AWP 2014 Dispatches: The Final Day

Posted By admin - 3rd March 2014

No Comments

Lela Scott MacNeil

After three days of juicy, nutrient-rich AWP goodness, I needed a break. Time away from the crowds and the recycled convention center air to integrate everything I had learned over the past few days. As writers, this is what we do. We furiously absorb, and then we take time to process, to make meaning.

Luckily, AWP choses some pretty great cities in which to have its conference. Seattle is certainly no exception. For me, it’s been the perfect place to sift through and organize all the ideas and words I’ve been exposed to over the course of the conference.

photo

In the morning I went for a brisk walk through the pine trees of Ravenna Park with my friend Natasha who works at the University of Washington Press. We talked about the state of modern publishing, the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is so much inspiring literary work being done by small and university presses. On the other hand, commercial publishing’s focus on profitability at the expense of quality is disturbing. The question is, how do you create a sustainable industry around well-made, artistic literature?

photo (1)
photo (2)

All that deep conversation left us hungry, so we stopped by the U District farmers market. I picked up some dark rye bread, fresh smoked salmon, and a hunk of delightfully gooey local cheese for my lunch. Every time I come to the Pacific Northwest I am amazed all over again by how incredible the local food selection is. Some guy was playing an acoustic version of “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show on his guitar, which was just the cap on the Seattle cake from me.


photo (3)

After making myself what was very possibly the best lunch had by anyone anywhere on the planet, I took the bus downtown to meet my friend Sara at the EMP Museum. If you’ve never been to this museum of music and popular culture, I recommend that you make a point of going the next time you’re in Seattle. There’s an exhibit on horror movies, which explores why we love scaring ourselves, and an exhibit on Science Fiction that looks at the genre as an allegory the questions we have about our own society. Other exhibits included a study of how Nirvana brought the anarchist spirit of punk and grunge to the masses, a look at Jimi Hendrix’s formative years in London, and an exhibition of famous buildings build out of LEGOs.

photo (4)
photo (5)

It was the perfect AWP synthesis activity. Being exposed to all of those vastly different types of creativity (Hendrix, Cobain, Hitchcock, Asimov, whoever built those amazing LEGO sculptures) gave me new ways to think about my own writing projects, as well as some of the ideas that have come up repeatedly during the conference: art vs. commerce, staying true to your voice, owning and transcending labels, diversity, and on and on.

After scoring a live vinyl recording of the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Miami Pop Festival, Sara and I took the monorail (another touristy Seattle thing that’s totally worth it) back to the Convention Center. I helped pack up the UA Press book fair booth, and felt a little sad that these days of literary madness were coming to an end. Luckily, it wasn’t quite over yet. I headed over to the Red Lion Hotel for the Literary Orphans’ AWP Last Call party, where I finally got to meet Joe Clifford, a great writer and the editor of an anthology of Bruce Springsteen-inspired noir fiction called Trouble in the Heartland, which will include my story “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” along with stories by Dennis Lehane, Hilary Davidson and other crime writing greats. (Can you tell I’m excited for that one?)

A quick drink with Joe and then it was back to the convention center for the closing night reading with Tim Egan and Sherman Alexie. Tim Egan read a beautiful, lyrical essay about the upriver path of the noble Pacific Northwest salmon (one of whom I had eaten for lunch that day). I especially loved this quote from Rudyard Kipling, who, after fishing for salmon in the Pacific Northwest said, “I have lived! The American Continent may now sink under the sea, for I have taken the best that it yields, and the best was neither dollars, love, nor real estate.”

And then it was time for Sherman Alexie. While I’ve read and enjoyed many of his books, I was completely unprepared for the warm spirit, x-acto knife wit, and overwhelming charm of the man. “It’s so nice to be here at AWP around so many dorks,” he said before forcing the whole audience of hundreds to double over in laughter with one piece about openly gay NBA player Jason Collins and the intrinsic homoeroticism of basketball, and another about a hopelessly sweet high school senior eating hot fudge sundaes with the parents of the girl who just dumped him at prom. After he was done, he turned to the sign language interpreter and said, “I just think sign language is so amazing. You can say anything in sign language and it looks cool.” He paused, turned to the audience with a mischievous smile and said, “Please, saw my legs off.” Everyone laughed as the interpreter dutifully signed the words. Alexie continued, “I find the man on stage to be exceptionally attractive.” The crowd lost it.

photo (6)

Sara, who had the patience to wait in the massively long signing line, said he was every bit as enchanting one on one. What a perfect way to end my first AWP extravaganza.

While it will be nice to get home to the dry March heat of Arizona, I’m already excited for next year. See you in 2015, Minneapolis!

 

Read the Day 1, 2 and 3 dispatches here, here, and here.

 
 
 


Lela Scott MacNeil was born in Los Alamos, NM, same as the atomic bomb. She is the Sales Manager at the University of Arizona Press, teaches at the Writers Studio, and her work is forthcoming from Gertrude and Gutter Books.

