Tag Archives: chapbook

Laura Page’s epithalamium Named Winner of 2017 Chapbook Competition

 

Sundress Publications is pleased to announce that Laura Page is the winner of our sixth chapbook competition. Among a record number of strong and engaging manuscripts, Page’s collection, epithalamium, stood out. Judge Darren C. Demaree had this to say about the chapbook:

unnamed-1epithalamium is an incredible dancer working beautifully, relentlessly, spasmodically on a stage that was constructed small enough that the artist must at some point jump into the crowd to make their work the whole scene. The poems in this chapbook are dynamic and unique. The language, music, and energy used caught me off guard many times, and I can think of no better goals than that for poetry. None of these poems are “that blushing thing.” All of them are working and questioning the archetypes and mythologies that deserve to be questioned, and through that process something larger emerges. Through that process we learn to “forget stardust. / think transit. think love.” This chapbook approaches the real world with an otherworldly understanding of its machinations, and despite that deep look into our workings it emerges with a passionate idea of where this could all be headed.”

Laura Page is a graduate of Southern Oregon University and editor of the poetry journal, Virga. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from Rust + Moth, Crab Creek Review, The Rumpus, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, TINGE, and elsewhere. She is the author of two previous chapbooks, Children, Apostates (dancing girl press, 2016) and Sylvia Plath in the Major Arcana (Anchor & Plume, forthcoming).Visit her at www.laurapage.net.

We also are excited to announce that Sarah Einstein’s A Tripart Heart and Grey Vild’s Chickenhawks & Goldilocks were also selected for publication – both collections will be available later this year on the Sundress website.

Other Submitted Chapbooks of Note

Finalists
Sarah Cooper — 89%
Sarah Einstein — A Tripart Heart*
Alexis Olson — A Girl Fell in Love With a Shark
Grey Vild — Chickenhawks & Goldilocks*

Semi-Finalists
Sara Adams — Swallowing Shark
Kelli Allen — Lyrebird Keeps the Peace
Zeina Azzam — Bayna-Bayna
Kristi Carter — Daughter Shaman Sings Blood Anthem
Melissa Fite Johnson — A Crooked Door Cut Into the Sky
Mary Moore — Amanda and the Man Soul
Shannon Mullally — Perpetual Travel

*Selected for publication

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An Interview with Sundress Chapbook Author, Lauren Eggert-Crowe

 

Lauren Eggert-Crowe is the author of Bitches of the Drought which was named runner-up in the Sundress chapbook contest of 2016 and was subsequently released this year. Of the chapbook Kate Durbin said, “Bitches of the Drought is Rocky for riot girls—all ecstatic anger and beat-him-to-the-punch puns.” Eggert-Crowe talked with our intern, Cheyenne L. Black, about the unique speaker of this chapbook, feminism, and the dance of writing, among other things.

Cheyenne L. Black: Congratulations on Bitches of the Drought. This is your third solo chapbook, correct? Do you see them as related projects?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: Yes, it is my third solo chapbook and my fourth altogether. Interestingly enough, I don’t see the chapbooks as related projects at all. Except that there is some overlap in the timing of when I wrote some of the poems. My chapbooks are all pretty independent from each other. I would like to do a series of interrelated projects someday though.

Cheyenne L. Black: Can you talk a little bit about why you’ve pursued this format and if you plan to continue writing chapbooks?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I actually know some writers with even more chapbooks than I have! Lisa Ciccarello is the first name to come to mind.

For me, the chapbook seemed like a natural and obvious first step for publishing a poetry collection. I knew people who were publishing these small, ephemeral, and beautiful collections from indie presses. Friends from grad school, writers I knew tangentially, were publishing chapbooks before their first full-length [collections].

I think I will continue to make chapbooks, even if I publish a full-length collection someday, because I like the flexibility of the format. Chapbooks are good opportunities for experimentation in language, form, and production style. They’re some of my favorite objects to hunt down and collect at the AWP book fair.

Cheyenne L. Black: Tell me a little about Galatea’s Pants (GP). You produced this zine for 11 years, right? Did your long running zine have an effect on the writing you were able to produce as well? How formative to your current work was GP?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I started making ‘zines when I was 16 years old, and the last issue of Galatea’s Pants came out when I was 28. It started out as a personal/hodgepodge ‘zine of collages, essays, poetry I liked, quotes from my friends, etc.

In 2003 it sharply changed direction and became a very political ‘zine during the years of my radicalization and activism against the Iraq War, and it continued halfway through the Obama years, with certain issues dedicated to one topic, such as labor rights or immigration. It spanned three presidential administrations.

That’s the project I dedicated the most time to over the years, and I would say it shaped my approach to creative work, design, community, and feminism.

Basically, I self-published until I was ready to start working with gatekeepers and publish in other outlets. I no longer wanted my poetry to stay in limited distribution in these personal ‘zines. It was time to close that chapter after eleven years. But making ‘zines throughout my teens and twenties was a good way to keep myself committed to getting my thoughts on paper.

Cheyenne L. Black: Let’s return to the chapbook. In Bitches of the Drought, in the poem, “I Came Back to Shake the Sand Out” you write about the proprietary arm of a partner and then move to “but I was the one / who asked, is this okay?” And likewise in other places in Bitches, you ask questions and probe at the roles of the speaker. Is she questioning her own role within relationships in general? What role does feminism play in her sense of herself?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: That’s an interesting question. I would say feminism is inseparable from all of my poetry, whether or not I am consciously thinking about it while writing, because feminism is inseparable from myself. I think the speaker in the poems weaves between tremulousness, muted depression, and aggression, but I suppose you’re right, there is always a questioning tone behind it all.

Cheyenne L. Black: Can you talk a little more about your speaker? She has these wide arcs to her that are just wild and amazing to read and experience vicariously. How do YOU characterize her?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: She’s a bitch, or she wants to be. She tries to be and often fails. She’s angry but lethargic, but defiant, but also very romantic.

Cheyenne L. Black: What was the process of writing this speaker like for you? Did it bring up connections to your own life?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: The process was cathartic but also circular. All [of] this time I was writing, I didn’t feel like I was actually writing. I thought I was making these poetic exercises that weren’t going anywhere. I certainly was connecting with my own life and sometimes I had a line here or there that I liked, but for the most part, I felt like I was off my game. Sometimes the process felt wild and all over the place. Sometimes it felt very controlled.

Cheyenne L. Black: What do you really love about this chapbook?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I love the atmosphere I was able to create with some of the images. I think I managed to nail it with a handful of metaphors. I love that the speaker gets kind of sassy and flippant and uses foul language or internet slang. I am proud of myself for trying to make poems that didn’t necessarily have a conclusion or clear meaning. I mostly love that it came out of a year of writing in which I didn’t think I was actually writing.

Cheyenne L. Black: Is a year pretty typically your time-frame for your larger projects? How much of that is spent in active writing and how much is spent in revision?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: It varies. In the Songbird Laboratory was a shorter version of my MFA thesis from grad school which I had worked on for a few years in school, and then shelved for five years, and then lightly edited before submitting to dancing girl press. The Exhibit was written in a burst of creative inspiration over one summer and fall, and pretty much immediately submitted to Hyacinth Girl press. Rungs and Bitches of the Drought, and the chapbook I’m currently working on, were written over a few months and then subjected to years of editing.

Cheyenne L. Black: Can you talk about your process a little bit? Were the poems for Bitches written in roughly the same time-frame then?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: The bulk of the poems were written in the same year, and then I forgot about them for awhile until I came back to them to try to organize them into a chapbook. That’s generally my process for poetry lately. I write when I don’t think I’m writing. Then I come back to it and realize I have some decent material. Then I added a few other unpublished poems that were written about three years earlier because I felt that they fit the theme.

Oddly enough, the title is the first thing that came to me, months before I started writing many of the poems in the chapbook. Sometimes that happens. Titles flash in my brain first and then I try to follow them.

Cheyenne L. Black: So it sounds like your titles are more than street signs pointing to the poems, but rather are a kind of content marker or even content generator?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: Yes, I think that makes sense.

Cheyenne L. Black: You spoke earlier about the effort to make poems that didn’t conclude or have clear meaning. What led you to want to move in that direction?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I really want my poetry to be multivalent, and I have this feeling that as soon as you make it obvious what the poem is “about,” you have killed the poem. I want my poems to feel more like dancing than walking, and dancing is a form of movement that relies on expression and interpretation.

