting the poems on Instagram that so many of my peers feel the same way. It’s been amazing seeing people tag their friends, have conversations about how they’re really feeling, and share a laugh about it.

Q: How did you land your book deal?
A: I had a literary agent through a book that I had written and illustrated earlier last year– it was a rhyming narrative in the style of a children’s book, all about a girl going through the quarter-life struggle. I got in the mindset of rhyming, and I had all these extra ideas for little one-off poems. So I started up the Instagram and Tumblr as something fun to just share with my friends– I never thought of it as anything more. But I was so surprised how quickly it gained a following, and that people were sharing the poetry. It became clear to me that this would make for a really fun humor book–something that’s able to touch on a ton of topics instead of a singular story. I had so many poems floating around in my brain about all sorts of 20-something issues. So we pitched this idea to publishers instead, and I was thrilled that Grand Central was interested. They’ve been nothing but amazing throughout the whole process.

Q: In your opinion, what are the steps one should take to building an internet following/platform?
A: I think you need to be extremely specific with what you’re offering. Know your audience and understand them. I want my audience to be fellow 20-somethings because that’s who my message is for. Keep it simple and don’t try to cater to everyone.

I also think consistency is key– whether it be in the message or the look of what you’re offering. It would definitely confuse people if my illustrations were in a completely different style each time. Offering something consistent that your audience can recognize and get behind is really important.

Finally, if you create enough content for a specific demographic and in your own style, it’s time to start getting out there and sharing your work. Do some research about blogs or magazines who have that same demographic and tone. For me, after I posted about 10 poems and was gaining followers, I reached out to BuzzFeed to see if my poems were something their audience might be interested in. I reached out because I knew that I always saw humorous, millennial-based content shared on BuzzFeed– it just felt like a great fit. And the next morning, my poems were on their front page.

So in summary: specificity, consistency, and targeted outreach. Wow. I guess I did learn something working in advertising.

Q: Can you describe your process for writing? For illustrating?
A: For Quarter Life Poetry, it always starts with a little truth. I’ll have the thought, ‘Wow, this Facebook friend is my age, has two babies, and owns a boutique–what’s wrong with me?’ And then I’ll realize that I don’t know her life and she probably doesn’t have all the answers either. Then I’ll think about the concept of comparing myself to my peers on social media. Then I’ll try to find the humor in it and make it rhyme.

Once I’m happy with them poem, I’ll think of a simple illustration that would best suit the poem. I have a tablet and a digital pen that I use to draw everything directly onto my laptop. And when it’s finished, it’ll look like this.

Q: What advice can you share for aspiring poets?
A: I would say, for any passion project you have, just go for it. I’m guilty of being a perfectionist and therefore a procrastinator. I used to put off projects because it ‘just wasn’t the right time yet’ to pursue them. I quickly realized that if I didn’t just make some time here and there, it would never get done. There’s never a ‘perfect time’ to create, so just go for it. You’ll be so happy you did.

Q: What’s next for you?
A: I’ve had an idea for a television series for a while. It’s a very dark comedy in the same look and tone as the promo campaign. So I’ve been enjoying writing a pilot for that. I think it could be a blast and I’m excited to see what happens.