 


AWP 2014 Dispatches: Day 3

Posted By admin - 1st March 2014

No Comments

Lela Scott MacNeil

Well it’s day three of AWP and I think we’re all wearing a little thin. My friend Erin posted on Facebook: “Seattle and AWP, y’all are awesome, but I’m ready to go hide in a cave for a bit now. #somanypeopleeverywhere” Our friend Sarah commented, “I’m hiding in the cave of my hotel room!” Our friend Will said, “I literally just ate 18 dollars worth of French cheese all by myself in Seattle, so don’t feel too bad for being a hermit.”

It’s hard out there at AWP for an introverted writer.

So, with that in mind, I’ve decided to put together a little AWP survival guide for the discerning wallflower.

1. Dress the part. Wear clothes that are comfortable but intimidating. Extra points for super hip glasses and haircuts. This gives you the option of being friendly (people will be so pleasantly surprised that you are nice and not scary that they will feel instantly bonded to you) or cool and aloof (people will assume that you’re someone terribly important that they should have heard of).

image

2. Take a time out. Carve out a couple of hours or more each day to explore the host city by yourself. Things I’ve done so far during my time outs: ate seafood bisque in a sourdough bowl, ate a certified genuine Neapolitan pizza (okay, so most of my time outs involve eating), explored a creepy dub-step only music store, bought 37 vintage postcards for a writing project I’m working on, sat in the comfy chairs reading a recently purchased book at the amazing and incredible Elliot Bay Book Company, had a beer and some pickles (we can pickle that!) with an old friend. Tomorrow, I think I’ll blow off the afternoon to visit the EMP Music and Pop Culture museum, which is housed in a Frank Gehry building shaped to look like Jimi Hendrix’s smashed guitar.

3. Keep it loose. When I asked my friend Adam for AWP advice on the first day of the conference, he said, don’t over-plan, and don’t feel bad about getting up in the middle of a panel you don’t find interesting and heading to one that fits you better. Listening to people talk about something you find boring is exhausting.

4. Remember the readings. It’s easy to get pulled in by panels with titles like “Become a Famous and Award Winning Writer in Nine Easy Steps” and “This Is the One Thing You Need to Know to Be Halfway Decent at Writing.” But don’t forget about the readings. The two best panels of my day were the Graywolf Anniversary Reading and the Lambda Literary Anniversary Reading. The writing presented was stunning, and it was inspiring to see two literary organizations with such longevity working so hard for literary quality and diversity. Readings are also somehow more relaxing than craft panels, which makes them a nice way to decompress after a long day/week.

5. Remember the snacks. Being around other people is a lot harder when you’re hangry (so hungry you’re angry). Convention center concessions are inevitably expensive and mediocre, so stop by a local grocery store and pick up some snacks for your AWP tote bag. My favorites this time around have been string cheese, Lara Bars, and blood oranges.

image

6. Remember the offsite events. Some of the best stuff at AWP isn’t happening at AWP. The schedule of offsite events is listed on the website, and is stuffed full of good (free) booze and great (also free) readings. Plus, this is an excellent way to explore the bars and basements of the host city.

image

7. Remember the Bookfair. The AWP Bookfair is no joke. All of the literary magazines, publishers, MFA programs, and other writing organizations you have and haven’t heard of, in one frenetic, fluorescent-lit place. Make sure to schedule enough time to browse in a careful, relaxed manner. Introduce yourself to the journals and publishers that look interesting. Ask questions. Flirt. (Just kidding, don’t do that). But DO remember that these organizations are here to serve you, so take advantage.

8. Drink enough water and get enough sleep. I know I sound like a Mom at this point, but remember, taking care of yourself is all the more important when subjected to the stresses and stains of conference life.

8. Know your cave. Figure out what is that specific thing that recharges your batteries and make sure you do it regularly. For me it’s reading a book I just bought in a big, comfortable chair. Or taking Buzzfeed Quizzes. (Apparently Virginia Wolfe is my soulmate).

Do all that and you should make it through AWP just fine. I realize that tomorrow is the last day, so it’s a little late for a Survival Guide, but go ahead and print this post and put it your scrapbook for next year. You’ll thank me.

I’d write more but I gotta go take this quiz to find out which Babysitter’s Club Character I am.

 

Read the Day 1 and 2 dispatches here and here.

 
 
 


Lela Scott MacNeil was born in Los Alamos, NM, same as the atomic bomb. She is the Sales Manager at the University of Arizona Press, teaches at the Writers Studio, and her work is forthcoming from Gertrude and Gutter Books.

 


AWP 2014 Dispatches: Day 2

Posted By admin - 28th February 2014

No Comments

Lela Scott MacNeil

photo (1)

My day kicked off early with the Melville House 12th Anniversary reading. But before I get into that, I have a confession to make. I have a total crush on Melville House’s Twitter feed. Here are some recent tweets: “We always root for the whale.” “I will not make jokes about the erotic publishing house Dark Hole Press. I will not make jokes about the erotic publishing house Dark Hole Press.” “Sales tip: To increase a book’s sales by 500,000% pretend J.K. Rowling didn’t write the book and then reveal she did.” So I was excited to see what their reading was all about. And lucky for me, it exceeded my expectations. Jeremy Bushnell read a hilarious section from his new Melville House Book The Weirdness, which totally reinvents the “make a deal with the devil” genre. Christopher Boucher, author of How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, read a selection from his novel-in-progress featuring a POV Piano. A POV Piano? You know, it’s that thing where every time you press a key on the piano the point of view in the novel shifts.

