Ed note: During AWP, Dancing Girl Press will participate in an open studio event with book signings on Saturday, March 3, from 1pm-8pm at our studio space just up Michigan Avenue in The Fine Arts Building, 410 S Michigan, studio #921, Chicago.
NA: Tell me about Dancing Girl Press.
KB: The dancing girl press chapbook series publishes a yearly schedule of handmade chaps devoted to work by emerging women authors. We are also particular interested in the intersection writing and visual arts, so the studio as a whole produces a number of book, paper, and ephemera related arts. We have been housed in the historic Fine Arts Building in Chicago for the last 5 years.
NA: What inspired you to start a press?
KB: In 2001, I had started an online poetry journal, wicked alice, so the press was a product of both a desire to put something a little more tangible than html out into the world, as well as a personal interest in art and book design. Once I had given it a trial run with producing a chapbook of my own, it was no time before I had lined up our first author (the late and fabulous Adrianne Marcus) and secured a saddle stapler, some cardstock, and a decent printer. There were a lot of great micropresses proliferating around that time (Effing Press, Big Game Books, also lots of journals entering the physical book realm Diagram/New Michigan Press, Tarpaulin Sky), so I decided to throw my hat in.
NA: Why do you only publish women-poets?
KB: My background as a reader, writer, and scholar has always been women’s writing, so when I founded wicked alice, it was my intent to focus my publishing efforts there, mostly just as a way to define the endeavor. Over time, it became more of a political act, as again and again, statistics showed the dearth of writing by women in the poetry world and in the general poetry conversation, and not just historically. I feel like my role, as an editor and publisher, is to get those books out there, to increase the number of women poets taking part in that conversation, particularly emerging writers at the point where their work is taking off.
NA: How many books do you publish each year?
KB: Over the years we’ve grown from publishing around 5 books to around 30 each year. Our publication list is usually a mix of submissions and solicitations. We’re pretty lucky in that we’re pretty much self-sufficient, each book funding the next and so on. I sell artwork and accessories to maintain our studio space, but the books are pretty much keeping each other rolling. I hope to continue to grow as large as finances and time constraints allow, since I feel like the more we get books out there into the world, the more people there are reading them, talking about them, sending us amazing work.
NA: How do you attract and promote writers? How do readers find out about your books?
KB: Mostly, it’s all word of mouth. A lot of our poets wind up sharing news about their books, or touting other books we’ve published, which leads to more people taking an interest and sending us work. Social networking is increasingly a big part of it. As with most poetry publishing, the author does the bulk of the work in promoting and we’re lucky that so many of our poets do it so well. We’ve also built up a good following of steady readers who purchase our titles quite regularly.
NA: What kinds of work are you particularly interested in publishing?
KB: I have a pretty open mind when it comes to styles of poetry, ranging from more innovative and conceptual work to traditional lyric and all things in between. The only requirement is that it interest me in some way, be it subject matter, style, format, use of language. As I mentioned, I also love books that engage with the visual arts in some way, so we occasionally publish manuscripts that include drawings, photography, diagrams, charts, etc. (either by the writer or in collaboration with a visual artist.) Also, books that engage socially and historically or with other texts. I also like surrealism, dreams, logical illogic.
NA: I would love to see a poem or two from one of the books you have published that somehow exemplifies your aesthetic.
KB: Since we publish a lot of different sorts of things, I will give you a sampling from something I am finishing up the layout on from Megan Fernandes, whose Some Citrus Makes Me Blue will be releasing later this month.:
When I have died, come find me on the planet of spoons,
feverish with rings and whole days spent howling
the syllables of your name,
heron nests floating in mid-space,
my footprints in the metallic dirt.
Come and tell me about our children.
Tell me about our babies and if the little one
is still praying for dalmations and
What did you tell her when I died?
Where did you say I went? raiding tree bark in
the maples or perhaps a goat sitting sweet in a beach
hut, lambs for friends. I’ll be okay. Tell her.
Whisper to her– that first arm flesh
like soft apples in your arms.
Tell her the planet is spreading
outward and will one day
share the seawater,
share the rings bruising against
NA: I was wondering if you might say a few words about your current and forthcoming books.
KB: I’m always a bit behind by the end of every year, so I am in the midst of a rush to get the backlog and current titles out before AWP, since a number of our authors will be in town and ready to promote their books. In addition to Some Citrus Makes Me Blue, I am currently working on Emiliegh Barnes’ Given, which is a mix of algebraically influenced text and geometric diagrams, and Brenda Sciekowski’s Wonder Girl in Monsterland, also a strange surrealistic blend of visual and textual. There are other books by Gillian Devereux and Kascha Semonovitch in the proofing stage and getting close to finalization, and always several in various places in terms of layout and design.
NA: Maybe provide links to any interviews, reviews, or events?
Some review of recent titles:
Trisia Eddy’s “Edith and Aurelia: A Romantic Tragedy in Five Acts
309.81 by Rachel Mallino
some more interviews where I talk about press-related things:
NA: What are some of the most challenging aspects of running a small press?
I think time is the biggest challenge. I work full time at a day job, so finding the spare hours and energy required to work on book-related stuff and still have time for my own writing and art is a constant struggle. During the academic year, my job has me working evenings, so I get to work on press stuff early in the day when my mind is still fresh and then go to my job. In the summer it’s trickier since I’m working earlier and coming to things at night when I’m already drained from the day, so I’m a little less productive then. Occasionally something has to give or get put on the back burner for a while. I’ve learned to accept this and realize there will never be enough time to do everything I want to do in terms of projects and ideas. But I can try.
NA: What are some of the happiest or proudest moments for the press?
Being able to move into our studio space was an awesome moment. I had been doing everything in my dining room and things were getting a little crazy the larger the operation was getting. It was glorious to be able to spread out and feel like it was a real job that I can get up and go to (and not just something I play around with in my apartment.) The Fine Arts building is rich with history (Poetry Magazine and The Little Review were once housed there) and still filled with artists, musicians, and other creative folks. It’s like venturing into an artist’s colony every single day.
I also get a little charge every time I hear someone speak favorably about one of our books or even one of our authors in general. The idea that I get to be a part of getting their work into the world thrills me to no end.
NA: How can we find your books?
KB: Our distribution is primarily though our website, www.dancinggirlpress.com. I try to get out to as many book/art fairs as I can, and some of our titles are available at small chapbook friendly bookstores, but we sell most of our books via the website.
Nin Andrews received her BA from Hamilton College and her MFA from Vermont College. The recipient of two Ohio Arts Council grants, she is the author of several books including The Book of Orgasms, Spontaneous Breasts, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, and Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum. She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name, a book of translations of the French poet, Henri Michaux. Her book, Southern Comfort was published by CavanKerry Press in 2010. Follow Nin's blog