Monday, November 30, 2009
being completely inconsequential or unknown - it's certainly easy to slip through the cracks as a small publisher - and money - paying out of pocket - not being a nonprofit - makes it difficult - for these reasons it's always important to think imaginatively about how to produce work and get them out there - we have a distrubutor and people generally buy things - so we just need to keep getting things out - but I have to figure out how to spend as little as possible making a good looking book - object - so it's a matter of figuring out how or where I can print out a bunch of stuff for as cheaply as possible
Sunday, November 29, 2009
1) How did you arrive at your current position? What other presses have you worked for? Under what capacity? Did you publish your own work through said presses? What other projects are you working on?
Like every writer, I have about 11 projects on the go, the most pressing of which is finishing my dissertation at the University of Iowa. However, I do try to split my time between 5_trope, my own writing and various other online projects through webdelsol that I often find myself involved in. I've done web work for a variety of online journals, and have read submissions for a few others. I've been involved in 5_trope since about 1998, and have also worked with Flyway, Sketch, Filling Station and a handful of others. My involvement dates back to 1995 or so, which really makes me wish this was a more remunerative field!
2) What is the staff structure at your press/magazine? How do the six of you from the mast as it is communicate, collaborate, and pull it all together?
3) What challenges do you face as a publisher? How closely do you keep your deadlines? What kinds of costs do you have (time and money)? How is it different publishing electronically, as opposed to in print?
4) Do you have any cover letter advice? (Generally vs. Specific to your site?)
5) What do you look for in a submission? How vetted are your writers? (Do you find that you get/publish submissions from all ranges of experience, age, education?)
6) You say that you've got a new trope in the works... what does that entail? How are submissions processed at your press/magazine? How do you work to create an aesthetic for each issue? (There seem to be some visual/structural similarities amongst the published pieces; does someone format the submitted work to fit the style of 5_trope?)
We have a template that we use. In essence, the poetry and prose are assembled separately, and then I bring them together and see what kind of thematics unite the pieces with each other.
7) Do you have a favorite unsolicited submission discovery or anecdote? Favorite work in general?
7-2) For aspiring reader-of-good-stuff: Who should I read (big books)? Presses that aren't already 5_trope musts? Critics I should read? What's the most recent delight you've encountered and why was her.his work so powerful to you?
My memory isn't good enough to answer that question very well; usually, my favourite stories are of editorial collaboration with writers.
I would look at DIAGRAM, a fantastic journal edited by my friend Ander Monson. It's consistently excellent. Also, Mad Hatter's Review and Tarpaulin Sky. A few years ago we published a piece from Jane Unrue's book that came out in 08 (I think)--and her work is exactly what 5_trope loves. Experimental, formally interesting, yet also visceral, energetic and really, really good.
8) What advice do you have for first-time submitters?
8-2) Since you've got enough to read as it is, where can you advise me to go submit that would be open to hearing from a green writer, such as myself?
9) What are your long-term plans for your magazine/press?
We're going to add a contest and a print anthology. Very exciting stuff.
10) What's your evaluation of the current literary landscape? How do you foresee publishing changing in the near future, given the explosion of electronic publishing?
The world of Web 2.0, social networking and so on has spawned an even greater fragmentation of the industry, which means that every niche, no matter how small, gets served in some way. This is as true in politics, news, entertainment, comedy and the rest of that many-headed monster we call culture as it is in literature. For us, that means we can continue toiling in our tiny patch of landscape until someone tells us to stop, which hasn't happened yet.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
This question almost implies that publishing on paper is outmoded - that we should move to ebooks and online journals etc. and pretty much trends in general point to the same implication - but we publish paperback books and somewhat precious chapbooks alongside certainly precious Fold Magazine - for me publishing on paper is an important choice - there is simultaneously a solid, physical, lasting quality to books chapbooks etc that is lacking in the online world - and paradoxically a much more ephemeral quality - as online journals or ebooks or whatever are virtually "in print" forever - For example, we've pretty much sold out of our first chapbook - Harold Abramowitz Three Column Table - we've very much sold out of Fold Magazine (print runs were 300 for the chap and probably 400 for Fold) and Ara Shirinyan's Handsome Fish Offices (the paperback print run 300) is getting low on supply as well (though I know we sent many more of these to bookstores, spd, etc and probably gave more away) - and these are pretty much out of print hard to get limited editions - you can't find the text online - ... though now I realize in saying this that we've had a pdf of Fold Magazine available for about a year on our website - we'll eventually take that down though - and it will be again - impossible to get your hands onSo the permanence of objecthood/ephemeral quality of print is very alluring - and the object status itself as far as design etc and literary objectness is a factor in itself - though I stare at my computer too many hours a day and read all kinds of things online - I like chapbooks and fancy magazines and real books - even to an almost fetishistic level - I collect chapbooks and small press publications - not like crazy crazy, but I do -
If you were to have a Mission Statement, what would it be?