Founders Valerie Merians and Dennis Johnson were utterly charming as they introduced the press, saying things like, “We still think it’s important to create books that are beautiful objects,” and “How do we approach digital markets? Very cautiously, like a cheetah approaching a wounded gazelle.” Melville House is an increasingly rare breed in publishing, a trade publisher willing to take a chance on gutsy fiction that no one expects will sell 100,00 copies. I was sold enough to stop by their booth later in the book fair and pick up copies of The Weirdness, How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, and Tao Lin’s novella Shoplifting from American Apparel.

Next up was a panel titled “How Many Readers Is Enough?” which featured UA Press author Alison Adelle Hedge Coke. It explored interesting questions such as “Has there ever been a writer who felt sufficiently read, published, appreciated?” And “If a novel doesn’t have any readers, does it event exist?” But one thing I don’t understand about AWP is this habit the panelists have of getting up and reading a prepared statement without looking at the crowd. Whenever anyone breaks form and improvises, as Allison did, the effect is electrifying. Allison argued convincingly that if our writing has radical activist motivations, sometimes it’s more effective to stay mid-list.

Tim Hernandez, Daniel Chacon, and Kristen Buckles

Tim Hernandez, Daniel Chacon, and Kristen Buckles

After that I dipped my toes into the book fair and finally got to face-to-face meet one of my favorite UA Press Authors, Tim Hernandez. His book Mañana Means Heaven retells “The Mexican Girl” chapter from On The Road, taking the point of view of Bea Franco, the real woman behind Kerouac’s fictionalized Terri. Tim is an incredible writer and we’ve been emailing back and forth for over a year so it was a thrill to finally get to meet him.

Mat Johnson

Mat Johnson

Next up was a panel titled “Literary Politics: White Guys and Everyone Else,” with Roxane Gay and Mat Johnson, among others. The room was packed to the gills, and the panelists were engaged and funny. Mat told us that the depressing VIDA numbers aren’t “a problem of men not buying the right books, because men aren’t buying that many books compared to everyone else.” Roxane told the crowd “you have to be relentless, you have to never stop,” and Mat went on to say, “you have more freedom than you think.” I left the panel feeling encouraged about my future as a non-Whiteguy writer.

My final panel of the day was “Designed Instability: Open Endings in Short Fiction,” where moderator Edward Porter gave us this gem: “Open endings are the author saying you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.” Thanks, Edward, for getting Semisonic’s “Closing Time” stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx

Rounding out a day overflowing with literary goodness (panel fatigue is a real thing y’all) was the AWP 2014 Keynote Address by the one and only Annie Proulx. She was every bit as charming and dryly funny as you’d expect, covering everything from the how Amazon and other corporate interests have changed the book business to how writing is a sort of “addiction to beauty.” As one @AdrianXTristan said on Twitter: “Just listened to keynote speaker, Annie Proulx, on why writers write. Definitely not 140 characters or less, but loved the adventure #AWP14.”

Interestingly, all of us here at #AWP14 were responsible for making that the top trending hashtag on Twitter today, which just goes to show how powerful all of us introverted scribblers and keyboard tappers can be when we get together and decide to do something. Like tweet. Speaking of which, you can follow me @lscottmacneil.

Now I’m off to quickly stop by the official AWP party before pouring myself uptown and into bed.

 

Read the Day 1 dispatch here.

 
 
 


Lela Scott MacNeil was born in Los Alamos, NM, same as the atomic bomb. She is the Sales Manager at the University of Arizona Press, teaches at the Writers Studio, and her work is forthcoming from Gertrude and Gutter Books.

 


AWP 2014 Dispatches: Day 1

Posted By admin - 27th February 2014

1 Comment

Lela Scott MacNeil

Is it me, or is air travel getting worse?

Just getting to Seattle for this year’s AWP conference was something of an epic journey. After 10 hours, two very delayed flights, an airline change,
and one truly remarkable Reuben sandwich in the San Francisco Airport (shout out to Max’s Eatz & Fresh Bakery near Gate 20) I finally made it to
SeaTac.

But harrowing as air travel is, it’s never without its moments of color. Like when the guy sitting next to me at SFO had to explain to his girlfriend that the Borowitz Report was not real news, that no Arizona lawmaker actually said, “We had no idea that gays had money and bought things just like regular people do.”

Having safely arrived, I checked in at the Express Shuttle Desk. It just so happened that everyone on my shuttle was a woman and headed to AWP. “Hey look, it’s the Ladies Limo,” said a woman with a hip haircut and glasses
(oh wait, that’s EVERYONE at AWP).

On the shuttle ride downtown, the Ladies of the Ladies Limo chatted about various things, including the recently released VIDA Count, which tallies the gender disparity in major literary publications and book reviews, and is always a little depressing.

“Maybe it’s just a question of subject matter and audience,” said one of the Limo Ladies. “Some people think children are boring, that motherhood is boring.”