Cheyenne L. Black: You’ve released three chapbooks, one of those a collaboration, and now another chapbook, in just a few years. Are you writing constantly?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I’m not! I really wish I were. The chapbooks I have created have come from a time when I was writing almost every day for a month or so. Imagine what I could make if I sustained that effort for a year or more. I think I am moving in that direction though.

Cheyenne L. Black: What are you working on now? Can you give us a line or two? A sneak-peek?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: A collection (maybe chapbook, maybe full-length), the bulk of which is from poems I wrote in the summer of 2014 and then left alone for three years. As of now, they are all going to be untitled. Here’s a sneak peek:

I leave places like it’s going out of style
Trash on the ficus-broken sidewalk
Women slapping each other on TV
Hyphenated hoods and the interlopers in their cars
The dust comes into my house and never leaves
My feet charcoal the sheets, my bird-pecked
pomegranates swinging like lanterns beyond the curtain
Where are you dark and gleaming

 

____

Lauren Eggert-Crowe is the author of three previous chapbooks: Rungs, (co-authored with Margaret Bashaar), In the Songbird Laboratory, and The Exhibit. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, DUM DUM Zine, horseless review, Springgun, Sixth Finch and DIAGRAM. She is the Reviews Editor for Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments, and she serves on the leadership team for Women Who Submit.

Cheyenne L. Black is the editor-in-chief for Hayden’s Ferry Review at Arizona State University where she is an MFA candidate in poetry and a former Virginia G. Piper global fellow. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the anthologies We Will be Shelter and In Sight: An Ekphrastic Collaboration, as well as the journals 45th Parallel, Bacopa Review, the American Journal of Poetry, and New Mobility among others.

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An Interview with Sundress Author, Colleen Abel

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As a poet, Colleen Abel is a shape-shifter. In her chapbook, Deviants, you’ll find couplets, flash CNF, lists, lyric essays, sectioned verse, and poems that morph across the page. What takes this formal variability to another level is that Colleen’s work is also about form—about the human body, about boundaries and celestial bodies and the Venus of Willendorf. These thirty pages are about a lot. We talked with Abel about Deviants, the way these forms find themselves, and how she found her way to poetry.

Colleen Abel’s Deviants won the 2016 Sundress Publications 5th Annual Chapbook Contest. Her first full-length collection, Remake, won Unicorn Press’ 2015 Editors Prize and is forthcoming in fall 2016. She is also the author of Housewifery, a chapbook (dancing girl press, 2013). A former Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at UW-Madison, Abel has published work in Pleiades, Colorado Review, The Collagist, Southern Review, West Branch, and elsewhere. She lives in Wisconsin with her student loans.

Sundress: What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Colleen Abel: I have always wanted to be a writer, from the time I was four. I wrote my first short story around that time, about a vampire and his wife. (I illustrated, as well, but happily I abandoned notions that I was a competent illustrator pretty much immediately.) But even though I always wrote poetry, when I was a kid, I saw myself becoming a novelist. It wasn’t until college when I was encouraged to do an MFA in poetry that I thought, hmm, maybe this is going to be my path. Not that you have to pick a genre and stick with it! The older I get, the less interested I am in staying within genre boundaries.

Sundress: How do your pieces find their form? Do you draft in the form a piece eventually takes, or do you think about form later?

Colleen Abel: I almost always draft a piece in the form it ends up with—the form dictates the intellectual and sonic moves the poem makes, usually, so I like to find the form first. It’s sort of like picking a vessel to hold the thought. But sometimes in revision, I do figure out that the vessel is wrong! “The Photographer’s Model” is an example of a poem that was restless in the original form I had chosen for it.

deviants

Sundress:Formally, Deviants is a very eclectic bunch of poems, but the book’s foundation seems to be the 18-page piece titled “Fat Studies.” Speaking of genre, how do you classify “Fat Studies”?

Colleen Abel: I would say “Fat Studies” is a lyric essay. I have been trying to write about obesity for over a decade in my poetry and it never worked–not once. I couldn’t really figure out why. It wasn’t until I shifted my thinking about form that I was able to write about obesity in a way that I was happy with–and “Fat Studies” was the result.

Sundress: In “Fat Studies,” the speaker’s body is described as “deviant.” The piece goes on to investigate the speaker’s life and mind within this “deviant” body. How did this piece come about? Is this stigmatized subject you’ve dealt with before, or is it something that required the building of experience and courage to write about so directly, frankly, and beautifully?

Colleen Abel: As I mentioned, I’ve been wanting to write about obesity for a long time, but could never make headway. A couple of things happened right around the same time that broke open the essay for me. I was sitting in on a fiction class at the school where I was teaching at the time, in 2014. So I was thinking a lot about prose. Then I stumbled across the theories of stigmatized identities by the sociologist Erving Goffman. He had this list of ways that people could respond to having a stigmatized identity, and I immediately thought: that list would make a great backbone for an essay. The third thing was that I had read an essay about physical fitness by John F. Kennedy and was trying to write a poem about it (and failing; see above.) Somehow those three factors collided and “Fat Studies” was born.

Sundress: In “Poem Beginning With A Zen Proverb,” (which, is such a great title), you create a list poem of places to “hide your body.” What are other list poems you have loved or that have influenced you?

Colleen Abel: Great question. The list poem that I think I go back to the most is Kenneth Koch’s “One Train May Hide Another.” I’m fascinated by how list poems make their way toward endings. They are so hard to write!

Sundress: What’s something you used to believe about writing that you no longer think is true?

Colleen Abel: Wow. I can think of probably a hundred things, from small to hugely philosophical. I was very young when I went into my MFA program and for a while I think I absorbed a lot of the aesthetic preferences of my teachers and saw those as rules of a sort. Eventually, I shook those off–as writers need to do with their mentors, often. I had a teacher who thought poems shouldn’t have questions in them, for example, and for a long time I was scared to ask questions in poems. That’s a small example, but I think the more I read and write and live in the world, the more expansive my idea of poetry becomes.

Sundress: What are three things that every poem needs?

Colleen Abel: 1. Attention to language 2. Attention to arrangement 3. A desire to communicate something to an audience.

Sundress: Can you tell me a little about writing community? Where is yours? What is it like? What were the best writing communities you’ve ever encountered, and why?

Colleen Abel: I am about a month into a two-year writing fellowship. There are about a dozen of us who comprise the inaugural class of Tulsa Artist Fellows, so I am excited to see this fledgling community grow and evolve, especially since it’s multi-genre. I was very, very lucky to be a part of a small group that met frequently for several years in Chicago. I probably won’t ever find anything quite like that again, but I still carry their generosity with me even a decade later.

Sundress: What projects are in the works for you now?

Colleen Abel: [My full-length collection] Remake is coming out this spring! I’m super excited. I have a full-length collection called Caryatid that’s seeking a home, and right now I am just trying to generate work without thinking too much about how it will shape into a book. Wish me luck!

Colleen Abel is the winner of Unicorn Press’ 2015 Editors Prize for her collection Remake, which is forthcoming in fall 2016. She is also the author of a chapbook, Housewifery (dancing girl press, 2013) and a former fellow at University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in Colorado Review, Pleiades, The Southern Review, Phoebe, West Branch, and many other outlets. She was recently named a 2017-2018 Tulsa Artist Fellow.

Tyler Barton is one half of FEAR NO LIT, a literary organization focused on community-building, surprise, and discomfort. An MFA candidate at Minnesota State University, he edits fiction for the Blue Earth Review, co-hosts the radio show Weekly Reader, and leads writing workshops for senior citizens. He’s currently creating a flash-fiction podcast called SHOW YR WORK that will be available online this summer. This winter, you can find his short stories in Midwestern Gothic, Little Fiction, matchbook, NANO Fiction, and No Tokens (and you can always find his jokes at @goftyler). Tyler is originally from York County, Pennsylvania, where, once, as a teenager, he saw a sweatshirt that read “York’s Not Boring…You Are,” and his life changed.

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So You Want to Start a Press? : A Publishing Roundtable

sundress

So maybe you’ve started a literary journal or a podcast? Maybe you’ve been rejected by presses and feel that it’s time to start a place that reflects your thoughts on contemporary publishing? Maybe you’re working in an English Department that’s looking to expand their scope? There are lots of reasons for starting a press, but before you do, check out Sundress Publications’ roundtable discussion with independent press editors about the highs and low of indie publishing.

Why did you found your press?