We're deliberately vague on the website - for better or worse - but I think the statement - Insert Press publishes Chapbooks and Perfectbound books of innovative literature in Los Angeles, CA. is accurate - we also mention on the submission page that we publish 30-60 page manuscripts - and I'd say we're certainly dedicated to publishing chapbooks that are a longer single work than your average chapbook press would publish - and our one paperback so far wasn't much longer than 60pages either - but it wouldn't have worked as well in chapbook form - otherwise I'd say we're fairly committed to publishing los angeles writers - through other projects like Fold magazine etc we include people from outside los angeles, but when we started Insert Press it didn't seem like there was much around for los angeles writers that we were interested in - and so we've kept pretty close to home - which isn't difficult - for a further sense of our mission one could look at our editorial statement from FOLD and our calls for work for FOLD-
What makes you a Small Press Publication?
I would say we're closer to a micro press - if that's a word you've seen around - I certainly have heard the phrase before - I would say we're "micro" because our print runs are very small - though I have seen places that print even smaller runs - but also because we don't have a regular publishing schedule - we don't do 3 books a year for certain - over the past year we haven't published anything - though that will be changing very soon - as there are two perfectbound books coming out and a number of shorter chapbooks - also distribution - we only -
What is your budget for publishing Insert Press materials?
everything is out of pocket-
What sorts of financial support do you receive?
we recieve no financial support except through sales - which unfortunately do not come close to covering costs
How did you arrive at your current position?
Let's see - as I said in your class I was working with another publisher - helping out in some kind of assistant editor capacity and we had a falling out - so I wanted to start my own press - I started the press with a friend - Stan Apps - in 05/06 roughly - we fairly quickly decided on some projects and worked through them - our last publication was a perfectbound book (aka paperback) that we put out last summer. We've been very inactive for well over a year as Stan and I have had difficulties pulling projects together - he moved away and is less interested in doing the basic work of publishing and feels he lacks the financial resources to continue
What is the staff structure at your press/magazine?
Me. though recently I've begun to work with a brilliant printmaker and generally brilliant artist on the production of books etc.
What challenges do you face as a publisher?
being completely inconsequential or unknown - it's certainly easy to slip through the cracks as a small publisher - and money - paying out of pocket - not being a nonprofit - makes it difficult - for these reasons it's always important to think imaginatively about how to produce work and get them out there - we have a distrubutor and people generally buy things - so we just need to keep getting things out - but I have to figure out how to spend as little as possible making a good looking book - object - so it's a matter of figuring out how or where I can print out a bunch of stuff for free - often this means ferreting around institutions etc colleges whatever and putting equipment to work surreptitiously
Do you have any cover letter advice?
the best advice for a cover letter is knowing what you're getting into - who you're sending to - and keeping concise - you say - here's this work I've read from your press - here's why and how I think my work resonates with what I perceive going on in the things your press publishes - then simply mention where parts or excerpts of what you're submitting may have been published before - and possibly allude to where you see the work being placed - or what kind of categories it would fit in to for potential audience
What do you look for in a submission?
something that works with the aesthetic of the press - however vaguely defined that may be - and someone whose work I would like to promote - mostly I look for people in Los Angeles because I feel more people need to be exposed to work from this area
How are submissions processed at your press/magazine?
we have an email address posted on the site - and only accept electronic submissions - asking for a cover letter and short excerpt - 10 pages of the work - I can get the idea from that
more soon - travelling and need to get on a plane - good luck - and let me know if I'm too late - thanksM
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
When I was in high school and college, I became interested in zine culture. I loved that it was messy and cheap. I read a lot of zines and worked on a few with friends. The first time I worked on a publication devoted to poetry was in 1995. I’d become friends with a fellow poet, and our shared energy and enthusiasm for all things related to poetry inspired us to begin a flyer campaign in the name of poetry. We posted lines of poetry all over campus, and we also created cryptic messages promoting poetry (Things like “While you were out, poetry called. Call it back!” and “Poetry Emergency!”). We had a lot of fun, and I learned that there is something very special and empowering about collaborating with friends to make something. It wasn’t until 10 years later, in 2005, that I felt moved to begin another publishing venture. At that point I had become very excited by the work many writers were doing online. A number of poets who I admire had begun online magazine and little presses, and I was inspired by their work and felt compelled to participate. After briefly attending the bookfair at AWP (it was in Austin that year), I decided that I wanted to work on an online magazine that featured the work of writers who self-identify as women. So I started Womb Poetry (wombpoetry.com) in 2006 and the first issue went live in January 2007. A few months later I began working on Hex Presse, the 3-d companion to Womb, and published the first Hex Presse chapbook in November 2007.
2. Did you get much of your own writing published before publishing other writers' works? What kind of writing did/do you do?
I’m primarily a poet, though I also work with prose and multi-media. I published several poems in zines when I was in high school and college, but my first publication in a literary journal wasn’t until 2004. When I first started working on WOMB, I was submitting and publishing my own work more regularly.
3. What are some of the difficulties and problems you encounter while publishing? Do you think it is more difficult to be a publisher of a small press rather than a publisher of a larger press?