“Well I don’t think war poems are boring!” replied her Lady friend.

photo

I made it to the Convention Center just in time to help the University of Arizona Press’ Acquiring Editor put the finishing touches on our booth, before wandering out into the damp Seattle night. Outside I ran into one of my MFA Professors.

“It’s funny, normally at AWP the writers really stick out,” she said, “but in Seattle, everyone’s got the beards and the glasses.”

After that, it was time to take the bus north to the “U District,” as the locals call it, where I am crashing with a friend of mine who works at the University of Washington Press. It was kind of fun to ride a busy Seattle bus in rush hour like a real commuter. Except for the bright green lanyard on the AWP name tag I forgot to take off.

After settling in, I was able to check two of my most urgent Seattle to-dos off my list. First, I had amazing sushi at Village Sushi on 12th Ave and 50th St.—worth the trip for those of you looking to get away from the chaos of downtown AWP. When you live in the middle of the landlocked desert as I do, visits to the Pacific Northwest become a contest to see how much (fresh, never frozen) fish you can manage to eat during your trip.

photo (2)

Then, I ran across a used book and music store, and took the opportunity to add to my vinyl record collection—something I had a feeling Seattle would be good at. I was not disappointed. What can I say? I think most of us who work in the book business have a soft spot for analog technology.

photo (1)

When I put together my tentative AWP schedule on Monday I ended up triple- or quadruple-booked for every time slot. We’ll see how much of that actually happens. But one thing is certain: it sure is fun to be a part of so many writers stuffed into one city.

 
 
 


Lela Scott MacNeil was born in Los Alamos, NM, same as the atomic bomb. She is the Sales Manager at the University of Arizona Press, teaches at the Writers Studio, and her work is forthcoming from Gertrude and Gutter Books.

 


Contributor Books This November

Posted By Steven - 4th November 2013

No Comments

I’ve seen quite a few lists of books to read this November, including at Flavorwire, Book Riot, and Amazon. One thing I noticed is that most of these lists have Monkeybicycle contributors on them, which is wonderful. And a few that didn’t make any of these lists (but probably should have) also have books coming out this month. Here’s a rundown. Please, buy these up, fast. I haven’t read all of them yet, but knowing the authors, I think it’s a safe bet that they’re all fantastic.

sampsell-this-is-between-us
This is Between Us (Tin House Books)
Kevin Sampsell

“well written . . . . consisting of telling moments and epiphanies rendered in precise, poetic prose.”
—Publishers Weekly

 
 
18110813
The Laughter of Strangers (Lazy Fascist Press)
Michael J. Seidlinger

“This elastic, hurtling narrative pivots (and pivots again) on a recurring image of almost unimaginable dread—that of being laughed at in your hour of need by an audience of strangers.”
—Grace Krilanovich, author of The Orange Eats Creeps

 
 
isle-of-youth
The Isle of Youth (FSG Originals)
Laura van den Berg

“. . . absolutely captivating.”
—Vanity Fair

 
 

51aAgGi4MlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
The Desert Places (Curbside Splendor)
Amber Sparks, Robert Kloss, and Matt Kish

It’s really exciting to see our contributors doing such great things. Help support their efforts and pick of copies of them all!

 


Small Press Interview: Atticus Books

Posted By admin - 27th August 2013

No Comments

In this interview series, Monkeybicycle intern David Cotrone will introduce you to a variety of small press editors and publishers.

 

atticus-logo

This interview was conducted with Dan Cafaro of Atticus Books.

 


 

Monkeybicycle: When was Atticus Books founded? What prompted you to want to start it?

Dan Cafaro: The press started as a “desperately seeking readers” blog. Essentially I was looking for a productive way to avoid the lonesome cruelty of creative writing. The organic concept of publishing other people’s work seemed like a benevolent solution. Being inspired by my attendance at a small press book fair in New York City sealed my fate.

Mb: At the time, why was Atticus—and why is it still—necessary?

DC: Atticus is as necessary as a weathervane in a wind storm. Like all independent presses, our publishing house acts as a rudder, pointing readers in a bold, adventurous direction, imploring them to brave the elements, pay heed to the pattern of the circling sharks. We’re here to help folks avoid the calamity of being wedged and informed solely by the siphon and booming din of popular culture.

Mb: What about Atticus Books are you most proud of?

DC: We don’t compromise our principles to sell books. We don’t base our publishing decisions on the opinions of what others may deem marketable. I embrace and support writers who have carved out a lasting impression with the delicacy of a paring knife, and three pages later, the ferocity of a chainsaw. I’m not concerned with the seeming folly behind my personal investment. I’m concerned with how I can help increase the visibility of writing that deserves attention because of its sheer strength and resonance.

Mb: What do you look for when you’re open for submissions? What makes a project or manuscript worth taking on?

DC: Now that we have a little traction in the indie lit community, I look for familiarity with our press. I have an aversion to indulging folks who submit to us without first attempting to understand our mission and getting acquainted with our work. This isn’t kid play; this is a job interview with no pay and lousy benefits, but the rewards are intrinsic, the perks priceless, the commute exceptional.