Carly Miller: I think one of the main reasons was to figure out a way to be a literary citizen outside of being writers and past literary magazine editors. When my cofounders and I started the press, we were five MFA graduate students sitting in a deli asking ourselves what books we love and why we love them. We found ourselves discussing literary theory in conjunction with how our favorite books “work” in their engagement with the reader, how we wanted to engage in this idea of “the creative act as critical act.” Poetry engages with so many different tensions, from subject matter to craft, and we wanted to create texts that could allow the conversation to become wider through the poet’s own voices and how they engage with various tensions. So, we founded a press to engage in these moments of tension, a.k.a. contemporary poetics alongside contemporary criticism, with hopes to contribute to this larger conversation.

Margaret Bashaar: Masochism? I mean, I have always found a deep sense of emotional fulfillment in promoting the art of others. There hasn’t been a time since I was 14 that I wasn’t editing some kind of literary publication. Little in life genuinely makes me happier than finding poetry that I feel merits an audience and working to connect that poetry with an audience. So masochism, definitely.  And I like making things with my hands, and books of poetry seemed like as good a thing as any to make with my hands.

M. Mack: The phrase we use is that we wanted to fill a gap in the publishing landscape. At the time, in 2012, there was a real shortage of markets that both called themselves feminist and welcomed work from folks who did not identify as women. So we created Gazing Grain Press as a place for feminists of all genders. The landscape has changed a lot since then, which is really exciting, and we now have a number of contemporaries.

Juliet Cook: I started my Blood Pudding Press close to ten years ago now, so it’s hard for me to remember the exact details of how I felt at that time, but I know it involved a strong and genuine passion for poetry and a realization that it was mostly poets who published other poets. I had been a big fan of ‘zines in my late teens through mid twenties, then indie literary magazines in my twenties all the way until now. When I was in my early thirties, I became a big fan of frequent blogging for several years. My blog site was Xanga and my blogger name was candydishdoom. I met a few creative writers there (some of whom I’ve remained connected with ever since), right around the time when they were initially starting their own online literary magazines and/or small presses. For example, Rachel Kendall, who started Sein und Werden not long after we met and has kept it going for years now and Kristy Bowen, who started Dancing Girl Press around that time. I loved how small indie poetry presses seemed like unique artsy poetic variations of ‘zines and I loved the individualism of our Xanga blog style communication and I loved poetry and poetry chapbooks.

I think I’d had a little back burner of an inkling to start my own itty bitty press for a year or two before I actually did it, but I felt overly nervous that I’d somehow screw it up. But in late 2006, I had this sudden spurt of finishing a small series of Twin Peaks inspired poems that had been sitting unfinished in the back of a folder for about 10 years, and I felt really strongly about the poems, and thought they worked best together instead of individually, and so I decided that would be a great time to start my own small press and publish my own chapbook first, because if I had trouble with formatting, design, or anything else, I wouldn’t be affecting another poet with my fledgling difficulties. Kristy Bowen gladly shared information with me about how she formatted her Dancing Girl Press chapbooks, I followed her formatting tips, I designed my own cover art, and I took it from there. After I got more comfortable with formatting and design, I shifted away from publishing myself with my own press and started publishing multiwriter collections and individual chapbooks by others.

For years, I felt so passionately excited about choosing chapbooks, designing chapbooks, and uniquely hand-crafting chapbooks. I loved being a part of the poetry community who was not only focused on herself, but also helped support others too.

 

What were some of the early pitfalls you found?

Carly Miller: We’re only two years old, so we may still be in the early pitfalls stage. One of them is definitely funding—we started the press as grad students, who don’t make a lot of money in the first place, and we’re all trying to find jobs and stability in the real world. But we rallied, and we’re working on ways to figure out funding (a.k.a. we’re finalizing our Indiegogo campaign to run sometime during the summer).

Margaret Bashaar: Time. In the past I have over-committed myself, time-wise, and it’s been a huge problem. Essentially, Hyacinth Girl Press is two people—Sarah Reck (who is our prose editor and does all our layout and design work and runs our website) and myself. It was a struggle for us to find a balance with the number of projects we could realistically take on without overwhelming ourselves, and the chapbooks we put out suffering as a result.

Juliet Cook: I honestly don’t remember many EARLY pitfalls, aside from my initial nervousness. I remember feeling extremely drawn to, excited, and passionate about what I was doing for quite a few years.

Reading the responses above mine, about money and time, I agree, BUT I don’t remember those being major concerns of mine when I first started my press. As far as funding, I don’t expect nor do I want anyone else to help fund my press (other than buying the created chapbooks). I am an ANTI-fan of how much crowdfunding has grown in recent years. As far as time, that can certainly be a challenge, but I’ve tried my best not to take on more than I can reasonably handle.

For me personally, the pitfalls came later, when I started to feel as if my press was inundating so much of my time and creative energy, that I didn’t have enough time to read things not related to the press, to write and revise my own poetry, to submit my own poetry, and so forth. I think I have a high drive but a moderate to slow process of accomplishing certain kinds of things. I’m not a good multitasker; I’m a one focus at a time sort of person; and for various reasons, it seemed to be getting harder for me to split my focus in all the directions I wanted to and it got to the point where I sometimes started to feel bothered by my own brain’s slow pace. Over the years, I’ve heard quite a few small press editors/writers express that their press started to take precedence over their own writing—and that’s fine, if you WANT that to happen—but ultimately, I DIDN’T want anything to take precedence over my own writing, at least not on a long term, ongoing basis.

Some other pitfalls that came later for me were partly generated by social media and/or my own brain’s interpretation of certain aspects of social media. Social media, especially facebook, is so up-to-the-minute that it can rather easily cause you to feel like if you’re offline for a few days, then you’re not going to stay up to date and you’re not going to stay on top of things that are going on in poetry land. Plus sometimes on social media, certain poets or presses suddenly seem to get lambasted by a whole group of others and if you were offline for a few days, you don’t even know what generated the lambasting when you get back online, and even if some of the lambasting was deserved, it seems to quickly reach the point of fast-paced attack mode, like people are flinging an arsenal of pies at other people’s faces and the pies have weapons loaded inside and people seem to launch too quickly into taking the side of this weapon-loaded pie or that weapon-loaded piece.

Another social media related pitfall for me is that I feel like I see other small presses talking about their big influxes of chapbook sales and then I start wondering why is my press barely selling enough chapbooks to break even when other small presses sound like they’re selling more than double the amount I’m selling and so what am I doing wrong, etc. . . .

When I started to question my own way of doing things, that’s when I also started to reconsider my press—because I don’t want poetry to feel like some sort of competitive popularity contest, yet part of my mind felt as if it was starting to warp itself into that way of thinking.

Like one part of my mind couldn’t care less how I compare to others; but the other part of my mind was some mutant cheerleader doing little splits and wondering why this press’s splits and this press’s splits appeared to be spreading much further than mine, even though I didn’t necessarily want mine to spread that much further.

M. Mack: One of our favorite early pitfalls happened when we took on Meg Day’s chapbook We Can’t Read This in 2013. We had to (quickly) get permissions to print ASL sign images in the chapbook and then redesign the book with the images we got permission to use. We wrote many carefully worded queries to publishers of ASL dictionaries and spent many hours scanning and erasing backgrounds in Photoshop. We got outstanding images to use from the University of Alberta Press, for free, and that worked out great. The thing about running a press is that you never really know what is going to happen. Things happen, and you figure out how to respond. Often, you figure out that the response involves a carefully worded query.

This isn’t exactly a pitfall, but it’s important to remember that everyone involved with your press is volunteering their time and attention and energy because they believe in the work. One thing that often surprises people I talk to is that expanding a staff takes time. Expansion isn’t as simple as bringing more people on to handle a growing workload. We expanded our staff from two to ten in 2014, following six months of preparation, trying to make our processes as transparent as possible and making all of our policies and procedures as open to revision as possible, and preparing ourselves to let go of some control of our precious literary baby. Even with six months of preparing for expansion, it was a healthy learning curve for all of us. We operate as a feminist press, and it is difficult sometimes. It is important to be open about how much work is required to run a press.

 

How much marketing is a new indie press expected to do for its authors?

Carly Miller: I think we’re expected to do just as much as older presses! I mean, we definitely have to hit the ground running with promoting our books to the best of our ability, and finding ways to get the book in other people’s hands.

Because we’ve mostly created anthologies, we’ve taken advantage of Twitter by tweeting lines from the anthology. We’re always keeping an eye on our contributors, too, helping to promote a new poem or a new book of theirs. We also connected with a few reviewers and teachers who reviewed or taught our books in their classrooms. We’re also wanting to host more readings, whether they’re in San Diego (our hometown/location) or not. These examples lead me to say that we’re so lucky that our contributors want to help us in terms of marketing efforts—Angela Veronica Wong set up a Spotlight feature on Coldfront (here’s the link: http://coldfrontmag.com/spotlight-locked-horn-press-part-1of-8/) and Krystal Languell hosted a joint reading for us in New York when our first books came out.