I have two jobs, so the primary difficulty is scheduling enough time to complete projects. And of course funding is an issue, since I lose money on each publication. I’d love to have more resources to devote to WOMB and Hex Presse. As it is, I usually have to wait for a gap in my regular schedule to have time for the journal and press. I suppose larger presses have funding and staff, but I’ve never worked within a large publishing model, so I don’t really know if that makes things easier. I do feel very committed to all of the work I’ve published, and that makes the work – despite its difficulties—incredibly fulfilling.
4. Is there anything specific that you look for when deciding to publish a writer's piece? Do you look for unique structure/form or do you mainly look for something that is aesthetically pleasing and moves you?
I’m attracted to liveliness, experiments in syntax and form, writing that engages visual and spatial elements, and politically motivated writing. I’ve also noticed that there tends to be a sort of generosity in the work I admire and publish.
5. Do you have other publishers help you read submissions and make decisions whether or not to publish something?
I haven’t done this, but it is something that I would be interested in doing if Womb or Hex ever has an extended open reading period. It would certainly allow me to consider more submissions.
6. I understand that many writers feel it is important to belong to a larger community of writers. Do you feel like there is a sort of separate community for publishers, or do you feel connected to a larger community of the literary world in general?
It is true that many of my poet-friends are also involved in publishing activities, but I do not think of it as a community that is separate in any way. Most of the publishers I know are interested in building communities and that spirit has certainly allowed me to feel connected to other writers, artists, and readers.
7. I love how you create different ways for readers to participate and engage in poetry. What kinds of spool poems have you published? Are there specific topics or themes that the writers tend to use?
So far, I’ve only published one of my own poems as a spool poem, “Gloss.” The spools are incredibly labor intensive because of the pyrography on the wooden spool itself and the hand lettering on the ribbon. If I make a mistake, I have to start all over! That said, I asked the poet Kristy Bowen for a poem to put on a spool, and I do plan on making that once I have the time and materials. Kristy’s poem definitely lends itself to “unwinding.” I am obsessed with exploring different ways to experience or engage the act of “reading.” I probably have a pretty radical definition of reading. It doesn’t have to involve words or meaning: it’s more of a “making sense” – experiencing letters, words, glyphs, objects, colors. I find it such a tremendous source of pleasure.
8. Your poetry jewelry is absolutely beautiful. Do you make the jewelry yourself? How did you come up with the idea for poetry jewelry? What are your inspirations?
Thanks! I do make the jewelry myself. The first piece of jewelry that I wanted to make was a “locketbook.” I used to love charm necklaces and charm bracelets when I was kid, and I was often grateful to have the little charms to play with and look at when I was bored. I also enjoy the tactile feel of beads and the tiny tinkly chimes made by glass on metal. Even though I do make some of my poetry jewelry available through the Hex Presse shop, it is hard for me to think of the pieces as anything other than gifts.
I am inspired by the poetry I love; almost all of the jewelry is inspired by the work of various women writers. I usually condense or excise language from a larger text to create the poetry jewelry (and puzzles and cleromancy games). Sometimes I use a process to select the words (divination by rolling a die or something similar; I also tend to do a lot of things with the number 6, aka “hex”), and other times I select the words that feel most “charming.” I’m also interested in how the process of condensing a text creates multiple texts, and how words and letters can form a sort of syntax with beads and hoops and charms.
9. I've never heard of poetry puzzles before. Can you explain what can be done with them and what you think people can or should learn from the puzzles?
I call them puzzles, but there is not one singular “solution.” I definitely like to play, and so I hope the puzzles inspire a sense of playfulness for the people who engage with them. Each puzzle is inspired by a specific poem by a women writer. I select six words from the poem, and spell out each of those words with colorful letter beads. Then I gather additional, tiny materials -- matches, beads, feathers, candy, aspirin, thread, bells, plastic babies – that seem as though they could be part of the world of the poem (the plastic baby went into a puzzle inspired by Sylvia Plath’s “Fever 103°”). I also try to include materials that will inspire each of the senses. I collect all the letters for the six words and all the other little materials in a glass jar. The contents of the jar can be removed and sorted, touched, arranged, constructed, deconstructed – it is really up to the reader/participant how she would like to engage the materials. There is the idea that one can “solve” the puzzle by spelling out the six words, but I also imagine that people create new words and anagrams.
My main hope is that people are delighted and inspired by the puzzles. I do think engaging with the puzzle can offer new insight into the poem, but the puzzle itself isn’t meant to be overly didactic.
I think the primary inspiration for the poetry puzzles come from the “letter boxes” that I encountered when I was working at a Montessori school. The “letter boxes” were part of the language arts curriculum for very young children (2-3 years, usually). Each clear, plastic box related to a letter/ phonetic sound and contained a variety of miniature objects that began with that sound. For example, the “B” box could contain a tiny bat, a bone, a button, a bird, a ball, and a boat. The children loved exploring these boxes and saying the names of the objects as they spread them out on a table of a rug. As the children progressed, they sometimes worked with multiple boxes, and sorted a gathering of objects into their various boxes. There seemed to be something meditative and almost ritualistic about this activity, and it is something I’ve thought about often over the past years.