If you really want to impress me, tell me why one of our books changed your life. Tell me what blog post or Atticus Review publication so blew you away or so enraged or baffled you that you missed your shift or class and went on a mental holiday or bender because the writing was that good (or terribly misguided). Tell me how you plan to help us change the course of literary history. Tell me why I shouldn’t collect what’s left of my marbles, fold up the press and defect to Switzerland.

Mb: What does “indie” or “small press” mean to you? What do you think of such classifications and distinctions?

DC: It’s a tired conversation because the explanation is likely unnecessary for anyone reading this interview. You don’t need to explain indie music or indie films to people who are fans of such media. Indie lit’s the same deal. We should quit worrying about what distinguishes us from the conglomerates (mostly shallow pockets) and concentrate on what makes us better. As much as we don’t want to admit it, our perspectives are not all that wildly different from anyone with a stake in publishing.

Mb: What sets your books apart from the rest?

DC: I’ve been incredibly fortunate to link our press with cover designer Jamie Keenan from the beginning. He has helped fulfill the vision and establish a brand that follows in the spiritual footsteps of my influential literary mentors, Grove, New Directions and Black Sparrow Press. We also have a killer logo, designed by Mark Munoz and Susannah Fields of RIPE Creative. Managing editor Libby O’Neill has been with me since our debut release (Fight for Your Long Day) and has succeeded to this point in keeping Atticus (and me) from crashing and burning. Publicists Lacey Dunham and Abby Hess have been instrumental in heralding our book titles with the force of Gabriel’s horn. Web master Tracey Holinka of Chaos to Clarity has maintained both the Atticus Books and Atticus Review websites with the precision of a brain surgeon. And, of course, our writers—all 16 of them & counting—are talismanic, both as storytellers and friends of Atticus. I guess what I’m saying is: the talent sets our books apart. If I’m particularly good at anything, it’s finding talented peers who make me look way smarter than I am.

Mb: What’s your favorite part of your job?

DC: It’s really the kinetic thrill I get from making connections with people. That includes readers, writers, other publishers, editors, designers, booksellers, small press junkies, and anybody who makes this wacky subterranean world of indie lit (r)evolve.

Mb: For you, why are books so important?

DC: I guess the predictable reason I find books so important would be for me to equate letters with allotropes and words with oxygen and pages with leaves and bindings with roots, and covers with trees and libraries with the ecosystem, and perhaps, to get metaphorically even punchier, to equate the writer with our supreme creator, but that would be a rather silly, pompous analogy, so scratch that. Books are essential for me because they remind me in their eternal, collective wisdom of my place in the universe; they make it clear that the world doesn’t revolve around me or any one of us, even though it would be so much cooler once in a while if it did.

Mb: What other small presses do you admire? Why?

DC: You’ve put me on the spot, but I’m a glutton for challenges. First, in a shameless plug, many of the literary presses I admire that produce journals are featured in our house’s first non-fiction release, Paper Dreams: Writers and Editors on the American Literary Magazine (Aug. 13, 2013). That covers quite a bit of ground right there, but to focus on mostly fiction houses, let me mention 20 book publishing luminaries (several of whom should go without saying, including the first seven which are non-profits with a far-reaching impact): Coffee House Press, Milkweed Editions, Dzanc Books, Graywolf Press, Red Hen Press, Sarabande Books, C&R Press, Melville House, Tin House, Press 53, Soho Press, Other Press, Curbside Splendor, featherproof books, Publishing Genius Press, Seven Stories Press, Raw Dog Screaming Press, sunnyoutside press, Civil Coping Mechanisms, and Tarpaulin Sky Press.

How’d I do? Oh wait, you want to know why. Why do I admire these presses? OK, here goes: because without their continued presence the world would be a darker, sorrier place.

Mb: Do you have hope for the future of books?

DC: I have nauseatingly high hopes and unbridled enthusiasm for the future of books. Check out the press list above and just look at the volumes of gems that small, independent presses produce daily. Of course we all won’t survive the hellacious economics of publishing titles for such a narrow sect of society, but that doesn’t mean the future is bleak. For every painful death of a press, be it for personal or financial reasons (e.g., J.A. Tyler’s Mud Luscious Press), there is a vibrant upstart sitting in the queue, ready to take his cuts (e.g., Ryan Rivas’ Burrow Press). My confidence will grow when an increasing number of people realize that the Big Six don’t make up the entirety of big league rosters. Technology and changing consumer behaviors have leveled the playing field for small presses. Now we just need to learn how to hit the curve.

 
 
 


David Cotrone is from Plymouth, MA. His writing appears in Fifty-Two Stories, The Rumpus, PANK, Paper Darts, Necessary Fiction, Thought Catalog, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and elsewhere. You can find him at www.davidcotrone.com.

 


Small Press Interview: Short Flight/Long Drive

Posted By admin - 6th June 2013

No Comments

In this interview series, Monkeybicycle intern David Cotrone will introduce you to a variety of small press editors and publishers.


 


 

This interview was conducted with Elizabeth Ellen of Short Flight/Long Drive.

Monkeybicycle: When was Short Flight/Long Drive founded? What prompted you to want to start it?

Elizabeth Ellen: I believe we founded SF/LD sometime in 2006, because Aaron was the editor of Hobart and I wanted something of my own to edit.