Basically, I think authors are expecting marketing efforts, but are also willing to help with marketing because that is the landscape of indie press publishing today. We have our own set of people we contact to help us get a review or something, but we’ve also seen the power of what happens when contributors promote their own work—literally, one contributor shared our newest collection on their social feed, and one of their friends immediately bought the book. We hope our contributors want to share the book with their friends, but we’re focused more on our efforts to get the books where they need to go.

Margaret Bashaar: I think a tiny indie press is expected to do as much promotion and marketing as that press promises to do. I know some presses don’t send out review copies, some don’t bother to try to get their books in bookstores, some don’t maintain their websites with a page for each chapbook, some don’t do promos for their chapbooks, some don’t do pre-sales, some never attend AWP, some only attend AWP and eschew all other fairs and conferences, and some do all of the above and more. I think it’s a case by case basis, and I feel that as long as you are upfront with what you as an editor are capable of and willing to do, then you’re doing great. Be honest. Do what you can.

Juliet Cook: I think this is variable and largely depends on the press. The size of the press, the money of the press, the number of editors of the press, the time constraints of the press, the location of the press, the brainwaves of the press and what those waves are aiming to do.

My press doesn’t do a great deal of in-person promoting, overall. I’ve been to AWP a few times, but certainly can’t afford that conference regularly. I’ve been to smaller, more local conferences and events in my general area. But I’m limited because of location, my brain flukes, and other reasons.

I do promote new chapbooks quite a bit online (via facebook, twitter, my personal blog, my Blood Pudding Press blog, and my website), I do have an online shop offering my Blood Pudding Press chapbooks (https://www.etsy.com/shop/BloodPuddingPress), and I do send out quite a few review copies of each chapbook. I appreciate it when the authors help to market and promote their work too.

One positive thing about social media for presses is that it’s a widely available promotional tool.

One not so positive thing is it can shift your attention all over the place, looking at a little bit of this and a little bit of that and wondering how in the world you’re going to find time to focus on everything that interests you.

With everything that’s going on in social media, all at the same time, even though posts can direct attention towards your press, they don’t necessarily increase the sales of your press. Just because people like a bunch of things on social media doesn’t mean they’re going to buy all those things they like.

Margaret Bashaar: I completely agree with what Juliet says about social media—popularity on social media does not necessarily translate to chapbook sales. My top five selling chapbooks I could never have predicted. There doesn’t seem to be a very set formula for “this is what will make a chapbook sell,” and I do my best to not worry about that. I hope that if I feel passionately about a book that will translate to others and they will want to read the book.

Sometimes something totally unexpected and ridiculous happens that you could never in any way control—a chapbook that I published in 2013 was featured on Jen Campbell’s book vlog as her favorite book she read in 2015, and sales of that chapbook skyrocketed as a result. There was no way for me to control this, for me to make this happen, other than to publish a bunch of chapbooks and for them to somehow make their way to her and for that particular chapbook to speak to her.

I think it’s easier to say what will make a chapbook NOT sell. If the poet is non-present on social media, if you release the chapbook on a holiday, if the poet or editor is non-present in promoting the book. Things like that.

M. Mack: All of the marketing. (I’m kidding, kind of.) If you want to publish a book, you have to market the book. That said, you’re probably volunteering your time to publish books. Marketing is a very important collaboration between the editor and the author. Make the workload more reasonable by being smart about where you send materials. Ask your authors for ideas and feedback. Make sure you are sending materials to meaningful places. See who will accept digital press kits and digital review copies; more and more markets will. It’s often easier and more economical (and less risky, especially if you make your books by hand) to distribute digital marketing materials. That said, especially if you make your books by hand, you want to represent your books accurately in digital form by including photos and descriptions of how they are bound.

 

What are some of the differences between online chapbooks and print chapbooks? What are the benefits of each?

Carly Miller: While my press hasn’t ventured into chapbooks yet, we’ve had these conversations. Online would allow us to reach a larger audience, especially if the chapbook is available for free (think H_NGM_N Books and Sundress’s e-chaps). Printed chapbooks are such an experience, since the ones I own are that perfect size that fits so easily into my purse and make for that perfect lunchtime read. I know we’re leaning towards more of a book-arts approach with the chapbook, which isn’t currently possible with how large our anthologies are. We haven’t fully done the research to see what would be cheaper in terms of the printed chapbook to go with POD, or figured out the book-art approach, but we’re getting there.

Margaret Bashaar: A print chapbook will exist forever as an artifact. It will be a thing you can hold and touch and re-read and nibble on for as long as you want to. There is more freedom of design and obviously of material in a print chapbook. A print chapbook can be thrown at a rowdy audience member at a reading. As human beings in our current form, we read better on paper than on a screen. Can you tell I deal exclusively in print chapbooks?

An e-chapbook can be much more widely distributed. E-chapbooks have a much smaller overhead. E-chapbooks, once designed, do not need to be re-printed. They do not need you to spend hours and hours folding and binding them. There is less restriction on length with an e-book because you don’t have to force a staple through 13 sheets of paper.

I think we are still in a place where people take print chapbooks much more seriously than e-chapbooks, and while I don’t know if I agree with that notion, I do think it shows a certain commitment to a book to bring it into physical existence. Though if I’m being honest, I used to take that much more seriously than I do now, because lately a lot of presses are being funded by crowdfunding campaigns, and so it’s less a mark of willingness to put your ass on the line to put out a book in print now.

Juliet Cook: I personally prefer print chapbooks, visually and on a sensory level. I think they look and feel more unique and extra-special and one-of-a-kind and you can touch them and smell them and flip through their pages at your own pace.

I’m a big fan of online literary magazines, but when it comes to chapbooks, I definitely tend to be more positively drawn to print.

However, online chapbooks are more easily and widely accessible and thus could have a significantly wider potential audience.

M. Mack: We don’t publish e-books at Gazing Grain, but I teach them in my chapbooks courses. I think e-books can do really exciting things with design, and different people can have access to them. E-books are really great for use in classrooms. (If you want your print chapbooks to be used in classrooms, consider ISBNs or an ISSN to make bookstore ordering easier.) Print chapbooks can also do amazing things with book arts, of course. I consider chapbooks to be extremely intentional handmade objects. My favorite is when publishers make e-books of their sold-out limited edition handmade chapbooks, like Bloof and Big Lucks do.

 

What tips do you have on designing the layout of an issue or book?

Margaret Bashaar: So, you make friends with this really nice girl named Sarah when you’re both in 2nd grade and you stay friends for like, twenty years. And then it turns out that she is working for Hachette Book Group and wants to try her hand at book design, and you’re starting a press and she’s like “hey, can I do your books’ design?” and you’re like “that’s cool—I was just going to do it in Word or something” and then it turns out she’s amazing at it and that’s my advice.

Juliet Cook: I don’t have the best tips to offer. I’m a one-woman old school designer, who uses Microsoft Word to design my chapbooks’ innards AND covers and I’m not good at explaining how I do it, I just do it how I do it.

Margaret Bashaar: Okay I figured someone else might have some tips, but now that I see that we’re all sort of in the same position I’ll try to some up with something more practical.

1. Teach yourself Microsoft Publisher. It’s not the best program, but if you have the Microsoft Office suite, you’ll have Publisher and you won’t need to spend any additional money on a special program. Plus, unlike Word, it’s a program that is actually meant to be used for things like pamphlet and book layout. It is not a difficult program to figure out (I figured it out on my own in like, an hour).
2. If you have some extra scratch, spring for Adobe Illustrator/InDesign/Photoshop. They are expensive, but I am told also totally worth it if you have the money.
3. Don’t be afraid to do things simply or with old school methods. Sometimes a clean, simple, text-based cover design is better than a fancy pants crowded looking one, and sometimes photocopying is totally the way to go.

M. Mack: I’m also not that helpful here, because I have been designing magazines and books since I was in high school, and for a long while I designed publications sort of professionally for a nonprofit. But, along that time I had to learn new programs and new ways of doing things, and it is possible to teach yourself design programs. If you’re starting from scratch, look for elements in books you admire. Choose a program and learn it. The internet is amazing. I once taught myself to code an e-book with Lynda.com in a weekend. Margaret makes a good point about affordability. I use Adobe because it is what I have always used. Try out different programs that are available to you. Think about what will suit your needs. Adobe has pitfalls not only in cost but also in availability (which is related to cost). Our editors are all over the United States, and sharing design files is nearly impossible. So, think about what your needs are (and will be) before committing to a program.