10. Who are your favorite poets from the past? What about more recent, less recognized poets?
Emily Dickinson is probably the poet I return to most frequently. I also return to Sylvia Plath, Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, Langston Hughes, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wallace Stevens, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorine Niedecker, George Herbert, and H.D. As far as contemporary writers go, I’m a fan of Harryette Mullen, Eileen Myles, Wanda Coleman, Fanny Howe, Rae Armentrout, Bernadette Mayer, and Alice Notley. Some of the newer writers I’m interested in include Anne Boyer, Jessica Smith, K. Lorraine Graham, Laura Goldstein, Susana Gardner, Juliet Cook, Amanda Ackerman, Harold Abramowitz, Julia Drescher, CJ Martin, Helen White, Alixandra Bamford, and Michalle Gould. I’m sure I’ve left many writers off of the list.
11. How did you come up with the name "Hex" for you press? How does the word relate to the works that you publish and the jewelry and puzzles you create?
I love the letter “x” and I love the word “hex.” I must admit that I sometimes have a fetishistic attitude toward certain letters, letter combinations, words, and sounds. I think of it as a mild form of synesthesia. I’ve also done some writing experiments that are based on spells or inspired by various forms of divination. I also like hexagons and hex signs. I like the multiple meanings of “hex.”
12. Is there anything else you would like to share about your passions, Hex, the publishing world, etc.? Any advice for how a young person can get into publishing?
I’m so excited by young, enthusiastic, optimistic writers and artists who just *do* the thing they want to do. I encourage anybody who has the inclination to publish, make books, and share texts to find a way to do it. You don’t have to wait for anybody’s permission.
Monday, November 23, 2009
1. What is the staff structure at your press [rafkapress.com]?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain our apostolate and the motivation behind it. Rafka Press is owned by me and my wife. It is a very small, privately owned publishing company that exists to publish good Catholic literature for both children and adults. We began in 2006.
Our teenage sons also help with the operations – mostly computer work (web site updates and they also help with some data entry and typesetting). All our print and binding work is outsourced. We do all the editing, typesetting, cover design, shipping, and packaging in-house.
2. What do you look for in a submission?
Three things: Catholicism, readability, and salability.
Catholicism: The manuscript must be a Catholic work; if literature, the Catholic Faith must be at least covertly permeated throughout the work. There must be absolutely no doctrinal deficiencies in the work.
Readability: I’m not worried so much about grammar. By “readable” I mean the story has to flow. All the conflicts must be resolved after the climax (in the falling action and conclusion). What is the point of the story? There should be some moral to it. And – this is the part many would-be Catholic authors miss – the setting must be there. Many manuscripts are plot-heavy but don’t pull the reader in with the five senses. What did the restaurant smell like? Was it a cloudy day or clear? Did the characters wipe sweat from their brows or shiver from the cold? Build up suspense if it’s a mystery book.
The characters should also be consistent. A melancholic character should be consistently melancholic.
Salability: The manuscript may be fantastic, but if no one will buy it, the publisher can’t invest in it. There must be a Catholic market for the work. Authors need to do a little of this research on their own and include their findings in their query letters. (“Parents will buy my book because …” or “There is already a growing number of self-help books, and my manuscript fills a void …”) The work also must be timeless: We do not plan on pulling books off our site after only 18 months! We publish titles that will be fresh 20 years from now. (We won’t publish something on the current President, nor anything on the stock market or the current state of the Church.)
3. How are submissions processed at your press/magazine?
First, authors should send a query and a sample chapter via the “contact” links on our www.rafkapress.com web site.
Next, if it appears compelling (based on the three criteria above) I will ask for the entire manuscript. We then reject it or notify the author of our interest.
The next step is to interview the author to see if we are a good match for each other. The author has to realize we simply do not have the same broad distribution channels as the major Catholic publishers that have been around for decades.
If the author appears to be a good match for Rafka Press, we will mail a contract.
4. What advice do you have for first-time submitters?
The best advice is to not submit your manuscript yet. Go over it one more time:
Fiction: Add more setting and proofread it for grammar.
Self-help: Add a few more anecdotes and proofread it for grammar.
A documentary or spiritual book: Add more quotes from the Saints and proofread it for grammar.
Next: Have your spouse proofread it. (The other gender’s viewpoint will give your book better balance.)
Then: Have another person, possibly a priest, review it for you and give his or her opinion along with some editing notes.
Next: Ask around and see if others are interested in your work. Find out if there is a market for your book. Submit a few articles to Catholic periodicals to get your name established.
Finally: Make online backups! (Email the manuscript to yourself so it’s on your ISP’s server as a backup.) Then, submit a query letter and a sample chapter. Keep submitting articles and other writings to get your name established.
5. What are your long-term plans for your magazine/press?
Our long-term plans are happy, positive growth. Rafka Press exists to develop more Catholic literature for Catholics today. Many Catholic publishers are so strapped for cash, they only publish reprints of deceased authors. This is a very safe business model, as what sold well in the 1950s should sell today to the orthodox, devout Catholic market. But the long-term business plan for Rafka Press is to publish living authors who write orthodox, outstanding works that help Catholics on their journeys to Heaven.