Mb: At the time, why was Short Flight/Long Drive—and why is it still—necessary?

EE: Oh, I don’t know if anything in the literary world is ever necessary. Nor do I think SF/LD is any more (or less) necessary in the lit world than any other press (large or small). But I do think presses of all sizes are wonderful luxuries of life, and can enhance one’s enjoyment, both for authors and readers.

Mb: What about Short Flight/Long Drive are you most proud of?

EE: I’m pretty much proud of every aspect of SF/LD. Every book, every author, the design process, all of it.

Mb: What do you look for when you’re open for submissions? What makes a project or manuscript worth taking on?

EE: Being such a small press, only really putting out on average, one book a year, we can only take on books that we would feel super shitty if we didn’t take. Like, shitty enough to lie awake at night thinking about why we didn’t take them.

Mb: What does “indie” or “small press” mean to you? What do you think of such classifications and distinctions?

EE: Some people get really bent out of shape about those words. They prefer one over the other. I forget which. I don’t really care. To me they just mean greater care to details, greater artistic freedom for the author (hopefully!), more beautiful books.

Mb: What sets your books apart from the rest?

EE: Well, originally we wanted them all to be small enough to fit in your back pocket.

Mb: What’s your favorite part of your job?

EE: Falling in love with a book and its author.

Mb: For you, why are books so important?

EE: For me, personally? Damn, it’s such a cliché, but the best books feel like little private secrets between me and the author. Little love affairs. Ways of staving off loneliness and despair, of connecting to another human being on the most intimate level without actually meeting in person.

Mb: What other small presses do you admire? Why?

EE: God, what small press don’t I admire? I pretty much love and admire them all. Because they’re all doing the same thing we’re doing. Falling in love with authors/works that might not be hugely “marketable” but are probably gorgeous works of art and gorgeous human beings.

Mb: Do you have hope for the future of books?

EE: I have never not had hope for the future of books. It’s not something I worry about. At all. Ever. I have no doubt books—written works in whatever form (the form is, ultimately, completely unimportant to me)—will be around as long as human beings are around and have something to say (and we always have something to say, don’t we? Something to complain about, to work out, to applaud, to champion, to address, to change, to exact revenge, to make amends).

Mb: Please share anything else you would like to say.

EE: Is Coffee House Press considered small press/indie? I don’t know if it is, but talk about falling in love with a book! I just read Leaving the Atocha Station (by Ben Lerner) last week. And at first I couldn’t decide how to feel about the narrator. But maybe in the same way I can’t decide how I feel about myself? We’re both a little douchey, can be a little pretentious. It felt like a very intimate book. Like the little secrets I was talking about earlier. I guess that’s all I wanted to say.

 
 
 


David Cotrone is from Plymouth, MA. His writing appears in Fifty-Two Stories, The Rumpus, PANK, Paper Darts, Necessary Fiction, Thought Catalog, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and elsewhere. You can find him at www.davidcotrone.com.

 


WATCH & LISTEN: Parker Posey Reads Jason Napoli Brooks’ “Women at the End of the World”

Posted By admin - 4th June 2013

No Comments

Last week, director/actor/writer John Cameron Mitchell brought his Mattachine dance party to the Julius Bar in the West Village here in New York, and there was a special treat for literary fans. Actress Parker Posey performed “Women at the End of the World, Act I,” a fantastic monologue written by friend of Monkeybicycle and co-curator of one of our favorite reading series around NYC, The Enclave, Jason Napoli Brooks. If you weren’t lucky enough to attend, now the entire reading is now on YouTube, followed by a short interview with Jason. Check it out below!


Know Your Bookstore: The Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle)

Posted By admin - 21st May 2013

No Comments

In this new interview series, Monkeybicycle intern David Cotrone will be introducing you to a variety of independent booksellers and store owners.

The Elliott Bay Book Company is located in Seattle, WA. This interview was conducted with Casey O’Neil of the Elliott Bay staff.

 


 

Monkeybicycle: When was your bookstore founded? What prompted you to want to sell books?

Casey O’Neil: Elliott Bay was founded in 1973, so we are honored and grateful to be celebrating our 40th anniversary this June. Starting as a single room shop in Pioneer Square with just one employee, it expanded to over 20,000 sq. ft and over thirty employees. In April 2010 we moved up to the Capitol Hill neighborhood, to a great old timber-framed building with roughly the same square footage. It immediately felt like home, and our customers—old and new—have made the move a huge success.

When I was hired in 2008, I had been working construction for three years, and though I had become fairly adept at installing glass in buildings while being called a wide variety of derogatory names, I longed to be engaged in a very different kind of labor. I moved up to Seattle from California with the hope of getting a job at Elliott Bay. I knew I wanted to spend my days with books, and I was also hungry for more caring interaction with people. When I got the call that I didn’t get the job after my first interview, I threw my cellphone in a tree. But another position opened up a few weeks later, and when they offered it to me, I was ecstatic. Being a part of Elliott Bay has been an honor, an education, and a greater pleasure than I ever could have imagined.

Mb: What about your bookstore are you most proud of?