 

How do you determine fair pricing for cover art?

Margaret Bashaar: I figure out what I can afford, and fair price is probably like three times that. Honestly, Hyacinth Girl Press is infinitely lucky in that Sarah Reck, our co-founder, is such an amazing designer. When I’m dealing with an outside artist I am as up front with them as I can possibly be about our budget restrictions and I don’t ever try to force anyone to lower their prices for me. If it’s not a fit due to finances, it’s not a fit. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. Often, if I really have my heart set on a particular artist I will offer to buy the original piece for my personal collection, and that usually moves things along, but that also depends on my personal finances being in a place where I can buy art.

Juliet Cook: I highly value visual art, but I can’t afford to pay an artist a hundred bucks to design a cover for me, or even fifty bucks. In my own experience, some visual artists value poetry just as much as some poets value visual art, and they’re excited enough about having their art appear on the forum of a poetry chapbook and being credited in the book and receiving a free copy of the book that they don’t require monetary payment. I’ve paid some artists a small amount (in addition to crediting them and giving them a copy of the book) to create a new piece of art specifically for a cover. I’ve also purchased an existing piece of art from an artist in appreciation for being given permission to use that existing piece of art on the cover of a book. I’ve also used parts of some of my own visual art creations as cover art for some Blood Pudding Press chapbooks.

M. Mack: Unfortunately, most of us pay what we can afford. My only advice it to make sure that you are upfront with the artist with whatever your price is. You don’t want to put yourself in the position where an artist has said yes, but you can’t afford the fee. Make sure the author knows what the budget is and can include it in any conversations they have with artists. If you’re seeking permissions to reprint artwork, have a conversation with the author about budgets and expectations before you seek them. You might get lucky, but it’s best for everyone to have all of the information.

 

How do you make the most of writing conferences like AWP? How can you network at a conference without going overboard?

Carly Miller: This last AWP in Los Angeles allowed us to connect directly with our contributors and give them the book right away, which allowed us to not only thank them in person for contributing their work, but save on shipping costs once we got home. For networking, it really is just remembering that people are people. I’ve been to AWPs where I’ve had to stand behind a pillar to calm myself down before meeting some of my favorite poets, but keeping in mind that people who approach your table or have already contributed to your press have some connection with you, it allows the nerves to settle. I’ve taken advantage of book signings and making my small talk there versus chasing someone down when they’re clearly on their way to something (and yes, I’ve just run into people and walked with them wherever they were going, too). Really, just be yourself and if you see that person you want to connect with, fantastic—and if not, then hey, there’s always email.

Margaret Bashaar: I’m really bad at not going overboard at conferences, but not so much with networking as with running myself ragged selling chapbooks. I tend to spend 100% of my time at AWP and other festivals/conferences at my bookfair table talking to people about my press. I honestly enjoy doing so, but I tend to exhaust myself. I’ve found that, as an editor, the best thing I can do for my press is be present at my bookfair table as much as possible. My co-editor has never attended a bookfair or festival with me, so I am the sole representative of my press at these events. I spend money to be there, so I want to make sure I make the most of it, and that means pushing myself that extra mile to be personable and chatty and helpful. I usually take a few days off from socializing afterwards to recover, and that helps a lot.

M. Mack: Network wherever you are. Always have materials for your press with you. I embroider Gazing Grain Press tote bags for our editors to carry. I think of myself as a walking book fair table. Speaking of which, walk around bookfairs where you are exhibiting and introduce yourself to your contemporaries. If you’re walking around with everything you need if a conversation comes up, it is easier to enjoy the conference as an individual as well as an editor. I don’t think staying static at a table is necessarily the best way to promote your press. You’re also (most likely) paying your own way to the conference, so I think it is just as important to set boundaries and make sure that you are fulfilling your own goals for the event (such as seeing panels related to your latest poetry project) as it is to promote your press. Often, these things can go hand in hand. I like to introduce myself to judges of our contests after they speak on panels. I get to hear the panel, and I get to say, “Hi, thanks so much, you’re great.”

What would you say writers expect from the editors of a new press?

Carly Miller: I think writers expect professionalism in all forms. Each interaction needs to be professional and show that the work is being handled with care. I think writers want to see that the press is making an effort to get their work out into the world, and having the work presented in a way that is really beautiful (as in the physical object of the book via design, even when it’s online) and shows a sense of community-building via reviews and marketing efforts.  

Margaret Bashaar: I feel like expectations of new presses vary, and I feel as though editors more or less drive that expectation with how we present ourselves on our websites and in our initial communications with writers who want to work with us/we want to work with. It’s hard to say “this is what writers expect across the board.” I mean, I know what I, personally want from a press—I want the editor to reply to my communications in a decently timely manner, I want to be kept updated on the potential timeline for my book or chapbook’s release, I want to have open communication and conversation about my and the editor’s expectations and plans for the book and its release and promotion. So I would say the most important thing is communication.

Juliet Cook: I think that depends on the writer and the press. For me as a writer, I’m fairly open, but I would like a press to offer me a tentative time frame of WHEN the book will be published (and offer me updates if that time frame changes), a reasonable amount of free copies of the book with additional copies at a discount rate, and a reasonable amount of help promoting the book. Since that’s what I desire as a writer, that’s what I aim for as an editor too.

M. Mack: Excellence. Writers should expect excellence and respect. If you can’t prove yourself with an existing catalog, you have to prove yourself with the way you treat your authors and your books in process. I think the best way to do that is to be lovely to work with while you create lovely books.

 

What’s the most rewarding aspect of beginning a new press?

Carly Miller: It’s the moment the books fall into our hands. As soon as we have them, we’re able to send them to our contributors and say “thank you” all over again. It’s really the vision coming to life and seeing how excited our contributors are about the book, and wanting to share that excitement with others.

Margaret Bashaar: I haven’t started a new press in seven years, but I think the most rewarding thing for me when I first started HGP was probably interacting with each of my poets in person for the first time. I do my best to actually meet the people who I have published face to face, and it’s almost always a really fantastic, heartwarming thing.

Juliet Cook: Feeling like you’re being a personal part of the poetry community. Feeling like you’re creating what is meaningful to you and making a small but powerful difference to a few others.

Spending some personal time and energy and creative attention and genuine care focusing on other poets you appreciate and admire and helping their voices be heard.

Receiving meaningful tidbits of positive feedback and support directed at your press’s chapbooks’ innards as well as their design.

Having a few people who seem to actually care about and appreciate what you do and genuinely enjoy it.

Being your true creative self and helping to share a few other true creative selves.

M. Mack: The most rewarding part of running a press is directly contributing to the publishing landscape. Sometimes this also feels daunting. Pay attention when you feel uncomfortable and see if you need to make changes. One of my favorite parts is when people handle our books and ephemera and explore them. I like exhibiting for this reason—showing people how things are made. It is also really great when I bring a Gazing Grain text to one of my classes as an example of a book form and my students get excited about it. One of the most fun things for us is that Gazing Grain is a project of Fall for the Book literary festival, so we launch our chapbooks at Fall for the Book’s two annual events. Our authors and runners-up come to read, and our local editors get to present the brand new book or ephemera to the authors and get to know them. This is another good thing about going to big events like AWP, getting to see your authors and put together events for them.

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Juliet Cook’s poetry has appeared in a peculiar multitude of literary publications. She is the author of more than thirteen poetry chapbooks, most recently including POISONOUS BEAUTYSKULL LOLLIPOP (Grey Book Press, 2013), RED DEMOLITION (Shirt Pocket Press, 2014), a collaboration with Robert Cole called MUTANT NEURON CODEX SWARM (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015), and a collaboration with j/j hastain called Dive Back Down (Dancing Girl Press, 2015). Cook’s first full-length poetry book, Horrific Confection, was published by BlazeVOX in 2008 and her second full-length poetry book, Malformed Confetti, is forthcoming from Crisis Chronicles Press. In addition to her writing, Cook creates other art too, such as semi-abstract painting/collage art hybrid creatures. She is also the editor of Blood Pudding Press (poetry chapbooks in print) and Thirteen Myna Birds (a poetry focused online blog style lit mag). You can find out more at www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

Margaret Bashaar is the founding editor of Hyacinth Girl Press with co-editor Sarah Reck. Her first book, Stationed Near the Gateway, was published by Sundress Publications in 2015. She has published three chapbooks; Rungs, written with Lauren Eggert-Crowe (Grey Book Press, 2015), Letters From Room 27 of the Grand Midway Hotel (Blood Pudding Press, 2011), and Barefoot and Listening (Tilt Press, 2009), and has a fourth chapbook, Some Other Stupid Fruit, forthcoming from Agape Editions. Her work has also appeared in or is forthcoming from journals such as The Southeast Review, Rhino, New South, So to Speak, and Copper Nickel, among others. She hails from Pittsburgh where she co-runs the annual arts anarchy event, FREE POEMS, with Rachael Deacon, and works to destroy classism in the literary world in whatever way she can.

