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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Contributor Interviews: Vol. 1 Issue 1

In anticipation of the Volume 2 Issue 1 prompt being released (soon, we promise!), we wanted to put the spotlight on our past contributors, namely the writers who made our inaugural issue pairing of Robert Frost and Sarah Orne Jewett  so great. Get to know their backgrounds, writing influences, and even their suggestions for a future issue of I&A. This is the first of two posts featuring interviews with those writers. Today, we share Michael Burch and Kenneth Nichols’ interviews. We recommend re-reading their contributions before you read their responses.

 

Michael Burch wrote “Late Frost.

1) How would you describe your writing education/background?

English was always my best and favorite subject, but I didn’t want to be a “starving writer,” so in college I majored in computer science, then dropped out to start a computer software company when microcomputers revolutionized the world in the early 1980s. But I have studied poetry and literature independently my entire adult life, and continue to do so. Having been published well over 1,000 times, I may be proof that writers can go a long way on their own.

2) What author/poet (s) would you say have most influenced your writing?

Robert Frost vacillated between skepticism and faith. I think my poem captures a bit of both.

3) How do you think your work relates to this issue’s poet/writer combination?

Robert Frost vacillated between skepticism and faith. I think my poem captures a bit of both.

4) If you could meet any poet (author), current or past, who would it be? (And why?)

I would like to meet William Blake and hear about his many conversations with angels and departed saints. What did they tell him?

5) What does your writing process look like? Initial/edits/revisions?

Words usually come to me from out of the blue, so I jot them down on paper, then figure out what to do with them. Some poems require no revisions or only minor revisions, but others start to look messy and confusing on paper, so I type them into a word processor. If a poem seems promising, I will continue to work on it. If it seems less promising, I save it for a rainy day, or my retirement years (when I hope to devote more time to writing).

6) What, if any, types of writing exercises do you like to use?

Mostly today, just reading, writing and revising. I used to do crosswords to improve my vocabulary. And in my younger years I read all sorts of “how to” books about writing, the history of poetry and literature, writer biographies, etc.

7) Are you working on any new projects? If so, could you elaborate on them?

I have several book projects in mind, but not enough time to bring them to fruition. One thing I like about writing lyric poetry is that the “jobs” are shorter and thus more likely to be completed.

8) If you were to choose the next I&A poet/writer pairing, who would you choose?

I like the idea of one poet who influenced another poet, so perhaps William Blake and Walt Whitman (who modeled his crypt after Blake’s “Death’s Door” engraving), or Percy Bysshe Shelley and Elinor Wylie (an underappreciated modern poet who wrote some killer poems).

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Kenneth Nichols wrote “Chain Armor.”

1) How would you describe your writing education/background?

I  suppose I’m like a lot of writers; I’ve been dedicated to the craft since I was a teenager.  I’ve been very lucky with respect to my formal education in writing.  My AP English teacher, Mrs. Iodice, gave me the gift of assigning a different classic to read every week.  After that, I  did some time in the Dramatic Writing Conservatory at SUNY Purchase before finding a wonderful home in the English Department at Oswego State.  I’ll always treasure the experience I had the MFA program at Ohio State; every Buckeye writer I’ve ever met has been as helpful as they are brilliant with the written word.

2) What author/poet (s) would you say have most influenced your writing?

Science fiction was my first literary love, I think.  Isaac Asimov taught me a lot about plot and concept and Harlan Ellison (briefly a Buckeye) showed me that prose can be as poetic as verse.  I’ve been most influenced by writers who are simultaneously entertaining and “literary.”  (Whatever that word really means.)  Tom Perrotta and T.C. Boyle mean a lot to me.  I discovered Denise Duhamel’s work at Oswego; I have tried to emulate her boundless curiosity and the way she challenges the reader with respect to what form a poem can take.  Billy Collins is an inspiration for his accessibility and playfulness.

3) How do you think your work relates to this issue’s poet/writer combination?