We will gradually add more titles to our family of books, so that a few years from now the current (timeless) titles will still sell, in addition to the new works. We do not have any plans for alternative format books but that may change if newer media formats become universally accepted in conservative Catholic households.
6. What made you change your writing to focus on children’s fiction?
We began with children’s fiction because there is a recognized but unmet need for it. Catholic children unfortunately read a lot of trash (wizardry for boys, sassy attitudes for girls, grotesque cartoon characters, and so forth) because so much of it is available from worldly publishers. Catholic fiction for children helps to fill the void – literature that is both entertaining and wholesome. We will expand to adult fiction as funds become available for more publishing projects.
7. What do you feel are some differences between the business of writing fiction and the business of publishing fiction?
Writing fiction = creative, fun, put all the work into the plot and setting, and then promote like crazy.
Publishing fiction = communicate with authors, communicate with printers, do a lot of paperwork for the government, make sure you have the right ISBN numbers, figure out how to discount shipping but still make money, communicate with distributors, communicate with reviewers, be very creative and put a lot of energy into promoting and selling.
8. Do you ever find it difficult to make decisions as both a writer and a publisher?
Not really. For me this is the fun part – it’s the business of running a company. The challenging part was in the first year of operation, as my publishing company began with my own book. I had to convince book reviewers that my book was not self-published. Once we published our second title by another author, this problem went away.
9. How do you determine what works of literature are “faithful” to traditional teachings? How does the press define “tradition”?
Tradition is half of divine revelation. (Scripture is the other half.) Protestants may not accept that divina revelatio is not merely sola scriptura, but sola scriptura is a 16th century novelty imagined by a scrupulous monk as a reaction against vast corruption in the Church. Tradition is handed down to us through the teachings of the early Church fathers, popes, and ecumenical councils – codified in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, and later in the Baltimore Catechism. To be faithful to Tradition (with a capital “T”) means the work does not put forth any doctrinal errors that would go against any teachings from, for example, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the Baltimore Catechism series, the Syllabus of Errors (of Bd. Pius IX), or any papal encyclical. An example could be something directly heretical, such as “Why did Jesus talk to the woman that way? He did not yet realize he was God” or something doctrinally defective by its ambiguity, such as “we are a Eucharistic people.”
Tradition with a lower case “t” is simply the customs people develop over the years, such as red felt in collection baskets, doughnuts after Mass, the use of bulletins and other literature in the back of church, plastic instead of ceramic statuary, and so on. These may be changed freely without harming the orthopraxis of the local Catholic community.
Tradition (capital “T”) is further benchmarked by the Tridentine Latin liturgy because of its precision and inherent reverence. Our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, recognizes this while at the same time keeping the liturgy of Pope Paul VI normative.
10. What is most rewarding for you: children’s fiction, advice/mentoring books, development of the press?
All of the above! I do enjoy mentoring authors. I also thoroughly enjoy growing our Rafka Press apostolate. But I am a writer first and foremost; that is my Catholic cri de coeur.
11. How do you plan on expanding the press’s offering of children’s fiction?
By saving and obtaining funds to do print runs on future works. The publishing business model is that a lot of money must be spent up front; then, funds are gradually replaced as the books sell in both retail and wholesale channels. We already receive unsolicited manuscripts so all we need is time and money. But everyone in the world needs those two commodities!
12. Do you have any advice to writers who craft works with a very specific audience in mind?
Learn more about your niche audience. What compels them to buy books? What do they look for in a book? They have hard-won money but not much of it; how can you get them to spend some of it on your book?
The short answer is the beginning of the book must be compelling and give the reader something right away. Authors may want to save the first chapter for last. Write the middle of the book first and then concentrate on the beginning once you already have the rest of the book finished. This makes the beginning more accurate and also gets more of the book written, without getting hung up on the beginning. If writing children’s fiction, write in medias res (begin the first chapter “in the middle of affairs”: start the action right away).
Also, once your book is published, get it reviewed by recognized book reviewers: your local diocesan newspaper, popular blogs, other periodicals, and so on.
Put the book where your niche market will see it. Bookstores are not always very good places to sell a book. If an author’s book is intended for a specific audience, it may simply get lost among all the other titles in a bookstore. If animals are the main characters in a children’s story, get a pet food store to carry the book; also ask Catholic schools to sell it. If the book is a devotional on family life, sell it at book tables after Mass; get fast-food restaurants and small shops near Catholic churches and schools to carry the book. Get a dry cleaner or cigar shop to carry your book on men’s spirituality.
The final word: many authors do not realize that they are the best promoters of their book. No one will have as much enthusiasm as the author himself in promoting and selling the book. The publisher makes the book a reality and does a great deal of promoting, but the author has his own circle of family, friends, and regional markets (local Catholic bookstores, gift shops, and so on) in which the book should sell very well.