Carly Joy Miller’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Blackbird, Boston Review, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. She has been nominated for a Pushcart and was a finalist for the Stadler Fellowship. She is a contributing editor for Poetry International and a founding editor of Locked Horn Press.

M. Mack is a genderqueer poet, editor, and fiber artist in Virginia. Ze is the author of Theater of Parts (Sundress Publications, 2016) and three chapbooks: Mine (Big Lucks Books, forthcoming 2016), Imaginary Kansas (dancing girl press, 2015), and Traveling (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015).  Hir work has appeared in such places as cream city review, Hot Metal Bridge, Menacing Hedge, and The Queer South (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014). Mack is a founding co-editor of Gazing Grain Press, an assistant editor for Cider Press Review, and the monster maker behind What Is Reality Plushies.

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An Interview with Jessica Rae Bergamino

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Jessica Rae Bergamino is the author of The Desiring Object or Voyager Two Explains to the Gathering of Stars How She Came to Glow Among Them (Sundress Publications, 2016). She sat down to talk to our editorial intern Adam J. Gellings about process, influence, and more!

Adam J. Gellings:  The Desiring Object OR Voyager Two Explains to the Gathering Stars How She Came to Glow Among Them, is a wonderful combination of space & scientific exploration, crafted beautifully into these light, almost buoyant poems that float across the page. Could you speak about the conception of these topics, & how they all came together?

Jessica Rae Bergamino: First, thank you Adam for such a generous reading of The Desiring Object and for these thoughtful questions!

I first became interested in the Voyager mission’s emergence as contemporary mythology while listening to Ann Druyan’s discussion of the project on WNYC’s Radiolab.  These antiquated robots — without enough memory to play an MP3! — are floating through space with a golden record encoded with, among other things, the brain waves of a woman falling in love.  I wanted to explore what would happen if that knowing of oneself as something that can both desire and be desired was transferred on to their robot bodies. As the project evolved it became my love letter to queer femme resilience and the ways femmes constantly evolve the boundaries of desirability.

AJG: Other than poets, were there any other outside influences that were formative to the poems in this collection coming together?

JRB: Along with re-watching the original Cosmos, I read as much about the Voyager project as I could. I was lucky to have access to some amazing primary source material through a university library, including recordings of the congressional hearings on the project and maps of moons made from the Voyager observations and flybys. Two books, though, were particularly instructive: Murmurs of Earth, which explores the contents and creation of the Gold Records, and The Voyager Neptune Travel Guide, which is a weird little book prepared by NASA to orient Earthlings to the interstellar mission. It has a flip book of Voyager’s approach to Neptune!  It also has incredibly detailed explanations of what each of Voyager’s scientific instruments do and how they work.

AJG:  There is a playful rhythm to many of these poems as you read through them. Most notably in pieces such as ‘Ultraviolet Spectrometer” & “Triaxial Fluxgate Magnetometer,” where the reader is brought back to a single word or sound to bounce off of from each line. I wondered if you could talk a little about the construction of these poems in particular? How did you know when they were complete?

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JRB:  Each section of The Desiring Object is titled after a scientific instrument that composes the Voyager’s bodies and the corresponding text explores, however tangentially, the work of that instrument.  I wanted to anthropomorphize Voyager Two without stripping away her scientific realities and hoped I could reverse engineer Charles Olson’s ideas about projective verse as if the typewriter were experiencing the text, not the poet. The ultraviolet spectrometer measures light, so it lent itself to the opening poem, and I loved the visual rhyme between the ultra-poetic O – invocation and exhalation, whole and hole, planet and a mouth, boundary and unending loop, etcetera, etcetera  – and the binary 0.

At the same time that the list of scientific tools provided a great constraint, I knew I couldn’t commit to a linear narrative of psychological development wherein each section had a clear resolution and the next section presented an entirely new challenge — the poems needed to experience technical glitch, repetition, and failure. The triaxial fluxgate magnetometer measures magnetic fields, so I knew that had a great potential to gravitate – pardon the pun – back to an earlier section of the poem.  I knew each section was done when I could no longer see the seams where the poems were knit together, but I could still feel the strain against them.

AJG:  Could you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

JRB:   I read drafts aloud to my cat.  A lot

AJG:  Who are your ‘go-to’ authors, or specific books that you reach for when you’re in a crunch?

JRB:  It utterly depends on the type of the crunch, but Elizabeth Bishop, Brenda Hillman, Sina Queyras, Lucie Brock Broido, and Alice Notley are among the constants.

AJG:  What upcoming projects do you have on the horizon?

JRB:  I have been working on – dare I say completing? – a full length manuscript which imagines both Voyager One and Two as they grapple with the ethical and intimate limitations of the interstellar mission.  I’m also beginning a project which explores the intersections of haunting, anxiety, and girlhood.

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Jessica Rae Bergamino is the author of The Desiring Object or Voyager Two Explains to the Gathering of Stars How She Came to Glow Among Them(Sundress Publications, 2016), The Mermaid, Singing (dancing girl press, 2015), and Blue in All Things: a Ghost Story (dancing girl press, 2015).  Individual poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Salt Hill, Willow Springs, The Journal, Gulf Coast, The Offing, Colorado Review, and The Cincinnati Review. She is pursuing a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at The University of Utah, where she is poetry editor for Quarterly West. 

Adam J. Gellings is a poet from Columbus, Ohio. He is currently a PhD student in English at SUNY Binghamton & he received a MFA in Creative Writing from Ashland University. You can find his work in Quarter After Eight, Rust + Moth & forthcoming in Post Road Magazine.

 

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Interview with Sarah Jane Sloat

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Sarah J. Sloat’s chapbook, In the Voice of a Minor Saint, showcases small moments that belie great significance and trumpet the author’s ear for the specific. This collection is rich with metaphor, and Sloat uses form in a way that emphasizes the lyric. Broad in scope, while still giving the reader intimate insight into the speaker’s psyche, these pieces are touched with the divine. In the Voice of a Minor Saint was re-released earlier this year from Doubleback Books, an imprint of Sundress Publications.

 

Sundress: Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

Sarah Jane Sloat: I don’t. I just try. If I’m stuck, which I often am, I read.

 

Sundress: Your poems often deal with smallness and small things: tongues, bees, grains of rice. “My heart is small, like a love/ of buttons or black pepper” and “Mine was a small world, small/ and flawed.” Tell us a little about how this theme developed.

Sarah Jane Sloat: I have a button collection. And the world’s smallest Indian pot. I like things you have to get close to to appreciate. I like “things” in general. After “In the Voice of a Minor Saint” I put together a chapbook focused on things found in the home – the whisk, the faucet and toothbrush.

In the case of this chapbook, smallness has to do with the minor saint, patron of the overlooked and unassuming, who fail to get much attention. S/he’s their champion, though they probably would never ask for that.

 

Sundress: Tell us about the process of writing a cento like “Naked, Come Shivering.” Did you build the poem around one line, or did you find lines to fit what you wanted to say?

Sarah Jane Sloat: A cento shouldn’t use more than one line from any single poem. That’s the only rule I’d pay attention to.

Every cento I’ve written so far, including “Naked, Come Shivering,” I’ve done by  pulling lines I loved from French poets, mostly the surrealists. I am always struck by their beauty, their oddness, how many lines seemed self-sufficient and self-contained. I put the lines together in a way that rings right, without any goal in mind.

In “Naked, Come Shivering,” the line I started with was either “not wanting anything to die of hunger” or “the whole town has come into my room.” Both evocative, bust-down-the-door kind of lines. The title came last.

 

Sundress: What is your favorite poem in this collection, and why?

Sarah Jane Sloat: This is very difficult. Probably it was “Ghazal of the Bright Body.” I’m a big fan of the ghazal. This was the first one I wrote, and for me it shrugs off all its could-be burdens. It avoids becoming overwrought, which my less successful ghazals (hopefully unpublished) do not.

