Category Archives: Independent Poetry Press Profile

Independent Publisher Profile

Airlie Press

Continuing our profiles of small publishers across the United States, we turn to the Pacific Northwest’s Airlie Press, where one of the founding members, Carter McKenzie, has very kindly answered our questions. Airlie’s mission is inspiring, and we hope to have some reviews up on their new release titles soon. Check back to find them!

Brief history of Airlie Press

Our press was founded in 2007 by four poets: Jessica (Matridarshana) Lamb, Donna Henderson, Anita Sullivan, and myself. We had been part of a long-standing poetry critique group, and several of us, inspired by the example of Sixteen Rivers Press, located in San Francisco, finally decided it was the right time to sign on for the endeavor of establishing a shared-work, consensus-based press in our Northwest region. In the early spring of 2007, we invited one of the founders of Sixteen Rivers Press, Terry Ehret, to spend the day with us answering our numerous questions about the process of establishing and sustaining the work we had in mind. The meeting was invaluable and informed us significantly regarding the process of the true collective: the sharing of work, the support of all member-authors in the publication of books, and the practice of returning all profits from book sales to the press for the publications of future volumes. Our source of financial support would come from book sales and special preorder offers for forthcoming titles. Later, we also developed a spring fundraising drive. We determined that after the publication of our own four manuscripts, we would have an annual call for submissions, which would not require a reading fee.

We recognized that, while we did not want to characterize ourselves narrowly as a regional press by privileging only regional subjects in our publications, our consensus-based process of making decisions would necessitate commitment by members to attend meetings in person and on a regular basis. We saw an opportunity to offer a singular publishing alternative for our community in the Willamette Valley (and possibly beyond), which would tap into the rich talent of poets in our region for the publication of beautiful and compelling books of poetry.

Since our establishment, we have published nine books of poetry, each of which has received significant advance praise and enthusiastic reception from readers. Donna Henderson’s The Eddy Fence (2009) was one of the finalists for the Oregon Book Award for Poetry in 2011, as well as a finalist for the Eric Hoffer da Vinci Eye Award in 2010. Congress of Strange People (2012) by Stephanie Lenox was a finalist for the 2013 da Vinci Eye Award, as well as being included on the Eric Hoffer Grand Prize Short List and a finalist for that contest’s First Horizon Award.

Guiding Principles for Accepting Submissions

Our guiding principles in terms of what we are looking for are twofold: first of all, excellence in poetry; second, the author’s demonstration of an understanding of and willingness to commit to the responsibilities of our collective. We do not ask a reading fee, as stated above, in our annual call for submissions. We require the prospective member to be able to attend monthly meetings. We also require a membership commitment of a minimum of three years, allowing for a year of learning the ropes, a year of publishing her/his own book, and a year of shepherding in new members, which is a guideline we learned from the example of Sixteen Rivers Press.

Each manuscript submitted according to our guidelines is carefully read by all of our editors. Our selection of finalists is thoroughly discussed and decided upon in terms of our consensus process. Authors of manuscripts selected as finalists are invited for interviews with the Airlie Press editors before a decision regarding one or two new members is made.

Best Aspect of Being a Small Press

The best part of being a small, independent publisher includes the process of working closely with other poets dedicated to the creation of excellent books of poetry—not only their own books— that contribute to the vitality of the larger literary community. What we can accomplish through our process as a collective in support of the solitary art of writing poetry is tremendously inspiring.

Most Challenging Aspect of Being a Small Press

The most challenging parts of our work include that which is most rewarding: the discipline of the consensus-based process itself, which requires attentiveness and willingness to take the necessary time to address any concerns. It is this dedication that results in the fine quality of both our process and our books. Another challenging aspect is coming to our final decision about manuscripts to be accepted for publication and about membership. We take each submission seriously and greatly appreciate the quality of many of the submissions received. The selection process necessarily demands a great deal of attention and time, and that’s what we give to it.