Rafka Press has a limited focus and scope of publishing. We receive many manuscripts that are well written, but are not necessarily a good fit for the company. Therefore my wife and I launched another publishing company, which is a hybrid of self-publishing and traditional publishing: Leonine Publishers. Our web site is www.leoninepublishers.com and is an excellent option for Catholic authors who wish to fund their own publishing effort, but also stay with a Catholic publisher.
Thank you again for discussing Catholic publishing with me.
At first, I wasn’t sure that Sidebrow was something I wanted to read and write a reflective paper on. I thought that it was one of those internet sites where weird random poets would go to submit their works. The reason why I say this is because there is a lot of crap in the internet. Crap that is boring, that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Crap that only inside groups, private members, and college students can digest. Stuff that I would never go online to read. Then again, the challenge of “what is considered crap” kicks in and what is sense-making challenges me to attempt the reading of the unusual. After a couple of poems from the Ghost project I thought a little bit more open minded and wanted to learn to appreciate the rest of the site. However, I decided to focus on the intriguing project of Ghost. I thought it was pretty awesome. This whole idea of seeking to “investigate the otherworldly, the disembodied, the envoiced got me thinking of something else.
When I was in grade school, all the way through high school, my source of what is considered history has always been linear and state-ordered. As I read some of these history books something in the back of my head made me think of why certain aspects of history weren’t present in history. For example, when I read about Christopher Columbus, I thought of WHY would a whole nation of people CHOOSE to nicely give up their land to a crew of Spanish settlers that believed in God? How is it that America was able to win WWII and the Cold War? Who built the bombs? Who was cleaning the nuclear reactors after the bomb was finished? Where are all the women that were involved in the Chicano Movement? Who were the unheard people that were erased from history in order to create a “stable and safe” nation?
When I think of a ghost or the otherworldly, or the disembodied, I think of those people in history that were part of something, but when the time came to “record” what happened disappeared or ceased to exist. The ghosts that people carry with them from past to present, that haunt their present existence. That haunting feeling that affects our lives, the way we see each other and how we interact with others and how they make a living breathing reality. The ones who were disembodied by a time or event that cannot be seen but can be felt through time….
I don’t know. I’m thinking of ghosts as a social theory to explain the things, people and ideas that fell through the cracks of time.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The goal was to fill a gap in our culture -- for most of the last 100 years, both religious believers and secularists have agreed that great art could no longer be created by people grappling with religious faith. Many believers dismiss "modern art" as somehow incapable of conveying a spiritual vision. And many secularists think that faith is an escape from reality and thus cannot generate great art. We wanted to prove both sides wrong. After 20 years and over 60 issues, we think we've done that.
2) Can you talk a little bit about the history of your journal and some of the growing pains it went through to get to where it is today? What were some of the biggest challenges your journal faced or still faces today?
Well, the obvious answer is that money has always been the biggest challenge. But in a way we also struggled for credibility -- when we started IMAGE the editors had no money, no reputation, no institutional backing. We had only a single issue of a quality journal to show off, and we used that to try to convince people that it was needed. The biggest challenge we face today is the difficulty of convincing people that reading a literary journal is worth the effort. In an era of short attention spans a publication that contains long stories and essays, and challenging poems, is not an easy sell. And yet the rewards for this kind of deep reading are tremendous.
3) As you are a teacher, publisher, and editor, is it difficult to find time to write yourself? How do you make time to write?
All I have time to write these days are short pieces: four editorial statements for IMAGE each year, a few book reviews and blog posts. That's because my work for IMAGE and the Seattle Pacific University MFA in Creative Writing take up so much of my time. I hope one day soon to be able to hire more workers to help shoulder some of the workload. On that happy day, I will be able to begin writing books again.
4) What type of genre do you normally write? Do you have any works in progress?
I write nonfiction of many types: literary criticism, cultural reflections, biography, etc. I have begun research for a book I hope to write: a group biography of several Renaissance Christian Humanists, including Erasmus, Thomas More, and Hans Holbein the Younger. Also, a book of my essays will be published in about a year and I am editing a volume of selected poems by the twentieth century American poet Dunstan Thompson.
5) In ways does the novel you're currently working on "The Company of Good Letters: How Erasmus and His Circle of Renaissance Christian Humanists Shaped the Modern World" fit in to the vision statement of your journal? Or are you planning on going in a different direction?
It's not going to be a novel (work of fiction); it will be a nonfiction book -- narrative history. And yes, it is completely in line with the vision of IMAGE because I see in Erasmus and Co. a vision that is almost identical to that of IMAGE. These Christian humanists thought that literature and the imagination were extremely important as a way of bringing a balanced vision to a highly politicized era.
6) Who were some of the other writers who were important to the early part of your career?
The poet T.S. Eliot. Fiction writers like Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Georges Bernarnos, Francois Mauriac, and Shusaku Endo.
7) Finally, do you have any advice to anyone who would be interested in submitting their work to your journal?
Be patient with us -- we are a small staff with a huge workload. It can take us a while to read your submission. Don't be discouraged if you work is not accepted. Keep submitting to IMAGE and other journals. Above all, keep writing!