CON: Personally, I’m most proud of our customers. We get to stock the very best, under-appreciated, most intelligent books being published today, and people come in every day and buy them. Nothing better.

Mb: Does your location influence your store? If so, how?

CO: Seattle is a city that greatly values books, with one of the best public library systems in the country and several great independent bookstores. Our store is a reflection of the literary-minded community we live in, and our new neighborhood has been great for business—one of the best places in the world to see how many people still crave a physical place in their community where they can find the books they’re looking for, as well as the books they didn’t know they were looking for.

Mb: What’s your favorite part of your job?

CO: My favorite part of the job is being able to highlight those absolutely essential and remarkable books that can too easily be overlooked.

Mb: Personally, why do you read?

CO: Reading is the best way to travel into someone else’s mind, and also to let someone else into mine.

Mb: Do you host readings at your bookstore? If so, who’s given your most memorable one?

CO: We’ve hosted authors since the 1980′s, when Rick Simonson started our readings series. We average over ten readings a week, ranging from smaller, more intimate gatherings where amazing new voices are found, to events with world renown authors packing the house with hundreds of people.

The most remarkable recent event that comes to mind is the midnight release party for Sherman Alexie’s Blasphemy, complete with stories from Sherman, fry bread, balloon spirit animals, and music, including the One Gun Singers from the Colville reservation singing Sherman’s original song John Wayne’s Teeth—a memorable night and a mesmerizing song to have stuck in your head for a few weeks.

Another reading I will always remember was given a few years ago by Joseph McElroy. He’s written nine incredible novels over the last forty years (with one older novel Ancient History and his new novel Cannonball both forthcoming from Dzanc Books in June), and his work combines inexhaustible intelligence with immediate human warmth. His profound presence is inseparable from his work, and the evening was the perfect example of how a live reading encourages deep and meaningful connections between authors and their readers.

Mb: What and who are some of your favorite titles and authors?

CO: The book I can’t stop talking about is The Story of My Assassins by Tarun Tejpal (Melville House), an exceptional novel that sprawls over and through the contours and depths of modern India as it follows the five men implicated in a plot to assassinate a journalist in Delhi.

Mb: Another recent favorite is a collection of stories by the Irish writer Kevin Barry called There Are Little Kingdoms (Stinging Fly Press) Very funny, not afraid to get a little rough, but with this very beautiful and generous undercurrent that just makes you fall in love with every single one of his characters.

CO: And I can’t leave out one of my all-time favorites, Notes From No Man’s Land by Eula Biss (Graywolf), quite simply the most perfect collection of essays I have ever read.

Mb: Do you have hope for the future of books?

CO: Yes, I do…and you should too. With changes in the publishing industry, it’s easy to see how the bottom line can exert extraordinary pressure on the people who devote their labor to writing, publishing, and selling great books. I will always remember attending a panel on the future of publishing in which no one said anything about any actual books, but had plenty to say about “content consumption” and “digestion.” My favorite quote of the event was something to the effect of, “Books are products, just like shoes or toothpaste…except books are more content driven.” It would make a great t-shirt, “BOOKS: MORE CONTENT DRIVEN THAN TOOTHPASTE!”

My hope for the future of books comes from looking in a very different direction. On the same evening after that panel, I was given some much needed perspective by Mikhail Shishkin (author of Maidenhair, a sublime novel published by Open Letter) at his reading at McNally Jackson. In answering a similar question to the one I am answering now, he referred to a scene in which a prisoner chalks a picture of a boat on his cell wall. Every day the guard brings him his meal, and every day he finds the prisoner sitting there, patiently watching this boat. After many weeks of this, the guard opens the door again, but this time he finds that the boat is no longer on the wall, and the prisoner is gone as well. “This is what books can do,” Shishkin said.

It is in this vein that I continue to have immense hope that books will continue to do what they have always done…the impossible.

 
 
 


David Cotrone is from Plymouth, MA. His writing appears in Fifty-Two Stories, The Rumpus, PANK, Paper Darts, Necessary Fiction, Thought Catalog, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and elsewhere. You can find him at www.davidcotrone.com.

 


Small Press Interview: Black Ocean Press

Posted By admin - 7th May 2013

No Comments

In this interview series, Monkeybicycle intern David Cotrone will introduce you to a variety of small press editors and publishers.

 

This interview was conducted with Carrie Olivia Adams of Black Ocean Press.

 


 

Monkeybicycle: When was Black Ocean founded? What prompted you to want to start it?

Carrie Olivia Adams: Black Oceayn published its first books in 2006. Founder Janaka Stucky and I met while in the low-residency MFA Program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. It was something we would half-seriously chat about during residencies in that wouldn’t it be awesome if sort of way. I’d already been working in publishing for several years (as I still am today outside of Black Ocean) and had professional knowledge of the publishing industry. And Janaka had the charisma and the courageous sense to say—let’s just do this—and then find a real way to make it work. The population bloom of indie presses was only just beginning at the time, and I feel like we were at the cusp of that movement.

Mb: At the time, why was Black Ocean–and why is it still–necessary?