Most Distinguishing Features

Airlie Press’s distinguishing features are the excellence of the books we produce, both in content and form, which are the result of the collective’s support of that book and its author through careful editing. Once a manuscript has been accepted for publication by Airlie Press, the author ultimately has the final say on her/his book’s content and design; however, that manuscript receives two thorough editorial critiques that are offered by the other members before it goes to the designer. The author experiences the support of both careful readership and thorough consultation regarding design before the manuscript becomes a book.

Once a book is published, the collective continues to support the author in a singular way by sharing the responsibility of marketing. Editors take on various tasks, including contacting bookstores, setting up readings, researching and fulfilling requirements for ads, and submitting books to contests. We all take part in organizing attendance at conferences, readings, and book fairs, where our new titles are displayed and sold. This sort of support for the author by a press is most unusual.

Contact

You can find Airlie Press at their website, Twitter and on Facebook!

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Independent Press Profile

2LeafPress

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of talking to Gabrielle David, publisher of 2LeafPress, an independent poetry press out of New York. The origins of the press are quite interesting, and I hope my notes do it justice!

2LeafPress aims to promote a diverse crowd of multicultural writers–and its view of multicultural is broad: “Oh, by the way, we consider all writers multicultural.” Whether the story comes from a writer’s personal background or his or her travels and observations, 2LP knows there’s a multicultural angle there, and it wants those stories! The press accepts literary works of poetry, fiction, memoir, and nonfiction, as well as collections and anthologies of short stories and translations, and it looks for works in those fields that speak with directness and honesty about the human experience.

Technically, the basic idea of a press along the lines of 2Leaf’s current mission has been around since at least 2001–which is actually when the name for the press emerged. David’s father was going through some health problems and was on a homemade pie-cooking spree (because homemade is healthier than prepackaged options and he loves pie!), and he had trouble making the decorative leaves for them–How do you get the two leaves?! he asked, but she didn’t know what he meant, and now it’s a long-standing family joke. But the idea of the leaves worked for David, who had the idea of a press brewing. People wrote on leaves in ancient times (so we have the theme of past revived), and the imagery of green leaves, falling leaves, and dead leaves have been tropes in fiction and poetry practically since that time. So David liked the symbolism she saw in the name, and she decided to go with it.

But back to how the press’s origins are actually much earlier than the past few years. Currently 2LP operates as an imprint of the IAAS (Intercultural Alliance of Artists & Scholars, Inc.), which somewhat ironically started out as an independent press itself (but that’s a whole other story). Colleagues of David had been asking her for years to start making books because those she had published previously were really beautiful books, ones that people appreciated and knew were made with dedication and care.

The press started with an open call for submissions, as most do, but it was quickly inundated and soon changed its policy to closed submissions. Luckily, though (said David), some unsolicited submissions still slip through. For example, Whereabouts, a recently released anthology of the best nonfiction stories from Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine, wouldn’t have made it through if not for one of 2LP’s volunteer employees. David said she would have passed on its proposal but was convinced to take another look by the employee’s enthusiasm for the project.

And that kind of enthusiasm is exactly what David loves about working with a diverse group of people. Thanks to others’ inputs, the press is moving in all kinds of directions that she never imagined. Currently, it’s making quite a name for itself in the academic world for its translations, spurring a series of translated works within the press. And the press’s work with the Nuyorican poets has really raised some noise.

The best part of being a small press, according to David, is being able to find writers and “groom” them–really give them the attention they need to be great and to grow and develop their craft. Rather than turning to the big publishers and begging for a contract, 2Leaf writers really get to converse with the press, and they always ask, “When’s the next book?”

The hard part, she says, is the money and marketing. How does a small publisher organically build its audience and still stay afloat? It’s a dilemma 2LP is still learning to navigate, but it’s doing a great job in its experiment. We’re excited to keep watching what comes out from this “small press with big ideas.”

You can connect with 2LP on Facebook and Twitter. Plus, check out their up-to-date website!