“Chain Armor” was a conscious attempt to put Frost and Jewett into conversation.  I took a look at the published version of Frost’s notebooks to see if he had mentioned Jewett, who was already an established member of the literary community when Frost was himself ascending that mountain.  Frost seems only to mention Jewett once, writing:

“The prejudice against the wedded wife and in favor of the Anne Rutledge or Jewett model[?] is a hang over from the days when people married for position and amused themselves with out-loves, and as a hang over stirs the romantics.  Chain armor.”

I borrowed Frost’s phrase for my title and used the poem to try and work out what I think Frost meant with his comment.  What, indeed, is the “chain armor” to which he is referring?

4) If you could meet any poet (author), current or past, who would it be? (And why?)

I’m sorry to have to be boring, but I have to go with William Shakespeare.  Why?  I would love to talk to him for all of the expected reasons and to ask him the expected questions.  I do have some interesting queries, mostly about the long-lost gossip that resulted in Measure for Measure.

5) What does your writing process look like? Initial/edits/revisions?

I generally compose poetry in longhand.  (Of late, I’ve been using a Parker 51 fountain pen.)  I’m not a superstitious guy, but there seems to be a kind of magic in “feeling” the words, particularly when writing poetry.  Many of my poems are written after I read something great and dare myself to try and out-do that work.  (Not that I ever succeed.)

6) What, if any, types of writing exercises do you like to use?

Other folks are perfectly welcome to decide what works best for them, but I generally operate in the same manner as Dr. Asimov, who said:

Someone once asked me if I had a fixed routine before I start, like setting up exercises, sharpening pencils, or having a drink of orange juice. I said, “No, the only thing I do before I start writing is to make sure that I’m close enough to the typewriter to reach the keys.”

7) Are you working on any new projects? If so, could you elaborate on them?

I’m currently trying to work up the gall to send out query letters for a novel whose narrative is unspooled through a collection of documents.  At the moment, I’m approximately half of the way through the first draft of a young adult novel that allows me to play around with another early love of mine: the lyrics of musical theater songs.  I’m hoping someone will publish or produce a blank verse short play that I dare say would have been right at home on an Elizabethan stage.  (Aside from the fact that it takes place in the present.)  Short stories.  More poems.

8) If you were to choose the next I&A poet/writer pairing, who would you choose?

Denise Duhamel and Franz Kafka? Ira Gershwin and Kurt Vonnegut? Emily Dickinson and Norman Mailer?

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Monthly Round-Up

Here are links to some articles that piqued our interest this past month!

1. 18 Bookstores Every Book Lover Must Visit at Least Once – Business Insider
A great worldwide round-up of must-see bookstore destinations. Definitely check this out before heading on your next trip so you don’t miss out on an interesting place to visit!

2. 11 Delectable Dishes from Literature Because We Just Want to Live in BooksBustle
Yum! This slideshow-style article is just one of many food-inspired finds we came across this month.

3. Inside Amtrak’s (Absolutely Awesome) Plan to Give Free Rides to WritersThe Wire 
Amtrak is developing a writer residency program, thanks to some Twitter-vocal writers. They’ve already had one person do a trial run, and another is set up. Might want to keep tabs on how this shapes up!

4.  Cooking with HemingwayThe Millions
Obviously there were many similar brainwaves happening this month! The number of food and writing pairings out there was extreme. The author of this article took on the ambitious goal of using Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River” as a recipe book, planning to cook every meal contained in the short story.

5. You Could Soon Read an Entire Harry Potter Book in Under 90 Minutes with this App — Huffington Post
Okay, the title may be a little over the top, and the article does seem kind of like an ad for a new android app, but it really got us thinking about finding a way to read faster. So, maybe this app would be a good starting point for further research into figuring out how to reach our long to-read list goals within the reality of a busy schedule. However, I  do have a slight headache after trying out the sample in the article.

6. At 100, poem ‘Chicago’ still fierce, fresh – Chicago Tribune
Who knew it was the one hundredth anniversary of Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago”? Well, it is, and there’s a lot going on to celebrate it while we look back and examine what it has brought to modern poetry.

 

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