Friday, November 20, 2009
Kate Bernheimer is the author of The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold and The Complete Tales of Merry Gold. She is also the founder and editor of the Fairy Tale Review.
The latest issue of Fairy Tale Review, The Aquamarine Issue and previous issues can be found on Amazon.
1) Why do you gravitate towards fairy tales? Why do you think readers gravitate towards fairy tales?
I gravitate toward fairy tales in much the same way that I gravitate toward air. Sensibly, but senselessly, I find them because I need them, never knowing quite why. It is a mystery to me. That is the first part of why. The second part of why is that fairy tales---and here I mean the older versions collected in translated collections---come in a form of book that I love. The reproduction and replication of versions fascinate me; the range of style from awkward to elegant, from sparse to floral, never cease to amaze. I love the most common techniques in fairy tales too: abstraction, everyday magic, depthlessness, intuitive logic. Of course thematically I am drawn to the motif of the underling, the weak, the humble among humans, rising, along with he hedgehogs and mice. Everything small shining. Each piece of dirt speaking. This is not fanciful; it simply is. I love the flatness of fairy tales---to me reading a fairy tale constitutes bliss. In my research, I've found that many readers are drawn to fairy tales because reading fairy tales provoke in them some feeling of consolation and bliss. Senselessly, they make sense. Some adult readers are embarrassed to admit they love fairy tales, or perhaps they've forgotten what fairy tales are---but I noticed that changing around 1995, and believe it is changing still, and readers are now finally acknowledging the beautiful impact that wonder stories have had on their lives as readers and authors.
2) What constitutes a fairy tale in your opinion? Must it always have fantastical elements?
I've gone out on a limb recently, and will continue to do so: I believe that all pieces of writing owe something to fairy tales. From there, one can identify, by careful and intuitive inspection, elements of fairy tales that give stories (or art works in any media) more or less of a fairy-tale feel. Those works that have a fairy-tale feel, an essence, a charge: those are fairy tales. There are more than you'd think; fairy tales sometimes come in very subtle, transparent forms seemingly absent of what you might mean by 'fantastical elements.' I would argue that The Great Gatsby is as much a fairy tale as Coraline. Sometimes the fantastical resides in the syntax. Sometimes it resides in a closet.
3) Can you describe the initial stages of the Fairy Tale Review? How many people were involved? Was it your first literary publication? (whatever you feel necessary to share).
When I founded Fairy Tale Review in 2004, there was precisely one person involved! I had the idea to begin a journal devoted entirely to fairy tales as a literary art form for many, many, many years, around the time I was writing my first novel, The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold, and was editing my first anthology (Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales). At that time I had begun to notice the overpowering influence of fairy tales on contemporary writers, and a surge in the appearance of fairy-tale motifs in poetry, short stories, visual art, film, and prose--the use of enchantment, if you will. I also noticed, both in the media and by word of mouth, that stories or novels based on fairy tales were being disparaged or overlooked critically (or editorially). So I noticed a great influence of tales on a great many wildly talented writers whose books I had read, but also noted a weird, simultaneous rejection of the tradition of fairy tales as a viable, intellectual, artistic form--in the United States. So I felt that there must be some terrific, special works out there seeking a home. I established Fairy Tale Review to give those works a home and to try to help preserve and celebrate fairy tales in a way that might bring their amazing influence more broadly to light; to make it undeniable that fairy tales cannot be ignored or reduced or celebrated in only broad strokes. Though I founded Fairy Tale Review alone, I must acknowledge the early support of my outstanding, founding advisory board: Maria Tatar, Jack Zipes, and Marina Warner. Now the board also includes Lydia Millet and Don Haase. And I have a wonderful contributing (and next issue's guest) editor, Timothy Schaffert, at this time. Fairy tales are that special: a giving tradition, a tradition that invites humility and consolation and luck. (This is not to deny the bruises, the darkness, the very hard knocks---but that's another interview.) I honestly would not have had the courage to begin the journal without the sweetness of the fairy-tale scholars I so admired (had admired for many years) saying yes, yes, we embrace this vision as well; it was truly communal of them to offer their advisement and time. Though starting a literary journal was a massive undertaking---one I am still reeling from daily---the editorship of fairy tales is so intrinsic to their history and to my life as a novelist, I could not imagine my world without the journal at all. I could not imagine not editing fairy tales, just as I try to write them. To edit a fairy tale is to write a fairy tale. To live one. And it's such a generous and communal tradition.
4) What contemporary fairytale comes to mind that has been a favorite of yours? Why is it good in your opinion?
That is a very difficult question to answer. While I could single stories out, I'd rather not, because I am too horizontal in my thinking to do that. I would have to defer to the Table of Contents of each issue of Fairy Tale Review published so far, and say that those fairy tales are clearly among my favorites of the new kinds of fairy tales I have been privileged to receive in the mail for consideration for the journal. (Among many I have not been able to publish there are also many favorites---in fact, in some ways, every submission I receive becomes in its own way a cherished friend, whether it suits my needs for the journal or not, because every submission I receive seems to me to reflect a very intimate and honorable love of the long tradition of fairy tales.) All of these works make undeniably new creatures from old sensations, old skeletons. It is not originality that is sublime; it is the sensation of sublimity itself which comes from becoming (whether out of something old, now, or futuristic---they are collapsed and the same in fairy tales).