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Sundress: Besides writing, what is your favorite way to participate in the literary community?

Sarah Jane Sloat: After writing, I participate, if you can put it this way, by reading. I really believe  reading is a way to interact with the world. In reading, I feel I’m participating in the past, present and future. And you can chose your company. And be introverted to your heart’s content.

I recently got the latest issues of The Journal (Ohio) and the annual RHINO. I’m not ass-kissing when I say they’re really wonderful publications, and in both of them I found work I loved by poets I’d never read before, who are now my imaginary friends.

There are also dozens of online journals I read and love – DMQ Review, Adroit, Plume, Birdfeast, etc etc.

I live in a foreign country so my participating in an English-focused literary community excludes physical presence! I’m not terribly outgoing or social, I must admit. But I keep up, like most everyone, on social media.

 

Sundress: What is the best writing advice you have ever been given?

Sarah Jane Sloat: There’s no right way.

 

Sundress: If you could tell the world one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Sarah Jane Sloat: It would be what most poets who want anyone to read their poems would say:

I want to everyone know that I have not died

that I have a golden manger in my lips,

that I am the little friend of the west wind,

that I am the immense shadow of my tears.

-Lorca

 

You can find In the Voice of a Minor Saint for free here.

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Sarah J. Sloat lives in Frankfurt, Germany, a stone’s throw from Schopenhauer’s grave. Her poems and prose have appeared in West Branch, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Beloit Poetry Journal. Sarah’s chapbook of poems on typefaces and texts, Inksuite, is available from dancing girl press, which also published Heiress to a Small Ruin in 2015. 

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Call for Submissions–The Chapbook Review Issue

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Issue #21 – Give It to Me E-gain: The Chapbook Review Issue

For our summer issue we want, to read e-chapbooks published from January 2014 to May 2016. Self published is okay, but each chapbook must be available for download online through a publisher or personal website. Chapbooks that are not currently available online do not qualify. We are not interested in your unpublished manuscripts at this time.

SUBMIT ONE CHAPBOOK ONLY. All members of our staff will be reading cover letters this issue—think of it as your back cover. Get our attention with 50-150 words describing your chapbook, a biography, and a link to where your chapbook may be purchased or downloaded online.

Publishers: Please feel free to submit your authors’ e-chapbooks individually, provided you have permission from your authors.

Selected e-chapbooks will be showcased in July with a mini review by one of our staff members and a mini feature of selected work (2-3 poems; 1-10 pages of prose).

Submissions due 6/11/16. Issue live 7/31/16.

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The Desiring Object OR Voyager Two Explains to the Gathering Stars How She Came to Glow Among Them by Jessica Rae Bergamino Released

Sundress Publications is pleased to announce the release of The Desiring Object OR Voyager Two Explains to the Gathering Stars How She Came to Glow Among Them by Jessica Rae Bergamino, which was the runner-up for the 2015 Sundress Chapbook Contest.

“In Jessica Rae Bergamino’s The Desiring Object OR Voyager Two Explains to the Gathering Stars How She Came to Glow Among Them, each word carries a heavy weight. This chapbook forced me feel every vibration in order to fully experience the hybrid collage of science and sound. From the epigraph that contextualizes the ambitious theme, and through the immediacy of every line down to the last, I traversed the stars.”
-J. Nicole Oquendo, 2015 Sundress Chapbook Contest Judge

“We rarely ask about the instruments behind scientific discoveries, but perhaps we should. Or, better yet, perhaps we should ask them how they feel about themselves and their work. Jessica Rae Bergamino’s The Desiring Object imagines the inner workings of a Voyager Two who—like Star Trek‘s V’ger and Welcome to Night Vale’s Fey—has become sentient and pursues desires of her own. As she wonders ‘what body knows what’s left of herself / when she’s drifting from her shadow,’ we can’t help but turn skyward, dream of probes barreling through interstellar space and how, if they spoke as beautifully as Bergamino, they’d answer our questions.”
-T.A. Noonan, author of The Bone Folders

 

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Jessica Rae Bergamino is the author of two previous chapbooks: The Mermaid Singing and Blue in All Things: a Ghost Story (dancing girl press 2015). Individual poems have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Slice, So to Speak, West Branch, and elsewhere. She splits her time between Seattle and Salt Lake City, where she is a PhD student in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Utah.

 

The Desiring Object OR Voyager Two Explains to the Gathering Stars How She Came to Glow Among Them
is available free download from the Sundress Publications website!

 

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Sundress Publications Opens Submissions for 2016 E-Chapbook Competition

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Sundress Publications is pleased to announce its fourth annual chapbook contest. Authors of all genres are invited to submit qualifying manuscripts during our reading period of February 1st to March 31st, 2016.

We are looking for poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or any combination thereof. Manuscripts must be between twelve to twenty-six (12-26) pages in length, with one piece per page. Individual pieces may have been previously published in anthologies, print journals, online journals, etc., but cannot have appeared in any full-length collection, including self-published collections. Only single-author and collaborative dual-author manuscripts will be considered. A unifying element is encouraged but not required. Manuscripts must be primarily in English; translations are not eligible.

The entry fee is $10 per manuscript, though the fee will be waived for entrants who purchase or pre-order any Sundress title from our store.

The winner will receive a $200 prize, plus publication as a beautiful full-color PDF available exclusively online. Runners-up will also be considered for publication.

This year’s judge will be Staci R. Schoenfeld. Schoenfeld is a recipient of an NEA Fellowship, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and residencies from the Ragdale Foundation and Albee Foundation. She is a PhD student at University of South Dakota, assistant editor for poetry at South Dakota Review, and an assistant editor at Sundress Publications. Her poems appear in Mid-American ReviewWashington Square, and Muzzle.

All manuscripts should include a cover page (with only the title of the manuscript), table of contents, dedication (if applicable), and acknowledgments for previous publications. These pages will not be included in the total page count. Identifying information should not appear in any part of the manuscript. Authors with a significant relationship to the judge (friends, relatives, colleagues, past or present students, etc.) are discouraged from entering. We are dedicated to a fair judging process that emphasizes the quality of the writing, not the résumé of authors.

Simultaneous submissions to other presses are acceptable, but please notify Sundress immediately if the manuscript has been accepted elsewhere. Multiple submissions are allowed, but a separate entry fee must accompany each entry. No revisions will be allowed during the contest judging period. Winners will be announced in Summer 2016.

Submit your manuscript to contest@sundresspublications.com. Be certain to include “CHAPBOOK CONTEST ENTRY” in the title. Please also include either a screenshot of the payment or the order number with your submission.

Submit today at sundresspublications.com!

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“I Have a Fucking Skull For a Head:” Daniel Crocker on The One Where I Ruin Your Childhood

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Sundress recently caught up with author Daniel Crocker to discuss his newest chapbook, The One Where I Ruin Your Childhood. Steve Henn, author of And God Said: Let there be Evolution, admitted he had “… never read a book so heartbreaking, so funny, so tender, so powerful, and so real” as The One Where I Ruin Your Childhood.

From the first time I read Daniel’s Like A Fish in a classroom at the University of Illinois Springfield, I too was taken aback by its balance of comedy and the profound, the personal and the pop-cultural. It was also my first interaction with Sundress Publications, a collective of souls forever dedicated to bringing original, captivating voices like Daniel’s to light.

The poems in his most recent installment are the culmination of years of living, writing, and working, as Daniel describes in the following interview.

Jacob Cross: The One Where I Ruin Your Childhood assembles cunning commentary with its leading men, women, puppets, and cartoons. Like a Fish also accomplished similar character portraits, with the poem “He-Man, You Smarmy Bastard,” appearing in both books. What drew you back to this mode of writing? How did you want to separate this new chapbook from Like a Fish?

Daniel Crocker: The He-Man poem was, I think, the first poem I wrote in this style. It came from a friend telling me that his first real crush was He-Man. I imagine that’s fairly common for gay and bi men of a certain age. There’s a lot of subtext in the Masters of the Universe cartoons that are ripe for analysis—back when Queerness was more coded than it is now. For a lot of folks, He-Man is a fictional gay icon. Plus, I just loved the hell out of those cartoons as a kid.

In the end though, I found Skeletor a more interesting character. I related to him. I mean, I have a fucking skull for a head.

What drew me back to this mode of writing is that it’s fun. Writing should be fun. When you’re thinking about tenure, publications, or god forbid writing an immortal poem, it’s easy to lose track of the idea that writing should be fun. There should be a large element of play to it.

