Small Press Interview: Sorry House

Posted By admin - 12th February 2013

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

This interview was conducted with Spencer Madsen of Sorry House.



Monkeybicycle: What prompted you to want to start Sorry House?

Spencer Madsen: I felt interested in starting a new press because there were books I wanted that didn’t exist yet. There were poets who wrote online that I wanted more from. These were poets who wouldn’t think of writing as a linear path to a career. They wrote things they wanted to write and shared them in the least profitable and most accessible way available. If I was going to get a book from one of them, it was going to be because I made a press to publish it.

Mb: Why is Sorry House necessary?

SM: It isn’t necessary, no one is going to live or die because I created this thing. If it has any value, it’s personal. The press gives me more of a reason to keep going, it produces tangible objects that I can hold and feel good about and share with others. Creating things with other people makes everyone feel less alone.

Mb: What about Sorry House are you most proud of?

SM: I’m proud that, to this point, the press exists and I haven’t had to make any compromises. By forgoing any illusions of making a living in publishing, I’m free to make decisions that feel really good to make, and in the long term won’t cause me anxiety or regret.

Mb: Are you open for submissions? What makes a project or manuscript worth taking on?

SM: Sorry House isn’t open for submissions. I think that would defeat the purpose of the press. There seems to be an infinite number of presses, big and small, out there to submit your manuscript to. I don’t feel interested in joining that list. I feel interested in publishing books from people who don’t have books yet. People whose writing I would never read if I didn’t click on a twitter profile or blogroll list. People who stock shelves in Chicago or sell weed in LA or crunch numbers for an insurance company in Connecticut. I want to publish writers who aren’t writing to be published. What makes a manuscript worth taking on is the feeling of greed I get when I read a poem and wish it was a book.

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

SM: I immediately think of Roxane Gay. I think of complaints about not enough people reading or not enough people buying books or too many books being published. I think about the word ‘writerly’ and the distinction of being ‘serious’ literature. I think these classifications serve to make reading books more insular and less exciting for people. The word ‘indie’ always evokes for me a kind of club that you have to join to engage with. I’d like to bypass that by avoiding adjectives or the temptation to define the press in a verbal way. I don’t want Sorry House to be At The Forefront of Independent Literature or The Home Of Avant-Garde Poetry. I want it to be a thing like any other thing. A glass of water doesn’t need an about page. It holds water.

Mb: What sets your books apart from the rest?

SM: I feel like this question provides an opportunity for me to compare Sorry House books with other books in terms of quality or value. Thinking about books in those terms feels bad in a helpless, confused kind of way. I could make mental leaps to understand how to answer this but it wouldn’t feel good to me.

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

SM: The parts of working that don’t feel like work. If editing becomes a chore then something is wrong and I should question the content or whether I’m the right person to read it. No one is forcing me to start this press. If I’m not here to make money and I can’t have sex with books, the only reason left for me to do any of this is because I earnestly want to.

Mb: For you, why are books so important?

SM: They’re important in the way talking is important, or kissing, or punching people in the face. They’re representations of feelings and thoughts and inside things that can be manifested outside. They point to a source and make the source legible and real. They say, time happened this way for me, maybe it was similar for you.

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

SM: I admire New York Tyrant, Melville House, Lazy Fascist, Grove, Muumuu House, and McSweeney’s. I like all of these presses because they seem uncompromising in publishing what the editors want to publish, rather than what would be appealing to the most people. I also imagine that the editors for all of these presses genuinely enjoy publishing, and feel consistently satisfied and positive about their work, even if they make little or no money from it.

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

SM: Yeah.

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

SM: I feel interested in knowing what you look like.


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