COA: We truly believed—and still believe—that there is an audience for poetry even bigger than the insular world of other poets—and it was simply a matter of finding poetry to deliver and poets who were willing to deliver it to that audience. From the very beginning, we have stressed the importance of author tours (which is actually something we contractually require). And we have been eager to find ways to engage with other artistic genres and audiences through poetry. For example, Zachary Schomburg’s Fjords Volume 1 was turned into a touring shadow puppet play with a live string quartet, which was performed to sold out audiences in bars around the country and even the Poetry Foundation itself last year.

Mb: What about Black Ocean are you most proud of?

COA: I know that I’m often humbled and amazed by how quickly we’ve achieved this level of success. When we first launched books at AWP in 2006, we had less than ten attendees at our reading. Now, we can pack a bar in Chicago with a line out the door. What was just a dream of some graduate students has become a real and viable publisher, making books that outsell many of the mainstream academic presses. And we’ve been able to achieve that while staying true to the poems and authors that excite and inspire us. Black Ocean is completely run as a volunteer effort—we all have day jobs—and thus to achieve this level of success, it has required an essential amount of devotion. I am proud that day after day we are making something we believe in; otherwise, there is absolutely no reason for us to make it.

Mb: What do you look for when you’re open for submissions? What makes a project or manuscript worth taking on?

COA: As the poetry editor, I encounter and read each and every submission that arrives. It is a daunting and inspiring task each year. And as an actively publishing poet myself, I have such an enormous sympathy for everyone who sends work our way. And yet, I will admit that I am a very ruthless editor when it gets down to it. Janaka and I have similar, but unique aesthetics, so the work that is published must fall in the overlap between our tastes. As such, it is in keeping with the overall Black Ocean aesthetic—but never too similar to books we’ve already published—there has to be something new about the voice, it really has to engage me with something familiar but overlooked or completely strange with an underlying current of something known and unnamed. Black Ocean is respected for its careful editing of the text—we rarely publish something as is, but work with each author to bring out the strengths of his/her work and style. So we have taken manuscripts that are full of promise, but not yet “perfect,” if the author is willing to work with us in a dialogue about the poems.

Mb: What does “indie” or “small press” mean to you? What do you think of such classifications and distinctions?

COA: This is a hard one for me, since my monthly paycheck comes from a distinguished university press, which to me seems to occupy a middle ground. It’s not a trade publisher like Random House, but it still has a cache and intellectually mainstream acceptance and esteem. Where as with Black Ocean, I think we still like to fancy ourselves as a bit more rebellious. It’s a business, and it’s a huge time commitment, but it’s a press run for the poems and poets alone. I think that’s’ what indie about, we are independent of anything but the poems. And we are definitely slaves to the poems.

Mb: What sets your books apart from the rest?

COA: Besides expanding the readership of poetry, one of the other driving desires when we founded the press was to make beautiful objects. We started the press just as the e-book was becoming a common idea, and I think we have been committed all along to making beautiful objects—we want you to want to not just read our books but behold and hold them. And I think, as a result, people look to us as much for the physical aesthetics of our books as the poems contained within.

Mb: What’s your favorite part of your job?

COA: Because I often spend so much time closely editing the books, I think I feel most rewarded when the poet feels like we have come to the place where the poems are at their best. I don’t ever want to infect someone else’s poems with my own voice or approach, but I try to attune myself with what a poet’s works are trying to do on their own and help make this consistent and clear. I want help the poet guide the reader in how to read the poems. Reading poetry is always an intuitive process for me—I don’t believe they are riddles to be solved or composed of evasive wording that has to be paraphrased (and I disdain the attitudes of the very people who teach these things)—but poems are much more akin to a fascinating stranger that you are curious to get to know. That entire process of getting to know the poems and what makes them work, what obsesses them, and how they want to be built, is my true favorite.

Mb: For you, why are books so important?

COA: I am a shy, solipsistic only child and books have always been the building blocks of my world. And I’ve always been entranced by the ability of books to actually speak, to be more than just read. How many of us have fantasized that Emily Dickinson is our best friend, sending these precise telegrams to us? I reread Proust every August before my birthday because I love aging together with Marcel. Language has never ceased to be an object of infinite curiosity for me—how is that there is a word for this—but I must use many words to describe that to you? How is it that you have any sense of what I feel? Or maybe you don’t, and these words invoke an entirely intense feeling in you that is something else nonetheless. In the beginning there was the word—and there has never been anything quite that amazing. Yes, there has been love, desire, and violent hate, but how else could I truly tell you about them?

Mb: What other small presses do you admire? Why?

COA: Goodness, I feel like there are new small presses every month. And the burgeoning and bursting AWP bookfair is a testament to their unstoppable reproduction. Janaka and I both have work on Ahsahta’s list and our authors are behind Octopus, Action Books, Letter Machine, and more. The small press scene is alive and thriving without a doubt.

Mb: Do you have hope for the future of books?

COA: Dear god, if I didn’t I’d be screwed. I have no hope for us (all of us) if there’s no hope for books.

 
 
 


David Cotrone is from Plymouth, MA. His writing appears in Fifty-Two Stories, The Rumpus, PANK, Paper Darts, Necessary Fiction, Thought Catalog, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and elsewhere. You can find him at www.davidcotrone.com.