It’s a way to explore serious topics without sounding preachy. I’ve always used humor as a way to get into some of the tougher stuff I’d like to write about, the scary stuff. It’s easier for me, and I think it’s easier on the reader. A perfect poem in this mode for me is one where the reader both laughs and gets a little uncomfortable, and then later still find themselves thinking about it.

My first few books of poetry—from way back in the 90s—were more earnest. In fact, I cringe at some of them now. But, people seemed to like them more than I did. I kept getting journals and stuff back with my work in it, then I’d read my work and just not be happy with it. It was depressing. That eventually put me on a 10 year drinking binge where I kept writing, but didn’t send much work out at all. Looking back on it now, I think I needed it. I spent that time becoming a better writer. I was sort of lucky to have some early success, but I wasn’t fully developed as a writer yet. I think what people liked about those early poems is that they were soulful. They were also sloppy. Hopefully, I can do soulful without sloppy now. At least I keep trying.

I’m not sure how to separate the new book from Like a Fish. In a lot of ways, I think everything I have ever written is really just one big book.

JC: The opening line from a poem called “The Hulkster,” reads “Knees crumbled/ like blue cheese and my back/ always hurts.” You bring larger than life personas down to tangible, human levels. I feel like many writers can take defamiliarization to unexpected places, which is nice. But your work does this with purpose, lending meaning by courting the ridiculous. How do you control the irony, the fun rediscovery of these characters? How do you direct the poems to resonate in deeper ways and not trip on the comical?

DC: As one of my writing teachers, Steve Barthelme, once told me, you have to be more than just funny. Of course, sometimes you can just be funny. People love funny, and it’s very hard to do—especially in writing. If you can do it, you’ll find a market for it. That said, and probably because I always had such respect for him, what Steve said stuck with me.

I grew up wanting to be both a professional writer and a professional wrestler. It never occurred to me that it might be difficult to do both. Plus, I never got big enough or in good enough shape to be a wrestler, so writing it was. Only recently, in the last five years I guess, has my love for professional wrestling dwindled. I had long wanted to write a poem from the point of view of Hulk Hogan though. I messed with it for two years. It never accomplished what I wanted it to. But, once I realized that Hogan was as much of a symbol for ’80s politics as Reagan, it got easier.

JC: I feel like “Lion-O,” which questions the Thundercat series for attempting to “un-gay” its protagonist, is a great example of a poetic monologue from a narrator to a subject. There are muses on TV, those inseparable from our 20th and 21st century memories. It’s vital to take ownership of these muses and their places in our lives.

Does talking directly to characters help you refine them into useful realities in your writing process? In other words, do you write outside the poem in early drafts, testing what it is you have to say to the characters?

DC: I wrote that one directly to Lion-O because I felt like we had something in common that we should talk about. Did you see the Thundercats re-imagining? They really did go and un-gay Lion-O. Why? Being a bi-man myself, I understood what it was like to have people want you to fit into a certain category. Something that fit the mold they more expected. In the case of Lion-O, we are socialized to think that our male heroes need to be straight—not just straight, but manly men straight. By all means he should have a few love interests. In the case of bi-men, well, no one believes we exist anyway so there just going to put us in whatever easy category they think we fit into the best.

I’m also pretty convinced that the Thundercats are the villains in this whole thing. They crash land on a planet and immediately start to take over—at least in the original.

As far as the drafts go, it just depends. I knew I wanted to write a Lion-O poem because he was an important part of my childhood. I had seen the reboot and had commented to my daughter that they had un-gayed Lion-O. The rest just wrote itself.

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JC: Sesame Street seems to be a playground for your imagination, full of allegedly safe, innocent identities that you upset with your poems. Oscar the Grouch eating government issued cheese in Like a Fish will always stick with me. In the new chapbook, Snuffleupagas, the Cookie Monster, and other monsters are alive, but maybe not so well. What draws you into this setting?

DC: The good thing about the characters on Sesame Street, a great show by the way, is that most of them have one overwhelmingly defining characteristic. For example, Cookie Monster is a glutton. Perfect metaphor for addiction, which is what I used it for. Oscar was poor. I ate government cheese as a kid because we were poor. So, he was a good fit.

I was home alone a lot as a kid, so I watched a lot of television. All of these folks stuck with me, and as I got older, in the back of my mind they were getting older too. What does a 40 year old Grover act like? I ask myself a lot of stupid questions and sometimes they turn into poems.

JC: We have already talked a great deal about the pop-culture cleverness in The One Where I Ruin Your Childhood, but the chapbook’s final four pieces take the collection down a far more tragic path. In “A Dream of Siblings,” you relate a nightmare in scattered, curt couplets and frank language, questioning faith and the status of a brother’s passing; even his soul comes into play.

How do you arrange a poem this effortlessly emotive? How do you break up stanzas like “Maybe I never gave up believing/ Maybe, once having faith, no one/ ever gives up believing?” What rules do you set for yourself structurally?

DC: “A Dream of Siblings” is probably the only poem I’ve ever written that is entirely based on a dream. Everything in that poem was in the dream I had the night before. By that point my brother had been dead for almost thirty years. My sister had been gone about a year. So something subconscious was going on there.

I had written a lot about my brother over the years. I was 13 when he died in a car wreck. It was incredibly traumatic for my entire family, and I really had no good way to process it at that age. Then, when I was about 20, I wrote “Sorry, Richie” which is a long poem about my brother that was in my first book. That book got good reviews and that’s the poem that was most often mentioned. I’ve wondered a few times if I’ve written about it too much. Or about death in general. But, all poets have obsessions. There’s been a lot of death in my family. It’s just me and my mom left. So, I think I just have to resign myself to the fact that it’s something I’m going to write about.

Although I consider myself agnostic now, there’s a whole lot of heaven and hell stuff going on in the back of my head thanks to that damned church my grandma drug me to for years. This joint was one step above snake-handling.

Those 10 years I spent drinking and not submitting is where I learned how to be “effortlessly emotive.” The thing about “Sorry, Richie” is that it’s all out there. Some people like that. Others think it’s too much. I think it’s too much. It’s more powerful if it’s understated. My natural inclination is still to let it all hang out—so what I do now is let something sit for awhile and then cut out everything that can be cut out. On average, I probably end up cutting out 20-30 percent of everything I write. The appearance of effortlessness takes a lot of effort.

JC: What rules and editing expectations did you set for the next piece in the collection, “Brutal?” When was it time to close the book on that piece?

DC: “Brutal” came out, nearly word for word, just like you see it in The One Where I Ruin Your Childhood. I wrote it in probably thirty minutes. But, I had been thinking about it for thirty years. I had touched on the topic before in other writings—but always more veiled. It was such a difficult thing to even think about, much less write. Finally, one night I just felt ready. I decided I’d write it to the best of my memory—though memories that traumatic are surreal and take on a life of their own. What I’m saying is, I have no idea. I just sat down and wrote it and was happy with it. It got turned down by several places though for being too explicit.

JC: Before we finish up, will the culinary world ever make an appearance in your writing? I have read you’re a short order cook aside from a teacher. Do you have a close connection to food?

DC: A lot of my fiction is set in small restaurants, but not so much the poems. I’m not sure why.

I haven’t worked as a short order cook since I started my job at Southeast Missouri State University. I did spent a big part of my life working in family owned restaurants (a much different vibe than chain places). I really loved that work. I washed dishes until my mid-thirties. Great job for a writer. Plenty of time to think. I worked out a lot of poems and stories in the kitchens of various bars and grills.

I also did some cooking later on. I enjoyed that too. I still love to cook and mess around with trying to perfect different kinds of food. I’m not great at it, but I keep getting better.

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You can reading Daniel Crocker’s chapbook, The One Where I Ruin Your Childhood, for free at the Sundress Publications website.

Daniel Crocker is the author of three collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, and the novel The Cornstalk Man. His most recent collection of poetry, Like a Fish, was released by Sundress Publications in 2011. Crocker is a graduate from The Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi, and he currently lives in Leadwood, MO, where he works as a short order cook and substitute teacher.

Jacob L. Cross lives in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. He studied creative writing and publishing at the University of Illinois Springfield, where he served as editor of The Popcorn Farm Literary Journal. His work has been featured in Still: The Journal, The Alchemist Review, Stirring, and elsewhere. His poems also appear in Clash by Night, a poetry anthology inspired by the punk staple, London Calling. He enjoys hiking with his wife, traversing Zelda dungeons, spoiling his dogs, and half-priced sushi.

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