Kathleen Rooney (L) and Abby Beckel, founders of Rose Metal Press (photo by Martin Seay)
NA: How would you best describe Rose Metal Press? In other words, how long has the press been in business? How many books do you publish each year? What kinds of books are you interested in?
AB & KR: Rose Metal Press is an independent, not-for-profit publisher of work in hybrid genres, specializing in the publication of short short, flash, and micro-fiction; prose poetry, novels-in-verse or book-length linked narrative poems; and other literary works that move beyond traditional genres to find new forms of expression. We publish three titles a year including two full-length books and one chapbook.
Shortly after our 2005 graduations from the MA and MFA programs respectively at Emerson College, we co-founded the press in Boston in January of 2006—we’re turning five this year. If our press were a person, it would be starting kindergarten! To celebrate, we are having a fund drive, the details of which can be found here. Give early; give often.
NA: How do you find your authors, and vice versa? Do you solicit books from writers you admire? Do you run contests?
AB & KR: Each year, we run a short short chapbook contest, and publish the winner in a limited edition with covers that we letterpress by hand on a vintage Vandercook at the Museum of Printing in North Andover, Massachusetts. Most recently, our celebrity guest judge was Kim Chinquee—we’ll be announcing the winning author soon.
The other two titles we publish annually come from either open reading periods in which we make specific calls for hybrid work, or from over-the-transom query letters. We don’t solicit per se, though in the past, we’ve been so taken with the finalists for our chapbook contest, we’ve gotten the various authors’ permission to published them all together as chapbook anthologies, including 2008’s A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness featuring Amy L. Clark, Elizabeth Ellen, Kathy Fish, and Claudia Smith, as well as the forthcoming They Could No Longer Contain Themselves featuring Elizabeth Colen, John Jodzio, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Sean Lovelace, and Mary Miller.
NA: I understand that Rose Metal Press has a particular interest in flash fiction and prose poetry. You published an anthology of prose poetry last year. I am wondering if you might say a few words about
that anthology. What is it about flash fiction and prose poetry that appeals to you?
AB & KR: Per our mission statement above, we’ve always been most interested in hybrid work. We like traditional genres too, of course, but we feel like some of the strangest and most exciting things happen in the places where those genres blur. So when Tara L. Masih approached us about putting together The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, we were thrilled. We were thrilled x2 shortly thereafter when Gary L. McDowell and F. Daniel Rzicznek queried us about assembling The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry. Now, we’re going for the trifecta with Dinty W. Moore who approached us about, and is presently editing The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction, forthcoming in 2012.
NA: I admire anyone who has the nerve to venture into the world of publishing these days. What inspired you to start a press when there are so many presses out there already? Did you see a need or niche for yourselves?
AB & KR: We knew that we wanted to create publishing opportunities for work that might get overlooked otherwise because of its formal oddity. From a marketing perspective—which is the perspective that a lot of the larger trade publishing houses take most frequently—work that is hybrid, which is to say work that is more difficult to categorize or label, is perceived as a tough sell, and therefore as a bad risk. It struck us as perverse that talented authors who can do more than one thing at once—it’s prose, but wait, it’s also poetry!—should often have a harder time placing their work than writers who do just one thing well. So we made cross-genre innovation our mission. But in addition to looking for work that is hybrid, we also look for work that is fresh, strange, funny-sad, linguistically adventurous, and formally innovative. We look for work that is not afraid to take unusual risks.
NA: How did you come up with the name, Rose Metal Press?
AB & KR: Rose metal is a fusible alloy with a low melting point consisting of 50% bismuth, 25-28% lead, and 22-25% tin. Also known as “Rose’s metal” and “Rose’s alloy,” Rose metal is typically used as a solder. Just as the alloy Rose metal joins one unlike thing to another so strongly that they can’t be parted, Rose Metal Press looks for work by authors who fuse unlike elements in ways that are both surprising and seamless.
NA: Will you say a few words about some of the books that you have recently published? Tell us where we can find them? Provide links to interviews, reviews, etc.?
AB & KR: Our latest book is Color Plates by Adam Golaski, of which Publishers Weekly says “The artwork of Cassatt, Manet, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec make up four rooms of a fictional museum that house a series of brief stories (plates) imagined by Golaski. Over the course of 66 plates, he reveals the subtle intersections between appreciation and invention.”
Next up is the aforementioned They Could No Longer Contain Themselves, followed by the winner of our fifth Annual Short Short Chapbook Contest (you can see the winner of the fourth annual one, We Know What We Are by Mary Hamilton here), followed by The Louisiana Purchase by Jim Goar. What we are saying about the latter is that it’s what Alice would have found had she fallen into William Clark’s map instead of a rabbit hole; it is an uncanny territory that both delights and disturbs.
NA: How much work is involved in running a press? Is this a part-time job for both of you? Do you have to fundraise as well as edit books? What do you love/hate most about running a press?
AB & KR: So much work! But it’s labor-of-love-style work, so it’s worth it, even though every dollar we make goes right back in to the publication of future books. There are so many responsibilities that it could easily be a full-time job for each of us, except for the fact that we both have other full-time jobs that we need to actually earn money. So yes, we absolutely have to apply for grants and fundraise—as mentioned above we are currently raising 2011 operating costs through our Five-year Anniversary Fund Drive. We try not to be haters, so we’ll just say we love it all, although some parts of it we love more than others.
NA: What are some of Rose Metal Press’s happiest moments?
AB & KR: We’ve had five years full of them, including when we finally figured out what to name the press, the afternoon our first book arrived from the printer (and every time one has arrived since), receiving our first grant from the NEA, throwing launch parties, etc.
We also really enjoy following the careers of our authors and seeing them go on to more success and publication. That’s a big part of our mission: Getting the work of innovative authors out to a broader audience so that the opportunities for both readers and writers are wider.
Also, we are both especially happy when working at our table at the AWP Bookfair (we’ll be at Table A4 in D.C.), as well as other occasions where we get a chance to be live and in-person and in the same physical room with our authors. This face-to-face interaction doesn’t happen as often as we’d like since so much of what we do, we do electronically, and since our authors give lots of readings all over the country, but we can’t attend every single one.
Abigail Beckel has worked professionally in publishing for more than 10 years at publishing houses such as Pearson Education, Beacon Press, and Blackwell Publishing, and for the magazine Physicians Practice. She is a published poet and lives in Washington, DC.
Kathleen Rooney is the author, most recently, of the essay collection For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs (Counterpoint, 2010). Her poetry collection, Oneiromance (an epithalamion), won the 2007 Gatewood Prize from the feminist publisher Switchback Books, and her collaborative collection with Elisa Gabbert, That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness, was published by Otoliths in 2008. She lives in Chicago and teaches at DePaul University.