 

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Independent Press Profile

Sibling Rivalry Press

There are many small, independent presses out there publishing great poetry. We’d like to put a little spotlight on them in this series of Independent Press Profiles. For our first profile, to go along with our earlier review and interview with Collin Kelley, we’ve heard from Bryan Borland at Sibling Rivalry Press. Read on to find out more about the press’s founding, it’s mission, and the amazing work it is doing.

Can you give a brief history of the founding of the press?

One of the first places to accept my work was Ganymede, a journal of gay culture based in New York, which was published by a writer named John Stahle. As a young, inexperienced writer based in rural Arkansas, being published by a New-York-City-Center-of-Everything journal was a huge thing to me. John, in addition to editing and putting out Ganymede, also did freelance book design, and he convinced me hire him and self-publish my first book, My Life as Adam. Not long after I launched the book, John died, and because it was a one-man show, the journal Ganymede died with him. Because John and I became close through the process of working on my book, and because I placed high value on what Ganymede had done for me as I poet and for others in my position, both geographically and culturally, I didn’t want to let the journal become a footnote in history. John had taught me a bit about design work, and I knew the basics of how he put each issue of Ganymede together. I used previous issues as template, put out a call for submissions, and thanks to the kindness of poets, writers, and artists John had published, I published, in the same manner as publishing My Life as Adam, a tribute issue of the journal which I called Ganymede Unfinished.

I didn’t want to continue Ganymede, but I knew I wanted to create something to fill the void left by its sudden absence, particularly in relation to gay poetry. In Greek mythology, Ganymede was the young man swept up by Zeus’s eagle to serve at the god’s feet. Assaracus was Ganymede’s earthbound brother, and it, along with my book and our first chapbook, Burnings by Ocean Vuong (who has matured into a poet who just can’t stop winning awards), became the foundation to Sibling Rivalry Press.

 

What are your guiding principles for finding and accepting manuscripts/authors?

The last few years we’ve had an open-submission period from March through June, and we’ve signed some fantastic authors through that process. Primarily we publish what we love; it’s as simple as that. Poetry and fiction that change us when we read it. Words that set us ablaze. We’re not walking some line of literary trends. We’re not scared of causing a stir or upsetting some people.

We’ve also reached out to poets and writers we love outside that open-submission period, and in some cases, poets and writers who love us reached out to us.  Books have a tendency, I believe, to find the homes in which they belong, and I’m so proud that SRP is home to so many fine books.

 

What are the best parts of being a small, independent publisher? What are the most challenging?

The best part of being a small press is the freedom to publish books which might not be picked up by larger presses, such as Stephen S. Mills’s He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices, which won a Lambda Literary Award. We tend to operate by doing the opposite of what is expected of presses. And that’s how we’ve succeeded. The typical and traditional publishing blueprint is what has driven so many small presses out of business. That’s one reason we’re not traditional.

The most challenging thing was getting bookstores and the media to take us seriously as a press. After all, we are based in middle America. That all changed, though, when we started winning awards and appearing on bestseller lists. Now they take us seriously. (Sidenote: the key is to not take yourself too seriously.)

 

What do you think the press’s most distinguishing features are?

Our purpose is best defined by the incomparable Adrienne Rich, who said to Michael Klein in a 1999 interview:

There’s a lot of what I would call comfortable poetry around. But then there is all this other stuff going on—which is wilder, which is bristling; it’s juicier, it’s everything that you would want. And it’s not comfortable. That’s the kind of poetry that interests me—a field of energy. It’s intellectual and moral and political and sexual and sensual—all of that fermenting together. It can speak to people who have themselves felt like monsters and say: you are not alone, this is not monstrous. It can disturb and enrapture.

We’re guided by Rich’s words. What distinguishes us as a press is that we seek work that disturbs and enraptures.

We often are called an LGBT-oriented press, and while it’s true that many of our titles were written by LGBT authors. But we publish work by anyone, no matter that person’s sexuality, as long as it makes us feel electric.

 

Does the press offer any contests/prizes/awards?

Not at this time, though never say never.

 

You can learn more about Sibling Rivalry by going to its website or liking them on Facebook.

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