5) How do you process submissions to the Fairy Tale Review? What qualities do you look for in submissions?
I "process" submissions by receiving them in an email account and then egregiously slowly making my way through the submissions one by one. As a sole editor who receives around 2,300 submissions to each issue, I will be the first to admit that I "process' submissions too slowly. As a writer I understand the frustration of waiting and waiting only to hear "Thank you but no thank you." That's why I write really gushy rejections, and I mean every word that I say. I process submissions slowly but kindly, I think. I read every single submission, not looking for any particular quality apart from the inability to stop reading---the sense of becoming---the feeling you are going somewhere new, a little bit familiar but with that uncanny glow. This can come in any style, in any form. Then, when I love something, I have a number of other trusted readers consider the work too. Sometimes, when I have a strong aversion to a particular submission, I also ask other readers to step in; though I have strong intuition, and a strong vision for the journal, I am not very important, not in the end. I'm listening in for the future of fairy tales.
6) What was one of your favorite submissions to the Fairy Tale Review?
I received a submission from a very young person---I think she said she was eleven years old. This was a rhyming poem about a child who did not want to go to sleep at night, and who instead went out in her pink nightgown for some pie, out of which marched mice, crows, and the teeniest, tiniest dolls. At the end of the poem everyone died. However, when I wrote to the author to accept the story, I never heard back, and never could send her a contract, and so I never could publish the work. Are you out there? Are you old enough now to be reading online? Or are you laughing at me as you read this, because you were never eleven, or never existed at all? I loved your poem and I hope you're not dead.
7) Have you noticed any commonalities with submissions to the Fairy Tale Review? for example, do most submissions come from certain part of the country, from a certain age groups. Are there many about hot male vampires? *Just what kind things do you see common in submissions?
A great love of fairy tales---though that love takes, as all love takes, endlessly various form (sometimes weird, sometimes wonderful, always consoling to me, even when disturbing). That love of fairy tales--however twisted or however serene---is the commonality. FTR receives submissions from all over the country and all over the world. I have never made a regional spreadsheet. I have never received any submissions about hot male vampires (or, that I know of, from any hot male vampires).
8) Can you share some of your experiences when you first began submitting your work for publishing?
My image of what it is like to "submit work for publishing" was formed early on, when I read Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and Jo received a letter from a magazine with a check in the envelope, accepting a mystery story. The image of her elation stayed. When I first began submitting my work, I held it in mind, expecting very long waits and not at all counting on any acceptance. So I am still always astonished and grateful when my work is accepted; it suits a fantasy I have that was formed in childhood, about the editor-author relationship: a kind of abstract and ethereal but very intellectually intimate connection that comes rarely but magically. With Ralph Berry of FC2, who published my first two novels, I had this precise experience; my first novel was literally discovered in a dusty old pile in the corner of an office by Brenda Mills, and the two of them contacted me. I submit my work very cautiously and sparingly, usually without much expectation or ego. I'm not of the "more is better" mentality, and I don't send my work out willy-nilly; rejection is too painful for me. I wait a very long time after writing something before I show it to anyone at all.
9) Do you have any advice for writers submitting for the first time?
The only advice I can offer is to practice and remember what you love, which is to think and to read and to write. To hold that closely in mind. Then when the letters come telling you something unhappy---"This isn't a short story at all"---you have that to rely on, that memory of what you love. It will come back after the harm.
10) Can you share a little about how you came about your Pink Horse story for the Significant Objects Project? You must be please with receiving over $100 dollars at bid. Is that the most any author has gotten so far?
Josh Glenn, the kindly editor of the project, sent me a photograph of the Pink Horse to write about for Significant Objects. I fell in love with that strange horse instantly---its strength and its glow. "The Rosebud," the German tale that I based my story on, has always haunted me; I've brought it into two novels so far too, and it's featured prominently in an essay I wrote for The Writer's Notebook (Tin House Books), as a perfect example of a story containing fairy-tale techniques. I needed to revisit the tale again as soon as I saw that horse. I've donated the "winnings" from the story to Wide Horizons for Children (www.whfc.org), the adoption agency and humanitarian organization through which we adopted our daughter. I love their work.
11) what are some long term goals for the Fairy Tale Review?
The mission of Fairy Tale Review is to promote an appreciation of fairy tales, old and new, to preserve the tradition for future generations of readers. As such I've established a Fairy-Tale Book Repository, hoping to gather those old, dusty fairy-tale books that often are simply discarded; not the most well-known books, but those random and arcane editions that you sometimes see in boxes at thrift shops. It would be nice to reach more readers. As such, FTR would be meeting its goal of bringing fairy tales---old and new---and their scholars--the respect they deserve, for I believe that fairy tales are the single greatest influence on all forms of contemporary literature, but also the most disparaged influence in certain critical circles. So there is much work to be done.
12) Will you please ask yourself a question and answer it?
That scares me too much.